In recent years, country racing has become such an integral part of our betting life that it's still surprising how much we don't know about it.

In-depth form guides for the country meetings, in any State, are few and far between. Most daily newspapers provide only the fields and tips, or potted comments on some races.

Frankly, for the amount of money that is bet on these country meetings, every day of the week, the coverage is scandalous. I believe it would pay the TABs in the various States to buy extra space in the newspapers to assure themselves of proper coverage. That will never happen, because the TABs will then be fearful that they might have to pay for everything!

Country meetings, or Provincials as they are called when the bigger near city tracks are involved, are used as a 'nursery' or training ground for young horses. Mainly, though, they provide opportunities for all those horses who are below city class standard. Many trainers use the restricted class races in the country as a stepping stone to tackling the better quality gallopers on metropolitan tracks.

Because punters are often betting 'blind' on country races, it is vital they keep in mind some pertinent points. I have drawn up the following list and I urge you to try to remember at least some of them the next time you hand over your dollars on a country/provincial race.


  1. Bet warily in those Maiden races where many of the runners are having their first start. When you see a race  where two or more runners are first-starters then pass it over.
  2. Look for horses dropping in class. Watch for the horse that has shown something in a better class race and is then brought back to its own class within, say, 15 days. The horse must have performed fairly in its run in higher class.
  3. Keep a close watch for improving horses. Often a horse can win two or three restricted races in a row. It might win an lmprovers, then pick up a second lmprovers and move on and win a Progressive.
  4. Give thought to any horse which is scratched AFTER final acceptors for one meeting, and then starts at a country meeting the same week.
  5. Restricted class races do provide pretty good betting opportunities as long as you possess all the form. Apart from a Maiden, a horse can win twice in lmprovers, Progressive and Intermediate class. Handicappers work to a scale of there being 2 to 3 kg separating each class.
  6. Clip and save as many newspaper cuttings as you can that relate to country racing. The Sporting Globe carries finish photos of the main Victorian country TAB meetings, and also publishes a helpful column about the previous week's meetings, called Country Call. Save these and refer to them. Sydney newspapers provide only the barest of information about NSW country TAB meetings.
  7. A sound idea is to paste the acceptors for each country meeting in an exercise book. Then clip and paste the results. In this way, you'll soon build up your own useful file of information.
  8. Keep, too, an alphabetical book of horses that have won on rain-affected tracks in the country. When slow and heavy tracks are the order of the day you can quickly refer to your own list of mud runners.
  9. Remember that home track horses always run well. Give special attention to to those horses who are racing on the tracks where they are trained, specially if they have won there before. The horse's knowledge of his own circuit can mean many lengths at the finish, particularly when the horse hasn't had to travel long distances to get to the track!
  10. Do not take too much notice of betting markets published in your morning newspapers for country meetings. They are meant only as a guide and are significant usually only for the complete inaccuracy. Run a check yourself and you'll see what I mean.
  11. If a horse aged 4, 5 or 6 hasn't won on a wet track it is generally safe to eliminate it from race contention whenever the track reading is slow or heavy.
  12. Be wary of horses aged 5 and over who are still racing in Maiden, improver, Progressive and Intermediate class. Generally, these type of horses have been trying to win similar races for a long time.
  13. Carefully check the tipsters in your area to discover which of them come up with the best tips. Some newspaper journalists attend alotof country meetings and their knowledge of the horses is reflected in their winning selections. Racecallers, like Victoria's Bryan Martin, are also country experts. Place much weight on their tips.
  14. A cardinal rule is never to back a horse racing out of its class - for example, a Maiden galloper in an lmprovers field because it will be opposed by horses who have won upwards of 2 races. Maiden gallopers should be placed against their own class.
  15. Barrier positions are very important at country meetings. In the city, the better class horses are more able to overcome awkward barrier positions. Familiarise yourself with the layout of the country tracks. Some are very small, others are spacious.
  16. Some jockeys rarely visit the city tracks, but they ride a lot of winners on country tracks. Search out these jockeys and always pay careful attention to their mounts. Conversely, look out for the big city jockeys who ride on country tracks. They do not travel hundreds of kilometres for nothing!
  17. Victorian punters should use The Sporting Globe (available from Tuesdays) for their country races form. It carries a big tipsters' panel and has the full recent form of every runner at Tuesday and Wednesday meetings.
  18. Punters interested in obtaining turnand-finish photos of all the Victorian TAB country meetings can buy them from Kevin Eddelbuttel, P.O. Box 18, Ashburton, Victoria 3147.
  19. Country form can usually be worked out well using race ratings. Don Scott's book Winning More contains full information for rating races, and you can also refer to my own Invader Ratings method, published in January/February this year in PPM (an update will soon be in PPM, so keep a watch out for it). With race ratings, you discover the actual STRENGTH of each class of event and you can then measure performances.
  20. Find out which jockeys and trainers are the best winners in your State on country races - then ensure that every time you analyse a field of runners that you pay special attention to their horses.
  21. If you are a sensible and patient type of punter, you will stick to the major races at each country meeting. This means betting on the better class horses - those in Welters, Open and Flying class events. Draw a line at these and you will not be bothering yourself with the lower-class gallopers.
  22. Be very careful of Restricted class horses who are set to carry big weights - 56 kg and above. Poor class horses do not possess much heart and lack the 'fibre' needed to carry big imposts under pressure.
  23. There is much 'informed' money on country tracks. If you are an on-course punter, then keep a very close watch on horses that firm sharply in the betting. Many times, these are horses that are the subject of intelligent 'stable' and professional money and invariably race well.
  24. Look for horses that have travelled a long way (more than 200 km) to the track. This willingness to travel such a way means that connections must be confident the horse will do well. Also, it's not a cheap exercise to float horses these days, so there has to be the chance of reward for people who do so.
  25. Just as in city races, favourites win about 30-32 percent of all country races. The first four horses in the betting (actual betting, not morning newspaper market) win a high percentage of all races. It's worth remembering.

These 25 hints will help you to keep your country racing betting under some sort of control - and there's hardly a punter around who doesn't need to exercise more self-control than he or she does. It's too easy these days to pop into the TAB, scan the race fields and plonk $5 or $10 on a horse you have hardly heard of, or, worse, never heard about before!

If a punter is honest enough, he'll admit to having done something like this at least once - probably many times.  The temptation to 'have a bet' is strong in all of us.

Because country racing receives less media coverage than city racing, it behoves all punters to' takeit easy' when betting on the bush nags - unless you have really done your homework!

By Brian Blackwell