Target betting always has its critics, many of them vehement in their criticism. Yet I believe there is a great deal to be said in its favour.

As long as you ensure the safety aspect of a 'brake' with any form of target betting, then you should enjoy relatively plain sailing, assuming your selection method is sound and that you are not backing complete and utter no-hopers, thus inevitably striking formidable losing runs.

For many years now, I have played around with a target staking plan that I was introduced to many years ago while living in England. At the time I was a regular patron of the Romford greyhound racing track (still, I'm told, one of the best in the country).

My betting companions. included a wily young professional named Donald Rice, who revelled in the flattering nickname of Damon Runyan, because he told such tall tales so well, and because he was, in many respects, much like Runyan's racy fictional characters.

Don - who I know still regularly prowls the fast-disappearing central London dog tracks, form guide clutched in his bony hands and notebook stuffed in the pocket of his duffle-coat never, to my knowledge at least, did a day's work. For all I know, he still hasn't had to actually work for a living. Good luck to him.

He used his commonsense and his capacity for form study and trial watching to make his greyhound selections - and then used his own target staking plan for his bets. It was a simple idea and for a time Don even persuaded myself and a few other youngish punters (we were I4 and 15 at the time!) to follow his example. We were all too silly then to realise what a gem our pal had discovered.

It was a rare night indeed that Don left Romford having suffered a loss (and when he did he was smart enough not to get trapped into a Crown and Anchor game outside, unlike some others I knew in those rambunctious teenage days). He insisted that the backbone of his winning ways was his target betting method - and now I'll outline it for you, so you can work it out for yourself, to see – 30 years down the line - how Don Rice made so much money.

The rules are pretty easy to follow. You start off at Race 1 and your aim is to win 1 unit. (A unit can be any amount of money you like, from $1 to $100 or whatever.) Depending on the price of the horse you are about to back, you can place any amount on it, although never going beyond a one unit bet at this stage.

For instance, if your first horse is a 5-1 chance, you will not need to play 1 unit on it to get your target of 1 unit back. You can, if you wish, bet a 1/2 unit and if your horse won you would still win 21/2 units and thus easily achieve your 1 unit target win - in fact, exceed it. My preference is always to start off with a full 1 unit bet but after that I chop back to smaller bets if I can do it.

Okay, let's assume your first horse lost. You then proceed to your second horse - and your target now is a new 1 unit figure plus the 1 you wanted from the first bet, plus the 1 unit you lost on the first bet, giving you a total target of 3 for the second bet. However, with the rules of this method you will not be able to stake more than 2 units to achieve that target of 3.

Your bet maximum is determined each time by the length of the losing run. For example, your maximum stake rises by 1 each time you strike a loser. So if you are, at some time, on your fifth bet your maximum bet will be 5 units. Your sixth bet, maximum is 6. You will find that with reasonably-priced horses you will rarely need to bet to the maximum allowed to achieve your target.

If your second horse is priced at 41, and your target is 3, you will need to bet less than 1 unit to achieve the target. I would, however, bet 1 unit in a case like this. If your horse won you would win 4 units, and you would then rule off that betting section, with a total profit of 3 units (taking into account the loss of 1 unit on the first bet).

If we assume your second horse lost, you then proceed to bet number 3 with a target this time of the old 3, plus 1 for the third bet, and 1 for the bet you had on the second horse, giving you a target of 5 units to win, with a maximum bet allowed of 3.

Okay, let's say your horse is at 52. It is simple to work out that you will need to invest 2 units on this third horse to achieve your target of 5 units. If your horse won you would have got profit of 5 units. You then deduct the 2 units you lost on the first two races and you have a profit of 3 units.

If we assume your third horse lost, you then proceed to bet number 4 and you will have a target of the old 5, plus the 1 unit for the fourth bet and the 2 units you just lost on bet number 3. This gives you a target of 8 units, with a maximum bet allowed of 4 units.

Okay, this time your bet is priced at 6-1. To achieve that 8 units target you need bet only 11/2 units. That would actually give you a return of 9, a unit above your target. If the 6-1 bet got up, you would win 9 units. You then would deduct all your previous bets, which were: Bet 1 (1 unit), Bet 2 (1 unit), Bet 3 (2 units), leaving you a clear profit of 5 units.

Get the idea. It's crushingly simple and yet very, very effective. The problem, as with all target betting, is to know when to stop. If you continue to back losers your target will get bigger and bigger. My personal preference is to call a halt after seven losers. If this happens, and I suppose it will from time to time, you simply rule off the ledger, place the losses in 'reserve' to be got back later, and start again with a new target of one.

You can, if you wish, cease betting as soon as you are winning. That's pretty sensible for conservative punters but most people I know wouldn't be happy doing that and would want to continue. When you do win, by the way, you always revert to the first target of one again; you start off all over again, then, after a winner that puts you into profit for the series.

The manner in which you should set out your bets is as follows:

Horse, Target, Maximum Bet, Bet, Placed, Running Total, Win, Loss.

You will be able to clearly follow the target method under this format. I will now list one of my recent plays at a Gold Coast meeting, at which I bet with bookies and the tote to achieve the best odds.

Total for the day: Wins 81/2 and 3; losses 2 units. Total profit of 91/2 units.

Betting in $10 units this would have been a profit of $95 on the day, in $100 units it would have been $950. This is a return of 135.7% on the turnover - a wonderful result, which would have been even better had Triple Nearco won, because it was paying $9.90 on the tote.

Unfortunately, on that particular day, I struck a bad run at the Eagle Farm meeting, and with six losers ended up losing 12 units on the day. Now that was a bad run at the Farm but it still meant I only lost 12 units on the six bets. If I had pushed things to seven bets I would have been chasing a target of 19 units with a maximum of 7 units bet. If we assume that I had a seventh bet and that it lost with that maximum bet, the day's loss would have been 19 units.

A friend of mine who also uses this method tells me he always rules off and starts again after a run of four losses. This seems eminently safe and sensible and for punters with cautious hearts it could be the ideal 'safety brake' device, though I prefer to try for the seven bets before calling it a day. In the time I have been using the method it hasn't been often that I have actually struck too many losing runs of seven. Usually, I concentrate on the Gold Coast meetings where I am fully conversant with the form (thanks to George Tafe's magnificent class ratings service; contact him at PO Box 89, Maleny, Queensland, if you wish to subscribe to his three-States service).

As you will have noted from what I have just written, this target method is simple and quite easy to follow. Once you have grasped the mechanics it is a joy to operate. You simply go to the track armed with a notepad and pen and your bets for the day and you seek out the best prices on your horses.

Once you realise that your bet can never exceed the stated maximum you know how far you can go with your stake. Quite often, you'll find that you do not need to invest anywhere near the maximum that is allowed.

On another recent day at the Gold Coast I bet on the full eight-race card and ended up with a profit of 20 units, with two winners at 7-1 and 8-1. My biggest bets on the day were three (there were two of them). My total stake for the day was 13 units for the profit of 20, a return of 154% on turnover.

Often, just one winner is enough to ensure that you at least break even or make just a smallish loss on the day.

Punters intending to give this method a go should, I suggest, restrict their activities to four or five bets for the day. In this manner, you cannot go more than five losers for a start! It also makes you pick your horses carefully. By the way, I don't recommend that you go for horses that are going to be very short in the market. I always like a bit of value and try to concentrate on races where I know there is going to be some value about my selections.

Setting out with five bets to run the target method on, you can have a lot of fun and you will be able to make excellent profits if your selections are sensible. Good winners at, say, 5-2 to 51 will give you nice profits.


By Martin Dowling