Lucrative exactas reiterate the power of Grade 1-to-maiden class drop

March 20th, 2024

We’ve noted in the past how horses dropping in class from a Grade 1 stakes to a maiden race can generate surprisingly nice payoffs. It’s an angle that continues to reap dividends.

The 2023 American Pharoah (G1) at Santa Anita drew eight horses, and three of them (Indispensable, Next Level, and El Magnifico) were maidens who had never visited the winner’s circle. They were understandably longshots while stepping up in class for a Grade 1 Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifier, and they pretty much ran to their odds—Indispensable finished sixth at 50-1, Next Level ran seventh at 10-1, and El Magnifico trailed at 55-1.

Having faltered at the Grade 1, Indispensable, Next Level, and El Magnifico subsequently returned to the maiden special weight ranks. Bettors who noticed the massive class drops they were taking had a chance to catch nice paydays.

Indispensable was the first to return to action, in a one-mile maiden special weight at Del Mar. Despite the fact he was exciting a Grade 1, bettors allowed Indispensable to start as the third choice at odds of 13-2. When he finished second behind 7-5 favorite Coach Prime, every $20 exacta returned $228.

Next up, Next Level tackled a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight at Fair Grounds. Having finished third in the Del Mar Futurity (G1) prior to the American Pharoah, Next Level started as the 7-10 favorite while facing only five rivals at Fair Grounds. He was an obvious standout, and the payoff of $34 for every $20 win bet was arguably generous. Plus, any bettor who managed to select 16-1 longshot Funnyflame for second place caught a $400 payoff for every $20 exacta.

Finally, El Magnifico made his return in a seven-furlong maiden special weight at Churchill Downs, where bettors dismissed him as the third choice at just over 6-1. When he settled for second place by 1 1/2 lengths against 9-5 favorite Legalize, the perfectly logical $20 exacta returned $306.40.

As these examples illustrate, the Grade 1-to-maiden class drop can yield enticing payoffs even when the horse who fits the angle fails to win. Who would have thought Indispensable and El Magnifico would start at odds higher than 6-1? Catch those odds in a winning exacta, and you’re set for a winning day at the races.