Statistics can be meaningful helpmates when looking at racing. They also can lead you into a minefield of miscalculations! The fact is, statistics can be twisted around to suit any case that's being made.

In this series of articles, I am going to examine a number of pertinent statistical points, to ascertain if we, as punters, can use the information to help us find winners, or at the very least, eliminate losers!

Recently, a New South Wales reader forwarded me some statistics he had gathered at various times over the last 20 years. The unfortunate aspect of his research is that it was gathered at varying intervals; that is, he would collect data for several months, then stop, then resume some months later. Despite this he has provided a most interesting 'picture' of the performances of horses at various prices, with the attendant profit/loss situation at level stakes betting.

This reader, Mr Alan P., used tote dividends in his research, rather than SP, which makes his work even more interesting. He split horses up into the following dividend categories:

(a) \$1.00 to \$1.95
(b) \$2.00 to \$2.95
(c) \$3.00 to \$3.95
(d) \$4.00 to \$4.95
(e) \$5.00 to \$9.95
(f) \$10.00 to \$19.95
(g) \$20.50 upwards.

He found that betting exclusively on horses in the (a) category there was a loss of 13.7 per cent. In the (b) category, the loss rose to 24 per cent. In the (c) category things weren't so bad, with a loss of around 10 per cent.

The (d) category produced a loss of 19.5 per cent, the (e) horses lost 22 per cent, the (f) category recorded a 24.2 per cent loss while the (g) horses lost just over 38 per cent.

Pretty sobering stuff, isn't it? Of course, we can't take the research as being totally accurate, but it certainly can give us a broad guide to how the variously priced horses will perform under level stakes betting procedures.

Obviously, any punter seeking to make lots of money at racing is going to have to weed out the no-hopers in any race, and at any price range, in order to leave enough room for a profit to be made.

This is what racing betting is all about. Picking and choosing with care. Eliminating the rubbish, eliminating the 'false' chances, ensuring you back the right horses at the right prices.

In regards to price, we can now have a look at recent statistics regarding the position of winners in the pre-race morning newspaper market. These statistics have been accumulated over many years, and they give a pretty accurate reflection of what you can expect to happen over any given season.

WINNER'S POSITION IN MORNING PRE-POST MARKETS

LINE OF
BETTING
PERCENTAGE
%
TOTAL
%
1st (Fav) 29.529.5
2nd 20.0 49.5
3rd 13.0 62.5
4th 7.5 70.0
5th 7.3 77.3
6th 5.5 82.8
7th 5.0 87.8
8th 4.1 91.9
9th 3.7 95.6
10th 1.597.1
11th etc 2.9 100.0
It's most interesting to compare the current table with the one which I produced for P.P.M. back in October 1986. That table was based on 8 years' results up to that time, and it showed that the morning paper favourite won 31 per cent of races. This strike rate has now been cut back to 29.5 per cent.

This can mean one of two things: (a) The morning newspaper betting is more unreliable than it was or (b) the favourites are performing less successfully than they were. I tend to believe the (b) proposition, because recent results indicate that the strike rate of favourites at many Australian tracks has dropped well below the expected 30 to 32 per cent.

It is still interesting to note that the first three horses in the morning newspaper betting market manage to win 62 per cent of races. This is a most significant statistic.

Putting it into perspective, though, we have to remember that in 100 races, there would be 300 horses, so the strike rate is really 62 winners from 300 horses - just a bit over 20 per cent.

If we go to the fourth line of betting, we see the overall strike rate is 70 per cent. This would mean 400 horses in 100 races, an actual strike rate of around 17.5 per cent. The more horses you haul in the lower the strike rate overall and the higher average price you need to break even or make a profit.

What we have to do, as serious punters, is to use a combination of statistical factors to increase our chance of success while pulling back on the number of horses we back with our hard-earned money. Other factors should include the following:

1. Barrier positions
2. Position on tipsters' polls
3. Finish position at last start
4. Finish position previous 2 starts
5. Days since last start
6. TAB number.

In other articles in this series, I will examine the importance of these various factors, using up-to-date statistics, to see if we can weld together a sensible betting approach.

NEXT MONTH. How important are newspaper tipsters' polls and how can we use them to our advantage?

Click here to read Part 2.
Click here to read Part 3.
Click here to read Part 4.

By Statesman

PRACTICAL PUNTING - AUGUST 1993