There I was at Rosehill, half-way through the meeting and down to my last couple of dollars. Nothing unusual, because most of us have experienced the feeling.

To make matters worse I'd lost my form guide. The only way I could see myself having some fun with my last few cents desperation is probably a better word than fun - was to back the favourite in the next race for a place.

Lo and behold I noticed that the favourite on the tote board was by no means the favourite in the place pool. On went my $2, home came the favourite at 9-4, paying 950 for the place.

Being a reasonably good swimmer I shopped for bargains in the place pool for the rest of the meeting. I looked for horses that were heavily backed to win, but lightly regarded in the place pool.

For example, a horse that was third choice in the win pool but seventh for the place. I backed all these horses for a place, caught a couple of good prices, gradually increased my bets and wore my shoes out going to the cashiers' windows.

What surprised me most was, apart from the fact that they paid good prices, they were "live" horses - they were in with a good chance before the race kicked off.

Enthused by my success I studied the "board" at the four major tracks in Sydney for about six months. I carefully noted all odds flashes and changing win and place figures on every horse in the race. I restricted myself to doubles betting because my studies kept me firmly planted to the seat.

If you are interested, these are the conclusions drawn from my research on the "board". Nothing has occurred since to change my mind about these generalisations.

I learned that I could separate "inside" betting from the public betting, enabling me to identify the "live" horse. However, a word of warning: backing all "live" horses just because they are backed by the stables will prove unprofitable in the long run.

It's when you back your own selection only when he shows board action that you give cashiers headaches. The board often will tell you when even the longshot is trying.

There also will come days when the action horses are doing so well that you'll be tempted to throw your selection method out the window. Don't.

In order to understand the betting on any given race you must consider who bets at the racetrack - when, why and how. You know that Joe Blow is there every day, steadfastly contributing to every race. He'll bet for a win, a place, he'll have a double, a trifecta ... anything that moves and is offered.Nothing is going to stop this boy, unless he starts buying Practical Punting and follows the advice. Most of his betting is done in the last 10 minutes before the race, and he bets it for obvious reasons; reasons you can easily spot in your racing guide.

Remember, there are others betting, too. These people don't bet as often, nor in such a variety of ways, but they bet in sizeable amounts.

Who are they, why do they bet, and how do they bet?

On the whole this group comprises owners, trainers, their friends and "clients". These are the boys in the know. A "client" may consider himself a trainer's friend for a "fee".

It is not unusual for trainers to contact these people to tell them that their horse is well-placed and it's trying. The usual understanding is that a bet also will be made on behalf of the informant.

The sticky, but rewarding, part is detecting how these people bet. No matter how smoothly the operation is carried out, a careful, skilled observer usually can spot what's going on.

There are certain patterns you will look for in the odds changes, certain relationships to watch for between the win and place pools.

Quite often extra money - money that definitely is not the public's - can be seen to be going on a horse and this can be detected in several distinctly different ways. If I can do it - and Phil Wilson on the Sun will agree - anyone can.

So I now present to you some brief outlines of some of these methods, their use, and some of the reasons for their effectiveness.

Well-meant favourites, and others not so well-meant, usually are established in the early betting. A well-meant favourite normally is backed early by people with inside information. Let's say he opens at 6-4. If his pre-post market is above these odds, the fact that he opened so low generally means that the prices on the other horses in the field will ease.

Hang onto your hats, because now we're going on the roller coaster. Because the public is reluctant to back a horse which has opened at odds considerably less than they expected to get, the favourite's odds are going to ease, maybe to 7-4 or 2- 1.

Conversely, because the public is staying away from the favourite, the odds on the horses they are backing shorten ... and this is where the public is misled.

Seeing the odds shorten on a horse that Joe Blow is considering, he thinks he's found a "live" one. He and the rest of the public increase their betting on this horse as starting time nears.

You would think that because the public is backing against the early favourite that the majority of horses would continue to decrease in odds up to starting time, forcing the favourite's price higher.

Wrong! The boys who are backing the horse because of stable information, will come in again in the last 10 minutes or so, forcing down the price of the favourite while the other horses ease again.

It's true that some of the general punters will contribute to the last-minute additional plunge on the favourite but it is due largely to money from the "insiders" and it is usually very large sums.

Close scrutiny of the win and place pools in the last five minutes before the race will verify this.

The horse I have described probably went into the last stages of the betting with approximately 25 per cent of all win money laid out up to that point. And yet, it finished with about 35 per cent of all the win money. The additional 10 percent actually constitutes about a 40 per cent increase in activity - 10 is 40 per cent of 25.

A check of the place pool probably would reveal that the horse finished with approximately the same percentage of that pool that it had when entering the late betting stages.

You should note that throughout the betting this horse's odds always were travelling in a different direction to most, if not all, the odds of the other horses in the race.

Now we'll draw a contrast between the "insiders' " favourite and the public's. And the latter will not win as often.

The betting on a public favourite usually has the same tempo throughout, in win and place pools. The betting might vary slightly but there will not be a noticeable spiral in either direction.

This principle of contrary motion also can be applied to horses other than the favourites. If a horse other than the favourite has a similar smooth-curve action in the betting he, too, should be considered one to watch.

Your alarm bells go off when you notice that even though late betting on the favourite is forcing up the odds on all the other horses, this second horse is coming down because of his backing.

A close look at the tote board may provide the additional evidence to cement your opinion that it is more than just public money that is being laid on this starter.

Now, the place pool usually will be out of line with the win pool.

If the horse is 8-1 or more, the insiders usually protect their win investment with a sizeable place bet. If the insiders decide they're not going for a place (it must be a hot favourite) the excess money for the win is easily spotted. All it takes on your part is some rapid mental division.

The tote boards show the dividends for each horse, win and place. Divide the win dividend with the place dividend. Round the numbers off to make things simpler. If the figure for the place dividend, with your calculations, is approximately one-third higher than the price should be, it shows where the win money excess is.


Another way of finding evidence of inside betting is the use of two reliable pre-post markets. As the betting progresses continually refer to them to see if one horse is being backed significantly below the odds expected.

A lot of people use this idea without much success because they rely on it alone. I advocate a variety of approaches in order to accumulate evidence that a horse is being well backed.

Remember that tote odds more often than not influence the punter on what he bets: if they are high he will bet more, and vice versa.

Another avenue of assistance is the total number of points the tipsters give in, for example, the Sydney Morning Herald. This gives me a fairly reliable guide as to how betting will go. If the betting does not conform there is the strong possibility of a "live" horse.

For example, Horse A is favoured with a total of 27 points. Horse B, on the other hand, rates only 14 points but starts favourite. Who made Horse B the favourite?

However, please ensure that Horse B was a contender to start with, not a 20-1 outsider backed into favouritism. Horses backed down to short odds like this often are not "live" horses. If they were the betting would have been more subtle.

Daily and extra double dividends often can be a guide to action horses. If a horse in the second leg is going to pay 25-1 in the doubles pool, but only 7-1 for the win, it's obvious that the public considers it a 25-1 shot. At 7-1 this horse is a good chance if he has arrived at that price subtly or through very late betting.

A look at the odds at which a horse went off in its last race may be quite helpful. By considering the horse's latest showing, the distance, the size of the field and the class of the race, you can predict the odds bracket the horse should be running in today.

If a horse's most recent effort was at 50-1 and his run was poor, he should not be starting at 10-1 today if the conditions of the race are about the same as his previous race.

What I have outlined above is work that should be carried out independently of form analysis. You cannot watch the board and successfully assess a race at the same time. Betting on certain horses makes it nearly impossible to objectively evaluate such horses' chances.

By Warren Craig