The Free Square

Sometimes you will hear people who play multi-race sequences refer to a horse or a race as a free square. It usually refers to a short-priced favorite they expect to win, and if that is the case, they should be using it as a single in all their wagers on that sequence. While this can get dicey, and I will explain, I do not believe horse racing ever offers a free square.

Where it gets tricky is there are times I will single a short-priced favorite, and you may say this is just semantics, but I won’t be calling them a free square. I don’t think it is semantics as I usually try to structure wagers not to use the common single or free square most others will build their wager around. I will look for a single that the majority won’t be singling, as I do not believe any race offers a free square, so why take the short price knowing 70% or thereabouts of the time they won’t win.

Horses humble everybody, be it by winning or by losing. Long shots win, and odds-on horses lose. We have all heard the saying that is why they run the race, or they don’t run the race on paper. Both are true. So is there are no free squares. You’ll pay for every one of them at some point.

Free squares are easy to spot. They jump right out at the seasoned player, and even the novice can see them easily. Knowing if it is the one to take depends on two things to me. First, how sure I am the horse will win. Next and of equal importance is what are the alternatives. Is there a longer-priced horse in the sequence I like as much? If so, that is the answer. If not, I may ride with the favorite, but you won’t hear me say it is a free square. If I can structure a ticket, I feel just as good about without using the common single or free square as mine. I will do it every time.

Beating the common single creates some separation from the field and puts you in a position to make a score. A key to the game is putting yourself in those positions often enough to get some home. If you line yourself up enough, it will happen.

If you are going to take the so-called free square, you need to be confident. For me, everything must line up. The horse must look best on paper. The pace must be right along with the set-up. I’d prefer it to be a good barn and rider. No knocks, as I like to say. It all must look good and right to me. If there is a fault, any at all I can see, I will look long and hard for an alternative.

When I see a multi-race sequence with a free square, I am almost always attracted to it. I see those sequences as an opportunity. I will always look for a way around that single and try and put myself in a position to make a hit.

I have always found not doing what most of the players in the pool are doing is better in the long run. We are playing against each other, not with each other. It is important to remember that when putting tickets together.

Beating any favorite is good in a multi-race sequence. Beating the one they call the free square and are singling is better.

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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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