Once upon a time, long before something called the Internet arrived in our lives, the thought of placing a bet on a horse-race in a country far away across the world was something none of us really thought about, or considered.

The world back then, and it was less than a decade ago, was a "bigger" place than it is today. The Internet has changed the scope of our lives and shrunk the world so that we are but a few touches of the computer keys away from what's happening in the rest of the world.

Not only that, we can now participate in what's going on in those other countries and so far as betting on horse-racing is concerned it's becoming an "open go" area. We have the chance to bet on race meetings all over the world and it's all very simply done. It's efficient, it's disciplined and more and more punters, in Australia and other countries, are starting to turn it into a massive business.

Take expatriates from Britain living abroad, perhaps in Australia, the States, Europe, Asia, Africa ... They may be missing their racing; it's something that at home was part of their lives. Moving to another country would, in that other era, have meant the end of their interest in UK racing.

Not any more. Now those expats can access the Internet and get every scrap of information they need on each day's racing. They can open an account with a bookmaker and they can place their bets on any race they like.

They can listen to the races over the Net and, through at least one leading website, they can WATCH the races. Yes, live "TV" coverage of racing has arrived and is flourishing on the Internet.

It's much the same for Australians living overseas. They don't ever have to lose track of what's happening back here. They can access websites like Racenet and Racing & Sports, and Practical Punting Daily, and maintain their knowledge of the form. They can download all the results, they can listen to the races, they can see some of them in replay ... and, of course, they can bet!

A friend of mine, from England, says the Internet is the greatest thing that has happened for him in the nine years he's lived in Australia. He has rediscovered his love of British racing, and he's even encouraged several Aussie mates to join I-Lim in a betting syndicate.

Each Saturday night, they hold a "beer and bets" gathering in his home in Sydney and follow the UK meetings through the night. They have several betting accounts with bookmakers, and they subscribe to a website that allows them to watch the races "live" once they've placed their bets.

This is the "attheraces" website. Here you can access all the UK fields, get tips, go into the betting lounge, make your bets and then sit back and watch the horses go round at all the meetings for each day.

At the Racing Post website, the amount of information provided for punters is extraordinary. You can look back at each horse's entire career performances, check up on the statistics for trainers and jockeys, place your bets, get the odds from a raft of bookmaking organisations, obtain the tips from all the leading daily newspapers in the UK ... why, you can even find out which runners are the "most travelled", that is how far they are travelling to run at the meeting!

The Sporting Life site offers thousands of individual pages on racing and other sports. Here you go into what's called The Betting Zone, and all the information you need is available at no charge. Most sites, by the way, ask no fee.

You can secure the current odds on each runner from at least a dozen bookmakers by perusing The Betting Zone.

Then you can simply place your bet, after opening an account with a bookmaker of your choice, of course.

The UK even has betting exchanges where individuals can become bookies by offering to "lay" horses at certain prices. At Betfair, for example, you can be a bookie or a punter. You might believe that Horse A is not going to win and you decide to lay it and offer odds of, say, 5/1. Other punters then bet with you. In turn, you can look at all the prices on offer and make your own bets.

Betting exchanges are doing a tremendous business in Britain, to the point where official bookmakers are starting to call on the British Government to stamp them out, claiming they're illegal. The betting exchanges, of course, argue that they are perfectly legal.

I doubt such betting activities would be tolerated here in Australia, where even licensed bookmakers are given pretty much of a hard time.

Opening an account with a bookmaker in the UK is simple. Ladbrokes leads the way with a slick, easy-to-use website. With a credit card, you can open an account within minutes and be betting as soon as Ladbrokes has run a security check to ensure the credit card is not stolen or being misused.

Ladbrokes has an excellent radio and TV setup on the website.

Expats who long for some greyhound racing from the Old Dart will be more than happy ...Ladbrokes covers dozens of meetings through every week, and you can bet on all of them.

'All the form is available on Internet websites'

Another big area of betting for Aussies these days is Hong Kong Bookmaker Mark Read offers a full betting service on the HK races. The Hong Kong Jockey Club has an excellent website which provides huge chunks of information about each arid every race PLUS it shows brilliantly sharp instant replays of all races.

You'll need broadband cable to take the fullest advantage of any TV-like coverage on the Internet. The pictures come out crisp and clear and are shown at a reasonable size so that it's easy to pick out the runners you want to follow.

Interestingly, the HK Jockey Club bans foreigners from opening betting accounts with them. It restricts account holders to those people living in Hong Kong. Seems a strange move to me but maybe the Chinese Communists know what they're doing (or do they?).

They are, however, doing the right thing in promoting their racing product via a website that is packed with the latest technology. It's a pleasure to "surf" and gives you all the information you'd need to pick a winner.

But there's much more available on Hong Kong racing. The South China Morning Post's racing website, Racing Post, is a classic example of how to do things property. It has a "free" area but the bulk of its content is available only for a subscription fee. The cost works out at about $300 a year.

Then there's the Hong Kong Racing Journal. It's been around for many years and offers free in-depth form on the HK race meetings, as well as other services. The HKJA offers lifetime performances of any horse for free. If you're interested in pursuing a betting attack on HK racing, then a visit to this website has to be a "must" because so much of it is free.

I'm a fan of Hong Kong racing. If I were not so heavily inclined to Australian racing in my work I would bet on Hong Kong. The reason? There are only two tracks, there are only two meetings a week, you can easily follow the formlines and all the information you need is available instantly on the Internet.

Plus, there are opportunities to bet on the racing there via betting agencies in Australia, like that of Mark Read, based in Darwin.

A new age, then, has dawned and many Aussie punters are waking up to the simple fact that international racing is available to them. They recognise that there are now betting opportunities outside Australia and that with all the information available they have a chance to grab a new angle on betting.

My friend and his "beer and bets" club are having the time of their lives. He says: "UK racing is great, especially the National Hunt season when it's all jumps racing. The coverage is first-class and the betting with the bookies is out of this world. I still bet locally but I think my real interest now lies with international racing."

Jon Hudson says: I began betting on UK racing some six months ago and I've never had a moment's worry.

I opened an account with a leading bookmaker over there, I place my bets through the Net, and have had no trouble in receiving my winnings. I'm usually betting in $50 and $100 units and I stick to the major meeting of the day, whether it's flat racing or over the jumps.

I got something of a shock when I discovered how big jumps racing is in Britain. Here in Australia, of course, the jumps are "small beer" but it's a far different story in the UK, where, if anything, they are more popular than flat races.

I used the Racing Post website to get a handle on the form, and now I'm quite proficient; in fact, my last three months have seen me jot up a level-stakes profit of more than 45 per cent. Oddly enough, it's a better success rate than I'm achieving with Australian racing.

The main problem with betting in the UK is the time difference. We're some nine or ten hours ahead of them, so as the racing there starts, around 2pm, it's 11 or 12 o'clock at night here. I've always been a night owl so it doesn't concern me to be still up and around at lam and 2am watching or listening to the UK races, especially if I have some significant bets placed.

Hong Kong racing is not so much of a problem. HK is usually about three hours behind us so when their racing starts at around 1pm, it's only 4pm here. I work in tandem with a friend in HK for my betting but I make sure I watch as many races as I can at the Hong Kong Jockey Club's website.

The replay comes through within minutes of a race being run, so it's virtually a "live" service, my pal and I communicate via email to decide the bets during the day. It's great fun and, again, I've made a profit so I'm very happy.


By Brian Blackwell