When you’re putting a trifecta, or First 4 combination together, are you always loathe to leave out the short-priced runners? Don’t worry, 99 per cent of punters have the same mindset.

Fact is, though, that any trifecta or First 4 in which your bet has nothing but favourites and second favourites is really useless. Even if you score a win, the return is likely to be niggardly.

Daily doubles are in the same boat. Linking well-fancied runners might land you some doubles collects, but overall they won’t enable you to secure a long-term profit.

Surveys have shown over the years that multiples containing low-priced horses which win every leg give terrible returns.

US form analyst and professional bettor Barry Meadow says: “Just because certain horses are likely to win a particular race does not mean that combining each likely group with each likely group is a successful strategy.”

He points out that if you use the three favourites in each of, say, three legs (a treble) for a $27 investment, you are likely to have a winner in each race around 68 per cent of the time, but when you multiply the probabilities (.68x.68x.68) you are likely to hit this “pick 3” or treble only 31 per cent of the time, so unless your dividend averages $87, you will lose.

Meadow says the same goes for trifectas and superfectas. “Unless you can get the favourite or second favourite out of there, your payoffs are likely to be disappointing,” he says.

“Boxing the four or five obvious horses is a sure road to bankruptcy.”

Many professionals follow Meadow’s line of thinking. They carefully construct their multiples and when they find that their selections are likely to be well bet by the public they don’t play, or they may figure they can take a set against the well fancied runners.

This is not to say that there can never be a role for a short-priced favourite in your betting. Barry Meadow struck a Pick 6 in the States some years back for $114,000 and two of the legs went to horses at 4/5 and 5/4. It was the longshots that helped boost the dividend across the six races.

Meadow’s advice? “If you like something short, look to see if there are decent-priced horses elsewhere. Too many players spend the majority of their time trying to pick winners. Instead, look to figure how you might make some money.

“Winners are not enough. You have to get prices, even when shooting for the moon in a Pick 6.”

I’ve found in my own betting that the value runners in trifectas, doubles and First 4s will often come from horses ranked about 6th and 7th in the pre-post betting market.

These are runners around the 7/1 to 10/1 mark. They are ignored by the newspaper experts and this flows on to the betting public. The public (or the “crowd”) is transfixed by what the newspaper and formguide analysts choose.

It’s a psychological thing and if you’re to ever start striking big returns you have to rid yourself of the fixation that everything in a race starts with (a) the favourite; and (b) the most favoured horse among the tipsters.

Remember, tipsters are wrong more times than they are right. Most get a 20 per cent win strike, probably 25 per cent at most, so that means 75 losers in every 100 races. Sobering thought, isn’t it? It’s certainly something to remember when you start looking at the form and when your eye drifts to the views of the experts.

How good are they? Who are they? Why should you be taking any notice of them? What do they know that you don’t know? What’s their record? Do they make a profit themselves? Might you just as well ask the bloke standing next to you in the TAB?

Boiled down, then, when you put together an exotics bet, whether it’s a trifecta, a double, a quadrella and so on, you have to keep PROFIT in mind. If you bang all those fancied horses in each leg, what will it be worth if they all win?

Perhaps you’ll outlay $60 and the dividend pays $70. You’ve won a tenner but at long odds-on!

Look deeper into the form. Seek out the likely surprise runners. Put them in and throw out the “play safe” horses.

By doing this, you will reap big dividends when you get it right.

By Peter Travers