All bets are NOT equal. Only the brain-dead bet that way.

After you’ve got over reading that opening, and you know that you are not brain-dead, I think you will agree with me that this is one of my more sensible comments.  And after pondering it for a while, you might come to my conclusion, formed over many years, that we must attack racing in exactly the same way as we would attack any other business where we hope to make money.

This month we’re going to start by having accepted the proposition above. All bets are not equal. In the words of George Orwell, well almost anyway, some bets are more equal than others.

We looked last month at the idea of grouping horses. You may have done this in regard to your Melbourne Cup betting, and if you did, I wish you all the best. The idea occurred to me for the Cup that if you could come up with a horse you actually thought strongly could win the race (as against “hoped” would win the race), you could consider having a small trifecta investment with that horse to win and the 10 outsiders to run the places.

This is not exactly staggering the bet, it’s standing it out, but it is also saying you think a reasonably short priced horse will actually win. There have been so many instances in the Melbourne Cup of long priced horses running the places, that there may be some logic in $45 placed on a 1 x 10 x 9 trifecta for 50 cents.

Last month we considered other ways of staggering bets, and of course the Melbourne Cup is over, but this is a form of staggering.

UniTAB and possibly other TABs offer what they call roving bankers. Theoretically then, you could put your selection in to run anywhere (first, second, or third); logic says that there is more likelihood of the shorter priced horse actually winning. I remember last month that Brian (or perhaps it was Martin) reported a set of statistics from a writer who had identified the majority of the recent winners of the Cup starting at 9/1 or less. That’s somewhere in the November magazine, and as I’ve conceded, the Cup is over. 

However, the argument might hold for any big race with a lot of starters. On the other hand, you are still staggering the bet if you do the roving banker thing. A cost of $135 would see your selection linked with the 10 outsiders in the race. If your selection ran anywhere, you would collect the trifecta.

Given that these trifectas can pay up to $50,000, you might feel that on the rarest occasions this is worth a shot.  Taking another recent example, you’d have nailed a nice dividend if you believed that El Segundo would run in the first two in the Cox Plate, put him in both spots, and surrounded him with the longer half of the field (I mean those ranked seven to 12 in the betting order) for the first four.

The bet would have cost $120 on a 50 cent basis, and the return would have been a pleasant $10,186.

You were effectively betting at around 85/1.

If you wanted to put El into any spot, then obviously the outlay would have doubled, but then the security would have been raised as well. The doubters would argue that you would have expected Racing To Win and Lad Of The Manor to finish in the first four, and I’d agree with them all the way.

If you’re going to take a bet like this, you have to assume that one of your top horses is going to finish first or second. If you’re hoping that the others won’t even make the first four, then in my view your expectation about the one you really fancy must even be stronger.

We need to concede the point that the day El Segundo runs third or fourth, and the other two mentioned above don’t run a drum, the first four will be staggering. But that goes into our friendly Lotto pile. The too-hard basket, in other words.

Another power angle worth considering is to think of a multi as a win bet with a tail on it. While you are taking that one in, here’s another one. If you pick two horses to stand out, then it’s not a bad idea to think of them as a quinella. I’m going to take this one step further if you’re willing to go along with me.

It is possible to view a first four as a trifecta with a tail.

Let’s have a look at how these bets would pan out:

  • Quinella (two selections) into a trifecta. The trifecta (third place) is the tail.
  • Quinella (two selections) into a first four. The first four (two places – third and fourth) is the tail.
  • Trifecta (three selections) into a first four. The first four (fourth place) is the tail.

So, if you were to choose two horses to run first or second, and add another one for your trifecta, you would be in a position to control the kind of betting above. We had a look at this in a different way last month, and this is just an extension.  But let’s forget the big races now and just talk about our week-to-week activities.

If you think you can pick the winner in two, why would you throw in a third and box them? Insurance?  Yes, I suppose so, but maybe we’d be better off, if we really think we know the two horses which will fight the race out, to think in terms of a quinella with the other possibilities all relegated to third or fourth. The tails. Of course they don’t have to be the rank outsiders as I suggested above, and on a normal day you would not be blindly outlaying those 90 units. But the nucleus of our old friend, the AB trifecta, which we’ve experimented with and examined over the years, is in this concept.

To take this a step further, I need to tell some new readers what the AB trifecta is. Really it’s very simple; the idea is that you identify two horses you think have outstanding chances in a race and between them will win it. You then put them in first and second places and reverse them (that is to say, AB and BA), and put the field in for third.

You can consider an AB first four, but with a big field it will get hairy.  And don’t forget that whatever the multiplication is, it is doubled because the A and the B must be reversed as well. So for argument’s sake, an AB in a 12 horse field will cost you $10 for the trifecta, but you will be looking at $90 for the first four (so you’d better be pretty sure!)

