Most punters know that it's silly to bet on every race and yet they continue to do it, week in and year out.

Unless you're a cool professional punter, or a very keen amateur, you like to go to the races for an afternoon's sport and entertainment and if you win a few dollars you're happy; if you lose you shrug your shoulders and say it was money well spent.

I'm like you in many ways. I go to the races every Saturday and I have a lot of bets. Difference is, though, that I win. Not always but enough times to keep a smile on my face.

How do I do it? Well, I play the percentages and I'm careful about what I bet on. That's all, though. The rest is action, action, and more action.

I take $100 with me to each race meeting but the most I care to lose on any one day is a bit less than that. I get angry with myself if I lose everything!

Normally, I'd have to bet only $75 of the $100 bank, keeping $25 in reserve for really bad days, or when I fancy an extraordinary bet.

What I do is this: I split the $75 into five $10 win bets and I always ensure they are sound, solid selections, not 'wild card' hunch bets.

I also have three $2 win bets in races where I don't really fancy any horses a great deal but I don't just want to sit there and watch them go round the course.

I'll have $5 on one moderately good selection, a $4 speculation on a double and a $10 bet on an attractive trifecta (I might take a key box trifecta with my main selection to win and five others to run the 2nd and 3rd placings; at 50 cents a unit this costs $10).

On an average day I'll cash at least two $10 win bets at around 7-2 and 2-1 and these cover my total $75 outlay. Anything else that I happen to pick up is gravy for the plate.

Of course, I have to say here and now that not every week is gravy week, but I usually manage to at least get my money back, or close to it, anyway. I frequently manage to cash one or two of those $2 `just to have some action' bets, too.

So how do I make my selections? There are five basic ways I think you can determine which horse, or horses, have the best winning prospects in a given race.

First, you have to determine which horse has the best class and the best form. With this in mind you are likely to end up with the favourites in most races.

Then you try to eliminate all horses, bar one, because of what I call a `fatal flaw' in their makeup. This is what is known as the `nothing has a chance except X' theory.

From the logical contenders, you can bet on those horses whose odds offer the biggest overlay in relation to what you consider are the true odds. There are other articles in Practical Punting Monthly which refer to this method of approach.

Another angle is to follow certain horses which you know to be sound, well-trained and which possess courage under pressure. This is a great method if you are a full-time punter and can spend a lot of time studying all aspects of racing and form.

The fifth idea is to bet on any horse which fulfills certain conditions. This is used by those punters who adhere to system betting.

All these ideas have merit, so I spent a lot of hours trying to piece them together to filter out all the best points to compile my own selection process.

Firstly, I eliminate all the garbage in a race. These are horses with no form and out of their class. Next, I eliminate the bad percentage bets - horses which I know have negative aspects which, while not denying them all chance of winning, result in a disproportionate number of defeats.

The following are some of these bad percentage angles:


  1. A horse bandaged in front, particularly if you know that it does not usually wear bandages.
  2. A horse that sweats between the hind legs. Look for large white areas inside the flanks.
  3. A filly or mare racing against colts or geldings. The only exception is when she is up against weak colts or geldings.
  4. A horse which has not had a race within the last month.
  5. A horse carrying 57 kgs or more, unless his form indicates he has won carrying a similar impost.
  6. A horse that has won only one race and done little since.

Now, after all those negatives, I look for the positives.

  1. A horse that ran home well at its previous start.
  2. A horse with a high percentage of wins and placings during its career.
  3. A horse possessing speed but which was short of condition at its previous outing after a long spell, and is now running in a class below that which it raced in last time.
  4. On rain-affected tracks, I look for horses which have shown bold winning form on similar going.
  5. A leading trainer with only one runner at a meeting.
  6. A top contender ridden by a top jockey. If a top trainer is involved then all the better.

At this point, I have sorted out the key contenders. Now I have to make the final judgement.

Which ones are coming into form, which are ready to go downhill? What do I remember about patterns in their previous performances? Are there track specialists among them, horses which excel at that particular track?

I look for young horses who have shown signs of rapid improvement and I look for stables that are `in form' with lots of recent winners.

I am a bit suspicious of horses dropping in class, although at times this can be most meaningful.

Trimmed down again, I have the last list of contenders.

Now I look at the odds available. Twothirds of all races are won by horses priced at 6-1 and under. I like my bets to be in the 2-1 to 6-1 range.

Anything less than 2s has to be a real standout bet. At even money I start looking for a horse at 5-1 for a possible upset.

My main love is looking for the second or third pick against a favourite that I regard as a bad percentage bet. I also like the favourites at about 2-1 when they have a lot of positives going for them.

These are the horses on which I have my $10 bets.

By Quentin Richardson