During the period I've been penning the Puntmaster column for Practical Punting Monthly, one of the side benefits has been the feedback from readers.

Not all agree with me on some issues, and that's how it should be, but the most pleasing aspect of the feedback has been where I can assist others in their punting and analysis efforts.

Recently I had an exchange of emails with an avid reader, Richard M., with the first of those emails reading (in part), "What I am doing is looking at sectional times for the last two runs, front runners, use of apprentices and now in conjunction with race times.

So far the strike rate is reasonable with the majority of selections finishing within a few lengths of the winner or the first five.

"It just needs some fine tuning to eliminate some of these non winners and I am hoping that the qualifying run for the selection is within the two lengths range as mentioned by Phil Purser.

"These par times (from the Puntmaster) will be a help but I think that record times for each distance and class would perhaps be of more merit."

My response was, "I am not a believer in record times as they add little to the effective use of sectional times. Track records throughout Australia are held (in some cases) by moderately performed horses.

Quite often when track records are set then other track records or class and race records are also broken at the same meeting.

Grand Armee's recent 1400m track record at Randwick is the latest incident of such an occurrence, as a number of other records were broken at the same meeting.

The par time charts that I have provided for publication in Practical Punting Monthly do not include any track records in the calculations and never will: better to base your calculations on reliable par times.

Other than for Group 1 and 2 races, maiden races and two-yearold races.

My attitude towards class records are similar: there are simply too many variations within the various classes for them to be meaningful.

Richard took on board what I had written and within a few days got back to me with the following, "Thank you for your prompt reply and the lesson on record times.

"I have just finished a short exercise which proves your point. Using Neale Yardley's Bet Selector program to run a selection system that long term gives reasonable results (20 per cent win strike rate and a 40 per cent P.O.T), I did a check going back to October 12004 Saturdays only) coming up with 64 selections for 11 winners ... then using your par time charts eliminated all runners that did not run within par time plus 0.5 seconds, the final selections (totalling) 30 runners for 10 winners.

"So far I have only looked at last run performances and intend to expand to the last two runs ... as I have noticed that horses that put in a good sectional time at their second last run have a good win record so I will compare these with your par times for the race.

"I will be looking at a good sectional time and the par time to make sure that the first part of a race was not fast walk.

"With your help I now do no have to concern myself with record times (as I did not know what results would turn up) and this will reduce my research time considerably (as) an average system now looks to have (some) potential.

"One query though, are your par times an average time of all races, regardless of class?."

To which I responded, "Look for horses that are disadvantaged by the slow pace, particularly those that for some reason got back further than they normally do (as) when there is a slow pace, those racing off the pace are disadvantaged and any that make up good ground in the final sectional are likely to be improved next start, more so if it's a race with a more suitable pace.

My par times do not take into account the various classes - (as mentioned previously) they can be a minefield of confusion. However, I do not include either maidens or two-year-old races in the calculations.

With the use of the par times look for young horses running good times either early in their careers or early in their preparation.

I mentioned one such horse in the article published Practical Punting Monthly in the April issue. That horse is the two-year-old filly Opportunity, who ran a bottler in the Blue Diamond at Caulfield ... only the wide barrier and the Caulfield track beat her."

I haven't heard from Richard for a while but I trust that his system is performing as well as he wanted it to.
In my response I mentioned the filly Opportunity, who I anticipate will play a significant part as a three-year-old during the Melbourne spring carnival.

The point about young horses running good times is a very important one that can point the way forward to many Group race winners as they develop and mature.

Bentley Biscuit is the latest of these, but unfortunately coming from the leading Sydney training establishment of Gai Waterhouse and breaking the track record when winning by over eight lengths at its first race start at Kembla Grange, makes this one just too obvious.

Keep those queries coming, it's a pleasure to try and help and advise.

By EJ Minnis