Can You Play an "All Stakes" Harness Pick 4?

All stakes pick 4's seem to work fairly well in Thoroughbred racing (even when a track force-feeds them with short fields), but in harness it's not the same apple, tree, or orchard.

This past weekend, on Meadowlands Pace night, the all stakes pick 4 paid a whopping $10.80. This is on the heels of some others, at Pocono and Mohawk, that were very similar.

Harness racing stakes races are simply very formful. They are restricted, whereby one horse, or two horses, stand out; they are not deep, where in pick 4 betting breadth means everything; there are no shippers who have not met before, no horse with turf breeding stretching out from a blowout dirt sprint to an 8.5 furlong turf try; there's no sneaky speed that's not apparent because you have sneaky speed pace figures.

That's why we see such crazy-high win percentages for favorites in stakes races.

As you all know as bettors, playing 15% or 20% takeout pick 4's (especially now at lower minimums) are tough at the best of times, but with high chalk hit rates, it becomes even harder and harder to be ROI positive.

What to do? I think there are a few things.

i) Don't play, if you don't have a strong opinion. Why force a bet when you know you probably won't even get a parlay price, and you will probably lose money spreading? If you don't see a big reason to bet against the chalk in the first leg, like the horse looking washed out, severely overbet, etc - or in any other legs - just watch and wait. There are a lot of other bets out there.

ii) Hammer the chalk pick 4. If you think all four faves are really strong, hammer the sequence. Maybe you get more than parlay and you make a few dollars that way. With 20 cent or 50 cent mins now, this can sometimes work, because you take advantage of those just "wanting to hit it" who spread too much. This ain't my style, and I avoid it, but there are some who say they grind it out like this.

iii) Play like you most-always do, or should. Find a horse you like at a price over the heavy chalk? Key him or her, take a stand, and don't worry about losing money because a chalk beats you. Often times it's best if you think at least two of the chalk is at least vulnerable.

iv) Petition tracks to card pick 4 races that aren't trap races, or heavily chalk laden. I throw that last one in, because this is what most of us need to be ROI positive at the end of the season.

I did not play the pick 4 on Franklin night, but I did on Pace night, because a few of those conditions were met.

Although Always B Miki was heavily bet, both Pete and WIJI did not look great on the track to me, so I thought leaning his way might provide a smidgen of value.

I liked Wings of Royalty in the Maturity, who would be double digits. The near chalk, or co-chalk -- the nine horse -- went a huge trip last time, and sometimes these trotters bounce. Hannelore looked tough, and if I was right on the nine horse she could be a use, but I felt my perceived value horse was where I wanted to land.

I thought Control the Moment was vulnerable at a low price, because Racing Hill looks like the better horse and CTM was visually impressive in his elim. I also liked another speed. Racing Hill probably was the best horse (if Brett Miller gets the plugs out properly and doesn't gap in that 28 crawl in panel three he wins). In the end, CTM won like a 2-1 shot, not a 2-5 shot.

I liked Katie Said, because she's sharp and I expected a big try from the ten. She, unfortunately was dead last at the quarter again, and she wasn't beating that crazy mare who won anyway.

Despite the result (I of course did not hit it, because using the other three chalk as a "back up" defeats the purpose) I think my conditions were met, and I was getting some value. I didn't lose much, because when you don't spread, or back up, you don't bet much. I need to only hit one in 20 or so pick 4's to be ROI positive with this strategy, so I don't care if I lose.

If you play these type pick 4's in any other way, or do something I have not listed, let me know in the comments section.

The bottom line for me: It should not be this hard for us as bettors. Tracks, we hope, would card bets that we're eager to play, not have to go through mental gymnastics to try and find a bet. With modern harness stakes racing and low minimums that allow everyone to spread, this is harder and harder to come by.

Have a nice Monday everyone.

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