I was looking through past issues of PPM recently and I started to count the systems. I stopped at 407 and I don't think I even scraped the surface.

The one thing they all seemed to have in common was a determination to make money, to win at racing.

I have resorted to a method, rather than a rigid system, to get my own betting back on the level, after the worst year for selecting individual winners that I have had in the past eight.

Yes, I too have bad years, and I surely did in 1998. I had more second places than I have ever experienced.

In an effort to get out of the mire, and level up my betting until I sort out what went wrong in 1998, I have gone back to basic principles, which are not special but are very, very essential to understanding the whole business of race betting.

I have no back-up figures because this is not a system; it is a PLAN or METHOD. There is a difference in approach between the two concepts: a system is a set of rules that will come up with specific selections, while a PLAN of attack is a METHOD that will DIRECT the bettor to a certain set of procedures.

However, with a method ' I may end up with different selections from yours. That, anyway, is my idea of the difference between a system and a plan or method.


  • When it comes to handicapping races, we can receive a specific hint from the ultimate unbiased professional the course handicapper. Today, he has instant access to the world's best information.
  • The handicapper is the best judge of relative abilities. He is the one who considers all the conditions of the race, then applies the penalties and allowances. No favours, no friends, just the facts relating to this specific event.
  • Generally, horses weighted near the top of handicaps are the best horses and the most consistent winners.
  • Only top riders win consistently. An apprentice may, on rare occasions, be clearly acceptable, but usually your guide is the jockeys' table. Freakish winners do not feature on that table.
  • In town, the top trainers win most of the races at all levels. It is an overlooked fact that these trainers' horses win the mediocre weekend and midweek metropolitan races as well as the big stuff. If a trainer flukes one great horse, he still won't be a premiership contender. And you will know about that top horse anyway.
  • With a handful of exceptions, horses without form do not win races.
  • With another handful of exceptions, older horses do not win without previously having performed similarly, in similar conditions at similar stages of preparations.
  • Losers keep on losing, even when they run a race that suggests a win is near.
  • Winners keep winning. Win percentages do matter.
  • Horses drawn badly rarely win. The saying that a bad barrier only lengthens the price of a good thing is only half right. It does lengthen the price (sometimes). It can also makes the good thing an ordinary thing.
  • Another stupid saying is that a big field only makes a good thing a better price. Again, only half right. The price often expands, and the horse often loses because of some interference that would not have occurred in a smaller field.
  • If you think you can bet on every race and win, you are a mental case.

So, to tighten up the old screws for 1999, and to simply apply something to what we already know, try this. It's close to what I am doing at present:

  • Only bet on handicap races for horses aged three and above.
  • Only bet on those races when there are no special conditions attached (these, when they apply, will be listed above the field, and will say something like "penalties and allowances").
  • Eliminate all horses that are handicapped more than 3kg below the topweight. If the topweight has no form at all, apply this idea to the second topweight.
  • Delete any horse not trained by a top trainer and ridden neither by a top rider or the stable rider who is proven.
  • Never bet in fields of more than 12 runners after scratchings.
  • Restrict your betting to three or four races in one or two centres on any day.
  • Do not back a horse that has not won at the track and over the distance, with a margin for reasonable proximity (e.g. 100 metres or so either way).
  • Do not back a horse that has not won carrying very close to today's weight.
  • Delete all runners drawn to start from worse than barrier eight. (Barrier nine, if it's your lucky number.) Just be restrictive.
  • Delete any horse with a win percentage below 20.
  • Finally, if your horse has not won for a year, forget it. Few manage it after they forget how.

So, we have yet another method. Not infallible, but it will weed out most of the deadwood.

By The Optimist