Let's start with what they call the "disclaimer". Most of my plunges have failed. If you're still reading, it means you are either an understanding type, or that you really do understand.

I've gone so close on so many occasions and sometimes watched my jockey murder my plans, or sometimes seen him ride the perfect race and be beaten by a better horse on the day. I've got more reasons for losing plunges than you have time to read about them.

Now, having got that out of the way and got rid of any illusions that this might be an easy game, what about the good ones?

My first plunge was when I was about 13. I've told my long-suffering readers about this before. It was when Uncle Henry took me to the races, that memorable day I've told you about several times, when we were supposed to be at Moore Park playing cricket. I guess if we are to blame anybody, we have to blame Uncle Henry for whatever happened after that.

Anyway, I had a grand time at Randwick that day. I knew where we were going as early as the Friday morning and sol had to surreptitiously study the form, such as it was then. From memory, Uncle Henry had left me his copy of Newsletter (memory can play tricks and it might have been something else), and I had to be very careful that my Auntie Maisie didn't spot it.

Blazeaway was the horse. How can you ever forget your first winner? I had ten bob with me, quite a fortune in those days, and I had decided that five bob would go on Blazeaway. One of the things that surprised me was how long we had between races; it's only the regular racegoers who are able to fill in that time (besides, of course, the party people who aren't there for the racing).

I can still remember, after all these years, closely studying the bookmakers" boards and the mechanical tote. Somebody finally offered 8/1 and I pounced. The bookmaker's clerk took one look down at me and said "Sorry kid, you’re too young!"

A kindly punter who had been standing next to me took my five shillings and placed it for me. Nobody cared, so long as the law wasn’t broken. Blazeaway won easily and I collected (actually, a very impressed Uncle Henry collected for me), four pounds and my five shillings stake. You never forget that first win, do you?

On to the big time. My next memory, at least for today, is of my Dormobile (that's a campervan in England, they look like Mr Whippy), blowing up just before we were to leave on an extensive tour of Scotland. I was devastated and the price of a new reconditioned engine installed in this Bedford was around the hundred pounds mark, which was a fortune. There was a three horse race for two-year-olds somewhere or other that week, and I had been watching a junior called Mummy's Pet. I thought he was a natural front runner and I couldn't see the other two giving him a start and a beating, but every penny counted and I couldn't see how I was going to have a bet on him either.

Anyway, the punter in me won. The fave was odds on. The second fave was evens. Pre-post, Mummy's Pet was 33/1. What could a bloke do? I had three pounds, a hundred to three with the fraction, and Mummy's Pet led comfortably all the way, decimating the other two and winning me my new engine. Keen breeding students will recognise Mummy’s Pet: he went on to become quite a famous sire.

I'm skipping a few Cups" joys in my life, like the victory of Light Fingers in 1965, and a few of my greatest tragedies such as the defeat of Leilani after she had won the Caulfield Cup in 1974 (I did have 33/1). I had her running for $10,000 as a Cups'double. We'll move to 1992. I was very keen on Mannerism for the Caulfield Cup and I actually had a bet of 40/1 early on. But my bigger bet which took my wife and me to London for the new year sales was the double into Dubzero.

I've always since then had a soft spot for Shane Dye, who ran second in both those races and arguably should have won them both. To this day I have no idea why he went down the outside fence at Caulfield. And while I was confident about Subzero at Flemington, the truth is that a combination of the weather and Shane's decisions possibly assisted me there, too.

The Mannerism win was by a nostril (Veandercross should have won by a length and a half) but Subzero was well and truly home when Veandercross came into the race. I forget what my final collect was 15 years ago, but it was around the twenty grand mark for an outlay of $30.

As usual I've gone over and we haven't even got to 1996. Let's talk about that next month. I'll indicate why I’ve been trying to repeat it for the past decade and haven't quite managed and you never know, it might just help you bring off a nice plunge somewhere down the line.

Click here to read Part 2.

By The Optimist