You’ll never find your gold on a sandy beach
You’ll never drill for oil on a city street
I know you’re looking for a ruby in a mountain of rocks
But there ain’t no coupe de ville hiding at the bottom of a cracker jack box

The words above were written in a totally different context to those you would expect to read in Practical Punting Monthly.

In fact they are taken from the Jim Steinman lyrics, Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad, the hit single that made Meatloaf (Marvin Lee Aday) a rock star back in 1977 with his album Bat Out Of Hell.

Two out of three indeed mightn’t be bad, but two out of four is better. At least that’s my opinion when it comes to the main focus of this month’s article, which concentrates on quinella betting.

I mentioned in the July Practical Punting Monthly that one of the side benefits of penning articles such as this has been the feedback from readers. And it is in response to a reader’s email that this month’s article concentrates on ways to “play” quinella betting.

Peter H. wrote, “I like quinella betting but find it very frustrating at times, quite often just missing out when I get the winner along with a third placegetter. It’s amazing how many roughies get up to run second, or that’s the way it appears at least.

One idea I had was to take my first two selections as anchor bets along with four other runners for a nine unit outlay, e.g. 1 with 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 along with 2 with 3, 4, 5 and 6.

However, I found that while having some success, the outlays were just too much to make it an overall profitable approach.”

Peter H. concluded with the question, “Do you know of any quinella strategies that have a reasonable strike rate while limiting the outlays?”

Trying to find a winner has been the staple diet of most Australian punters since horse racing started in this country, and over the years other forms of betting have gradually been introduced into the wagering environment.

Some of these have failed miserably, such as the ill-fated Spinner but others, while not challenging Win betting in terms of turnover, have nevertheless left their mark on the Australian wagering landscape.

Amongst these would be doubles, quinella and trifecta betting, while the first fours undoubtedly will join this list once they are available Australia wide.

Of all the exotic bet types, the quinella is the least demanding, giving punters two chances of picking the winner and the runner-up.

But why use the term “quinella” to describe this particular two-horse wagering method? As we know, Quin is equal to five but has nothing at all to do with the name “quinella”, which in fact is derived from the Hispanic word “quiniela”, meaning a “game of chance”.

Before attempting to answer Peter H’s question, it is worth mentioning that 2005 is the fiftieth anniversary of the introduction of quinella betting in Australia, or more precisely as a bet type in Victoria (not sure about its introduction in the other states).

Introduced at the same time as the running doubles, quinella betting was, at first, only available on the last race at Melbourne race meetings, being restricted to on-course patrons.

As in all forms of wagering, return has to be measured against the level of risk involved. For instance, it is generally accepted that the longer the price of a horse, the lower its rank in the order of favouritism, the bigger the risk and the less likely a positive return.

As punters seek value by backing longer priced selections, favourites as a group tend to be underbet, while the longer price selections are overbet, hence the long shot bias that exists in wagering, not only in this country, but throughout the world.

When attempting to find an acceptable level of risk in quinella betting, it is necessary to consider outlays verses the potential returns. A simple two-horse quinella method based on any half-decent selection process is in the long run likely to win more (or lose less) in terms of profit/loss-on-turnover than a three-horse, four-horse, five-horse, etc method.

The only chance when adopting a five-horse or more method is to wager proportionally to the chances of any two selections filling the first two positions. Boxing-up selections is just too costly when so many runners are involved.

As Table 1 discloses, the exponential cost of using a boxing strategy rises quite sharply and while the more selections included in the box will increase the strike rate, it is also just as likely that the effect on the bottom line (profit/loss) will be negative.

Horses Boxed $1 Unit Cost
2 1
3 3
4 6
5 10
6 15
7 21
8 28
9 36
10 45
Table 1

So not only is my recommendation to limit the number of selections to four in just about all instances, it is one that I have been successfully using since May of this year.

The only exception to this is where the potential return far outweighs the additional risk involved, such as in the major handicap races like the Melbourne Cup, Caulfield Cup, Doncaster Handicap or Epsom Handicap.

As an example, the following are my ratings/prices for this year’s Doncaster Handicap (Table 2):

Court’s In Session$4.60
Winning Belle$5.60
Al Maher$7.00
Danni Martine $9.50
Table 2
In this instance, I took the risk by taking all five horses in a box quinella, with the $79.90 return on Supertab worth the additional outlay. As a matter of interest, the trifecta which paid $1,512.40 was to be found in the five rated selections.

But risking the additional outlays should be the exception rather than the rule.

As I mentioned, since May this year I have successfully implemented (at least so far) a quinella strategy for my ratings, which are predominantly based on the Killer Factors, published recently in the Practical Punting Monthly.

In all bar one instance, I have only rated races shown on the TVN racing station, which of course means events run in Melbourne, Sydney and Victoria.

I have mainly concentrated on races where the Killer Factors are at their best, that is when fitness becomes one of the major factors and for that reason most of the races rated have been 1400m or longer. Only races with an absolute maximum of   14 runners, preferably 12 and with no more than five genuine chances are considered.

As of July 29, the following results have been achieved for a $6 box Quinella at level stakes (Table 3):

Winning Races54
Strike Rate49.1%
Longest Losing Run 5
POT %26.0%
Table 3
Note: A five horse box was taken in four races.

As there have been only 110 races so far, the jury is still out on the long-term viability of this approach, but it looks promising at this stage and certainly provides another weapon in this punter’s armoury.

I guess what appeals to me about this approach are the high strike rate and therefore the relatively short losing runs.

An analysis of the ratings has disclosed that the top-rated selection has participated in 31 of the 54 successful quinellas so far. Table 4 displays how the top four ranked horses have performed in this regard:

Rank Wins
Table 4
However, the comparative low strike rate of the fourth ranked horse belies the importance of how much these selections have aided in the overall profit performance, as the successful combinations that have included the fourth ranked selections have contributed more than any of the other ranked selections (Table 5):

Rank Returns
Table 5
Note: The total return is obtained by dividing the individual totals by two. The high strike rate and the level of profit lend themselves to a very simple staking plan that I developed, enhancing profits somewhat and a little more.  Using the following progression: 1/2; 1/2; 1, 1, 1.5, 1.5, 2, 2, 2.5, 2.5, 3, 3, has achieved the following results (Note: 1/2 unit bet equals a $3 box):

Profit/Loss $199.05
POT %48.5%
Average Bet$3.90
# of Max Bets20
Max Bet Size$9.00
Max Drawdown$17.15
Table 6
A simple yet effective staking approach that has decreased the risk yet increased both the profit and the profit on turnover (POT) from 26 per cent to 48.5 per cent.

By EJ Minnis