From time to time it's pertinent when discussing punting to go over the key factors which usually determine which horses will win and be placed. Too many punters forget these 'basics' of racehorse betting.

Summed up, we can list them. as: Class, Consistency, Fitness. But added to these are a host of other variables that you must also take into account along with class, consistency and fitness. These are the key factors.

For instance, you must look at how long since a horse had its last start. Track experience has it that 'hot' gallopers will be racing again wit' iin a week. The thinking here is that if you have a horse in top fitness, and which is racing well, you don't keep him at home in the stable you race him!

Statistics show that few horses win which haven't started within the previous 28 days. There are exceptions, of course, because some horses do race well fresh from a spell, and some-like Kate's Myth-can come back and win after a break of 18 months!

Always take into careful consideration whether a horse has had recent racing. Be biased in favour of those which had their last start within the previous 14 days.

Then there's the key factor of distance suitability. A horse may have class, consistency and fitness on its side but if it is placed over an unsuitable distance it is unlikely to win. Most horses are bred for certain distances and only a few can mix sprints and staying races successfully. Check on a horse's past performances to see if it suited by the distance of the race it is tackling.

Next factor is weight-probably one of the most important factors, because weight is a lynchpin of handicap racing. The more weight a horse has to carry the harder its task; it's as simple as that. Weight can beat any horse, no matter what its class or ability.

As horses win, or perform well, they are given more weight. Be very wary of any horse which is asked to carry 2.5kgs or more on the weight it carried at its last start--except when it is dropping substantially in class.

Barrier draw is also to be taken into consideration. At most tracks, a wide draw can severely affect any horse's winning chance. Take a field of 18, say, at Randwick over the 1000m and you'll always see that those drawn outside do it tough. The same thinking applies to other tracks and other distances.

Then there are key factors like jockeys, trainers, a horse's price, and whether or not it is likely to be suited by the actual pace of the race. It's a good idea to have a key factor chart in front of you when you assess any race.

Some time back in P.P.M. we had an article called The Tick Test, in which my colleague Brian Blackwell posed 12 important questions for punters to consider when analysing a race. They bear repeating in this article:


  1. Is the horse fit?
  2. Is the horse racing in form, or closely approaching his best form?
  3. Is the horse reasonably well weighted?
  4. Can the horse handle the track?
  5. Are the track conditions suitable?
  6. Is the horse racing at the right distance?
  7. Is the horse drawn well at the barrier?
  8. Is the horse in the hands of a successful trainer?
  9. Is the horse to be ridden by a very good jockey, or a top and reliable apprentice?
  10. Is the horse racing in its correct Class?
  11. Is the horse on the first four lines of pre-post betting?
  12. Do you think the race will be run to suit this horse?

As well as the key factors concerning the horses themselves, there is the further issue of choosing the right races on which to bet. Are you going to bet on them all, or just a couple, a half dozen, or maybe just three or four? Some races are difficult to analyse because of poor quality, too much quality, or simply lack of form (early 2yo. races, for example).

Finally, there's the matter of exactly how you go about selecting a horse to win a race. Quite often, it's a most useful exercise to find all the horses which cannot win! Get them out of the way first and then concentrate on the rest of the field.

You do this by looking firstly at all horses listed from 20/1 out to 100/1, or whatever is the longest price quoted for the race. You can usually eliminate about one third of the runners, which then n-takes your task far easier to find the main chances.

A field of 15 can usually be cut down to just 10 runners and this is where you can rigidly apply the key factors we have already discussed in this article. Look for horses running at unsuitable distances, horses with big weight rises, horses drawn badly, horses which don't seem to like the track, or the going, horses to be ridden by ordinary jockeys and those from stables which rarely win.

This second procedure should eliminate five of the 10 remaining runners, leaving you with the prime list of winning candidates. You then have the choice of which one to bet, or which ones to bet on, or you can leave the race alone if you feel it's just too hard, and that there isn't much value in it because of the tightness of the prices.

Successful punters are rarely found betting on every race. Remember that when you are rushing around like mad at a race meeting, betting here, there and everywhere!

By Martin Dowling