With eight Grade 1 races offering more than $6.5 million in prize money on Saturday, there is no doubt that Belmont Park hosts the world’s most lucrative and prestigious racing this weekend. These highly competitive races will attract plenty of support through wagering, but a unique opportunity, new to the Festival, deserves added attention.

The New York Racing Association will offer a special two-day pick six wager in connection with the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival. The bet, which spans six graded stakes races across Friday and Saturday, carries a $0.20 minimum wager and a takeout rate at just 15%, the lowest takeout available in North America at this price point for a non-jackpot wager with a mandatory payout. 

NYRA’s traditional $2 pick six pool holds a 15% takeout on days in which there is no carryover – days when the pool size is likely its smallest. Churchill Downs offered a two-day pick six across the Grade 1 races of the Oaks and Derby cards, also with a 15% takeout, but kept a $2 minimum (six tickets hit five of six and each received $67,936 from a pool of $479,561). 

This weekend’s special wager, combining high-quality stakes races with an affordable minimum investment at a small takeout, is a highly attractive option for players with any budget.

"In my many conversations with gamblers, this is exactly the opportunity that real rank-and-file horseplayers say they want: a chance to wager on a great quality product with affordable pricing," said Peter Thomas Fornatale, the host of the In the Money Players' Podcast (which receives sponsorship from NYRA). “It’s an added benefit to be able to get more coverage on the bet through the lower increment without having to sacrifice equity at the expense of an unneeded and unwanted jackpot element."

The industry is sustained by betting handle. The more handle generated, the more times the takeout cycle renews and the more the industry is funded – more money for purses and taxes. 

Jackpot retention pulls money out of the market, and unless the carryover builds to a point where the mandatory payout date is reached, the long-held carryover will often revert to a single player, and is sizable enough that the betting markets will not realize much value from that player’s return investment.  

“Jackpot bets have, somewhat surprisingly, spread across the industry given their perceived success at Gulfstream Park,” says economist and Thoroughbred Idea Foundation board member Marshall Gramm.  

“The proliferation of the jackpot bet defies economic logic. Some are ‘better’ than others, with lower price points for portions of the pool that may be paid on a regular basis, but the concept that tracks will be in a better position by holding money out of the market on the gamble that the long-held carryover will stoke a big single day of business ignores the value that money could have when reinvested in other pools, churned over and over, day after day.”

Players have a chance to show their support of a low minimum, low takeout play, thanks to the two-day pick six, which starts Friday with Belmont’s eighth race, the True North.

Now it’s just waiting for your participation. Good luck!