Succeeding at racing is all about gaining an advantage. You need to get an edge over other punters, over the bookies and the tote. Accomplishing it is not easy, but, as we've outlined before in PPM, there are ways to go about it.

The following collection of helpful hints has been accumulated over many years by myself and others. Some of  them you may already be aware of, others I'm sure you'll find useful.

A: Adjust your schedule so that you never have to hurry your selecting. Too often, punters rush to the track or the TAB unprepared and throw down their money. Don't fall into this habit. If money is worth betting, then bet it wisely.

B: Betting haphazardly puts you at an immediate disadvantage. You'll plunge at the wrong time on the wrong horses. Decide what you want to bet and how much to bet, and stick to that amount. Knowing how much you will bet provides you with psychological stability.

C: Carelessness can be costly. Noticing a vital factor AFTER the race is not good enough. Take your time analysing a race. Go through all the factors. Leave no piece of form unturned. If it takes too long, perhaps the race is just too difficult?

D: Don't expect to find a bet in every race. The idea that you'll have a small bet just to have something running will be a slow but sure drain on your capital. Those small bets add up. After a year, you'll be shocked at how much you've frittered away.

E: Every race has its share of erratic, undependable horses. Horses with in-and-out form are not worth your time. Waiting for them to cause an upset can send you broke. Be smart and cross them out.

F: Form horses are always the best for any punter. Horses that can be judged on their consistency are good propositions. A good gauge is 40 to 50 per cent 'in the money' at the current race level. Give these horses your full attention. Consider the predictable, forget the unpredictable.

G: Good, solid bets are not easy to find, so don't be discouraged if you have to devote a great deal of time and still can't find a play. In the long run, patience is an asset. Try to develop patience. Never bet just for the sake of betting.

H: Heavy betting should only be done if you have the money to do it without betting 'scared money'. Always bet within your means. It's amazing how many punters bet beyond their means.

I: Intentionally overlooking a fault in a horse's makeup or form, just to have a bet, is a bad habit and one that's hard to break. Prove to yourself the folly of this habit, note every time you do it and then see how much you've thrown away. It might cure you.

J: Jumps races can, despite what many people claim, be good betting avenues. The percentage of winning favourites is often higher than on flat races. The horses tend to run true to form and only a small percentage fall.


K: Keep a cool head when you're in the middle of a losing run. Try not to get panicky or to lose faith in yourself. The fact that a horse loses doesn't need to mean that all your figures were wrong. Ill-luck may have stopped many of your bets. Check on why your selections failed.

L: Laying odds-on can be fraught with danger. Ask yourself if you really want to take very short odds about a selection. Is it worth it? Can you find better value elsewhere? Long-term, betting horses at odds-on is a losing proposition unless you can eliminate the underlays. Odds-on, hands-off.

M: Maybe is not good enough. If you think a horse is maybe good enough to win, then start to think twice about putting your money on. 'Maybe' it can run the distance or carry the weight is not good enough. Too many maybe's spell trouble. Don't guess.

N: Never get sentimental over a horse. Okay, he won for you, but that's no reason to back him next start. The next race is a totally different thing. No two races are alike. A winner one day is often a loser the next. If your favourite horse doesn't measure up, cross him out.

O: Only by analysing a race as carefully as possible can you hope to meet with some measure of success. Try not to stray too far from the solid principles of handicapping, like Consistency, Class, Current Form, Distance ability,  Track ability, Weight, Jockey, Trainer and Barrier.

P: Post position can be vital. Study barrier positions carefully arid weigh rip which runners are likely to be advantaged by their draw. If your bet has a poor barrier draw, it might well be worth thinking twice about it, or lowering your bet.

Q: Quitters don't change. If a horse shows a lack of courage, he's unlikely to change. Don't waste your money on weak-willed horses.

R: Reliability extends to you, the punter, as well as to the horses you should be selecting. Make yourself a reliable form assessor and bettor. Be happy to bet on your own judgement.

S: Speed alone, even in sprints, is not always enough to get a horse home in front of the field. Look for horses with speed and stamina Look for horses that can produce late sprints even after a hot pace.

T: Trainers are all-important. Winning trainers get the best horses and they know how to place them. Give added bonuses to winning trainers.

U: Upsets will always happen. Get used to them. Accept them. But don't go looking for them every race. You're handicapping the race and not the prices.

V: Very few people will give you credit for the winners you pick. They'll ignore the hard work and say it's all down to luck. Don't let that bother you. You know it wasn't all luck.

W: Wishful thinking is just that. Wishing for winners is not going to help your strike rate. You must be totally serious about your betting. Read everything you can find that might be helpful.

X: This marks the spot where we advise that you should not expect to get rich playing the races. Sure, look for profits, but don't go expecting dollars to rain from the sky. Set your goals with modest targets in mind. Build steadily.

Y: You are the most important player in the game. You are the decision-maker who sets off the chain of events that lead to profits or defeat. Always remember that. You can never learn too much.

Z: Zero is the figure you should learn to loathe. It's what you will achieve if you ignore the rules of sensible handicapping.

By Mark Merrick