Practical Punting and the Ever Elusive Trifecta

It’s simple advice once you hear it. But isn’t that the way it always seems?

I was asking my friend Rob for advice on betting trifectas. Rob enjoys horseracing and he enjoys gambling on horseraces. About a year ago he subscribed to Practical Punting, a horseracing professional gambling guide. Since then his appreciation of horseracing has grown along with his returns.

I wondered if Practical Punting offered any guidelines for placing specific bets, such as on a trifecta.

Practical Punting

Practical Punting

“What you need to remember,” Rob said, “is that you’re looking for an edge. So betting on the favourite to win won’t give you the return for the risk you’re taking. In fact,” he went on, warming to his subject, “it’s a good rule of thumb to limit your trifecta bets to those where you can eliminate the favourite entirely.”

This seemed at odds with everything I imagined about horseracing. Surely the favourite was the favourite for a reason? Surely boxing the favourite in the first three place-getters was a given?

“Nope,” Rob replied. “What you’re looking for is an edge. Identify the favourite who’s currently having poor form and won’t place. The horse might be sick, the jockey inexperienced, the track unfavourable – or many other factors. You’ll know these things because you’ve done your homework. The general public won’t because they are just having a flutter and a bit of fun.

“Once you’ve eliminated the favourite identify the second and third place-getters. These horses often get overlooked when people do their homework. Everyone pays attention to the winners, few pay attention to second and third. But identifying horses with strong records without wins can provide you with a reliable signpost two the now-vacant first spot and runner-up.”

“But this is a trifecta,” I said, “what about the third place?”

“Here’s where it gets really interesting,” Rob replied, “because you won’t make your money from trifectas by winning trifectas.”

I was baffled.

“You’ll make your money from trifectas by winning more trifectas than you lose.” He paused a moment, thinking. The idea behind Practical Punting is to gamble professionally, not necessarily win a single race. So often a longer-term approach needs to be taken. The idea is to only bet on races where the returns exceed the risks; and to do this multiple times. Because no matter how in your favour the risk-reward ratio is you will still occasionally lose. However, over a series of races, where the risk-reward ratio is in your favour, you are likely to come out ahead.”

“That still doesn’t help me identify the third horse,” I pointed out.

Practical Punting

Practical Punting

Rob seemed startled as though I’d said something ridiculous. “Sure it does,” he responded. The third place horse you’re looking for is a bolter; a horse who has shown promise, but not yet delivered. This is because the odds offered on such a horse will be exorbitant. Boxing a hose like this and having it come in ought to make the return on a winning trifecta greater than the losses on a dozen others. It’s a long term strategy where the number of losses exceeds the number of wins, but where the money won far, far exceeds the money lost.”

Rob looked at me and smile, “And we’re in it for the money.”

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