By Adam Dodge
Alex Rodriguez has more grand slams (25) than anyone in the history of baseball. As an Angels fan it feels like all but one or two of them were hit in Anaheim. In 1999, Fernando Tatis hit two grand slams in one inning against the Dodgers! Chicks may dig the long ball, but they should also dig horse racing’s version of the grand slam.
The Grand Slam is a multi-race wager offered by NYRA at their big three racetracks – Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga. It is also available at New Mexico’s Sunland Park. The Grand Slam is offered on the second to last four races on the card. I.E. The Grand Slam’s payoff leg is the second to last race on each race day and carries a $1.00 minimum. The concept is simple. Like with a Pick 4, the Grand Slam is a 4-race bet. Bettors’ selected horses must SHOW in each of the first three legs of the sequence. Bettors must also pick the WINNER in the final leg.
In a traditional Pick 4 wager, bettors can only enter the payoff leg alive to one winning combination per ticket, save for the rare occasions in which there’s a scratch and a ticket is alive twice when a favorite wins. With the Grand Slam, bettors enter the payoff leg with a chance to hit the winning payout 27 times, provided they use and correctly select the three SHOW horses in each of the first three legs of the wager. In fact, in my opinion the value in the Grand Slam IS getting alive as many times as possible to the last leg, along with getting at least one favorite out of the money.
While I’m not the most qualified person to perform a thorough analytics-based review of the wager, in simple terms, I do believe it is a good wager WHEN I can SINGLE in the payoff leg. At the end of the day, my goal in any multi-race wager is to increase my odds on my strongest opinion. For example, if my strongest opinion on a card is a 9-5 favorite, I’m not going to bet that horse to WIN. That isn’t why I play this game. Instead I’m going to look at all of my options, beginning with verticals, then horizontals. I’m personally inclined to play when I can make a bet that will result in at least a 10-1 payoff. So, my challenge, when I’m considering my strong opinion at 9-5, is to figure out the best, most efficient way to make a wager that will turn that 9-5 shot into a 10-1+ shot. The Grand Slam, offered by NYRABets, TVG and other ADWs, as well as on track and in OTBs in New York can be a great way to accomplish that.
The following is how I approach the Grand Slam, step by step:
- Handicap The Payoff Leg – Do I have a single? If yes, there’s a good chance I’m going to play a bet. Ideally, my single isn’t the favorite, but I’m not all that concerned if it is. **If I don’t have a single, I generally won’t play the wager unless I’m completely against either a heavy favorite or the first 2-3 choices on the ML. In rare cases I will use multiple horses in the payoff leg, usually when they’re longer prices.
- Handicap The Other Legs – Is there at least one bad favorite in the sequence? Bad enough to miss the board completely? Obviously, field size and time of year matter when making this determination. Favorites are far more likely to run in the money in the Winter at Aqueduct or in the Fall at Belmont than they are during the Saratoga meet. Getting a 50-1 shot to run third is far less impactful to the ultimate payout of the Grand Slam wager than getting a 6-5 favorite to run 4th. **If I look at the sequence and determine that the likelihood of all three favorites running in the money, the sequence is a pass. I’m not going to get 10-1 on my bet if I’m singling a short priced horse in the payoff leg and when I like a longer price in the payoff leg I’m going to have a better strike rate just betting that horse to win.
- Structure The Bet – How excited am I about the opportunities for favorites to miss the board in the first three legs? The more likely I think it is to occur, the more horses I’m going to use. Again, I want to be efficient with my betting strategy. Sometimes that means getting alive to the payout leg as many times as possible. Sometimes it means pressing a strong opinion. If I think the favorite is vulnerable and can run off the board BUT I don’t have a strong opinion on any of the other runners, I’ll use the three I like best. If I think the favorite is vulnerable AND I DO have a strong opinion on another horse I will single and press (I.E. I’ll play fewer combinations but I’ll punch the ticket more times.)
There are a number of different types of tickets I like to play when investing in the Grand Slam. Here are some examples:
1 x 1 x 1 x 1 – The COLD DECKER! If my ticket looks like this, I’ve got strong opinions in every leg and in at least one of the first three legs I think a favorite is vulnerable. I’ll punch this one quite a few times.
3 x 3 x 3 x 1 – The MAX PAYOUT! With this structure, I’m strong in the payoff leg and I think there are vulnerable favorites in all of the first three legs, or in cases in which the favorites look tough I’ve got a good bead on the other runners, which likely won’t include second choices. With this structure I’m looking to get alive to a 6X payout or better.
4 x 4 x 1 x 1 – BOMBS AWAY! I’m really feeling like the favorites and second choices are vulnerable in the first two legs of this sequence. I’m willing to guarantee my self seven losing combinations in the hopes that I can crush one or both of those first two legs and get alive multiple times to a small bundle.
I like the Grand Slam. It offers bettors another option and another pool to attack. It provides a great opportunity to cash at a high frequency and occasionally there are some real nice scores to be had.
Do you play the Grand Slam? What is your approach?