Any winner is a good winner? Many would suggest that the question mark is not necessary, that the answer is an obvious and emphatic NO. They would say that to be prepared to take just any odds is asking for trouble.

They might say that the best way to beat the game, perhaps the only way, is to look for value, to ferret out those horses considered to be 'over the odds' and then back them with confidence.

Would they be right? I was prepared to say they would not. When I set out to write this article I fully intended to base it on the premise that, in fact, any winner is a good winner, irrespective of price. My arguments, I believed, were logical.

My first problem was with the term 'value bet'. What does it mean? Obviously, 6/4 is value if a horse's true odds should be evens, and 5/1 is not value if its true odds should be 8/1.

The question is: How do you decide what the true odds should be? Through the years I have used a number of pricing methods and most have been of some value. But to price the same horse in the same race with different methods will usually result in different prices. These differences can often be as significant as that between 2/1 and 4/1.

That means with one method 3/1 is value, with another it isn't.

I was also going to argue that spending time and energy worrying about 'value' is not the way to success and that the only way to win consistently on the punt is through successful handicapping. Whatever method you use, whether

a combination of stored knowledge, intuition or a mechanical system, if you win then why should you ignore good winners just because of some arbitrary judgement that their price is too short?

Short price, I intended to suggest, did not equal no value. If a horse is 4/6 and you are sure nothing can beat it, then it is value.

These are a few of the arguments I intended using - until, that is, I took the obvious step of going over some figures before I started writing. They are from a mechanical system I designed, and cover some 15 Saturdays (not enough for definitive conclusions, but promising) betting in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, using SPs.

The 'Bets' column relates to supporting all selections, only those under 2/1, only those over 2/1, only those under 3/1 and only those over 3/1.

All 90 38(42%) 123.7 9/4 33.70(37%)
-2/138 21(55%) 44.7 10/9 6.70 (17%)
+2/152 17(32%) 79.0 7/2 27.00(51%)
-3/159 28(47%)67.7 11/8 8.70(14%)
+3/131 10(32%) 56.0 9/225.00(80%)

So, a $10 bet on 'all bets' would have realised a profit of $337, but the 3/1+ column, with bets of $30 each, requiring a total of only $30 more stake money, provided a profit of $750. More than twice as much.

What does this tell us? It tells ME that for my handicapping approach I would be best served by backing only those horses I rate as bets which are 3/1 or longer.

For all of us it illustrates that the real 'value' in punting is in keeping records. But there is more to it than I just maintaining records. You also

have to learn from them. You need to analyse them to work out the best way to approach your betting.

So, then, back to the original question: Is any winner a good winner? I still think it is. After all, the opposite of good is bad, and I do not believe a winner, any winner, can be bad.

Maybe I am asking the wrong question, though. Perhaps the question should be: Is backing ALL your selections, regardless of price, necessarily the best approach? To this I would have to answer NO.

How will I utilise my handicapping selections in future? The truth is I will probably back all my selections. I prefer the action of six bets per Saturday, as opposed to two. Besides, a 55 per cent strike rate (under 2/1) lends itself to ideas of progression betting or doubles ... or whatever! That is the beauty of analysing your own figures. The possibilities are many.

EDITOR'S COMMENT.. Graeme's article is interesting in that it raises one of the key areas of betting: Value. He points out that his own statistics show that he can double his profits by betting solely on horses at 311 and over and ignoring the others.

But he then suggests he will continue backing all his selections, if only for the action they provide on raceday. Rightly, he points out that he has a high strike rate in the lower odds area and that this could be fertile ground for a progression staking plan, or for linking selections in all up doubles. His article provides us all with food for thought.

By Graeme Menzies