Enough of my theories about the philosophies of betting for the time being. It's time to get down to the nitty-gritty of what to bet on.

I ended last month's instalment with the advice that I believe that to be a long-term winner you need consistent reliability in each of three areas.

You will need:

  • Reliability in undertaking your process of selection
  • Reliability in executing your investment strategy
  • Reliability in the results you achieve

So, let's now look at achieving reliability in our selection process, remembering that I was invited to write this series by PPM as a result of t published letter from a reader which said in part: "I keep reading about the Internet and computer ratings, video replays and expensive books ... I am a person of limited means and I can't afford all these high-falutin things, especially not a computer. . ."

How do you make your selections? How much reliability is there in your method? Do you use an organised handicapping method which is based on time-honoured theories, or do you allot and deduct points for various factors, or do you. like most punter, simply have a bit of a guess and simply come to the conclusion that, from what you have seen or heard, one horse is better than another (or all the others)?

And, whatever you do, do you do it the same way every week? Is it your CONSISTENT method and does it result in you arriving at consistent conclusions?

Well, I doubt if there can be much consistency if you are a disciple of the third of those methods I've mentioned above - yet that is the way most punters arrive at their selections. You may not believe this, but that’s the way most members of the general media arrive at their selections too. They basically guess! True.

That's one of the reasons why the tipping average of most of them is not any better than the average of winning favourites - about one in three - and why they seldom come up with winners at lengthy odds. They guess, usually basing their theories on a horse's most recent run. Thus, they guess, more or less, the same way that the average punter does, coming up with basically matching opinions.

Add to those guessing tipsters and guessing punters the mob who don't do anything at all except follow everyone else's opinion and you come up with what discerning and professional punters call the public play/s.

That's how the professionals make their money - out of the public play - not by following it, but by betting on a  carefully-considered prediction (or predictions) to beat it (them).

That may take them many hours of study and the use of the kind of equipment that is out of your reach, just as it was for the writer of the letter that prompted this series.

As an amateur, though, you probably don't have a lot of time. You probably have a job that takes up most of yours, while the professional's form study is his/her job.

Well, I am going to propose a method that will not take you a lot of time and will come up with the kind of results that professionals get. As an added benefit, it is pretty easy to follow and it will put some real excitement into your punting.

Sound pretty good? It is! It's the method I use, and I have been doing very well with it for several years.

Now, as we all know (or should), you get nothing for nothing, so you do have to put in three things:

  • about one-and-a-half hours of your time (perhaps a little more until you get the hang of the method)
  • serious dedication to the task while you're spending the time riot a half-hearted, mind-on-other-things at the same time effort
  • five dollars per week for a formguide The data provider for my form study is the Wizard, but I always also purchase the Sportsman as my back-up and bible and Best Bets in lieu of a racebook. Overall, they cost a total of about $12 but that's a pittance considering what they earn me.

If you have never seen inside a Wizard formguide, you're bound to get a bit of a shock the first time you look, because the whole thing looks just like a mass of numbers.

Don't let that put you off. Understanding them is very easy and there is (usually, but unfortunately not always) an explanation of what they all mean.

The far left-hand column of each horse's individual form is a series of ratings for its latest 8 starts. These will be the key to making our selections.

Unlike some ratings you see such as Sportsman's Zipform figures, SKY Channel's ratings or the ratings which appear in race books these days - the Wizard ratings relate to individual past performances by the horse and are based on accepted handicapping practices that have existed for some 40 years. They are not an overall figure struck as a result of an assessment by some individual or a computer.

For now, that is all you really need to know about them. So, let's get started on my method of Doing The Form.

In the Wizard each race carries a header panel, of which a sample section is reproduced below.

The categories along the top are basically self-explanatory. A lot of the detail is very similar to the information in Sportsman, but not the same (which is just one of the reasons why I also buy Sportsman). One important difference, which some punters may find valuable and others will hate, is that the distance and course- and-distance statistics allow for a margin of (I think) 10 per cent either way, so they are not true figures.

The only two pieces of information from that header you need to be concerned with for the moment is the classification of the race - in this instance the race description and the column which is headed Days.

To start my form study, as Step 1, I quickly look at the top section of the header panel for every race in Sydney and Melbourne (the only meetings I bet on, except for very rare sojourns to Brisbane for the major carnival) and I put a very sizeable cross against the name of any race which is for two-year-olds or over hurdles or steeples. I put a smaller cross against any that are indicated as being Weight For Age or Set Weights events.

I pay no more attention whatsoever to any race against which I have placed a big cross and generally pay no more than a passing interest (from a form study point of view) in those bearing a smaller cross.

For Step 2, I go down the Days column of the header panel and whenever I come to any number from 29 to 49 (meaning more than four weeks and up to seven weeks) I go to the actual tabulated-form information of the horse concerned and write against its name "29 days" or "49 days" or whatever is the appropriate number.

Whenever the number is greater than 49, I write the word "spell".

For Step 3, I go to the tabulated form information of all horses engaged in races against which I have not put a cross and against which I have not written any notation and I look at the TOP line of the form to see if it has an asterisk (*) immediately in front of the name of the track where the horse last raced. If there is an asterisk, it means that the horse was resuming from a spell, so in this forthcoming race it will be racing second-up.

Where there is an asterisk, write against the horse's name (just as you did in steps 1 and 2) the words "Second up". Check out EACH horse ill both Sydney and Melbourne for the asterisk. It will take only about five minutes.

Total time taken so far: about 15 minutes.

From a time aspect, you are now about one-sixth of the way towards arriving at your total selections for the day.

I'll take you through further stages next month.

I suggest that in the meantime, you purchase a copy of the Wizard and run through the steps I've suggested so far, then keep the issue to help you understand next month's instalment of my winning plan.


Click here to read Part 6.
Click here to read Part 7.
Click here to read Part 8.
Click here to read Part 9.
Click here to read Part 10.
Click here to read Part 1.
Click here to read Part 2.
Click here to read Part 3.
Click here to read Part 4.

By Ben Richards