Eric Connolly once said there was a simple system which could win good money for patient punters.

He had this to say: "It is not always easy to correctly time the preparation of a horse, and punters should wait for those gallopers who have been backed just ONE RUN TOO SOON.

Often, a stable will prepare a horse for a certain race, the big money will be staked on him and left with the bookmakers. Punters should make a note of such horses and follow them. Usually they will end up on the right side of the ledger.

"What happens is that a horse may do everything right in the stable, and on the tracks, but without the trainer knowing he could still be fat inside and his wind not clean for the job ahead. Such horses will run soundly for the greater part of a race, then will fail when the pressure is applied.

"After the hitout, they will then be fighting fit and make no mistake next time out. The beauty of it is, that punters generally will obtain excellent value when the horse does turn in its expected win. Sometimes, the win will come at its very next start after the stable has shown its hand; possibly it might miss once or twice before winning.

"The patient punter should list such horses and give them, at the most, three chances. If they fail, drop them. A big percentage won't fail. To work this system does not require much effort. just buy a small pocket book, list the names, and wait until they run. just wait for the right type of horses, those from good stables who, when in top form, show consistency. When these horses are backed with confidence and are beaten, their names must go down."

Connolly was adamant that the punter who wagers on every race has to lose. As one of the most successful of all professional punters, he was entitled to speak on the subject.

"No matter how you may bet, you can't buck the percentages," he said. "They work in favour of the bookies, yet thousands of punters do try to buck them every time the barrier goes up.

"Bookmakers set the prices in an effort to have a winning book, no matter which horse wins. Because of public preference for one or two horses, they cannot make full use of these prices by betting over round, but in the long term the figures work for them, and the overall percentage profit on turnover is sufficient for them to meet heavy taxes and overheads and live a life of ease and comfort."

Connolly would point out that if a bookmaker set his figures to enable him to bet to a 10 per cent profit on every race, he would, at the end of an eight-race card, have 80 per cent his way.

"Now let us examine the question in reverse," Connolly said. "How long would a bookie last if he set prices which yielded a 10 per cent loss on every race on which he operated? If he operated to a $1,000 book he would then be up for a $100 loss on each race and would be $800 down after eight races.

"Yet that is what the average punter willingly accepts as part of the enjoyment he may seek from racing."

Connolly maintained that the only punter with a chance of making racing pay, was the one with the patience to wait for the easy-to-pick race. But, he warned, even those punters have the percentages against them.

"But they can break these figures down if they only bet when they have an odds-on chance of winning," he added.

"If they wait for the right races and then make a book against the bookmaker, they can often swing the figures around."

He stressed that punters should always seek value and should ignore horses that were at odds at variance with their estimated true chance of winning.

"In the course of a month, betting only at weekends, a punter betting on every race might have about 40 bets," he said. "If he bet level stakes, he would have to strike winners whose odds totalled 40 just to break even, and month in and month out that would be an impossibility. The race-to-race punter, then, is created only for the bookmaker."

Connolly confessed that early in his betting career, he had on occasions bet on every race on the programme. On such days, his losses had been tremendous, although at other times he had been able to win by backing a number of runners in each race.

"But, at the same time, I had the knowledge, the capital, plus the ability to quickly assess prospects. I knew that by backing a number of runners I was securing value. All I can say is that if a punter wants to bet on every race he can expect to lose money. If he wants to enjoy a reasonable chance of beating the bookmakers then he must bet only when he thinks the odds of winning are in his favour.

"From most race programmes, it is possible to eliminate races in which there are just too many chances. No-one should bet on these races. You might miss a winner or two, but in the long run you'll be quids in. The best plan is to always pass over any race in which there are more than four first-class chances. Put aside the money you would have wasted on such events, and add it to your betting bank when you come to a race you feel certain you can fine down to a position where you have the opportunity to bet with confidence."

Connolly never believed much in eachway betting. He said he would like to order all punters to make a golden rule never to bet each-way when there were more than 12 runners in a race.

"I'd be even happier if they bet eachway only when there were 10 or fewer runners," he said. "Betting each-way in large fields is asking for trouble, as the odds, in the long run, must favour the bookmaker. I make the point about eachway betting this way-if a punter backs a 4-1 chance at $1 each way, he is actually getting only 5-2 should the horse win. If the horse is placed he gets back $2, which looks like even money, but in fact it is 21 ON because the punter has actually staked a total of $2 (i.e. $1 each way).

