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Exotic bets help fuel interest in Triple Crown

May 15, 2001 9:12 AM

To borrow from Mark Twain, the reports of thoroughbred racing’s demise are greatly exaggerated.

No one knows that any better than John Broad of Las Vegas, who hit the $62,986.90 Kentucky Derby superfecta at Terrible’s Hotel & Casino.

A worker at one of the Strip resorts, Broad had the only winning superfecta ticket written in Nevada. According to track officials, there were five superfecta winners at Churchill Downs, seven in the state of Kentucky, and 10 in California.

The superfecta payoff was a new record for the Kentucky Derby, as was the $12,238.40 trifecta.

Pari-mutuel betting on the Kentucky Derby, in fact, reached an all time high of $71 million. Most of the action occurred off-track, where bettors plunked down $62 million, an 11 percent increase over last year’s handle.

Renewed interest in the Derby was also reflected in its TV ratings, which enjoyed its highest rating since 1992.

Also helping to fuel betting interest were changes in the rules governing entry bets, which helped create the record high exotic bets.

"Under the old rules, the top two horses would have been coupled as one betting interest, and Point Given would have moved into the fourth spot to complete the superfecta," said John Asher, vice president of communications at Churchill Downs. "Obviously, the payoff would have been substantially lower with the favorite than with longshot, Thunder Blitz, rounding out the ticket."

Increasing the betting interests from 14 to 17 in the Derby created many more combinations - as well as higher odds - for exotic wagers such as trifectas and superfectas.

Under the previous maximum of 14 betting interests, there were 2,184 possible trifecta combinations; with the 17 betting interests, that number shot up to 4,080. The three new betting interests more than doubled the number of superfecta combinations from 24,024 to 57,120.

John Broad, the superfecta winner in Las Vegas, bet a combination ticket that included his four winning horses for a cost of $24. His ticket would have been a winner, no matter what order the top four horses finished.

"Keying" horses by grouping them together is a popular - and sometimes profitable - way of playing the exotic bets. Many players are surprised at how little it costs to combine say, three, four or five horses, on a trifecta tickets.

For instance, if you like three horses, you can "box" them in a combination $2 trifecta ticket for only $12. Adding a fourth horse doubles the price of the ticket to $24.