We're off-with another round of 2yo. racing, and as usual it's full of promise and excitement, as well as the potential to produce another explosive champion.

But what about 2yo. racing for the punter? How good, or bad, is the potential to make money from these 'babies' of the racing world? For a start, there is no form from raceday to guide us.

In some cases, we'll be armed with barrier trial form, but often that can be dangerously misleading. In many other instances, especially with horses from country tracks, we have nothing at all to inform us about a youngster's ability. It's known only to connections!

Professional punters seem to be at cross-swords about the betting reliability of the early 2yo. racing. I know a few who reckon they make an entire year's salary by backing 2yo. winners. They rely on inside information and 'hot' mail from the track gallops at the various centres.

Other professionals put the early 2yo. races into the 'too hard' basket. The great professional Don Scott is one of them. In his best-selling book, Winning More, he states: "Unpredictable 2yo. races may occur as late as December and January when 80 or 90 per cent of the field may still have no race form. Most of these unraced youngsters need experience, although a few can still win first time. As the season progresses, newcomers find it harder to beat experienced gallopers.

"From March onwards. I ignore 2yos having their first start in a race, no matter how strong the reports about their ability."

The Scott theory says that punters have to depend too much on barrier trial form of the early 2yos. The form, he says. Is unreliable for three reasons:

  1. The trial distance is 800m, not the 900m or 1000m of the first 2yo. races.
  2. The weights carried are 'catch weights'. This means only stable connections know how much weight a horse carries.
  3. The horses need not be run on their merits. A jockey can restrain a horse, drop it back to last and conceal its true ability. It is hard to pick these non-triers. It is even harder to estimate how much closer the non-triers would have finished if they had really tried.

Other professionals take a different view. A friend of mine, who prefers to remain anonymous, says: "I find that the information that spreads around about certain early 2yos is almost always deadly accurate. My own grapevine is very good, but I believe that most information about good horses is reflected in the betting, so all punters have the chance to follow the money."

My pal's view is reflected in the general betting trends, and results, of the early 2yo. races. It's a statistic that favourites and 2nd favourites win more than 60 per cent of the 2yo. races run in late September and in October and November.

Last year, for instance, the first and second favourites won 22 of the 36 races for 2yos in Sydney and Melbourne to the end of November. Favourites won 12 races and 2nd favourites won 10. It was possible to have backed all the 2nd favourites and made a level stakes profit of 10 units.

You'll also find that big-name trainers keep bobbing up with the early 2yo. winners. Trainers like Colin Hayes, Neville Begg, Tommy Smith, Jack Denham and Geoff Murphy Hayes has a particularly good record in the early 2yo. events, because his youngsters receive such a thorough grounding at his Lindsay Park complex at Angaston in South Australia.

Tommy Smith also prepares his big team in a workmanlike manner, and goes all out to win as many 2yo. races as he can. Geoff Murphy can be relied upon to come up with a few winners in the initial three months of the 2yo. racing.

An important consideration when backing early 2yos is the availability of value. Many favourites are at odds-on. You have to decide if they are worth the risk. From the 36 races I surveyed last season, 12 favourites were at odds-on prices and seven of them won. It was the favourites at the better prices that attracted my attention. Taking 9-4 as a dividing line between non-value and value, you would have had a total of eight bets for three winners, at 7-2, 11-4 and 3-1. This would have given you a very nice level stakes profit of 4.25 units, or more than 50 per cent on your outlay.

To follow a method like this, of course, you need patience, and that's what the majority of punters lack, unfortunately. They are not prepared to wait-and who can blame them? There is so much temptation around with so many races being run these days that it takes a punter of stoic discipline to ignore them.

On the subject of value, one professional punter advises: "There's a lot of bad value around when a 2yo. is backed heavily and starts at a short price when it's having its first start over 1200m. A youngster like this can show terrific speed in its trials but when it hits that daunting final 200m of the race, it goes into a brick wall.

