Beginner’s Bet of the Week: The Trifecta

The trifecta bet challenges the bettor to correctly select each of the top three finishers in a race. (Eclipse Sportswire)

This week marks the latest installment of a new series on America’s Best Racing, the Beginner’s Bet of the Week, sponsored by NYRA Bets. Each week, this blog will explore a new type of bet by explaining exactly what it is, how best to use that bet, and by putting the wager into practice in a race.

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We’ll take a look at the trifecta in this week’s edition. The goal of the trifecta is to pick the top three finishers in a race in order. The minimum wager is 50 cents.

The trifecta has a similar structure to the exacta, but is exponentially more difficult to hit. Last Saturday (Oct. 30), 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.

Like the exacta, 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.” 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 second and third. You could play a trifecta with the #1 in the first spot, or “on top,” while using the #3, #5, #7, #9, and #10 in the second and third spots, or “underneath.” This wager would cost $10 for 50 cents (1 X 5 X 4 — four because the same horse can’t finish second and third — divided by 2) and allows you to hammer your strongest opinion while allowing for a possible surprise.

There’s little point in playing a trifecta with all favorites; those rarely pay very much. 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 second or third, it can spice up the payout even if the favorite wins.

Saturday’s Belmont Park Trifecta Play

The ninth race on Saturday’s card at Belmont is the Stewart Manor Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at six furlongs on the grass. My top pick is #7 Gal in a Rush for trainer Christophe Clement and jockey Dylan Davis. She lived up to her name last out, as she closed with a rush to finish second in the Matron Stakes, beaten less than a length by winner Bubble Rock. There’s plenty of speed horses in this race so she should get an honest pace to set up her late rally.

I’ll key her on top of the trifecta, and use three horses in the second spot. #3 Mystic Eyes is stakes-placed twice and was third behind Gal in a Rush after setting the pace in the Matron. #5 Stand Up Comic ran a great speed figure in her grass debut, getting fourth in the Bolton Landing Stakes at 24-1. She ran an 87 on the Brisnet scale and a 76 on the Equibase scale. #6 The Club has improved with every start and made mild ground when wide last out in the Matron.

I’ll use #7 on top, #3, #5, and #6 in second, and those three in third, along with #1 Hot Fudge, #4 Rigby, and #10 Benbang. If the #7 wins, the #3, #5, or #6 come in second, and the #1, #3, #4, #5, #6, or #10 come in third, this trifecta will hit.

When placing this bet with a teller, say: “Belmont Park, Race 9, 50-cent trifecta, #7 with #3, #5, #6 with #1, #3, #4, #5, #6, #10.” If betting through an ADW, be sure to check the #7 box the first column, the #3, #5, and #6 in the second column, and #1, #3, #4, #5, #6, and #10 in the third column. This bet costs $7.50 for 50 cents.

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