Martin Dowling has been one of PPM's favourite contributors in the last six years. His forthright and often controversial features have earned him a high reputation in the professional punting world. In this special article, we draw on some of his highly original thoughts about betting and staking.

A beatable race? What is it? It's probably different things to different people. On every programme there will races that appear harder than others, and vice-versa. So I've put together a few ground rules for the 'average' punter.

  1. Go through the fields fairly quickly and eliminate those races which are obviously too difficult to analyse. Maidens with large fields, early 2yo. events, and races for Mares are often too hard.
  2. Delete from the remainder any races where there seem to be more than three solid winning prospects.
  3. From what remains, delete any in which there is a very dear, short-priced favourite with which you agree. In other words, if you do not agree that this horse should be the favourite, or believe that it should be at longer odds, this may be a bettable race, and therefore a beatable race. If you agree that it deserves its top spot in the betting then drop the race.
  4. Treat each remaining race on its merits. If there are seven or eight runners obviously there will be no tremendous value in trifectas, UNLESS two of the eight runners absolutely stand out. If so, there's a chance for a trifecta bet of AB-FIELD, BA-FIELD (cost 12 units).

There are many good ideas about a punter selecting a 'stable' of horses to follow. The glory of this idea is that you don't have to pay the bills etc. How to start? Why not follow these basic rules, stick to them, then go from there:

  1. Only have a stable in two States, or even in just one.
  2. Select only horses aged 3, 4 and 5 (they're mostly consistent).
  3. Restrict the stable horses to those which have won a minimum of 20 per cent of their career starts, with a minimum of six races allowed.
  4. Only choose those horses which are having their first or second runs after a spell. This ensures you catch them on the way UP their form graph, not after they have peaked.
  5. Only allow into your stable horses that have "done something" in one of those two starts; in other words, have shown enough to indicate the best is yet to come.
  6. Follow them at level stakes. or else put more on when you consider they are ideally placed (track, distance, going).
  7. Allow at least four starts for each horse, and continue to back him even if he wins during those four runs. After four runs you can then decide whether to continue to follow.

As you know, there are many ways to bet on trifectas. The first thing you have to accept is that you are subject to longish losing runs. You cannot expect to strike trifectas every day, every week. If you are prepared to be patient, it can prove rewarding betting, though. It's recommended that you mix trifecta betting with quinellas and win bets.

If you turnover, say, $200 a week, your betting could be handled this way:

8 trifectas at $6 ($1 each combination)$48
8 quinellas at $6 ($2 each combination)$48
8 win bets at $13 each$104
Total for week$200
One winner at 5/1, a quinella paying $15, and a trifecta paying $92 would square the week's betting.

This little plan turns up some excellent winners, and was first revealed a few years back in Banker Weekly. It works on both jockeys and trainers.

  1. The selection is the topweight in handicap races if it is to be ridden by one of the two top jockeys in that particular State.
  2. Alternatively, the selection is the topweight in handicap races if it is trained by one of the two top trainers in that particular State.

You might like to add a few extra rules: The horse must have finished in the first four placings last start, it must not be carrying more than 57kgs, or it must have a win strike rate of at least 20 per cent.

How much do you bet each week? I had a note from a friend in the U.K. who told me he bets in 'fivers' (that's five English pounds, or sterling, which is worth about $12 in our money). It got me thinking about average bets in Australia. I would imagine that many of our P.P.M. readers bet in at least $5 or $10 units, and that $20 or more would be a fair old bash. But maybe I have it all wrong, and that punters now bet in standard $10 bites?

So what should be your limit? Well, a limit on a betting bank is the amount you can afford. Perhaps 1-100th of your bank could be the betting figure. If you earn, say, $40,000 a year before tax, and you are prepared to invest one per cent on horses, then your bank for the year would be $400, and you would bet in $4 units. If this is a fair enough estimate of your situation, and you actually bet in $20 bills, then you are betting to 5 per cent of your affordable bank.

If you can afford to do this then you bank should be higher-or you'd better have a pretty good selection system behind you, because 20 losers and you're wiped out. So work out carefully what your bank is, and work out what portion of it you will bet each week (or each day). Work to the safest limits you can. If your bank is, say, $10,000 a year then bet to a hundredth of that bank ($100), or even 1/200th ($50).

