A rich businessman once gave me some advice. "Always remember," he said, "that 80 per cent of everything is usually controlled by 20 per cent. In my business, I always know that 80 per cent of my business comes from 20 per cent of my clients. I make sure I look after this 20 per cent."

This chap didn't invent the 80 / 20 idea. In the nineteenth century, Vilfredo Pareto "discovered" it. He was an Italian engineer, economist, sociologist and avid gardener. He worked out that 80 per cent of the land in Italy was owned by 20 per cent of the population.

He also noticed that 20 per cent of the peapods in his garden yielded 80 per cent of the peas that were harvested.

Basically, then, the Pareto principle states that 80 per cent of results are achieved by 20 per cent in the group. You can easily understand that this principle holds true in all aspects of everyday life.

We can see that 80 per cent of the traffic travels on 20 per cent of the roads, 80 per cent of the clothes you wear come from 20 per cent of the clothes in the wardrobe. Just count all those socks and shirts and see if it's true.

So how can this help with winner-finding? Is the 80/20 rule applicable to aspects of racing life, like, say, trainers and jockeys?

There's been some research done on this topic in Britain. The leading racing website Flatstats found that 19 per cent of all trainers in the UK won 80 per cent of the races. So far as jockeys are concerned, Flatstats found that 21.4 per cent of jockeys won 80.2 per cent of all races. The remaining 78.6 per cent of jockeys won the remaining 19.8 per cent of races.

The conclusion reached by Flatstats was this: "If you like to follow systems then you must seriously consider this 80 / 20 rule. If your system relies on rules and provides selections, then throw in the rule that the trainer or jockey must be in the 20 per cent winners' list and not part of the 80 per cent losers.

"If you have placed bets this year and the jockeys and trainers were among the 80 per cent losers, then your  chances of winning were severely hampered before the race was run. The most significant piece of information from the jockeys' statistics is that HALF of all races were won by the same 20 jockeys, and that's 20 jockeys from a total of 297.

"Whatever method you use for finding winners, or growing peas, ensure that the ones you are going to rely on are part of the 20 per cent elite."

There is much to be said for examining the 80/20 theory in detail. It makes a great deal of sense. Really, it's a matter of having the winning percentages on your side so far as betting is concerned in the long term.

I suppose that, like me, you have noticed time and again how a certain band of jockeys wins a large number of races, and the same for trainers. I'll have a look at this aspect of things a little later.

But what about TAB numbers? Well, the 80/20 doesn't come into play but the stats do show an overwhelming superiority of the top five TAB numbers. This group equals approximately 20 per cent of all TAB numbers (through to 24).

In Melbourne metropolitan racing up to the middle of February, TAB numbers 1 through to 5 had won some 302 races from 553 races. That means 20 per cent of the TAB numbers won 54.61 per cent of the races. A telling point to consider.

In Sydney, it was much the same, with 270 winners from TAB numbers 1 through to 5 from 517 races. That means 20 per cent of the numbers won 52.22 per cent of the races.

So far as jockeys are concerned, it's a fact that the top three riders in Sydney, Darren Beadman, Chris Munce and Corey Brown, are very likely to win around HALF of all races.

Let's look at the top 15 riders as at February 24 (stats per Sportsman). They showed these riders scored 427 wins between them ... but 210 of those wins went to Beadman, Munce and Brown! Domination like this is extraordinary and it points up the fact that anyone contemplating betting on Sydney racing has to take very serious account of the amazing impact that this superstar trio has on racing at the Sydney tracks.

The impact, then, of statistics is always going to be most important to the punter who delves into the form, or who wants to devise a system that will reward him with consistent returns and, of course, a profit over a long period (say 12 months at a time).

The power of statistics is why we take special notice of winning strike rates for horses. We like to see that a horse has a HIGH win strike. It boosts our confidence, as opposed to when we see a horse with a LOW win strike. A low win strike stabs fear into our heart; we start to question the horse and even ourselves for even thinking about backing it!

Let's look at some other percentages, so we can get an even clearer idea of which ones are potent, which are the ones to REALLY take notice of when we're framing our bets.

  1. Close to 80 per cent of all winners come from the top six in the newspaper tipsters' poll.

    Newspapers seem to be running fewer tipsters' polls these days. The figures I have mentioned here come from some 25 years ago when it was a normal thing to get a big tipsters' poll published in most metropolitan dailies. Now, the papers are likely to show just the top three.

    But if you use a guide like the Sportsman you can work out a poll for yourself from the tipsters they list for the Melbourne and Sydney meetings; usually there are six tipsters and the "most favoured" column lists the top four. You can work out the rest yourself by using a 3-2-1 points allocation.
  2. No fewer than 84 per cent of the winners are in the first six in the pre-post betting market in your newspaper. Therefore, only 16 per cent of races are won by horses outside this half dozen.

    This is a most interesting statistic. It means you can virtually discount horses outside the first six in the morning betting market; in sticking to this half dozen you'll be right 84 per cent of the time, or 8.5 races out of 10. Not a bad percentage.
  3. The final course betting market, the SP, showed 86 per cent of the winners were in the first six in the betting order.

    By combining the top six as outlined in 1, 2 and 3, the result over a test of some 5000 races was 82 per cent winners.
  4. Another test, of some 4200 races, showed that 70 per cent of the winners started from gates 1 through to 10.

    We all know that we have to take some account of barrier positions, and the statistics from this test clearly indicate that once a horse is in gate No. 11 and wider then its chances begin to deteriorate. It is in a group that wins only 30 per cent of all races. The main group of gates 1 to 10 win 70 per cent. So which group do you want to be in?
  5. A total of 3400 winners had their most recent start between 2 and 14 days from the current start in the initial test of 5000 races, and a total of 4330 winners had their last start within the previous 21 days.

What this means is that almost 87 per cent of the winners had their last starts within the previous 21 days. And, taking things further, 92 per cent had their last start within the previous 28 days.

Let's take this whole darned statistics thing a bit further. What about the performances of these winners? Well, 39 per cent had finished 1st in at least one of their last two runs, almost 19 per cent had finished 2nd in at least one of their last two starts, and 13.6 per cent had run 3rd in at least one of the last two runs.

Combining these figures: more than 3600 of the winners had run 1st, 2nd or 3rd in at least one of their two latest outings.

Certainly this is a statistic worth keeping in mind when you are going through the form, and especially when you must decide between horses which one is going to be your final selection.

You may have narrowed a Sydney field down to two chances. One of them has run 4th at its latest two starts, is drawn in gate 12, and has a moderate jockey aboard, and hasn't started for 33 days. The other horse is to be ridden by Chris Munce, is drawn in gate No. 2, had its last start 7 days ago and ran 2nd at its last start.

Which one do you want to be on when the chips are down?

I don't say that these "high percentage" figures are the be-all and end-all of what the game is all about, but they are to be taken seriously into account by any punter wanting to nail down a flow of winners.

You need to have "the powerful" on your side, whether that is in the form of winning human beings, or in winning statistics. A combination of both can be irresistible.

Think carefully about what I've come up with and try to incorporate at least some of the figures into your future thinking. Always look for new avenues to explore so far as winning stats go. A bit of investigative work could throw up some exciting angles.

By Jon Hudson