Martin Dowling (M.D.): Gentlemen, this forum is going to be mainly about exotic and multiple betting, about which I know we all have firm views which we have shaped, and often changed, as the years have gone by and we have become, hopefully, wiser and more profound in the wake of our betting forays.

Jon Hudson (J.H.): Firstly, Martin, let me sound a general note of caution to our readers who may be hoping - probably praying!-that they can glean some instant money-whining information from what we're about to impart.

My point is that they will only get out of racing, and betting, what they are prepared to put into it. If they merely want a bit of fun and relaxing entertainment, then all well and good; they can read our thoughts and forget them if they so desire.

They'll have their little wins, but mostly they'll be edging ever downwards. For those prepared to put in some work, there are rewards to be gained, as long as you can come to terms with a balanced selection process and a sane approach to staking.

Richard Hartley Jnr (R.H.): I agree with Jon. Having some form of tactical plan is what it's all about. I understand that our editor, Brian Blackwell, is going to be talking all about this sort of thing in the June issue of P.P.M. Brian has a rather controversial approach to his betting in that he bets the overlays, but restricts himself most times to horses paying double-figure odds. He's had some tremendous coups in recent months, and readers will learn all about them. That said, I think we should move on and get stuck into the subject.

M.D.: Parlay betting is all the rage apparently. What have we got to say about it?

R.H.: The safest parlay is to pick three horses and bet them all for a win, couple them in three doubles and one treble. This will cost you only $7, betting in $1 units, but it gives you a terrific chance of picking up some big bikkies if you can slot three winners home, or even three placegetters!

J.H.: Then there's the straight four-horse accumulator, ignoring all the doubles and trebles. An old pal of ours put $5 on one of these things on February 29 and landed four winners which netted him more than $19,000. How about that?

M.D.: The man was always an optimist, so good luck to him! But that's a shot in the dark. Most punters would go all through their betting lives and not put four winners together like that. Makes you wonder how much our pal would have won had he done the complete parlay of six doubles and four trebles, plus the accumulator! The mind boggles.

J.H.: There are, of course, all sorts of parlays, and they do have their critics, but the simple fact is that they can provide a window of opportunity for the small punter. At the very least, they get him to link three or four horses into a tight-knit attacking formation, so that if the punter's lucky day does arrive he can maximise his returns.

The straight double is the lowest form of parlay, then we have the one we've just mentioned, and then the Yankee, which is four horses coupled up into six doubles, four trebles and an accumulator, and then it's five horses with 10 doubles, 10 trebles, five four-horse accumulators and one bet linking the five horses into an accumulator! The final one, which only the most optimistic would try, is to link six horses into 15 doubles, 20 trebles, 15 four-horse accumulators, six accumulators of five horses and one accumulator with all six horses.

R.H.: Our own Statsman recommends a safety-first parlay where after a win you take out 40 per cent of the profit and then reinvest the remainder. Anyone wanting to read more about this novel approach should get a copy of The Gold Collection book and refer to page 51 where Statsman's great article from a 1988 issue of P.P.M. is reproduced.

M.D.: Yes, that is a very bright idea of Statsman's because it enables you to embark on a parlay without risking everything as you go from race to race. Naturally, it will only work if you are betting race to race; those TAB parlays lock you in from the outset and you're in for the complete ride!

J.H.: The main point we should make about parlays is that the doubles and trebles should be covered by single win bets. If you take three horses into three doubles and a treble, you'd be silly not to have single win bets on each. This gives you a total outlay of seven units at level stakes. One winner, at say 3/1, will at least get you four units return, and leave you with a far smaller loss from returning just one winner from the trio.

R.H.: Let's look now at trifectas. I guess most punters by now know most of what there is to know about placing trifectas, though I still sometimes suspect they are too locked into the 'box' syndrome and pay scant regard to Don Scott's advice of betting trifectas according to price. Anyway, the thing is that trifectas are very popular and punters spend a great deal of money on them.

M.D.: Absolutely right, Richard, and much of that money is just thrown away on useless combinations. The sad fact is that when the majority of punters strike a trifecta it's not worth two bob. The professionals really do clean up hi fie trifecta pools, because they are betting the overlays from their own pre-race pricing and they are scooping the spoils on the unfancied trifectas.

J.H.: My own feeling is that punters need more advice on how to pick horses for trifectas. It's all very well knowing how to bet them, but another problem altogether in knowing how to put in the right horses. How does the average punter get those good-value horses into his trifectas? I'm a believer in the approach of eying to fine a field down to a 'quinella' and then betting the pair into the field for third spot.

