I've always held to the belief that if you are going to take a double then make sure you include a favourite in at least one leg.

Sometimes it may cruel a dividend, but it will ensure you don't encounter too much of a horror run of outs. Like a friend of mine: He bet the roughies in doubles but kept on running into a dead-end of losing bets.

In the end I convinced him to play safer. Since introducing a favourite in one leg, sometimes both, he has managed to prevent himself falling into a divvie-less hole.

The point about slotting in a favourite is that you can still reap a nice divvie, providing your other leg gets home at a reasonable price. An even money favourite successfully coupled with, say, a 9/2 winner in the other leg will still return you odds of around 10/1 for the double.

A 3/1 favourite with a 9/2 chance will return odds of around 20/1 to 22/1. So what's wrong with that? Not much that I can see. Naturally, the better prices your winners, the better double divvie you will receive - but the more risk you take.

Sometimes, of course, a double will pay shorter than you think it will. This is one of the vagaries of betting on the TAB. If you latch on to a popular horse, ridden by a popular jockey, you can expect the resulting dividend to reflect that popularity. On the other hand, sometimes the divvies can be excitingly above expectations.

This often happens when a popular horse bites the dust and the more 'run of the mill' horse happens to win, even though it had just as much claim on form as the glamour horse. I struck a double some time ago when I had a 2/1 favourite in the first leg from a 'battler' stable and a 5/1 winner in the second leg.

Now, by normal standards, this double should have paid around 16/1 or 17/1 - but the dividend was $29 for $1. I put it down to the presence in the first leg of a glamour horse and jockey who ended up second favourite but which were obviously heavily supported in the double to the exclusion of the 2/1 horse. Thus, the double divvie was askew.

Another time you can expect a bigger than usual double is when your second leg selection firms sharply in the betting. When the doubles punters placed their bets, this second leg horse may have been at a 10/1 quote and so the betting on the double reflects that.

But come race time and the horse may have been heavily backed into 4/1 or thereabouts. Now, the doubles pool is already in place. That late money can't change it.

So' you may have an SP situation of a 2/1 winner in the first leg coupled with a horse that starts at 4/1. By normal standards, this should be a 14/1 double approximately - but it will be likely to pay something like 33/1.

When you are taking any doubles, I urge you to think carefully about the price of each runner. Frame your doubles accordingly. Let me give you an example of what I mean. On Doncaster Handicap day on April 6, I took a TAB double on the Doncaster and the Chairman's Handicap, and I used the time ratings prepared by The Rating Bureau in Sydney.

My usual attack is to link two in the first leg with two in the second, a total of four doubles. I use The Rating  Bureau's pricing to frame the bets. Now, in the Doncaster, their selections were Juggler, priced at 6/1 and Sprint By at 7/1. In the Chairman's Handicap, they had Cornwall King at 4/1 and Racing Writer at 5/1.

Working on the anticipated* doubles return I had the doubles worked out as follows:

Juggler-Cornwall King 33/1
Juggler-Racing Writer 40/1
Sprint By-Cornwall King 38/1
Sprint By-Racing Writer 46 / 1.

Betting to take out $200, my doubles strategy was to bet $6 on the Juggler-Cornwall King combination, $5 on the juggler Racing Writer double, $5 on the Sprint By-Cornwall King double and $5 (rounded off) on the other combination.

It's history now that Sprint By and Cornwall King won. The double returned a dividend of $122 - way above expectations. Both horses ended up overlays on what The Rating Bureau had predicted.

So my $5 double returned $610! My total outlay on all four doubles had been $21, which means my profit on the transaction was a cool (or hot!) $589. This is not an extreme case; often there will be far more differing amounts bet on the various doubles, depending on how well fancied a selection is - in this instance, the Doncaster was considered wide open at 6/1 the field by The Rating Bureau.

To work out approximately what you should expect to receive from a double, you can simply add 1 to the price of each horse (say 4/1+1=5 and 8/1+1=9) and multiply them. The total will give you your return for 1 unit.

Deduct 1 from your total and you will have the odds.

In this case the return is 45 and the odds are 44/1.

As another example, if the odds are 3/1 and 5/1, the return is 24 and the odds are 23/1.

If you can secure a copy of Roger Dedman's excellent book Commonsense Punting, you will find (on page 65) a chart which tells you how many units to bet on various combinations to return $100.

So the key with doubles, then, is to dare to put in a favourite or two, but always mix the 'muesli' with some decent-priced selections. Then, work out the approximate odds of each double and bet accordingly. If your double is expected to pay around 20/1 then you bet 5 units to take out 100; if the double is to pay 25/1, the bet is 4 units; if the double is priced at 10/1 you bet 10 units.

It's a simple, straightforward approach which, if your pricing mechanism is accurate, should enable you to take full advantage of overlay doubles - like the Doncaster Handicap-Chairman's Handicap double I landed, courtesy of The Rating Bureau!

One other point I wish to emphasise is this: Men you are concentrating on doubles, try to stick with one area of expertise. That is, if you like Sydney racing, then bet solely on that.

Don't stretch yourself all over the nation!

Put more on one area of racing, instead of eking out your bank all over the place. Such an approach will pay off in the end.


  1. Pick out one city on which to operate. Always restrict your betting to one city’s racetracks.
  2. Study the two daily double races carefully pick one race in which the favourite seems to have a strong chance. Then do your other selections, never picking more than 2 horses per leg.
  3. Work out the approximate odds of each double. Bet accordingly to take out $100.
  4. Set aside a special bank for the doubles in which you have a favourite as a selection. Bet these for one unit extra and, if the double is successful, 'roll over the entire dividend to the next double you bet that has a favourite in it.

By Mick Collins