Proven strategies to win the trifecta in horse racing

June 14, 2019 | By More

Trifecta betting is a challenging betting option in horse racing where you must select the first three placegetters in finishing order. There are massive payouts on offer for those lucky enough to win. Trifecta punters can be daunted by the number of combinations needed to cover all possible outcomes. However, I show you legitimate and proven strategies to increase the chances of winning without escalating bet costs.

Trifecta results in huge payouts

It’s no secret that trifecta betting can lead to huge payout figures. Dividends can be in the thousands of dollars. However, more commonly, payouts are in the hundreds. For example, the trifecta in the 2019 Stradbroke Handicap, won by Trekking $7.60 in a field of 18, paid $586.80.

Melbourne Cup trifecta: Melbourne Cup trifectas are usually massive because of the huge betting pools and the number of runners. In Vintage Crop’s year (1993) the trifecta paid $61,867.90. In 2012, Green Moon’s trifecta paid $51,117. None of the favourites hit the board in that race. The next year when Fiorente won, the trifecta paid $3,362,40. In 2014, won by Protectionist, the Cup trifecta paid $2,173.10. The trifecta paid $20,010.30 when longshot Prince of Penzance won the 2015 Cup. Almandin won in 2016 with the trifecta paying $1,541.30. In Rekindling’s year, it was $3,025.10. The trifecta in last year’s Cup, filled by Cross Counter $8.00, Marmelo $13.00 and A Prince of Arran $23.00, paid a handy $2,479.40. Huge dividends! Wouldn’t it be superb to win the trifecta on the Melbourne Cup. Arguably, the punter’s holy grail.

Trifectas in the range of $150-$500 are very “gettable” and can produce a nice little profit. In the right race, it’s very possible to win an even bigger trifecta, of more than $1,000. With dividends like these, no wonder the trifecta is one of the most popular exotic betting types.

The overall aim in trifecta betting

The secret to trifecta betting is to maximise value while minimising the cost of the bet.

You want to look at your form analysis to find reasons to eliminate fancied runners. In many cases this is not possible and an alternative method must be used. You can also simply “pass” on the bet.

How often do favoured horses finish out of a place? There is usually a valid reason for why they did not feature in the finish. It’s up to the trifecta punter to seek out and identify these hidden form pointers, as these are invaluable for reducing costs.

Below I show you proven strategies to win at the trifecta. For each strategy, I have provided a real world example. The key is to find the right race. Not all races are suitable for trifecta betting. In reality, there may be only one or two races at most on the program where you can have a legitimate punt on the trifecta.

How to estimate the payout figure

The trifecta dividend is calculated by dividing the number of winning tickets into the total pool, less the take out. The betting agency’s takeout figure on a trifecta is usually 20% or more. A takeout of 21.5% is published on the TAB website.

We do not know the number of winning combinations prior to the race. Thus, dividends are not shown in many jurisdictions. However, it can be calculated electronically. On big race days, the trifecta payouts are bigger because of the increased size of the trifecta pool. These are the best days to have a go at the trifecta.

When to “pass” on the trifecta

Everyone likes winning but it’s also important to know when NOT to bet on the trifecta. It’s better to keep your hands in your pocket if there is no value, or the cost of the bet is too high.

Reason to pass No.1 – Favourites

There is no value in trifectas when your form analysis predicts that favourites will fill the placings. If that occurs, there will be too many winning tickets. The total pool is divided amongst all the winners and thus, the individual dividends will suffer accordingly. No value! Even worse, including a hot favourite in a trifecta is a very bad bet.

Look for races in which the favourite is under some risk, and leave it out! Value will come from other, less fancied runners.

Reason to pass No.2 – Bet cost

Another reason to not bet is when the cost of the bet is too high. The more horses to include in the combinations, the cost of the trifecta bet can escalate very quickly.

The cost of boxing 3, 4, 5 or 6 horses are $6, $24, $60 and $120, respectively. You can reduce the cost significantly by nominating a standout, eg; a horse that you select to win, and boxing the other horses to fill the placings. In this case, the cost will be $4, $6, $18, $36 and $60, respectively. You can nominate a standout in any position, or even two standouts.

