Recently we made mention in PPM of a noted UK expert Che Van der Wheil. Since then we've had many requests for more information on his approach to racing, both in selection and staking.

Van der Wheil came to public attention in the 1970s through his correspondence in a major British racing publication, the Sporting Chronicle Handicap Book's Sports Forum section. Later, there was long discussion of his views in Raceform, another UK racing publication which 'took over' when the Sporting Chronicle ceased publishing.

'VDW's Methodology' became the focus of intense discussion between 1978 and 1982. Now, his name lives on through booklets published by Tony Peach, who edited much of the newspaper correspondence between VDW, his fans and his critics.

In Peach's booklet Betting The VDW Way, the man himself writes: "Throughout the period I have written for the Handicap Book I've tried to get across the necessity of adherence to the things which proved essential during my many years as a successful punter.

"Temperament, without which all else fails; Class, the kingpin; Form, which many seem unable to define; the balancing of all related factors and that frequently overlooked little thing called hard work.

"The acquisition of temperament will guide you in what is inevitably a very narrow path. Don't be misled into thinking the life of a successful punter is easy. Far from it. A pro punter has to work hard under extremely strict discipline...

"Far too many punters are oblivious to the reality of the situation ... They believe picking up a daily paper and quickly scanning the cards is all that's needed to find winners. The attitude of looking for the WINNER has to be broken because from that stance you will always come up with something you are convinced should win.

"The successful punter evaluates unemotionally and with no thought of finding the winner. His evaluation when complete will tell him if there is a WINNER in a race.

"At this stage he again evaluates the prospects before coming to a final decision. This all takes time; something for nothing is a myth."

On assessing the Class element, VDW suggests a rating approach based on prizemoney in a race.

He writes: "A method found by myself to be most satisfactory is to use the value of the prize to the winner. Everything is best viewed in a simple form and an easy way to present Class as a rating is to divide the penalty value (prizemoney to the winner) by 100 (move two decimal places), so $8025 becomes a rating of 80, $4840 becomes 48, $61000 becomes 610, and so on.

"Therefore, when I refer to a horse being raised or dropped in Class I am measuring it against a rating such as this."

In Peach's book The Golden Years of Van der Wheil there is a cross-section of correspondence between VDW and many UK punters, thrashing out the various aspects of his approach to form.

An interesting section relates to how 'form can mislead' and VDW comments: "Form, even though consistent, can mislead if taken alone when the horse is running against others with greater ability. Class can throw you off course if the horse is out of form, so to establish a reliable measure a combination of elements must be used ...

"My own extensive surveys show that a horse winning three races in a row is likely to extend the sequence by a further victory at a ratio of one in three. Expressed as a percentage it is 33 per cent, considerably better than 2 per cent, which is the representative odds of a horse that failed to reach the hunt on its last three outings.

"Consistent horses win races and to illustrate I will give some examples which show Percentage wins next time out from various form combinations:

111=33%, 121=32%, 131=29%, 141-26%, 122=30%, 313=24%, 214=24%, 404=5%, 000=2%.

"The figures show beyond reasonable doubt that consistent form does have an important part to play. If there are three horses in a race each having won their last three races the figures indicate that it is almost certain one of them will win and only about one chance in 100 that the winner will come from elsewhere."

VDW adds: "Taking all races, other figures show that 83 per cent of winners come from the first five quoted in the betting forecast (prepost market). This also shows that selecting a horse not in this range is again tantamount to going against the odds. The only exception I make to this is when a highly consistent horse fails to show in this area of the betting.

"It may be that the horse is outclassed in present company, but a check should always be made. The combination of these two factors narrows the field to an area which consistently produces a high percentage of winners.

"Calculating the three most consistent horses by adding together the last three form placings from the first five in the betting ... centres attention where it is positively alive with winners."

By Jon Hudson

PRACTICAL PUNTING - JUNE 1997