Sometimes, the simplest aspects of racing defeat the ordinary punter. I could cite money management as an example. Reduced to its basic level - flat stakes - betting is an easily operable form of activity.

Yet a vast majority of punters cannot deal with it. They will continue to spray bets here, there and everywhere, in varying sizes of investment, with no pattern in mind, and certainly no real objective to be gained.

But this article is more about 'housekeeping' than managing your money, although this is a direct outcome of the first. What I want to talk about, and make a strong point about, is the keeping of records. Not only of your betting, but of your observations.

A simple notebook is all you need. Nothing more. No grand computers worth thousands of dollars, no laptops, no databases and such like! Just a simple notebook, spiral-bound preferably, which you can buy from your local store for a couple of dollars.

Go 'plusher' if you like and get one with an ear-marked alphabetical index down the side but it's not really  necessary. My own notebook is a cheap spiralbound publication and it serves me well. I fill one up every few weeks.

All my notebooks are carefully filed away.

But what goes into such a notebook? What can you write in it that will serve a useful purpose in the future, so far as your betting life is concerned? Well, in short, LOTS can go into it, and yet it won't be a time-consuming task. Far from it.

I jot down all sorts of information in my notebook. Sometimes I will clip an item from the newspaper, or perhaps from Sportsman, and paste it in as well. I also make sure I take my notebook to the races with me. After each race I write down my observations on what happened, and jot down the names of horses that turned in good runs.

Later, I will make a special point of checking on these horses when I look at my video replays. Many times, my first observation is proved right, i.e. the horse was unlucky, it stormed home from an impossible position, its jockey rode poorly, and so on.

Sometimes, obviously, I saw more the first time than was really happening. The video reveals that the initial notebook jotting was a bit over the top. That's OK. I expect that to happen, though hopefully not too often.

If I forget my notebook, I will use my race programme or my copy of Best Bets to write down my remarks. Why Best Bets? Easy. It's a handy size, not cumbersome, and there is plenty of room to write in what I think.

Back home, I transcribe the comments from Best Bets to the trusty notebook.

Each page of the notebook is headed with the date of the meeting. I do this in bright, coloured felt pen. This is important because when I want to check back on a horse I will use the date of the meeting as a quick reference point.

Let's have a quick run-through of the comments I made at recent meetings:


R1: Rainbow Ribbons, strong 200m run to win, worth following.

R6: Super Dane, ** late run impressive.

R7: Secret Meeting, ** late run very good.


R2: Rosettie Gold, ** late bid.

R5: Miss Tessla, bold run* 2nd, keep following.

R7: Perfect Bound, ** late run to win; stick.

R7: Profit Taker, well back 600m; keep following.

R7: Sandridge Bay, ** late bid.


R1: Noise, easy win! Follow.

R1: Winning Endgame, strong late bid but well beaten.

R8: Now Is The Hour, led by 6 lens, weaker class needed?

Now, I am not saying that all these remarks will lead me to nextstart winners. I don't expect that at all. What I am doing is reminding myself, by instant note-taking, of my observations from watching races at these venues.

When they race again, I will remember them. I can flip open the notebook to see what I had to say. I am relying on no-one else's opinion. Just my own. It's the one I trust the most, believe me!

In the same way, you can become your own 'expert' by jotting down what you think in the same way I do. In time, your notebooks will become fact-filled files of vital information.

Of course, you need other opinions, too. Which is why I comb the daily newspapers and the formguides for snippets of information. You'd be surprised how much information you can pick up.

A trick I use is to check the bottom half of the newspaper articles. Ignore the headline material for a start. Usually, among the final paragraphs of a story you will stumble on a little gem of information and, because it's buried at the foot of an article, most punters will miss it.

They will make a mental note of the main headline part of the article, but rarely will they read the lot, thinking possibly that if it's at the end of the story it can't be worth knowing. How wrong they are.

When you see items of interest, either clip them out and paste them in your notebook, or jot down the gist of what they're about. You might even consider having a second notebook for news items and clippings.

If you're a computer user, you will be able to access a database of form and results and keep a 'black book' on your computer. Of course, this costs money. Good ratings' services don't come cheap. But there is still much value to be had.

The Rating Bureau's service has a facility whereby you can keep a Black Book section of your own. Whenever you want to 'tag' a horse to follow, all you do is go into the Black Book section, type in the horse's name and whatever comments you wish to make, and that's it.

When the horse races, you see its name highlighted in black, so there's no chance you'll overlook it.

I know, though, that 95 per cent of punters are not yet tooled up for using their computers for racing. The day is fast approaching, though, when that percentage will fall. More and more punters are beginning to realise the potential and the financial value of computerised information.

In the meantime, I urge you all to do yourselves a favour and get a notebook. Take the time, just a few minutes a day really, to make your comments, paste your clippings, and keep your notebook up to date.

And if you don't want the bother of a notebook? Okay! Use a copy of Best Bets, write down your notes inside, and file it away. These are pocket-sized guides and they don't take up much space.

Believe me, in the long run you will never regret posting information to yourself! You can be a winner, so don't let yourself down by relying on your memory alone. If you're only half-serious about your betting, and treat it more as a hobby, it can still be a lot of fun to do your own notebooking.

Click here to read Part 1.

By Martin Dowling