Paul Wishe, 33, has been following harness racing from his schooldays in Melbourne. He now lives in Sydney, runs a business consultancy and bets 'semi-professionally' on Sydney and Melbourne trots meetings.

Harness racing has its own vernacular, so much so that a lot of punters don't understand half what's said or written about the sport. Even harness racing's official website admits as much.

It advises punters with the following explanation:

Whether it be the language used in a race call, in an article written about the harness racing industry or a specific race, or in general conversation at a paceway, it can certainly leave an "outsider" baffled.

Take the following paragraph for example:

"After being checked and breaking early, the runner caught the field and settled in the running line. The driver pulled out at the bell and the pair raced three wide down the home straight to record a narrow victory. It was a terrific first-up effort, but the horse was blowing up after the race, indicating a lack of condition."

Got any idea what on earth this actually means? Unless you're an avid punter or regularly attend harness racing meetings, it probably sounds like double dutch.

It simply means the following:

"Interference by another runner caused the horse to become unsettled and lose its natural pacing rhythm. However, it was able to recover quickly enough to catch up with the rest of the horses in the race, and settle into a position one space out from the inside of the track. Heading into the last lap of the race, the driver decided to head out wider on the track in an effort to get around the other runners and secure a clear run to the finishing line. While the horse, which was having its first start in some time, performed admirably, it did not handle the rigours of the race very well and was puffing excessively, indicating that it wasn't fully fit."

The first rule then of harness racing betting is to understand the terms that are used. The big Harness Racing Australia website has a full list of all the abbreviations that are used in the formlines and I suggest that if you aren't aware of them, then visit the site and print them out! This particular website provides free formguides for all harness racing meetings. It's very detailed form and it provides you with just about all you need to know to study harness form. 

It was from this form that I devised my Micro-Wheel Plan. It's an approach I feel has tremendous potential.

It's based on GOOD form and the rules are devised so that you take fullest advantage of a horse that has run well at its most recent start. It's amazing how many winners you can land by following the approach.

The Micro-Wheel is more imaginary that anything else. But I had it in mind when I came up with the rules. Imagine a wheel with four points to it (like a cross stuck in the middle of the wheel).

Each point covers a 'beaten margin' area. The following is the listings of the value of each of the four points of the wheel.

GRADE A CONTENDERS: Ran 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th last start within 3 metres of the winner.

GRADE B CONTENDERS: Ran 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th last start 3.25 to 5 metres from the winner.

GRADE C CONTENDERS: Ran 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th last start 5.5 to 8m from the winner.

GRADE D CONTENDERS: Ran 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th last start 8.5 to 12m from the winner.

Bearing these factors in mind, how do we go about getting our selections? It's easy.

Firstly, we want to consider the Grade A contenders. If we find only one, that's it. That horse is the selection. If there is more than one Grade A contender, we have to see if we can back both and make a decent profit. Usually it's possible.

If we can, then that's fine. We back both. If one of them is at a very short quote, we ignore the race OR, if you're a bit of a risk-taker, bet against the hotpot. If there are three or more Grade A contenders, we simply play safe and back the two that are at the shortest prices in the pre-race betting market.

If there are no Grade A runners, we then move around the wheel to the Grade B contenders. The same thinking applies to these as to the Grade A runners.

If there are no Grade B contenders, we try Grade C along the same lines, and if there are no Grade C contenders we go to complete the wheel circle by looking for Grade D contenders.

On any harness card, you'll find enough contenders to keep you happy. Naturally, A Grade selections are considered the best, B the next best and so on.

My policy is to bet A Grade selections for double the usual 1 unit bet provided they are within the 5/1 price range. Let's say you have two A Grade runners, at 4/1 and 9/2.  You can safely back both and make a good profit. But I consider they are worth a double bet. So you'd have 2 units on each. The total bet is 4 units, the possible returns are 10 or 11 units, for a profit of 6 or 7.

Sometimes you'll have A Grade selections going off at 50/1 and longer. My suggestion is that you eliminate them from the betting. They will very rarely win. Concentrate on the shorter-priced selections. Make 50/1 the maximum. B Grade selections are considered almost as good as the A bets. If you bet on B horses, then have 1.5 units on them, rather than the usual I unit.

With the C and D Grade selections, you will be taking a safety approach in betting just I unit.

However, as an added staking rule, I will put 2 units on a C or D Grade selection if it is strongly fancied at 3/1 or under in the betting. I've landed some good returns with this method.

This, then, is a fairly basic approach but it's one that helps you get straight to your selections. Once you have the form for a meeting, it's a five-minute task to run your eye down the fields and pick out the contenders.

What I do guarantee is that you'll be picking horses that are in good form and who have very good prospects of going on from a last start 'bold' effort to notch a win.

Let's look at a recent Harold Park meeting (October 31) for art example of how the Micro-Wheel works.

Race 1: There was only one contender in this race, Bye Focals, a 4yo mare who had run 4th at Penrith at her latest start, beaten 10m. This qualified her as a D Grade selection. She was unwanted in the betting at $12.70 (NSW TAB) but ran 2nd and paid $2.70 for the place.

Race 2: There were two contenders here, one a D Grade and the other a C Grade. So, the selection was for the C Grade runner, Maddie's Prince, a 3yo colt with a last-start 2nd placing, beaten 7m, at Newcastle.

The good news from this bet is that Maddie's Prince came home with a powerful finish to win, paying $18.20 for the win dividend. What better example of the system than this one?

Race 3: We had two B Grade contenders and both were bettable. Madame Messalina ($22) had run 2nd at Harold Park last start, beaten 4m, while Valenciennes ($18) was a last-start 2nd at Bulli, beaten 5.3m.

Valenciennes ran 3rd and Madame Messalina was 4th.

Race 4: The A Grade selection here was Jeane D'Arc, who was sent out at the amazing odds of $41.80. She flew home to get 2nd and paid $6.40 for the place. How about that for an A Grade bet?

Race 5: We were unlucky in this race. The A Grade selection, Sir Gwaine, was at good odds ($32.80) and had no luck at all, yet he ran home well and just missed a placing.

Race 6: Two A Grade selections cropped up in this race, Franco Conquest and Pride Of Oak at $2.10 and $76. They ran accordingly with Franco Conquest winning and Pride Of Oak running last. Because of its huge price, Pride Of Oak was 'no bet' while the system money went on the winner, albeit at short odds.

Race 7: There was just one B Grade selection, Alfred, whose odds were around the $19 mark. He qualified on a 3rd, beaten 3.5m, at Newcastle over 2030m. He firmed in the betting but was never a chance.

Race 8: The final pick for the day, an A Grader, was Franco Set Sail, a 7yo who qualified from a last-start 2nd of 8 at Harold Park over 2160m on October 17. Alas, he drifted well back early and never got a crack at them at any stage.

By Paul Wishe