PPM reader Kerrin Brown has been enjoying success as a “lay” operator on Betfair. In this article he relates his personal story, and how he makes money from his operation.

The first time I went to a racecourse was in 1978. My mother, who has owned horses and is a gambler from way back, took the family to the Bunbury racecourse. I was a 7 year old, I picked 5 winners and won $21.

I thought I was the richest kid in Australia. How easy is this gambling thing, I was thinking. Looking back at it now, I sometimes wish I had never won at all. I’ve wished that I had fallen off the bouncy castle or got kicked by one of the ponies being led around for children’s rides.

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with gambling. More love than hate, though. My greatest experience, apart from my son being born (whose middle name is Northerly), was my first winner as an owner at Belmont Park in a Class 6. I’d never kissed so many men.

But every one happy story with gambling is accompanied by 10 hard luck stories. When Northerly was beaten in the BMW I was in a state of depression for weeks. I weigh nearly Sir Donald Bradman’s batting average and I’m sure I could have ridden the champ better than Paddy Payne that day.

Don’t think I’m bagging Paddy as I’m one of his biggest fans. I have a large photo in my living room of him and Fred Kersley holding the Australian Cup. I don’t even have one photo of our wedding up there. That’s how passionate I am with horse racing.

But this passion hasn’t made me rich. I’ve tried every system brought out. When I was living in England, I was playing cricket so I didn’t have a full-time job. I thought I could make 40 pounds a day by backing the favourite to win 40 pounds. If that lost, I would add that loss to the amount I had to bet to make my 40 pounds. It worked wonders for two weeks.

Sometimes I was home after the first race. All went well until I had about 10 losing favourites in a row. I’d wiped out my entire bank in around two hours. I walked out of William Hill bookmakers thinking about jumping in front of a train.

Next day, I noticed in the Sun newspaper that the following two favourites had won.   Up until the last year, I would conservatively say I was down at least $50,000 on my lifetime’s betting. That’s all changed with Betfair. Why didn’t I think of that concept?

I’m currently on my third attempt using Betfair, which I discovered after reading an article in this magazine. With a close mate we had a thousand dollars each in a kitty with the expectations of laying all favourites until we were on easy street.

We had our resignation letters typed up, farewell speeches scripted and cars from Italy envisioned in our driveways. All we needed was favourites to lose and lose often.

We started in a computer room with two comfortable chairs, the mobile phone on silent, radio on the racing channel and heads full of dreams.

We laid the first favourite in country Victoria. We laid it to win $100 with a potential loss of $250. When Greg Miles said the favourite was in no danger of losing with a hundred metres to go, we looked at each other and just shrugged our shoulders.

We were both thinking the favourite must lose the next race. Everyone has a hiccup. It would be boring telling the grandchildren that we won our first race while drinking Penfolds Grange in your seaside mansion.  Next race, same result. Favourite wins it easily. Third race, not trying to sound like a broken record, favourite wins again. We went from dreams of being rich and famous to nightmares of how do we explain ourselves when we ask for our jobs back after telling the boss he’s a tosser.

We said to ourselves that favourites win around three out of every 10 races. For sure, the next one must lose. You don’t have to have psychic powers to work out how the next favourite went. Within three weeks our kitty and confidence were gone.

We did lay favourites that had lost. We soon realised that you have to be specific on the ones you thought were going to lose. That is the beauty with Betfair. You don’t have to be like a proper bookmaker who has to lay every horse in the field.

You don’t have to rock up to every racetrack in your region with a computer and staff to pay. You can do this in the comfort of your own home. I knew we had to modify our approach.

Statistics were going to be our saviour. My wife, who is computer savvy, would keep a tally on all horses that started under $3.00 and came from barrier 10 and over. She did it for a month and we came up with a new plan.
We would only lay horses who started favourite, outside barrier 10 and were racing at 1400 metres of more. The stats showed that the criteria only won 19 per cent of the time.

We threw another $3,000 in the kitty and tried our luck again. Within a month we were up 33 per cent on our money. There were on average only two to three selections per week.

