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What is a key horse?
A key horse is the one horse in the field that with a little luck should win the race, not so lucky and we have a good second place horse.

Most players are interested in exotic plays these days. At the same time, not all of us has the bankroll to play multiple horses in each part of an exotic play. This is when a sound handicapping method of picking the most probable winner to key will make the difference between a successful and unsuccessful player. Can we confidently choose a key horse in every race? Possibly, but not likely with weaker and weaker fields carded these days.

Are all races playable? Absolutely not. Depending on the day of the week or the track, third to half of the races may not be playable. A winning horse player should accept this before moving on to developing a strategy to win.

In the following articles we refer to all exotics that are played in one race ( Exacta, Tri, ...) as vertical plays and exotics that are played across multiple races (Doubles, Pick3, ...) as horizontal plays.

How do we know what play is the best in each race? Our rule of thumb is that weak races with too many unknowns are only profitable in horizontal plays. A maiden race which third or more of the field are first timers or a field of non-winners of two lifetime who have not shown any sign of winning desire in their last race are long term money burners if played in vertical plays. If you are a vertical player, we suggest that you maximize your profit in more predictable races so you have a bigger budget for these unpredictable races.

Is there a magic formula to picking a key horse? Yes, but it's held by the guy at the track we all know who tells everyone who to bet all their money on. For the rest of us, we just have to figure it out the hard way.

We'll try to break this down according to racing levels.

 Figure handicapping drawbacks