It can be difficult sorting out all the tips you see and hear in your newspapers, on radio and on TV Saturday morning is panic morning for many punters. You see them at the TAB and they are at a total loss in deciding what the heck they should do with all the information they've been hit with!

Heaven alone knows how they ever win, but I'll tell you one thing--over a year they all lose.

If you're somewhat confused, try the following approach; you'll have a lot of fun and you should get some handsome returns.

  1. Divide an 8-race programme into half--odds and evens.
  2. Take a 'Parlay' on each four: Races 1-3-5-7--6 doubles, four trebles, one foursome. Races 2-4-6-8 the same. Back the top selections in Races 7 and 8 to win (10 units each). Total investment 42 units.

This gives you a thrill all afternoon - plenty of action, and you follow it up with a chance of a win in the last two races. One winner in race seven or eight (after six losers) will virtually pay all expenses if it arrives at 3/1. If you could strike a double with each set of four, and get a winner with one of your last two single bets, you could have a fine old day. A treble would set you up.

Doubles always make for interesting betting. I have concentrated on them from the time I became a fulltime punter, using various approaches. In essence, I think like this: I want a double at 9/2 every 3.5 bets. Not every four bets. That is my edge. I assume that I will crack a double that pays over 4.5 to 1 every 3.5 times I bet.

This means that were I to have, say, 700 doubles a year, I am looking for a return of at least 5.5 x 700 divided by 3.5. This comes down to 5.5 x 200, or 1100 for my outlay of 700. The return is therefore, as will be obvious after you run it through your calculator, 57 per cent on outlay for the year.

This is a pretty large figure, but it's what I go after. I want to make a living from my betting, so I am saying that if I outlay on 700 doubles then I want a minimum of one strike every 3.5 bets, and I want it paying at least 9/2-a return of 5.5 including my stake. A return of 9/2 at a 28 per cent strike means a return as outlined.

Naturally, I do not stick rigidly to such figures, but they are what I aim at. The overall double must pay off at the rate of 9/2. Let us assume I bet $500 on the double. I aim to win $2750 on its success. That is 9/2. The double may pay me 40/1, but it's the overall figure which is the only relevant one. If you outlay $24 on a four-horse trifecta that wins and pays $2400, you have received 99/1 about your money, not 2399/1.

If I, therefore, outlay $500 on a double and it pays $90 and I have $30 on it, I make my $2250 (9/2), give or take a few dollars. There is often a lot of value in the TAB doubles pool-because there is a lot of what I call 'stupid' money invested. Look at what happens when two numbers the same come up in the double. The dividend is usually under the odds.

I have always advised punters to concentrate on those gallopers which have proven themselves over a period of time to be reliable conveyances. The following system takes advantage of such thinking and can supply you with a steady flow of winners.

  1. Operate only on Open, Welter, Mares, Weight For Age, Jumps and 3yo. races.
  2. Consider only those horses with a 33 per cent or better WIN strike rate.
  3. Ignore any of these horses which are not on the first five lines of betting in the pre-post market (suggest The Australian, or Sydney Morning Herald, Melbourne Age or Brisbane Courier Mail).
  4. Ignore any horses which did not finish 1st 2nd or 3rd at their last start, or who did not finish within four lengths of the winner's (a horse could have run unplaced but qualifies for consideration if it finished within four lengths of the winner inclusive).
  5. A horse must have had its last start within the previous 26 days.
  6. If two or more horses qualify, back the one with the best strike rate, or if possible back them all if prices permit.

This system isolates true, consistent horses, who should be fit and ready for a bold race.

This is a clever staking plan for punters who bet each-way, and who are confident they are securing good value about their selections. I stress it should be used only on really solid selections. The rules are as follows:

  1. Your first bet is one unit each-way.
  2. After a loser, increase by a further half-unit each-way.
  3. After a placed horse, repeat the previous bet.
  4. After a winner, drop back half a unit.
  5. When your stake has reached three units each-way, or higher, drop back one point after a winner.

By Martin Dowling