When a bookmaker writes to tell you that he's been "severely wounded" by a betting plunge that you have orchestrated, it means that something extra special has been achieved.

And this is what happened with the betting coup we brought off, through the PPD Club and PPM, on the recent Stradbroke Handicap and Brisbane Cup double. Our subscribers on the PPD Club were given the double of Show A Heart and Prized Gem when it was still available at the huge odds of 1500/1 back in mid-April and early May.

Many of them cleaned up in a big way, claiming wins of between $10,000 and $35,000 for a very small outlay. It was fantastic to have brought off such a win for our subscribers and just as satisfying to know that I had tipped the double to PPM readers as well (check page 46 of our June issue).

So how did we manage to pull off this coup and hit the bookmakers and the TABS? Well, back in early April I decided that the two major races of the Brisbane carnival were worth looking at from the viewpoint of hitting the double. I'd been looking for a way to give our PPD Club subscribers a real financial boost and thought, well, a huge double would set many of them up for a long time.

I decided to look at the form for all the Cup runners. As you'd realise this is no 30-minute task! It took me some five or six hours spread over two days to eliminate the no-hopers and come up with a handful of real chances. And it was a handful.

Frankly, I wasn't enthused by many of the Australian entries. I thought maybe Majestic Avenue was a slim chance, but at that time I'd heard he was going only for the Adelaide Cup so I put him aside as a query for a Brisbane Cup start. Kreisler Mirage made some appeal but I had my doubts as to his 3200m ability.

Sale Of Century had some classy form but I'd heard his connections talk often of the problem "in his head" and reasoned he was a horse who could not be trusted. More and more, as I went through the form, I began to think that it was the Kiwi stayers who held the key to the race.

Of those I looked at, that old deceiver Kaapstad Way loomed large but I was quick to eliminate him from my thoughts. One, I wasn't convinced he was anywhere near his former best, and, two, he would need firm conditions on the day, and this could not be guaranteed. I put him in the high risk category, as I did with Hill Of Grace, a good mare but one who regularly fails to deliver.

Eventually I got around to a horse I'd never heard of before. Her name: Prized Gem. Her formlines began to sing out. She was a strong run-on type, she was improving all the time, and she was, I learned, being specially aimed at the Brisbane Cup.

Now this is the sort of horse I was looking for. She could stay, she would get in with a light-weight, and her  connections were aiming her for the Cup. To check further, I asked PPM's New Zealand correspondent Neil Franklyn to give me a personal opinion. Here's what he wrote to me:

"Prized Gem has always shown plenty of ability. Generally settles back in the running and finishes her races off strongly. Won at Ellerslie over 2100m last October, and then won again there in early December over 2000m on a soft track. She defeated Deebee Belle on the latter occasion, which is significant as Deebee Belle went on to record a number of wins on the trot.

"Prized Gem was actually heading on the Auckland Cup path at this stage and her next start proved to be the 2400m Group 2 Queen Elizabeth Handicap on Boxing Day She finished 5th, but was just 1.3 lengths from the winner. However, you could have thrown a blanket over most of the finishers."

Neil's opinion confirmed that Prized Gem was the horse I was looking for. It was time to release her name to the PPD Club, so we could take advantage of the massive odds that were being offered on her. This is what I told PPD Club members:

"Our second get-on-now selection is: Prized Gem. Our information from NZ about this rising 5yo is very strong. She's trained by Murray Baker at Cambridge and has had 15 starts for six wins, three seconds and two thirds, winning on all types of track conditions: firm, easy, soft and heavy up to 2100m.

"Prized Gem's No. 1 target is the Brisbane Cup. We suggest those of you taking early doubles should make her a banker for the Cup and for any other race she contests."

So I couldn't have made the tip any clearer. The first bets could be made and at this time it was easy to obtain 80/1 about Prized Gerri. At the worst she was on offer at 66/1 at that time.

