In a paper on horse racing put together by three members of Curtin University (West Australia) Department of Finance and Banking, there is a succinct paragraph about barrier positions.

It states: “An inside barrier position theoretically improves the probability of a horse winning because a slightly shorter race distance is involved. Higher values of barrier position are expected to result in a decrease in winning probability.

It is therefore hypothesised that:

“A horse’s probability of winning is negatively correlated to its barrier position.”

I have often talked with racing pals about the value or impact of barrier positions. We all seem to agree to disagree about them. Some insist they are vitally important, no matter what distance the race may be run over, while others are just as insistent that punters should simply ignore them.

After many years of research, and many a frustrated bet, I have decided that the common term “a good barrier position” usually means barriers 1 to 4. That’s all. From that point the negative creep slips into play.

Now I know many of you will throw your magazine to the floor after reading this. Those who will believe, fervently, that there are many other factors to be taken into consideration before a barrier can be designated “good” or “bad”. I agree, but in the interests of basic simplicity I am putting forward the theory that if you are “into” barriers, and their meaning, then with a broad brushstroke you can say:

Good barriers equals one to four only.

I’ve stuck by this maxim for some time and it rarely lets me down.

The counter argument is that the importance of barrier positions will vary with each horse and race, but few will dare to say that barriers do not matter at all.

There are no hard and fast rules concerning the draw. Every race is a separate problem. My theory tries to shut off all the pondering to claim that horses in barriers one to four are better off than horses from 5 outwards. Simple as that.

But let’s look at the overall picture. A horse’s position in the lineup may well determine how much luck it could need in the running, or in the shuffle for a position on the first or home turn where races are often won or lost.

A slow beginner, for instance, can be at a decided disadvantage from some barriers, should it draw an inside gate in a large field. Such a horse is generally taken off the pace at the start.

From a gate towards the outside, the rider will be able to steer clear of the field in the early bustle for positions, steady his mount, and then be ready to make his move when the opportunity presents itself at the most suitable stage of the running.

From an inside gate the same horse could find trouble. He might be badly chopped off, or boxed in on the rails with no room to move if there are runners on the outside, and beaten horses falling back. The chance to break out and secure clear running often comes too late.

But all this is race by race theory. No-one knows how each race will pan out. That’s why I long ago gave up trying to decipher the puzzle.

You could argue with yourself for hours about what MIGHT happen in a race. Who will lead from which gate and what they might do from the halfway mark. It is a frustrating and mind-numbing exercise of second-guessing and the answers you come up with will probably be astray.

Yes, you’ll be right some of the time. Mostly you will be half-right or totally wrong. This is because of the chaos theory in racing. What can go wrong and so on.

My idea that you only give the benefit of the doubt to four horses, those in barriers one, two, three and four, enables you to get on with the rest of the form analysis