George has been a regular racegoer for many years. He loves racing and always has. A happy-go-lucky type of bloke, married with a loving wife and two daughters, he has a good outlook on life.

He has always been serious about succeeding at race betting, a committed, enthusiastic punter, having bought almost every handi­capping book and method that came to his attention, from Rem Plante, Don Scott and others more recent, but he was also a self-confessed long-time loser.

Sure, he would get on a "roll" and land a few good winners from time to time, which would always be displayed in his generosity towards both his family and friends, while his infectious laugh would lighten up those around him.

Inevitably, though, as if it were predetermined, he would hit a rocky patch, his latest method going flat and failing badly. His laughter would disappear to be replaced with the gloom that tends to surround losing punters.

As the profits were given back, so came the excuses. You know the type: a bad ride, a bad track, etc., all the usual "what ifs" that losing punters usually turn to when things start going wrong.

But he wouldn't give up as he learned (the hard way) many years ago that the most important thing in gambling, besides winning, is to protect the bankroll at all costs.

He became very economical and he learnt to survive. After all, it was his passion and he so much wanted to be a better punter. In the early days, he kept himself afloat by becoming a house repairer, an odd-jobs man. It was a good way to still have the time to punt while making ends meet and also help replenish what was at times an ever-dwindling bankroll.

After nearly three decades the success George strived for was more an illusion than a reality. Several years ago, we lost touch, but I kept wondering what had happened to him.

Then, recently, who should I bump into at Caulfield but a smiling, laughing George having a ball of a time. We went off for a drink at the Tabaret and he told me his story.

About two years ago, he had been surfing the Internet one day and stumbled onto one of the new betting exchange sites. He instantly recognised the huge potential this type of gambling offered. Gathering his thoughts he set about collecting all his hard-won handicapping skills into a method that would best fit his kind of betting.

To state that he has succeeded – in spades – would be an under­statement. So well did he go in the first five months of operation that he shut-up shop, leased his house and took off to the UK, family and all. His wife and daughters were more than happy to go along on the trip with the opportunity to catch up with long-lost relatives and take in the sights of Europe.

After twelve months or so of living in the UK, and learning and profiting from the racing, the time came for George and his family to return to Melbourne. "I still call Australia home. And besides, the ‘girls’ and Mum got homesick, so back we came," says George.

So how did he go about turning his punting life from failure into success? For George it was an entirely new way of playing the races: a mixture of betting some horses to win and a lot more to lose.

He posed this somewhat paradoxical question to me: "If you found the secret to successful betting, where would you hide it?" I can only assume that I had a strange look on my face by the time he had finished asking his question.

As I didn’t offer much of an answer, he went on to explain that the "secret" was there for all to see, yet most punters, while aware of it, disregarded it just about every time they had a bet.

"The best place to hide something is right under a person's nose," he added. "You don’t need any inside knowledge or any other such edge, just the one well-known fact that most favourites lose!"

"So what’s so sensational about that?" I responded.

"That’s the bloody secret to success," George stated. "Find a weak favourite and invariably you will find success as a betting exchange punter."

One of the skills that George had developed over the years was to isolate races where he thought the favourite was weak, that it was a risk. Know when the favourite in a race is weak, and bet the other contenders in a way that maximises profit, had been one of his few successful strategies in his long betting career.

But now he had a new angle. On a betting exchange he could lay those "weak" favourites to lose. Readers may ask if "that's it"?

The simple answer is, "yes, that’s it". There are no immutable laws in racing, it's far too dynamic for that, but the gospel according to George says that this is as close as it comes.

So how does he go about finding those weak or false favourites?

The following five factors assist him to pinpoint weaknesses in an overbet crowd favourite:

  1. The ability of the trainer.
  2. The ability of the jockey.
  3. The ability of the horse.
  4. The current form of the horse.
  5. Other factors.

TRAINER ABILITY: The obvious first "look" is to see if he or she has any ability! Trainers whose horses win less than 7 per cent or so of their races are prime candidates. Unless there is some other known reason and assuming the trainer has had a reasonable amount of runners, why would anyone take short odds about any horse from this trainer’s stable?

