In this article, Damien Whitchurch and The Optimist discuss the pros and cons of various exotic bets and state the reasons for their preferences and dislikes.

Damien Whitchurch: To start this off, I admit to liking the exacta more than the quinella. I have never totally liked the idea that I have to put a horse into a slot when I don't think it belongs there.

For example, if I believe I know the winner, within reason anyway, then I may not want to slot it into a place, even if that place is second.

If I believe that a certain horse can win, I often try to stand it out with four, occasionally five, that I believe can run second behind it. I know the argument that I get the reverse bet for nothing, but I prefer to receive a better dividend for getting it right.

The Optimist: There seem to me to be two flaws in what you have said so far, Damien. First, you assume that the exacta will pay better than the quinella. That is certainly likely, but to get that "edge" you eliminate those times when reversing the result, by taking quinellas, would have given you a return.

For example, when you take, say, A to win from B or C or D or E to run the second placing, you sacrifice the inbuilt insurance that the quinella gives.

The other thing I think you are ignoring, is that if you are going to take those four to run second, you are putting four units on the exacta. Those four units for a win, at say 3/1, provide you with a 12-unit profit if you win. So the exacta has to (1) get up and (2) pay at least 12/1.

Given a 3/1 winner, that 12/1 might be hopeful - IF it gets up anyway. In my view, it's a case of your ignoring the bird in the hand, unless you believe that a genuine outsider can run second. I'd rather have the whole bet on the winner.

 DW: Oh, come on, you love exotic betting. You often have standouts,

TO: Yes, but if I believe I have the winner in my keeping, I will back it to win, and in a handful of small cash big expectations. For example, I might stand it out in the trifecta, or even the first four. This would cost me $12 for the $1 trifecta, and $12 for the 50-cent first four. I might just be tempted to save by taking a box on the trifecta or first four, but if I were very confident I'd more likely do what I have just outlined.

I believe the exacta is an unreliable betting medium, but I can see you are anxious to correct me on this.

DW: It has been good to me. I do riot want to take the more risky bets you outlined. I would have backed the horse to win anyway, as you point out, and it is unlikely I would be taking less than 5/1 if I were considering exactas. You see, a shorter price for my selection usually means it doesn't matter what runs the second place, the value isn't there. I would not be interested in backing the exacta with a horse to win at about 3/1, as you suggest.

TO: That means you are doing exactly what I criticised before, doesn't it? If the horse is 5/1, you will be passing up 20 win points on those four exactas. So the exacta has to pay 20/1 to cut even. How many of your exactas pay that?

DW: I average 28/1 about my returns, and long term I have averaged one collect in 4.70. That's 22 per cent. My average winner comes in at just above 5/1. Of course, I get more winners than exactas, I average 31 per cent in a good year.

So, let's see if your point is well made. If the winner were available at 5/1, and I had 200 bets a year, you are saying that I'd be better off backing the winners for those additional four units and collecting another 700 units profit.

TO: Those exacta returns are very good, better than I could do. Off the top of my head, if you are taking four for second place on average, I'd say you are getting about 50 per cent profit there, right?

If you can maintain that sort of return, you are quite correct to keep attacking the exacta. Frankly, I am very impressed. I'd have imagined you were probably getting something like 12 or 13 per cent winning exactas. Twenty-two is staggering. Of course, it means that in four of five cases where you pick the winner at 5 / I-plus, and it is at reasonable odds, you are also able to identify the exacta in four picks. Have you ever considered A/BCDE/field for the trifecta?

DW: I have, but that way lies risk and ruin, long term. Or at least too much stress and the temptation to chase losses - which there would be. This way I get good action and I also keep my head in place.

TO: Well, I give up. I thought I was on safe ground, but I can see that if somebody like you can select a high percentage of winners, then be selective about which ones you add exactas to, there is a bigger chance than I thought of making the idea work for you. You still need to be able to do it, of course.

DW: That goes for any form of investment, yes?

TO: Yes indeed.

By Damien Whitchurch with The Optimist