The cost of playing too many combinations can kill an otherwise good exotic bet. How many times have you handicapped a trifecta, superfecta, or any other exotic bet and found out the cost of the bet was more than the payoff. Or maybe you’ve spent more in a day playing those bets and at the end of the day, even though you’ve cashed a few good tickets, you have less money than you started with?
You realize at that point that you have to hit more exotics or play fewer combinations. In other words, you have to tighten up your game. Keying on one or two runners is a good way to narrow it down, but the problem is twofold. First of all, you must be good at picking reliable key horses. Secondly, you still need to get those longshots in your combinations in order to get big enough payoffs to offset your costs.
The key horse is just that, the key. Look closely at the horses that you key on and ask yourself what makes the horse so attractive as the cornerstone of your wager? If you said it is most likely to finish in the position you’ve played it in, then you’re on the right track. Most likely, or reliable, means you’ve got a good key horse.
Therefore, the next obvious question is, how do you find a reliable key horse? The answer to that question is found in statistics. In almost all races the winner will be within the top three horses in at least one of the following categories, speed, odds, class. When you use a runner as the main horse in your bets, look at those factors and see if it fits into at least one of those categories. If not, you have a very poor horse to key on.
That doesn’t mean you have to take the top horse in any category. For instance, keying on the horse with the fastest average speed ratings in its last races will mean that your bets will pay less because the crowd almost always bets the obvious speed horse heavily. On the other hand, either of the other two of the top three may be a good horse to anchor your bets. It will still have the reliability factor but also may make a good payoff when you hit the exotic bet.