In this series of articles, we’ll be looking at the favourite approaches of a wide range of international professionals.

We want to know about their pet ploys, their staking ideas, and even the way they approach day to day betting.

We did a similar article some 12 years ago and some very interesting angles were discussed. One that I recall was Rick Hunter’s little system, which actually dates back to a PPM article in 1992 (we’re getting a lot of history behind this magazine right now!).

The system was simplicity itself. Consider only the pre-post favourite provided it is carrying top weight in a handicap, and double your bet if the horse is to be ridden by the #1 jockey in your State.

Peter Travers, who we don’t hear from very much these days, told us that his favourite idea was a points plan that translates tipsters’ poll points into a price.

“I use it mainly for getting a clear price line on the various races,” said Peter. “I find I can secure some excellent overlays."

Peter’s pricing approach goes like this:

  • Get the tips of 11 media experts and allot 3 pts for a top pick, 2 pts for a 2nd pick and 1 pt for a 3rd pick.
  • Check the points score for each horse against the following table of ‘points to prices’ to get a recommended price for each horse on the poll.
Tipster points Odds
32/33 Evens ($2.00)
30/31 5/4 ($2.25)
29 6/4 ($2.50)
27/28 13/8 ($2.62)
26 7/4 ($2.75)
25 2/1 ($3.00)
24 9/4 ($3.25)
23 5/2 ($3.50)
20/21/22 3/1 ($4.00)
17/18/19 7/2 ($4.50)
15/16 4/1 (5.00)
13/14 9/2 ($5.50)
11/12 5/1 ($6.00)
10 6/1 ($7.00)
8/9 7/1 ($8.00)
6/7 8/1 ($9.00)
5 10/1 ($11.00)
4 12/1 ($13.00)
3 16/1 ($17.00)
2 20/1 ($21.00)
1 25/1 ($26.00)

While on the subject of betting lines, what better excuse for going to the US expert Mark Cramer for his views on it?

He says: “In attempting to gain this investment advantage, the handicapper’s main enemy is the guy next to him in the grandstand or off-track betting establishment. Overcoming the track take is only enough to break even.

“Beyond that, the horseplayer must intellectually outwit the betting public. Overlays like 8/1s that should have been 3/1s emerge when you are right and the public is wrong.

“Commonsense dictates that you cannot outsmart the public if you handicap with the same information and methods as the public. To be effective, the handicapping that goes into a personal odds line  must use a methodology that is comprised of (1) information underused  by the public; and/or (b) a style of analysis that is generally shunned by the betting public.”

Cramer makes some salient points here. Basically, he’s saying that get a really personal betting line, one that stands a chance of long term success, you need to be using a unique handicapping approach whereby you are taking on the betting public, pitting your assessment against theirs.

Now let’s turn to the US analyst George Kaywood, whose ideas have often appeared in PPM. The good thing about George is that he is full of bright ideas, and new ways to think about form analysis and betting.

He is a positive thinker and this is what he has to say in advising punters on their daily betting attacks:

“You’re probably familiar with Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking, or books with other titles such as Think and Grow Rich. The central idea of these books and others like them is you can achieve any goal you want (as long as it’s physically possible, of course), primarily by simply visualising that goal and reinforcing the vision over and over.

“According to the theory, the process  of  visualising and reinforcing programs your subconscious to seek the goal, with your subconscious “steering” you, reshaping your thinking and actions to work outwardly to reach the goal. 

“I’m here to tell you that it works.  I think it’s very unfortunate that the concept has not been given the serious endorsement it deserves. A couple of decades of pop psychology, psychobabble, and the labelling of a lot of worthless feel-good ideas as self-help or success-building business practices, have discredited a legitimate idea that works. 

“Some common examples come to mind right away: clinical hypnosis; and the behavioural change (usually group meetings once or more weekly) reinforcement sessions used by everyone from AA to franchised weight-loss clinics. 

