Philip Roy uncovers new ways to bet for a place and keep on cashing winning tickets.

Many years ago, when I was combining my banking career with the thrill of the punt, I made a serious study of place betting. Although I didn't get into it in a big way financially, I did look very closely at all the different aspects.

What I quickly realised was that to make good money from place betting a bettor would have to be extremely smart, extremely sharp and extremely brave. The pitfalls of place betting have been dealt with before in this magazine and I won't traverse them again.

I like to look on the positive side, so this article will cover the areas of place betting where I think the average punter can at least have a chance of coming out on top.

As with everything in racing, the selection process is important. Without strong, rational selections the going will be arduous. Once you have your selection priorities in order you can proceed to the staking side of things - the money management. My proposal is that your place betting be restricted to the following two platforms:

  1. You bet in place doubles (fields of 8 to 14 only).
  2. For your selections you do not consider any horse longer than 4/1 the place (assuming a quarter the odds of the bookie's price). That is, a maximum win price of 16/1.
  3. You bet to take out a certain amount with each double (assume $200 for the purposes of this article).
  4. You restrict your bets to a maximum of three doubles per meeting.

I have stated here that we will be assuming to get a $200 return on a double. That doesn't mean you have to shoot for such a target; you can look at getting a $100 return, or a $50 return or a $25 return, or even less if you wish. All you need do is to cut back your stake accordingly.

My experience has taught me that to have a real shot at profitable glory a punter must avoid odds-on bets - and I apply this theory, in part, to place betting as well. To give yourself a fighting chance of coming out ahead you should restrict yourself to a minimum place price of evens for at least ONE leg of your double.

My suggestion is that you go as low as 1/2 in one leg of the double but don't take less than evens in the other leg. In this way, your maximum doubles bet, to get a return of $200, will be $66 (or $33 to take out $100, or $16.50 to take out $50).

Your first task is to find the right races on which to tackle the doubles. Firstly, eliminate any races with 7 or fewer runners. Then cross out any races which have 15 or more runners (after scratchings, of course).

This will leave you with only a handful of races on which to operate at most meetings. If these races include some which contain horses without known form (i.e. first-starters) then ignore them completely. Look for races where the form is exposed and where there are not a great many horses resuming from a spell.

I eliminate races like these simply because of the fact that first-starters and horses coming back after a spell can make it extremely difficult to make an accurate assessment of a race.

If we look at the Caulfield meeting held on Show Day, we can get an example of the sort of races on which we should operate:

Race 1: One scratching leaves a field of 8 runners with only one of them resuming from a spell. This can be considered a bettable race.

Race 2: There are 14 runners, but several of them are first-starters, so this race is left

Race 3: A field of 11 runners with two horses resuming after a spell. This can be considered
a bettable race.

Race 4: A field of 12 runners with the form well exposed. A bettable race.

Race 5: This is the main race of the day and it has 18 runners. We immediately ignore it.

Race 6: A field of 13 in a weight-forage race and this is a bettable race.

Race 7: A field of 16 and we do not consider this race.

Race 8: Another big field, 15 horses, and we disregard it.

This leaves us with races 1, 3, 4 and 6 as the bettable races on the 8-race card. What we now have to do is to find the good place chances. The first horse to consider in any race is the pre-post favourite.

In the first at Caulfield it was Motown Blue, at around 6/4. This horse comes from the David Hayes stable and we all know that most of his runners are sent out at less than value odds.

Moving past Motown Blue, we can consider the next two horses in the market, Brompton Cross and Fine Recipe at 5/1 and 4/1 respectively.

Fine Recipe has top weight of 57kg, while Brompton Cross has only 52.5kg and a slightly better barrier position. The choice is Brompton Cross.

In the third race, for the second leg of our all-up double, we find a very even field. Taking good stables into account, the runners that appeal are Lee Freedman's Most Happy Fella and Bart Cummings's Mr Untouchable. And then there's a well-performed NZer named The Penny, resuming after a spell but with good reports about her.

At 7/1, Freedman's charge would seem reasonable place value. Here, then, we have a double of a horse priced at 5/1 in the first leg and a horse at 7/1 in the second leg. For the place, then, we are looking roughly at odds of 5/4 the place for Brompton Cross and 7/4 the place for Most Happy Fella.

