As this is the third part of our series on Vital Signs, you might have to go back and have a glance through the first 18 of our 25 vital signs. Anyway, let’s get on with it because we’ve only got one page left.

One of the most important signs of all is knowing when to take a break. As a matter of fact, most of the vital signs that I’ve saved for this page have a little bit of the psychological about them, so you might need to look in the mirror once or twice and promise faithfully to answer truthfully when the questions are posed.

Taking a break is tremendously important in any field of endeavour. As far as racing is concerned, whether you know it or not, there is a stress factor which builds and builds. This means that, again without knowing it, you can get uptight and make decisions that you wouldn’t make if you allowed yourself a holiday now and then.

I experienced something of a break recently when I had to attend a wedding on a Saturday afternoon. Fortunately for me, the racing was pretty forgettable. Anyway, these days we have such enormous advantages with recordings and the Sunday morning playbacks. Would you believe that even one afternoon away from live information was quite therapeutic? I felt a little bit like a youngster wagging school when I looked at my watch and realised that, at the very moment when vows were being exchanged, the main race was being run in one of the capital cities.

I had decided earlier in the day that it was more than my life was worth to try to secrete a small portable radio into my suit pocket; and so I gritted my teeth and did what I was supposed to do.

Taking a break doesn’t necessarily have to correspond with your annual holidays, although that’s probably as good an idea as I can come up with at the moment. If you are a weekend punter, it might be better to take a break from weekend racing two or three times a year, when it is obvious that you are not going to miss anything of enormous significance that weekend.

Anyway, the choice is yours and some of you might make it the Christmas to New Year period, whilst others would never get through that couple of weeks without a trip to the TAB.

The next vital sign of a comfortable punter is never being rushed. Try to remain as calm as possible, especially while you are making your selections and while you are placing your bets. This is easier said than done, but if you feel a thumping in your chest or you get very angry when your horse loses, it might be about time to have a look at your entire approach.

It can be just as bad when you are winning as when you are losing. There is always a big risk of getting quite excited when you are on a winning cycle and throwing in some quinellas and trifectas that you hadn’t chosen earlier in the day; but now that you are as high as a kite, everything looks so much easier.

Well, it isn’t any easier than it ever was, and if you allow yourself to be rushed you may pay the penalty. I remember when the TAB was a little younger it used to always try to spook punters into “getting on” before races closed. It was terribly difficult (at least I found it so), to maintain totally calm composure with the bleating warnings as to how long before a race was closing. Now, being able to bet right down to the wire, we should be able to set our own pace.

Carrying on from this, the next vital sign of a complete punter is Confidence. Incidentally, if you were to say that several of these vital signs overlap, I would be the first to agree with you. They are all part of the psychological shell that every successful punter needs to build for himself.

Confidence doesn’t necessarily mean that you think you are going to win every race on the program or even that you are going to win today. It actually means having confidence that your approach is as efficient and as effective as you can make it. You have honed your skills to the finest points possible, and you are single-mindedly certain that, while there is always a lot more to learn, you have done the best by yourself at this moment.

And so we come to Patience. My good old regular readers would have been expecting this one to turn up and I’m going to give it, and the one that follows, two points each, to show you how important I believe they are. Patience, emanating from some of the vital signs we’ve just been looking at, and for any balanced punter who really wants to win, is probably the most significant sign of all.

I’ve never known a successful impatient punter. Read that again if you are a new chum. This old bloke with all his years in racing has never known even one successful impatient punter. Short term, sure. Long term? Never.

Finally, associated with everything else in racing comes Nerve. Nerve is what you must hold onto. You have to trust yours. You can only do that if you know that absolutely everything you could do to make a winning bet has been made. Lose your nerve and you’ve had it!

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

By The Optimist