There are many ways to bet in the three racing codes and yet the majority of punters invariably sticks to the same old approach. A win bet here, a touch of eachway there, a quinella or trifecta, a double and that's it.

Few dare to venture beyond the norm to consider permutation of their selections. That's a pity, because careful exercise of your choice in this area can bolster your profits considerably.

"Spreading" your bet is something that US professional Rufus Perry remarks on in his book Play The Horses And Win (published 1957, 1973). He conducted tests over a long period and decided a mix of win and place was needed for the average punter to stay ahead of the game. His approach is not one which I quite agree with, but I think it will be interesting for readers to canvass what he does.

He explained it like this: "By bolstering straight (win) bets with place and show wagers on a ratio of 1-2-5, or other suitable proportions, an effort is made to equalise the profits from all three, giving a better balance to the series. The additional investment required is justified by the reduced risk."

Now, of course, place and show bets relate only to US racing. Over there, place means 1st or 2nd, and show is lst/2nd/3rd. In Australia and New Zealand, we don't have to worry about that angle. Our place bet covers all three placings.

Perry's 1-2-5 ratio, then, would simply be 1-7 here in Australia. One unit win and 7 units place. Or, as he says, you could go for some other proportion, like 1 to 6, or 1 to 8.

Perry makes the point that if you are betting favourites, then the best approach is to bet straight out for the win. This is because the percentage of wins would be heavier and the odds would be too small on the place.

His rule of thumb is as follows: The less a horse's chance of winning, the better its chance to place. In short, then, further away from the favourites, it's better that you spread your bet for the place.

In his book, Perry outlines a selection plan called The Selective Odds System, and the horses that are bet must be at 3 / 1 or better. By using the spread-betting approach, Perry argues that it may well be the safer bet, long term, for the punter.

His idea may well appeal to those bettors who are loath to put all their eggs in the one basket. How would you feel, for example, putting 8 units on for a win-only? You certainly would not feel as content as betting in a ratio of 1 win and 7 place!

It's that place component of betting that keeps most punters in the comfort zone, even though they are the first to kick themselves when their 7-unit place choice gets home and wins!

However, if the punter is backing horses well out of favouritism, then the I to 7 ratio may well be very sensible. As in all things to do with racing, everything will depend on how good your selections happen to be.

If we look at some recent examples, using tipsters from Best Bets, let's see what might have happened to the cash. For the purposes of this exercise, we'll follow Perry's example, but with a slight change, and bet only on selections 3/1 and over.

Chris Beaumont:
Starry Way 6/4
Intelligent 15/8
Kenworth 5/2
Sash 5/1
Montand 7/1
Lucy's Way 15/2

Because of our price restriction (3/1 and over), we bet on only the last three races. (Lucky, because all bets except the last were successful.)

The win bettor would outlay $24 and, from Lucy's Way, receive a return of $68. Hence there would be a profit of $44 (184%).

The 'spread' bettor would invest IW 7 place on each of the same three runners. Therefore the outlay would still be 24, but the return from the lone placegetter, Lucy's Way, would be $8.50 on the win bet and $19.95 on the $7 place bet - a total of $28.50 (rounded). So, the spread profit would be $4.50 (18.7%).

Kaye Bartling:
Camargue 11/2
S. Lady B 9/1
Danske 6/1
Thackeray 3/1
Dantelah 7/2
Darahim 9/1 Al
Hariq 8/1

Ms Bartling had a good day with her tips. Note that they are all 3/1 or over, so all qualify for bets.

Her winners were Thackeray (3/1), Dantelah (7/2) and Darahim at 9/1.

The 'straight-out' punter would have outlaid $56 on the seven runners and received returns of $32, $36 and $80 - a total of $148 for a profit of $92 (164%).

The 'spread' bettor, at 1w7p, outlays the same amount ($56) but receives back only $18.50 from the winners plus $48.10 from the place bets on those horses - a total of $66.60.

Other placings on the day from her selections that did not win boosted the return to $86 (rounded), giving a profit of $30 (50.3%).

From those two examples there doesn't seem to be any argument straight-out betting achieved a far better result in both cases.

Great ... except that the win and place approach had less risk in it, not having to solely rely on the selections winning.

These are but two examples which show that adopting a strategy of maximum boldness on selections, by betting win-only, will put you in a position to make far bigger profits than with the spread of win and place.

Of course, the days will come when you won't snag a winner! The placegetters will arrive and provide a winning day, or at least a 'saving' day, as against a total wipeout on win betting.

What you need to do is conduct a lengthy examination of your selections to see the trend that develops in regard to both types of betting approach. It could well be that Rufus Perry's theory is blown out of the water, and that you find win betting is EXACTLY the way you should go.

There is the 'safety' aspect of the wm-to-place ratio betting which a lot of punters simply can't do without. They need to refuel on a regular basis with returns from beaten selections (those that run a placing). Without them, their confidence slips away and they find that their judgement vanishes along with it.

At the very least, having something coming back is heartening for these punters.

If your research shows that you have a very high percentage of placegetters and a low win percentage, then it might well be that when you do your sums you'll discover that the win plus place betting is good for you.

After all, how many punters can make a clear profit at level stakes on win betting? Very few.

Another aspect to this issue is that your bets should be selective. In the examples I have given here, we just used a tipster's picks willynilly, race by race, only ignoring any at odds-on.

Long term, this is not the way to go.

Your bets will need to be carefully chosen, no more than a couple per day. You need to be in total control with the selections and, frankly, not at the mercy of an erratic newspaper or formguide tipster! That's unless you want it that way.

I know a lot of punters hate to make selections themselves, for a variety of reasons. One mate of mine says the tipsters know more about racing than he'll ever know, so why not take their tips?

I suppose this is not a bad way to proceed if you lack the confidence to make your own choices. Not only that, many punters don't have the time to study the form in order to come up with sensible picks. Again, they turn to the professionals.

Summing up, then, the staking we have looked at here goes like this:

  1. Ignore odds-on picks.
  2. Bet 1 win and 7 place on all selections over 3/1.
  3. Bet 8 win on any selections at evens to 3/1.
  4. Alternatively, and this is probably the best way to go, consider only those selections priced at 3/1 or better.

By Richard Hartley Jnr