That there is a revolution underway in the 'thinking' being applied to form analysis is undeniable. Last month, we told of the US expert Mark Cramer's 'guerrilla' approach to betting, as outlined in his bestselling books Kinky Handicapping and Kinkier Handicapping.

Cramer is one of the true leaders of the revolution that says the ordinary punter should ignore conventional forms of analysis and betting if he or she is to stand any chance of making a profit from betting on racehorses.

For years, punters have tried to hone their skills around the favourites. Few have laboured long and hard to get the skills to isolate the TRUE value prospects in a race, and to dare to bet 'against the crowd'.

James N. Selvidge is an American expert whose books sell in tens of thousands and who for a long time had advocated revolutionary betting techniques. One of them, the Base Bet Plus Square Root approach was covered some time back in PPM. It remains Selvidge's bridgehead betting technique. His thinking can be summed up in the following words: MOST PROFIT FROM THE LEAST RISK.

Selvidge has firm views on all aspects of betting. In his book Money Management he outlines a number of ideas to use when betting exotics like quinellas, exactas and trifectas. His main piece of advice on exactas is to have a minimum of $60 to bet on any one race. Any less, he says, will greatly restrict your profit prospects.

His ideal exacta bet? Selvidge says: "What we long for is a race with only four logical contenders, and they are all at attractive odds. A-B-C-D are 5/1, 8/1, 10/1 and 12 / 1. In this case, a four-horse box covers all permutations and at $5 each comes to $60."

In a nutshell, then, Selvidge warns against including well-fancied runners. He says wait for the right race, when you have top-value selections, and then shoot for an exacta which is very likely to pay several hundred dollars.

On trifectas, Selvidge says: "The ONLY way to play the trifecta is to approach it ... with a 5/1 goal in mind. Trifecta play requires an adequate balance of win percentage versus payoff and this requires a minimal input of $36 to $72. This gives you a comfort zone. As with the exacta, if this degree of risk capital is committed, and a 5/1 ratio is the goal, then no trifecta may be played with less than nine starters.

"In a 9 or 10-horse field I would be comfortable with a $72 bottom. If spending more, I would be hesitant in the absence of at least a field of 10 to 12."

Selvidge's views on what he calls the 'ground rules' for quinellas are interesting. He stresses, of course, the importance of securing value for your invested dollar. He adds:

"The horse-player must get a feel as to when, and when not, to bet. Only random races will represent legitimate opportunities, so guidelines and rules are needed.

"To play a quinella, you should seek ONE horse as a standout, as the perceived key to the race. This is by no means the favourite; it has nothing to do with the appraisal of tipsters or the betting public. IVs that 'hidden favourite' that YOU have dug out, which naturally is your prime bet ...

"To be a defendable play in the quinella pool, the race must have at least seven starters. If there is a heavily bet favourite, this must be viewed as a false favourite. This horse must be eliminated from consideration, or in pattern-betting will have minimal inclusion.

“In short, if this horse is 1st or 2nd, we LOSE, at least a portion of what we have bet."

Selvidge says that if the favourite seems a legitimate contender and cannot be eliminated, then it can be included provided it is at 2/1 or higher. Finally, he advises, never accept the likely return of less than 4/1 for the quinella.

Paul 'Pedro' Amatio made his betting fortune on Californian tracks in the 1970s. He retired from betting in the mid-80s but in recent times has made something of a comeback as a 'computer punter' operating on a variety of tracks in the United States.

Pedro became a subscriber to PPM about five years ago and in recent correspondence told us: "You may like to know how I ended up owning an apartment in Los Angeles and a holiday home in Florida. I owe most of it to parlay betting, something I became adept at when I was at the peak of my betting endeavours in the 1970s.

"My forte was show parlays of four selections. I became the prince where these were concerned. While others tended to pour scorn on my approach I just kept on going and steadily built up my fortune."

