Perhaps the toughest of all exotics bets is the Superfecta, run via the NSW T.A.B. It's a game and optimistic punter who has a lash at the daunting task of trying to pick, in the correct order, the first 6 placegetters in a chosen race.

In a field of 20 runners there are more than 27 million combinations by which the first 6 positions can be filled. If we assume that each runner has an equal chance (which they won't) the odds against selecting a superfecta are some 28 million to one.

Still feel like having a bash? Don't even think about the odds confronting you when a maximum field of 24 faces the starter!

What this means is that if you are intent on trying to beat the superfecta you have to plan your attack like an army general in a war. Careful strategy can cut down the fearful odds lined up against you.

The people you have to outwit are your fellow punters. They'll mostly be shooting for the favorites and second favorites to fill 1st and 2nd spots. If you can steer past these overbacked runners, you are on the way to hauling in the bet.

Professional punters who tackle the superfecta spend many thousands of dollars trying to land the massive prizes. A favourite ploy of at least one well-known Sydney punter is to take the 2nd and 3rd favorites to win in separate linkups. The combination goes:

2ND FAV-3RD FAV-LST FAV-4TH FAV-5TH FAV-6TH FAV. Then a second bet is taken with the 3rd favorite to win and the 2nd favorite to finish 2nd.

But this is a simplistic approach. My own method is to try a combination bet that, admittedly, does cost a bit of money. My favorite one entails taking a banker selection to fill first placing, two other horses to finish 2nd and 3rd, three others to fill 4th and 5th, and then these three plus any other runners to fill 6th.

An actual linkup, costing \$120, goes:

1-2-2-3-3-12.

This assumes that the field comprises 15 runners. If the field is smaller then the bet, naturally, will be smaller. I do not bet in races where the field exceeds 15 runners.

The following is the recommended approach, using A-B-C etc. as the horses with the figure representing the number of horses to fill each placing:

 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th Cost 1 2 2 3 3 5 \$36 (A/BC/BC/DEF/DEF/DEF/DEFGH) 1 2 2 3 3 6 \$48 1 2 2 3 3 7 \$60

As you will realise, each additional horse to fill the 6th placing costs another \$12. For \$36 you have 5 horses for 6th place, but these include the three you chose for 4th and 5th as well. So, in fact, you have added another 3 for the 6th placing. In the \$48 example, 6 horses are there to fill 6th place and in the \$60 example there are 7. And so on it goes until you reach my 'ideal' bet of \$120 with 12 horses for 6th place.

As for the First 4 (which is becoming a highly popular bet on the Queensland TAB), my favorite strategy is to find a banker runner which you are confident is going to fill one of the first 4 placings.

You then link this banker with 5 other runners. Firstly, you take your banker to win and then the other 5 horses to run 2nd, 3rd and 4th. The next bet is to take your banker to run 2nd, with the other 5 taken to win and run 3rd and 4th.

The third bet is to take your banker to finish 3rd, and the other 5 to run 1st, 2nd and 4th. Finally, you take your banker to run 4th and the other 5 to finish 1st, 2nd and 3rd.

Thus, if your banker gets into a placing in the first four, and three of your other 5 horses fill the other placings, then you have landed the First 4.

The cost, at \$1 per unit, for this bet is \$240, but you can take it for 50c units, which reduces it to a manageable \$120. Assuming you take one First 4 a week, on Saturdays, the annual cost will be 52 x \$120 which equals \$6240.

So you will need to strike one First 4 paying that amount for a half unit in order to break square for the year. One First 4 out of 52? Doesn't seem too tough a task, does it? But, of course, it's harder than it appears at first glance.

Getting that banker horse right is the main point. Once you are confident the horse you have chosen can deliver, then you can go about carefully selecting the 5 horses you feel can fill the other three placings. This is also a difficult assignment.

Invariably, you will find you have seven or eight runners that fit the bill, and you'll have the onerous task of having to axe two or three of them! There's always the risk you will eliminate one that gets up and makes a fool of you. But this has to be accepted. You are always going to make mistakes. The key is to try to limit them as much as possible.

By Alan Jacobs

PRACTICAL PUNTING - JUNE 1994