This is the final article in our latest series on the world's top handicapping experts. We conclude the series with some views from Tom Ainslie, one of America's greatest authorities on selecting and money management.

Tom Ainslie has firm views on just about every aspect of racing betting, and racing itself. He has penned a few of America's best books on the racing industry.

Bearing this in mind, a great deal of weight has to be attached to what he has to say. And as far as 'minimising risk' and 'maximising profits' Ainslie has plenty of wisdom to hand out.

On risk minimisation, he says that money bet on place tickets produces lower profits but it can hedge a punter's bet, thus reducing the overall risk.

In his book Ainslie's Encyclopaedia of Thoroughbred Handicapping he writes: "And, of course, it (place betting) pays off more frequently. Some experts insist that short-priced horses should be bet to place only, because $2.40 to place is almost as good as $3.00 to win and can be collected more often.

"My own attitude is that neither $3 to win nor $2.40 to place is normally worth the investment. But when a horse stands out at 7/2 or better in a field of seven or more (3/1 with six, 5/2 with fewer) and when the favourite in the race looks like a loser, a place bet is indicated, along with the win bet."

Ainslie, of course, is talking about U.S. racing, but his thoughts apply to Australian and Kiwi racing, too. He continues: "Frequent racegoers make highest profits by betting to win only, but vacationers can increase the probability of a winning week by hedging with place bets.

"Of course, this is a far cry from betting only to place... a practice recommended by various authorities who feel that cashing a place bet should embolden the bettor to try for a win in the next."

Ainslie says he has kept detailed records for years on end and as a result of this research he has become satisfied that "most winning players make their money on horses at comparatively high odds."

He adds: "Bets at 2/1 or less may contribute to the profit, but not much.

For most of us, the short odds bets are a spinning of wheels, leading nowhere in particular.

"Somewhere about 3/1, the winning percentage declines but the returns improve enough to put us firmly in the black. Handicappers whose selections conform to that pattern need no instruction in arithmetic but may never have pursued the phenomenon to its logical conclusion.

"If bets at less than 3/1 are only barely profitable, reason exists to make only token bets at such odds, increasing the bets as the odds improve."

On exacta betting, Ainslie has just as firm thoughts. Exactas are becoming more and more popular in Australia, even though not all State TABs have them (New South Wales is leading the way with exactas).

Says Ainslie: "Betting on exactas is a waste of money unless the bettor is a good handicapper who knows in advance what his chosen combinations of horses will pay, and can compare those prices to what might be made with bets on one horse at a time at the conventional win and place windows."

Ainslie's view is that a handicapper who knows how to make such appraisals enjoys a substantial advantage.

He has a lot to say as well about 'excuses' in racing. Any punter anywhere in the world has heard all the excuses going from jockeys, trainers etc. They make a lot themselves after bad betting blues!

Says Ainslie: "The traditions of the sport and the pressures of its economics oblige horsemen to pull as much wool as possible over the prying eyes of those who compete with them on the track, or at the mutual (tote) windows.

"To prevail in these circumstances, a handicapper must learn to differentiate what is real about a horse and what is only apparent.

"Some losing performances are downright poor. Others are fully excusable. Failure to recognise the differences leads only to loss. To miss playable winners is bad enough. It is even worse to miss the superior prices they pay after a few misleading losses."

Ainslie points to the importance of becoming a good race-watcher. He says: "With experience, application and willing ability to go to the races ... some handicappers become talented race-watchers.

"They observe the flow of the entire field from start to finish, rather than concentrating only on the horses they have backed. They see things that do not always appear in results charts commentary, such as rider errors or repeated traffic jams that prevent a horse from doing its best.

"These observers capitalise on the excuse factor. In fact, some of them do their handicapping entirely in terms of what they have seen through their binoculars, reserving their bets for horses that not only have displayed competitive eagerness but have been frustrated by bad luck or bad handling."

*Ainslie's Encyclopaedia of Thoroughbred Handicapping, by Tom Ainslie, published by William Morrow & Company, New York.

Click here to read Part 2.
Click here to read Part 1.

By Jon Hudson