Satisfied that I had a genuine Brisbane Cup contender, I then turned my attention to the Stradbroke. I had already named Baal Yabba as a roughie, but he didn't race during the winter carnival.

I started to look through the Stradbroke nominations for a horse with strong 1400m to 1600m form, and which had won or raced very well in Group I company. It wasn't long before I decided that Show A Heart was a likely candidate. I'd always been a fan of this wonderful galloper, and suspected that his connections would love nothing more than to see him embark on a stud career with a Group 1 like the Stradbroke under his belt.

I reasoned that at 33/1, as he was then, Show A Heart was a good bet. He was certain to get a run in the big race, and if he did, I told myself there was no way he'd be at 33/1 on the day. And I also knew that if he was in the Stradbroke he was very likely to turn in a huge race. Trainer Barry Miller would make sure of that.

A friend of mine is close to the stable, and he informed me that the horse was looking exceptionally well and that there was an air of quiet confidence about him.

So, on April 15, 1 told PPD Club subscribers:

"All the information we've been receiving from our contacts in Brisbane indicates a powerful last campaign effort from Show A Heart and we're making this gutsy galloper our third long-range special for the Brisbane winter carnival. We've backed him at 33/1 for the Stradbroke. He's due to resume racing on Saturday week. The Doomben 10,000 is also on the agenda."

My next tip was for Pernod in the Stradbroke. In tipping this mare, I was trying to cover myself by having a horse in the Stradbroke that could handle a wet track. Pernod is a fine mudlark. As things turned out, the wet tracks never really arrived for her. She started in the Stradbroke but lost.

There was terrific news for us in mid-April when Prized Gem turned in a bold performance in NZ. On April 22, I told PPD Club members the following:

"One of our four Brisbane carnival long-range selections, Prized Gem, has turned in a slashing run for 3rd in the Hawke's Bay Cup in New Zealand. She is expected to arrive in Australia shortly for her Brisbane campaign. She is after the Brisbane CUP.

Now it was time to urge our members to back the doubles. On May 3, I advised as follows:

"Early doubles betting on the Stradbroke Handicap and Brisbane Cup races gives PPD Club members the chance to have a 'flutter' at long odds on the four horses we released recently as 'early bird' tips for the Brisbane winter carnival.

"Michael Eskander and Sportsbook have Pernod-Prized Gem available at 800 / 1. Sportsbook has Show A Heart-Prized Gem at 1500/1, while it has Baal Yabba and Prized Gem at 10,000/1. Centre racing has Prized Gem at 60/1 for the Brisbane Cup.

"The doubles odds available from Colin Tidy on his chart issued on April 29 show the following doubles being available:

Pernod into Prized Gem ... 660/1, Show A Heart into Prized Gem ... 1000/1, Baal Yabba into Prized Gem ... 3300/1.

"Show A Heart is 25/1 and Pernod is 16/1 for the Stradbroke. Pernod will come right into calculations if she can secure slow to heavy conditions in the Stradbroke. Prized Gem is currently 33/1 for the Brisbane Cup."

It was now a matter of playing the waiting game. But there was more action even before the two big races came around. Prized Gem arrived in Australia and was an acceptor for the Prime Minister's Cup at the Gold Coast. I liked the look of her form and decided that if I was confident enough to tip her to win the Brisbane Cup then I should have that same confidence for her in the PM's Cup.


I made her a Longshot Special for PPD Club subscribers. It's history now how she came from last on the turn to rip home and win at odds varying from 11/1 to 13/1 ($14.30 on one TAB). I won enough on her to cover everything I had already laid, plus a lot more! It was a huge price to obtain about such a good horse.

Naturally, the bookies reacted quickly to her victory and all the long prices about her for the Brisbane Cup suddenly vanished. But we had already made our bets. Our longshot prices were locked in by our long-range betting attack.

Prized Gem's sensational win at the Cold Coast, over 2400m, boosted my confidence that she was a genuine Brisbane Cup contender. I began to feel the first glimmers of real hope about the early bets, though I didn't dare to feel too confident in case I upset the gods!

