As we enter 1998, it's no longer going to be solely a case of a 'day at the races'. With the advent of metropolitan night racing, under lights, at Moonee Valley, we can now say we are off for a 'night at the races'. The problems remain the same, however!

You have still got to light up your life by picking the right horses and backing them the right way. No easier under lights than under the sun (ask the punters in Hong Kong who regularly bet under the lights at Happy Valley and Shatin).

As punters, we have a duty to ourselves to (a) protect our capital and (b) to make a decent profit. Easier said than done under the pressures of a high-powered raceday. It's often a case of keeping your head when all around you are losing theirs!

Can we, then, categorise the various punters who go to the track for a day's, or night's, action? Let's see if I can get it right. Punter A is Mr Cautious. He likes to bet but he hates losing money. He gets a real buzz from collecting a return on his bets, the more the better, and he is happy enough to bet all day for a small profit.

The second punter, maybe, is happy to lose a bit more than Mr Cautious because he likes a lot more excitement and some risk-taking. I call him Mr Half-Wild and he still wants to win but he isn't as niggardly about his betting as Mr Cautious. Some days he will take home a lot; generally, he is delighted to double his betting bank.

The third punter, Mr Now-And-Again only goes to the races a few times a year. He lets rip and doesn't really care if he loses provided he has a few drinks, a few laughs, some excitement and a day, or night, to remember.

Let's concentrate on a likely day's betting for Mr Cautious. It's not a bad way to go. Of the three, I would suggest that Mr Cautious has a lot to teach us about what to do to make some money in a day at the track.

Let's assume that I am Mr Cautious: I know enough about the form, and how things can easily go awry at the track, to make me consider a creative approach to betting, without jumping into high risk territory.

I bet for the place, in parlays (or all-ups). But even with these I am prepared to bet carefully. If I land an all-up of two placers, my next bet is going to be a third of my bank. I'll take you through a little scenario:

Let's say I have a betting bank of $48. I keep half of it 'in reserve' to be the backup capital should my initial bets fall in a heap.

I will make my first bet $8 for the place. Let's say the horse runs a place and pays $1.50 (for $1). I get $12 back and this is placed on the second race selection, again for the place. If we assume this horse runs a place at $1.50 I now cash in a ticket worth $18. My original $8 has gained me a $10 profit.

My (half) initial betting bank is now worth $34. I can now bet one-third of this on my next all-up, a bet of $11. If this bet wins, again assuming a $1.50 return, I will have $16.50 going on the next selection.

Whenever I lose, I continue to bet a third of whatever the bank is at the time. Because I am betting on well-fancied runners, usually around the 6 / 4 to 7 / 2 range, I am going to get a lot of collects. But if I fall behind, what do I do? If I have to call on the second 'reserve' bank, I will then start to bet for the win. I will spread the reserve over the remaining races.

If I have lost my initial (half) bank after, say, six races, my reserve is split on the remaining races (usually two or three of them). As soon as I regain my original bank, I can revert to place parlays again, if there are any races left. Otherwise, the betting series can begin again at the next meeting.

Of course, with today's betting cards, I do not have to restrict myself to one meeting, I can bet on any meetings that are covered by the TABS.

So, you can see how you can approach a pretty safe but full day's betting. Provided your selections are sound you can have a good time, risk little, and most days you will win something. Not much, probably, but enough to keep a smile on your face.

Summed up, the 'Mr Cautious' approach is the following:

  • Bet for the place on all-ups.
  • If you get behind, start betting for the win (single bets).
  • When you get back to square, or in profit overall, switch back to place betting again for the all-ups.

Example: You miss out on the first three races and are down $24. You now go to win bets and spread the remaining $24 over the remaining five (or six) races, and bet singly for the win. If you get back to even, or in profit, start the place all-ups again.

Now, remember, that you are betting for the place, so the chances of you blowing your money early on are low, provided you are sticking to sensible selections.

If you are astute enough, you should be able to carve out some nice profits for yourself. The following is an example of a day's betting using the approach I have outlined.

