Coast to Coast Pick 5: The Santa Anita Park, Gulfstream Park Combo Bet

What’s better than horse races from coast to coast?

A Pick 5 pool that links them.

Santa Anita Park horse-racing bettors have begun flocking to the Coast to Coast Pick 5. It’s a new joint venture between the Great Race Place and Gulfstream Park in Florida that runs every Saturday and Sunday.

As the name suggests, California horse race betting enthusiasts can gain all or part of a substantial wagering pool by picking the winner of five consecutive races staged between the two tracks.

This is the latest racing program aimed at bettors who relish the big payout pools and the player-friendly 15% takeout.

That’s far below the 20, 25, and even 30% total taken by different tracks in the exotics realm of exactas, trifecta, and superfectas.

Buoyed by the 15% takeout, last Saturday’s Coast to Coast Pick 5 had a pool of $330,374 and returned $11,699.50 to 24 winning tickets.

Eleven grand-plus for five races? Wow.

Much of that can be credited to Art Collector’s 15-to-1 upset in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park. Given the size of the betting pool, any medium- or longshot-priced horse will produce a massive payout.

Congratulations to anyone who got a piece of this one. Art Collector was a gutsy pick in a field of 12 and his inclusion on the ticket reflected adroit handicapping.

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Coast to Coast Pick 5 Overview

Every Pick 4, Pick 5, or Pick 6 works differently, with unique twists to all.

Here’s how this one operates.

Most of the competition unfolds in about an hour, encompassing the last three races at Gulfstream Park mixed in with two Santa Anita events.

The minimum bet is $1.

If there are no winners, the entire pool carries over. If there are multiple winners, the pot is split and a new pot begins the next day.

Coast to Coast Pick 5 Strategy: Budget Allocation

To calculate the cost, multiply the number of selections in each race.

A $1 bet covers one selection in five races and has little or no chance.

Taking two horses in every event costs $32. It’s 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2. But add just one selection and see how it rises. Say you take three horses in the first race. That’s 3 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2, or $48.

Add one more on top of that in the second race and it’s $72.

Somewhere along the line, one must determine the cutoff point regarding whether this is a side-bet dabble or an attempted score.

This matters because multiple entries in a couple of races will be needed. But which ones? It’s a different view point for everyone.

One necessity links all players, however. That’s the need for a “single”, or having just one entry in at least one of the races.

Most winning tickets have at least one single, because the wager  is otherwise too expensive.

Where players take that stand forms the intrigue and strategy.

A player who correctly forecasts a single has the luxury of taking multiple horses in a different race.

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Pool Fits Comfortably at Mid to High Betting Levels

There’s a beauty to the daily disbursement of the Coast to Coast Pick 5.  It lets low- and mid-level bettors avoid the auction effect of competing against people with more money as pools hit massive heights. 

A daily disbursement amongst winners ensures a relatively even playing field compared to what happens when a pool goes north of $1 million. It’s not uncommon at that point for individual gamblers to wager $300 or more, gaining an advantage over players who don’t want to spend that much.

Players also will embrace the Pick 5 because it features high quality races at a specific time each weekend, barring unforeseen developments.

The program launched Jan. 7, had a couple of interruptions because of massive rain cancelling some Santa Anita cards, and  figures to pick up steam.

Look for it every Saturday and Sunday until April 9.

How Tracks Leverage This Bet

It’s a link to pump the handle and spark excitement.

Del Mar Racetrack, just north of San Diego, made a bold move in this regard two years ago.

It changed the Pick 6 from $2 to $0.20, sweeping a giant new swath of the gambling market into its innovative program.

The result was magic last year. The pool carried over into more than $500,000 in early August, when the track scheduled a mandatory payout. This brought massive new money, because the entire pot was going to be disbursed.

Mandatory day lured several million dollars more and the track delivered more than $6,600 apiece to 543 gamblers.