You can call it an AB-Field and BA-Field trifecta. They don't cost all that much, even with big fields. For example, in a field of 18, you take your quinella and the other 16 runners to finish 3rd, so that's $32 altogether. In other words, all you are trying to do is back the quinella-if you can get those first two horses right you have the entire field running for you into the 3rd place. A roughie can always get up, and the dividends can be enormous, depending on how well fancied your quinella pair were.

M.D.: Punters should use the P.P.M. Ratings on Neale Yardley's pages as a guide to trifecta chances in good-class races. A chap I know on the Gold Coast he's a primary school teacher-uses these ratings horses as standout specials when they are the only P.P.M. Rating horse in the field. He swears he gets a stream of good-priced winners.

R.H: Taking the multiple trifectas is a nice way for small punters to operate. One of the best approaches is a simple 3 x 3 x 7 for $15 at 50c units, or $30 for $1 units. This gives you three horses to fill 1st and 2nd, and another four horses for the third spot. Your top three, of course, are played in the trifecta for all three placings. A professional punter I know very well uses this approach with a lot of success.

J.H.: What about daily doubles? Is there still some value left in them? I would say there is; what do you think Martin?

M.D.: Only to a point. My firm belief is that punters are behind the eight-ball in betting the doubles unless they can back their selections on an overlay basis. What I mean is that they must find a way of setting their own realistic price on each runner, and then link only those which are at overlay odds, the bigger overlays the better. There is great sense in this approach.

I suppose punters really should examine services like George Tafe's ratings, where they can take the best advantage possible of overlays. If a punter isn't into that sort of thing, my advice is that they should find a couple of good systems, and follow them in the doubles. If your systems can come up with a regular flow of winners, you should be able to strike plenty of high-paying doubles.

R.H.: Most punters seem to put the favourites into all their bets, don't they? I know quite a few intelligent racegoers who are favourite-mad; they'll fall for any horse the market has on top. I guess they figure they'll strike a lot of winners, but they'll also hit a lot of losers. And when they do strike a double they find that everyone else is on it as well!

M.D.: There's the old fall-back of taking a standout in one leg with the field in the other. Now I've heard this talked about as the lazy man's approach to doubles betting, and that's just about right. For a start, you are throwing money away on horses that cannot possibly win.

I reckon that in any given race you can find at least three to six horses that simply haven't got a hope of winning. So why would you put them into a 'field' double? If you're a sensible punter, you'll let the other blokes take the field and then concentrate your attentions on trying to reduce the field by half, and then you can bet twice as much on each selection.

J.H.: I agree, but if a punter has an unquenchable desire to take a field double he should take the field in the first leg, which goes against the trend most punters adopt, of having a standout in the first leg and the field in the second. I think records will show that if an outsider wins in the first leg the double pays more than when outsiders win in the second leg. But, overall, I agree with Martin that you should not take field doubles.

M.D.: That said, I'm quite a fan of doubles, I have to admit. If you can pick the right horses then the double's provide you with a great betting medium, with good returns for moderate outlays. What you must try to do is avoid odds-on favourites and field doubles, and by doing this you'll avoid getting caught up in the usual mass hysteria of the rank and file punters who plaster their money on the hotpots without giving a thought to value, or the lack of it.

J.H.: Now what about multiple betting? There's no doubt that to win in the long run you have to be a very smart selector. I wonder if most people can manage regular successes, even by betting three or four horses a race?

M.D.: Once again, it depends a lot on whether you are backing strong overlays. I think punters can scale their bets to the 100 per cent market, but do it on their selections in various races. In other words, don't worry about multiple betting in one race, but use the same staking idea on a series of selections through the day. You bet them according to price so if you had a 3/1, a 4/1, a 10/1 and a 6/1, you'd bet them at 25, 20, 9 and 14 ' a total of 68. Your expected returns would total 400 if all four got up. But just one winner would put you in front.

J.H.: Yes, it's surprising that more punters don't adopt an approach like this. It is very sensible and it certainly provides a lot more sparkle than straight flat stake betting. In the long run, a punter could do very nicely with this approach. Of course, you don't have to bet $68; you could halve the stake or even quarter it, depending on your pocket.

R.H.: I'll chip in with the final advice. You'll never go broke taking a profit. I can't impress this enough on the average punter. If you're ahead, pocket some of the profits, and bet with the rest. Don't risk it all. On any betting day there must be a limit to the amount which can be lost, while if a profit is gained there has to be a determination in the punter's mind to siphon off a good proportion of it if he continues to bet. Summing up, then, I think you need a set plan of attack, choose your betting medium, and always maintain complete control of your money.

And, most importantly, don't panic if things go wrong. There are always going to be other race meetings.

By Martin Dowling, Jon Hudson and Richard Hartley Jnr