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How To Bet A Trifecta
The Trifecta is not one of the oldest exotics wagers, but it is an extension of the Exacta and Quinella that were introduced slightly more than a half-century ago. As its prefix implies, the Trifecta requires a bettor to select the top three finishers in exact order.
Once a wager that required a lot of capital ($2 minimums or $1 minimum boxes were common not that long ago), the Trifecta now can usually be bet most anywhere for as little as 50 cents per combination. That’s not only been a boon to horseplayers on smaller budgets, but has made the wager more popular and generally increased pool size.
Unless your handicapping is unusually sharp and lady luck is frequently on your side, chances are you won’t approach the Trifecta with a mindset of hitting it “cold,” that is getting the exact order right in a single combination. By far the most popular way to play the wager, especially with lower minimums, is by boxing three or more horses or “wheeling” various combinations.
Boxing three or more horses is the most simplistic way of creating a lot of coverage. In a 10-horse field, you might think horses A, B, C, D, and E are the only ones capable of finishing third or better. A five-horse box in that situation would cost $30 with a 50-cent minimum (5 x 4 x 3 x .5).
The main criticism with that approach is that by boxing five horses you believe each has an equal chance of finishing in any of the three positions. Handicappers of long standing know that is usually far from the case. If one of those five is the favorite and wins, chances are the Trifecta payoff is either going to be very low or so low it won’t be enough to recoup the amount of money you’ve invested.
A better way to play the Trifecta is through wheeling, that is using a different number of horses in each position. Using our example above, suppose we think only horses A and B have a chance to win, the best horse C can do is finish second, and the best horses D and E can do is finish third. Re-fashioning our Trifecta ticket to align it with our true opinion, the ticket will end up looking like this:
AB/ABC/ABCDE (2 x 2 x 3 x .5) = $12
Not only have we forged a stronger opinion on the race (not a bad thing to do when gambling hard-earned money), but we’ve reduced our outlay by 60 percent compared to boxing all five, thus potentially enjoying a higher profit margin.
When’s the best time to play a Trifecta? One popular approach is to play it when you believe the favorite either cannot win or stands a strong chance of finishing out of the money.
Confining a favorite, especially a heavy one, to the lower rungs of the Trifecta or leaving it off your ticket entirely is when the wager is most playable.