Finding a way of betting that can hold out the likelihood of a strike rate in excess of 60 per cent is certainly something we must all dream about.

Making it happen, or simply just discovering such a process, is, without a doubt, one of the most difficult assignments in any betting life. It’s like a Holy Grail of accomplishments.

If you can hit 60 per cent+ winners you are well on the way to making a level stakes’ profit, and a profit figure that might easily be lifted considerably with some creative money management (that is, staking).

It figures that given the “percentages” in racing that any approach that yields a high number of winners is going to be concentrated around favourites, or horses very close to favouritism. In fact, these horses are likely to be at the short end of the odds.

But that doesn’t matter too much, provided there is the slimmest of profit margins available. Such margins can be expanded with some effort from the punter.

I have a close friend who has, over the years, honed his betting technique on backing hot favourites. He reckons it’s the ONLY way he has ever made any money at racing. He rarely has a long losing run, and he is happy with a 3 per cent profit in the course of a year.

As you might be guessing, he does bet in large amounts.

When I last spoke to him, he had turned over more than $2 million in the previous 12 months and was looking at a slightly better than expected profit of 4 per cent (around the $80,000 mark).

So where do I suggest you look for an approach that will help you to keep on winning and stay in profit? My suggestion is that you zero in on the Aquanita trainers. They can provide the “meat” for your profit sandwich.  Aquanita has three trainers in the eastern states, Tony Vasil, Robert Smerdon in Melbourne and Liam Birchley in Brisbane. A fourth trainer Simon Miller has recently taken up with Aquanita in Perth.

The most recent statistics caught my eye. These, by the way, are freely available on the Aquanita website ( and no holds are barred because the statistics cover a wide range of areas.

It’s when you get to the “performance of favourites” that it becomes something of an eye-opener, especially where Robert Smerdon is concerned.

Now, I have always been an admirer of this trainer, right from his early days in Ballarat. He gets regular winners and he’s stayed the course, so to speak, for many years, and remains one of Victoria’s leading trainers.

Here’s what Aquanita says about him: Robert was an extremely accomplished jockey on the flat and over the hurdles but he was always destined to turn his hand to training once weight forced him from the saddle.

His success as a jockey, both within Australia and at international level provided Robert with an extensive grounding for his arduous choice of profession. Being a member of the famous Smerdon training dynasty further prepared him for the challenges associated with training horses.

Originally based at Ballarat, and arguably Victoria’s most successful country trainer for many decades. Robert made the decision in 2003 to become predominantly a metropolitan based trainer, the switch has been very successful, with Robert always prominent in the trainers’ premiership table.

Although now based at Caulfield, Robert maintains a strong country flavour through a sizeable team still trained from our Ballarat stables.

Robert has trained Group winners in all states of Australia, excluding Western Australia. He has a Sydney Cup, Adelaide Cup and Goodwood Handicap to sit among his Group 1 successes since joining Aquanita, and the rare distinction of training outstanding hurdler Zabenz to a Group 1 win in America.

He is one of the country’s most versatile trainers, having won Group 1 races with stayers and sprinters, not to mention his countless successes over the jumps. His ability to place horses where they have their best chance of winning and of getting the absolute maximum out of each horse’s ability are legendary.

Impressive stuff, but what’s so great about Smerdon and favourites? Okay, let’s start at the beginning. A total of 992 stable runners have been sent out favourites while Smerdon has been with Aquanita, and 32 per cent (314) have been winners, a solid strike rate of 32 per cent, slightly above the accepted “average” for favourites of around 28–30 per cent.

The key factor, though, is the strike rate of Smerdon-trained favourites who are sent up to evens or lower. There have been 104 of them and the winners total 63, which is a high strike rate of 61 per cent. Significantly, they have produced a level stakes’ profit of 1.8 per cent for the win.

Now that’s impressive stuff. The stats show that Smerdon favourites sent out “hot” at under evens are very likely to produce winning runs, and they are very, very likely to finish 2nd or 3rd if they do not win.

So, if you’re a punter who doesn’t mind taking “the shorts”, and perhaps you even love doing it, then here, surely, is an avenue you can pursue. The Smerdon stats have been proven over a long period, so I suggest they can be relied on to continue in high-strike vein in the future.

