Although we don’t always make it every year, my son Robert and I enjoy going to the New Year’s day meeting at Flemington.

It gives us a chance to relax as father and son without any of the usual distractions, have a bit of a punt, enjoy the magnificent Melbourne skyline and finish off the day with a meal, which by a not so amazing coincidence, occurs while the Perth Cup is on!

As I have mentioned a few times in my PPM articles, I have been punting for just on 40 years and this marathon journey was again brought home to me when we met up with personal friends of mine covering decades . . .  Moonie (Noel Moon), Kibbo (Russell Kibbis), Smithy (Alan Smith) and Gavin Seidel.

I also dragged along a mate of mine called Hans Karge who only knows which end of the horse does the kicking but wanted to come as, amazingly, he had never been to a race meeting at Flemington.

Moonie, Kibbo and Gavin (Smithy has a dabble but is not as desperate), are what can only be called “veterans of the punt” (along with myself, of course) and over the years we have amassed many experiences relevant to having a good time both socially over a few beers and on the punt. It was fantastic to see the boys in full glory once again and I can honestly say they are still the same rascals I have known for all these years. Good friends never change.

The following day I thought about all our experiences and I wondered what we all had learned about the punt over the years. As I will be meeting up with the boys again in a few weeks I won’t get the chance until then to ask them some serious questions (if you knew them you would realise what a struggle it will be to get a serious answer!), about their punting these days. In a later article I’ll outline their thoughts but let me start the ball rolling in this article about my own theories.

In a recent article I talked about my research into overseas horseracing sites and what positive areas there were for a punter looking to bet in the respective countries. While I was doing this research I wondered what “punting rules” would  I apply if I began betting overseas? There’s one thing for sure: I would have no inclination to spend hours and hours reading formlines and watching videos like I do now. So what would I do?

Of all the factors I am most impressed with in the horseracing world without a shadow of a doubt,  is the ability of the punter to be able to separate the favourite from the second favourite, the third favourite and so on, all the way down to the despised outsiders.

In every study I have ever seen and have personally conducted where a significant number of statistics are presented,  the favourite always wins more races than the second favourite and down the line. Betting on every favourite will lose you somewhere between 8-12 cents in the dollar with it commonly being accepted that 10 per cent is a fair overall representation and it is always shown that betting on odds on favourites loses you even less.

So my first rule would simply be to only bet on either the first or second favourite. Overall I would be dealing with about 45-50 per cent of all the winners as favourites win about 30 per cent and second favourites around 15-20 per cent. However, I would not want to be backing favourites if they are past 5/2 ($3.50) nor second favourites past 4/1 ($5.00). Once beyond those prices I suspect that too often I’d be backing horses that are just simply those odds because something has to be favourite and second favourite and there would be a degree of difficulty involved as well, otherwise they would be closer to the average price of all favourites at around 7/4 ($2.75).

Fit horses win more races than unfit horses. Horseracing history shows this to be fact. It is proven that more favourites in handicaps will win races after they have had at least two runs from a spell, than horses racing first-up in a handicap.

Favourites after two runs from a spell will usually have shown something in those runs to warrant favouritism, whereas a first-up favourite is favourite purely and simply on reputation from its previous campaign or campaigns or some so called brilliant barrier trial efforts.

The exceptions to this would be in WFA races or Set Weight races where the handicapper has no say or little say and where a horse has won first-up comfortably by 1.5 lengths or more. With the latter, the ease of winning first-up by 1.5 lengths is usually an indication of a fit horse and unless there is a dramatic distance change involved
I think it safe to assume a similar effort is on the cards.

While on the fitness side of things, I would also delete horses that have not run in the last 14 days (15 days or longer are out). I want a favourite of mine back at the track reasonably quickly as it may lose its form standing around in the stables if the spell was 21 days or longer.

Over the years I have become suspicious about horses racing at 21 days exactly and if I do back such a horse, I want to see clear evidence it has raced successfully with that time lapse.

