This is the fourth and final part of this series, offering advice for betting strategies. So far, I have unearthed nineteen betting angles, and this article contains another six to complete the series.

The nineteen discussed previously are as follows:

  1. Establish a bank.
  2. Remember that every bet not made is a bet not lost.
  3. Make a decision as to the tracks you will, and will not, bet at.
  4. Decide on the conditions you will, and will not, bet under.
  5. Be able to sit out a race, and even a meeting, without a bet.
  6. Join up to SKY if you cannot get to the track.
  7. Check the index in your formguide before you go through the fields.
  8. Establish access to a decent racing calendar for the immediate future races.
  9. Make your own decisions as to your betting techniques now, with room for at least three adjustments.
  10. Make a firm decision as to the bank(s) you will operate.
  11. Keep meticulous records.
  12. Never start a new method with more than the basic or recommended starting bank.
  13. Always be aware of the big S.
  14. Accept the risks.
  15. Be prepared to take advice, especially from real experts.
  16. Be strong when everyone else is backing your horse.
  17. If your mathematics is so bad that what we talk about in PPM seems like magic, open your phone book and check out the WEA.
  18. Never bet on a horse you have never heard of before.
  19. Never bet on a horse at its first start, unless you have a feeling about it and it is at enormous odds.

I received some flak about Strategy 19 from some readers, and that's fair enough too. After all, I'm the one who is preaching caution, yet I talk about a 'feeling'.

Well, I'm also a punter (I prefer 'investor'), and I know about feelings. One of my very close friends is a 'feeling' punter, and I do not mean a hunch bettor.

When he bets, it is often that he has a feeling. Of course, all the other factors have to be going for the horse, especially the price. But he has an uncanny knack of knowing when the horse is right.

Last year, I mentioned the book Last Orders by Graham Swift (Picador). It's a novel, and the main character is a punter who bets when he feels the time is right. He is a 'lucky' punter and he has a set of rules that he loosely follows. But his rules can all be broken if the punter is 'lucky', he says, and he has various other let-outs for his bets.

It's a good story and the rules, which I mentioned some time back, are very, very sound.

I have had 'feelings', and at times they have come in. I have dreamt winners (two!). I have been at the track and known as clear as daylight what was going to happen, yet didn't take the winning trifecta because there was not enough logic attached.

To have a 'feeling' in racing is not something to be ashamed of, or to hide, so long as it happens infrequently, say, about five times in a year.

One 'feeling' horse home at 20 /1 beats five winning favourites any time, but 50 losing 'feelings' won't help your bank much.

It's all a matter of knowing when there is a good chance of the feeling being right, and any serious punter knows that what I am saying is true. Non-punters will simply shake their heads, but, my fellow columnists, Blackwell, Dowling and Hudson, will all nod in agreement. You feel it in your guts. You just know.

It's a punter's gift, and it is not to be abused, never to be overused, but to be recognised when it surfaces. You know with even greater certainty on those occasions when they jump, and you suddenly realise what you should have seen five minutes before.

Now to my final six rules:

Limit your betting to one code of racing (dogs, trots or gallops), and to no more than four major venues.
There is no future in spreading your net too wide, since usually you do not know enough about the aspects of the tracks, the riders, and all the other variables that go to make up the chances of your collecting.

I stick to Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, and maybe three times in a year I will bet at Perth.

But my main betting is at Sydney and Melbourne. I don't like betting on wet tracks. I don't like the straight tracks. I do like jumps and, after reading Leap Of Faith in last month's PPM (the second part is in this issue), I intend to look very hard at the Melbourne leapers. I have won good money on jumpers by being patient.

I don't like very short races (one slip and you're history), and I usually avoid two-year-olds until February.

If I go on, there will not be a lot left, but they are just some ideas off the top of my head. I know what I prefer, and I seek it out. Regular readers know I have problems with Rosehill's barriers, but I can bet wide barriers with confidence at Sandown.

