It is as important to know when not to bet as it is when to bet. Many uneducated punters gamble for the action.

You see them at the track and in the TABS, punters who have to have a bet regardless of theirability to back winners. Hail, rain or shine, they seem to have the knack of being able to punt 2 horses in a 3 horse field and still not back the winner.

Is it because they are just unlucky? NO, it's because they don't take the time to put in the work and gain the knowledge required to become successful punters.

Information has always been the main building block of any successful punter, it is one of the most important factors in whether or not you succeed. But having the information at your fingertips does not guarantee success. It is pointless having the information if you do not have the ability and knowledge to turn it into backing winners.

It's all about information, the ability to interpret it and knowing when to bet.

Most uneducated punters will bet nearly every race, not because they can pick the winners, but because they need to recoup a previous loss. They keep telling themselves the next bet will be the one. Even when they win they seldom, if ever, recover the money they have lost on other races.

It is as vital to know when not to bet as it is when to bet. How many times have you had a punt on a horse when you knew before the race it had only a slight chance at best of winning? The horse was not considered by you on its current form to be an outsider with a reasonable chance of winning at good odds, and the race was considered to be a bad investment.

But because you lost money on your last bet, and you have time to spare before the next handicapped race, you start to reconsider races that you have already rejected for the reason that they offer a poor chance of a return on your investment.

Many successful punters will go on course and bet only 3 races out of an 8 race card. They are not there to bet every race, but to win. Their objective is to walk away with a profit at the end. They don't expect to win every time they wager; they all work to percentages and averages. They have done their work prior to going to the track. They know that of the 8 races on today, only a few will meet the strict criteria they have found to be profitable.

How many times have you bet on a maiden race where 3 or more horses have never had a run? It's impossible to consistently win on these sorts of races, yet the uneducated still bet on them.

Ok, so you decide you want to start betting as an educated punter and want to know where to start. Let's go back to the basics, information.

Each week the good daily and weekend newspapers produce a reasonable printed form guide for all metropolitan races. With the main race details you have a wealth of information that can help you start on your selections. At a quick glance you know how each horse has gone in its previous four starts, whether or not it has had a spell, won or placed, won on this track, won at this distance and so on. For this exercise I'm using Race 2 at Rosehill, as published in the Weekend Australian, dated March 19-20, 1994.

The race is laid out as below:

RACE 2 1.10 PAGO PAGO STKS 1200m $100.00 and a $750 trophy. Set weights. For two-year-old colts and geldings. Apprentices cannot claim.

TAB No’s

1--11x2LORD JIMtb2W Harris55
2--32 MONTANA SANDS 3 J A Cassidy55
3--1275 CODE t4 L Olsen55
4--1236 CHARLIE BUBBLES M De Montfort 55
5--x117 BOLD TRIST d5B York 55
6--324 CHANTED 9G Boss 55
7--13x7 MURPHYS MARAUDER 1S Screven55
8--12 CALL ME PAL 6L V Cassidy 55
9--x344 ANGELOS 8G L Cooksley 55

4-9 Lord Jim, 7 Montana Sands, 8 Code, 12 Angelos, 14 Charlie Bubbles, Bold Trist, 20
Chanted, Murphy's Marauder, Call Me Pal.

First off, we know it's a 1200m race for 2YO colts and geldings at set weights. Set weights means all the horses will carry the same weight regardless of their previous wins and prizemoney earnings. We also know if there are any apprentice jockeys riding they will not be allowed to claim any allowances.

Let's look at horse No.1,  LORD JIM.

The first number indicates the official TAB number for the horse, the next set of numbers indicates how the horse has gone in its last four starts. Working from left to right, the horse's last run is the one closest to his name.

Lord Jim at his last start finished 2nd, first up from a spell. The spell is the "x". His two previous starts prior to the spell were both winning runs. Next is the horse's registered racing name. The small "t " means he has won at this track, and small “b” means he was the beaten favourite at his last start.

The next number, 2, is his barrier position this race. We then have the jockey's name and the weight. (If apprentices were allowed to claim, their allowance would at)pear in brackets between the jockey's name and the weight. To get the correct weight the horse is carrying today you would have to deduct the allowance from the published weight.)

Below the list of runners in the race is the market based on the horse's past form. Lord Jim is at 4/9, odds on; the other runners start in the betting market from 7/1 onwards. This should be taken as a rough guide only. The shorter the odds offered, the better chance the horse is considered to have.

So what we now have is a general picture of each horse's predicted chance in today's race and how they have gone at previous meetings. But the finishing positions are no good to you unless you know the class of horse, type of race, distance and track condition they were earned in.

Running first, or placing in weak, or medium company at a provincial track isn't equal to a metropolitan race on Saturday.

So you need to go to the more detailed form guide of the horse's recent starts. This will give you the horse's color, sex, age, breeding, trainer and the details of at least their last start, which is what we are really after.

Once again we will look at Lord Jim.

LORD JIM Ch g 2 (New Regent - Solar Flame). B Mayfield Smith: 2ND - 55.5 (4/1 eq. fav). W Harris, C'bury 1200m Skyline Stks March 5/94. Dr. Zackary 55.5 1: Marwina 55.5 3. 1 1/4 len 1/2 nk. Trk fast. 1:10:2. 15strs. Set wts.

The horse's name is first, the "ch g 2" means he is a chestnut gelding 2 years old. His sire and dam are enclosed in brackets, the sire will always be the first name. The trainer is B. Mayfield Smith.

"2ND - 55.5 (4/1 eq. fav)" means he finished 2nd carrying 55.5 kilos and was 4/1 equal favourite in the race. W Harris was the jockey. Race track, distance, race name and date are fairly straight forward each time.

As for "Dr. Zackary 55.5 1: Marwina 55.5 3", the 1 and 3 behind the weight of 55.5 indicates the first and third placegetters in Lord Jim's last race. "1 1/4 len" is the distance in lengths that the 2nd placegetter was from the winner (in this case Lord Jim finished 2nd by 11/4 lengths to Dr. Zackary), "1/2 nk" is the distance between the 2nd and third placegetters. To get the margin of the winner to the horse who finished third, you have to add both margins together.

"Trk fast" means the track was a fast track on the day, "1:10:2" (70.2 seconds) is the time recorded by the winner in running the distance. "Set wgt" is the race restriction imposed on the runners.

To turn a profit over any period of time requires you to be patient, disciplined and educated. You must already know what you are prepared to wager and what type of races will consistently give you a return.

There is no such thing as betting with the Bookmakers' money. Your winnings are your profit, every bet you make with your winnings either lessens or increases your profits.

Next month we will look at types of races and classes and how to apply this information into a system of eliminating horses and races that have been proven in the past to be unprofitable betting propositions.

By Steve McAllister