But we also know that place divvies don't always turn out at a quarter the odds. So we think sensibly and regard Brompton Cross as an evens chance the place and Most Happy Fella as a 6/4 chance.

We want to get a return of $200 on these two horses, so what is the bet? The following chart tells you all the bets you will need to make:


LEG A 1-2 4-6 evens 6-4 2-1 5-2 3-1 7-2 4
7-229262217141211 9 
If we look at the chart, we can see that two horses for the place at evens and 6/4 will require a bet of $40 to get a return of $200, for a profit of $160. (For a $100 return, you bet $20, and for a $50 return you bet $10).

It's as simple as that. You know how much you have to risk, and how much you will be likely to win. As it turned out, Brompton Cross won at 5/1 but paid only $1.80 for the place on the NSW TAB. Most Happy Fella ran 3rd and paid $2.70, slightly more than the 6/4 we had estimated.

On an all-up basis on the NSW TAB, then, the return for a $40 bet would have been $194.40, a big profit of $154.40. A $20 bet would have returned you $97.20.

This is but one example of how the Prize Placing doubles play can work for you. The key to it all is the excellence of your selections. Should they let you down, well, nothing can save you!

If you come to a bettable race which, on closer inspection, seems a tough one to crack, simply forget about it. There is no reason to force yourself into making decisions on every race you decide could be bettable.

What you have to remember is that there is always another race meeting. It's not the end of the world if you cannot decide on a bet in a particular race. These are the races I call the Poison Races - they lure you in, make you swallow, and then leave you gasping!

So have patience and do not be panicked into making half-hearted decisions, merely for the sake of having a bet. To bet properly, and professionally, you have to pick and choose, and try to ensure you have as much in your favour as possible.

The plan, then, for those punters wishing to follow this Prize Placing approach is to use the bets chart accurately, and to pick your bets carefully. Once you have them, work out a quarter of the odds and then I snip' off a little bit to allow for the fact that if you're betting on the tote you are likely to get a return of less than a quarter of the odds.

Similarly, if you are betting at the track, you will invariably find that bookies betting for a place will be offering you less than a quarter of what the win bookies are offering.

So, if you are betting a 4/1 win chance, don't expect evens the place. If you happen to get it, all well and good, but it's more likely you'll get, instead of a $2 return for a dollar, a return of around $1.70 to $1.90. With outsiders, the place component is more difficult to predict.

A horse at 16/1 should pay a TAB dividend of $5 ($4 plus your $1) but that's not guaranteed. Most times, the place divvy will be less than the expected $5. So do allow for that when you select how much to bet.

Example: You have a horse at 8/1 and another at 3/1. Now, working on a quarter the odds, you would expect $3 for the place on the 8/1 chance and about $1.75 on the 3/1 chance. This would be a double of 2/1 and about 8/11, calling for a bet of around $40 (rounding it to 4/6 and 2/1).

But, you are going to play conservatively, so you assume the 3/1 chance will only return you odds of 1/2 the place ($1.50) and that the 8/1 chance will return you only 6/4. The double then calls for a bet of $53 for a return of $200 (or $26.50 for a return of $100).

If your bet comes up, betting on the tote, you will have $53 going on the $1.50 chance. This gives you a total of $79.50 being reinvested on the place prospect at 6/4 ($2.50). If it should place, your total return will be $198.75.

Should one or both horses pay more, then it's a bonus. Let's suppose that instead of $1.50 and $2.50 your horses paid $1.80 and $2.60. Now your $53 place double returns $248 - much better!

Have a good, long look at this approach and decide if it suits you. As I have stated already, you don't have to try for a $200 return; you can tailor the plan to suit your pocket.

Always think of your betting in terms of percentage gain. You have as much percentage gain using small bets as you do with big bets. If you were shooting for a $20 return on the above double you would have placed a bet of only $5.50 (rounded off) on the first horse.

A bet of $5.50 on a $1.50 chance returns $8.25 and when this is reinvested on a $2.50 placegetter the final return is $20.60. Your $5.50 has been almost tripled!

Let me know what you think of this approach. I am always keen to hear from P.P.M. readers. Drop a line to Philip Roy, Practical Punting Monthly, P.O. Box 551, Dee Why, NSW 2099.

By Philip Roy