Last month I finished the first part of a ‘double header’ by discussing the key areas of fitness and specialisation.

I cannot imagine two better areas for the beginning punter to seriously consider before embarking on a lifetime journey on the punt. Why keep kicking yourself by betting in areas of dubious value when you can bet in areas where you can be virtually an expert? What type of doctor do you have the most confidence in? Your local GP or a specialist? It’s a no brainer, isn’t it!

The word most bandied around in the gambling world is surely “value”. If I had one cent for every time I have read the word in a betting context I would own half of Australia.

It’s also a word I have come to despise due to the many hours I have spent trying to conquer it in just over 40 years of betting. Perhaps there has been one easier approach I could have adopted that may well have saved me all this time? Firstly, though, let’s just reiterate what the concept of value is about.

If you receive \$2.20 for every bet you have when a coin is tossed, regardless of whether you select heads or tails, you will win. Based on the mathematical premise that the true odds of a coin toss is 1/1 or \$2.00 it can be reasoned that in every 100 spins you will be correct 50 times.

If \$2.20 is multiplied by 50 the answer is \$110 therefore you have made \$10 profit or 10 per cent profit on turnover.

Conversely if you receive \$1.80 per spin you would receive only \$90 for a 10 per cent loss on turnover. The issue of value in these examples is quite simple; however, when calculating the odds of racehorses assigning a correct price that will guarantee a profit over 100 bets is another matter. How can you prove the horse you priced is value at 2/1 or 3/1 or 5/1? The fact is, you cannot pre-race and it is only after 100 bets on 100 horses you priced at 2/1 that you can tell if you were right. The problem is you have outlaid the monies and you stand or fall accordingly.

In my years of often manic form study I have come across thousands of sets of statistics. The one that stands out as THE most consistent over quite a few massive studies ranging back to the late 1940s is the SP (Starting Price) figure.

Horses that start at 1/1 (50 per cent) win about 47- 48 per cent of the time,  2/1 chances (33.33 per cent) win about 30 per cent, 3/1 chances (25 per cent) win about 22 per cent and so on until we get close to the double figure odds of 10/1 or longer where the gap widens to the point that 50/1 chances (2 per cent) win less than 1 per cent.

What this means is that on well-fancied horses the public is amazingly accurate in sorting out the order because favourites win more races than second favourites, who win more races than third favourites and so it goes on all the way down the pecking order.

The public is also amazingly correct at the assessment of the chances of a horse winning overall at the top end of the market but obviously there are times when the market is clearly wrong. So what is the way to go? My thought is that the punter simply needs to say, “I am not accepting less than 2/1 or 3/1 or 4/1 or whatever about ANY horse no matter whether it is Tulloch or a maiden in the bush.” It is up to the punter to decide where, in the long run, the line in the sand about value is to be drawn.

Some punters will not accept less than 5/1 any horse while others are prepared to accept 3/1. It’s in the eye, or mind, of the beholder. To a horde of Don Scott fans brought up on a diet of setting a price against each horse and only betting when the received odds are equal to or greater than the assessment, this is like suggesting watered down poison is acceptable depending on the amount of water.

Years ago I threw all my Don Scott assessment sheets into the bin after another frustrating day of missing reasonably priced winners by even as low as a quarter of a point. I knew the winners I dropped were sensible prices but because of my calculations they were not backed.

In the finish I simply decided I would accept the market’s assessment. I might add that even as recently as a year ago I was prepared to accept short prices about some horses but if I had set a minimum 2/1 rule I would have saved myself quite a bit of loot. You really, really need to be so careful at the favourites end – so can I suggest you seriously think about the simple minimum acceptable price scenario I have presented. Trust me when I say it will save you becoming a punting stress ball.

The late EJ Minnis published a series of article in PPM where he quite clearly showed that backing horses that race within the first four win more races than those that get back in the field. This is not a great revelation because when we sit down and think about it, it just makes sense – yet time after time clearcut get-back types start at amazingly short odds. Why is this so?

