John Mack examines the pro betting issue.

Last month, I discussed how 'new' punters get into the racing game, and how they might find their way around.

Firstly, they take everyone else opinion, then shift to their own and then, hopefully, they begin to take the game seriously.

All of what goes on is a learning experience. Everyone I know involved in racing admits they learn something new almost every day.

I was chatting the other day to Martin Dowling, PPM's long-time contributor, and he said the day you think you know everything is the day you have finally plunged into total delusion.

In my early days, I made a point of reading everything I could about horse-racing and money management, but it took me many years before I was able to control my betting, and get my selection approach into some sort of order.

Bad habits die hard, and when you get a bad habit in racing it tends to stick. Looking back with the advantage of hindsight, I suppose the most interesting piece of advice I learned very early on, and which I blithely ignored, was the following:


What does this really mean? That you can't win, full stop? Or that maybe on a programme you can win one or two races, but you won't win all eight or nine? I suspect the latter, because it IS possible to beat the races; I know people who've done it, and they're not bookmakers. Several of the PPM team have made and continue to make good money at the races.

They are people who got the maths right, and who were content with small percentage profits. Two or three per cent a year is enough for some of them because they have massive turnovers.

You and I are in a different category. While we're seeking long-term profits, w e realise that our best chance is probably a few windfall returns every year to cover the loss side of things. It's why the bulk of amateur punters attack trifecta betting with ferocity, the lure of big dollars for a relatively small outlay.

PPM editor Brian Blackwell I believes in the windfall returns theory. Brian often goes without a sizeable bet for weeks, and then plunges big. He needs only one or two of these plunges to occur every year to come out with a major profit.

Sometimes, of course, they don't pay off. I know that Brian plunged big on Giovana in late February, only to see her run a neck 2nd! He picked up not long I afterwards, though, with a big return on $18.50 winner Maclynn at Muswellbrook (a long shot tip he handed out to ALL members of the PPD Club on the Internet!).

Most punters like action every day. This desire is easily fulfilled now that we have 7days-aweek racing action. The key though, is not to become a mad chain-bettor. Do yourself a favour and don't have 20 or 30 bets in a day!

It's always interesting to hear the views of various experts on their approach to racing. I've compiled some thoughts from all around the world and I'm sure we can learn something from all of them.

You won't find winners consistently on one factor alone. Every factor is relative to other factors, so we have plus and minus signals. A horse may be fit and it may have a good jockey aboard, and even a weight advantage, but this may all be cancelled out by a poor barrier draw, racing at the wrong distance, or inability to handle the track conditions. I always urge people to make sure they examine as many factors as they can in the form.

Handicapping is, and always has been, a simple equation. How good is a horse at his best, and how close is he likely to get to that point today? Apparently so elementary yet universally so complex, every handicapping book written, system conceived, computer program devised, attempts to unravel this concept on some level or another.

This is what handicappers are attempting to decipher in every race. Unfortunately, the horse's form is often illusionary and since ability is directly related to form the entire process becomes a difficult Catch-22.

PAUL RUSSELL (Australian professional in the 1940s)
Weight handicapping is the basis of racing. It's by the use of weight shifts that handicappers try to equalise the chances of all runners. My advice has always been to concentrate on weight-for-age races, set weights or special weights. These invariably produce runners with a clear-cut advantage over their rivals in the all-important factor of weight.

As punters, we have to 'do the weights' to find the in-form gallopers who, for one reason or another, are meeting their rivals better than should be the case. I thoroughly investigate the weights, but I don't rely on this one factor.

A well handicapped, fit horse, in the hands of a good jockey and placed in a race that's suitable for it, will invariably give supporters a run for their money.

The greatest chance a small punter has is to invest in set amounts, and only increase the size of the bets in accordance with capital growth. If a punter has $40, he might make his unit of investment $2. That would be his maximum. If he built his capital to $80, he can withdraw half the profit for personal gain and then use an increased capital of $60 and make the maximum stake $3.

With flat stakes, the player knows in advance how much he can lose, so there is no mental stress. At the same time, there is no ceiling to what lie can win. Provided he's selective in his choice of horses, he can steadily step up from bank to bank until he reaches a point where he has withdrawn worthwhile dividends and is betting in sizeable sums.

If a person starts with $40 and manages to double his bank three times, the position is: He goes to $80. takes out $20 as profit, and increases the stake to $3. He then moves from $60 to $120 and withdraws $30. His third operation starts at $90 with a set stake of $4.50.

If he doubles his bank to $180, he would take out $45 and start the fourth venture with a working capital of $135 and a stake, at 5 per cent, of $6.75.

At this stage, he has declared himself dividends totalling $95 and has a capital of $135.

Even if he was wiped out at this point, he would still have shown a profit of $55 on the total transaction.

JACK TRACEY (UK professional)
I forget all about the ratings, the weights, and all that stuff. I just get myself on to the trainers and jockeys who are in form at the time. My first thing is to mark down all the likely ones in the guide, and then take a long look at them.

I never have a bet on a horse ridden by an out-of-form jockey or trained by someone whose horses haven't been winning. I go with the strength all the time. I want my money on the best and the most confident. Why anyone would risk their money on anyone but the best, beats me.

It can be very simple. One or two bets a day, sometimes none, but always with a strong trainer and a very good jockey. Money for jam!

ARTHUR BLUNT (Australian professional from the 1940/50s)
Cut down the number of bets you have; that's my tip for anyone who punts. Divide the card into bettable and unbettable races and once you've decided on the races to bet, go through the race and list them under Contenders and Non Contenders.

It doesn't take long to narrow the field down to a few chances. Once you've done that, check the prices, chase some value and, if your judgement is correct most of the time, you can give up work. Easy, isn't it?

By John Mack