The 20-cent wager was economical, encouraging players of all budgets to take an inexpensive stab. With the 20-cent wager, $20, $30, or $50 covers many possibilities. Yes, small and mid-level players still  have a disadvantage against players who wager more money, but their own money also goes further, enabling more entries.

Del Mar used the pool to boost interest on payout day.

Gulfstream Park, by contrast, uses big betting on one big day to boost the following card.

 The track routinely schedules a payout one day after a major event, as it did last Sunday.

The Saturday Pegasus card, worth more than $5.3 million, had produced a carryover jackpot pool of $828,941.81 heading into Sunday’s mandatory payout. And that program propelled $6,265,823 of new handle into the Rainbow 6.

The masses flocked to the bet. A mandatory payout of the 20-cent Rainbow 6 yielded multiple $6,086.16 payoffs.

You can watch the process unfold again this week and build toward Florida Derby Day in April or an earlier mandatory payout. California  bettors can participate in the Gulfstream cards via the TVG app, varied simulcast outlets, or at Santa Anita itself.

How the Gulfstream Pot Builds

When there are multiple winners, 70% of the pool goes to holders of winning tickets. The other 30% forms a carryover that lasts until mandatory payout day. Eventually, the pot bubbles over.

 The Rainbow 6 was last solved by one lucky bettor for a life-changing $533,783.63 payout Jan. 5. But that’s extremely rare.

The Psychology of Pick 4s, Pick 5s, and  Pick 6s

The exotics not only take out more money, but, in a big field, are difficult to hit. A player may have the right winning horse, but might not connect on second-, third-, or fourth-place finishers. Horses who have no chance to win in the stretch may be ridden more easily by their jockeys or simply stop trying.

Contrast that with a field in which the bettor has three or four entries to simply win. You don’t have to worry about who runs second. Just finish first, baby.

One New Jersey bettor expressed his overall pick-races philosophy last Saturday to California Casinos. He was playing rolling Pick 3s, Pick 4s, and the Coast to Coast Pick 5 involving Santa Anita and Gulfstream.

“I have been here four hours and haven’t hit a thing,” he laughed. “But I am only out $50. A lot of these bets aren’t expensive. This is where I put my bankroll today.”

The player did  not hit the Coast to Coast Pick 5, but he grouped Art Collector and Defunded, guided by Santa Anita’s leading trainer Bob Baffert, in a late double that started with the big race. That triumph helped him walk away a winner.

Preparing for the Coast to Coast Pick 5

It helps to watch the early races at both tracks to see if it is playing “speed” to favor the frontrunners or “stalkers” to help horses coming off the pace.

Recent California rains make this tricky at Santa Anita, which went from favoring speed to stalkers a week or so back. At some point, this will shift back, but we can’t predict when. That’s why a look at the early races will help.

A Tip From Players Who Have Been Burned

Include everybody you think can win. Avoid hitting the end of your budget and submitting a ticket that leaves a borderline horse off of it. That’s usually the one that costs you.

If you think a horse that has a chance is the extra selection driving the ticket price too high, consider skipping the Pick 5.

Handicap the Pick 5 whether you play it or not. It’s an excellent way to prepare for each individual race and will provide an edge when one eventually bets that event.

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Know if a race has been taken off the turf. That makes it a crapshoot.

Be wary if you see a field of multiple first-time starters. Most people don’t have a knack for hitting that inside of a Pick 5. If you do, that’s great. Most people won’t.

Above all, enjoy the challenge.

About the Author

Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo is a writer for California Casinos, and has covered the horse racing and boxing industry extensively since the 1980s. He was an award-winning writer at the Press of Atlantic City. As a broadcaster, he has won the Sam Taub Award for Excellence in Boxing Broadcasting, issued by the Boxing Writers Association of America. He has called major fights for HBO, ESPN, Showtime, and other networks since the 1980s. He is in the New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame. Dave shifted gears to cover the emerging legalized sports-betting industry in 2018. He now serves as the go-to authority on horse race betting across multiple websites, including California Casinos.