My first exposure to the daily double wager came watching the classic movie, “Let It Ride.” If you’ve seen it, you know the scene I’m referring to, and you’ll have to visualize it because I can’t find the clip on YouTube (trust me, I looked, and I’m not linking to a pirated version of the full movie). The protagonists walk into the track, and a tout is screaming, “HAD THE DAILY DOUBLE!,” in an attempt to sell his tip sheet. The punch line, of course, is that he had it…18 months ago.
Back then, daily doubles WERE once-a-day wagers, usually on the first or last two races of every card. As other multi-race exotics wagers gained popularity, doubles were offered more and more, and most big-time racing jurisdictions now offer them in every possible race.
The double has long since relinquished its crown as the most popular multi-race wager. 50-cent Pick Fours and Pick Fives, along with some jackpot Pick Six wagers at even lower minimum increments, have surpassed them in average handle. However, 28 years after “Let It Ride” was released in theaters (yes, that was almost 30 years ago; news flash, we’re all old), I’m a firm believer that the double is as good a place as any to find the commodity that drives wagering on horse racing: Value.
I do a daily bankroll play for The Pink Sheet. The premise is simple, and similar to that of the “Battle of Saratoga” that was once must-read material in the New York Daily News. I’m given $1,000 at the start of the meet to bet with however I wish, and I keep a running total while also getting a few paragraphs to speak my piece on whatever I want. I’m not restricted to any particular bet, and one tactic I’ve found great success with is keying an otherwise-prohibitive favorite in doubles and using it with a small number of horses in surrounding races.
I’ll demonstrate. In last week’s Shine Again Stakes, Carina Mia was a 1/2 favorite in win wagering. She had spent most of her career running into the likes of Songbird, and this spot represented serious class relief. I played three $10 doubles that singled her in the first leg. She won, and a first-time starter from the Todd Pletcher barn won the finale. The $2 double paid $21, an incredible value given the circumstances, and my $30 investment returned $105. A simple $30 win wager on Carina Mia would have returned $46 and change. Instead, we got 5/2 odds on our money.
A similar situation unfolded Sunday, when Rally Cry won the Alydar, a 9/2 shot won the fourth, and a $2 double paid $31. That day’s bankroll section had $35 worth of double plays, and even though we whiffed on the first few, we got back $77, thus doubling the odds on Rally Cry (who was 3/5 at post time and ran like it).
Turning a 1/2 favorite into a 5/2 shot, or turning a 3/5 favorite into a 6/5 shot, doesn’t sound sexy. From a mathematical standpoint, though, that’s what you need to do if you’re grinding it out on a daily basis. There’s a lot to be said for going after the big score in the Pick Six, but not everyone has the bankroll or horse racing acumen to do that. Additionally, it can get discouraging playing reasonable Pick Four or Pick Five tickets often and going 3-for-4 or 4-for-5. In those situations, the player is right more often than not, yet isn’t rewarded for it.
I’m not trying to disparage those bets and those who play them. I love the Pick Four, especially when the sequence features favorites beaten by logical horses and the payoffs increase accordingly. However, it’s easy to get on a long losing streak with such wagers. I’ve been there. At my previous employer, I tracked my tickets (two years before someone on Twitter had that idea!), and while I was profitable with such wagers in 2015, I went 3-for-4 on about two-thirds of Pick Fours I posted during the 2016 Saratoga meet. Unfortunately, they don’t give discounts for coming close!
Doubles are straightforward, easy to understand, and fairly simple to explain to a gambling novice. If you can use them to build around a heavy favorite in one leg and a few horses you like in another, you may be able to extract some value out of them. Like anything else in handicapping, getting the most out of the double is about picking your spots, knowing your bankroll, and getting your money in when situations are advantageous to you. Watch the probables in races starting and ending with an odds-on favorite, and you may be surprised at the value you’re able to get.