The Melbourne Cup is just around the corner. How much are you going to bet this year? Did you win last year? Are you, like me, still trading on a bank from a few years back? I have to, as I lost in 1997 and 1998. By a breath in '97, but they don't pay on breaths.

Last year I got it all wrong, even when the Caulfield Cup should have at least told me enough to have a quinella saver. So I am still using funds from a 1996 win. I allocated 20 per cent of that win to the next ten years' Cups. It's hard to stick to, but that's how it is. It's why I keep a diary. Each year I note in for the first Tuesday in November: $2000 allocation for mc.

I'll get lucky again over a decade.

You will note how many times I say things like "it's better than Lotto, or a Lottery ticket". I cannot overemphasise this: it IS better. You can pick your numbers and know what each one is worth, in terms of chances. At the worst, you have your own opinion and self-respect. A lottery offers you a mug's chance.

What about you? How do you arrange your Cup Day finances?

I have tried to cater for all levels here, assuming you do not have a carryover bank from a previous bonanza to tide you over the bad years. And we will consider outlays of $20, $50, $100, $200, and $500, with a quick look at the grand $1000 to finish off.

All of these levels are only suggestions and, as you are well aware, I have often advised great caution on this day of days.

However, most of us give our reins a rest on Australia's famous Tuesday each year, and with this in mind I've put together a series of ideas that could make you a lot of money ... but could also, as is the case in this race, lose the lot. So stick to what you can grin and lose, or Wednesday may be unpleasant.

So we start with twenty bucks. Less still? Well, okay, if you go less, do still have a $3 trifecta so you have a chance at the big stuff. The trifecta pools will be way over the seven-figure mark, and that means you have a better chance than Lotto of cracking a nice one. So don't forget the trifecta, even if it's a 50-cent box, costing you $3.

Back to $20. I suggest that you will already have a fair idea by Monday morning what you are going to do. Draw up a list like this:


Then immediately scratch out "no chance" and replace it with "some chance", because in this race EVERY horse has a show of some sort. Skybeau proved that in 1996, and Markham, Te Akau Nick and Rising Fear have shown that anything goes. BUT they did not win, they placed. True, two of them almost won. But they didn't. I reckon, in their year, you'd have been tempted to write them out of your calculations. You can't. It's why I try to find a quinella and
use it as a linchpin for boxing with the field to run third.

You could do that for $22 (assuming 24 runners), if you came down to two selections as "winner and main threat". It isn't easy, I agree. Terribly hard in fact. And that's your whole twenty and then some.

So why not, say, take your winner selection to do what he's supposed to do - win, the three threats to run second, and take the threats, plus the last six horses in the betting, to run third? That costs $12 for a 50cent unit. Why? Because you have one to win, three to run second, and nine to run third. One of those nine is already going to be a second placing, so the third leg is reduced to eight possibilities. Twenty-four combinations, $12.

Add to this a $1 box quinella on the winner and the three threats, an outlay of $6, and $2 on the winner to win. IF he wins, you get the odds to $2. IF a threat also runs second, you get the $1 quinella as well. IF a threat wins, and your selection runs second, you get the quinella.

And if the "winner" wins, a threat obliges for second, and one of your other eight come in third (eight is one-third of the whole field, remember), you are all smiles.

Fifty dollars allows more flexibility but on the other hand it also allows you to lose 150 per cent more. I would be allocating $50 so that part is as risky as all-out (fairyland stuff, but better than a Lottery ticket), while the bigger part is based on hard-headed business acumen.


The risky bit costs 36 per cent. That would make it $18, and I'd have my best selections (three of them) to win the trifecta, with the addition of the next best plus the first last-start winner I came to, working up from TAB Number 24, to run second and third. This means 3 x 5 x 5 at a cost of $18.

Now I'd have a $1 quinella boxing the five selections ($10) and another $2 quinella boxing the top three, the best chances ($6). We are up to $34 now, with 33 per cent remaining. With that, I'd have three $5 win bets on the best three. And I end up with a dollar change.

