Years ago, the story was told of a Victorian bookmaker who had been a steady winner over the years as a punter.

He apparently bet to win \$20 every race on which he went into action and, irrespective of the odds, he staked as if the price was 4/1. He did this whether the horse's price was 6/4 or 10/1, and so on.

An article at the time said as follows: "There is a sound reason for this approach. His aim is \$20 a race plus the recouping of past losses. If he took the odds offered and ran into a slump of short-priced losers, he could be up for money which might threaten his betting capital.

"By assuming that every horse he backs is 4/1, he keeps his stakes from rising too sharply. He knows that, sooner or later, he will hit a winner at 4/1 or better; when he does he will have obtained his objective while the margin of profit sought will be there.

"The shorter-priced winners will provide a brake which is essential to any target bettor.

"At the end of five races, and betting to an assumed 4/1, he would be losing about \$100, so his target for the sixth race would be \$220, the \$20 a race objective, plus losses. Say his fancy was 2/1. He would stake as though it was 4/1 and invest \$55.

"A win would gain him \$110. This reduces the aim to \$110, so his next bet would be to win \$110 plus \$20 for the following race, a total of \$130.

"Had he not imposed the 4/1 rule he could have been up for big money at the sixth race if the losers had been in the even-money to 6/4 brackets.

"Had the sixth bet in the above example been on an 8/1 shot, he would have still calculated his bet as if the price was 4/1, and taken \$440 to \$55. A win would have brought in \$440 against an objective of \$220.

"This method of marginal play can be operated by small punters with the objective per race any sum from a dollar or two upwards. There are hundreds of races every year, so to win even 50 cents for every race on which you bet would be a nice profit at the end of 12 months.

"What I have written should alert you to the possibility of worthwhile profit. It is important, however, not to shoot too high. Bet according to your available capital and always to an assumed price, say 4/1, so that your stakes will not get out of hand.

"Also, if you are betting to a 4/1 margin, don't go looking for winners at 4/1 or longer. Back the horse you consider most likely to win, irrespective of the odds."

Well, this approach was summed up in an article in a weekly publication back in 1965. There's no reason why the idea cannot be utilised today. The basics are all the same now as then.

But let's move on now and discuss something else. This is a plan to attack the trifecta. For many years I have considered it one of the best staking plans I have ever come across. It involved the use of two horses, not as a quinella, but actually as a trifecta.

The trick is to pick the right two. They have to finish 1st and 2nd but that's not what I mean. The trick is to get them when the trifecta will pay proportionately more, for a field bet, than the equivalent wager on the quinella.

Let me give you an example of how this works, then tell you why it isn't all that easy.

Say there is a race where the two top-rated horses look to be a class above their rivals. Call them Super Impose and Better Loosen Up. Now we agree that they will, in all probability, run 1st and 2nd but we are unsure which one will win.

They are at 4/5 and evens with the bookies, in a 12-horse field. The next in the betting is 12/1 and the rest are scattered hither and yonder.

Let's see what the quinella is paying. Oh, about \$1.10! Not much. By taking it 20 times we would make a couple of dollars. Perhaps a bit more.

But what if we took the two of them to run 1st and 2nd and the field for 3rd. That is, A-B-Field, and B-A-Field. Cost: \$20.

Say a longshot gets up for 3rd. The trifecta can pay anything at all. I have seen some amazing dividends but realistically let's say it can pay \$125 or \$150. That is better than 5/1 or 6/1 about getting the first two right.

Instead of getting \$22 back for your \$20, you get back much more. Perhaps six or seven times more. On the other hand, you could get it wrong and the third-favourite comes in 3rd and the trifecta pays \$6!

It happens, just about anything happens at some stage in racing. Stick around long enough and you'll find this is so.

But there's always the chance for this kind of bet, so do watch out for it. You can get lucky in a far grander way with this betting.

For example, you could like two horses in a big race like the Melbourne Cup, or the Epsom. With so many starters and the field usually hard to separate, let's say you think you can pick the first two, at least in three shots.

My pal The Optimist likes to relate the tale of how he did it in Post Elect's Villiers in December 1990. He took three of the four Queensland runners in an ABCABC-Field trifecta which returned him about \$4400.

It CAN be done if you are following certain horses and they bob up and it is a way of having a chance at a really super return.

In the Melbourne Cup, if there were 24 runners, the bet would be 22 x 2 equalling \$44 for an AB-AB-Field trifecta.

But Cup trifectas can pay enormous divvies. And it's once a year. You could take it for 50 cent units and that means only a \$22 bet. What's more, you could take three horses for the 50 cent bet for \$66.

When trifectas pay \$10,000 and more, a half share doesn’t seem too bad at all, does it? And of course, there is flexi-bet, where you can cut the cost down to whatever sum you like and cop a percentage share of the divvie.

On a smaller scale, here are a few suggestions for picking your day-today AB trifectas:

1. Skip any race where you do not believe the winner is obvious, unless there are only two chances. This is the basis of the whole idea, after all.
2. Check the quinella odds if you can. If they are better than 20/1, bet \$5.
3. Don't try to win on obviously impossible races. Have some commonsense.

The AB trifecta plan is a concept that is well-worth watching. It can go a long time without a collect, as any exotic plan can, but it does provide you with the chance of a really big return.

This all ultimately comes down to the way you like to bet. Some readers will say that to blindly take horses with no chance in a trifecta, instead of taking extra units on better chances, is madness ... Well, if this be madness, yet there is method in it (thanks, Shakespeare).

Madness or not, it is the most likely way you or I are ever going to crack the really big one so far as the trifecta is concerned. Worth a try? I think so.

I hope these couple of staking ideas have set your creative betting juices running. It's always goo to think about new ways to bet. 0 often we fall into a pattern, and t o often we rely on level stakes when we really know that we need to show much more flair and adventure if we are to ever beat the game.

Never be too timid in this crazy betting world. Quite often, it's possible to seize the moment and make the game pay in one or two glorious, dollar-drenched moments!

By Jon Hudson

PRACTICAL PUNTING - NOVEMBER 2003