Why attack the feature double? Because it's there, as a certain climber is supposed to have said.

There are several feature doubles in the racing year, but only one attracts the kind of attention that means you can get great odds about various combinations which have real chances.

This double is, as you know, the one run on the two big upcoming cups, Caulfield and Melbourne. I love it because I can invest slowly, taking what I regard as the best early prices, and (if I am lucky) supplementing them with later bets on the day, and even with other doubles.

For example, if you take several horses in the first cup with a good handful in the second race, and your first leg gets in, then you will usually have at least a couple of starters in the Melbourne Cup. Your next job is to try to increase your chances of a win by trying to lock up a few more starters in that second cup. You might do this in a number of ways, but one is by taking the field in the VATC Derby into a couple of starters in the Cup.

If the favourite wins the derby, then the returns may not be too exciting, but in a year when the roughie wins the derby, you can find yourself with various horses running for a lot of money. I am going to list for you my method of attack for 1997 (and for that matter any year), and we can talk about investment methods that may suit your style and your pocket.

Remember that you must keep an honest book, recording all your bets. If a one dollar double gets up and pays $800 plus your stake, and you have invested $500 overall, the payout is $301 profit for that $500, and consequently not 800/1 but 301 / 500 or about 60 per cent. Such a percentage is wonderful, so don't go away! If you could make 60 per cent every week you'd be a millionaire in a short time.

For example, if you bet $200 per week, one way and the other, and received $120 profit every week (60 per cent), you'd be winning $6240 at the end of year one, and if you kept the profits in your bank and increased your bank by that amount for year two (i.e. to $16,640), you'd win almost $10,000 that second year. Add that to the bank for year three ... see where it goes? Sixty per cent is the impossible dream, yet it can come off in these big doubles with care and patience.

I like to bet early and late, and in between as well. Here's how:

  1. Obtain the charts from at least two leading bookmakers (they advertise regularly: for my purposes I am indebted to Sydney turf accountants Geoff Landrey and Bill Hurley for their sheets).
  2. Study the betting lines. Not the prices, which are rarely there, but the lines on which the horses appear.

Bill and Geoff's men are experts. If a horse is on the fifteenth line there is usually something wrong. If it is on the first line, then there are two possibilities (both may be correct):

  1. The men think the horse is the best and deserves to be the fav.
  2. The horse is popular and will be well supported.

In this latter case, unfortunately, we sometimes have to be very patient and wait until something else comes along to knock the top one off its perch. People have short memories, and not many people now recall that Doriemus started at very good odds in BOTH cups, and won them. The odds for Saintly in the Melbourne Cup were stunning, yet ask anyone and most would say now that he was probably favourite and everyone knew he'd win.

Seek out one or two in each leg that you regard as over the odds. I stress that what I mean here is that they are down several lines in the betting. The charts are designed so that the odds rise, both down the page and across the page. So if you find two horses that are on the (say) tenth lines, the odds may well be 8000 or 10,000 to one. It's hard to find a bookie who'll let you on for a dollar, but if you are taking several bets I am sure they will oblige.

The four you select (two in each leg) are now coupled with maybe a dozen in the other leg. For example, say you like the Freedman mare Derobe in the first race. There is a question as to whether or not she will remain here for the race so she is at very juicy odds.

You take her with everything you really believe has a hope in the other race. Say you take the first ten in the betting at between 100/1 and 2000/1. Then you select four others at bigger prices (including, of course, the two that are your "overs" in the second cup.) So you have outlaid fourteen units at odds up to maybe 15,000/1.

Now the same is done in reverse. Say you think that Skybeau is over the odds in the Melbourne Cup. Yes, you may choose two, but I am just selecting this one as an example. You choose ten best chances and four others in the Caulfield Cup lineup into Skybeau. This means you will have two units on the two special picks, by the way. Two units on each of four combinations, if you have picked two specials in each leg.

So, you may now have invested (14 x 2 = 28) from the first cup into the second, and (2 x 14 = 28) to snare all the fancies in the second cup. Fifty-six units out. Odds of 1000 minimum, anything maximum.

Now you watch the charts and, of course, the progress of the horses. With fourteen or so in the Caulfield Cup there will be horses racing every week that you are interested in. And vice versa for the Melbourne Cup. Principally you will be interested in your special two in each leg, but all of them will hold a fascination for you. Last year as I watched all six of mine get through to the final lineup it became very exciting.

This is the time when you add a little. A horse comes along that you have overlooked but is obviously going to be a threat. You take him/ her into your two in each cup, costing you four units, as a sort of security bet. If he isn't entered in both cups, of course, you would only need to take him with the two in the other race.

If you are at the races (or have an account) you can also call your bookmaker and ask for the odds on certain horses. If you still fancy those two originals and they still seem to be outsiders, call up and see what the odds are. It would be a shame to have all those doubles yet not back the winner after you selected it.

On the other hand, that can misfire too. Last year I backed Arctic Scent at 33 /1 and she paid more on the NSW TAB on the day! 

This is the best fun part. On the day of the Caulfield Cup, take two bets:

Your two selections, if they have got to the post, into the Melbourne Cup field (24 units each).

The field into your two Melbourne Cup selections (18 units each).

And take your four selections in doubles for an extra two units each (eight).

After the Caulfield Cup, are you still alive in the betting? It is very possible, as you took at least fourteen early selections, remember, into your favoured two for the Melbourne Cup. If one of your two Caulfield selections won, you are sitting pretty!

Now you have two more chances.

First, there will be the Cox Plate into the Melbourne Cup. Some TABs run doubles here, and some don't. They all do on the derby/ Cup. Clearly, with either of these races, if you have some selections going, you now try to set up the whole field. You know fairly accurately what you will receive, so you know how far in front that will put you. If it is, say, 500 units, designate 100 of them to undertake a cover exercise. Take the field in the Cox or derby into two or three more selections in the Melbourne Cup, and your fancy in the derby (or Cox Plate) into the field in the Melbourne Cup.

In NSW I could take the field in the derby into, say, two in the Cup (say 30 units), and my two fancies (maybe three) in the derby into the Cup field (48 or 72).

I now have outlaid another hundred units, give or take (n.b. there will be some special divvies and subs to consider with these field bets at various stages, too). Also, I won't reduce my profits, as I have my Cup fancies in these doubles anyway, if they are alive. Let me explain further:

If I take the field in the Cup, then whatever I already have running is also going to be running in this double. Say I liked Skybeau and I got a Caulfield Cup winner into him. I am now taking something else in the derby into the field. This bet includes Skybeau, so if my derby selection gets up I have Skybeau in that double as well as in my original double. So I am not eating into my potential profits. I am just covering myself. FINALLY

On the day of the Melbourne Cup, if I have not managed a double at all, I tally up my losses. I can probably still cut even or better by backing those of my original 14 selections that make the final field and are at good odds. If one of my original two that I tried to cover is running, it will have a double (Caulfield Cup/ field) on it. I can probably save on at least five or six others if I keep my head.

By The Optimist