Excessive bet cost happens commonly when there are too many runners in the race, or at least too many legitimate chances. If you need to bet too many combinations to secure the win, the cost will be high and perhaps the risk-benefit excessive. In this case, just give it a miss and find another race to try.

In trifecta betting, it’s all about risk reduction. To get the risk pendulum swinging in your favour. However, risk reduction often comes at a cost, so beware of escalation in that area.

Preparation for trifecta betting

First thing you need to do is open an account with BetEasy, our preferred online bookmaker. BetEasy is outstanding in providing trifecta punters with all the tools necessary to enjoy and profit on this popular wagering option. Joining up is easy and only takes 2 minutes.

As always, when starting something new, try a few hands at the trifecta without investing any money. You’ll begin to learn the techniques and things to look out for. Review past races and study the trifecta result. What were the odds of the placegetters? Where were they in the market? How about the widest runners?

The key is to look for the right race. Different races require different strategies so it’s important to fully understand the contest from top to bottom.

Strategies to win the trifecta

Listed below are proven strategies to win at the trifecta. Make sure your strategy excludes hot favourites as they destroy any value in trifecta betting. Either exclude them from the trifectas or choose to pass on the race altogether.

Exclude the hot favourite

Some professional punters choose to exclude the favourite altogether from trifecta bets. However, my recommendation is to decide on a case-by-case basis. Is there enough risk around the favourite to consider leaving it out of the trifecta. If not, there is little point in continuing with the bet as the likelihood is high that the favourite wins. Particularly avoid including favourites that are odds-on (less than $2.00) as any dividend will be severely compromised. If there is some risk in the favourite, then this is an opportunity to consider leaving it out altogether.

It often occurs that the favourite, for some reason, fails to finish in the top 3 placings. Punters who backed the favourite straight-out are seen throwing tickets away in despair, or standing around with that perplexed look on their face. It happens quite frequently. The horse may be “over the top” in its preparation or meet unexpected bad luck in running. However, when this happens, trifecta punters are in business! The payout figure on any trifecta in that race will be great. It’s important for the trifecta punter to reap the reward when the favourite bombs.

Pick the winner

Trifecta betting is a lot easier if you have confidence in a particular horse to win the race. If you can lock in a horse to fill the 1st place, you can box horses to fill the minor placings. Once again, it’s much better if you can find a horse at greater than each-way odds who you think will win the race. Do not use a hot favourite. Use other strategies, listed below, to remove further horses from consideration. Then, we are starting to formulate a workable trifecta bet.

Not confident in the winner? You can lock in two horses to finish on top. These horses are known as bankers. Bankers are one or two horses that can be locked into a certain position. It doesn’t need to be the winner. You might lock a horse in for 3rd position, say a long shot you suspect could sneak into the frame. A little speculative but will give any successful dividend an enormous kick. The third position is often filled by a longshot so don’t be afraid to use a longshot as a stand alone in the third position.

Eliminate horses with no chance

A third general strategy in trifecta betting is to not waste money on horses with absolutely no chance of getting into the placings. These would be horses whose odds are greater than approximately $80. An 80-1 shot has a 1.25 percentage probability of winning the race, so it’s highly unlikely. In most cases, unless you have a very good reason, these horses can safely be eliminated from your trifecta betting.

No.1 Trifecta Strategy: Eliminate the favourite and widest runners

The favourite winning will severely impact the size of the dividend. Hence, if you think there is some risk around the favourite, leave it out altogether. Conversely, horses at greater than about $80-1 have little chance of running a place. In fact, the price put up for these horses by bookmakers is seriously understated; in reality their chance is 200-1 or more. These horses succeed so infrequently it’s really not worth including in your bet.

In this strategy, we will remove the favourite and the horses with next to no chance of hitting the board. If you can do this in a race with only a dozen or so runners, you can end up with only a small group of horses to include in the combinations.

Example 1: 2019 J.J. Atkins Plate at Eagle Farm

In a field of 15 horses, No.1 Accession was favourite at a steady $3.50. He was unproven at G1 level and hadn’t run the distance, sufficient risk to remove him from trifecta betting in order to preserve value.