"The longer the race, I believe, the harder it is for a first-starter, and I make a point of never accepting short odds about a first starter in races from 1200 upwards."

What you need to do to be on top of the 2yo. form in Sydney and Melbourne is to read as much as you can about the barrier trials, and the stables. Newspapers often carry interviews with trainers who will talk about the likely 2yo. prospects they have for the new season. Make a note of all the horses mentioned. Better still, clip the cutting in a special notebook.

If you can, obtain video tapes of the barrier trials. Failing this, look at the Sporting Globe's pictures (it usually runs pix from the trials). Then, on raceday, listen to the radio tipsters; they usually have last-minute information.

The final arbiter is the betting. Bearing in mind the past-as we always must we know that we should be looking out for well-backed first and second favourites, with the second favourites offering the best value.

Once the first few races have been run, you start to get a clear idea of who is top and who is struggling. Weights become quite important. It's always good to keep in mind that 2yos are capable of improving very quickly from their first run to their second.

By the same token, they can also peak quickly and lose form! Especially very speedy types who might sneak away with a 900m race but then get beaten off swiftly over 1000m or 1100m next time out.

Generally, it's the basic factors you have to look out for-strength in the betting, the backing of a top stable, good draw, good jockey and, probably, some good barrier trial form (although this is not always the case).

The following are the statistics from last season's early racing (Sept./Oct. only) to give you an idea of how the trends go:

Moonee Valley, Sept. 26
Beat The Habit 7-2 (Fav. 2nd 6-4)
Trainer: Geoff Murphy

Lyphose 20-1 (Fav. Lost 1-1)
Trainer: Jim Slavin

Randwick, Sept. 26
Molokai Prince 7-2f
Trainer: Neville Begg

Flemington, Sept. 30
Scarlet Bisque 4-6f
Trainer: Colin Hayes

Randwick, Sept. 30
Startling Lass 9-4 (Fav. Lost 2-1)
Trainer: Jack Denham

Flemington, Oct. 3
Candy Is Dandy 7-2 (Fav. Lost 7-4)
Trainer: Tommy Hughes

Randwick, Oct. 3
Iga Ninja 5-1 (Fav. Lost 13-8)
Trainer: Harold Rodger

Caulfield, Oct. 10
Alshandegha 4-7f
Trainer: Colin Hayes

Rosehill, Oct. 10
Generation Cap 4-5f
Trainer: Tommy Smith

Myoboom 10-1 (Fav. Lost 13-8)
Trainer: Jim Lee

Caulfield, Oct. 14
Kingston Heritage 7-2 (Fav. 2nd 7-4)
Trainer: Geoff Murphy

Sculpture's Blue 4-6f
Trainer: Colin Hayes

Caulfield, Oct. 17
Voltage Peak 6-4f
Trainer: Buster O'Malley (Perth)

Randwick, Oct. 17
Iga Ninja 3-1 (Fav. Lost 11-8)
Trainer: Harold Rodger

Market Fair 11-4f
Trainer: Jack Denham

Moonee Valley, Oct. 24
King's High 4-1 (Fav. Lost 5-2)
Trainer: Colin Hayes

Pray For Colleen 25-1 (Fav. 2nd 2-5)
Trainer: Jim Kennedy

Rosehill, Oct. 24
Ballook 15-1 (Fav. 2nd 5-4)
Trainer: Norm Stephens (Bris)

Flemington, Oct. 31
Sculpture's Blue 9-2 (Fav. Lost 3-1)
Trainer: Colin Hayes

Rosehill, Oct. 31
Safe 'N' Sound 9-1 (Fav. 2nd 9-2)
Trainer: Ray Guy

M'Lady's Jewel 3-l f
Trainer: Les Bridge.

As you can see, there were only a minority of instances where a big stable didn't win the money. Noticeable absentees are Bart Cummings, Brian Mayfield-Smith, Paul Sutherland, George Hanlon, etc.

By Unknown Author