You would like to back a winner every two selections? That’s a 50 per cent win strike. Some dream!

But maybe it’s not so crazy. After all, picking two horses a race and making a ‘book’ by saving on the dangers, is not a new idea and there are punters who swear by it.

I’d like here to refer to the exploits and staking ideas of the late Eric Connolly, a man who won and lost fortunes during his heady betting years. Connolly knew what he was talking about, even if he probably stopped listening to his wiser beliefs in the latter years of his punting.

Small bettors would always be approaching the old master for his advice, and there’s the story of a Chinese student who, some 70 years, came to him for help. This lad took a great interest in the maths side of the punt and had worked out that 57 per cent of all races were won by either the first or second favourites.

He wanted to know if Connolly thought money could be made out of betting the first two favourites and whether they should be backed separately or as a combined unit. A man who was present at this meeting relates the following story:

“Con said that when on a trip to England he was staying in the north with a friend and there was a race meeting listed for the following day. No form paper was available for the meeting which Con’s friend said was usually a good one for bookmakers.

“Con bet his pal 10 quid that he could stay away from the betting ring and if told the prices just before barrier rise he would then get his friend to put bets on for him and that he’d be a winner on the day. Con laughed at the Englishman’s suggestion, he should instead listen to good inside information that might come their way.

“Con’s reply was that he didn’t want to know anything about the form, the jockeys or the good oil. He knew enough about racing to know that he was attending a very minor meeting, the fields were not large and his turf sense told him it was a meeting at which some of the very well fancied runners would be winning.

“Just before each race, his pal came to Con with the prices. The Aussie then did some quick mental arithmetic and told him the bets to make on his behalf.

“At the end of the day, Connolly was a clear winner. What he had done was to back the first and second favourites in each race to win the same amount no matter which of them won. Con always considered this approach to be a successful one for the casual punter.

“His argument was that such horses (first and second favourites, or the top two in the tipsters’ poll), should win 50 per cent of all races run and there would be little risk of a long losing sequence if both horses were backed as one.”

The proviso that Connolly insisted on, for Australian racing, was that a punter should not try to bet on every race. Those with a knowledge of racing will know which events to avoid, he used to say. For those still in doubt, he suggested eliminating Maidens, Classes 1 to 5 (in modern terms), and any races restricted to apprentice jockeys.

Of course, to bet in this manner a decent-sized bank is required, although Connolly always said that it was easy enough, and viable, to start operations in a small way and build for the future.

The Chinese student, according to the story, went on to become a fabulously wealthy person, though it may be debatable whether his betting or his business interests were responsible. He always claimed it was his betting, following the Connolly plan, that set him up for life.

There are many ways to work out the bets for the suggested approach. Most punters are aware of them. I think the best is this one: Brown is at 3/1 ($4.00) and Black 5/1 ($6.00). You seek to win $10 no matter which one wins. You add the two figures in the price of each horse and transfer them. Thus, Black is at 5/1 (5 plus 1 equals 6), so you invest 6 units on Brown. Brown is at 3/1 (3 plus 1 equals 4) so you place that 4 on Black. You thus have 18 to 6 Brown and 20 to 4 on Black. Your total investment has been 10 units. In the event of either horse winning, you collect 24 units, so there’s a profit of 14 on the bet.

You won’t get 3/1 and 5/1 very often, of course, on the first two favourites. It would be unrealistic to believe that you could. Shorter prices will need to be accepted.

Let’s say you were betting on the recent Ranvet Stakes at Rosehill, using pre-post markets.

Theseo was at 5/4 ($2.20) and Viewed was at $4.90 (almost 4/1). The bets would be 2.5 (rounded up) on Viewed and 5 (rounded off) on Theseo, a total of 7.5. Theseo’s win returned 11 units, for a profit on the bet of 3.5 units (+46.6 per cent).

You could also consider betting to get a certain return. The bets, to return $50, using the form of the Dutching approach, would be: Theseo $23 and Viewed $10, a total of $33. As the race turned out, they ran 1st and 2nd, with Theseo the winner. You get back $50 for a profit of $17 (+51.5 per cent).

At the same meeting in the Coolmore Classic, the equal favourites were Typhoon Tracy and Gallant Tess, both at 9/2 ($5.40). Using the initial approach, you would bet 5.5 (rounded up) on each, for a return of 29.7 units, a profit on the bet of 18.7 units (+170 per cent).

Using the $50 target, you would have bet $9 on each for a return of 48.6 units, a profit of $30.60 (+170 per cent).  In the Phar Lap that meeting, the favourite was Whobegotyou $2.10 and Heart of Dreams $3.80. In this instance, you’d put 3.8 units on Whobegotyou and 2 units on Heart of Dreams, a total bet of 5.9 units. Heart of Dreams won, so your return would be $3.80 x 2 equalling 7.6 units, a profit of 1.7 units (+29 per cent).

The question to consider is whether it’s worth betting on races like the Phar Lap when the potential return is only 30 per cent or under. I think it needs to be considered on a case by case basis. If you really fancy that one of the two favourites will win, then you may well consider that it’s easy money to pick up 29 per cent on your bet.

Using the second approach, you would have $24 on Whobegotyou and $13 on Heart of Dreams for a return of $50.40 for Whobegotyou and $49.40 for Heart of Dreams, providing a profit on the bet of 13 units (+35 per cent).

These examples give you a good idea of what you are doing. The approach is simplicity and can be summed up as follows:


  • City races only unless you are very selective on provincial meetings.
  • Eliminate lower-class races. Always stick to the better class races.
  • You only bet on the first two favourites. If possible, do not bet until the final few minutes before race time, in order to secure the right prices.
  • Choose your approach. The Plus-1 or Betting to Prices to return a set target (Dutching).
  • Always bet to a level that is ‘comfortable’ with your bank.

The beauty of this plan is that you know, via the historical records, that the first and second favourites will win 50 per cent and probably a bit more of all races. This gives you long-term leverage.

Eric Connolly thought that everyone should know of this formula. He said that after a few test runs the average punter should be able to apply it to any combination of odds in a matter of minutes.

He said: “I am a great believer in backing more than one runner in a race. When I go for the win I like to have several horses running for me. Never put all your eggs in one basket. Egg shells are thin. And there are so many ways the basket can fall.”

Losing runs with an approach like this one? Well, in racing you never know. But the use of the top two in the betting certainly gives you as solid a framework for your bets as you are likely to find. Two runners in a race, overall 50 per cent+ strike rate . . . That’s pretty good.

I think you’ve as good a chance as any with this Connolly Plan approach.

By Richard Hartley Jnr