Most punters dream of being able to operate a system, or a method of betting, that guarantees a regular flow of winners and profits. Alas, it's not that easy. We all know the lows and highs that accompany betting.

But that shouldn't stop you from trying to develop your own betting style, one that is uniquely yours. This can apply to the way you bet, or to a system or a staking plan you devise.

But what does it take to be 'professional' in the way that you approach the demanding business of betting? In my opinion, you begin by understanding who the competition is - and in the main it's YOURSELF, with all your personal worries, doubts and stress, be they racing-inspired or simply those associated with work and home.

So, be prepared to get your head into order before commencing battle. Roll up your sleeves. No-one is going to and victory to you. To become a profit-maker, you are going to have to work through the details mainly on your own.

The ultimate personal characteristic is a clear vision of what your target is going to be. This is about making the right decisions for you. Pick the right technique, ensure it fits your personality and then make it work for you.

Everyone has to find their own racing 'vehicle' and each will be different. I think it goes without saying that to succeed in the long term, you will need to limit your mistakes, to do your research properly, to keep records diligently, and to gradually hone your technique, much as a sports player does preparing for battle year after year.

You'll need to keep your money management on a sound basis. Find what betting approach matches your temperament and then go ahead with it (ignore the doomsayers who say that anything apart from level stakes won't work).

Let's start with devising a mechanical-type approach that stands a big chance of securing profits. In his best-selling book Horse Racing Theory and Practice, the authoritative Paul Segar comes up with a sensible strategy for devising your own system.

Among the factors he says you should consider are:

  • avoiding runners going up more than 2kg in weight;
  • avoid runners going up in class;
  • avoid horses in bad barriers;
  • avoid horses with poor win and place percentages;
  • select lightly-raced gallopers;
  • avoid horses without recent form;
  • avoid first-up runners;
  • avoid horses racing second-up;
  • avoid runners stepping up 400m or more in distance;
  • avoid early 3yos in Open class;
  • avoid horses without a W or M on a wet track;
  • select horses ridden by competent jockeys;
  • select horses trained by well-known trainers;
  • avoid Class 1 races.

These may seem obvious factors to look at - but I support Paul in his contention that they form a sound starting base for anyone trying to devise their own unique approach.

The unique method I am about to outline will suit those punters who enjoy using ratings. If you can't draw up your own ratings, or you don't have time to utilise Don Scott's ideas, then you could use the Zipform assessments in Sportsman, or the Wizard's ratings figures.

Firstly, draw up a chart in the following manner:


What we are doing here is working a simple method that takes into account a horse's last start performance, its weight (comparing it to the Limit weight), its ability at the course and distance, and its jockey in the current race compared to the jockey last start.

If possible, you can use a horse's final 3 ratings. If you use the Wizard, these are available. But the Sportsman's Zipform gives only one rating figure.

To start with, let's concentrate on the last-start rating only. I'll use the Welter 1250m at Randwick on October 1 as the example race.

The No 1 runner is Pimpala Son, with a Zipform assessment of 56. He has to carry 59kg on a 53kg Limit, but an apprentice rider claims 3kg, so he is actually down to carry 56kg, which is 3kg over the Limit.

We then deduct 3kg from his rating, which gives us an interim rating of 53. We now look to see if the horse has won at the course or the distance. With this angle, we have to use our racing 'brain'.

The stats show that Pimpala Son has not won over 1250m, but he has won over 1200m. We give him the benefit of the doubt and allot a bonus figure to him relating to the number of wins achieved. In his case, he had won three races at 1200m. Thus, a bonus is given of 3, taking his interim rating back up to 56.

There are no wins at the course but we note that he has run placings at Randwick (albeit not on the inner Track where he will be racing now). If he had been racing on the true Randwick course we would allow him a bonus of 1 or 2 points, but because the Inner Track is involved, we refrain from giving any bonus.

Now, as to jockey: Pimpala Son is being ridden by a 3 kg claiming apprentice and there is no way we can offer a bonus. If a really good and proven rider had been aboard we could have offered Pimpala Son a bonus of up to 3 rating points, and perhaps even more if there was a significant jockey switch from the last race to the current race.

So, there we have it, then: Pimpala Son has ended up with a 56 rating. The next task is to whip through the rest of the field to determine their individual ratings.

