My rules for successful investing on the races

In 2006, I formulated a set of rules for myself, based on my own punting and horse training experiences as well as countless hours of reading and studying books and articles written by others on the subjects of horseracing and punting.

By sticking to these rules, I achieved a winning strike rate of over 40 per cent, easily my best ever. My percentage of placegetters increased from a consistent 75 per cent to 80 per cent.

While such impressive strike rates may not prove sustainable long term, I do believe that a win percentage of 30 per cent to 35 per cent and a place percentage around 75 per cent to 80 per cent are achievable, and that if you follow the rules set out here, you can expect to achieve such results.

Rule One: Do not bet on maiden handicaps.
In his book The Winning Way, the late Don Scott had this to say about maiden races when discussing the wrong races on which to bet:

“Maiden races are the first you should eliminate. Maiden gallopers are of the lowest class and many maiden winners never win again. Only a few advance even as far as intermediate class. Most maidens face a future strictly limited by their lack of class. They lack speed, stamina and the will to win. They are consistently inconsistent and their form is predictably unpredictable. It is best to ignore altogether these low class horses and the races they contest.”

Although Don Scott wrote these words over 25 years ago, I believe his advice is as sound today as it was then.

As a result, maiden races are the first I rule out.

Rule Two: Do not bet on races where there is little exposed form.
This applies particularly to early 2yo races, where half the field may be first starters. If you bet on races where there is little exposed form, you are really betting blind.

These are the second races I strike out.

Rule Three: Do not bet on races of less than 1200m.
Races of less than 1200m, particularly 1000m events, tend to be really helter skelter affairs where a wide barrier, a slow start or even slight interference can mean the end of a horse’s chances.

I prefer not to take such risks and therefore eliminate these races.

Rule Four: Do not bet on races where there are less than eight starters or more than 12.
If you bet on races with less than eight starters, you will not receive a place dividend if your horse finishes third. If you bet on races with more than 12 starters, there is a greater risk of your selection striking interference or being blocked for a run.

By betting on races with eight to 12 starters, you do not eliminate such risks, but you do reduce them. Also, if you have backed your selection each way or for a place you will receive a dividend if it runs third.

Rule Five: Do not bet on races where the odds are compressed.
By this I mean where the majority of starters are less than double figures. For example, I recently spotted two races, both with eight horse fields, where the price assessors had six of the eight horses priced between $3.50 and $7.00 in the first race and $3.80 and $8.00 in the second example.

The way I look at it is this: if the price assessors, who are experts in their field, can’t come up with a more clearcut market, then the race is too open for my liking, and I rule the race out.

Rule Six: Do not bet on races where the form for the race suggests that the majority of horses are out of form.
A recent class 6 in Brisbane provided a good example of such a race. It was a 14 horse field, which would have ruled it out for me anyway, but these 14 horses had won a total of just four races between them, from their last 52 starts combined. Their place performance was little better, with just 14 top three placings amongst those 52 starts.

This was an out of form field. A race to be avoided.

Rule Seven: Do not bet on races where a significant number of starters are having either their first or second run after a spell.
Most horses take several starts to reach peak fitness. Horses that can win first-up or second up after a spell are in the minority.

Rule Eight: Do not bet on races up the “ straight six “ at Flemington.
Too often in these races you will find that there is track bias, which will favour horses coming down the outside to win one week, then down the inside to win the next week.

Such bias can result from certain parts of the track providing better “going“, or just the direction of the wind at the time. Unfortunately, you will not usually know which horses will be favoured by any track bias until after the race.

Rule Nine: Do not bet on races where there is insufficient information about the form of horses.
For some meetings, usually country meetings, newspapers may only publish race fields with a tipster’s selections below.

Avoid these races. They are another example of races where you are betting blind.

The above are the rules I apply to eliminate races . . . The following are the rules I apply to eliminate horses.

Rule Ten: Do not back horses having their first run back from a spell unless they have won first-up before.

Rule Eleven: Do not back horses having their second run back from a spell unless they have won second- up before.
(A spell is considered to be a period of three months or more between races.)

As I have stated earlier, most horses require a few runs to reach their peak.

The horses that can win first-up or second-up are the exceptions. Stick with those with proven first-up or second-up form. Formguides such as Sportsman and Winning Post provide statistics on each horse’s performance records.

Rule Twelve: Do not back horses to be ridden by an apprentice claiming an allowance of more than 3kg.
These young riders lack experience and are more likely to make mistakes than their more experienced fellow jockeys. Give these young riders time to prove their ability before you risk your dollars on them. Those with ability will soon stand out.

Rule Thirteen: Do not back horses rising more than 400m in distance on their previous start.
Horses can often go up in distance by 200–400m and win. In fact, that sort of increase in distance can be considered a natural progression as a horse’s level of fitness increases. Put that distance increase up to 600m or more and the task of winning becomes considerably more difficult.

Rule Fourteen: Do not back a horse dropping back more than 200m in distance on its previous start.
Two hundred metres is acceptable but no more. I believe it is more difficult to train a horse to come back in distance by 200m or more than it is to train a horse to go up in distance by 200–400m.

Rule Fifteen: Do not back horses starting at odds on.
Don Scott, in his book Winning More, had this to say about backing odds on favourites:

“It is unwise to lay odds on. I never lay odds on any horse unless it is a champion like Tulloch or Vain.

Champions usually go on winning regardless of price. Lesser horses go on losing and confirm the truth of the old adage, ‘Odds on, look on’. If you persist in laying odds on you will lose.”

Statistics year in, year out confirm what Don said. Back odds on favourites and in the long term you will certainly end up losing.

Rule Sixteen: Do not back horses that have won a maiden handicap at their previous start and are now stepping up to a Class 1 race.

I have seen horses win maidens by five lengths, only to step up to Class 1 as short priced favourites at their very next start and get beaten. If you follow this rule you will miss some winners but you will miss a lot more losers.

Rule Seventeen: Do not back horses carrying more than 58.5kg after a claim.
There is an old saying in racing that weight will stop a train. It is as true today as it ever was.

Rule Eighteen: Do not back horses drawn wider than barrier eight.
Obviously a horse caught wide in a race will cover more ground than a horse travelling close to the rails. The extra distance covered often means the difference between winning and losing. Even the best of jockeys find themselves trapped wide sometimes.

By not backing horses drawn wider than eight, you will reduce the risk of your horse being trapped wide.

Well, that’s it, my 18 rules. I have found since I developed these rules and started to follow them that my betting activities have been somewhat curtailed; however, I have also found that my win and place percentages have increased, as have my returns on investment , and isn’t that what this punting caper is all about?

By Tim Egan