There once was a time when tracks only offered one or two pick 3 wagers in one day. The pool size for these pick 3s was pretty good, and there was no competition for the bettors' money from the early and late pick 4s, or rolling doubles, like we have now. For the most part, just HITTING the pick 3 during this era meant a nice, profitible day at the track, and possibly a SCORE.
Today, however, the "rolling" pick 3 pools are among the smaller pools at any track (especially compared to the trifecta pools), and the returns on the pick 3 typically are not quite as lucrative. Unfortunately, I have a healthy love of the Pick 3, and I like to make money using the wager.
Here are some ideas my buddies at the track and I have shared over the years for successful pick 3 playing.
(1) Try to limit your play to one or two pick threes per day per track.
(2) Don't UNDERBET a pick 3 play. A good pick 3 strategy that includes some long shots will have 32 to 40 combinations.
(3) Look for races featuring short priced favorites that may be highly vulnerable (horses coming off layoffs of 90 days or more, incompetent human connections, suspicious class droppers, horses making their debut on a new surface and/or distance), especially in they START the first race of the sequence. The crowd loves to single short-priced horses in the pick 3, an if the favorite goes down it's an opportunity to get some of the crowd's money.
(4) In the same race as the weak and/or overbet favorite, look for horses with odds of 5/1 or higher that can "kick start" nice pick 3 payoff.
(5) In maiden and maiden claiming races, don't be afraid to use horses that are lightly raced or making their debuts, EVEN IF THEY ARE NOT BET OR FAVORED ON THE MORNING LINE. If the experienced runners in a maiden race are poor, they probably won't get any better without a class drop. When possible, use "speed figure pars" in maiden and maiden claiming races to determine which experienced horses can possibly be kept off your ticket(s). Be very, very wary of betting maiden and maiden horses that run close seconds and thirds often. These horses are always underlays unless they drop in class.
In short, to succeed with the pick 3, handicap well, have enough capital to make the correct wager, and focus on beating short-priced favorites that have negative angles going against them.