I’ve long held to the belief that you can learn something from everyone, no matter his or her station in life, or geographic location.

The thinking really applies to horseracing betting. I’ve searched high and low over the years for any scrap of information that might help me become a more successful punter.

Sam Lewin is one of the experts who have enlightened me in a number of ways. I thought it would be useful to have a look at some of his insights, as explained in his book How To Win At The Races (Wilshire Book Company, California, 1969).

Around the tracks they call me The Genius. Now, I’ll cheerfully admit to having picked an unusually large number of winners in my 40 years in racing, and to taking many thousands of dollars out of the game. What’s more, my ego is as big as the next man’s – a lot of people will tell you it’s bigger.

  • Allow at least two hours for your pre-race study of the formguides.
  • Be confident in your selections, but be flexible. Believe what you see, not what you hear.
  • If you want to bet on a horse going off at odds of between 2/1 ($3.00) and even money ($2.00), make sure he looks like a solid winner. As a rule, don’t take less than even money.
  • When several horses appear likely to stage a tiring battle for the early lead, look for a come from behind horse.
  • Don’t be ashamed not to bet on a race if it defies your ability to analyse it.
  • In computing horses’ running times, five lengths on the track equals one second on the clock.
  • Five pounds (2.5kg) of additional weight on a horse should add one length, or one fifth of a second to his running time over a mile (1600m). Conversely, five pounds (2.5kg) less should reduce his time by one fifth of a second at that distance.
  • Final running time can be a liar; it is affected considerably by the manner in which the race was run. A horse that has just won an easy race should get an edge over the recent winner of a difficult race, even though his final running time was slightly slower.
  • Take workout (track gallop) times with a grain of salt.
  • Horses that are consistent and show the ability to win, exhibit class.
  • The higher the class of race, the better your chance of being right with your bet.
  • Watch for horses that drop down in class after performing creditably at a higher level. Nevertheless, favour horses that are improving and stepping up moderately in class over those that are stepping down after a string of defeats.
  • The importance of weight increases with the distance of the race.
  • Weight differences shouldn’t figure importantly in your calculations of races of less than one mile (1600m).
  • Weight is important mainly in deciding between horses of fairly equal ability.
  • A change of one or two pounds (½kg – 1kg), usually won’t reverse a finish in a re-match of a recent close race.
  • Don’t judge a horse’s ability on one race alone, but be alert for upturns or downturns in form.
  • When handicapping for a fast (firm) track, throw out the horse’s mud races.
  • Base your bet on a horse’s last three or four races.
  • A horse racing on a track for the first time is at a five lengths disadvantage against horses familiar with the surface. Top stakes’ horses are an exception to this rule.
  • To improve your chances of finding good longshots, do you pre-race handicapping without referring to professional handicappers’ selections or the morning line odds (pre-post newspaper market).
  • Look for little things in a longshot’s past performances, such as races in which he showed early speed or gained late ground but didn’t win, races in which he went off at low odds. Mostly, look for a pace that might finally suit a longshot.
  • Watch the whole race as it develops, not just your own horse.
  • Geldings run more consistently than colts.
  • Foreleg bandages usually indicate actual ailments. Hind leg bandages are often for protection.
  • A choppy stride in a pre-race warm up is a sign of soreness.
  • Let your memory or your notebook be your guide in determining how horses handle pre-race nervousness, or apparent ailments. Some horses run well despite pre-race performances.
  • Bet win only when your horse goes off at odds of less than 2/1 ($3.00), or when he’s the kind of horse that either wins or turns in a bad race.
  • I always put at least 40 per cent of my total bet on a horse to win.

**How To Win At The Races is available from most reputable Internet bookstores which sell books on horseracing and handicapping. Try the Gamblers Club at: www.gamblersbook.com

By Mark Merrick