We would lay to win $400. I don’t know if The Almighty was telling us that we were better miners than bookmakers but the rot started. There were selections that fitted the criteria which honestly I would have backed if I was at the track.

But our system was our system and it had to be obeyed. Before Gai Waterhouse could say “I’m very confident my horse will run a great race today” our account showed we had 19 cents left.

I think I kicked the lounge when I saw our last lay get up in the final stride. “Why me” I asked, plaintively. “I’m not a bad person. I donate money to the Red Cross before I enter a racecourse.”

I remained convinced I could come up with a formula that would work. I came up with the idea of making $72 a day.

I knew that favourites won on average 30 per cent of all races. Odds-on favourites win around 45 per cent of their races. Since September 2005, my wife has written up a spreadsheet with 19 headings. Horses that started odds-on get entered. The various headings are:


  1. Jockey’s name
  2. Date of race
  3. Apprentice Yes/No
  4. Starting price
  5. Result
  6. Class
  7. Field size
  8. Horse’s age
  9. Result last start
  10. Top weight y/n
  11. Barrier
  12. Distance
  13. Has it won at distance
  14. Winning per cent
  15. Course name
  16. Course condition
  17. Won at course y/n
  18. Days between last run
  19. Was it a handicap race y/n

Using these statistics, I have made myself a nice 70 per cent profit on our money.

Every morning I circle every favourite that hasn’t run a place last start. I then eliminate even further any favourite which has a circle next to its name that has won a race in its last four starts.

I further eliminate any races under 1400m. I usually only have four to seven horses left to scrutinise. I then compare how a similar selection has fared using the odds-on favourites spreadsheet and work out how their chances rate on winning percentagewise.

I then download the form fromwww.aapracingandsports.com.au and check how those horses have fared at that track and at that distance. I like a horse to have at least one start at the track and distance.

If the horse has a higher than 10 per cent winning strike rate over the track/distance, I eliminate that horse from further consideration. Now, my biggest worry is to be confident in at least one horse that I think can beat that favourite.

If I can’t, that horse is thrown overboard with the rest of the scalliwags. There are numerous times where a horse has had 20 starts for three seconds and five thirds. This horse would be a prime example of a horse to lay. But then you go through the field and you notice that the horses which lay claim to being a racehorses but can’t seem to run faster than my grandmother aren’t much better.

That’s why I don’t usually lay maidens. Horses are creatures of habits, sometimes they just don’t know how to win. I require at least one horse who knows how to win.

My last criteria is how do the jockey/trainer go with each other? Is it a match made in heaven like Beadman/Hawkes or a bush jockey on a hobby trainer’s only horse?

I can go a day or two without finding a selection and then some days I might get four to lay. With me – and this is my personal choice – as soon as I’ve made my money I sometimes call it a day and enjoy my family or go and watch a movie. I love racing, but I know that tomorrow will have a racecourse somewhere in Australia having nags running around to provide my fix.

After selecting my lay of the day I set my alarm clock on my mobile 35 minutes before the race. I have Betfair set up and then check on those Internet sites which provide fixed prices.

I then permit myself a grace of 20 per cent more on Betfair to lay than what the fixed price is.

Example, if Primus is quoted at $5.00 on fixed price, I will go up to $6.00 on Betfair. I will put my price up at around $4.00 and hopefully someone takes a nibble at that price.

You might laugh, but many a time I have laid a horse well below TAB starting price. I then have the opportunity of backing that horse at a higher price and having a free bet. But that is another strategy.

I do not chase to get a horse backed against. If it doesn’t get taken, so be it. I recognise that Betfair will be operating tomorrow. I don’t usually have any problems with getting a bet taken up. It’s a bit harder to lay for country meetings or meetings on a Monday or Friday where the fields are weaker.

This will only improve as Betfair stakes a bigger claim in Australia. It’s been about a month since the last time I never had a lay bet taken up.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Kerrin Brown supplied his “lay” horses pre-race every day to me for some two months before writing this article and I can confirm his success.

By Kerrin Brown