Once these have been determined, you can isolate the top 3 or 4 as the main prospects. To scale them down further, you would need to look more closely at recent form, and their standings in the tipsters' poll, or the early betting market.

If you use each horse's last 3 ratings, you will probably get an even more accurate reading of their chances.

If you want a simple 'final arbiter' as to the BEST horse, you can apply what I call the Ultimate Condition Factor. This is where you choose the most recent race the horse has contested which CLOSELY RESEMBLES the race it is now contesting.

In Pimpala Son's case, it would have been his 3rd in a 1200m Welter at Randwick back on April 25. Using the Wizard you can get the rating for this race. You then add it to the final rating you already have. Then you do the same sort of thing for the other key contenders.

The one which ends up with the highest figure from the added together ratings is the No 1 choice.

What you are doing with this method is very clear: You are looking at a horse's recent form, melding it with a few pertinent factors, and coming up with a numerical figure which is an indication of the horse's ability compared to others in a race.

It may seem a little time consuming but the work can pay off handsomely, especially if you can then translate the final ratings into a price line (i.e. your own betting market assessed on your estimations of each horse's ability).

This need not be too involved. If we assume you are going to price the final four fancies in a race, we begin by allotting them each a 25 per cent chance (or 25 points).

Let's say that the four key fancies have the following points: 58, 56, 55, 54. We take the top-rated as the 'base'  runner. It gets 25 points, and has added to it the negative total of each of the other runners. In this case it would be 2+3+4 equalling 9. This is added to the 25, taking the top-rated horse's points to 34.

The second top-rated runner now has those 9 points slashed from its 25, leaving it with 16, but now he is treated the same as the top horse, with the negative totals of the other two horses added to his 16. In this case, it would be 1+2 equalling 3. His rating goes to 19.

For the third horse, 12 points (9 from the first horse and the 3 from the second) are taken from its 25, leaving it with 13. Now the negative total of the fourth fancy is added. In this instance, 1 is added to the third horse's 13 points, giving it a final rating of 14.

That leaves the fourth horse, from which a total of 13 points are deducted (9+3+1), leaving it with a final tally of 12.

What we now have is the following:

  • TOP CHOICE: 34% (2 / 1)
  • SECOND CHOICE: 19% (9 / 2)
  • THIRD CHOICE: 14% (6 / 1)
  • FOURTH CHOICE: 12% (15/2)

Now you can see pricewise what your selections should be paying if you are to secure some sort of value about them. The percentages added up to around 80 per cent, which is fine considering you are pricing only part of the field. (Incidentally, if you have only three final contenders to price, each would initially be allotted 33 per cent; if there are five final contenders, then each would get 20 per cent initially for pricing purposes.)

Here, then, you have an approach to selection and pricing that is unique. It may not suit everyone (in fact, I know it won't!) but it may well intrigue enough of you to spur you into having a closer look at what makes it

If you do decide to investigate further, stick to Saturday meetings to begin with (in the case of the Wizard, you will have to because it covers only Saturday meetings). Pick out the best races on the programme, or choose the legs of the daily double.

You may still consider that you stand a better chance by devising your own unique approach. Okay, that's fine. The advice I can offer is that you do not try to predict winners without putting in a fair amount of effort.

The US writer Charles Romanelli in his book How To Make Money In One Day At The Racetrack, says: "The whole art, not the science, of estimating a horse's chances in any particular race is a matter of judging the varying importance of the following factors:

  • The horse - its past performance and present condition.
  • The horse's human connections - its trainer and jockey.
  • The conditions affecting the entry of horses and the running of the race.

Bearing these simple truths in mind, perhaps a system could be devised along the following

  • Choose the best six horses on win strike and average prizemoney.
  • Whittle them down by knocking out those in poor form.
  • Consider then the remaining horses' trainers and jockeys and go for the ones with proven consistent performances.
  • Check out running styles, and which of the remaining contenders are best suited by the course and distance and the Class of the race.

Using these factors, it should be possible for an astute bettor to be able to look closely at a field and come up with strong selections.

Take note, then, of all I have written. Think about the ideas, consider your own personality, and make a decision on which way you want your betting to go. In the end you are the decision-maker in all facets of gambling in your life.

By Philip Roy