Most harness racing fans probably would feel content - very content!  If they could double or triple their betting capital seven out of every 10 meetings. Alas, these same punters usually live to a ripe old age still waiting for the manna to arrive from harness heaven.

The probability is that, like most punters, they bet too much. The 'chain-betting syndrome' gets them in its firm and strangling grip. Such an approach to the trots - or any other racing code - conditions the punter to accept the fact of losing.

Eventually, a punter's confidence level is broken down to the stage where, as Statsman has pointed out before, he only hopes he will win, he doesn't expect to! So how do we overcome this problem?

What you have to do is to be selective about your bets. Display restraint and you will increase the frequency of success. It's as simple as that. The more wins a bettor has the more he feels that he is sensible in sacrificing 'other bets' in order to continue on his winning way.

It is through this process of truly repetitive betting - selective betting, that is - that a punter gains genuine confidence in himself and compounds it into even greater confidence in what he is doing. To achieve this somewhat exalted state, you have to maximise your selection accuracy while at the same time minimising your betting action.

A highly effective means to these ends is for the bettor to 'parlay' the two best horses on any race card. In other words, do some 'double-dealing' for yourself.

How to find the two best chances on the program is the hardest aspect of the approach (naturally!). Some years ago I saw an article in an American magazine in which the following doubles plan was outlined:

  1. Use the consensus 'best bet' of the day in your daily newspaper's form guide (selection A).
  2. From the other races on the card, use the horse (selection B) with the most wins in its past performance chart (career wins).
  3. Whichever selection is racing first, place $20 to PLACE on it.
  4. Take all the return from the first bet and parlay it on the second horse.

The problem, as I see it, with this approach is that you are betting for a place and some bettors might regard the returns as being a little too niggardly for them. What if you did strike with a placegetter at $1.40 and another one at $1.50? Your $20 will return you a total of $42, which means a profit of $22.

This amounts to odds of 11/10 on your place double. At those odds, both horses would have been considered very strong chances to run the placings. Bearing this in mind, it's not a bad bet at all. You have had two very well-fancied horses racing for you; all they need do is run in the first three and your double is wrapped up.

Those punters seeking a higher return have to accept that with the higher returns will come higher risk. This is what betting is all about; the greater the reward the greater the degree of risk in achieving it.

My proposal is you look firstly to the 'hot' leg of the double. This is a favourite which is at a reasonable price - that is, from 5/4 to 7/4. I have found that favourites in this price range have a high win strike and a particularly high place strike rate.

Place dividends for favourites in this range will vary from between $1.10 to $1.40. But by using them as a leg of the place double you will virtually assure yourself of that leg being a winner. Very rarely will you miss out.

What you need to do now is to introduce the value part of the double. You have to seek out a good dividend for the place without being silly about it. Casting your net too far and wide will mean too many losers and too many ditched doubles.

My suggestion is a horse in the 4/1 to 5/1 price range. These can provide for some nice place dividends, anything from $1.40 through to $2. My idea is that you look for the first last-start winner to be listed at 4/1 this becomes the second leg of the double.

For instance, at Harold Park recently, your 'safe' bet would have been the 5/4 pre-post favourite Athenas Art in the first race. Drawn on the pole, Athenas Art was widely tipped and looked a special to run a place.

Going through the next race, there was no runner in the second race in the desired range (4/1 and a last-start winner) so on to race three, where we find Armbro Man listed at 4/1. He was a last-start winner at Harold Park the previous Friday.

Here, then, was the second leg of our parlay double for the program. Okay, Athenas Art finished 2nd and paid $1.20 for the place. Armbro Man ran 3rd, starting at 7/2, and paid $1.80. Our double, for the suggested $20 outlay, returns (using all-up betting, of course) $43.20 - a profit of $23.20.

Wouldn't it be nice if you could do this each and every meeting? Just the one bet comprising two well-fancied horses and you more than double your money? It's after the collect, naturally enough, that you will call on your reserves of willpower and discipline to stop yourself frittering away the 100 per cent-plus profit on other bets.

That's probably the hardest thing of all to get right!

NEXT MONTH: Betting for value on horses who are on the bottom lines of betting. How to cash in from race to race, and meeting to meeting.

Click here to read Part 2.

By Rick Roberts