One thing is sure where place betting is concerned: The punter who likes to bet this way cannot be guaranteed which way the dividends are likely to go.

Sometimes you will get a poor dividend, other times an over-the-odds return will be served up. There is little rhyme or reason to what a horse will pay, especially favourites. 

If you're planning a place betting assault based on favourites only, then to be realistic you should look for AVERAGE dividends of around $1.20 to $1.30 for your $1 investment.

Anything above that can be counted as a bonus.

As you'll see, to make any significant money your strike rate will need to be high and consistent. It may well be worthwhile to restrict your betting to races with 5, 6 or 7 runners paying two dividends only.

The available pool for the place is then split only two ways. You don't get paid for 3rd placings but when you do get a return it mostly is a good one despite there being only a handful of runners. There are sufficient two-dividend races throughout the season to provide plenty of action and more times than not the place return will be good in relation to the straight-out win odds.

If you decide on this path, then you must remember to bet the horse that figures to win. With only two divvies, it could be very poor value to bet on a runner just in the HOPE of it running 1st or 2nd.

Quite a few big-time punters still make a decent living from place betting, though I know some of them use the all-up race-to-race bet as an adjunct to their normal place-bet approach. Wheeling one return on to the next selection can help the place punter maximise good streaks.

The average place punter does what he does because his confidence level at betting for the win is probably low. He also likes the assurance of having three chances for a return. He likes, too, the likelihood of securing frequent returns.

Unless the accuracy of the selections is high, the place bettor may well get lots of returns but he will still end up losing. Even a 50 per cent strike rate is not going to be enough.

If we say that a $1.20 average dividend is achieved over 100 bets and we hit with one bet in two, then the total return is going to be only $60. The loss is $40. Even if you average $1.30 for a 50 per cent strike rate, then your return will be $65, still a big loss.

You can see just from these statistics the mountainous task that confronts the place bettor just to break even, at $1.30 average dividend, your strike rate needs to be up around 77 collects in every 100.

Realistically, what sort of strike rate can you achieve? I'd say around 60 per cent, which means you are going to require an average dividend of around $1.65 to more or less break even. Yes, just as tough an assignment. Coupling the selections in all-ups sounds a good idea, but there is no guarantee that your successful placegetters are going to neatly fall into 'pairs'. Some of them will, but you are never going to know when the pairs will crop up.

Choosing just ONE bet per day sounds a reasonably easy task and yet even this will prove frustrating and fraught with disappointments and peril. You know the sort of thing ... the hot favourite that inexplicably runs unplaced, the good thing that gets badly checked, the jockey on a hotpot who rides a shocker, and so on.

What is required, then, to give yourself a fighting chance to win at place betting, given all the negatives that I've raised?

One is a careful approach to selection. That means a highly selective approach. Leave as little to chance as you can. Nail down the rafters!

Some punters will shirk at this challenge. They will require a systematic form of selection. Maybe these punters can consider the approach laid down by an American method of many years ago, which goes as follows:

ELIGIBLE RACES: Fields confined to 6 or 7 runners.

THE SELECTION: The top tipsters' poll horse provided it's at 2/1 or shorter than 2/1 in the prepost betting market.

You will achieve a high strike rate, probably between 75 and 80 per cent. Each divvie is likely to average more than $1.50. There is a good prospect of making 15 to 20c on the invested dollar over 12 months.

My own feeling is that a subjective approach is best for the majority of serious punters. They can choose their races carefully, sticking to quality races, and back only those horses who really DESERVE to carry their money.

As an example: Recently a pal of mine, who dabbles in big place bets, had a large bet on Hill Of Grace at Moonee Valley. He figured the filly HAD to run a place.  The race was a Group 2 Oaks for 3yo fillies, Hill Of Grace was the favourite and she came into the race after a 1.5 lengths 5th to Pins in the Cadbury Guineas at Flemington.

The filly, by Zabeel, had Brett Prebble aboard and was from the stable of the astute trainer Robert Priscott. As my pal said, she looked like a cert to run a place. He figured her to win, so the place looked a cinch.