In addition, the bottom 7 horses (Nos. 9-15) were given next to no chance of finishing in the placings. Six of those horses were at triple-figure odds and a 7thhorse, Ballistic Boy, was $81. A great opportunity to really narrow down the field by eliminating all those horses.

Of those left in our trifecta bet, Prince Fawaz $4.40 was identified as the likely winner of the race. He really impressed in his recent run and had Kerrin McEvoy on board. At greater than each-way odds he was the perfect choice to peg as a standout in the first position.

In summary, we had the No.7 horse winning the race, and 6 other horses with the possibility of filling 2nd and 3rd placing. The cost of the trifecta is therefore 1x6x5 = $30, quite a reasonable stake.

J.J. Atkins Plate result:

Ist: No.7. Prince Fawaz $4.40 K. McEvoy
2nd: No.6. Kubrick $21.00 J. Allen
3rd: No.8. Reloaded $7.00 J. McDonald
Trifecta $375.50

A straight-out win bet of $30 on Prince Fawaz would result in a return of $132.00. Instead, with the same selection as the winner, our $30 trifecta returned $375.50. A great strategy that reduced the field to 7 runners including one standout selection.

Example 2: Rosehill R2, 15th June 2019

The 2nd race at Rosehill on 15th June, 2019 is a good example of excluding the favourite and widest runners. Fifteen horses and 4 emergencies accepted, however 4 horses from the main field and 2 emergencies were scratched, leaving a field of 13 to run.

At least 2 horses ($91 and $201) were given no chance by punters, and were excluded from our trifecta bet. If we also leave out the favourite, Galapagos $3.40, we are left with 10 runners to combine.

Because there are still 10 runners, our top selection No.3 Zardoro was used as a roving banker. This meant that Zardoro could finish anywhere in the first 3 home. The trifecta with 9 other horses boxed around the roving banker costs $216 in total. It won, paying over $4k.

Rosehill Race 2 result:

Ist: No.17. Upper House $31.00 R. King
2nd: No.3. Zardoro $11.00 S. Clipperton
3rd: No.15. Onemore Sapphire $9.00 C. O’Brien
Trifecta $4,385.70

Many punters would find $216 too much to bet on a somewhat risky trifecta. However, if you select your stake using flexi-betting, you can still come home with a nice collect. A $50 stake for instance, results in a $1,015.21 collect!

Example 3: Caulfield R1, 27th July 2019

With 9 starters, a hot favourite and a single wide runner, the first race at Caulfield had Villagebet trifecta punters licking their lips. Can’t Be Done was the $2.65 warm favourite, with Gettysburg Address the wide runner at $41. All other runners were remarkably bunched together between $4.80 and $17.00. Leaving the favourite and wide runner out of calculations, we had only 7 runners to box in the trifecta. Cost of bet is therefore 7x6x5 = $210.

Can’t Be Done finished 4th and the wide runner unplaced, making the trifecta a success, paying a whopping $1,664.70

Caulfield Race 1 result:

Ist: No.8. Parmie $11.60 D. Yendall
2nd: No.2. Igniting $11.00 M. Walker
3rd: No.4. Noble Fight $17.00 M. Zahra
Trifecta $1,664.70

A great result for this value trifecta strategy. An outlay of $210 yielded a $1,664.70 dividend, with an ROI of 692.7%.

No.2 Trifecta Strategy: Winner and roving banker

When you’re confident of the winner (and it’s not an odds-on favourite), and you have another horse that you think will be the hardest to beat, it’s worth taking a punt on this strategy in the trifecta.

In this strategy, there is a large onus on your ability to select the winner of the race. If you’re confident, then try this one. Make your selection in the standout first position. Then use your other selection as the roving banker to run 2ndor 3rd

If you can identify the winner, there is so much more value if it’s not the favourite. Even better if it’s not one of the favoured runners, but sometimes this is unavoidable. If it’s a well-fancied runner, you’ll just have to be content with a compromised dividend.