We were given another rush of optimism when Show A Heart ran a fantastic race to finish 2nd at 16/1 in the Doomben 10,000 on May 18. It was his fourth start since early March and as a Stradbroke trial it could hardly have been better.

All of a sudden, the 1500/1 odds on the big double began to look crazily over the odds! We were sitting on two genuine chances and we had obtained enormous odds. The excitement began to build.

Prized Gem had her final hitout for the Cup when she ran in the wfa O'Shea Stakes at Eagle Farm on June 1. Although not suited by the weight scale, she produced a splendid performance to run 3rd to Hey Pronto and Freemason. She carried 55.Skg and would drop to 51kg in the Brisbane Cup. My confidence swelled further.

At this time, some PPD Club members who had bet the doubles were getting really nervous.

And very, very excited. They were sitting on a 1500/1 double which was now paying 40/1!

Then it was June 8, and Stradbroke day. Show A Heart, as he always does, had drawn poorly, wide out, and most experts were writing him off as a winning chance. Deep down, I was pessimistic but I knew he was fit, I knew he had a good jockey and I knew that, class wise, he was as good as any horse in the field.

To my great relief, luck was on our side. Although near last on the turn in the big field, Show A Heart, ridden vigorously by Danny Nikolic, powered his way through the pack to win narrowly. The first leg of the big double was home, and now there was an agonising wait over the weekend for the Brisbane Cup.

Could we pull it off? I realised that our subscribers were sitting on bets worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Even those with just a $10 bet stood to win some $15,000. As things turned out, one man was sitting on bets worth more than $30,000.

I began to think of all the things that could go wrong, and how awful it would be to get knocked off in a photo-finish. I'd rather Prized Gem have run last than lose by a nose. Most punters, I believe, think this way. A bet that's donkey-licked causes a shrug of the shoulders but one that's beaten a lip ... well, you never stop rueing the moment.

And so Brisbane Cup day arrived. Prized Gem was now one of the main fancies for the race. She was sent to the post at 4/1. Talk about getting an overlay! Our subscribers had backed her at anything up to 80/1! And here she was cantering to the barriers the second favourite in the Cup.

You all know the result. Prized Gem, overcoming a rocky passage in the straight, drove through with enormous determination in the final 1200m to win by 0.2 of a length! It was a sensational ride by Michael Rodd, and a fine effort by the pint-sized mare.

But the drama wasn't over. For a few minutes we had to endure the agony of waiting to see if there would be a protest. Things had been pretty tight in the straight. Would we suffer the final nightmare of winning, and then losing everything on an upheld protest?

But our luck held. No protest. We were home. The coup had been brought off. We were all richer. Some enjoyed the biggest win of their lives. We were flooded with phone calls and emails from PPD Club members reporting winnings of several thousands to tens of thousands. The bookies had been plundered. The TABs had been hit. Even the latecomers, who hadn't bet early on, were in "at the death" and enjoyed smaller but just as tasteful collects.

I felt an overwhelming sense of relief and personal achievement. It was like having climbed a mountain on one leg.

Now we are going to tackle longrange betting in earnest. I feel confident of doing it again, whether it's on the two big spring Cups, or on any of the other major doubles that the bookies and the TAB Fixed Odds operate on. I feel with sensible selections, and a "moderate" betting approach, we can win BIG again, without risking immense amounts of money.

After all, when you are taking 500/1, 1000/1 and more, you don't need to bet much to win a lot. And then there's  the enormous fun and excitement along the way. And the fever that overtakes when you suddenly realise you are sitting on a massive collect.

We've started the Long Range Betting Club as part of the PPD Club service. By the beginning of July we had already placed speculator bets on three Melbourne Cup prospects, and taken a few doubles at odds up to 700/1.

Once entries are out, we will begin the great adventure all over again.

By Brian Blackwell