Also, remember a trainer with more average-looking overall win figures, say greater than 10 per cent, can still be weak in certain areas, i.e. Gai Waterhouse runners when racing in Melbourne.

JOCKEY ABILITY: Unless the jockey is in the no-hoper class with a strike-rate of 7 per cent or less, then be careful in bagging a horse totally because of the jockey. Ascertain if and how well the jockey has ridden the horse previously.

HORSE ABILITY: This is the single biggest question that requires an answer. Does the horse justify being the favourite in today’s race? Can the horse be expected to be competitive and is it a genuine winning chance?

Very often the answer is "no" – from a resounding "cannot win" to a not-so-certain "unlikely".

George uses his self-developed computer program to help establish if the favourite falls in between these two categories, crunching the raw data into a final rating, looking closely at any favourite that rates poorly overall.

As he only uses data that is representative of all or most runners, he usually stays away from 2yo and 3yo races, concentrating only on races where the form is clearly exposed, such as open handicaps, etc.
He looks closely at "chaos" races, which are hard to figure out, hard to handicap and equally hard to predict. In this type of race, where every runner is weak, the favourite becomes a solid "lay" candidate if it complies with any of the following factors:

  • It is inconsistent in today’s class of race and has an overall strike rate under 10 per cent and/or hasn't won in its last seven starts.
  • The trainer or jockey fits the profile as above.
  • It won at odds last start in a race where it didn’t step up in class and the tempo was slow, while today’s race is likely to have a quicker tempo.

CURRENT FORM: A horse may have the proven and/or potential ability to be able to win if at the point in its condition cycle it is capable of performing at its best or near-best.

Often this is not the case, yet because it is a high-profile horse coming from a leading stable and being ridden by a top jockey, it will go around as favourite regardless of its readiness to win.

When considering current form, the fitness factor needs to be taken into account and those favourites coming off a break greater than 21 days need to be looked at carefully to ascertain their ability to run well after being freshened or from a let-up or spell. Normally, breaks longer than three weeks can be considered a negative, more so the longer the race.

The research done by Barry Blackmore in his books on fitness clearly indicates that favoured horses running first-up at distances longer than 1200m have a relatively poor strike rate. Some disagree with Blackmore’s research; George is not one of them, successfully applying the principles contained in those books.

OTHER FACTORS: George regards this factor as a catch-all, one that takes into account anything otherwise not covered. Track, distance and going are all-important factors in their own right and need to be considered to establish if the favourite has a weakness in any of them.

While he won’t penalise a horse attempting a distance or a track for the first time, he makes notes of these when completing his "favourite" profile, as he does with its ability to handle the track conditions.

When older horses try a higher class level or a longer distance for the first time, this raises a warning sign, more so if they are a favourite. Unless lightly raced, why hasn't this horse been tried in a higher class or at a longer distance previously?

While younger horses can mature rapidly by progressing through the classes, it is less likely with older horses and there should be some evidence of them being able to run competitively against the level of horses being faced today.

Pace is another factor and while it’s beyond the scope of this article to delve into in any great detail, the following two aspects should be considered for weak favourite status:

  • Any horse who was the lone front-runner and led all the way last start in a slowly run race, more so if it is likely to be pressured into today’s race.
  • Any horse who gets back last or near-last in its races, as these regularly disappoint, running plenty of places but beaten more often than not, especially if the pace is likely to be slower than normal in today’s race.

George’s final words on becoming a successful betting exchange punter are to look for factors that make a favourite vulnerable, turning it into a disciplined approach and then applying it in a consistent manner.

Don't use any of these factors in isolation. For example, any trainer can send out a horse capable of winning a given race; likewise a "no-hoper" jockey will ride a winner from time to time.

If the betting exchange layer applies discipline, only betting in races where false favourites have been identified, then they’ll put themselves on the path to success as George has proven so far.

By EJ Minnis