In a 10-horse field, this strategy would cost (10-2)x2 = $16. The possible results for the trifecta bet would be:

1st position: Your selection
2nd position: One of 8 horses OR roving banker
3rd position: Roving banker OR one of 8 horses

Example: Flemington R2, 8th June 2019

Kings Brook is the morning favourite and expected to win. However, Mrs O’Malley has been in good form and appears hardest for the favourite to beat. Mrs O’malley is more than each-way odds and will be our roving banker for 2nd or 3rd place. The cost of the trifecta is therefore:

(1x1x8) + (1x8x1) = $16

Flemington Race 2 result:

Ist: No.4. Kings Brook $2.40 A. Mallyon
2nd: No.8. Mrs O’malley $7.50 L. Currie
3rd: No.10. Mrs Bignell $51.00 J. Eaton
Trifecta $432.30

A very good trifecta result for a $16 outlay. The dividend is enhanced by the $51 shot sneaking into 3rd place but this is the reason we covered all possible outcomes in the 2nd and 3rd spots.

No.3 Trifecta Strategy: Favourite in a small field

A simple strategy for trifecta punters is to bank the favourite in a small field. It’s unlikely to reap great rewards, but at least has a good chance of success. The key is to identify the right race, in which the favourite is more than even money and there are some horses with very little chance.

This strategy is almost the opposite of Strategy 1 but relies on astute race selection to achieve success.

Look for a small field of no more than 10 runners. When there is a clear favourite, but not odds on (in the red), and several horses at “London to a brick” odds, this strategy is open for business.

Example: 2019 June Stakes at Randwick.

The June Stakes at Randwick (Race 7, 08-June-2019) is an interesting example of this strategy. Deprive was considered a good thing, the favourite at $2.40. This is a little short but we were prepared for the smaller dividend.

The key advantage of this race was the scratchings of 3 of the 13 original entries and 2 of the remainders had little chance (odds $81 and $151). This left us with only 8 horses, one of which (Deprive) we locked in as the winner.

Cost of bet: 1x7x6 = $42

June Stakes result:

Ist: No.9. Deprive $2.40 R. King
2nd: No.4. Bon Amis $8.50 C. Reith
3rd: No.11. Brook Magic $15.00 B. McDougall
Trifecta $122.80

A straight-out bet of $42 on Deprive would have yielded $100.80. Taking the trifecta using this strategy added an extra $22 without further risk.

Two take home messages from this strategy and the example provided. Betting the favourite as standout in a trifecta severely impacts dividend. In this case, the trifecta only added approximately 22% on top, compared to taking the favourite straight-out. Second take-away is the importance of looking at trifectas in order to add value to betting the favourite straight out. In this case, we added 22% to the price without further risk.

An outlay of $42 may seem a little steep for many punters. Luckily, we have flexi-betting to bring the bet cost under control.

No.4 Trifecta Strategy: Discard top and bottom 3 in the market

A more adventurous strategy is to remove the most favoured and least favoured horses in the market. For example, leave out the top and bottom 3 in the market. Remove every horse at more than $30 odds.

Look for a very open race, ie; many chances in the market. The race must not contain an odds-on favourite who would be expected to win most of the time. And look for a group of horses given next to no chance in the race. In a small field, I would remove anything above $30.

It’s not easy, psychologically, to discard the top 3 horses in the market. However, in this strategy we are looking for a big return. Simply stated, including favoured horses will negatively impact the eventual dividend. In an open race, it’s not unusual for all placings to be filled by horses of better than each-way odds.

This strategy works alone or combined with other strategies.

Hopefully, after removing the top and bottom horses in the market, you’re left with only half the field to consider. You then have three choices:

  • Combine them all in a box trifecta.
  • Narrow down the field even further.
  • Find a banker.

Example 1: Randwick R5, 8th-June 2019

This was an open betting race with 12 runners.

No.6 Call Me Royal was favourite at $2.60 and Nos. 8 and 11 were two others close up in the betting. The 3 widest runners in the betting were 1, 7 and 12 with odds of $35, $91 and $27, respectively.

