To back the favourite or not - it's a puzzle that punters run right into every meeting. And each time it's as hard to solve as it was the day before!

You'll find that many selection systems put in the rule that you should avoid backing favourites. There is some sense to this but you can't make a sweeping rule like that, because each race is different and each favourite is put there for different reasons. I did some research on favourites to determine for myself just what would happen if you backed favourites on a flat bet operation.

My survey covered 5,000 races at major racetracks and these are the results:

FIRST FAVOURITES.. . 7.4 per cent flat bet loss.
SECOND FAVOURITES ... 16.2 per cent flat bet loss.
THIRD FAVOURITES ... 17.5 per cent flat bet loss.
FOURTH FAVOURITES ... 22.9 per cent flat bet loss.

These results clearly show that the longer the favourite the worse is the outcome. I suggest that it's quite reasonable to expect the losses to rise as you go through the ranks of the favourites - the fifth favourite will lose more than the fourth favourite and so on.

Let me point out a moot factor in all of this: The average TAB take in those 5,000 races was about 16 per cent.

Now if you had actually bet on the favourites you would have been 7.4 per cent behind when it was all over. In other words, only half of the TAB take had been registered as your loss. If you had consistently bet on the other favourites you would have lost a far greater percentage than the 50 per cent registered by the first favourites.

This proves that the average punter is better off concentrating on selections that already have partly overcome the impact of the legal TAB percentage deduction.

Remember that old punting truism: "Success does not depend so much on backing winners but on avoiding backing losers." You should always keep that in mind.

My investigation revealed that the average TAB return for 50 cents on all winning favourites was \$1.37.

It's logical, then, to assume that if you could eliminate only one out of every 15 losing public elects - without chucking out any of the winners - you could reverse the 7.4 per cent loss into a smallish profit.

The system I've devised here is based on that premise.

Well, how do we avoid the losers? It's the natural question to be thrown at me and I'm not dodging it.

What I had to do was to discover why some favourites failed to run as the public anticipated they would. I soon realised, though, that in the final analysis it was the betting public that needed investigation, not the horses! For a favourite can only be a favourite because of the betting public.

If a favourite loses, and nothing untoward happened in the race to stop him losing, then the public had made a mistake.

I've always found that punters can be real mugs where winning form is concerned. How many times can I remember when a last-start winner has been sent out favourite and run poorly, merely because he just couldn't measure up to the better class or carry the extra weight?

The betting public had sent him out favourite on the strength of his last start victory, but had not taken into account other vital factors. In other words, he was a false favourite.

The public, in essence, had handicapped him incorrectly. They had decided he could do much more than he could do. When it came to the test the false favourite failed.

What my method does is to get rid of these false favourites. In so doing we can begin the task of eliminating those losing favourites that over a period of time will prevent us from making a profit.

The basis of the method is to find horses that become public No. 1 choices because of the past class and consistency.

To make these two points an even more integral aspect, I decided that I would restrict the betting action to those horses that have not had a race in the previous 14 days, and who did not run a placing (lst, 2nd or 3rd) last start.

Some of you will be open-mouthed at this point, but I assure you the rules are made on a firm basis. I didn't pluck them out of the air.

ELIMINATION RULES

(a) Don't bet on jumps races.

(b) No race can be considered at all if it contains one or more horses racing for the first time.

METHOD OF SELECTION

1. Your bet must be on the pre-post favourite.
2. You must consider only those favourites that have not raced within the last 14 days, or who finished unplaced at their last start. If a horse qualifies on both these counts then so much the better.
3. Bet for a win only.

As with all the methods that are published in PPM, I seriously advise you to test this one out at your local tracks.

The results that I have gleaned over a long period show that it does work. Prices are usually good, too.

By Ted Davies

PRACTICAL PUNTING - APRIL 1986