Betting Strategy: Ils Sont Partis!

July 1st, 2022

If you’re like me, you spend a lot of time with this week’s guest, Rob Tuel, the track announcer and on-air analyst for Evangeline Downs. Rob gives out winners left and right. He’s worked at a handful of tracks in his home state of Nebraska—Fair Play Park, Lincoln Race Course, and Atokad Park—as well as at Eureka Downs in Kansas. Hoping to gain insight into the nuances of betting smaller tracks, Rob and I discuss horizontals, using multiple pools, and the importance of beating favorites at lower-level tracks. Follow him on Twitter @realtueltime

Once you've handicapped the card, what do you do to narrow in on the sequences you are going to play?

When I look at the day, I like to find one single and build around it. I make a stand with one horse, and if that horse wins, I should hit something. If that horse loses, I lose.

I prefer to play Pick 3s and Pick 4s, those are the primary pools that I like to get into. I always look to see if I can find a single in the sequence. Can I make a stand? If we look at Friday's card with the early Pick 3, I think in the second race the #2 Carlos Loves Tee (8-5) is the most likely winner of the sequence. So I start with him, and then I ask if there is anybody I am afraid of. I’m a big fan of finding a single.

Jackie's Warrior wins The Churchill Downs Stakes (Photo by

Any big scores recently using this angle in the Pick 3?

We hit the Kentucky Derby Pick 3 this year ($0.50 Pick 3 paid $1,612.20). Me and a couple buddies always play big tickets on the big days. We all loved Jackie’s Warrior, so we said if Jackie’s Warrior wins, we are hitting something. If he loses, we are toast. So we used six horses in the turf race, then we used 10 horses in the Derby. Then played a second ticket using the all button in the Derby.

Are there any mistakes you find yourself making in horizontal wagers?

My biggest mistake is when I’ll use four horses in one race but I like, let’s say, the 2 horse the best. I throw in a couple that I’m afraid of, but then the 2 will go on and win. I beat myself by adding fat to my ticket.

Does the leg where your strongest opinion is in the sequence affect how you bet it?

I don't like to play a sequence when I like a super chalky favorite in the first leg. That eliminates any value if you have a nice price in the later legs. That’s the one rule I have when I identify the pool to use my single. I avoid that sequence if I think a 3-5, 4-5 will win the first leg of a sequence.

What vertical structures do you use the most? Do you use multiple pools to express your opinions?

A lot of times I will use verticals as a hedge if I am alive to a nice Pick 3 or Pick 4. I like to use the exacta or trifecta as a backup bet. If I’ve eliminated a couple of horses from my tickets that I still feel are possible winners but would have made my ticket too expensive, I will use those horses to beat me on top of the horses I like best. I used to play more exactas and trifectas, but I’ve gravitated more to play Pick 3s and Pick 4s, which changes the way I look at the card. 

If I am really against the favorite, especially short favorites, I’ll focus in on the exacta. That way if the favorite is false, the exacta will balloon. 

How do you work with a live longshot you really like?

If I have a live longshot, I like to bet them to win and back-wheel them in the exacta. 

Track Program (Coady Photography/Churchill Downs)

How does betting at smaller tracks with smaller pools affect your betting strategy?

At the smaller tracks, I think you get more value when the favorite loses. At these tracks, the novice players will gravitate toward what the program morning line is and the television talking heads have enough credence that the novice will play a lot of their numbers. If the talking head likes the favorite and that horse loses, there is so much more value in whoever wins. The smaller the track, beating the favorite is worth more of a multiplier. Especially at Evangeline, if the favorite runs out of the exacta, you can guarantee that price is now two or three times more than what it should be just because the chalk is out.

Do you get more aggressive when you see that?

I am steady with my bets, but I might throw in more on him if I see that all the experts really like something together because of the obvious value that generates.

Not only the announcer at Evangeline Downs, you’re the track handicapper. Do you look to offer value picks or go for the winner every time?

When I make my picks, I am trying to pick all eight winners. I don't care if they pay $30 or pay $3, I am trying to pick eight in a row. I’ve had five, and I’ve had six in a night, but never all eight.

After my first season as a public handicapper, I looked at my betting account and realized one thing: I need help. Picking 349 races, I had 97 winners (28%) with an ROI of $2.08. But I had lost 15% on my personal bets. Clearly, I need to spend more time structuring my wagers. I will use this column to learn from people I respect about how to better express my opinions.

Kevin Kilroy is an author, handicapper and two-time NHC qualifier cashing in 2021. Serving as the Publicity Specialist for Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots and a freelance horse racing writer, you can find him @trustyourluck on Twitter.