Removal of 6 horses above, left 6 remaining. Thus, the cost of boxing all 6 horses in a trifecta = 6x5x4 = $120

Randwick Race 5 result:

Ist: No.2. Gongs $13.00
2nd: No.10. Connemara $13.00
3rd: No.3. Miss Exfactor $21.00
Trifecta $3165.10

A massive trifecta result ($3,165.10) given we’d narrowed the field to 6 horses. Looking at those 6 horses, many would confidently predict the winner Gongs. Making Gongs the Standout, would reduce the cost of bet to 1x5x4 = $20.

In this strategy, it also pays to check other betting agencies to determine the horses to remove. In this case, the No.12 horse was showing $27, the third widest runner. On another betting agency however, the No.5 horse was also showing $27 and could also have been removed on the basis of it being the equal third widest runner. This would leave only 5 horses! Boxing the five horses would cost $60. With Gongs as the standout winner, the cost of bet: 1x4x3 = $12 for a $3,165.10 return.

Example 2: Trifecta pays over $10k

In the 9th race at Flemington that same day, this strategy netted a massive trifecta, paying $10,310.50. Discarding the top and bottom 3 horses in the market, left 9 remaining. However, boxing 9 horses is far too excessive ($362,880) so further refinement is necessary to keep costs under control. Hopefully, while not deleting the $52 winner! Use a roving banker and flexi-betting.

No.5 Trifecta Strategy: Quinella and the field for 3rd.

How many times do you see a horse with long odds sneaking into 3rd place? It happens very often and this represents a terrific opportunity for trifecta punters. In this strategy, we will select the quinella (1st and 2nd, in any order) and take it into the field for 3rd place. The hope is that a horse of long odds sneaks into 3rd place.

Unlike other strategies, we are not leaving out any horses with long odds as this is the underlying premise of the strategy. The hope is that a horse with long odds finishes in 3rd place. In the case where there are still too many runners, we have the additional option of further reducing the field size by removing all horses at triple-figure odds.

As we are boxing the 3rd spot, we need to reduce bet costs in the other 2 positions. In this strategy, we’ll select 2 horses (labeled A and B below) to fill the first 2 placings, in any order. This is the same as a quinella, ie; select two horses that must fill the first 2 positions home, regardless of order.

In a 15-horse race, the trifecta combinations to bet are:

(Horse A – Horse B – 13 horses) plus (Horse B – Horse A – 13 horses)

Cost of bet = $26

Example: 2019 Brisbane Cup at Eagle Farm.

The 2019 Brisbane Cup had 18 runners. To reduce the field size, we exercised the option of removing the 3 horses at the bottom of the weights, which were each at triple-figure odds. These horses had no chance.

Thus, there were 15 horses remaining. Our strategy is to first select the quinella and then box the remaining horses in the 3rd position.

2019 Brisbane Cup result:

Ist: No.3. Sixties Groove $4.00 D. Oliver
2nd: No.4. Grey Lion $11.00 K. O’Hara
3rd: No.1. Big Duke $27.00 J. Allen
Trifecta $666.20

Sixties Groove $4.00 was second-favourite behind Haripour $3.10. Grey Lion was 4th in the betting at $11.00. The two horses (Sixties Groove and Grey Lion) would have been selected by many punters to quinella the race. If you take the “favourite out” rule, then Sixties Groove was your first choice.

This strategy allows for Big Duke to place 3rd at $27.00 and boost the dividend. A $666.20 trifecta for the cost of $26 is a good return.

Selection skills still paramount in trifecta betting

Betting on horse racing has a lot going for it but it is a serious business. The strategies for trifecta betting shown here are proven with real world examples, however in each of them, it remains important for the trifecta punter to maintain a good level of selection skills. Identifying the right bankers and standouts is critical to success and relies on astute form study and hard work. Deciding which horses to leave out of trifecta calculations is equally important as identifying those to include. Particularly when trying to reduce bet costs. Thus, it’s important to listen to the form, gather knowledge and follow trusted experts.

Our racing tips and best bets published every raceday morning will undoubtedly help you with selections to achieve your trifecta goals.

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