Betting The Trifecta

Perhaps due to some early success when first dabbling with the wager, the Daily Racing Blog has a certain affinity for the Trifecta.

So let’s take a look at the Trifecta, so that perhaps you too can develop a propensity for this popular (and sometimes lucrative) wager. The goal of the Trifecta is to pick the top three finishers in a race in order. The minimum wager (at most tracks) is .50 cents.

The Trifecta has a similar structure to the Exacta, but is exponentially more difficult to hit. On the last Saturday in October, the median 50-cent Trifecta payoff was $111.13, for about a 222-1 return. By contrast, the median $1 Exacta payoff was $46.75. The Trifecta adds another layer of risk, but can produce a much greater reward.

There are several ways to play a Trifecta. It’s possible to play just one combination and try to hit it straight, but picking the top three finishers in the exact order is a feat often beyond the capabilities of the greatest horseplayers.

A more common method is to play a box, in which the horses selected can finish in the top three in any order. If you play a Trifecta box with the #1, #2, and #3, for example, as long as the #1, #2, and #3 all finish in the top three, you Win. A 50-cent Trifecta box with three horses costs $3, as you’re playing six 50-cent combinations. A four-horse 50-cent box costs $12; a five-horse box is $30, and a six-horse box is worth $60.

The most common way to play a Trifecta is to use what’s called a part wheel or key. This involves using several different horses in different spots.

For example, let’s say you really like the #1 in a race, and also consider the #3, #5, #7, #9, and #10 contenders for 2nd and 3rd. You could play a Trifecta with the #1 (key horse) in the first spot, or on top, while using the #3, #5, #7, #9, and #10 in the 2nd and 3rd spots, or underneath.

This wager would cost $10 for 50 cents (1 X 5 X 4 — four because the same horse can’t finish 2nd and 3rd — divided by 2) and allows you to hammer your strongest opinion while allowing for a possible surprise.

The Daily Racing Blog pretty much structures all its Trifectas in this fashion. Pictured is a DRB Trifecta play at Saratoga this year.

There’s little point in playing a Trifecta with all favorites; those rarely pay very much. And we are always looking for… Value!

When betting a Trifecta, the best method is to key your top pick in the first spot, then spread out underneath and use several horses, including some longshots. If a longshot finishes 2nd or 3rd, it can spice up the payout even if the favorite Wins.

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