If one of my best chances wins, I have at least a $5 win bet, and if another one runs second, I have a $3 quinella as well. If the next best, or the last-start winner, wins or places, chances are I can still have a quinella, or even the trifecta. A quinella with those "other two" would probably be sweet. In fact, I would have 71 combinations working for me.

For $100, I'd suggest that you do what we just did for $50, then add $15 to each of the win bets for your best three. That means $20 on each to win, adding the original $5 from above. The other $5 would go onto that five-horse box quinella, making it up to $1.50 per combination.

The chances are there with $100 for a nice collect, and a very nice day if just one of your top three salutes the judge. It only has to be 4/1 to cover all bets (a very short price in the big race); whatever manages to grab a place adds to your gravy.

Moving up!

At $200, I'm inclined to say you are not in this for the fun of it (or, more correctly, not just for the fun of it). So, here is a different position.

With these three, you will bet ABC/ABC/FIELD in the trifecta for fifty cents ($66).

And you will bet $10 on a THREE-HORSE QUINELLA ($30).

And finally, $35 each on EACH HORSE TO WIN ($105).

And you will need to borrow $1 from somewhere, as this works out to be $201.

What you are depending on here is for one of your three to win. If it can do that, at 6/1, you are sweet. Then, if it can add the quinella, the trifecta MUST automatically follow. That would be sweeter, and sweetest.

You may prefer to ignore the third part, and use this for your $100 outlay ($96, actually). It's a risky thing, reducing the chances to three, but then Melbourne Cups are risky things as I must have said many times here. I can tell you that when they come in, they are sheer bliss. Maybe we only have one lifetime experience like that, and I have had mine, so this might be your turn!

Start with the nice risky bit. I'd identify four best chances to win, add the four next best and finish off with the "worst two" in the field so far as the market is concerned. TEN from 24, over 40 per cent of the field. We will try to lock them up.


How you decide on them, apart from the prices, is your choice. For my trifectas, I'd put my best four in 1, 2 and 3; then I'd put my next best four in 2 and 3; and my worst two in 2 and 3 as well. That means 4 x 10 x 10, a combination totalling $288, meaning, at 50 cents, $144 for your trifecta.

To figure that out, remember that you have the same horses to run second and third, so one horse has to run one of those places but he cannot run both; so the bet is not (10 x 10), but (10 x 9); and since you also have one of them included to win the race, he cannot be there in either second or third when he wins, so the bet comes down to 4 x 9 x 8 = 288 (divided by 2 to get to 50 cents).

Okay there? Say it's ABCD/ABCDEFGHIJ/ABCDEFGHlJ (50c). As you see, A or B or C or D has to win. Say A wins. It cannot run second or third, so it has to be removed from there.

We have nine chances remaining in the placings. Now one of BCDEFGHIJ must run second. Say B runs second. It cannot, then, run third, so we must not be betting on an impossibility.

We are left with CDEFGHlJ for third place. So TWO of the horses in a standout bet like this must be deducted from third place (A and B), and ONE of them has to be deducted from second placing (A in our example, because it wins).

We are left with 4 chances to win, 9 to run second, and only 8 to run third.

The friendly TAB computer knows this, and charges us accordingly: 4 x 9 x 8 = 288; which becomes half, $144, for 50 cents. Now we will have the top four winning chances in exactas: all the other horses to run second. That is 9 bets, times 4, equals 36.

We have this for $4 each. The exacta will need to pay, of course, 43/1 to cut even. It could pay anything at all. Cost is $144 again. We are now up to $288.

The other $212 is spread on our top four: a six-quinella box at $30 per combination, and a four-horse box trifecta at $1, costing $24; this little lot costing altogether $204. No singles, we are going for broke one day in a year.

There is $8 in your kitty for a Big Mac and chips if everything comes unstuck and you do go broke.

But if you want to go to the grand and include the singles ...

Here we do what we did for $500, and we have $125 to win on each of the top four. A 7/1 winner clears all debts. Rarely do they pay less. Of course, we could lose the lot, but I am offering ways of thinking about this one day of the year, and possible ways of making your fortune.

I am also stressing that if you cannot afford to risk it, forget it. Have a win, a quinella, a trifecta, and enjoy life without stress.

By The Optimist