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How to handicap the Pepsi North America Cup card

North America Cup night is locally the best night of the year on the local harness racing calendar. In addition to the “glamour boy” division of three-year-old colts and geldings getting it on for a $1 million purse, there are several other stakes where the best horses on the continent hook up for rich purses.
 
From a wagering perspective, there are some races where it looks highly likely that big favourites will win, most likely followed by strong second choices. Bettors interested in turning a profit by the end of the night are encouraged to skip these races entirely because the risk/reward just isn’t there:
 
• Race 3 — Goodtimes: Canepa Hanover set a track record last week winning effortlessly by a huge margin and will be the biggest favourite of the night. The second-choice, French Laundry, is clearly the only horse remotely close in ability to Canepa. If both stay trotting the whole way, this exacta is going to pay about $3.20 for every $2. Clearly this is a terrible betting race because on paper these horses are much the best, but making 60 cents on the dollar on an exacta is a hard proposition to swallow.

• Race 5 — Armbro Flight: On paper, this appears to be a two-horse race between 2013 Horse of The Year Bee A Magician – who set a track and Canadian record last week – and Shake It Cerry, last year’s U.S. Trotter of the Year. The pair clearly stand out on current form. The only way to turn a profit long-term is to try to find “value” plays – that is, hit some winners or an exotic betting combination that the majority of the crowd doesn’t have. That situation is highly unlikely to present itself in these two races. So sit back, enjoy a beverage and watch the best of the best do what they do best.
 
There are several good betting opportunities on the remainder of the North America Cup card and there are several ways to tackle them from a wagering standpoint. One of the more fun ways to bet for occasional players is to take advantage of the “fractional” wagering available every race. Triactors, Superfectas, Pick 3s, Pick 4s, Jackpot High 5 and Jackpot Pick 6 all offer 20-cent minimum bets. You can get a lot of action for a small outlay. Consider a triactor, which requires you to pick the first three finishers in order. There are several ways you could play a triactor using the 20-cent base bet, the most common being the “box”:
 
• You can pick the three horses you like best and “box” them, meaning if they come in 1-2-3 in any order, you cash. A 20-cent box using three horses costs only $1.20. If you want to increase your chances and add a horse, a 4-horse box with 24 possible winning combinations will cost you $4.80.

Fractional wagers also offer players a chance at bigger windfalls in the Pick 3 and 4 wagers where in many cases it only takes one outsider winning to make it pay handsomely. Consider taking advantage of these smaller base bets and look to get some longer shots on your tickets which will increase payouts.

There are several things to look for on this night. Consider driver changes where a horse may be getting a new pilot noted for being more aggressive. Yannick Gingras on a horse that can leave the gate quickly is an especially noteworthy angle. No one in the sport currently can “make speed” like him and get a horse to carry it. Look for horses that closed quickly (check the last 1/4 times in the program) and now move inside a few post positions. Chances are they will get a more aggressive steer and be in better position to win turning home. Play “sharp” horses that have shown progressive improvement in speed. This is the time of year when a young horse can make several big jumps in performance.
 
Best Plays:
• Race 6 — Ellis Park/Push Back exacta box. A speed horse and a closer that both fit the class.

• Race 7 — Southwind Amazon to win. Gelding has shown rapid, dramatic improvement in new barn last two starts.

• Race 8 — Thinkofagameplan to win. Showed rapid speed both early and late last time which is a sign of sharpness.

• All Stakes Pick 4 (races 9-12):
Race 9 —2, 3, 5
Race 10 — 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10
Race 11 — 3, 5
Race 12 — 2, 3, 5
Total cost: $72 for a $1 bet (or $14.40 for a 20-cent wager)
 
• Pepsi North America Cup selection — 2 WAKIZASHI HANOVER. Despite a monster trip last week, this gelding still seems to be flying under the radar and should get a great trip on cover. His burst of speed around the final turn last week showed he can compete with these at this time and he may offer good value in the win pool with expected favourite WIGGLE IT JIGGLEIT taking the bulk of the support.
 
Good luck and enjoy the very best the sport has to offer!

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