The above comment used to get my vote as the silliest comment in general use around the racing traps. Does it mean the horse will finish second? Or last? When you think about it, the person uttering this odd statement means that the horse is his choice to win, yet the way it is said is, to say the least, peculiar.

So say he does get beaten. Best bet of the day and down he goes. Story of your life? Oh it happens, and unfortunately it happens regularly to all of us.

Is there a way around this frustrating loss? Readers write every month about place betting, and I am usually a bit on the cautious side. I believe that the odds are generally stacked against the tote bettor, so far as place betting is concerned.

However, why not regard the selection of one best bet each week as the same as an investment? Say you chose to follow one certain placegetter each week. Certain, you say? Who's kidding who?

OK, nothing is certain outside death and taxes, but there is something to be said for selecting the way Chicago O'Brien is reported to have done. "Pick ‘em to win, play 'em to place". He meant play them to run 1-2, but we can regard this as our interpretation of "place", i.e. 1-2-3.

Arguably, if the horse can win, should win, almost must win, then he is a pretty good place bet. I tried this on Race One at Sydney over 'six weeks, working on investment doubles. I could have been greedier and gone for trebles and accumulators, but I was looking at making nice profits from collecting two in every three doubles or better. That meant I had to find most placings, but they only had to be certainties who could run 1-2-3, and I allowed myself to move to Race Two if I could not find the horse I wanted in Race One.

The days I chose were about as bad as could be imagined, but they helped me in certain respects. I knew what the horses could do, given the conditions. I could not possibly bet on them to win on those tracks at those odds, but I was looking to make a profit of perhaps 50% or more on my doubles overall. So long as the horses paid $1.10 and $1.15 I could survive easily, so I was not dabbling in the area of the lesser chances.

On April 16, I settled on Dazzling Flyer who never gave me a moment's concern. He won as he liked and at short odds. The divvy nevertheless was quite good for a "certainty".

April 23 honestly beat me. I could not make heads or tails of the first race, and I moved to the second where the situation was little better. I thought that Sir Rhine looked best in the second race but I didn't know enough about him on a slow Warwick Farm track, so I let him go. This was a week I opted out. Sir Rhine did in fact place third, just, paying $1.70, but this would really have been a gamble! I had no confidence in him actually winning.

On April 30 I went for Patent Black, who had impeccable form and to my mind had only one threat, the classy Dazzling Flyer (who murdered her). She ran second.

Then on May 6, Light Before Dawn, who had blitzed the field at his only start, was my selection. There was one danger, the unraced Brazen Step who blitzed him. But he landed the second money.

On May 13, I felt that Patent Black could again turn it on, but again I had some doubts, this time about a filly, Starlight Angel, who had the big wraps on her. Nonetheless my filly held on for third.

May 20 saw a mare never out of a place on a wet track, My Market Love, entered in the first race. She had to break a  leg to miss a place, yet the young rider needed all his skill to get her home. I was I glad I had settled on her for a place only, in those final 300 metres, as he forced her to the line!

The doubles therefore from week to week all got up, but were all very short. This is not meant to say how smart I am but to say that you too can make a modest profit-about twice as much as bank interest, at least ten times as fast!

I cannot see many punters being able to resist other bets, so this idea might be a way of financing the more exotic outlays.

For example, if you have a $20 bet each week on those place doubles, they end up like this:

  1. $1.30 all-up $1.20-$31.20 (+$11.20,55.5%).
  2. $1.20 all-up $1.30-$31.20 (+$11.20,55.5%).
  3. $1.30 all-up $1.30-$33.80 (+$13.80,69%).
  4. $1.30 all-up $1.30-$33.80 (+$13.80,69%).

Now for an outlay of $80 you would have received back $130, a profit of $50. That may not seem like a fortune but you should look at the fact that it represents a profit on turnover of 62.5%.

At $100 a double the return would have been $650, a profit of $250 without too many heart attacks threatening. $250 for $400 outlaid, with little concern, is really pretty good investing.

Just remember I am saying that you have to be highly selective. I did not go far away from the favourites in my test run, and I could perhaps say "stick to favourites" while you get your act together. The number of favourites to win the first race on the programme is about 30% and the number to place is perhaps close to 70 per cent, given that two-year-olds tend to run truer to form and that many two-year-old races are programmed first.

There has to be a better way of saying "whatever beats this will win", but the fact is that you mean the horse itself will win. If you can look at a race from the viewpoint of finding the winner, then backing it to run 1-2-3. you could be on the way to a nice little sideline!

By The Optimist