by Trevor Whenham - 09/13/2007
A trifecta, or triactor in some places, requires you to choose the top three horses in a race. You have to not only determine which three horses will end up as the top three, but also which order they will finish in. Though that can be a big challenge at times, it is made worthwhile by the big payouts that are often possible. The trifecta pool is separate from the rest of the betting, and you can't see potential payouts for the bet before the race is over, so you can often find nice profits from winning tickets, even if they include the favorite. Trifecta wagering is a great way to make a sound profit at the track, but you have to tackle it with sound reason and a plan if you want to succeed.
It's very rare that a bettor would decide to bet just one combination of horses when they bet a trifecta. Doing that makes only slightly more sense than buying a lottery ticket. Instead, the most common way to deal with the wager is to buy several different combinations. This can be done as a box, where you pick three or more horses and bet every possible combination that they could finish in, or as a wheel, where you can include different horses in each of the three positions. In a wheel you might, for example, like two horses to win, four to place, and the whole field to show. The trick is to balance the tickets that you are buying so that you are including enough horses to keep your winning percentage high, but not including so many horses that the cost of your tickets is higher than your profits.
To properly bet a trifecta the first thing you need to have is a good sense of how the race is going to play out. The biggest mistake that people make when wagering in the trifecta is to choose the three or four horses that they think have the best chance of winning the race and boxing them all. That often doesn't make sense. Some horses have a running style that will likely either see them win the race or tire and end up out of the action. Other horses don't have the tendency to win, but they seem to often find a way to get up for second or third. As part of your handicapping you are probably looking at how a horse might run, so you need to put that together for the whole race to see what seems likely. Instead of boxing horses automatically, you can lower the cost of your tickets, and improve your winning percentage, by strategically including horses in the places that they are most likely to finish.
Another big mistake that people make when betting the trifecta is making the same bet on every combination that they choose. It is very unlikely that there would be several combinations in a race that you like equally, yet you probably bet them all equally. If you are being honest, there are some combinations that you think are highly likely to come in, others that are less likely, and still others that are reasonably unlikely, but still worth a bet given their likely payoff. Instead of betting on all three sets of combinations with the same amount, it may make sense to bet the most on your favorites, less on the middle group, and even less on the least likely. That way you will still make a profit no matter which one of your combinations come in, but you will be rewarded nicely when your handicapping is working particularly well. By taking this approach you will find that your profit should grow at a faster rate than your expenditures.
As with any kind of wagering, the key to success in trifecta wagering is to look for value. If a race plays out in a way that makes it likely that the three favorites will end up in the three top spots then the race may lend itself better to a wager other than the trifecta. The trifecta is particularly attractive in cases where you can discount the favorite entirely. If a heavy favorite doesn't end up in the top three positions in a race then the trifecta payoff is going to be high. If you can get good at spotting those cases then you are on your road to profitability.
Making money on trifecta wagers over the long term is as much about money management as it is about handicapping. It can be very tempting to include several horses in each bet to cover as many combinations as possible. That can be an easy trap to fall into because you will be cashing lots of winning tickets because of the number of combinations you have covered. The problem is that you won't be making money over the long term. If you're going to be serious about betting the trifecta, then, you need to keep careful records of the bets you are making to see what is working and what isn't. By doing this you can keep your wagers as efficient and inexpensive as possible.