"I don't know who invented the rule of one-quarter the odds for a place but he is certainly entitled to be the god of all bookmakers. If there are 24 runners in a race, only three can fill a place, so 21 will finish out of a place. So, if a horse is 4-1 his price for a place is even money, even though on actual probability it is 21-3 against him gaining a place.

"If, on the other hand, there is a field of eight runners, there are three who can fill a place and only five who must finish out of the money. There the probability is five to three against any runner gaining a place, yet if a horse is 4-I the each-way punter secures the same value for his money as if there were 20, or 24 starters.

"That's why I say that punters who bet each-way in large fields must lose in the finish, because they are not getting value for money."

Connolly was a firm believer in the value of form study. He urged all punters to find the time to study form.

"If a punter hasn't the time or the inclination to study form, I suggest he confine his bets to good horses, prepared by good trainers and ridden by good jockeys," he explained. "It would pay every punter to study the winning jockeys' list. He'll soon notice there are dozens of riders whose winning average is one winner every 30, 40 or 100 rides. These jockeys are bad propositions.

"It's mostly senseless taking 3-1 about a rider whose winning average is around five per cent. Then, we come to poor horses. Backing a poor horse is a poor bet. These gallopers most often are inconsistent. It's unlikely they will ever turn in two runs alike.

"It is a sheer gamble to trust a poor horse with your money. The punter should confine himself to the better class races. If he does, he can have some faith in form; but he should demand that the trainer be a man who knows his business. Sometimes you get trainers who just fluke a good horse and lack the ability to keep it at concert pitch."

Connolly had firm views about weight. He never fully revealed his method of handicapping against the handicapper but during a talk on weights he revealed that he did not fully subscribe to the theory that 3lbs (1.5 kgs) was equal to a length. He argued that the distance of a race had a great deal to do with handicapping.

He contended that if 'A beat 'B' by a length at five furlongs (1000m) it would be risky to claim that a difference of 1.5 kgs would bring them together when they next raced at 1000m.

He said: "I contend that weight does not tell to a great extent over such a short distance, and this argument is proved if you study early 2yo. races at the start of each season. A youngster will win by a length, shoulder a penalty a week later, and beat the same field by a greater margin."

Connolly considered that in terms of pounds (now kilos) the value of a length altered with the distance, as the greater the distance covered the greater effect increased weight had on a horse. He did, though, agree in general that the 1.5 kgs to a length rule was not far off the mark.

He added: "I have never used a tape measure but I would say that the average horse takes about 30 full strides to cover a furlong (say 200m). It may be more or less. But if wet the figure at 30 strides it means that a horse requires 240 strides to cover a mile. There are two factors which caused a horse to shorten strideincreased weight and exhaustion. Once a horse shortens stride his speed slows up and he takes more than the average number of strides to complete his run.

"Let me put it this way: A horse is engaged in a mile (1600m) race and runs the first two furlongs (400m) in 23 seconds. If he could maintain that rate for the full distance he would run the mile in l m 32s. When he starts off he is galloping at the rate of just over 18 yards to the second; if he should run the last two furlongs in 24.5s he would then be travelling at about 17.5 yards to the second, which is equal to an exhaustion rate of half a yard a second. The greater the distance, the greater the exhaustion."

Connolly was once asked what allowances he made for beaten lengths, when doing the weights on a race. He replied: "I first consider the beaten length. Sometimes a horse will be beaten a length, and the winner will be flat out to have that margin in his favour. Other times, a horse will win by a length although it is obvious he has much in reserve and could have scored by a far greater margin. The bad luck has to be considered.

"You have to make adjustments for everything and only then estimate the length as being equal to 1.5 kgs."

Connolly's weight assessments for distances were as follows (metric equivalents given):

120Om: 2 to 2.5 kgs
140Om: 2 kgs
1600m-200Om: 1.5 kgs
2200m-280Om: 1 kg to 1.5 kgs
2800m-320Om: 1 kg


  1. Never bet on weak races like Maidens, Novices, etc.
  2. Steer clear of weight-for-age races.
  3. Don't bet on wet tracks, unless you are 100 per cent sure a horse can handle the conditions.
  4. Don't bet on horses ridden by poor or second-rate jockeys.
  5. Never bet on a race unless you are sure the race will be run to suit the horse you are supporting.
  6. Never bet on inconsistent gallopers.
  7. Ignore horses whose form is on the downturn.
  8. Never bet against a horse you consider has a big weight advantage.

By Jon Hudson