Over the years, favourites in sprints will win fractionally more races than races where the early pace is an issue, which usually starts at 1600m or longer. To be really tough I would make sure I covered my bases and even include 1400m as a problem and drop them.

On the other end of the sprinting scale, first-up horses over 1000m have a better record than those over 1200m, simply due to the distance being shorter and calling for less exertion. However, the problem is still one of not knowing their level of fitness.

Often, too, some of those races are run at breakneck speed and all the leaders “die” horribly in the last 100m and “back” runners come into the mix. It’s my belief that of all the distances available, the punter has the best chance to bet against a favourite at 1200m.

This is the distance at which many horses are favourites who have never won or even run at the distance, yet on the basis of form in shorter distance races they are made favourites and sometimes at quite ridiculously short quotes.

Naturally, quite a few of the 1000m winners or even first starters will win at their first 1200m runs but an astute punter who only bets on a proven 1200m horse against the risky conveyances will emerge the better for it in the long term.

Also, at 1200m you will usually have many more runs to work on than in 1600m races or longer events and once your possible bet has had several runs over the 1000m–1200m range, it is always easy to work out the pure 1000m sprinters with a minimum of effort. Where it is tricky is at 1100m as some pure sprinters can lead and just hold on but if you take my advice and stick to just 1200m exactly, you can safely eliminate that type of speedster as well.

To make life easier I would eliminate all tracks that are not rated good or fast. History shows the top horses in the world are usually horses that perform at their best on dry tracks where their inherent speed is the dominant factor. So if we are betting on seemingly unknown horses in countries abroad why tempt the Gods by betting when it is wet?

The final factor is that I would want my horse to be either a leader or an on pacer. Any sort of racing statistics based around front runners versus “get back” types will clearly show the advantage lies, long term, with the front runners and on pacers.

Surely logic decrees this without even perusing or conducting any sort of study, anyway? These are the horses that can either lead and set their own pace and have that little extra kick left when needed. The back markers not only have to make up the lengths behind the front runners but also have to run a faster last 600m to get past them.

This would mean I would only bet in countries where this sort of info is available but I suspect this is not a major problem as most countries are sophisticated enough these days to have that sort of data at hand.

So in rounding it up, here is what I would do:

Firstly, I would look for a reliable pre-post market: finding one is another story but again, these days, any country really interested in horse racing should have this simple area under control. If Betfair is betting in this country and the pool size is worthwhile, I would contemplate using their favourites especially if the win percentage was around 105-110 per cent.

You would have to list the first three or four favourites with 10 minutes or more to go and quickly go through the rules listed below but I am sure with practice this would be an ideal way to go. With one minute to go your bet should be obvious.

Initially test the favourite and if it fails to pass a rule move onto the second favourite. If both fail then forget the race: it is as simple as that.


  • Rule 1: Good and Fast tracks only: apply this first as it is meeting dependent and instantly tells you if you are betting.
  • Rule 2: 1200m only – the next obvious rule.
  • Rule 3: Must have raced in the last 14 days or less UNLESS this race is at WFA (Weight For Age) or is a SW (Set Weights) race where all horses have the same weight or where males receive Xkg more than the females.

    At this stage first uppers racing at WFA or Set Weights are still eligible.
  • Rule 4: Must have won at 1200m or longer.

    ALL horse must pass this rule regardless of whether the race is a handicap, WFA or Set Weights.

    The remaining rules deal with horses racing second-up.
  • Rule 5: If racing second-up in a handicap, must have won first-up by 1.5 lengths or more and passed Rules 1 to 4.
  • Rule 6: If racing second-up at WFA or Set Weights, needs to pass Rules 1, 2 and 4 but does not need to pass Rule 3.

That’s it! Have a close look at the rules and you will note I give exceptions of all sorts EXCEPT distance to horses at WFA and Set Weights simply because they are often so well handicapped at a weight scale where the handicapper cannot penalise a horse for his/her career efforts.

You may decide not to follow my leniency – the choice is yours.

By Roman Kozlovski