Without a key horse, or horses, don't play the trifecta!" This advice is handed down by the noted US expert, and PPM contributor, Barry Meadow in his widely acclaimed book, Money Secrets At The Racetrack.

It's advice that many committed trifecta punters will agree is wise. As Meadow puts it: "You've got to focus ... one horse must run either 1st or 2nd and something else must happen (even if it's only one of a certain group of five horses must finish 2nd)."

Meadow is referring to the betting approach that ignores all-out "box" betting on the trifectas. That is, don't just pick three or four horses and "box" them for $6 or $24. Think more about your bet and how to go about covering the various combinations.

After all, if you think a horse will not win but could very well get a placing, why bother wasting money covering him in a box to win the race?

You can eliminate him from consideration. Doing this, assuming you've chosen four selections, your trifecta bets could then be:

A-B-C to win, A-B-C to run 2nd, and A-B-C-D to run 3rd. This is a linkup costing $12 as opposed to the $24 you would have shelled out had you kept Horse D in for the win (too bad if he does happen to win, though if he does it will be a rarity, assuming your selection skills are okay).

Generally, the advice from experts like Barry Meadow is to sharply hone your betting skills once you have made the selections for your trifectas. By doing this, you can bet MORE on the horses you fancy the most and have less useless combinations cluttering up your bet.

Let's say you LOVE Horse X. He's at around 5/1 and you just know he can win. Okay, then back your judgement and go for him as the banker standout to win the race. You now have the task of reassessing the race to find the runners who will finish 2nd and 3rd.

Draw a line through Horse X and then treat the remaining runners as if they were in a new race on their own. Which can win, which can place?

You now find that you have three runners who could very well run 2nd or 3rd to Horse X. Okay, put them in to run 2nd and 3rd. You also fancy another runner just outside this trio and you feel he might straggle into 3rd with a bit of luck. Okay, add him to the 3rd place slot.

You now have a bet that has one horse to win, three to run 2nd and four to run 3rd. The bet is:

X-ABC-ABCD. This will cost you only $9. If you boxed all five it would cost $60. Let's say you have earmarked $20 for the race. You can now put 2 units ($2) on each combination to make it an $18 bet. Then you can use the other $2 to place an extra nibble on the combination you feel is the very best of them all.

You could also wheel the banker selection, so that if it runs 1st, 2nd or 3rd, you'll get the trifecta, provided your other selections perform as anticipated.

The other bets would be: ABC-XABCD and ABC-ABCD-X.

Putting your money on the trifecta selections is the final move you make with this form of betting. How do you arrive at the selections?

The NSW TAB's website has an interesting overview of this and it's certainly worth looking at because it throws up some novelty ideas which may be good fodder for those punters always seeking an extra and different avenue.

This is how the NSW TAB advises visitors to its website at www.tab.com.au:

There are as many ways to arrive at a successful selection process as there are horses or greyhounds to back. The key is to find an approach that you are comfortable with and stick with it.

The following are not betting systems. However, over time, certain trends have emerged in relation to Trifecta betting. You may choose to consider them when making your selections.

  1. Using TAB numbers
  2. Using last-start finish positions
  3. Using place strike rate
  4. Using form figures

In the case of Gallops, a horse's TAB number reflects, in most cases, the handicapper's opinion of the horse's form. Considering these numbers, then, gives some interesting insights.

Winning TAB numbers: TAB number 1 is the most dominant number in Trifectas, appearing in 40% of all Trifectas. TAB number 2 is next with 35%, number 3 with 33%, number 4 with 31%. 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% 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% of all winning Trifectas have a score of 15 or less when the three numbers are added together. Only 2% of winning Trifectas have a total score greater than 33. All you do is add together the TAB numbers of your fancied Trifectas. It's fun and accurate.

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

For the win: 50%, of runners that finish 1st in a Trifecta finished 1st, 2nd or 3rd at their last start.
For second: Over 65% of runners that finish 2nd in Trifectas finished 1st to 5th at their last start.
For third: Over 75% of runners that finish 3rd in Trifectas finished 1st to 8th at their last start.

There are also other lessons from this research, namely:

Runners that won or placed at their last start are good bets for the win, while unplaced runners are best included for 2nd or 3rd.

A runner that finished 4th or better at its last start is likely to improve or sustain that performance at its next start. Whereas a runner that finished 5th or worse at its last start is likely to perform worse next time.

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.

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 2nd and 3rd whose form figures total between 16 and 25. Very poor runners are those whose form figures total more than 30.

A runner's place strike rate (including wins) has been shown to be a better indicator of future performance than its win strike rate. Place strike rates can be found in formguides and are usually shown as a percentage, e.g. three placings from 10 career starts = 30% place strike rate. Once you have the strike rate, rank it alongside other horses in the race, giving you a ranking from 1 to however many horses are running.

For the win - Runners with a place ranking of 1 to 6 account for nearly 75% of all winners.
For second - Runners with a place ranking of 1 to 7 account for 78% of all 2nd placegetters.
For third - Runners with a place ranking of 1 to 8 account for 81% of all 3rd placegetters.

Runners whose form figures show improvement, e.g. 5421 are superior to runners whose form figures are worsening, e.g. 1245.

Runners whose form figures show continued improvement have double the chance of winning than 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. Yours should usually 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", 8 points for a blank in the form figures and 5 points for an "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.

What about a nice $12 combination for the trifecta? This is the AB-BA with 6 others linkup and it can be most effective for those punters who have the happy knack of being able to isolate the 1st and 2nd runners in a race.

You link A and B to run 1st and 2nd, and then throw in 6 others to run the 3rd placing.

The bet goes. AB-AB-CDEFGH

That's a $12 bet that will give you a lot of fun.

By Denton Jardine