One of the most common mistakes a horseplayer can make is to equate a “wide open race” with “a great betting race.” They’re only the same thing if others think it’s a wide open race and you don’t.

You know what else is wide open? A roulette wheel, and that’s always a terrible bet (spare me the dissertation about biased wheels as if anyone reading this post could spot one). Likewise, betting wide open races just because they’re wide open is not smart. 

When the public thinks a race is wide open–as seems to be the case with the Spiral Stakes on Saturday at Turfway Park–I don’t mind being on the favorite because the spread of money often inflates the price on the most likely winner. This is the case with the Spiral where Kitten’s Cat not only has a class edge over his 11 rivals but also (and more importantly) a speed edge. He’s 4-to-1 on the morning line, and I’d be happy with 5-to-2 on the win end, but I’ll also pay attention to the WPS pool. Place and show wagering might be spread not only because of the “wide open” nature of the race but also because this is Turfway’s biggest day on track, and the casual money typically finds its way into the straight pools. If Kitten’s Cat has < 25% of the place pool or 30% of the show pool I’m not below targeting either.

For those looking to swing for the fences given the 12-horse field and bigger-than-typial pool sizes at Turfway (and on Polytrack), my keys of the morning line longshots would be #5 Colonel Samsen and #7 Shiraz. The former gets a jockey who won this race two years ago and had some sneaky good moves in his past performances without “getting there” (or close to there, really, but that’s why he’ll be a great price); the latter is one of three in the race for trainer Mike Maker but the lone closer of the trio. He’ll be running late with pace to run at thanks to his stablemates.

The main priority is to extract any value out of Kitten’s Cat in the straight pools. From there I’d be willing to get gimmicky with Colonel Samsen and/or Shiraz at double digit odds, and I’d have to consider allocating some my wagers to their noses at 20-to-1 or better should they drift.