Eagle Farm, November 29, Bank $24, Reserve $24

Horse Odds Bet Pay Return Balance
Chagatai 7/2 8 1.50 12 28
Tenuous 7/4 - 1.20 14.4 30.4
*All-up successful, with profit of 6.4 units. Next bet is one-third of bank.

Horse Odds Bet Pay Return Balance
Gunalda 15/8 10 1.25 12.5 33
Tenuous 1/4 - 1.45 18 38.4
* All-up successful, with profit of 8 units. Next bet is one-third of bank.

Horse Odds Bet Pay Return Balance
Raschke 3/1 13 1.80 23.4 48.4
Tristingly 7/4 - 1.30 30.4 55.8
* All-up successful, with profit of 17.4 units. Next bet is one-third of bank.

Horse Odds Bet Pay Return Balance
Manndo 3/1 19 Lost 0.0 36.8
Totals: Bet $50, Return $62.8 PROFIT 12.8 (25.6 per cent on turnover).

Here there have been three successful all-up combinations. Manndo's loss ended the run but there was still a nice profit built up to enable a 25.6 per cent profit on the money outlaid. The punter could, of course, bet more all-ups than this, by starting a new all-up with each race:

Thus, all-ups on R1-2, R2-3, R3-4, R4-5, R5-6, R6-7, R7-8

Using this approach, there would have been a total of five successful all-ups and two losing ones on the 8-race card.

My own conclusion about this approach is that Mr Cautious would be more likely to play ultrasafe once he had doubled his capital. In this instance, once acquiring a bank of 55.8 on his first three all-ups he would take out his original $24 and then bet with the remainder (55.8 minus 24 equals a new bank of 31.8, starting with a bet of one-third on Manndo (11 units, say).

This seems to me to be a sensible and cautious way to go to protect capital. The bet on the fourth all-up is still a healthy 11 units.

Making the selections is a matter of being practical. Don't shoot for the stars. Stick to the formful horses who are well-fancied in the betting. With these you can expect place divs of between $1.20 and $1.80, occasionally a little more, sometimes a bit less. Broadly speaking, the $1.20-$1.80 range is reasonable to use as a benchmark.

There are punters who show a profit on place betting year after year. Their bets are always carefully chosen and will invariably involve well-supported favourites. The aim of the place punter, like Mr Cautious, should be to work the selections in such a way so as to maximise the strength of the hits. This is where the linked all-ups come into play. Here you can work your way through a day's betting, win a neat percentage on profit or, at worst, lose a small portion of your bank.

When can you feel confident about betting favs for the place? Well, it's been my experience that you can use a general 'benchmark' table to help you, as follows: 

Under evens 2 out of 3
evens to 2/1 1 out of 3
9/4 upwards 1 out of 4.
This tells you that any favourite at 2/1 or under can be a powerful prospect to run a placing, especially in fields of, say, 12 or less runners.

An extra angle to this sort of allup play is to give yourself an extra bank of, say, $10, with which to bet the place all-up selections for a win with single bets. It means that in every race you have a token win bet going for you.

If you like, you could even play the win bets as all-ups in the same way as the place. Thus, if you happened to strike with two successive winners, you would land a win parlay as well as a place parlay. For example, had you had a $1 win all-up on horses at, say, 2/1 and 3/1 you would get $12 back. That's an 11/1 double.

What you need to consider is whether this sort of approach suits your psychological profile as a punter. Are you a Mr or Mrs Cautious? Or do you desire many more thrills and the prospect of winning a lot more money than seems possible under the Mr Cautious mode?

We are all different in our needs and desires. Some of you, I know, wouldn't have a bar of place betting. Maybe you've been burned before? There's always the line of thinking that goes: "I would rather bet for a win and get one return every four races than get three out of four returns for the place and still not make any more than the one win bet!"

I know pals who say that the thought in the back of their minds is that if they bet for a place their selections will win ... and they will curse themselves for having played safe.

This is all very understandable. It's just a matter of HOW you want to bet and exactly what your TARGET is ... How much do you want to win? Which type of betting are you comfortable with?

By Richard Hartley Jnr