Get the basics right and half the job is done. Sounds good, right? Yes, it does, but what are the basics?

Everyone has a slightly different idea. Class, form, fitness make up a threesome of basics. Then we get to staking, money management, profit control, and so on. In fact, I could go on and on, but let's get back to what this article is all about ... finding ways to win and betting the right way to win.

There's a special doubles chart for betting on this page. It's from the US analyst Barry Meadow's best selling book Money Secrcts At The Racetrack (excellent book, by the way). This will help you bet your doubles in a sensible way.

Work out what they should pay, based on available odds or your own assessed odds, and bet accordingly. So, if you work out three doubles to bet, and you are satisfied they offer value, and they are going to return you $7, $23 and $33 then your bets would be, in order, $24, $5 and $3, a total of $32. If the $7 double comes up you get back $168; if the $23 double arrives your return is $115 and if the other double arrives your return will be $96. So that's a way of betting doubles. Now what about a good, solid plan for picking winners? Well, let me take you back to the 1970s and a workshop I attended in California (I spent a couple of years over there, on the punt, and came away having paid for the sojourn with my winnings, but with not a red cent left over).

The following plan came up for discussion and I think it is worth repeating here:

  1. Only consider horses that won at one of their latest two starts this campaign;
  2. Delete any that are not course winners and distance winners;
  3. Delete any that have not raced at least five times in their career;
  4.  Delete any that have not won at least 20 per cent of their races;
  5. Delete any that have not been placed (Ist/2nd/3rd in at least 40 per cent of their races.

Daily Double Bet Chart
(Capital = $23000)

$6 or less$30
$7 $24
$8 $20
$9 $17
$10 $15
$11 $13
$12 $12
$15 $9
$16-17 $8
$18-19 $7
$27-32 $4
$33-42 $3
What's so good about this one? Well, these horses have at least won once in five racetrack outings, and they have been placed in at least two from five starts, and they have won once in their last two starts. Those are pertinent factors. Also, there's the important ingredient of having won at the track and over the distance of the race (at any track).

Another move in 2006 should be to closely examine the worth of backing favourites. Now 1 know this will usually be greeted with howls of derision. "You can't back favourites, you'll always lose," goes the refrain.

Yes, the statistics show you will lose backing every favourite over the course of a year. BUT doing this you are at least going to lose LESS than you would backing any other horse in the race.

Looking at some statistics produced by The Rating Bureau recently, I noted that their check of some 14,000 races showed that favourites had a win strike of 31.6 per cent and loss on turnover of 8.8 per cent. The pattern was clear, that from 2nd favourite down the worse was the strike rate and return.

TRB's assessor Daniel O'Sullivan summed it up perfectly: "There is nothing astonishing about these figures but it raises the question... Why on earth are favourites considered poor betting propositions in comparison to other horses? They actually lose less than other horses so it's nothing more than a myth."

The point about favourites is that all you need to do is LIFT their strike rate up to, say, 34.5 per cent, or around that mark, and suddenly you would be in profit over a year.

A good idea, then, is to concentrate your attention on the favourites and look deeply into the statistics to determine if there's a way to cut out some of the likely LOSING favourites. If you can do this, and it won't be too hard, then you have the game at your mercy.

What about backing the "true" favourites? Yes, you could back them at level stakes, but maybe there's an approach that might inject the betting with some drama and excitement and perhaps the prospect of MORE profit?

What about the old Endless Plan? It gives you a LOT of bets before you would lose all, and, frankly, in backing favourites this is really not on the agenda.

The Endless Plan goes like this:
SERIES A: 9 bets at 1 unit
SERIES B: 8 bets at 1.5 units
SERIES C: 7 bets at 2 units
SERIES D: 6 bets at 2.5 units
SERIES E: 5 bets at 3 units
SERIES F: 4 bets at 3.5 units
SERIES C: 3 bets at 4 units
SERIES H: 2 bets at 4.5 units
SERIES 1: 1 bet at 5 units.
The original idea was for you to go through the entire series of bets, although some modifications have been suggested from time to time. One is to stop when you are making a profit and start again at the beginning. My own fancy is for a slight change to this modification. Instead of reverting to the beginning at any profit mark, you instead wait until you are 50 per cent in front on what you have staked. If you reach this mark, pocket the profit and start again.

How can you test the favourites to assess their real worth? How about the following list of factors:

  1. Fitness ... is the horse fit?
  2. Is the horse in form OR very close to striking form?
  3. Is the horse reasonably well-weighted?
  4. Can it handle today's track? (A win or a very good placing is required.)
  5. Are track conditions suitable (Especially important if the track is rain-affected and around slow to heavy.)
  6. Is the horse racing at the right distance (A win or a very good placing is required.)
  7. Is the horse drawn advantageously?
  8. Does the horse have a very good trainer?
  9. Is the horse to be ridden by a very good jockey?
  10. Is the horse up to the class of the race?

Put a tick alongside each factor that comes up favourably for the favourite. A score of nine or 10 makes it a TOP BET, a score of seven or eight makes it a REASONABLE bet, and anything below that it is suggested you forget the race.

A punter operating this selection by elimination method carefully and correctly won't pick every winning favourite (oh, that we could!) but will come up with a percentage of winning bets that should ensure a long-term profit.

The aim, of course, is to get rid of bad favourites. Risky bets. Duds. You may bet on only a handful of favourites at each meeting but there is a strong likelihood that instead of a 31 per cent strike rate you will actually get a far higher rate of success. Careful elimination is one of the most powerful steps towards successful selecting. Many punters spend a lot of time in study by perusing the form of every runner in the race, doing the weights, and then concentrating on those which come in best on the figures.

What I am suggesting is that you can give yourself just as much of a winning chance by solely concentrating on favourites and picking out the best favourites and eliminating the risky ones. At worst you will lose a few cents in the dollar; at best you will emerge a nice winner at the end of 12 months.

By Richard Hartley Jnr