This is the kind of power play bet often used by smart investors when they do not believe that one of the two hot pots is everything it’s cracked up to be.

For example, if you believe that there is a horse in the Golden Slipper next Easter which should be favourite, and it isn’t, then you will probably also believe that at least one of the two at the very top of the list should not be there. Replacing that horse with your horse whilst retaining the other popular horse may well lead to a very pleasant result. Provided you are right. On that score, speaking again to new readers, in racing you will find you are more often wrong than you are right.

If you don’t believe this, if it’s come as a horrible shock, you’ve got a lot of work to do. I would think that the vast majority of serious punters, and certainly most of my readers, agree with me (they don’t always but they do on this). You will lose more often than you will win. The trick is to ensure that when you do when you win well. If only we knew the days when this would occur, we would be very rich in a very short time. As it is, we soldier on.

So, to tidy up this first part of my powerplay extension, I put to you that if you have (as an example) $60 to outlay on a trifecta you think you can win, you will probably go broke long-term if you blindly box five horses (at a dollar this would take care of your $60). Let me spell this out.

In the recent Cox Plate it was pointed out to me that I got the trifecta amongst my ratings in the top six selections. The cost would have been $120 and the return $1426 in NSW. At about 11/1 it may be seen as some sort of bet but I prefer the staggering as above. You’ve got to get one of these boxes every dozen at a profit like that to cut even. It’s probably a brain-dead bet.

I’m suggesting that you have a look, in 2007, any time you are thinking of having a multiple “exotic” bet within the one race, at taking the horse(s) you really think will win the race right upfront. There will be a day when it goes wrong, but there are likely to be a lot more days when you line up to collect your money.  If you are a serious and reasonable horseplayer, you should be focusing on horses you really think will do the job for you.

After having done that, are you going to turn around and concede hard-earned money to an admission on your part that this very horse will not win the race, or at least go close? There is a lack of logic here, or maybe you are still gambling as against investing.

I’m going to leave this section of our power play, because I think I’ve given you enough to play with and I’d like to chat with you about something else before we run out of space.

Have you ever thought seriously about place power plays? Elsewhere in this magazine we’ve done a bit on place insurance, but it’s not surprising me at the races and in my local TABs to be told by many good judges that the vast majority of their betting is now place only.

They’ve got over the hump about the dividends not representing a true quarter of the win dividends and they are regarding the place as something totally divorced from the win. But that’s only where it starts. The pools are so big (we are talking six figures) and the bets are spread over every horse in the race, so these investors are telling me that they are making money hand over fist by multiplying the odds on their own place bets. 

Some of them are using a range of the really fantastic Internet services like the one offered at Mark Read’s IAS base (I have no connection with this base, and I’m not on any retainer – my job’s to tell my readers where the value is).

You can make all sorts of doubles out of place selections at this and other websites, but this one has the advantage to my mind of offering mostly superior dividends. 

Do you remember recently when we talked about Yankees? Well, what about a staggered place Yankee?
A Yankee will cost you $11 for every dollar investment (four selections, six doubles, four trebles and an all-up accumulator). Incidentally, the IAS site will offer you increased selection bets if you want to go to five selections, six selections or more. You can also operate it the way I’m recommending – it does not have to be for flat or level stakes.

You can consider identifying your top four place selections for the afternoon (I should have told you that they can be anywhere, not just at the one meeting). Say you decide that your bank is $10,000 for the year. For new readers again, I do mention that this does not mean you have to have $10,000 to put aside, it means that you are betting $200 a week over a full year. If this frightens you, halve it, quarter it, whatever. Get into your comfort zone. But I’m going to use $200 as my example figure.

Have a look at this layout and see what you think:

Place Parlay/Yankee
6 doubles at $25 = $150
4 trebles at $10 = $40
1 all up at $10 = $10
Total $200

Is it embarrassing to ask how many times you’ve picked four second placings in an afternoon and no winners? A lot of my contacts are saying that this was happening just too often and that they were having much more success with the place Yankee system.

The really astute ones have gone over to the websites where they are not restricted to single meetings for their bets. I would assume that this kind of multiple combination is just around the corner for the major TABs.
However, the big punters and the real thinkers have worked out that the average dividends obtainable on the net are significantly better, over a period.

If you were to try something like this, how many of the four do you reckon you could get into a place each week? On average I mean.  Naturally, there will be that terrible week we don’t get any, but provided that you don’t go blindly ahead when it becomes apparent that the track is not like you thought it would be, and provided that you don’t feel you absolutely have to make four selections every week (for example there’s absolutely nothing to stop you having three!), you might find that you surprise yourself.

Could you average four place bet successes, in two of your four sets of investment (that means twice a month out of four tries)? I reckon with a bit of practice you could get pretty close, and there’s nothing to stop you having that practice on paper.

I’ll knock up a Plan of the Month for you on this topic.

Click here to read Part 1.

By The Optimist