Think, too, about how to maximise your returns from the Smerdon hotties by having all-up bets, and even linking them in trebles our foursomes spread from meeting to meeting. The opportunity is there to use them as key bankers for trifectas and First 4s.

Think of it this way: Used as win bankers, the hotties will give you a flying start to a trifecta six times out of 10. The rest is up to you.


Now, let’s look at the other two Aquanita trainers, firstly, Tony Vasil. This is what Aquanita says: Tony was a successful jockey with more than 3,500 rides during his career. However, like many jockeys, increasing weight led him to take up training. In 1991 he took out his trainer’s licence and since then he has seldom been outside the top 10 trainers on the Melbourne premiership.

Tony is regarded as one of the most astute horsemen in the country.

His ability to ride trackwork and gain an insight into how well each horse is coping with the demands of racing is a unique advantage he has over other trainers.

Very “hands on” he demands extremely high standards from everyone working with him. His attention to detail and eye for selecting quality young horses are legendary.

Prior to joining Aquanita Racing, Tony had tasted Group 1 success only once in 12 years of training; since joining in 2003 he has added 10 more victories at this elite level, an example of the benefits that joining Aquanita offers trainers.

Tony’s philosophy is quite simple, keep it compact and correct. If you train a large team of horses you lose the ability to ride each one regularly and appreciate its progress and problems.

Outstanding horses under his guidance include Elvstroem, Zazzman, Super Elegant and Haradasun.  Once again, the strike rate for the hot favourites is very high. Vasil’s record shows a total 394 favourites for 137 winners at 35 per cent strike rate. This is an excellent record, though Vasil has had fewer runners than Smerdon.

Now we come to the “hot” favourites, and here Vasil’s stats show 66 favourites for 41 winners, a strike rate of 62 per cent! The level stakes’ profit was 4.5 per cent for the win.

We deduce from this that Vasil – like Smerdon – can be relied on to produce hot favourites that more often than not will run right up to their support in the betting. Once again, you can confidently bet creatively to cash in on these winning shorties.

Now let’s look at Liam Birchley. Aquanita says of him: Liam was committed to thoroughbred racing at an early age after securing a Diploma in Animal Husbandry and Production. He then commenced four years in thoroughbred breeding working between Turanga Stud in New South Wales and Trelawney Stud in New Zealand.

His first major role in racing came when he was appointed foreman to Brian Mayfield Smith at Nebo Lodge. During that time they were successful in beating the legendary TJ Smith for the Sydney trainer’s premiership. Following this success Liam gained international experience by accepting the role of assistant trainer to leading American trainer Neill Drysdale in California.

After two years Liam returned to Australia to train in Sydney and quickly enjoyed success with Striking Gold (AJC Summer Cup) and Furacao (Kindergarten Stakes) owned in partnership by Jamie Packer.

Liam was approached by Queenslander Bill Mitchell to take control of his Brisbane operation and decided to make the move back to his city of birth. He enjoyed considerable success with Mitchell but the desire to train in his own right and his own name remained unfulfilled.

Aquanita Racing was aware of this ambition and in 2002 gave Liam the chance he craved. Since then, because of his drive, determination and his popularity throughout Queensland racing, he has dramatically grown his stables and now has a large team in training and remains prominent on the trainers’ premiership.

His ability to find value for money yearlings and take them into the winners’ circle has been a major influence in his growth as a trainer. His better-performed horses include Sir Breakfast, Republic and Helter Skelter.

Birchley’s performance with favourites is impressive though his stats lag a bit behind his fellow trainers Smerdon and Vasil. His overall strike rate with favourites stands at 27 per cent, and in the evens and under area the strike rate goes to 54 per cent with 22 winners from 41 runners.

That’s not bad at all, though there was an 8.6 per cent loss at level stakes.

These, then, are statistics on leading trainers who can be relied on to give you a real run for your money when they send out runners who are backed into short-priced favouritism.

You can make a small profit at level stakes, and you can easily beef this up with some creative staking. Why not consider “doubles” made of their favourites? Why not play the runners of both trainers together?


I’m confident that both Smerdon and Vasil will continue to produce strong winning statistics. They are deeply involved in racing and are committed to the long-term success of the Squanita venture . . . so they need winners and will do all they can to get them.

Your option is to ride home on their coat-tails!

By Philip Roy