The answer is a bit more complex than simply suggesting punters have been mesmerised by the runs of horses making up copious amounts of ground and either winning or being good things beaten. Their assessments include sectional times for the fast finisher, who usually had the best finishing time of all runners in the field; thus, next start out the thought is replication of that time will ensure a mighty run again.

However, it’s a fact most horses finishing home hard run the best finishing times but you know what? They will always do this and it actually depends on how fast the front runners have gone early if the backmarkers are to become real contenders. The optical illusion about fast finishers steaming home is just that because what actually happens is that the front runners stop to a walk. Prove this to yourself by studying the sectionals of front runners and you will note this is so.

The punters who formulate a race map, which details where they believe all the runners will be in the run, have an edge on the punters who simply ignore in running positions. There will be many times when a race map will indicate a particular horse is going to have trouble getting to the fence unless some hard work eventuates.

The hard work will be the most likely reason for the defeat of your selection, if you are on this type of horse, simply because you did not think about the impact of the barrier draw in relation to the horse’s racing style.

A massive amount of money in horseracing, I believe, is lost on horses drawn wide who are average beginners (and being drawn wide might only be barrier five), who have several consistently better beginners on their inside.

A study of some horses shows that when they are drawn wide they are often immediately snagged to the rear whereas if they were drawn closer to the fence they move forward. There is no doubt that paying attention to running style AND barrier draws will aid in the detection of a runner who might have some serious problems in the run.

Although I have left it to last, the importance of recording all your selections is of paramount importance because otherwise, how are you going to know your strengths and weaknesses? All punters have idiosyncrasies that, if not checked, could equate to massive losses over the course of a year’s betting.

Many years ago I had a bad streak where I was continually on horses that loomed up and weakened or led and weakened and far too many were beaten. There was something I was doing wrong form wise and when I attacked my selections with a fine tooth comb I found the answer.

I was simply too lax with horses that had not raced for 21 days exactly. I did not find a massive problem with the 28 days or more runners as I had taken their breaks on board and really made sure they were suitable candidates. The 21 days exactly meant the runs were from Saturday to Saturday  against the same class of opposition and it seemed the extra week in the stable, as opposed to an ideal 14 days, was just too much to overcome.

These days I am very, very careful in this area and when I do bet a 21 day horse I have investigated past runs around this date much better than I did in the past.

In my early days, and it is still happening these days, I found by researching the SPs of my selections that I am best with runners at about 4/1 and less. Once I get to 5/1, I progressively drop off the radar and my wallet suffers accordingly. Why is this so?

I have thought about this many, many times because on face value it seems an anomaly. If I can do the form sensibly on the shorter priced runners why not the 5/1 or longer runners? It all comes back to the personal idiosyncrasies I mentioned earlier.

It does not matter why these things happen as long as you know it and bet accordingly. Just accept that something or several things you do in your form work is out of synchronisation with the market.

If you are desperate to find out what is causing your personal woes in whatever SP area you struggle in, then you must keep records of all the factors likely to be a problem.

This includes spell dates, runs from spells, barriers, front runners versus get back types, jockeys, trainers, distance, class of race and track conditions:  in other words form factors. I guarantee each of you will find at least one area you need to seriously tighten up IF you keep records.

Over the course of the two articles just penned I have detailed my thoughts on fitness (the key to everything in punting, in my opinion), specialisation (no punter can keep track of the hundreds of races run each month in all types of class), value (the MOST personal area for all punters and probably the hardest to master), the SP figure (the MOST consistent figure in horseracing), in running positions (a vital factor that must be addressed in conjunction with the barrier draw) and the recording of bets (an absolute must do). Each on their own is important but the power of a combination of all is a mighty huge start towards the ultimate goal of winning.

Surely the best bet in horseracing must be a well fancied runner (SP) that is fit (raced recently), races near the lead (avoids interrupted running) and is in race where you know all the horses formlines intimately (specialisation such as wfa or Open handicaps).

Now dare I add that it should be a “value” bet!?