Now if that isn't enough to occupy me, what is? So I stick to gallops, and to a selection of venues, and to races I think I can beat.  So should you.

Be alert.
Yeah, I know, your country needs lerts. I've heard that one too.

But, seriously, things happen in racing that ring bells. Suddenly there is a clue to the puzzle. You are looking at the fields, listening to the radio or watching the telly, and a clue drops into your lap. It happens. You remember something because of something that is said, or something you read. Or something happens that changes things.

For example, there is a late scratching. You had expected that horse to lead. Now a horse that you thought had a big chance, if it could lead, is going to be able to lead comfortably without being pressured.

Things have changed, but are you able to take advantage of that? You can't be blamed for not expecting the late scratching, but alertness might enable you to make a phone call and back an unexpected winner!

As I said, it happens.

Know what races are coming up, and when.
Have some idea of where the horse you are interested in is heading in its campaign. This can, I agree, be impossible, but not if you study the movements of the successful trainers. They tend to follow well-trodden paths.

Trainers like Bart Cummings, Lee Freedman, John Hawkes, John Meagher, Gai Waterhouse, Peter Hayes, etc., the toppies, enjoy the best advice and have developed the best experience in planning their horses' campaigns. They will often outline their charges' projected paths when interviewed (preferably not straight after the race, when all is in a state of flux), and you must not make the silly mistake of suspecting that you will be misled. Those days are
well past.

If you are a player who likes to bet with bookmakers, bet either early (before the races, accepting the top call), or very late, or with the agreement that you will get at least starting price.
I know that Bill Hurley, for one, will give you that privilege. There are others who will also do so and if they advise me of this I will publish the information. So long as you bet before the odds are up, and you are an established client, Bill will give you the best price called. If you bet during the betting time, by phone, he will guarantee you starting price if your horse starts better than the odds you take.

If you cannot do either of those things, then at least try to bet late, as more than 80 per cent of all horses in major city races drift in the betting and, believe it or not, more winners drift than firm.

This is because the opening prices are very tentative. Bookies' information is the best you can get, but there is still the chance that they don't know something and, anyway, why not clean up money from punters who are prepared to bet at odds that are quite clearly under correct chances?

Have a price below which you will never bet.
It may be even-money, it may be 3 / 1. It may be anything, but be realistic. Statsman often places betting restrictions on his magnificent systems. He often limits the betting to, say, 5/4 to 11 /2, or perhaps he will accept no double figures. He is a fanatical seeker of value, and what he sees as value is simply this: maximum return on the dollar. So, while 100/1 winners will interest him, he will, on occasions, write them out of the equation, as he is
sure they will not occur.

Why chase the impossible when the possible tastes so sweet?

The final strategy is one of the major ones. Saved for last.

Stick with the top riders.
I have said on other occasions (once elsewhere in this issue) that the best riders win most of the best races, and that they also win the majority of all city races. Look at any Saturday set of results and you will see that's so.

If in doubt, check Sportsman's list of the leading riders in the various States. If your selection isn't being piloted by a leading hoop, you have to ask yourself why. A stable rider? Do you know him? How many races has he won in town this season? Would you trust him on Might And Power or Dignity Dancer?

The odds have to justify the risk, and if this rider has any weaknesses in his claims, he might not be worthy of your wallet's attention. You will have to demand a good price, even if the horse otherwise has strong claims. A top jockey is worth several kilos (or a couple of lengths) to a horse in perhaps five or six of the eight races run at main tracks every weekend.

If you doubt this, imagine I. Mopeless on Might And Power, or B. Orful on Dignity Dancer. Jim Cassidy would massacre them in any battle of skill, tactics, or in any test of endurance. 'Top riders' is one of the few certainties of racing: at least we do know who they are!

This has been a long series but I hope you've enjoyed it, and maybe gathered some ideas for the ongoing battle.

Click here to read Part 3.
Click here to read Part 2.
Click here to read Part 1.

By The Optimist