Are you one of those punters whose trifecta investments involve boxing your selections? That is, you link three, four or maybe five runners, knowing that if your selections fill the placings, in any order, you will land the tri.

My suggestion is that, in the long term, you probably will be better off to include more runners to finish 2nd and 3rd than you take to win the race. I am saying, basically, forget about box trifectas.

Yes, you will miss some trifectas by not boxing, but, generally, the average divvies will be better using another approach. For instance, to box four runners in a trifecta costs $12 (using 50c units). If three of your four fill the placings you nab the tri. But do you really need all four horses chosen to win?

We know that around 30 per cent of all races are won by the favourite and that over half of all races are won by the first three favs. More than seven out of 10 races are won by runners which are at 7/1 or less in both the pre-post market and the SP (starting price) markets.

To go beyond these few fancied runners in the market in search of a winner is a most difficult task. The favoured few are also the runners that most other punters are betting, and the horses whose form and investment money suggest are the main prospects.

It is nice to find a long-priced winner but when you realise that less than three out of every 10 winners start at more than 7/1, you are living in hope, and definitely pitting yourself against the percentages.

Include a roughie in your trifectas, by all means, but also have one or two of the more favoured runners in as well.

A quick study of 200 recent metropolitan races showed that the average starting price of the winners was 6.6 to 1, the second placegetters 9.5 to 1, and the third placegetters 11.5 to 1. Take away the few longshot winners and placegetters from the calculations and these odds shorten markedly.

This blowout in the average odds from the winners to the third placegetters reinforces my view that 2nd and 3rd positions are where the trifecta value lies particularly where 3rd place is concerned.

So, let's limit our selections to win to just two or three runners at the most and seek our value from the 2nd and 3rd selections.

Let's also consider alternatives to a $12 box of four runners. A 2x4x6 trifecta, which is two runners to win, the same two and two more to finish 2nd, and those four plus two more to finish 3rd, costs exactly the same amount of money ($12).

Combinations such as 2x5x5 and 3x3x6 also cost $12 per race. Long term I am convinced they are better trifecta propositions than straight 4-runner boxes.

An investor who likes to box 5 runners at a cost of $30 (50c units), can optimise his play with combinations such as 2x6x8, 2x4x12, 2x7x7, 3x5x7, 3x6x6 and 4x4x7. All are around the $30 mark.

Maybe you want to bet less than $12? There are some smaller alternatives, using two or three runners in the win slot. For example, 2x3x4 ($4), 2x3x5 ($6), 2x3x6 ($8), 2x4x5 ($9) and 2x3x7 ($10).

The easiest way to calculate the cost of a trifecta multiple is to take one away as you work along from the win slot horses. Let's say your combination is 3x6x6. You multiply like this: 3x5x4 equalling 60. So for a 50c unit outlay, that linkup would cost $30.

A 2x4x6 linkup: It becomes 2 multiplied by 3 multiplied by 4 which equals 24 or $12 for a 50c unit outlay. A combination of 3x3x7 would become 3 multiplied by 2 multiplied by 5 equalling 30, or $15 for 50c unit outlays.

This formula is based on the fact that a runner cannot finish in more than one position. For instance, in your tri combination you have runner number I to finish 1st, 2nd and 3rd. If it were to win, it therefore cannot finish 2nd or 3rd!

Of course, the formula only applies when the same runners are repeated from 1st into 2nd and 3rd as well. If you have, say, three horses to win and a totally different three to run 2nd and 3rd, the formula is different.

A bet of ABC to win (only) into DEF for 2nd and DEF for 3rd would cost you $18 for $1 units. The multiplication would be 3x3x2 equalling.

Barry Meyer is a PPM reader from South Australia.

By Barry Meyer