Some of the best winning bets I've ever made have been on horses that ran ordinarily at their latest start. Often a good price is obtainable; other times, fellow backers are in on the "secret" of the bet and the price is short.

Whenever I do form study I'm always looking for horses who didn't do well last start and yet are coming in for strong betting attention in the current race. Why is this so?

Often, it's because they lacked luck last start, or that they have dropped significantly in class, or maybe they are simply up against weaker rivals than at their last start.

The American handicapper Mark Cramer, one of the best in the business, has also studied this angle, and here's what he has to say:

Hypothesis. We're looking for horses that ran up the track last time, horses that stank in their most recent race but, today, are nonetheless getting lots of betting action.

For research purposes, we create a set of logical rules:

  1. Horse must have finished 5th or worse in its most recent race.
  2. Horse must have finished at least 5 lengths behind in that race.
  3. Horse must have been 511 or longer in that same race.

This third rule is vital. If a horse finished poorly in its last race but was not expected to run well, as illustrated by 511 or longer odds, then the horse is said to be excused for that performance.

The contrary would be the horse that finished tip the track at less than 511, meaning that it had disappointed, had run worse than its odds, had failed.

The horses we are isolating were not expected to do well in their most recent race, and therefore did not underachieve. Since such horses run according to their odds when not bet, they should also run according to their odds when bet heavily. That's the hypothesis.

Sometimes this "bet-down" (in relation to the odds of the previous race) relates to a handicapping principle and other tunes to inside action. More often than not, it relates to both.

But here's the most important dynamic: thanks to the poor finish in its last race, this horse's odds, apparently low, are not as low as they should be. In other words, the horse gets action but is still an overlay: a beautiful combination of opposites.

Most low-priced horses are underlays. But this pattern should point the way to a low-priced overlay. This brings us to rule 4:

  1. Horse must be going off at below 211: in other words, at 915 or less.

So it's the 5-5-5 plunge method: horse finished 5th or worse, 5 lengths or more behind. at 511 or longer, and today gets bet to below 211.


236 races, 102 wins (43.5 per cent, rounded off)
$475.40 returned
$472 invested
$3,40 profit

All in all, we did 12 different smaller sequences within the larger sample, with seven of them showing a profit and five of them a loss.

Obviously these horses do not supply us with a win-bet system. But they returned 15 per cent more than all favourites return, outdoing the take/breakage by 18 per cent to 20 per cent, so they can be considered overlays,

Since they finish 1st much more than they do 2nd, they are excellent inclusions on top in exactas, or in the first leg of pick 3s, when you can see the odds. Above all, when you see this type of horse, you won't be so ready to play "beat-the-favourite".


When these horses are somehow too obvious to the crowd, we lose some of our advantage. It's virtually impossible to make a profit betting odds-on horses to win.

In this sample, there were 45 odds-on horses, who won 23 races (more than 50 per cent). But the $90 invested returned only $80.30, for a $9.70 loss (more than 10 per cent).

Excluding odds-on horses, which means we're using horses that go off at between even-money and 915, we ended tip with the following:

191 races, 79 wins (41 per cent rounded off)
$395.10 returned
$382 invested
$13.10 profit (3.5 per cent rounded off)

The rules make this user-friendly, in that, if the odds drop to slightly below even-money in the last flash or slightly above 915 (say 211), the same premise remains, as does the same percentage of winners. All you need to do is circle all those horses that had the 5-5-5 situations in their last race and then wait for the tote odds.

Fop, those who wish to do i7zatheiiiatical calculations of their exacta, trifecta, and pick 3 (first leg) probabilities, you can use .4 for this type of horse and .5 if it's odds-on.

Suddenly, horses we thought were false favourites become legit favs, and this affects how we analyse the rest of the race. The benefits of this type of research for everyday handicapping are significant, even if it does not provide it’s with an automatic bet.

Even the most inveterate longshot players need to know when a favourite is legitimate. In races where a 5-5-5 horse is below 211, the longshot bettor would do well to have his price horse under the fav in the exacta, as a back-up to the longshot win bet.

In scanning exotic results, I've noticed that 5-5-5 horses tend to trigger overlay exactas. Yes, they've been bet in the win pool (although not to underlay levels). But "inside" action tends to concentrate on win, and I've often found that 5-5-5 favourites are not the favourite in the exacta betting.

This is a most interesting idea from Mark Cramer. It is, of course, worked out on American racing, but that doesn't worry me too much. I've often found that systems built up for US or other foreign racing areas translate well to Australian racing.

Take our Solitaire system as an example. It's been a huge success and yet it was originally developed for the US racing market.

What we need to do is to take the framework of Cramer's angle and apply it to our own racing. Give it a while to see how it shapes up; it might become clear very quickly that it won't work.

Read more of Mark Cramer at


By Denton Jardine