“So, how does this apply to handicapping? The things that you can do to ‘re-program’ yourself may appear to be idiotically simple steps to many: set aside a place and time to sit and simply visualise yourself handicapping, making a bet, then cashing tickets; writing down a positive affirmation and repeating it several times a day aloud, reading it before bedtime, and so on. 

“But they work. How do I know?  Because I’ve done it. And in more ways than one. 

“This is stuff you’re not taught in school, college, or in most areas of life or business. It does border on the edge of what many classify as the intuitive, psychic, or just plain mumbo-jumbo. Interestingly enough, several books that have come out over the last few years in which business leaders who achieved great success in their fields were interviewed. Asked how they arrived at their greatest decisions, the response was not “by planning and research” as much as by gut feeling, an almost intuitive decision that came immediately and without question.

“Could it be that the gut feeling, the intuitive flash, comes from your conscious mind being able to bring together all that your subconscious has been accumulating, directing and driving you toward, in one so-called quantum leap? 

“Based on my own life experience, especially in racing and handicapping, I know it’s possible. You have probably had at least one or two days on which you knew that certain races would be run a certain way as if you wrote the script for the race, and didn’t do what you’d call any serious handicapping at all. 

“A fluke day or a coming together of all the handicapping factors on a different level of thinking that is not considered as an option by most? 

“The power of positive handicapping is the same as the power of positive thinking, but specifically directed to handicapping. 

“A couple of real-life examples illustrate the power of thinking in a positive way. Before I tell you the story, let me preface it by saying that I do not mean this to be a bragging session and that this type of situation definitely does not happen every day! 

“At Fair Grounds, I had doped out several quite legitimate longshots in one turf race each day. In the first race, one of the longshots won and paid $30, with the other two finishing third and fourth. Although I bet on the winner and cashed in, I was very annoyed. The mystery horse that ran second went off above 20/1, as did the horse who ran third. The exacta paid $732 and the trifecta paid over $10,000.The next day, an unexpected horse ran first, with my next three horses finishing 2-3-4. 

“Sandwiched around these races were two other turfers in which I hit low, but cold exactas.  I was grousing about my losses to my friend, Spotplay, who verbally slapped me in the face and said something like “Are you NUTS? You’ve just won two races and your plays that lost damn near won, and you were one of the few people to spot the horses’ ability. All you need is one score like this and your season will be made!

“Of course, he was absolutely right. My point of view was focusing on the negative, when I had in fact done, by my own standards, a really good job of handicapping those races – a very positive thing! Those cold exactas looked mighty ‘warm’ after he brought me back to my senses.”

George also has some interesting things to say about separating the real contenders in a race.

He says: “Let’s cut to the chase: the easiest way to separate your real contenders is to let the tote board do it for you.

“If we’re talking win bet, and our three contenders are going off at 3/5, 4/1 and 12/1, how do you bet? Obviously, making a win bet on two or all three would return in a loss if  the 3/5 horse finishes first. Throwing out the favourite and betting  both of the other horses will return a reasonable profit and present a risk situation most players would find acceptable in terms of the odds.

“Does this mean in such situations, you should AUTOMATICALLY throw out the favourite?  YES – IF you believe the other contenders ARE pretty much equal to him.

“The reasoning is relatively logical, just as actual racing is. Yes, favourites win 33 per cent of all races run, but the distribution of that 33 per cent is not uniform. In any race, you have the possibility of a bad break, a bad ride, a bad estimation (by you OR the trainer) that the horse is properly placed, and just plain bad racing luck. 

“With those factors being a given (AND added to the track take) in every race you play, shouldn’t you demand decent odds, if your handicapping determines that the real contenders are three horses, all of which have legitimate merit?

“So let’s see now . . . we’re going to bet two of our top three selections because they both have merit and the odds say to back them. When you put it this way, the separating of contenders is not only easy, it’s also automatic. “

NEXT MONTH: Lots more bright ideas from some of the world’s best known and respected handicappers.

Click here to read Part 2.
Click here to read Part 3.
Click here to read Part 4.
Click here to read Part 5.
Click here to read Part 6.

By Brian Blackwell