The late Don Scott once wrote that the best form of exotic betting is the trifecta. I think he was right. Don said picking a trifecta winning bet was a test of skill rather than a game of chance. Punters who seek value, he wrote in his book Winning More, will find it more frequently in trifectas than anywhere else. There IS value to be found but it will be found in a creative approach.

In this series of articles, I’ll pass on my own views about the trifecta, and also those of my colleague The Optimist, who has much of enormous interest to share in regard to this particular betting form.

Firstly, though, let’s look at some statistics. These are the sorts of things we should always have in the back of our mind when looking at trifecta betting.

Winning TAB numbers: TAB number 1 is the most dominant number in trifectas, appearing in 40 per cent of all trifectas. TAB number two is next with 35 per cent, number three with 33 per cent, number four with 31 per cent.

The smaller the TAB number the better your chances of getting a successful trifecta collect.

Unsuccessful TAB numbers: The most unsuccessful TAB numbers to appear in trifectas are numbers 14 and above, which combined, appear in less than 10 per cent of all trifectas. The bigger the TAB number the less your chances of getting a successful trifecta collect.

Adding TAB numbers: Adding together the three TAB numbers in your trifecta points to some interesting facts. Just over 50 per cent of all winning trifectas have a score of 15 or less when the three numbers are added together.
Only 2 per cent of winning trifectas have a total score greater than 33. All you do is add together the TAB numbers of your fancied trifectas.

A runner’s last start finish position offers a great indication of its current form and provides an insight into where these runners may finish in a trifecta. By researching over 150,000 gallops races, it was revealed that:

For the win: 50 per cent of runners that finish first in a trifecta had run first, second or third at their last start.
For second: Over 65 per cent of runners that finish second in trifec­tas ran first to fifth at their last start.
For third: Over 75 per cent of runners that finish third in trifectas ran first to eighth at their last start.

There are also other lessons from this research, namely:

1. Runners that won or placed at their last start are good bets for the win, while unplaced runners are best included for second or third.
2. A runner that finishes fourth or better at its last start is likely to improve or sustain that perform­ance at its next start. Whereas a runner that finishes fifth or worse at its last start is likely to perform worse next time.
3. Another simple way of determining whether one runner is better than another is simply to add its last four finish positions together. Excellent standout runners have scores of 10 or less but are hard to find.
4. Good runners to include in trifectas are those whose form figures total 15 or less. If looking for a bit of value look for runners for second and third whose form figures total between 16 and 25. Very poor runners are those whose form figures total more than 30.
5. A runner’s place strike rate (including wins) has been shown to be a better indicator of future performance than its win strike rate. Line the place percentages up in order.

For the win: Runners with a place ranking of one to six account for nearly 75 per cent of all winners. For second: Runners with a place ranking of one to seven account for 78 per cent of all second placegetters. For third: Runners with a place ranking of one to eight account for 81 per cent of all third placegetters.
6. Runners whose form figures show improvement (for example 5421) are superior to runners whose form figures are worsening, like 1245. Runners whose form figures show continued improvement have double the chance of winning of runners whose form figures show a consistent decline.

Include as standouts runners that have some improvement in their form figures over the last four starts and especially over the last two. Exclude runners that show a constant decline.

You can also use form figures to decide if a race is a good trifecta race or not. Add up all the form figures for all the runners in a race. Allocate 10 points for a “0”, eight points for a blank in the form figures and five points for a “x”. Divide the result by the number of starters. If the result is 23 points or more leave the race alone, it is a poor one and may be difficult for you to get the trifecta.

Now, these statistics are interesting. They’re the sort of thing to remember as you confront a day’s racecards and settle down to decide on your trifecta bets.

Don Scott was always quick to point out that traditional straight box bets were not, in the long run, a profitable way to bet the trifecta. He preferred working out his own “true” odds lines and then betting according to the percentages, putting more money on the best value combinations.

“The problem with boxing your selections is that you outlay totally disproportionate amounts on each combination,” Scott wrote. His point was this: Why put the same amount on a combination you have priced at 400/1 as you would a combination priced at 20/1?

A good friend of mine always bets trifectas and he has a simple approach. He NEVER bets unless he is supremely confident he can land the quinella in 3 selections.

His usual bet is a 3x3xField. If he is really confident of nabbing the quinella in two, he’ll do the celever AB-BA-Field bet, and hope that a longshot slips into the third slot. When these roughies bob up, the trifectas can be huge.
The Optimist says: “The trick is to get the right two when the trifecta will pay proportionately more, for a field bet, than the equivalent wager on the quinella.”

For the purposes of this article, I recently got together with The Optimist to discuss ways and means of hitting good trifecta results. We both agreed that long-term success requires planning and discipline and that it’s a “must” to treat each race on its merits.

In other words, don’t try to use the same approach on every race. The composition of fields is another variant that must be dealt with.

In some races, you’ll have two horses that look outstanding chances, in other races four or five runners may well be looking very appealing, with little between them.

It’s obvious, then, that you look carefully at each race and decide on what selection and staking approach you should take.

DJ: OK, let’s dispose of The Box syndrome for a start. I think we’ll agree that while it’s convenient it’s not really all that sensible from a financial viewpoint?

TO: A box trifecta may appear to be the way to go, and well it might be with three horses, at \$6. But apart from a big event with a huge pool (making it a lottery type of investment, anyway) to suggest that your four or more horses all have the same chance is often ridiculous. One combination in 24 can win (not will, but merely can) and one in 60 can win when selecting five boxed horses; one in 120 for six and one in 210 for seven boxed selections.

DJ: Absolutely. The idea, then, is to go for creative multiples without spending too much of our hard-earned.

TO: There is more argument for carefully identifying a race where there is a maximum of two winning chances and the rest of the field is well balanced for the minor prizes. For example, whereas you can outlay \$210 on a seven horse box, you can have the trifecta with two standout winners for \$60. Or you can have \$3.50 on it, instead of \$1, for the same cost.