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Computer Straight Forecast Versus The Exacta
For this article I am going to compare the same type of bet – the Computer Straight Forecast and the Tote Exacta. Both bets select two runners in a race and bet that one horse will beat the other. The difference is that one is a “pool” bet (the exacta), while the other is a computer generated one (Computer Straight forecast).
Exacta bets are placed with the Tote and as stated above are “pool” bets. Essentially this means all the stake money from all the exacta bets go into a pool and hence the return will depends on (i) your stake and (ii) the size of the pool. The Tote also takes a percentage out of the “pool” which means that the returns become slightly smaller as result. The biggest problem with the Exacta bets is that the “pool” can be rather small, and hence a hefty size bet will reduce any winning returns considerably.
Bookmakers also offer a Computer Straight Forecast (often known as simply the CSF) and it works in exactly the same way as an Exacta in terms of you are trying to predict the winner and the second, but the return is not dependent on the size of the pool. A rather complicated computer program takes into account the number of runners and the prices and from its calculations a CSF return is produced.
On a personal level, I have used forecast and exacta bets for many years now most notably for draw biased bets. I have used the CSF when the draw bias is very well known such as Beverley or Chester, because it tends to pay slightly better, while when the bias is not as well known I have used the exacta. For me, neither bet is perfect with both having advantages and disadvantages. The advantage of the CSF is that you can have fairly good idea of the return due to the fact that on most occasions the payout roughly equals the following formula: add 1 point to the price of the runner up and multiply that by the price of the winner. For example, if a horse won at 4/1 with the second horse priced 6/1, you add 1 point to the 6 to make 7 and multiply by 4 to give around 28/1. The disadvantage of the CSF is that is basically gives poor returns if you calculate the “true” odds of the actual combination. The exacta on the other hand is virtually impossible to predict – it really does depend on the amount staked on each 1st / 2nd combination compared with total amount of money in the pool. However, it can pay handsomely so it is always a bet to consider to small stakes.
In order to compare the payouts of two bets I have taken a sample of over 2500 flat races from August 1st 2007 to December 31st 2007 – a 4 month period. All race types were included and the average payouts per race were as follows:
Hence, on average the exacta has outperformed the CSF by around 20 units. Using just £1 per unit, you can see this is quite a difference. Next I looked at the top 10 payouts to see if you did “get lucky” which paid the best on such an occasion. I have rounded them to the nearest unit (pound):
The biggest payout for each came in the same race (perhaps unsurprisingly) – it was the 6f 2yo Trophy at Redcar on 6th October 2007 when Dubai Dynamo won at 40/1 beating 66/1 shot Vhujon into second place. The ‘exact’ exacta was £2516.90 – remember this is to a £1 unit stake! Not a bad bet to land, but an extremely unlikely one of course with those prices in a 20+ runner field! The difference between the payouts of the exacta and the CSF in this instance was considerable at around £857. However, let us look at the second biggest exacta payout – this came in a 6f Thirsk handicap on 3rd August 2007 and paid a very healthy £1988.10 to a £1 unit stake……………. Now what do you reckon the CSF paid? £1400? No lower …………….. £1200? No lower ……....… you are not even warm! £900?................... No still much lower!! £600??? ………… No still much lower!!! In fact the CSF paid only £371.22. THIS EQUATES TO A DIFFERENCE OF £1616.88. Now how would you have felt if playing the CSF that day??!!
So all in all, at these early stages of comparison it looks like the exacta wins hands down. Let us see if this is still the case as we dig further. My next comparison was to look at all races to see how many times the exacta paid more than the CSF and vice versa. The results were:
Once again the exacta clearly outperforms the CSF with bigger payouts on a scale close to 3 races to 1. The exacta continues its domination!
The next area I decided to look at was the performances at big meetings. My theory was that the exacta’s advantage would increase further at such meetings as the pools will be much bigger due to bigger crowds at the meeting, and more interest generally. Firstly I looked at the Ebor meeting at York – a 3 day meeting in August. There were 21 races and the exacta beat the CSF 16 races to 5 or in percentage terms 76.2% against 23.8%. The average payout for the exacta was £117.04; the average payout for the CSF was £78.36. This equates to a difference per race (on average) of £38.68. The same bias to the exacta occurred at Glorious Goodwood. Unfortunately my study started on August 1st and hence missed day 1 of the meeting, but the other four days saw the exacta beat the CSF 25 races to 3 or 89.3% against 10.7%. The average payout for the exacta was £163.63; the average payout for the CSF was £103.10. (For the record I have just back checked day 1 of the meeting and the exacta paid more 6 races to 1). Hence, the bigger meetings seem to accentuate the bias and clearly if “playing” at such meetings, the exacta bet is definitely the one worth doing.
There is however, one area where the CSF has a “fighting chance” of competing with the exacta and that is in races with small fields. With less 1st / 2nd permutations and less chance for both horses being big prices the CSF competes on a more level playing field. In races of 9 runners or less the exacta came out best 63.8% of the time, compared with 36.2% for the CSF. The gap between the two has closed a little. Indeed the average payouts were remarkably similar this time – the exacta average payout was £36.70 compared £32.39 for the CSF.
My final research area was handicaps versus non handicaps. Looking at non handicaps first, the exacta came out best 71% of the time with an average payout of £62.27; the CSF came out best 29% of the time with an average payout of £49.36. In handicaps the bias to exactas was not surprisingly stronger – the exacta came out best 75.5% of the time with an average payout of £97.30; the CSF came out best 24.5% of the time with an average payout of £71.42.
Of course it should be stressed at this juncture that plenty of decent exact payouts do not actually get won and hence some of the returns are simply the money left in the pool. This is because in big field races there are numerous combinations and not many people could confidently put two 33/1 shots in an exacta. However despite this, the figures generated in this article clearly show that the exacta is definitely the better bet of the two.
For me I play always play to small stakes when using the exacta – it is essentially a fun bet, but has paid handsome dividends (apologies for the pun) for me in the past. Indeed, I am tempted to research exactas in more detail, like I did with the tricast, but that is for another time
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