Don’t Fret or Fear the Small Fields

Of course, as bettors we all love big fields. The more betting interests the better. We did away with entries for this very reason. Big fields, big pools, low takeout, that is what almost all of us prefer. You don’t always get what you want, and with the trend we see in US racing today, small fields, even in Grade 1 stakes races are a reality. We’ll see more of this not less before things get better and that is if they get better.

The chatter and reaction to the small fields on Belmont Stakes Day was almost all negative. No opportunities, no value, no good wagers, just negativity. Not from me. As aforementioned this is not what we prefer but to think there is no value or no opportunities is just wrong.

One of the primary reasons so few can beat this game is human nature. Human nature hinders the bettor unless you have a good understanding of the game, and a lot of discipline.

Instinctively people tend to want to use a lot of horses and cash as many tickets as they can. Small minimum wager amounts like 50 cents combined with multiple multi race wagers that are constantly promoted by both tracks and ADW’s lead to the cowboy ticket structure which long term is a sure-fire way to lose. The cowboy style is spread, spread, spread in your multi race wagers. Small fields with heavy favorites almost guarantee this horrendous way of betting to lose.

Small fields force you to take a position and back up with your money. Yes, it can be scary, yes it takes a lot more guts than the cowboy way, but it is the only way in the long run to even have a shot to beat the game.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a pick 5 structured 1 x 2 x 1 x 2 x 1 for more money than 50 cents. You don’t have to spread and go deep in every sequence to win. Use less horses for more money and in the long run you will be helping not hurting your chances. It is tough to grasp the concept of cashing less tickets but winning more money.

Face facts. We will all be wrong more than we are right in this game. All of us. How do we level that field? Make it count when you’re right. Take a position, back it, don’t hedge it or dilute it before your horses leave the gate.

Additionally, don’t cover for the sake of covering when dealing with odds on or short price horses. If you like Flightline to win The Met Mile, you single him. If you don’t then bet against him and don’t put him on that ticket. Make it count if you are right and don’t eat into your own profit

Handicapping is just part of the puzzle. Money management and knowing how to bet are also paramount. If you find yourself thinking the small fields on Belmont Stakes Day took away your chance of making a score you might want to rethink your approach to betting. What is wrong with a nice win bet and ice-cold exacta? Exactly, nothing whatsoever.

I like the quality coming out to dance on Saturday. I’ll be taking some shots. The small fields saved some homework time as well. It is all good.

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Jon Stettin

Since childhood, Jon has always had a deep love and respect for the Sport of Kings. His years of experience have earned him a well respected spot in the industry as a handicapper. He now is a frequent contributor to AmWager as well as writing for his own site.

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