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April 16th, 2019

Derby Day Value: The Kill Shot

By: Jonathan Stettin


Now that the Derby points races are complete and we know the likely runners, I start thinking about all the betting opportunities there will be the first Saturday in May.

There is always value to be had on Kentucky Derby Day. Always. Regardless of who wins, and at what price, if you go after the right spots there will be value.

This year it looks like we will have a favorite at maybe 3-1 or 7-2. I would think final odds will fall somewhere around there, but if it were as high as 5-1 I would not be surprised. This year value should be especially easy to find. You just have to be right because there is never any value in a losing wager.

Far too many people will tie up the bulk of their bankroll in pick 4’s and pick 5’s. Those bets are fun and offer great value if you beat a few shorter price horses, but they can also disappoint if you get some logical results with so many people in the 50 cent pools.

I love to go after some other bets on Kentucky Derby Day or any big day really. Exactas, doubles, superfectas, and triples can offer some serious value with their big pools, and so many people focusing on multi-race bets.

If I have a single in any multi-race wager on Derby Day, and I will, one thing I surely will do is bet the horse alone, and also in doubles, exactas, triples, and superfectas. This allows for two possibilities. One is the kill shot I always go for. If my single wins and I hit everything built around it bang, Kill Shot, that’s why I play. The other scenario is if I lose the multi-race bet, or one of the others, I can still win if my single wins. It all comes back to being right. The First Saturday in May is a good time to get it right.

I’ll use numbers to demonstrate how I structure one of my big day kill shots. Of course the longer the price, the more I like it. Price won’t deter me one way or the other. If my horse is long odds, obviously value is built in. If not, and the horse is short, I’ll create the value, and if it wins, that will sort itself out. Long or short odds, I just want to be right.

So let’s say the sequence is races 8,9,10, and 11. My single is in the 9th race, and we will use number 1. My pick 4 would look something like this:

8- 2,5,7

9- 1

10- 3,4,5

11- 2,6

Remember I am just using numbers to illustrate how I structure a Kill Shot bet. For 50 cents this bet would cost $9. For $10 it would cost $180. Both fair amounts depending on your budget.

Now the multi-race wager is out of the way. From there I play doubles.

Race 8, 2,5,7 with 1. If I like either the 2,5, or 7 more than the others, I go back at the double cold.

Race 8 double, 5-1. That takes care of that.

In race 9 I will bet the 1 to win, but only if I am out of the pick 4, which means I am also out of the double. If I am alive, I will bet exactas, triples, superfectas and more doubles. In the out scenario, I will make these bets but also the win bet.

Race 9 will look like this:

1 to win.

1 over 2,4,6 in the exactas. I don’t reverse, and I don’t box. My money goes on me being right, that means the 1 must win for me to score.

1 with 2,4,6, with 2,4,6,9,10 is one triple.

1 with 2,4,6, with all is the second triple. If I hit the exacta, I will hit the triple; it is just a question of how many times.

I am not done.

Race 9 superfectas.

1 with 2,4,6, with 2,4,6,9,10 with all.

1 with 2,4,6, with all, with all. Again if I hit the exacta, I am going to also hit the super, it’s just how many times.

I did say Kill Shot, so no I am not done. I have more doubles.

Race 9 double, 1 with 3,4,5. Again if I lean to one of those more than the others, I go back at that one. 1-5 double cold.

This style is not for everyone. It works for me and took me several years to lock into it. The rewards have been indescribable. Especially those days where things are breaking right, and you can feel in your bones you are taking down everything. The best thing a teller ever said to me was on one of those days.

“Would you like me to see if I can find a bag?”

Actually, he or I should say I didn’t need one. The track, Calder, which was owned by Churchill Downs at the time didn’t have enough cash on hand to pay me. The mutual manager asked if I could come back a few days later. I happily agreed. They paid me in bricks. That’s what a Kill Shot can do, and once you do it, you want to do it again.

This game and this style are not for the faint of heart, however. You have to be able to shake it off. Big time. Some years back I bet a horse named Giacomo in the Derby this way. I blew every exotic - every single one. It was a numbing experience. It was a very long walk to the car. That year I was still perfecting my style. I did not bet win as I was too greedy. I thought I should be making a score. Had Afleet Alex beaten Closing Argument for second I would have. He didn’t, and he was about ten lengths better than Closing Argument on his off days. Like I said you gotta be right and this is not for the faint of heart.

It’s Derby time; I’ll focus on the wins for now.