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TVG's Emily Shields guides us through the Pick 4

Picking a single race winner, or two in a row for a daily double is simple enough, but the more serious bettors will try their hands at multi-race wagers, such as the Pick 3, Pick 4, or Pick 6.

Many tracks across America offer guaranteed Pick 4 pools that can grow exponentially before post time, especially during a carryover. Often during big days, these sequences include only stakes racing action, making them more lucrative and competitive than a normal weekday wager.

But how to build a Pick 4 ticket?

First, check which tracks are offering guarantees on the day. The higher the guarantee, the bigger the pool. Then check the price of the base bet. Woodbine Racetrack in Canada offers Pick 4 wagering starting at 20 cents, while most tracks start at 50 cents, an improvement on the former minimum of $1.

Next, go through all four races in the sequence. Imagine how each race will set up and mark down which horses are “must-use” types. Build your ticket with an eye on possible payout; for example, if it looks chalky (that a lot of heavy favorites are likely to win), then make sure that the amount spent isn’t going to be more than the amount paid out on a winning ticket.

It helps to find a single in at least one race. Having a single – or a lone horse in a race that you feel is a lock to win – will help reduce your overall cost and allow you to spread your money elsewhere in the sequence. A bettor with a smaller budget can do very well if a single comes in, even if that horse was heavily-favored. It helps to have a strong opinion about a longer shot or price play in a different race, which if correct will increase your payout because other bettors are knocked out. Defeating just one big favorite in a Pick 4 sequence can yield strong returns.

Even on a budget, having a few strong opinions (using only one or two horses per race) during the four races means that you can go deeper in difficult contests. You might even hit the “all” button in wide-open events (using every horse in the sequence) and hope for a much higher priced-horse to come home on top.

One important thing to understand about the Pick 4 sequence is what happens if a horse you used is scratched after the wager has been placed, and the sequence has begun and is already in motion. In this scenario, your scratched horse will automatically be replaced by the horse that is the final betting favorite. If you already had the favorite on your ticket and the favorite wins, then you will receive that horse twice. This means that if you do cash in on your Pick 4 ticket, then you will receive twice the payout because you essentially played two tickets for the price of one.

Of all the exotic wagers, the Pick 4 is a good compromise between a daily double or Pick 3 with likely lower payouts versus a big investment type bet such as the Pick 6. This weekend, bet on the Pick 4s offered at Santa Anita and Belmont Park over at TVG.

Emily Shields for TVG

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