The general aim of this article is to point the reader to punting tools available on the Internet which provide information about class horses and also a broad technique with Nominations and Acceptances which allows you to follow any trainer you consider a class act and to benefit from their winning ways.

If there is one thing I totally regret about my punting over the years, it's not being "forced" to really, really consider the issue of real class in more depth in my early days on the punt.

My earliest recollection of a champion-class horse was Tobin Bronze winning the Caulfield Cup with a huge weight that some punters thought would stop a train and then him winning the Cox Plate at very short odds in a hand canter.

My first insight into a class trainer was, of course, the unbelievable Tommy Smith, hotly followed by Colin Hayes and Bart Cummings. I often wonder if the punt would have been easier had I just concentrated on the real class of the racing world rather than battle my way through all the trash. Alas, the word "hindsight" crops up so often. The clues were there but a young punter wants to back them all!

In my early days I bought a book called Win At Flat Racing With The Experts, edited by Andrew Ewart, which had a chapter on statistics for a UK racing year where handicap favourites won 27 per cent of races and non-handicap favourites won 45 per cent. It is with considerable regret that I admit to not really digesting the truisms he espoused, which were that it's harder to win on handicap races than on non-handicap races.

It was no secret then and it still is no secret now – class keeps winning. A quick look at the recent careers of Sunline, Lonhro and Northerly soon proves that.

Using the hindsight I have finally accumulated, I highly recommend a newbie (beginner) punter to start with the best Australian and New Zealand horses and work your way backwards.

On face value this seems quite a trite edict but it is absolutely astounding to note how many beginners are seen happily trying to claw their way through the gibberish of restricted races we have in Australia. Firstly, however, let me digress to the "old" days for a moment for a "now" and "then" comparison.

The first formguide I ever kept for any length of time was for the Flemington Anzac Day meeting of 1967. I remember the date so clearly because it was always the first meeting I referred to whenever I began researching another system way back in the days when computers were the domain of serious boffins and such things as horseracing databases were just plain old index cards or sheets painstakingly put together in what we old-timers called longhand.

For those with a little more money, the next progression in forming your own database was to buy two or possibly three formguides and use scissors and glue or sticky tape to make up your own formsheets for each horse.

Our own Puntmaster used to buy two copies of the Sportsman and happily snipped away while his bemused wife wondered whether she had married a guy who had been a little left out in certain playtimes at school. How things have changed! These days The Puntmaster has a database covering the full careers of just about every useful horse in the country and over 600,000 runs, which can be interrogated in many ways.

The serious arrival of the Internet in the last five years as a genuinely affordable commodity for the average person has also seen a proliferation of websites purely devoted to the great sport of horseracing. The inevitable adjunct of information, information and even more information has the likes of The Puntmaster and myself lamenting about how lucky the newbie punters are because it’s all there in black and white for nothing bar the cost of time.

There are several discussion forums available on the Internet which have absolute geniuses prepared to discuss some, but not all, aspects of their punting and when a punter finds the right forum it is heaven.

On the other side there are the sites which have a more officious approach and, rather than delve into discussion and theory, provide just plain old facts and figures for discerning punters to dissect and use to further their punting prowess. One is the Racing Victoria site at, which provides a staggering array of punting information.

The home page lists areas such as General Information, Owners, Publications, Beginner’s Guide, Bits and Pieces, etc., but the area I want to delve into is Racing Information. As I am particularly concerned with helping the newbie punter, who may not always note the significance of what is published on this site, I shall cover the sub-headings Australia-New Zealand Classifications, Acceptances/Fields, Handicapping and Nominations/Weights.

The Australia-NZ Classifications are compiled by a committee of official handicappers and are ratings-based figures "extracted from Group and Listed events only" and "determined by a combination of weight carried and margins" which are "related to specific race distances" and allow the handicappers to "build in a small margin for what they consider is a dominant performance".

A list of the top 20 horses at the 2yo (not calculated at this stage), 3yo and Open class levels in Australia and New Zealand combined are provided, thus offering a list that could be THE list of stable horses for a punter wishing to deal only with the cream of the crop.

Naturally, a punter wishing to add to such a list of horses can consult the official results and determine which of the beaten brigade performed admirably enough to be entertained as an addition. The December update provides information about the performances of New Zealand horses in their summer carnival and it goes without saying an update would follow after the Victorian and NSW autumn season concludes shortly after Easter.

One of the greatest losing areas of the punt is the so-called "stable" information but, with some dedicated detective work, a punter can almost read the mind of some trainers by closely following the Nominations/Weights and Acceptance/Fields pages.

Every trainer nominates their horses for races in the future and the nominations can be accessed by clicking on Acceptance/Fields and going through to the RSB (Racing Services Bureau) site.

A printout of the nominations for the March 11 Ballarat meeting lists trainer Brian Mayfield-Smith as having six nominations over five races. A printout of the weights for the meeting shows that his nominations in the Class 5, Diamond Jake and Penny Opera, have been allotted 59.5kg and 56.5kg respectively.

This is where serious detective work needs to be applied as you should also be perusing the nominations for other Victorian meetings to see if any of the horses he has nominated for this meeting are also nominated elsewhere. If they have, then issues of venue, distance and weight allotted need to be noted. If the trainer is training in the city and accepts for Ballarat when he had also nominated for the closer venue in town, a possible clue to trainer intention has been disclosed.

The extra time and expense of floating a horse to Ballarat is certainly a pointer to the trainer fancying this runner. The close study of a trainer and his nominations and acceptance style will pay dividends once you have a track record of how successful the trainer is under these circumstances.

At times you will note a horse nominated for two or even three races on the one programme or you might note one entered in two States, i.e. Victoria and South Australia. If the horse travels from Victoria to South Australia, it’s not going for a swim at Glenelg Beach!

Sadly, though, there are some trainers who cannot train a rock to fall down a well and just because they travel long distances doesn’t mean they know what they are doing. Hence I suggest you just plot a few trainers for a number of starts to determine the better ones.

In keeping with my general theme of starting with the best, always begin with the acknowledged class trainers such as Brian Mayfield-Smith, Lee Freedman, Gai Water­house and John Hawkes and record their statistics in the various class types. It won’t take you long to see some very obvious "signs" about their runners that have the words "back me" written all over them.

If you click onto Handicapping, you can read the Victorian Handicapping Policy, which details how the handicapper sets about handicapping fields, and a most interesting section called Ratings Based Handicapping.

RBH is "a system designed for all horses to be given a rating figure by a handicapper and for interested parties to refer to a template to find out what weight a horse would be allocated in any particular race according to that rating".

The objectives are to "issue some 90,000 ratings per season" and it is hoped "the publishing of accurate ratings will give stakeholders a greater insight into the handi­capping process" and to "expedite the current weekly process of form generation".

Gosh, where was all this when we all tackled the Don Scott approach all those years ago! In order to ascertain issues of class, visit and you will be able to obtain full details of every Listed and Group race since the beginning of the 2000-01 racing season.

A fascinating part of this area of this area of the site is the Group Races Interactive section where "the entire database can be interrogated against several factors: for example, if you want to know how many Danehill gallopers from a Sir Tristram dam sire contested Group 1 races when ridden by Damien Oliver", you can do so!

According to the site "another exciting feature is the unique Race Quality Factor" where several highly pertinent factors are analysed to determine if a race is weaker or stronger than past runnings of the event.

As you can see by this short trip into just two sites there are several opportunities, all free, which can aid the punter.

By Roman Koz