This is my first article in a new series. You, the readers, will hopefully write to Equestrian, and indicate some of your favourite "Optimist" articles from the past 20 years.

You will determine the length of the series. We may not be able to include all of your requests, but we will do our best.

I have been looking back through some of the original PPM magazines. Some of our articles are as crisp as 2005, whilst others have well and truly run their race. Mine included.

To give you an example, I came across one article where I talked about the trifecta as being the ultimate in multiple betting. Well, haven't things travelled since then? The First Four has made a resounding impact in NSW, and with SuperTab taking over TAB Ltd, one would assume that on any new combined tote this medium will be well to the fore.

On the other hand, the Superfecta has turned out to be a poor relation and I would fear for its survival if we did end up with one gigantic TAB. How many readers remember what the TAB was like when we started PPM back in 1985? Some people would say that in terms of creature comfort, the TAB agencies in some ways went backwards.

Looking at other areas, my articles generated systems at the rate of at least one per month (Plan of the Month) and a lot of the little throwaways that occurred in Educating the Punter were well-received.

Some of them did not work over the long period, but then they were merely ideas. Others were modified by more adventurous readers and some of the readers who wrote to me about these plans went on to write highly informative articles themselves. People like Brian Hipper and Keith Roth come to mind, both keen and incisive analytical racing brains.

I am well aware that some of our readers have generated their own professional schemes from some of these simple little plans. I have many times been tantalised by readers who have written to thank me or Brian Blackwell, or one of the other lads or ladies, for a particular angle.

Statsman enjoyed remarkable success in this department and Martin also receives mail. But the ones that always intrigue me are those who thank us but don't indicate what they have done with the plan. That's fair enough, our job is to provide the basic material.

There have been many "Optimist" articles about things other than the specifics of betting. I think here and now that we will restrict this collection to betting, and we will have a look at whatever you want us to have a look at, and see how well it has stood the test of time. With many hundreds of articles, we'll have to have some limits, and so I feel the most logical limit of all will be to ask you to email the office nominating any article I have written in the past 20 years, provided it relates to betting.

This is a very wide field. It could concern strategies for selection or staking, pre-post betting, win and place investment, quinella, trifecta, and all other multiple forms of racing indulgence. One of the best debates we have ever enjoyed continues today. That is the question of each way betting.

Regular writers such as Clive Allcock have appeared to be as rigid as the Eiffel Tower, and then have become quite flexible over the years. My own position has also varied. At present it is that, everything else aside, any punter who can obtain the best price offered on a horse in the range of 2/1 to perhaps 10/1, in a relatively small field of up to 10 or 11 starters, should have two banks operating.

The first bank should be for the win, and the other for the place. They should be quite separate, and that latter bank should be regarded as the punter's insurance. Testing my own results over five years, I found that I was marginally in front had I not bet on this basis. There were some bets I struck which I was not able to test, but my sample was big enough.

However, every punter has a run of outs. In that five-year period, I had three that by my standards rated as pretty bad. I wrote an article a few years ago about the benefits of the place insurance policy. It attracted quite a bit of mail. Opinion was evenly divided.

My own sample suggested that if I had bet double for the win for the five-year period on every selection (at level stakes) I'd be better off. In other words, I'd have done better to bet win only, at best price. I ignored the fact that TAB betting could produce quite different figures, as I do not bet place on the TAB except in the Melbourne Cup.

Accepting that I might have finished slightly out of pocket, I balanced this against sleeping at night, with minimal bad runs in my racing selections, because of the place component. I believe that what I said in that article makes as much common sense today as I hoped that it would make then. It is also a psychiatrist’s delight, and Clive of course loves it.

We could start there next month, if you like. Email or snail mail me, but now's your chance. Hunt back through your old PPMs  and see what we should have another look at. As long as it has my name at the top, we can do it.

Click here to read Part 2.
Click here to read Part 3.
Click here to read Part 4.
Click here to read Part 5.
Click here to read Part 6.

By The Optimist