Anyone who has experienced the frustration of a losing streak at the races will know how difficult it is to break back into the payout queue. I've been musing myself in recent times on bad luck and how a punter can jump one way only to see the winner go the other way.

There are, indeed, unwritten rules of punting that we should all be aware of - the main one being, I guess, that if you desperately want to win, for the purposes of paying the rent or the mortgage, then you have no chance at all!

When you 'wheel' a horse in the double at good odds, it will run 2nd, getting the kind of ride usually reserved for the Charge of the Light Brigade. If you 'banker' the favourite in the double, or an exacta, it will run 2nd.

And here are some more unwritten rules I thought you'd like to ponder.

  • If you get 'shut out' your horse will invariably win but if you just manage to get your bet down before the machines close, your horse cannot and will not win.
  • When you can't decide between two horses, don't worry about it. The one you don't bet automatically wins. If you try to be clever and back both horses, neither will win.
  • If you change your mind at the tote window, the horse you get off will win and the horse you switched to will lose.
  • If you back an early speed horse, he will lead until the 200m mark and then fade to last and if you back a late-charger he will drop right out and stay there, or flash home and just fail.
  • Horses are fully aware of who is backing them and when you have backed a horse twice or more, and failed to cash a ticket, the horse will automatically win the one time you don't have a cent on him. He will win one more time, too. This will just happen to eerily coincide with the one day that you can't get to the TAB!
  • In relation to this last item, it should be emphasised that horses have a sense of humour. This horse knows when you are betting him and, to keep the joke going, will never win for you. He simply goes back to the stable and shares the joke with his mates.
  • If you back a horse that struck tons of trouble last start, forget it. If the odds are reasonable next start, he won't win, This horse will win only at odds-on or lower.
  • If you bet a horse because of a change of equipment (blinkers etc) he will not win. If you don't bet a horse that has a change of gear he will automatically win, usually at a big price.
  • When you bet a 'hot' jockey or trainer they will immediately get colder than last week's pie. Conversely, when you get off a 'hot' jockey because you just know he can't keep winning he promptly wins the next three races.
  • When you bet a jockey, trainer, owner, colour or number etc because 'they are due', they're not. They are only due when you don't bet them.
  • When you bet a horse at 10/1 or higher on the TAB and then watch the odds get hammered into 6/4 or so very late, because 'somebody' knows something, the horse will not win. If you are not on such action horses they will win easily.
  • When you don't play a horse because of a suspicious class drop, he will win like Let's Elope. If you think the trainer is merely trying to steal a nice race with a perfectly sound animal and you back it, the horse will break down.
  • The horse that breaks through the starting gate before the race is invariably the one you bet. No, it doesn't mean he's ready to run. Guess again.
  • If you are fortunate enough to win a close photo-finish result, take your winnings and throw them on the ground. You will automatically lose the next five photos and even 9 out of 10.
  • If you get a hot tip from a friend of a friend of the nephew of an in-the-know relative, the horse hasn't got a chance if you bet him. Of course, if you ignore the tip, he wins.
  • And we must not forget the ever popular standard historical truths - if you bet a horse to win it'll run 2nd, back it to place and it will win or run 4th.
  • If you pick a quinella in one race and don't back it, the next quinella you decide to back will fail.

All of this really gives you that sort of 'achy breaky heart' feeling, doesn't it? There are many ploys used to circumvent the terrible truths about betting.

However, these ruses are easily detected and are just old hat to the powers that be controlling the endless practical jokes. The mere fact that you need the money badly doesn't cut with these people.

The horses get a kick out of this one. You might try whispering to your horse in the paddock something about needing the money for your blind aunty's transplant but he probably won't buy it.

Promising to donate 90 per cent of your winnings to a worthy charity sounds nice, but the horses know you don't mean it. Promising to change your driver's licence immediately after the race so that all your organs are left to medical science also won't wash - the horse knows that if he doesn't win for you that your wife will beat you to pulp, leaving nothing of value for anyone to use.

Bringing your children to the track in rags, emotional outbursts, begging, praying, crying, all make good theatre but rarely work. The horses find this behaviour extremely trite.

Maybe the most successful tactic is to swear never to bet again. Just give me this one race and I promise never again! This trick works only because everyone knows it's a laughable lie.

The horses will give you your 'last' race because they know you'll be back tomorrow and since you are leaving a winner they also know you'll forget about all these unwritten laws and figure they no longer apply to you.

Oh well, a spot of fantasy never hurt anyone.

By Philip Roy