Betting Strategy: 'We're not in the game to pick winners, we're in the game to make money'

May 21st, 2022

Go-to Superfecta structure and leveraging turf races on big race days with Chad Schexnayder 

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 after subtracting my action bets--tell ya what I was a kid in a candy store the first month--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. We’ll take a card and a pool, and discuss betting strategies.

There are few aspects of the game that Chad Schexnayder doesn’t touch. Former publicist for Fair Grounds, owner in Fionn MacCumhal Racing, podcast host of Fair Grounds Racing Podcast, freelance writer, and horseplayer, Chad is a sharp handicapper with an insider’s touch. Follow him on Twitter @schexnola and be sure to subscribe to the Fair Grounds Racing Podcast

Kevin Kilroy: All right, how do you go about diving into a card and choosing which pools to get involved with? 

Chad Schexnayder: I take a look and see the horses I have in my stable mail and see where they line up on the card. Once I find a place where I want to start, I look down and around it.

KK: Look down and around it—I love that. So within the race vertically and then what sequences they line up with horizontally?

CS: Exactly, so in other words I’m asking how can I get to this horse to cash and what's the best sequence to play here?

KK: Do you have any go-to vertical structures you use on a daily basis?

CS: I’m not a big superfecta box guy. I’ll take a horse that I like at 8-1 or 10-1 and I’ll put him in first with my top four horses in second and third and then on top of all. Then I will use him in first, second, and third in the single spots, but the key is to use all in the fourth spot. And you can use the favorite, but you set yourself up to get paid well if the favorite runs out of the money. I probably play a superfecta like that once a day. It has stipulations: it has to be a full field where I think the favorite is vulnerable and could run off the board; I have to like something 8-1 or higher; and it has to be relatively affordable, like under $50 for the three super tickets.

KK: So we’re looking at the Preakness day card specifically—we know there will be money in the pools; how do you attack big race days?  Anything different for you in terms of how you build your tickets? 

CS: On all these big days they run turf into dirt into turf into dirt, right? My style of play leading into a race like the Preakness is to try to find the short-priced likely winners in the first dirt race, then take all in the turf, and lean on my opinion in the feature. I take all on the turf, hope for a bomb, especially with a contentious five-furlong turf race. If you touch the all button in the right way on turf, then you set yourself up for a score on big days.

KK: I’ve seen you cash some big doubles — what about those?

CS: Yeah so that’s how I play my Pick 3s and 4s on big days. And then I’ll do the same thing doubles-wise. I’ll make $20 doubles with my A horses and then I’ll come back underneath with the horses that are 10-1,12, 15-1, I’ll use them in a $10 double. When you get your will-pays back, your $10 doubles are paying as much as your $20 doubles because you are on bigger prices. I’ve had good success with that. Instead of trying to play Pick 5s or Pick 6s and spread all your money around. I don’t want to get caught in a Pick 5 where I am 3-for-3 but I lose the fourth leg. You just blew three winners and there goes your $200 bankroll or whatever you invested. It’s taking me years of discipline to stay away from those kind of things on big days, especially if you don’t love love love a horse.

KK: OK, what if you do love a horse?

CS: On these big days if I love a 5-1 shot and he is in the Pick 5 legs and I feel comfortable singling him then I may play a Pick 5 ticket and try to get there, for sure.  But I don’t just handicap and say ‘hey let’s play the Pick 5, let’s see what kind of ticket I can make for $200.’ I think you need to find your opinions and build your bets around that. People spend more time handicapping than they do ticket construction and I think that should be the opposite. Don’t get rushed into tickets as the clock ticks down to post time. A wise man once told me 'Picking winners is easy, betting winners is hard.' We’re not in the game to pick winners, we're in the game to make money. The key to that is ticket construction.

KK: I know some criticize using all—what’s your rationale?

CS: The all button has been good to me. I rarely use all on the dirt; I just have a better handicapping feel on dirt races. But I will absolutely push the all button on the turf. So many times over the year in a 12-horse turf race I used six or seven horses and then would miss. When you keep doing it and you keep missing, you finally say, just hit the all. I think it was Bobby Frankel who said 'Two turns on the turf is racing where one horse wins and five horses should have.' There are so many trip-dependent variables, so I am willing to take chances with the all button on the turf.

KK: Mind telling us a few plays you are planning?

CS: I’m a caveman guy when it comes to Pick 3s and 4s. All by 1 by 3 by 3, that’s a good ticket for me. So leading into the Preakness, I’ll play a Pick 3 with B Dawk, Mr Jefferson, and Unikee in the first leg, all in the turf second, and Epicenter in the last. Then I’ll come back and do those three with all with Epicenter, Simplification, Early Voting, and Creative Minister because you want to have it at least twice if Epicenter is your main opinion like he is for me. 

KK: What about earlier, you mentioned a Pick 4 around Cilla?

CS: So with Cilla, I’ll begin a Pick 4 in the sixth with all, single Cilla, and I don’t like the favorites in the eighth but I do like Beacon Hill and Novo, and  I like a bomb in the ninth with Chasing Time cutting back, Old Homestead, and Little Vic. Really that ticket is not too bad. You go 11 x 1 x 2 x 3 which is $66, so you turn it into a Pick 3 by buying a leg of it.

KK: Anything else?

CS: I’ll look at the board in the sixth race and play some prices into Cilla. Then I’ll play the rolling doubles through these legs I mentioned. All weighted the same for me.