Remembering all that is spoken and written about betting is, for many punters, too much of a task. It can be confusing and a little frustrating to have to cope with such a massive input of 'data'!

This article is aimed at providing you with some snippets of information which you can use to your advantage. Not every morsel will strike a chord, but I am sure that some of it will. If you can select just a few snippets from the 50 to help 'lift' your betting approach, then you will have taken a big step forward.


  1. Playing the horses successfully is the art of the probable. Nothing is certain. It involves human judgement. Use that judgement with common sense and you have taken the first major step to being a profitable punter.
  2. Racing is an immense business and a great sport, with rich rewards for those with the patience to study and apply sound principles of handicapping. Patience is the key word. It can save you from yourself!
  3. The average racegoer makes bad bets and loses money needlessly because he won't devote the time to learning all the little nuances of form analysis. The more time you spend understanding why horses won and why they lost the more you will benefit – in dollars.
  4. Losses in racing are a punishment for bad judgement! You can win – if you learn to balance the seven major factors (breeding, consistency, condition, speed, weight, trainer, betting) which determine if a horse is likely to make the trip to the winner's circle.
  5. Condition, condition, CONDITION! At all times as a handicapper you are at 'war' with this factor. A successful bettor is the one who can spot the present condition of each horse and decide which one is conditioned to win.
  6. When you have a good day at the races, take 50 per cent of your profits and spend it, or save it, wisely. Don't win it one afternoon and give it back the next. That way, you are caught in a vicious circle.
  7. Don't go to the racetrack expecting to take everything home but the grandstand. Greed ruins more punters than any of the various handicapping factors. Play for profit, yes, but think twice about plunging.
  8. Study breeding. A knowledge of bloodlines (pedigree) can be most useful in the overall pattern of  handicapping. Some pedigree experts can decide their final bets on their knowledge of a horse's breeding (stamina, bloodlines, sprinting, pedigree, 'mudlarks' background etc).
  9. A good, big horse can usually beat a good little horse. A big horse who is fast and can literally 'drink the wind' has a longer stride than a smaller horse. Those added inches in stride can mean the difference between a winner and a loser.
  10. Americans talk of 'effort' horses and define them as those runners who can show a gain of I to 3 lengths in the final 300m of a race. A horse gaining such ground in races over 1200m to 1600m is regarded as a supreme 'effort' runner.
  11. A handicapper tries to assign weights to bring all horses across the line in a blanket finish. Your task, as a bettor, is to find the horses which may have beaten the handicapper. Study weight changes carefully.
  12. Few horses can cope with dramatic increases in weight - a rise of 2.5kg plus from one race to the next will stop, most horses winning, unless they are dropping considerably in class.
  13. Don't get alarmed when betting on longshots at 10/1 plus. If the horse you are going to bet drifts from 10s to 20s, hang on! If you are confident about your handicapping then you could be on a strong overlay proposition ignored by others.
  14. Be wary of horses resuming after a spell (anything from 30 days upwards). The longer a horse has been off the racing scene, the more difficult it is to win first-up.
  15. Don't stick slavishly to backing horses which ran 1st, 2nd or 3rd last start. Look for unplaced horses which finished 4 lengths or less from the winner. That's usually good form.
  16. Always be on the lookout for positive jockey switches. A horse ridden by an apprentice or moderate jockey last start can show sharp improvement if a top jockey is swung into the saddle next time out. Positive jockey changes usually indicate strong stable confidence.
  17. Stay with the trainers who know how to win races. Treat carefully any runner from the leading stables. They usually have solid win strike rates.
  18. Keep a notebook of clippings from newspapers. These should mention good training track gallops, references to past races, jockeys' and trainers' comments etc.
  19. Keep old racetrack programs. Mark down your thoughts immediately after each race. If you can, check your jottings against video replays.
  20. Never back a horse to win on rain affected ground unless you know for sure it can handle such conditions. Most good form guides now carry a horse's wet track history. Always refer to it.
  21. Study each runner on an impersonal basis. Don't allow personal dislikes to influence your judgement. Look upon each race as an intellectual challenge.
  22. A bettable race is one in which all horses have past performances complete enough to allow you to make a close estimation of each horse's ability. Avoid races where a lot of the runners are resuming from spells.
  23. Watch for emerging patterns in a horse's racing career - some horses take three runs to hit peak, others take longer some can peak immediately. Go back through their form to decide.
  24. Never bet haphazardly. Get yourself a sensible staking approach and stick to it. 'Percentage' of bank betting is recommended highly. Level stake betting is as good as anything else for small-bet punters.
  25. When studying form, always take careful note of barrier positions. Penalise horses which are drawn badly. Use a scale between half a kilo and, say, 3 kilos, depending on the barrier and the track and distance.
