A punter MUST expect to win overall but he must also expect to lose along the way. Last month we got ourselves up to the middle of the 1990s. I’d like to pick up from there. My best win of all was probably in 1996 when I got the Melbourne Cup trifecta. It was one of those fortunate sets of circumstances that I believe some people call serendipity.

You see, just like every other year, Brian and I had chosen our six early horses for the big race. I chose mine in June. There we were in November,  and would you believe the whole six had made it into the final field? It’s never happened before or since, although this past year we did manage to get the first four between us. We’ve done that.

On the earlier occasion, however, I nominated six horses and they were all lining up on the Tuesday afternoon. It was in the days when you were able to take doubles from the VRC Derby on Saturday across to the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday. I was fortunate enough to pick the winner of the Derby, Lee Freedman’s Portland Player, at double figure odds, and I coupled him into every runner in the Melbourne Cup.

In addition, I had backed Saintly to win the Cox Plate and I’d taken him in a double on the TAB with himself and my other five selections for the Melbourne Cup. In retrospect, although it’s now more than a decade ago, it all unfolded like a fairytale dream. If I wanted to be really greedy, I could have required that the big race quinella be reversed. But I think I did well enough.

Prior to this, I had backed and selected for PPM, Arctic Scent at 40/1 in the Caulfield Cup. Brent Stanley rode her a wonderful race on the rails and although Jim Mason went into the record books as the trainer, Gerald Ryan put in all the spadework. It was a very strange set of circumstances, culminating in my taking Arctic Scent with Saintly at enormous odds for the two cups. I had then backed this up through the TAB, by taking her with the full field at that time for the Flemington event.

Yes I was confident, about as confident as I have ever been in a big race, except perhaps on the occasion of the running of the Doncaster earlier that same year when Danasinga was inexplicably beaten and on the occasion of the running of the Melbourne Cup in 1974, when Leilani was beaten because she went a tad too early in the straight. On both occasions I had enormous doubles running and on both occasions I should have collected. I didn’t. It happens.

So, coming into the Melbourne Cup, I had every runner running for me, for substantial amounts. Arctic Scent and Saintly had cashed me up well and truly. Now that Portland Player had effectively made me totally immune from losing, I agonised all weekend on whether to take the biggest quinella/trifecta gamble of my life. Several times, I spoke to my friend Johnny on the phone about it and he was adamant that I really had to do it. My dear old mate Reg spelt it out to me.

“You may only get one chance in a lifetime like this,” he said. “Whatever happens, you will win handsomely. God knows how well you will win if it all comes together.”

Well, in I went. I decided to play what I have always called an AB trifecta. There were no first fours in those days. Had there been, I don’t know if I’d have the courage then or now to outlay the amount involved, but with the certainty of coming out of the carnival with a five figure positive balance, I invested something over $600 on the trifecta. Count Chivas followed Saintly home, and the ultra-reliable Skybeau ran into the third place. Cricket score odds for second and third, and a trifecta approaching $40,000.

Looking back on it, and given that it has not happened again, there remain a whole lot of unanswered questions.

Was there luck involved? Was it just my turn? Modesty aside, had I just been, for the one time in my life, absolutely right about the Melbourne Cup? But you see, it didn’t end there, this kind of questioning. It started when I singled out the six horses, six months before, and they all actually lined up.

One quarter of the field was running for me, one way or the other. By the time of that race, I had cleaned up on the Caulfield Cup, the Cox Plate and the VRC Derby. I had the field running for me twice in the Melbourne Cup (firstly from the Caulfield Cup and secondly from the Derby, together with my six nominees supported again through the Cox Plate with Saintly).

However, consider this. For every great result I recall, there will be twenty, make that thirty, that don’t come off. Can you live with that? Long term is the only term. But long term might be very, very long. See what I’ve said about patience elsewhere in this issue.

Fair question, of course: how long is “long-term”? Needless to say, we don’t deal in 30 years! But nevertheless, there are going to be those times in your life when things go right, and occasional times in your life when they go so right that you feel like shouting it from the rooftops. Most of the time, a successful plunge must be carefully planned and patiently waited for. Just rarely will it all fall into place as it did for me in 1996. Other times, when my plunges have come off, they have won me a nice holiday on top of my regular professional expectations.

Sometimes I’ve advocated allocating a special bank for possible special times. The Melbourne Cup is one such obvious time and over the years such writers as Brian, Jon Hudson, Martin Dowling and myself have recommended that our readers identify a little bit more money than normal for two spectacular times of the year: the two big carnivals. Naturally I’m speaking of the Easter carnival in Sydney, and the big fellow in the Melbourne spring.

It’s usually unrealistic to ask the average punter, even an average punter who is totally serious about his investing, to maintain a straight course during those two periods. There must be a little bit of latitude granted. If my grey hair counts for anything in the racing world, you can probably trust me when I recommend that you increase your bank percentage outlays over those two periods.

This can be done in one of two ways. You can either separate your bank into 60 weeks instead of 52 over a theoretical year, or you can increase your annual bank by perhaps 16 per cent. Let’s look at those two.

You might start with a hypothetical annual bank of $10,000 for the year. Don’t faint, you don’t have to find the ten grand on January 1; you just have to be able to outlay around $200 a week. If that’s too much then you reduce it proportionately.

I’m suggesting that perhaps your bank should be $11,600, taking into account a theoretical additional eight weeks. These eight weeks would be four weeks in Sydney in autumn and four weeks in Melbourne in spring; and you would be allowing yourself up to $400 per week instead of $200 per week during those periods.

Another way of looking at this, with exactly the same result, is increasing your bank by 16 per cent, thus allowing for that extra eight lots of $200. It’s exactly the same thing just looked at from two different angles. You either look at it as an increase in bank percentage, or you imagine an additional eight weeks of outlay.

I’m pretty sure that for most of us, the plunges are going to be likely to take place during these two racing periods. This is where the TAB money will be plentiful (especially the mug money!). Huge actually. Computers are making things very difficult for all of us, as they are programed to spot so many of the little form subtleties that many of us prided ourselves on identifying.

The downside of this for practically all ordinary punters is that the so-called “prices” in the early markets are exposed for what they are: educated guesses. Punters are desperately disappointed several times on every racecard by the differences between these stabs in the dark, and the prices which are actually posted.

If you can get your plunge bet right, there’s a much better chance it might not be knocked off in a big race.

Anyway, have a look at that possible adjustment to your overall bank. My long-term experience of my best plunges convinces me that they come with the best racing.

Click here to read Part 1.

By The Optimist