Back in 1987, I interviewed professional punter Don Scott. He was hailed as the 'greatest' ratings guru of them all. His books were best-sellers.

At the time, Don had more or less given up going to the races, preferring to bet from home via computer. His forte was multiple trifectas, each combination assessed for value and bet accordingly.

Much of what Don had to say 14 years ago holds the same relevance for today's punters. Perhaps even more so. I thought it would be informative to reprint some of the interview.

Q: Tell us something about how you approach each race?

Scott: Well, you usually eliminate at least one-third of the field, and you are left with 6 or 7 main chances. These are linked in trifectas if the horses are at value odds, and the amount of money on each combination is determined by its real chance of success.

Q: Could the average punter with $100 to spend on raceday follow this method?

Scott: Not really. My advice to these punters is to go to the track and bet with the bookies. They should bet as I used to, seeking value prices. With the trifectas, you have to expect long runs of outs, maybe 20 or 30 losses in a row and most punters wouldn't be able to put up with that. If they bet properly on the course, betting only when they can obtain value odds on their selections, they could make 5 to 10 per cent profit every year.

Q: What would a punter need to launch himself into your trifecta technique?

Scott: At least $4000 to $5000. He would have to get reliable form ratings for all horses and learn how to combine all the main chances in a race properly. He'd have to know how to eliminate bad-value chances.

Q: Why do most punters never win?

Scott: They don't study racing closely enough, nor logically. At the racetrack, they're too emotional; they get carried away by the moment. If you're punting just for the entertainment value and to have a bit of fun, that's all right. But it's not enough if you're serious.

Q: is there any other way, apart from finding value, to win money at racing?

Scott: No. I don't think there's any other way. Most punters, I'm afraid, are doomed to lose. Only the very hard workers win in the end, because racing is a complex business.

Q: What other important points can you stress that might help the average punter?

Scott: A study of bookmakers' percentages is very rewarding. You will find that bookmakers are most vulnerable in small fields where sharp fluctuations can quickly turn a safe profit into a dangerous loss.

Q: Do most punters have an adequate grasp of the mathematics of betting?

Scott: The vast majority know little about the mathematics of betting and nothing at all about the mathematics of exotic betting. Betting for a win and a place, they lose moderately. Betting exotically, they lose on a grand scale because exotic betting multiplies and magnifies their errors and illogicalities many times over.

Q: How tough is it to beat the game, especially with exotic betting?

Scott: Trifectas and the like are a challenge to most punters because they demand more skills or good fortune than an ordinary bet on a winner or a placegetter. The trouble is, under the pressure of this challenge, most punters succumb to false reason and false logic. They tend to bet with a frenzied desperation.

Q: Were you ever worried about revealing all your betting secrets in your books?

Scott: No. Most punters will never change their betting habits. They will go on taking field doubles, field quinellas and box trifectas, and pursuing all the other popular exotic betting practices, which only ensure that they lose their money faster and faster.

Q: So what's the answer?

Scott: In my book, Winning More, I set it all out. Eliminate all races with fewer than 10 runners, eliminate all bad-value chances, inclusive of long-priced and short-priced horses, then combine the three or four best-value chances in trifectas, according to their true trifecta odds.

Q: What's the average punter's worst mistake?

Scott: Panic. When a punter is losing he too often tries to recover all his losses in one single wager, often on the last race of the day. The temptation to 'get out' on the last is irresistible to many punters, who invariably compound their losses in one reckless gamble. The winner of the last is no easier to find than the winner of the first. It may be much harder.

Q: What type of punter has a chance?

Scott: The one who is prepared to change bad habits into good ones. The one who will take his time, who will study form, and who will do everything he can to secure a good price, the punter who can turn his or her back on bad value.

By Brian Blackwell