In this series, Damien Whitchurch examines a wide -range of ideas for staking and system betting. Damien has been writing for PPM since the late 1980s and has been betting professionally most of that time.

I've spent a lot of time recently re-examining the vast file of material I've accumulated on various aspects of this betting game. I hadn't realised just how many books, magazines and newspapers I'd collected over the years.

There were some surprising "finds", including a previously unpublished collection of systems which a well-known British writer sent to me in the 90s. I'll be revealing a few of these systems in this series.

As someone who has spent many years carving out a living, on and off, from punting, I've always felt a sense of duty to explore every possible avenue to make money, and this, of course, has included different approaches to form analysis as well as studying systems and staking.

Some of my best wins, on a longterm basis, have come from using mechanical systems. They can be most useful at various times. Some kick on for long periods, others have been effective over a period of months before crashing, or dropping back to a break even or very minor profit level.

Staking is always important and, believe me, I've used a host of staking plans, some of them ordinary, others successful. As a base I'm now basically a percentage bettor. That is, I will back three horses a day and use a stake of 2.5 per cent of my betting bank. I aim to achieve an average of 3/1 at least on my winners (it's tough!).

I'll have more to say on this aspect of things later in the series. For now, let's take a look at some plans that should be of great interest to rank-and-file punters who bet more as a hobby than as a serious occupation, and who have limited funds.

One thing before I start: I will usually refer to "unit" bets; that is, one unit, two units, three units etc.

A unit can be any amount you like from $1 upwards ($2, $5, $10 etc). It depends on how much you are prepared to invest.

Bearing this in mind, the staking plan I am advancing has a 15 unit bank (assuming one unit bets). If you're a bigger bettor, then a unit can be any higher figure you choose.

The Singles and Doubles Play was created to cover bets on three "good things" for the day. Using one unit base bets, all you will need is a daily bank of 15 units. My advice is that you begin with a bank of 20 times that amount, which is 300 units.

Your first job is to select your three specials for the day. You can do this yourself, or use a system or the selections of any formguide, radio or TV tipster. Whatever method you employ, it has to be a solid one that can produce winners at good odds.

I think you should aim for an average winner at 5/2. The bigger the better, of course.

You distribute your 15 unit bank in the following manner:

(1) WIN BETS: Three units straightout on each of the threesome ... total bet nine units.

(2) DOUBLES: Two unit doubles (all-ups) linking all three selections (A-B, A~C, B-C) ... total bet six units.

And that's it. As you can see, it's a simple, easy to follow plan and you can use it ONCE a day, or you can use it at any number of meetings you like.

If we take a normal Saturday, you might care to bet at four meetings in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane. You select three bets at each meeting and bet them as outlined, and your total outlay is four x 15 equalling 60 units.

You can "mix" the selections from the various States. Your threesome might contain one horse in Sydney, one in Melbourne and one in Brisbane, or perhaps two in Sydney and one in Adelaide.

This part of the process is up to you. You may well prefer to restrict each three-bet attack with selections at individual meetings. Those of you who think about these things could decide that it might be easier to pick one winner at each of three meetings rather than three winners at the one meeting.

Next, I'll go to the selection process and later I'll get back to staking.

As I write this, and compile the various pieces, I am bearing in mind that the majority of readers will be "recreational" punters in that they work for a living at a normal job and have racing as a serious or not so serious interest.

This usually means that you're a bit pushed for time and you often need some easy spot-play systems to give you what I call a quick-fix solution to your selection problems.

There are any number of ways you can go, and later in this series I will mention some of them. The one I really like, and which has a good "track record" is called The Boston Strangler (yes, it originated in the USA!).

The aim is to find a horse whose in-the-money positions at its last two starts add up to four or less. The only combinations that will do this are as follows:

LAST START 1 or 1 or 1 or 2 or 2 or 3.

NEXT TO LAST 12 3 12 1.

Your selection is always the closest horse to four, PROVIDED the horse is listed no longer than 4/1 in the pre-post betting market. If the horse is above 4/1 (that is, 9/2 upwards) you go to the next contender, and so on.

Those are the original rules. My own testing of this system indicates that it may be profitable to extend the 4/1 limit to 5/1. This injects more value and doesn't really affect the strike rate.

You may also care to take a deeper look and decide on some further rules. With these spot-play methods you can often find ways to tweak them and make them even more profitable.

You may decide on bringing in a "days since last start" rule, and perhaps a "good jockey" rule? My advice is to check out the system as it's presented and then see how it can be improved.

A lot of the staking plans I have in my collection are based on a progression scale. This sort of staking is scorned by many maths' experts (you know, those blokes who warn you of the risk of ruin after a million bets, and so on), but I think that progressions can work out very nicely provided your selection process is sound.

There is one from America called Death & Taxes and it claims that if applied to "best bets" the scale is 11 sure as death and taxes" and I guess you can't get any surer than that.

The scale goes as follows:


This is a series of 12 bets and, brother, if you haven't backed a winner by the 12th bet then I seriously suggest you take a good look at what you're doing.

As far as the plan is concerned, let's do a few sums. You back five losers in a row and you have lost 15 units. Your next bet is 14 units. A 6 / 4 winner will see you into profit.

That is: 14 x 1.5 equals 21. Add on your stake of 14 and the total return in your hand is 35. Deduct the total of the two sets of bets (15 and 14) and you'll see that you are six units ahead (20.6 per cent).

Let's say you strike a horror run and back 10 losers in a row. You would be losing 104 units. Your next bet on the progression calls for 47 units to be invested. If your horse wins at 6 / 4, where do you stand?

The profit on this bet is only 70.5 units, so you are well behind. The full tally is: Stake 151 units, Return 117.5, a loss of 33.5 units. Obviously, then, at this stage you need a bigger priced winner to get into profit and retrieve losses.

A winner at 5 / 2 would put you in the following position: Stake 151 units, Return 164.5 units, a profit of 13.5 units (8.9 per cent). So there is the benchmark - a winner at 5/2, which is not an insurmountable task.

I guess the point that needs to be made, too, is that a big priced winner will really zip things along, especially if it arrives towards the middle to the end of the progression.

How would level stakes measure up against this progression or others? Much would depend on where the winners happen to fall. I'll discuss this aspect of things in another article.

Top-class apprentices are winning many city races these days. Better trained, intelligent and ambitious, the best of these lads and lassies can prove well worth following.

The plan here, The Top Apprentice Plan, is one I have created myself. My early tests have shown it be a real winner-finder.


  1. Consider only those runners to be ridden by TOP APPRENTICES.(Kids like Jay Ford, Nicholas Ryan, Blake Shinn, Ronnie Stewart etc).
  2. Eliminate any of these horses that are over 5 / 1 (11 / 2 plus) in the prepost market.
  3. If two contenders remain, back both if prices permit a profit to be made.
  4. If three or more contenders, back the one that is shortest priced in the market.

This, then, is a system that goes flat out for well-fancied runners which are to be ridden by leading apprentices. This means male or female. There are some excellent female apprentices riding at the moment. We need to no fears about them not riding well.

This system relates to city meetings but you can check it out on midweek meetings.

NEXT MONTH: More staking plans and system ideas, including sizing your bets" and betting
against the favourites.

Click here to read Part 2.
Click here to read Part 3.

By Damien Whitchurch