The problem with trying to pick a winner is that too often human bias creeps into your selection process. This is one of the major reasons small punters lose money they don’t need to lose and the astute professionals stay ahead of the game.

While there are countless methods on how to find the winner of a given race – some effective, some little more than a stab in the dark – I’ve always felt the best means of finding the winner is by eliminating the losers.

That is those horses that simply can’t win. I’m not alone in this philosophy but how you eliminate the also-rans is the subject of much debate among form students.

For the past decade at least, I’ve stuck with something I call the “Advantage Receiver” method because it brings into account facts and figures that can’t be argued and allows the handicapper – the expert employed to know the form – to help you out.

The method only works in open handicaps and restricted handicaps from Class 3 upwards. Disregard all set weight races at any level. The size of the field is a matter for personal choice and how desperate you are for a bet but the preferred size should be above 10 runners.

Okay, first things first. Put a line through every horse on the minimum unless it’s a two- or three-year-old racing against older horses. I don’t care how good its form is, if it hasn’t done enough to get even half a kilo above the minimum, it’s out.

This can often eliminate a favoured “gunna” which may be in good, promising form but is a serious risk because of its lack of success. This aspect often eliminates between four and five runners from the average 12 horse handicap.

Next, take out all horses beaten more than six lengths at their last start – if on the same track surface. This still leaves in many runners that couldn’t get a clear run or battled away in a big field for 14th place and weren’t that far from the winner. You have to draw the line somewhere and my line is six lengths.

Finally, take out every horse that doesn’t have a 15 per cent win strike rate AND 40 per cent place ratio. The reason for this is simple.

It gets rid of those triers that promise to deliver but just keep finding a way to get beaten and it also does away with the inconsistent types that win every five or six starts but can’t be relied upon to put in a good run often enough.

Make no mistake about it. This method will occasionally eliminate the winner – usually the inconsistent runner with a 20 per cent win strike rate and 25 per cent place strike rate – but it will save you a lot more money by ensuring you don’t throw money away on horses that are just a bad risk.

The positive is that it will often throw up a winner at huge odds that you may have otherwise overlooked – the type carrying 56.5kg with a duck egg next to its name despite being beaten four lengths in similar company at its previous start. If its strike rate is good enough, at least you know it knows how to win.

This elimination method can reduce a field right down to one or two runners, which effectively makes the decision for you. Even when it leaves as many as eight runners out of a huge field of around 20, though, it helps you identify the horses more likely to figure for multiple forms of betting.

If you consider the money some people invest blindly on a trifecta by including many runners for second place and the field for third, it can save you a lot of money and allow you to attack more races.

My suggestion is that you don’t include the discards for third money in a trifecta, even though it may be tempting, so you don’t get bloused by a bolter.

You will save money in the long run for two reasons – you’ll lose a lot less when your selections don’t come in and you won’t have to wait forever for that outsider to inflate your dividend. After all, there’s nothing worse than putting the field in for third only to have the 2/1 favourite fill the place.

Narrowing the field to one runner is a task I leave to you – or at least another time. If the remaining number of runners is too wide, give the race a miss.

If you’re happy backing two or three runners, and there’s profit in a successful outcome, then back those horses for a win only to achieve an equal return.

So it’s horses above the minimum that haven’t been beaten out of sight at their last start. And remember, 15-40 or advantage receiver.

By Shane McNally