Pedro's parlay betting began in a quiet, understated way. He was, back then, a $20 bettor, but as his four-horse show parlays began to roll in, he increased his stakes to $30, then $40 and built them up, via the tote and illegal bookmakers, to $100 and $200.

"By the time I was at my very peak, I was betting $1,000 show parlays," he says. "That meant a successful one, even on shortpriced runners, won me thousands of dollars. In the end, I was more or less betting against myself on the pari-mutuel. The more I upped the stakes the more I hit my own dividend."

Rich enough by the early '80s to give it all up, Amatio called it quits. But, after years tending his garden and playing golf, he got the 'bug' again, and discovered computers and their role in form analysis.

He began running 'dry tests' on his old show parlay betting, using a form database and his own handicapping program to find the selections. Even he was amazed at the results.

"I found that I was hitting the parlays successfully three times out of four," he told PPM. "And this time around the horses I, picking, using the computer handicapping, were providing much greater value than I had been achieving in the '70s."

Amatio began betting on the show parlays again last year, this time hitting tracks all over the US Via simulcasting. Where before he had been restricted to the Californian tracks, he can now bet on any tracks anywhere in the US, even tracks in Australia and Hong Kong.

What is the secret of Pedro Amatio's success? Well, he explains that anyone can do what he has done. The secret, he advises, is to be RATIONAL and SENSIBLE. Make each selection as if your life depended on the outcome.

"I stick with tried and proven trainers, horses that are fit and in form, and jockeys who know how to ride," he says. "I like my horses to back up within 21 days, and I am not interested in any that are coming back from long rests.

"I leave those horses to the risktakers. With a show parlay you have to look for safe conveyances, and you don't have to display too much risk flair to be able to land a decent dividend."

James Selvidge, too, has a lot to say about parlays. He has been keen on the value of show parlays for many years.

“The straight show parlay belongs in the wagering portfolio permanently,” he writes in Money Management. "Even for a pro on ad days, if there has been a nice show parlay return, it takes the edge off the downer feeling."

In Australia, of course, a show parlay is a place parlay of four bets. These can be placed individually or on an all-up basis. A straight four-horse all-up can produce very nice returns if you are clever enough to land all four placegetters.

For instance: Four placegetters at $1.50, $1.40, $1.70 and $1.90 would return you, for a $20 bet, $135.66, odds of just over 11 /2. Another example: $1.30, $1.40, $1.50 and $2.20 would return you, for a $20 bet, $120.12, a profit of $100, odds of 5/1.

Says Pedro: "I would recommend this play to any punter who fancies himself as a good handicapper. Let's face it, you don't have to pick winners, you get three chances every race, and you don't have to operate on more than four races."

As an example of Pedro's thinking, perhaps a place parlay all-up on Monday, March 31 at Randwick would have been: Race 2, Accept 3rd $1.25, Blue Gum 2nd $1.70, Encounter 1st $1.45 and Amber 1st $1.40.

A $20 all-up on these short-priced placegetters would have returned $86 for a profit of $66, odds of around 13 / 4 for the complete parlay.   

Professionals all around the world have different ideas of staking. Many stick to the tried and proven, and conservative, level stakes betting. But many like to be more aggressive and creative.

The following ideas may be helpful when you are considering your own approach:

  • Stick to the all-up place parlays as suggested by Pedro Amatio, provided you can make sensible selections and can have a strike rate of at least 33 in 100 bets.
  • Stick to quinellas, trifectas, exactas as outlined by James Selvidge ... provided you follow his ideas about giving yourself enough financial room to have a better than average chance of beating the game.
  • Use Banker selections sensibly in trifectas. Veer away from the favourites, because they only tend to 'kill' the value in a dividend. Try for Bankers that have strong chances but are being ignored by the rest of the betting public. These are your 'sleeper' selections and the ones that will eventually 'make' your profits for you.
  • Read as much as you can about all aspects of staking. Equestrian's book Dollars & Sense could be a start in the right direction!

By Jon Hudson