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Place for value

This question comes from an experienced horse player:

What exactly is value shopping?

This, from somebody new to the game:

What is value shopping?

This, from somebody new to handicapping:

What's the best time to make a place bet?

And, from somebody experienced:

When should I make a place bet?

First question: What is value shopping?

From a personal standpoint, it is a reliable horse picking aid. When I hear a handicapping expert say that he or she is shopping for value in a race, I run a line through the animal's name in the program. Hardly a day at the races goes by without hearing somebody who should be smart mention value. And, I can't recall a single value pick having ever won a race. Surely it has happened. Surely, an expert has come on a screen and said, "I can't beat the even-money favorite, so what I'll now do is throw away a hundred bucks on this 15-1 prayer." And surely, there was a traffic jam in a blizzard where the value horse slipped by on the rail and won a four-way photo after two disqualifications. Therefore a horse with value is defined as one that can't win without racing luck, terrible weather, and a miracle.

If a value horse seldom wins, what about place or show bets, or exotics?

A value bet comes about because of a short number on another horse. That's not so much handicapping as it is wishing. Nothing wrong with that, unless you could really use the money you're about to bet. Value hunting suggests to me the image of somebody rummaging around a dumpster to see what the rest of the aluminum chair looks like.

To my way of thinking, all winners have value. You pick winners, not prices. Picking prices is called "The Price is Right," hop on down. If what you like is 3-5, and that's not enough possible profit for the risk, look at an exacta. There's still another option if the price is not right. Maybe you should sit down to hear this. Hold the arm rests. Take a deep breath. Ready? You could always pass on a race.

What's the difference in a 15-1 value horse, and a 15-1 lovely play?

Value horses need lots of help.

Before you let odds chase you onto or off a horse, take a moment to reflect on who frequently sets those numbers: pinheads.

Question two: When should you (not me) make a place bet?

The "place" button is probably the least used key at some race tracks.

Based on personal experiences, I might advise against making a single place bet on a race; which is to say the typical place bet cries out for company, a small saver to win, for example. What's worse than making a place bet only, and having the horse win and pay $60? Giving a divorce deposition is slightly worse.

It stands to reason that the most famous place bet in the world was a subject of some confusion in the great motion picture, "The Sting." In that show, the horrible Mr. Lonnegan has a half a million bucks and is told to place it on a horse in a fixed race. So he does. But he places the money to win. In this horsy instance, place it meant bet it second. That was where the fix was on. The horse ran second, as choreographed, at 8-1. Lonnegan should have played a saver.

So far as I can tell, the best time to make a place bet is when you have plenty of money to surround it with others.

Write to Jay at jaycronley@yahoo.com