Carrying on with our twenty sharp ideas for punting in 2002, the first of the final eight is something a little different something that punters like to pursue, regardless of the fact that it is not in their normal betting makeup.

Point Thirteen is concerned with punters who like having the odd omen bet. For instance, I know that reader John J., of Adelaide, has a temptation for family names. That can be quite nutty, except when your sister's name is Tiffany and Tiffany's Best leads all the way at Flemington (and on a Saturday!), and pays $61 for the win.

I suppose that we should despise the whole idea of omen betting. However, I am the first to admit that there are occasions when the heart must rule the head.

On these occasions, provided that they occur a very few times in any one year, it doesn't hurt to do something mad. So don't be afraid to have the occasional madcap bet, so long as it is small and the chances of a big collect make it worth the risk.

Point Fourteen will ensure you never miss hearing the races, wherever you might be.

Have a decent radio or three around the house. There is nothing so maddening as to have trouble with reception. I have always had good radios. They repay the money outlaid. I have a quality small one (very small, actually), that I carry everywhere. It has bud earphones, and although they drive me mad the way they get all tangled up, this does mean I can always hear a race or get the information I need, wherever I am.

I also have a first-class car radio and I have it programmed so that I can switch from one frequency to another as I drive between areas.

Pay TV subscribers may not be aware that Radio 927 (Melbourne) is available to them on R4. This station can send you round the twist on Saturdays, but it is still the best all-round station. As a support for that comment about the twist, may I just say that on a recent Saturday I had to sit through a lady expert explaining the advantage females have because they can keep their hair dyed. Not a lot, you'd feel, to do with racing. And as with so many talk shows, the level of insult and total irrelevancy can be very, very irritating.

For all that, 927 is an asset for the punter and it's free for Pay TV folk.

Point Fifteen stresses the importance of being very aware of what a horse has already done and, every bit as important, what it has failed to do.

A horse that has failed at a distance, especially more than once, is unlikely to make the grade at that trip. I am fascinated by trainers who tell the radio listeners that their horse did fail at, say, 2000 metres as a three-year-old, "but, you know, he is older now and, you know, he is stronger now, and I think he will run it now. . .".

This is a load of old cobblers. They rarely manage to upgrade their distance capacity if they have failed at it more than once. Anything is possible and you will find a horse that blows my theory out of the water, if you seek long
enough. But it is my general impression that so far as distance is concerned, once failed, be wary. Twice failed, never again!

I am also very aware of the different tracks operating in Australia these days, which brings me to Point Sixteen. There is a world of difference between Randwick at 1200 metres (inner track) and Rosehill at the same distance. Yet until recently, when punters finally seem to have woken up, fielders have got away with grand larceny offering last-start winners at one of these tracks as favourites when they front up at the other one.

Flemington is a big trouble-spot, especially the straight track. It's a great venue, but I need to know they can do it there before I try to identify winners. Into that you have to add the question of which side of the track will be faster that afternoon. Then you have to assume that the trainer/jockey will choose the correct side to race on!

If you think that is ridiculous, let me point you to a recent meeting where all but two went down the grandstand side. The two that didn't threw away all chance.

As fast as I say that, I also have to admit that I have seen cases where maybe one horse chooses the "wrong" side, and then wins. There are enough examples of this to make me cautious of the straight track, but if I am going to bet, I must know that the selection can handle the situation - meaning that it must have won at 1200 there, preferably more than once.

Point Seventeen: Win and place percentages are very important.

Some recent statistical evidence is pointing towards place figures as perhaps even more important than win figures. At first I thought this was garbage. Esteemed colleague Clive Allcock probably would be a classical example of someone who for years focused on winning form, but has recently undergone, perhaps not a sea change, but a re-evaluation.

The figures don't lie, and while the jury will be out for eons on the question of eachway betting, the place percentage statistics are remarkable in their ability to identify winning chances. I am interested in horses that are virtually never out of a place. First and second up, and at the end of their campaigns, they still race consistently. If you find a horse that has, maybe, 20 per cent lifetime wins and a 75 per cent or higher place strike, and it is in a race over a distance it has won at, on a course it favours, you are usually looking at a very reliable animal to carry your money.

This is not the last word on place percentages. I am unsure that I am even on the right track here, but I am saying that I am revising my previous standpoint. The availability of formguides such as Wizard and Sportsman means that these stats can be analysed in great detail by any investor.

Point Eighteen is to use a highlighter pen to identify and hold onto horses that qualify for consideration.

This analysis takes me very little time and can uncover quite surprising contenders. Use different coloured highlighters, and stick to the same colours each week. This will mean that when you are doing your study and checking previous meetings, you know what a red highlight, as against a green, means, without having to go any further in your inquiry.

While this might seem a rather strange "sharp idea", it can be vital. I have all my computers and all my sources, but frankly I still rely on my own notes to a significant extent.

I use five colours: red, blue, purple, green and yellow. I know what they mean for me, and I make sure they never vary. It is a legacy from the pre-computer world, but the latest highlighter pens are fantastic for this sort of stuff and they also make you concentrate on what you are doing.

Point Nineteen: Stop regarding your racing investment as a hobby, or as a lottery ticket. If you are fair dinkum (and if you are not, why are you reading this?), then you want to win money.

At least you must want to at some stage. On Saturday when you put your bets on, do you expect to win? Not every day of course, but overall? If not, what exactly are you doing?

Sorry to come on strong here, but you join up with Equestrian, you read PPM, you probably love racing, and you are a darn side smarter than the average punter who looks for cheap thrills. If there is any chink in your armour, you must plug it.

If that chink is a deficient attitude, such as being unable to stick to your chosen approach, or forgetting that racing is an investment (not a gamble), be very careful. Your entire investment strategy can fall apart if these weaknesses are not attended to.

Point Twenty recommends that we have a good look at what Graeme Brown wrote in last month's issue of PPM on page 41. Graeme, a long-time PPM subscriber, emphasised the importance of maintaining a "total" policy on investment. His money allocation was extremely interesting and full of sense. In fact, it might be the best idea of them all!


  • Point 13: Do not be ashamed of having the odd omen bet.
  • Point 14: Maintain several reliable radios.
  • Point 15: Never trust a horse to win at a distance it has failed at more than once.
  • Point 16: Regard every track as a different challenge.
  • Point 17: Place percentages might be undervalued by the average punter.
  • Point 18: Purchase and use consistently five different-coloured highlighter pens.
  • Point 19: Be wary of dangerous attitudes to winning at racing.
  • Point 20: Have a close look at what Graeme Brown wrote on page 41 of the January 2002 issue of PPM.

Click here to read Part 1.

by The Optimist