This is the final article in the series. It seems to me timely that it should occur during our 20th birthday celebrations.

What I've done for this month's article is to plough back through a whole lot of stuff that I wrote over those years, and come up with a series of assertions that I made.

The only ones included here are ones that I stand by today. I have changed my stance on a whole lot of issues (perhaps the most obvious being my attitude towards each way betting) and I thought it might be fun to have a look at the ones I have stuck to through thick and thin.

One belief that I have always subscribed to, and to be honest this has brought me quite a deal of flak through correspondence, is my stance on jockeys. It is my view that a jockey cannot tell me anything of any significance whatsoever before a race. I have no interest in any interviews with jockeys before racing, I will try to consciously avoid listening to them on radio or television, and while I have the greatest respect for the top jockeys.' abilities so far as horsemanship is concerned, I believe that they are unutterably bad judges of the likely result of a race, and that they have nothing whatsoever to tell me in regard to my betting. That's how it has remained.

After the race I can sometimes become interested in what they have to say, but I noticed one thing that I kept making reference to over the years, either obliquely or straight out: mostly when you hear a post mortem from a jockey, he is telling you how his horse managed to lose the race. Rarely does it appear to be a matter of human error (in other words he made a mistake). More likely reasons are bad luck, being hemmed in, being forced to race wide, being bumped, being denied a run after it appeared, and you can fill in the hundred other blanks just occasionally a jockey will say "I goofed", but that's when you notice surprised interviewers calling for the smelling salts as they fall down with fainting fits.

So to put it unsubtly, one constant in my racing investment has always been, and remains, to totally disregard any comments by riders. On the other hand, I have also never deviated from trying to stick with the best of the jockeys. I noticed several references to something I mentioned elsewhere in this magazine, trying to identify a top young claiming apprentice early. I'll still be in that.

Trainers have not tended to play a major role in my writing, although I have enjoyed writing major profiles on some of them over the years. Again I have great respect for trainers and the hours they put in, and if my position has changed at all it is only that I have come to realise that if I do not take major trainers into consideration, I am probably eliminating two winners in every three. Simply by focusing on the major trainers, especially in Sydney, I will be able to compile shortlists in most races with the winners included.

Trainers’ opinions are a little further up my ladder than jockeys' opinions. But again I very rarely take much notice of them except in a couple of cases where I have come to hold an extremely high respect for their ability to weigh their horse against the opposition. Too often have I listened over the years to second-rate interviews being carried out, where the interviewer feeds the trainer the words he wants to hear, and it becomes excruciatingly evident that the trainer frequently doesn't even know the strength of the opposition, or even the names of the horses that his horse is up against. Nonetheless, he will still tell you that he is expecting his horse to win. Once you have identified this kind of nonsense, you find it very hard to place much credence on these kinds of interviews.

Furthermore, so far as trainers and their views are concerned, you know that they have the horse as fit as they can, you know what the form of the horse is, you know who is riding it, and in fact there isn't anything the trainer can tell you. Like me, you can admire his or her ability to present these fine animals in such wonderful condition, but after that you are on your own. Something else to consider here, and something I noticed I have said over and over again, is that if the trainer really knows anything that he figures you don't, his loyalty is to his connections and there is no way he is going to tell 50,000 people Australia-wide and have the price spoilt.

I'm reminded of the story about the owner/trainer who carefully got a horse ready for a killing which it duly performed, after which he was approached by a friend who asked him why he hadn't been told about the plans. When the owner/ trainer replied that he hadn't noticed the friend around every morning at 3:30am, and he hadn't noticed him when he was writing the cheques every Monday morning, and when he was paying all the other bills, it signalled the end of the beautiful friendship. A difficult one to be sure, and as a punter you want to see both sides. My view has always been that you make your own selections independent of the horse's connections.

Next issue sees the end of this series, and we will look further at my ideas from over the years.

Click here to read Part 6.
Click here to read Part 1.
Click here to read Part 2.
Click here to read Part 3.
Click here to read Part 4.

By The Optimist