There's been a resurgence of interest in recent times in all aspects of "alternative handicapping" with the work of experts like Mark Cramer, Ed Bain and George Kaywood coming in for much closer examination. In Britain, debate rages about the identity of, and the work of, a "mystery man" named Che Van Der Wheil.

We mentioned this man's work some years ago in PPM. Today, amazingly, his books still rate highly on the popularity polls in Britain, and there's a growing cult for his teachings here in Australia.


VDW, as he is known, has never been seen in public. No-one seems to know if he is still alive.

In fact, from all accounts, his "true" identity is known only to one or two newspaper journalists in the UK. Just why VDW never saw fit to present himself to an admiring public is not known.

But those who swear to his existence say that VDW was content to let his work do the talking for him. So what's it all about, this VDW stuff? And can it help an Aussie punter in the battle to back a winner?

The answer, as is so often the case in matters like this, is something of a pineapple. Yes, you can be helped, and no, you probably won't back any more winners than you've managed to do before! How about that for an eachway bet! But, if nothing else, VDW's approach keeps you firmly on a most consistent path.

Tony Peach, the UK journalist who first brought VDW to everyone's attention via the columns of the Race-form Handicap Book formguide in Britain, quotes VDW as offering an explanation in this way: "The VDW approach is a method, not a system, which produces a numerical evaluation of the odds based on relevant factors, thereby creating a picture from which it is possible to determine if there is a winner IN the race, not OF the race.

"The majority of punters look at a race with the object of finding the winner and will end up convinced that such and such a horse fits the bill. I suggest they should instead determine if there is a horse with all the attributes of a winner. Having done this, evaluate its capabilities of doing so in the present situation.

"However controversial the subject of form may be, it is an inescapable fact that a significant percentage of races are won by form horses, and this percentage is greatly increased by being selective.

"Backing anything but a form horse is bucking the odds. Form alone is not enough; it must be consistent in order to put the odds where you want them."

How to Analyse Class
Che Van Der Wheil likes to use prizemoney earnings as a key indicator of class. It is an integral approach of his overall approach to making selections.

He says: "Figures show it can confidently be expected that a horse with the right qualifications will seldom fail to carry off the prize when it is big enough. Selecting races for application of the various factors must be methodical as well.

"The basic method is to select the race from each card having the highest prizemoney. Attention is going to be centred on the better-class races, so it must follow that the better-class horses should be looked for.

"There are many conflicting views as to what class really is and I have heard some strange definitions. I believe it is more realistic to base class on what a horse has actually done in public, not by any other means.

"Class should be defined as ability and to assess the merit of one against the other becomes necessary to compile a rating. This can quickly and easily be done by considering the prizemoney won and dividing it by the number of races won.

"As an example: If a horse has won $20,000 (200 ) and won 8 races, divide 200 by 8 and it equals a rating of 25. This rating gives one of the most reliable assessments of a horse, but always remember it must be used as a guide in conjunction with other factors."

VDW's explanation then goes on to say: "Relatively consistent horses are in every race, but good consistent form is what's required to produce results which provide long-term profits.

"This must also balance with the other factors in the equation: CONSISTENT FORM plus ABILITY plus CAPABILITY plus PROBABILITY plus HARD WORK equals WINNERS.

"The combination of consistent form and class (ability) is a formidable factor, but the horse must be in a situation where it is capable of capitalising on it. The method calls for balancing the various factors and evaluation completely devoid of sentiment.

"This requires temperament and without it. 2 plus 2 will make 5 but seldom 4, as it should."

VDW says that in talking about his approach, he has always tried to get across the necessity for adherence to the things which proved successful for him in his 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," he says.

"You can't start a journey halfway to your destination. It has to begin at the beginning and the route to becoming a successful punter starts with temperament.

"You don't need to know every winner of the Derby, or who the winner's owner was; all that should concern you are the relevant factors concerning the race being run today.

"Because of our modern education, these are more clearly understood on a numerate basis. Interested punters should try to understand the whole concept and realise that anything of value has to be worked for.

"It's no good stopping halfway through the project or thinking a part fare takes you the full journey."

VDW, though, is quick to point out that sometimes "form" can be misleading (tell me about it!). This is what he has to say on this aspect: "Form, even though consistent, can mislead if taken alone when the horse is running against others with greater ability. Class, which in my view is a major factor, 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 to achieve consistent results.

"To find elements which can be combined and used methodically requires considerable thought and each must be logical. There are numerous ways to approach the problem of winner-finding methodically and the one which I will demonstrate has proved highly successful and consistent for a considerable number of years.

"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 1 in 3. Expressed as a percentage, it's 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."

VDW's examination of results shows the following percentages for various form combinations (the percentage figure indicates the number of winners after the particular run of form):

111 ....... 33%
121 ....... 32%
131 ....... 29%
141 ....... 26%
122 ....... 30%
313 ....... 24%
214 ....... 24%
404 ........ 5%

000 .......   2%

He says: "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's almost certain one of them should win, and only about once chance in 100 that the winner will come from elsewhere, so it
would be going against the odds to select any other horse in the field."

VDW says his studies have shown that 83 per cent of all winners come from the top five quotes in the pre-race betting market.

He says: "This also shows that selecting a horse which does not appear 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 up in the forecast (the pre-race market). 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 of the first five in the market centres attention where it is positively alive with winners.

"Basically, it is a simple addition of the last three form placings, but it does happen that a horse may have only had two outings to date. In such cases, assume that it would have performed at the same standard as its last form placing (that is, a horse placed 4th and 3rd would be considered to have run into 3rd place once more, thus giving a total of 10.

"Other factors in this assessment will either support it or show it to be overcompensated."

By Jon Hudson

PRACTICAL PUNTING - JULY 2002