A while or so back, I offered you an idea based on acronyms, or mnemonics.

What on earth is an acronym? If you think back to your schooldays you might well have used them. Who knows, you might have used them since then, too.

If you did Maths you might have done BODMAS which was 'brackets off, divide multiply, add and subtract'. Memories? A mnemonic is a guide to memory, and an acronym does it by initials for words.

No matter, but if you can now remember what you would have forgotten, so much the better. Each first letter stands for something. I have a standard one that I apply to the racing game and while it may not exactly suit you, it ought to set you thinking about your chosen alternative mnemonic. It's useful when you are tempted to rush in and have a bet, yet there is something tugging at your shirt and saying, 'Whoa there, just a minute, are you sure you haven't overlooked a factor or two?'

We all know the feeling, that tug at the shirt. It's just a something that is occasionally in the background. You get the impression that everything, except maybe that little something which keeps nagging away, isn't right.

I had the experience recently with a horse who had only had three runs, was in the powerful Freedman camp, had run very well in town at his third start, yet ... there was the fact that he was a maiden. That was it, when I came down to it. A class question. I made the error and backed the horse, in fact. The lesson was there to be learned, but all along I had that feeling that I was doing something that didn't quite fit my normal pattern.

So what is the acronym I advise? It takes in several of the major factors in racing, and relies on restricting the punter to the best horses:

T - Trainer ... Is he one of the best? This can only be measured, in my view, in one way: the man trains winners, year in year out. Anything else is irrelevant for the punter.

R - Rider... The rider is the pilot, and sometimes he is able to have an armchair ride, but usually this is not so. He is usually called upon to get your horse home by a very narrow margin. If you look at the margins in most races, you will probably get the shock of your life. It takes years before a punter actually realises how close virtually every race is. A poor judge can keep you (and himself) poor. They don't last long but they take you down with them.

H/C - Highly Consistent ... This was probably the other one that was pulling me back on the animal I mentioned above. The only way of measuring consistency, so far as the bettor is concerned, is by checking the winning record. A highly consistent placegetter is no friend to you or to me, unless many of its places have been converted into wins!

C - Course and Distance ... Those of you who have been with me for years know that this is my singular most important factor. I am intrigued by horses that repeat things. Horses that can do what they have done before. There are tracks that emphasise this (such as Sandown and Warwick Farm) more than others might, but it is always to my mind a really major consideration. This is especially true of stayers' races, when (again as I have maintained all my writing life) if a horse fails at a distance of 2400 or more, he will usually continue to fail at it. This can mean he will still run places, but he won't win. Admittedly I can be badly wrong. I am, often enough. But I can assure you that this selection criterion is one of the best I know of.

M/R . . . This follows on from the above. I prefer horses to be running in the middle range: from about 1200 to 2000 metres. Form is usually most dearly discernible here. It's personal, but I like to remain within these limits except for a major race (such as a big cup) where I believe I may have a good chance of establishing relative class for myself.

C - Class ... And that brings me to class, the one factor that I regard as intangible. I rely on my overall knowledge of racing here. There is no reason for any keen follower to feel inadequate on this one. Just keep your head, and weigh up the horse against the others in the race. If in doubt, look at the relative handicaps. They often help to unravel things.

V - Value . . . It has to be there or I am not interested. What is it? It is the acceptable price for that horse in that race on that day under those conditions.

X/O - Expected Odds . . . That's the basis of my Value above. I try to make my own price for that horse. Not necessarily for the entire field but for that horse. I believe it is a far superior way to the old way of pricing a field. If I have a keen interest in a horse, I try to give it my price. Mind you, this is NOT the price I expect the bookmakers to open it at! If I believe that the price WILL be at least the equal of what I believe is the real price, I get very interested. That is when I may bet early (as John O'Sullevan mentioned else-where) to get the best price; otherwise I will hold back to see how things pan out.

And so we have the acronym: T.R.H.C.M.C.V.O.

I used O instead of X in the last one, as I couldn't come up with an X!



You could start your own with The Races ...

Silly? Of course it is, but it's easy to hold what needs to be held in your head or in your wallet/purse. And each factor is there for you to check through. Even when you are learning it, you are also learning a great deal about your betting habits.

Why not give it a try?


By The Optimist