June 1986. And my goodness, what a long time ago it seems now. I suppose that a fair percentage of my readers were still in school! I pulled this copy of PPM out of my archival vault and I flicked through it.

We've certainly come a long way since then. Some of the names have disappeared. Brian Blackwell, Jon Hudson, Statsman and Martin Dowling, who have been with us from the very start, are there though.

Somewhere else in this February 2005 magazine I know that I've mentioned Des Green. He has an article in this old 1986 issue. And a good one too.

My own Educating The Punter hasn't really changed shape that much. When I look at the pages from June 1986, I see some letters from readers (not, I might say, emails!), and I also see a book review. But the most interesting part of the double page spread, was the final couple of columns, headed "A parting thought which might make you a dollar or two".

Let's face it, I have been doing this "punter education" program for a long, long time. And even in 1986 I was stressing one of my major philosophies. It is that you have to hate losing. I am told that compulsive gamblers get over this. That while they desperately want to win, the pressure to actually bet far outweighs any fears that they might lose, or even, in fact, the impact of the loss.

I hated losing in 1986 and I haven't come to feel any better about it. The question I posed back in 1986 was for readers to list the kinds of races on which they had most success. Then as a second question I asked them if they could identify those races that cost them most money.

To put this another way, I wondered if they could identify their strengths and their weaknesses so far as race types were concerned. On the simplest scale, I conceded that I was not a good selector of two-year-olds until the Golden Slipper carnival came around.

Nineteen years on, not much has changed in that department. I also indicated that 1000m dashes were not my cup of tea. These mad scrambles continue to cause me a lot of trouble, although at the top level I think I have probably improved my returns. The questions raised above probably hold as much water in 2005 as they did in 1986.

It is fundamental to any punter's success that he limits his betting to areas where he believes he has most chance of success. Another example given back in that article has to do with jumping races. In exactly the same way as a distance race, or a two-year-old race, may be outside your best selection area, so anything where they put sticks up in front of animals probably deserves to be avoided at all costs.

It's been a long time since I have touched a jumping race, and unless a hurdler appears with the class of something like, say, Sharp As, it will be a long time again.

In 1986, it appears that my chosen betting strategies went something like this:

  1. Sydney and Melbourne horse racing only.
  2. Races for 3, 4, 5 and 6-year-old males and geldings, and for 3, 4 and 5~year-old females.
  3. Flat races of 1200m to 2400m inclusive.

I argued that there was plenty of action for me within that range and I indicated a particular fondness for welters and highweight races in general. One area where I have noticed a significant change in my betting activities is Melbourne races which are restricted to mares.

In this article from 1986, I was disinclined to support mares in mares' races, unless I was able to identify one runner which was likely to chalk up two, three, or four wins on the trot.

I later changed my position on that one. I am very interested in races restricted to mares in Melbourne. Of course I still seek out those serial winners, and every so often I'm lucky. Regular readers will know that I usually try to identify a couple of these either through my articles or through my assessments, around about May every year.

They do occur, and they win at remarkably good odds. When you miss one and you look back at her performances, you wonder how you could ever have let her go.

So I spend a great deal of time in mid to late autumn, looking for 3, 4 and 5year-old females (even the occasional 6year-old) that are starting to set up a sequence and have proven themselves capable of running on soft ground.

Another point that is made about these mares and holds good today is that they almost never repeat their winning run. The next preparation, like as not, they won't even win a race. Weird, isn't it? I"m not putting that out as a standing rule, but it happens too often to be a coincidence.

Twenty years on, I'm still prepared to recommend that you love them and leave them! Don't expect a repeat performance the following preparation, and anyway, everybody else will be expecting it, so the odds will certainly not be in your favour. It's much better to anticipate that it won't happen, take what you've won, be grateful, and call it a day.

One lesson from this 1986 article? Specialise! Restrict your betting to what you believe you have proven yourself to be best at.

Click here to read Part 5.
Click here to read Part 6.
Click here to read Part 1.
Click here to read Part 2.
Click here to read Part 3.

By The Optimist