The past few years have seen many changes to racing. It seems that hardly a month goes by without further ones being introduced in one form or another.

Last year saw changes made to the structure of how races are classified, particularly in New South Wales, with the introduction of special conditions races such as SCO Win-LY, SCI win-LY and Transitional handicaps, while the traditional welter handicaps and Class 6 races have more or less become things of the past in that State.

It is becoming more and more difficult for punters and form students to keep up to date with all these many changes, which is one of the reasons why Jamie Hains from Geelong in Victoria contacted me recently.

Jamie wants to know some information about changes to the handicapping system that are about to be introduced into Australia.

In early September, Racing Victoria Limited and Racing New South Wales announced that a new era in handicapping would be introduced with a ratings-based system being phased in over the next few months.

Under the existing system, horses are nominated for specific races, then the official handicapper allocates the weights, normally five working days prior to the race meeting concerned.

However, the new handicapping system will see horses receive a numeric rating directly following each racecourse performance.

This will mean that owners and trainers will now be made aware of their horse's weight prior to any future nominations.

The chief handicapper for Racing New South Wales, Mark Webbey, and Racing Victoria's chief handicapper Jim Bowler have both praised the new system, stating that (the new rating system) "is a very exciting move that would provide the foundations for an advanced progression of ratings to nationally and internationally accepted ratings standards".

"A great deal of research was done, studying similar ventures in other parts of the world and we're very confident we will correct any anomalies prior to (full) implementation," Webbey added.

Both States commenced a parallel phased introduction, starting with provincial races of Classes 1 to 4, on October 1.

From December 1, the balance of the restricted races will be introduced and from February 1, 2004, open class, two-year-old and jumping events will be introduced to the ratings-based handicapping module.

Gosford Race Club chief executive Michael Beattie was at a recent presentation and was glowing in his assessment of the new system.

"This new system will enable a much fairer spread of weights. It allows industry participants to place their horses to advantage as they will be aware of what weight their horse will get in a certain race before they even nominate," he said.

"From a philosophical point of view, handicappers can now make more accurate assessments of horses as it is done within a day or two of the horse's performance rather than assessing the run by looking back six weeks later when the horse is next nominated."

South Australia has also indicated its intention of looking closely at the model, while it is anticipated that other States will "come on board" progressively over the next twelve months or so.

However, the introduction of the new handicapping/ rating system has not been universally accepted, as Sydney Daily Telegraph columnist Ken Callander recently posed the question:

"Has New South Wales been sold up the creek again by Victoria with the about-to-be introduced Ratings-Based Handicapping System?"

Callander didn't actually explain why this would be the case but, as in all these things, time  will tell. It is to be hoped that the new system will be beneficial for all.

According to the Macquarie Dictionary definition, to parlay means to bet an original amount and its winning on a subsequent race or contest - in other words, a type of all-up bet.

The idea of parlay betting has been around for at least fifty years or longer, yet even today many people do not understand the concept let alone the complicated maths involved.

Parlay betting comes in many forms, some more complex than others, with the Yankee, the Canadian and the Heinz being just three types of parlay betting, more akin to UK betting than what occurs in Australia.

The recent advertising campaign by TAB Corp (SuperTAB) has obviously raised the interest of some readers in parlay betting, including that of Christine Yates, another of PPM's Victorian readers.

Christine contacted me recently via email seeking some advice re parlay betting, asking for clarification and examples of parlay betting.

In Victoria, parlay betting is referred to as parlay formula betting and can include up to six races (on the one ticket) with the formula determining the number of races over which the bets are parlayed.

Win, place, eachway and quinella bets can be parlayed and more than one runner can be selected in each race.

Formula 1 indicates a single bet on the number of races indicated, so a formula I win bet taken on three races means that there would be three individual bets on each race and (in this instance) the returns would not parlay.

Formula 2 indicates a series o doubles, so a formula 2 win bet taken on three races will parlay a win bet on all possible combinations of two races, costing $3 for a $1 unit investment, i.e.:

Bet 1: The first race win dividend parlayed onto the second race selection.
Bet 2: The first race win dividend parlayed onto the third race selection.
Bet 3: The second race win dividend parlayed onto the third race selection.

It is not necessary for each of the selections to win, as a dividend will be returned if any two of the three races are successful, but if all three bets do win, then the payout is the sum of the dividends of all three parlayed bets.

Formula 3 indicates a series of trebles. Formula 4 indicates a series of quadrellas, while formulas 5 and 6 indicate a series of all-up bets of five and six races respectively.

As an example, a formula 4 parlay taken on five races would include the following combinations: abcd, abce, acde, abde and bcde - a series of five quadrella bets.

One of the points that Christine raised in her email related to the combining of two or more formula bets and that she found this somewhat confusing.

Well, having done some research into parlay/formula betting and after listening to an "expert" on Sport 927 attempting to explain what it all means, then I have to agree with Christine - it is confusing and matters have been made worse by the manner in which TAB Corp have gone about marketing this product.

To answer Christine's specific question, it is possible to combine two or more formula types, for instance formulas 1, 2 and 3.

In this instance, assuming that all three combinations were for win bets covering three races, then a total of seven bets would be made, i.e. three win bets, three doubles and one treble (all-up), with a cost of $7 for a $1 unit.

Finally, let's consider one of the most popular parlay bets, the fourhorse combination, sometimes known as a yankee bet, using formulas 2, 3 and 4.

Many people like parlay win betting, but it can be frustrating to see a string of losses occur when parlaying and the last leg is the one that always seems to miss out.

However, this frustration can be overcome by switching from win to place betting, which allows for some insurance because so long as any two selections fill places you will get a collect.

A four-horse parlay bet is really a series of 11 bets in all, which costs $11 using a $1 unit.

Should all horses fill a place, you will have scored 1 all-up (horse A all-up horse b all-up horse c all-up horse d) plus 4 trebles (abc, abd ' acd and bcd) plus 6 doubles (ab, ac, ad, bc, bd, cd).

If only three horses place, you get a return of I treble plus 3 $1 doubles.

If two horses only run a place, you get back a $1 double.

In this example, assuming all horses pay $2 for the place, the returns would be:

4 horses placed = $72 (1 all-up 2x2x2x2 = $16); (4 trebles 2x2x2 = $8 x 4 = $32) plus 6 doubles 2x2 = $4 x 6 = $24.

In total: $16 + $32 + $24 = $72.

3 horses placed = $20 (1 treble 2x2x2 = $8) plus 3 doubles (2x2 = $4 x 3 = $12. In total: $8 + $12 = $20.

2 horses placed = $4 (1 double 2x2 -$4).

As a comparison, an $11 all-up place bet would return $176 if all four horses placed, but would return nothing if just one horse failed to do so.

As can be seen, big differences may occur in the returns. Depending on the level of success of the selections, as in the example above, just one losing bet would reduce the winning combinations from 11 to four (one treble and three doubles).

In other words, one loser would wipe out seven combinations (one all-up, three trebles and three doubles).

Parlay betting offers the opportunity for some big collects and I know of at least one professional punter who uses this bet type as part of his punting arsenal, but there is a requirement to understand how they work, what combinations are involved and just how costly one losing selection can be.

When first introduced as an alternative bet type by the TABS, parlay betting was not widely advertised, adequately explained nor widely used by punters.

I fear that second time around nothing much will change, for like Christine, although offered the opportunity to win "big" for small outlays, many will find it just too confusing and will lose interest.

By E.J. Minnis