That Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming will not be on ABC grid for the 14-race Preakness Stakes card on Saturday at Pimlico Race Course is not an indictment of his chances to win the race but of his price to do so.

By leaving Always Dreaming out of the “A”, “B”, and “C” columns, I’m effectively making him an “X”, which means if he wins I’ll lose my multi-race wagers, but I’m not tossing him completely from my bets.

The ABC grid as I formulate it serves two purposes: 1) Help map multi-race wagers, & 2) help formulate a fair odds line.

On the latter, every race is different, but in general I’d bet any “A” that’s 10-to-1 or better so long as I didn’t have more than 25% of the field in the “A” column and more than 50% among As & Bs. I’d bet any “B” who’s a $100 horse. Single “A”s are my most likely winners. If no other horse in the grid then I’d bet these horses at even money. I’d take 2-to-1 if no other “B” horses and 3-to-1 on any single “A”.

But I digress. From a multi-race standpoint, there’s just no point in using both Always Dreaming and Classic Empire. You’re doubling the cost of your ticket with no real chance to reap a financial reward from it. I.e., you’re giving yourself a better chance not to lose versus trying to win more on your opinion.

Put still another way, I’d rather use a couple horses at 20-to-1 that I think have a fair (~5%) chance of winning than to eliminate those horses so I can cover an underlaid favorite.

So we’ll try to get live to Classic Empire. I think enough people will either A) single Always Dreaming or B) go too deep in the Preakness and either approach creates value on my strongest opinion. It’s not that I don’t think anyone else can win, it’s that if I went beyond Classic Empire and Always Dreaming I’d want to use them ALL.

And that’s not to say I think Senior Investment is as likely to win as Gunnevera. I don’t think that at all, but I do think if you’re going to use horses like Gunnevera at 10- or 15-to-1 then given running style not enough separates him from Senior Investment at no less than 30-to-1 (and a true separator horse in the multies).

Which brings us to Gunnevera, who is my vertical key. As much as I’m against Always Dreaming as a horse to use on top in multi-race wagers, I’m not going to rip up tickets if he wins/runs well and Gunnevera does too.

I don’t think there’s a lot of value in splitting hairs on the win end and taking a stand with Gunnevera over Senior Investment (or anyone outside the top two) to end the Pick 4, but I do think there’s value in leaning on one of the non favorites in the verticals given a lot of bettors are likely to go “ALL with the two top choices.

I’ll know more about my final multi-race strategy once I’ve handicapped the races around the Preakness, but Classic Empire will factor on 33%-50% of my tickets. Vertically, it’s more about Gunnevera hitting the board.