Parlay betting has become all the rage in Australia (and now New Zealand!) this year-and it's little wonder. The parlay, like the trifecta, offers small punters the chance to hit big with a low outlay.

It's tremendously difficult to score a parlay, with three or four winners, but punting is built on dreams. Punters prepared to settle for more regular, though smaller, parlay returns should limit themselves to place bets. The task of scoring with three or four placed horses is an infinitely easier task than trying to snare all winners!

My own idea about a parlay is that you have to adopt a conservative approach. Don't be too greedy. You can shoot for the moon every day, but you're unlikely to reach it. Shoot for the corner store down the end of the road and you CAN get there.

This is where my 'safety first' parlay comes into operation. You have to be prepared to play the parlay from race to race without getting into a set parlay ticket. Only in this way can you operate the safety brake that I've incorporated into the method.

What I am advocating is that you shoot for a three-horse (or dog) parlay-and your aim is to pick three winners at odds of 3-1 or better.

Firstly, let me just remind you what a normal parlay means: It's a combination of two or more bets that compound to produce a single bet-that is, a win divvy on the first bet becomes the total amount bet on the second horse, and a win on this would mean its return becomes the total bet on the third horse. And so it goes on, covering whatever number of horses you have chosen and put into the parlay.

Thus, the parlay can offer you a terrific return if everything falls into place which it doesn't do most of the time, alas. Now what I am advocating here is that you introduce a truly conservative streak into your parlay and plan for the inevitable losers. By doing this, you can give yourself a tip-top chance of at least getting out with something on the parlay.

Okay, let's look at what I mean: You select three horses, and we'll assume they are all 3-1. You are going to bet $10 and 'parlay' through into a simple treble.

BET ONE: Horse A 3-1 $10 win. Return $40. Profit $30.

Now, ordinarily all that $40 would be automatically re-invested on the second horse. Here's where I say STOP. Think. There is no need to risk all that money on the second horse. My course of action is to retain 40 per cent of the profit ($12) and re-invest the other money on the second horse ($28, which includes your original $10). Can you see my point? If your second horse loses, the parlay would be finished, and your first 3-1 winner totally wasted. Not with this method. By extracting 40 per cent of the first winning profit you have regained your $10 stake, plus $2 extra. The day is saved!

Let's push on, though, and assume that your second horse, Horse B, wins at 3-1. You have placed $28 on it, so you have a return of $112 (actual profit being $84). You now withdraw 40 per cent of this total, say $34, and re-invest the remainder ($78, including the previous $28 stake) on the third horse.

You are now well ahead, even if the third horse fails. You have $12 in hand from Horse A and a further $34 from Horse B, making a total of $46 on your original $10 bet.

You have $78 going on the third horse. If it won at 3-1 the return would be $312, for an actual profit of $234. In summary, then, you have started out with a $10 parlay treble. You have, with two winners, retained $46. Your final parlay return on the $10 is $312. In all, then, you have $358 in your hand, for a clear profit of $348. The happy thing is that after the first winner you COULDN'T LOSE! You had played safe and retained enough money to cover your stake with a bit over. Even if the third horse had lost, you would still have been $36 in front.

Taking this further, your parlay could also embrace doubles as well as the three horse parlay. With three horses, there are three doubles as well. You can adopt the same procedure with the doubles-after the first winner, deduct 40 per cent of the profit and then re-invest what's left on the next horse.

Another angle is to have a separate added win stake bet on the second and third horses. So apart from carrying through your 60 per cent of the first winner, plus stake, you also have another $10 bet on the second horse (and third horse). This can boost your profits enormously.

This safety first parlay can work just as effectively on place parlays. Let's look at a recent example: September 10, Flemington. My three selections were Kammy, Uncle Sid and Kudz. They finished 3rd, 3rd and 2nd. Operating the preferred safety first parlay, the following result was achieved.

Kammy/Uncle Sid, $10 place Kammy, paid $1.70. Return $17 (profit $7). Retain $3 from profit, re-invest $14 on Uncle Sid, paid $3. Return $42. Profit on double $32. Retained $3. Total profit $35.

Kammy/Kudz (same as above on return) then retain $3 from profit, reinvest $14 on Kudz, paid $1.70, return
$23.80. Profit on double $13.80, retained $3. Total profit $16.80.

Uncle Sid/Kudz. $10 place Uncle Sid, paid $3. Return $30 (profit $20). Retain $8 from profit, re-invest $22 on Kudz, paid $1.70. Return $37.40. Profit on double $27.40. Retained $8. Total profit $35.40.

Kammy/Uncle Sid/Kudz. Initial bet $10, paid $1.70 (retain $3). Re-invest $14 ,on Uncle Sid, paid $3, return $42 (retain $11), re-invest $31 on Kudz, paid $1.70, return $52.70. Total profit on parlay treble $42.70, plus $14 retained, equals total profit $56.70.

The three-horse place parlay for a stake of $40 on three doubles and a treble has returned profits of $35, $16.80, $35, and $56.70, totalling $143.50. All-up, then, you have staked $40 and got back approximately $173.50.

I'm sure you'll agree that this is a terrific approach and one that will save you many 'lost' parlays. Try it. The only drawback is that you can't operate it on the TAB parlay tickets. You have to do it race by race with win or place bets.

By Statsman