How can we define what is "simple" and what isn't when it comes to betting strategies?

To begin with, I would say that most of us would have some features of our betting that could do with an oil change and grease.

Staying with what our eyes tell us in the formguide might be a good starting point. I listen to the stuff from the media every weekday, and especially every Saturday, and I get so tired of the clichés, the jockey and trainer interviews, the "experts" who trot out the same old tired evidence every session to support their opinions . . . not to mention the time wasted on things that have nothing at all to do with the racing.

I was a fan of 927 Radio Racing, but now I cannot listen to it for any length of time unless I am desperate. The amount of unhelpful material, and the bad feeling I sense between the participants, drives me insane.

I do believe that the bookmakers in all States except South Australia have signed their own death warrants with their acquiescence to the TAB "prices", which are actually returns. I have the perfect example here in that someone of my acquaintance who bets with a bookie, off course, was offered $4.60 for a horse recently. He took it, believing it to be close enough to what he expected to be best.

That's okay, I suppose, but the old simple way was 3/1, 7/2,4/1.

A price like $4.60 wasn't an option.

There were two spots in between, these being 13/4 and 15/4, on the old boards.

They translated simply is $4.25 and $4.75.

There was no availability, in the old days, to sneak from 7/2 to 15/4 via $4.60 and $4.70!

Or even worse, offer $4.40 rather than 7/2. And if you believe that you are being given $4.40 as a gift when the price should be $4.25 (13/4), forget it! The offer is usually on the downside of the value mark, in my opinion. In the old days, if a bookmaker wanted to attract your bet above 13/4 he had to go to 7/2.

Not now. He goes up by one-tenth of a point at a time.

If you don't believe that $4.60 and $4.70 should be 15/4, or even 4/1, I despair of you.

I suspect that more and more punters will realise that "prices" are phoney, regardless of a leading paper printing the returns as prices (and actually still calling them odds).

So where am I heading here?

I suspect that the best way to go is tote, all the way, but against the mob. It is simple and it is logical. You will pay more tax long term, but what the heck if you don't get better value with the other side?

You have about 70 per cent of races running in your direction. They are the races the favourites won't win. But, as the man says, there's more.

There will be races in which the favourite is the obvious bet, yet is starting at amazing odds. I have always plumped for value. I do it again now. If the favourite is it, say, 2/1 (real odds) in a race where it is clearly superior, and there are one or two others backed heavily for any number of reasons except the right one, there is a simple bet: FAVOURITE TO WIN.

What did I mean about "any number of reasons"? Well, as an example we all know, sometimes a Sydney horse goes for a trip to Melbourne, and comes up against a crackerjack local. The "knowledge" factor comes into play in NSW, where the traveller is supported to a point significantly below its correct price.

So, the local Melbourne horse might be at 2/1 on the NSW TAB, and the visitor at 5/2, when you and I are pretty sure that, based on form alone, the prices should be perhaps even-money and 4 / 1.

 That is a time when the simple bet is so obvious.

I used that $4.60 example above, so I will now return to it. The horse in question was Walk On Air, which actually started at 4/1 ($5). And it won with a leg in the air.

The horse had looked good on the previous day, and the pre-post odds (usually a guess at best), suggested it might be bettable.

Why so? Because the same horse had run a three-year-old called North Boy close, two starts back. As you are well aware, a start or two later North Boy probably lost the Newmarket by turning his head sideways and wasting about four centimetres.

To cap it all off, the pre-post favourite and the only other apparent threat to Walk On Air were both scratched on race morning.

Back to North Boy. Had he been entered in Walk On Air's race, he would have had to carry Lou Costello and Oliver Hardy together, plus a couple of lead bags as well. When the two horses did meet a month before, he gave Walk On Air a goodly portion of weight, to be sure, but on paper it was like putting a potential Group One winner (at 1200 metres, mind you) against a pretty honest sort of trier. Yet Walk On Air almost held this top-class animal all the way to the wire.

So, simply put, the bet was obvious and it represented tremendous value.

Now these things can be simple and still lose you money, so don't think it's all that easy. Don't confuse simple with easy.

Simple means that things are straightforward and can be unravelled. They can be worked out, there are clues in place that you can follow.

Easy means you don't have to do any work.

We are talking about simple approaches, which are not the same thing as easy pickings.

There can be examples where that visiting horse wins and you are done like a dinner. All that simple reasoning goes down the drain.

However, truth remains the truth, and facts remain facts. The value for you was with the local horse against the visitor, because of the odds on offer. The simple truth was that the best bet was with the local.

The fact that it lost didn't make the slightest difference to the racing philosophy that says "only by getting value will the investor win long term".

And the truth is that these opportunities will remain available to you because, in certain races which you will be watching out for, the majority of money, or at least too much money, will be placed on the wrong horse.

Remember I said "too much money". This is all relative. If the amount of money placed on Horse A makes it 3/1, and it ought to be 5/1, there is far too much money on that horse. 

I know I lay it thick on poor Universal Prince but, believe me, I admire the horse greatly. I have made money  betting against him on several occasions and he is the best example racing at present of a horse that has not lived up to others' expectations.

Ethereal beat him in the BMW when he seemed home. His price was awful. Hers was brilliant when it opened, and even after we had trimmed it, it remained generous. True there was only a nose in it, but noses have made and lost fortunes.

I recall that nobody knew which horse had won Might And Power's Melbourne Cup, it was that close, and Doriemus, as a winner of two Melbourne Cups, would perhaps be the one we talk about today if the verdict had gone the other way.

In the BMW, multi-Group One winning Ethereal was at odds that had to be taken. The local champion had enjoyed, if that is the word, an atrocious spring campaign, and had been at stupid odds before the Melbourne Cup.

My position is that value will exist when poor old Universal Prince races, and I will seek it out. When he wins, there is a chance I will have supported something that loses.

That is pretty simple, you know. Find an over-supported horse and examine the opposition.

The main opponent might not be the most obvious horse. Or then again it might be. And you can perhaps afford to back two or more at really great odds, if you truly do not believe the favourite is value.

To take an example: if there are three runners in, say, the Stradbroke at third, fourth and fifth favourite, all with immaculate form at 1400m or so and all with very recent proven form, you might find you can back all three at, say, $6.80, $8 and $8 again (returns, not odds).

This means that if you wanted to collect $100, you'd put out $15, $12.50 and $12.50.

A total of $40 to have three excellent chances running for you.

This, of course, translates as a bet of 6/4, or $2.50, and you might say "But I could back the favourite at $3 and get back $120!".

Quite so, and when the favourite SHOULD be 2/1 I'd say go ahead.

But if it SHOULD be (say) 4/1, maybe the simple multiple bet is a better way to have three great chances of rolling the horse you believe is a false, or at least an overbet, favourite.

Simple? I hope so. I tried to keep it so, but I did say "simple" wasn't "easy", not all the time.

By The Optimist