Quite often, P.P.M. readers provide us with food for thought. They send in their own systems and ideas, and we run them through a test to see if they work. Many don't; a few come up trumps (like reader Michael Pinnock's combination of the Invader Ratings and Novice Knowhow, which we published recently).

Thomas Jukes, a dedicated P.P.M. reader from Revesby in Sydney, wrote to me recently, and enclosed some research he had conducted into various aspects of the selection process.

He also had some pertinent comments to make, like the following:

"You can do all that you like in picking out a horse, taking into account all the probabilities, but CHANCE will determine the final result. No matter how expert you are, CHANCE will determine what eventually happens, bringing in factors you cannot control. They call it racing luck, but boiled down all it means is there are factors out of everyone's control."

I know what he means, of course, and it's true. Once the gates open for a race, all your calculations and predictions are left to chance; to whatever might happen in the race itself. But Thomas went on to say that he felt his research had come up with enough material to help the average punter back a regular stream of winners.

His research, he pointed out, was conducted at various times over the past 10 years, in periods ranging from three months to nine months, and in different States. When he put it all together, he found that year after year virtually the same percentage of starters, on all tracks, in, all seasons, left the barriers at the exact odds of 2/1. A different percentage of all starters go off at 3/1, another percentage at 6/1 and so on through the entire betting scale.

These percentages, he said, remain steady and fixed, year after year. Naturally, they will fluctuate from month to month or week to week, up or down, but for every upward deviation there will eventually develop a corresponding dip, so that the overall figure finally ends up the same.

From all his studies,, Thomas has concluded that the punter must look at the third choices in the betting to have any real prospect of winning in the long-term. On his figures, 7.7 per cent of all the horses starting on A tracks every season go off at odds of 3/1 or 7/2-and of these, 17 per cent win their races, season after season.

The averages of his investigation into dividends and strike rates are as follows:
Of all starters at odds-on: 56 per cent win.
Of all starters at divs from $1.05 to $1.95: 36 per cent win.
Of all starters at divs from $2.00 to $2.95: 25 per cent win.
Of all starters at divs from $3.00 to $3.95: 21 per cent win.
Of all starters at divs from $4.00 to $4.95:17 per cent win.
Of all starters at divs from $5.00 to $5.95:13 per cent win.
Of all starters at divs from $6.00 to $6.95:11.5 per cent win.
Of all starters at divs from $7.00 to $7.95: eight per cent win.
Of all starters at divs from $8.00 to $8.95: seven per cent win.

These percentage figures are averages, compiled from a number of Australian tracks. The significant fact, according to Thomas, is the steadiness of the figures. Who determines this? The punters do.

Now to a key point in our reader's deliberations. He found that third choices in the tote betting that start at 7/2 (or $4.50 to $4.95) win 26 per cent of the time.

Theoretically, then, you could back all these third favourites in dot tote range and make money. With 26 wins per 100 bets, you would be receiving back between $117 and $129 for every $100 outlaid.

This could be a nice method to look at for those punters who like to study tote odds when they're betting at the track or at the TAB. All you need do is watch the third favourites in any race, and if they are paying between $4.50 and $4.95, you back them.

Certainly, it's simple enough. The past statistics confirm that you are going to come out with 26 winners per 100 bets, and you know you are in the right price range to enable you to achieve around a 20 per cent profit.

Imagine if you turned over $10,000 in a year (say, $200 per week), you could make a dear profit of $2000, or $40 a week (taxfree). I mention 'tax-free' because at the moment racing winnings are the one piece of money you can receive these days which is not taxable.

I So look at race winnings another way If we assume you're paying an average of 35 per cent taxation, that means a win of, say, $200 a week from racing is really the equivalent of working and earning just over $300. This takes into account the tax you would have to have paid to end up with that $200 in your pocket.

If you're a punter paying the highest tax of 49 cents in the dollar, each dollar you win at the track is equivalent to earning double that amount.

Think about it, and the more you do the more racing and punting becomes a great business attraction. And the good thing about going into the punting business is that you have no overheads to speak of, no bad debts, and you live or perish on your judgement.

No wonder that more and more astute businessmen are turning to professional punting.

By Statsman