I’ve spent years trying to beat the TAB and bookies and I’ve lost my bank more times than I can remember.

There have been a few big wins; as many as a man with only three fingers could count on one hand. But I’ve been steadily making progress. My bank lasts a lot longer now than it used to.

My basic problem was this: I never believed what I read or was told by those so-called “experts”. No, I had to find out for myself that what most of them said was, in fact, correct. Take favourites for example.

The first favourite will win more races than the second favourite, and second favs will win more than the third and so on, down to the rank outsider. But it’s a known fact (to the experts anyway) that punting regularly on first favourites can be fatal to your bank balance.

At the other end of the scale, while the rank outsider pays big, it doesn’t come in often enough to risk following on a regular basis. My old dad had a saying that he reckoned he‘d got from a bloke called Confucius. He’d clasp his hands together, squint his eyes, bob his head up and down and say with a sing-song lisp, “Fools learn by experience, wise men by keen observation.”

I learned the truth the hard way about favourites and outsiders and also learned that I wasn’t wise. Eventually, it occurred to me that somewhere in between the two, maybe about halfway, might be the answer.

So I started to do some research. Checking back over 660 races, the results showed that there were 7,363 horses involved. This gives an average of 11 runners in each race. So, deciding to focus on the fifth and sixth favourites as my chosen selections, I was keen to see how they performed. Here are the figures for the first six favourites:

As expected, the first favourite ?won most races (174) while the rest won less and less. Of the two I was interested in, the fifth favourite was profitable but not enough to get excited about at this stage while the sixth favourite was hopeless. Second favourites won 128 races, third 106, fourth 70, fifth 65 and sixth favourites won 31. These are strike rates of 26 per cent, 19 per cent, 16 per cent, 11 per cent, 10 per cent and 5 per cent.

Interestingly, favourites had an average dividend of $2.80 (about 7/4) but showed a dramatic 25 per cent loss on turnover. Second favs had an average dividend of $4.60 and lost only 10 per cent, while third favourites, with an average dividend of $6.10 showed only a 2 per cent, loss.

In contrast, fifth favourites with an average dividend of $10.80 returned a 6 per cent profit. Sixth favourites showed a loss of 34 per cent.

Would it be possible to improve the profitability further? I could dramatically reduce my total outlay by deciding to only bet on the races where the first favourite was paying between $2 and $3 inclusive.

Doing this reduced the number of races to 262 with 2,749 runners. The results showed 81 wins for the first favs, 58 for second favs, 39 for third favs, 23 for fourth favs, 27 for fifth favs and 11 for sixth favs. These are strike rates of 31 per cent, 22 per cent, 15 per cent, 9 per cent, 10 per cent and 4 per cent.

Once again, though, the first favourites were a losing proposition with a 22 per cent loss, while second favs broke even and third favs showed a 10 per cent loss. Fourth favs lost 24 per cent, fifth favourites again showed a profit, this time of 13 per cent, while sixth favourites lost 37 per cent.

This approach achieved my aim of improving returns from the fifth favourite. Summing up for this angle, if the first favourite is paying between $2 and $3 then bet to win on the fifth favourite. A different angle might be to only bet on the races with 10, 11 or 12 runners. Doing this brings the number of races to 269 with 2,967 runners and the outcome is interesting.

The first favourites won 66, second favourites 56, third favs 32, fourth favs 34, fifth favs 30 and sixth favs 10. These are strike rates of 25 per cent, 21 per cent, 12 per cent, 13 per cent, 11 per cent and 4 per cent.

First favourites showed a loss of 30 per cent, second favs lost only 4 per cent, third favs went down 27 per cent, fourth favs won 1 per cent, ?fifth favs won 25 per cent and sixth favs lost 51 per cent.

Once again, then, ?the fifth favourite was profitable and worth betting on. The fourth was just profitable but I’d hardly bother with it. So, if there are 10, 11 or 12 runners in a race, bet on the fifth favourite. At least that’s the message from the test block of races I used.

All of the above results are from both metropolitan and country tracks. What would the results have been if I had only considered metropolitan tracks? The total number of races in that case was 304 with 3,524 runners and here the results were that first favourites had a strike rate of 25 per cent for a 27 per cent loss on turnover.

Second favs struck 19 per cent winners and lost 8 per cent, third favs won 18 per cent and had a profit of 5 per cent, fourth favs had an 11 per cent strike rate and a 13 per cent loss on turnover, fifth favs had an 11 per cent strike rate and won 12 per cent on turnover, while sixth favs ?had a 4 per cent strike rate and a loss on turnover of 47 per cent.

While the fifth favourite was profitable once again, the third favourite now became profitable. So what if I only bet on country or non-metropolitan tracks? The total number of races then, was 356 with 3839 runners and these showed that first favs lost 22 per cent on turnover, second favs lost 12 per cent, third favs lost 7 per cent, fourth favs lost 15 per cent, fifth favs won 1 per cent and sixth favs lost 22 per cent.

The final summing up shows that first, second and sixth favourites have never been profitable. The fifth favourite was the only one that was profitable under all circumstances. Its best performance was in races with 10, 11 or 12 runners.

That covers betting to win. What about betting for a place? Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings but place betting was not profitable for any one of the favourites in any one of the angles.

By Mr Money