Some years ago, a close friend of mine travelled the Victorian country racing circuit. He was at just about every major bush meeting held for a period of some six years.

He eventually gave it away, tired out from the travelling and not from his betting activities. He told me he'd won, on an annual basis, for five of the six years he attended the country meetings.

It was the car rides, and sometimes light plane trips, to and from the venues that wore him down. The social life, he said, could be hard going if you didn't discipline yourself.

So what did he learn from attending all those meetings in the heat of summer and the cold and wet of winter? "Not much," he admitted to me, "except that you get to know the various stables and the manner in which they place their horses. After a while, my success was due not to all my work on the ratings, but on my personal knowledge of horses, jockeys and trainers."

But, I insisted, surely he could find one important piece of information to pass on to punters wanting to bet on the bush meetings? Yes, he said, there was. He had found that during his six years 'on the road', country meetings threw up winners at an average price of 11 /2.

"A punter has to sort out the best horses in that range," he said. "And I'm talking about, say, 5/1 to 6/1. Usually, you can find a few sound chances on a card that are in this price bracket. If your selecting technique is accurate, you should be able to haul in a lot of winners."

So there you are – one slice of information from a professional who did it the hard way around the Victorian bush. Which tracks did he recommend for good horses?

"No doubt at all that Ballarat is the best track, followed by Geelong." he said. "Ballarat is roomy and it has a long straight that not only tests the runners' fitness, but gives them all a good chance to win, no matter where they might be turning for home.

"Geelong is another big track, and again it has a home stretch that allows runners to steam home from well back on the point of the turn."

How should you approach country form? A few years ago, there was a case to be argued that country racing needed a completely different approach on form analysis than city racing. Not so today. There are some very good horses racing at the main country meetings in N.S.W., Victoria and Queensland.

My own technique is to use a ratings figure for each horse. I have my own method of compiling the ratings, but you can use the Don Scott method, or the George Tafe ratings-whichever suits your purpose. Apply your ratings, sort out the top half-dozen chances, and then apply all your knowledge of form to isolate the very best of this final six.

Draw up your own prices, to an 80 or 90 per cent market (see Dollars & Sense for how to do it!) and away you go, betting on the overlays and also having a lash at the quinella and trifecta pools.

Now I know many of you will not want to take this approach. Some cannot spare the time to use ratings. In other words, you're the punter who is happy to 'cop a tip' and if you're that way inclined, well, I'll do my best to pass some on to you.

My initial tips concern some ideas for picking out 'instant' bets. They are based on research, as well as some useful information from my professional punter mate.


  1. In country Maidens, pay close attention to those horses which are favourites in the 7/4 to 5/2 price range. The-se favourites usually run very well indeed in this class of race.
  2. Keep a list of jockeys at each track. Once you have established individual track premierships, you will know exactly which jockeys ride well at the various tracks. The Sporting Globe (midweek and weekend issues) is most helpful in this area. It regularly publishes 'strike rate' lists for country tracks. (More about this later on.)
  3. Look out for jockeys who have the happy knack of booting home country longshots. Tony Marney is one in N.S.W, while Steven King and Phil Alderman often bob up in Victoria.

Country strike rates for jockeys are most interesting,. Some well-known riders have a fantastic winning percentage. Greg Hall is one. His country strike rate to the end of April, from 38 rides, was a healthy 25.6 per cent, with 10 winners. Hall accepts only choice rides at country meetings, so it will pay to always check on his mounts.

Rob Griffiths has a win rate around 20 per cent (25 winners from 123 rides to the end of April), and other riders worth noting are jan-tie Evans (16.4 per cent), Pat Hyland (16.3 per cent), Kevin Forrester (15 per cent) and Neville Wilson (27 winners from 178 rides) with a percentage of just over 15.

With the Sporting Globe on hand, you will be able to easily identify the best jockeys at each country track. For instance, if you were looking at a Pakenham meeting, the Globe's strike rate list to the end of April would have revealed that the best riders there were M. Dakiz, Graham McLeish, Frank Stockdale, Simon Marshall and Wayne Treloar.

As another example, let's look at Sale, where the best riders to the end of April were Peter Mertens (seven wins this season), Rob Scarlett (6), K. Ashby (5), Rod Griffiths (5), Rob Criffiths (4) and Kerry Farrugia, Shane Tronerud, Pat Hyland and Darren Murphy all on three wins.

Interestingly, at the May 19 meeting at Pakenham, who should ride winners but Wayne Treloar (a double) and M. Dakiz on an 11 /4 shot.

The Sporting Globe can also be a help in pinpointing country-trained gallopers, especially for the Victorian tracks. The Globe's trackwork report, contained in the midweek issue (out on Tuesdays) has trackwork reports from the strong Mornington and Cranbourne tracks. You can often latch on to good winners by making note of the horses mentioned in this section.

I'll now turn to the question of sorting out some country cuddies to follow this month and in August. I am compiling this article in early June so it is something of a task to select gallopers which will definitely still be around and racing in five weeks and more - but I'll try.

Solaca was a big winner in Maiden class at Ballarat in May. If connections keep him racing in the lower grades during the winter then I've every confidence he can pick up a Class 1 or 2 race. Swaybay is another who impressed me at Ballarat.

I happened to be at the Kyneton meeting in mid-May and noted down the performances of Prinze Azur, Count Seymour and At The Dock. The latter galloper is a quality filly. She invariably puts in a good race, so do keep her in mind, especially for quinellas and trifectas. Prince Azur is a handy 3yo. who returned to racing after a spell to finish 2nd at Kyneton. A winning campaign looms. Count Seymour was an impressive 2nd in a 1200m Class 3 sprint, and should be placed to win in similar company.

From the same Kyneton meeting, a bold effort was produced by Parade Ground*** in finishing just behind the placegetters in a Class 4 1450m dash. Parade Ground can salute at good odds, as can Meg's Host, which did OK in the latter stages when 5th to All Shillalae in a Class 5 1850m race.

From the training tracks, there is some sound information from both Cranbourne and Mornington. Firstly, the Cranbourne trackworkers to appeal (in late May and early June) were Never Change, Sincere Juke, Pauper's Pride and Tritonic. Never Change ran 3rd at Pakenham first-up from a spell in May and by this month should be right at top.

Sincere Juke is in the Mick Fox stable, and looked impressive winning at Cranbourne last time in. Pauper's Pride ran a first-up 5th to Darkoka at Kyneton and should be primed up by now. Tritonic's work is reported to have been excellent.

From Mornington, the mail is for Crescent Ray, a jumper from the Stan Dunham stable. Crescent Ray is good enough to win a major hurdle race. Light Show, a sprinter who had no luck at all in his last campaign, was back in work in May and looked keen to go. Keep this fellow in mind.

A Kiwi jumper named Pal O'Mine was sent out at Mornington for strong pacework. There are good reports about this fellow, so don't let him slip under your guard. The final country tip is for Gold Hat. The mare was looking bright as a button in early June and her first-up 4th from a spell was a beauty.

Well, there you have it-a wrap-up of country racing ideas and tips. Let's hope we can all secure a nice winner or two (or three, or four) from the information.


By Rick Hunter