  26. Don't write off a horse because of one bad run. Try to ascertain if it lost on its merits or whether it suffered inconvenience in the run. Read as many stewards' reports as you can (see The Sportsman).
  27. Learn from your errors. Once bitter twice shy. If you've fallen for a betting blunder once, don't fall for it again, Study your betting, spot the weaknesses, and correct them.
  28. Remember always that money management is an essential requirement of your betting. Manage your money sensibly. Make sure you attack the races with a sound approach. Have faith in yourself, and don't hesitate to shoot for the occasional big win. 
  29. Remember the professionals' belief: If a horse firms in the betting it is likely to keep on firming; if it eases it is likely to keep easing.
  30. Make up your mind whether you're going to be an each-way bettor, or one who bets two horses a race instead of one horse each-way. Many professionals prefer backing two horses in a race. Some back one runner to 'save' on the bet.
  31. Keep a positive psychological outlook on your betting. Refrain from moaning and groaning and relating your hard-luck stories. Think of yourself as a winner, and regard losses as just another hurdle to be overcome.
  32. Think very carefully about backing newspaper tipster poll 'consensus' horses. Recent tests show that top selections (most favoured) lose around 27 per cent on turnover at level stakes. Backing the 'most favoured' horse for a place shows a loss of around 12 per cent.
  33. Broadly speaking, most horses reach winning fitness with their 3rd, 4th or 5th runs from a spell. A quality horse should be peaking on his best ratings by his third outing after a layoff.
  34. When assessing weights, the use of 1.5kg equalling a length is a widely accepted practice. Some professionals use a sliding scale - 2kgs for a length up to 1200m, 1.5kg from 1200m to 2000m and 1kg to a length for longer trips.
  35. A good idea is to forgive a horse one bad run if it was carrying a big weight. Check through the formguide to ascertain how the horse has gone before with big weights - and whether it went better when asked to carry less weight.
  36. If you are wrestling with the problem of splitting two horses as a final selection it can pay to lean towards the horse with the best consistency rate. Check win and place strikes, and go for the horse with the highest percentages.
  37. Form guides often have a 'w' or 'm' next to a runner's name to signify it has won or been placed on rain-affected going. This can be misleading. A horse may have run 2nd or 3rd but it could have been beaten 10 lengths! As a general rule, regard 3 lengths as the maximum loss allowed. Outside that, a horse is a query in the wet.
  38. The importance of knowledge about racing facts and figures cannot be over-emphasised. Do all you can to improve your knowledge. Read as much material as you can – formguides, newspapers, magazines, books. If you can afford it, buy weekly video tapes of city racing.
  39. If you bet on more than one form of betting (win place, quinella etc) then keep a separate record of each form of betting. Each will show varying cycles of success. To understand how each performs it is essential you isolate them from each other in separate profit-loss accounts.
  40. Three-year-olds racing against older horses in the first half of the racing season are at some disadvantage. Treat 3yos in these all-age races with caution unless they have shown exceptional ability.
  41. Comments in newspaper formguides can be misleading. Try not to be persuaded one way or the other by what they say. Stick to strict formlines, and use only your own opinion, unless you totally respect the opinion of someone else.
  42. Understand the power of money when you bet. Do not lose sight of the value of money. Always respect the dollars in your pocket. Don't waste them on bad horses (dogs).
  43. Remember, it's not the winners of a day or a week that count, but the results obtained over a 12-month period. Make safe and judicious investments but always remember that betting calls for some inventive speculation at some point. But don't just simply gamble your money.
  44. Every punter has what is called a 'choking point' when it comes to the size of abet. Never bet beyond your means, or beyond the safety of the maximum bet you can handle. Judgement can go awfully astray when you place extra pressure on yourself to have big bets.
  45. Haste makes waste! Never give in to the temptation to rush into backing a horse. Look around a TAB agency and you'll see punters doing exactly the wrong thing-rush, rush, rush to have yet another bet! Take your time. There are always going to be more races.
  46. Bring a form of speculation into your betting, and while playing 'safe' don't go overboard with the caution. Stockmarket king Gerald Loeb once wrote: 'I am personally convinced of the inevitability of loss when attempting to secure a safe income of small return.' Loeb's advice was 'speculation rather than investment'.
  47. More and more professionals in these tough economic times are turning to quinellas, trifectas, quadrellas and trebles. The reasoning is that with these exotic forms of betting you can wager small and win big. With much of the value gone from win-place betting, this approach has a lot going for it.
  48. With quinellas, or exactas, go big on one or two prime combinations and then make smaller bets on other combinations to produce a small profit or a break even result. Put 50 to 60 per cent of your stake on the prime combinations.
  49. If you hear a tip on the same horse from three different sources, then forget it. A tip is worthless currency once too many people are spouting it.
  50. Finally, remember the final decision on any bet is yours. No one else's. You have to decide to bet or not to bet. It's your money. It's your life.

By Alan Jacobs