This is the second part in a three-part series examining the winning methods of the noted UK professional punter Alan Potts, regarded worldwide as one of the top pro players in horseracing.

As someone who has made a lifelong study of horse racing, and betting on it, Alan Potts has the credentials to make fellow punters sit up and listen to what he has to say.

He talks of identifying “a horse with the power” and says such a horse is one “who hits the front somewhere between the 400m mark and a point about 200m from the finish, and then draws one or two lengths clear”.

Punters in Australia, through the use of video replays and perhaps turn and finish camera charts, have every opportunity to find such horses.

Let’s hear what else Potts has to say on this aspect of things: “It doesn’t matter if other horses are closing in the final 100m, he has shown the power and they haven’t.

“In a small field our power horse may hit the front earlier, simply due to lack of competition, and a front runner who goes clear from a decent pace certainly fits the desired pattern.”

He stresses that small fields and races with a slow pace cause  problems in analysis and adds: “Any race in which more than half the field finish close-up at the finish is suspect.”

This latter statement is a most interesting one. I must confess that I’ve always been a sucker for trying to pick the eyes out of those races in which a “pack” of runners crossed the line with just a length or so between them.

And now here’s Alan Potts telling us that such races, as far as form is concerned, are suspect.

He says: “To boil this theory down to a formula which can be applied using a standard formbook, I basically prefer winners who lead more than 200m from the finish, as well as horses who lead somewhere inside the final 400m but are headed before the finish, to horses who finish fast to snatch victory or who finish close up and in the frame.”

Potts is extremely strong in his opinions when it comes to form and race analysis.

“My own method nowadays reverses the standard logic and concentrates on the fact that every 10-runner race must include nine losers,” he says in his best-seller Against The Crowd.

“I concentrate on looking for reasons why they won’t win, rather than reasons why they will. Not surprisingly, these reasons are much easier to find.

“As I work through a race, I write brief notes, with comments on the negatives for those who are likely to lose. These will cover such things as incorrect trip, unsuitable going, stable out of form, unsuited by track, too high in the handicap, outclassed, out of form, etc.

“Those who cannot be eliminated are placed on a short list for further consideration. For horses on this short list, I’m most likely to view films of their recent races as well as re-reading the formbook. I also make an assessment of the sort of price I’d expect to see offered about each of these short-listed runners.

“If the short list consists of one horse, then either I’ve got the analysis wrong, or I’ve simply identified an odds-on favourite. If, however, the one horse is a value price…then a probable bet has been identified.

“If the short list contains more than four names, then it is probable that the race is simply too competitive to be considered as a betting event.”

Potts goes on to explain that at this stage, usually the day before the race, he doesn’t try to reduce the short list of two, three or four down to a specific selection. He waits until he can see the horses in the parade ring, and then watch them canter to the post. He also takes note of the prices on offer.

He is, he says, looking for the best bet in the race, which he says is “the same as saying offers the best chance of winning”.

What is the Potts’ strategy for making the right choices, the right bets on a long-term basis?

For a start, he is NOT afraid of backing longshots. In fact, he likes to specialise in them.

“The principle is that if as a result of your form analysis, you can make a good argument for supporting a longshot, then you must make the bet,” says Potts. “The key factor is that no bet on such a horse can be expected to fulfil the same exacting criteria that you would apply to a 4/1 shot. There are bound to be ifs and buts about such a selection, otherwise it wouldn’t be 25/1, or 12/1 either.”

Potts makes a good point here in regard to longshots. We all strive to land them but most times the effort is a vain one. The sad truth is that you cannot expect to make longshots pay off profitwise if you back them simply because they are outsiders.

As Potts says the vast majority of horses offered at 20/1 and above have absolutely no chance of winning and should realistically be priced at 100/1 or better.

Potts warns: “Finding the value bets from amongst the tens of thousands of outsiders who run every year requires constant study of the formbook, and inexhaustible patience to wait for the right opportunity.

“It is inevitable that a high percentage of bets on such horses will be losers and the losing runs can be long. Confidence and Capital (two of the four Cs) are the requirements to survive the losing runs.”

Potts has his own way of backing the longshots he strongly fancies. His personal strategy is to mix the longshot bet in with his more orthodox day to day bets at shorter prices.

He says: “Over a sufficient period of time (two to three years) I expect the short-price bets to produce sufficient profits to at least cover all the stakes lost on longshot bets, leaving the successful longshots to provide pure profit.”

In the book, Potts says that in 1993 he had 48 bets in which the price he obtained was 10/1 or better. He categorises these bets as longshots. The potential return on them varied from 2,000 pounds up to 9,000 pounds, dependent on price and his degree of confidence in the selection, and in one or two cases how much he could get on before the value disappeared.

The 48 longshot bets produced only five winners, and the first of them came after a run of 28 losers. However, at the end of the year, they showed a profit of more than 8,000 pounds on a turnover of 14,000 pounds.

Those are most interesting statistics and they will surely give some hope to punters who keep digging away trying to find winning longshots.

It’s timely here to point out that PPM’s own Brian Blackwell has had enormous success with his Longshot Specials on the PPD Club, our Internet-based daily service. As I write this, in the first week of December, Brian’s Longshot Specials were showing more than $8,000 profit on $100 win bets.

This is evidence that what Alan Potts says is quite true. You will get plenty of losers but you need only a handful of winners to emerge with a decent profit backing these longshots. Not that they will come easily.

I think Potts is absolutely right when he says you will need patience and the ability to spend a lot of time combing through the form!

Now we know the general approach that Potts takes we can look further at exactly how he carries out his attack. When you read what he has to say you should keep in mind that this is a man who has “been there and done that” so he does know what he’s talking about.

Potts has taken the battle to Britain’s bookies for year after year, and he’s kept on winning. Now that takes some doing. British racing poses quite a challenge for punters with its switch between Flat and National Hunt, and the varying degrees of racetrack going (rain, hail, snow, frost, etc).

In Against The Crowd, Potts sets out his approach in detail.

(1) Stick to single win bets.
Okay, we can all understand this. Anyone who has tried backing each way and making a profit at the same time will know that overall you may as well just plonk your cash on for the win.

After all, if you haven’t got the confidence to bet straightout for the win, then maybe you shouldn’t be backing the horse at all? It gets back to what Potts says about confidence, and being sure of your selections.

(2) Maintain a 2/1 minimum price limit.
Potts has stated that he is after the best value chance in a race. He isn’t interested in backing horses which are simply not at realistic value and in most instances when a horse is under 2/1 it hardly represents value.

I agree with his strict maintenance of the 2/1 or longer rule. To me it makes complete sense, and it certainly stops you from wasting money on the seven out of 10 favourites which are going to lose every racing season!

(3) Think twice at under 4/1.
Once again, Potts is playing the value game. Although his minimum is 2/1 he still wants to show caution and discipline when a selection is under 4/1. That price is his real arbiting line. Above 4/1 and generally the value component is realised; under it and he starts to become concerned.

(4) Concentrate on races at a mile (1600m) plus.
In one fell blow, he throws out the sprints. 


Click here to read Part 1.

By Richard Hartley Jnr