Which it was. Hill Of Grace strolled home. She paid $1.40 for the place. My friend said it was like buying money. So confident was he of further success that he went all-up on Fairway at Canterbury that night and ended the day with a very good profit.

This is but one example of backing quality horses for the place and maximising your return by wheeling one return on to the next selection.

It's not always that easy, of course. Some days, horses jump out of the formguide and beg to be backed. Other times, the answers are not so definitive. They hide and refuse to be found. These are the days when the sensible punter declares 'defeat' and backs away from having a bet.

For those of you who want to bet for a place and who also want ACTION AND EXCITEMENT, I propose that you think about betting the Yankee permutation.

This is teaming up four horses in all permutations. You can operate this bet on the NSW TAB on one ticket. It will cost you $11. The Yankee gives you a 'perm' of 6 doubles, 4 trebles and a 4-horse accumulator.
One good day can make you a lot of money, even if the divs are not too great. For those not aware of the bet, the permutation is as follows:

A-B-C-D.Doubles: AB, AC, AD, BC, BD, CD.Trebles: ABC, ABD, ACD, BCD.

Accumulator: ABCD.

Strike 4 placegetters and you'll land each and every one of the bets contained in the Yankee. Think about the accumulator: Four placegetters at, say, $1.30, $1.40, $1.60 and $1.80 will return you a dividend of $5.25, which is odds of 4.25 to 1.

Betting in $10 units, that's $42.24 profit. Then you have the doubles and the trebles to think about:AB pays $1.80, AC pays $2.10, AD pays $2.30, BC pays $2.25, BD pays $2.50, CD pays $2.90.With the trebles: ABC pays $2.90, ABD pays $3.25, ACD pays $3.75, and BCD pays $4.

In all, then, you collect a total of $33.

Let's look now at a system that was first published in a Californian newsletter back in the
1930s, admittedly a long time ago, but still a method that has much to recommend it.

(adapted for Australian racing)

  1. Operate only at metropolitan meetings in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.
  2. Bet only on handicap races.
  3. The only runner to be considered is the topweight. There must be only one top-weighted runner If more than one, ignore the race.
  4. To qualify, the topweight must be a last-start placegetter over a distance the same as the current race or within 100m either way. This race must have been within the previous 14 days.
  5. To be a final bet, the horse must have at least one other placing in its last five starts (apart from the last-start placing), and it must be one of the top three favourites for the race.

This approach seems to work particularly well on races for 2yo's, so keep that in mind.

Another systematic approach is to restrict all your place betting to top jockeys and trainers. Make a list of those jocks and trainers you regard as the best in your major city.

Example: In Sydney, the jockeys could be Larry Cassidy, Shane Dye, Brian York, Glen Boss and Danny Beasley. The trainers could be Gai Waterhouse, John Hawkes, John Size, Jack Denham and Clarry Conners.

In Melbourne, you could use Damien Oliver, Brett Prebble, Darren Gauci and Greg Childs, and probably throw in Patrick Payne as well. In the trainers, consider Peter Hayes, David Hall, Lee Freedman, John Hawkes and Brian Mayfield-Smith (perhaps Russell Cameron, too).

Using these star-studded jockeys and trainers, you can narrow your field of activity. Check out each race for the runners associated with the various selected identities.

Then, check through the form. Sift it well, seek out the positive factors, add them up; determine which of the runners have the most in their favour.

There's almost a guarantee that you'll be able to pick a solid likely placegetter every time!

I was chatting to a chap at the races recently and he told me of his winning endeavours backing Damien Oliver's rides. He follows the champion jockey at city and provincial meetings and says he rarely encounters long losing runs.

Betting for the place, long streaks of outs are kept to the minimum.

I hope this article has pointed up a few ways by which you can make your place betting pay. It is a tough way to bet, but so are they all!

Finally, some advice in a nutshell:


By Damien Whitchurch