The very mention of target betting can raise the hackles of some people. They say it's crazy, deranged, a certain long-term loser, and so on.

These same people forget to say that any form of betting will lead you to the poorhouse if your selections are bad enough!

I believe, and most of my colleagues agree, that if you embark on setting yourself a target, and then bring in a 'safety brake' rule, you can give yourself a winning ride, provided, naturally, that you're not backing a bagful of losers every week.

Used in conjunction with sensible selections, target betting can work as well as any other staking approach it's up to you, as an individual, to ensure that things never get out of hand (and this applies no matter what form of staking you use).

The rules of the target plan I have in mind come from the UK. Our own Martin Dowling has mentioned the approach before, and over the years I've found it the best target plan I've come across. It bears examination again.

The rules are very easy to follow. You begin with the aim to win I unit. (A unit can be any amount you like, from $1 to $50, etc.) Depending on the price of the horse you are backing, you can bet any amount on it, although you never go beyond a 1 unit bet at this stage.

Let's take a look at an example (using $1 units): if your first horse is a 3/1 chance, you will not need to bet more than $1 on it to achieve your initial target of $1.

Let's say that this first bet is a loser. You now go to the second bet and your target is a new $1 figure, plus the $1 you wanted to get from the first bet, plus the $1 you lost on the first bet.

Your target now is $3 on your second bet. You are not allowed to stake more than 2 units at this stage because your bet maximum is determined each time by the length of the losing run (and including the bet to come).

Example: Your maximum stake rises by 1 each time you strike a loser. So if, say, you are on your fifth bet the maximum bet allowed is 5 units.

Your sixth bet, maximum is 6, and so on. But you'll find that with sensible selections you will rarely need to bet to the maximum to achieve your target.

If, say, your second bet is at 4/1, and your target is $3, then you'll still only need to bet $1 to achieve the target. If this horse wins, you would win $4 and you would immediately rule off betting on the series because your target has been achieved.

In all, you have bet $2 for a return of $5, a profit of $3.

Let's assume that this second bet was a loser. You proceed to the third bet with a target this time of the old $3, plus $1 for the third bet, and $1 for the loss you had on the second horse. Your new target is $5, with a maximum bet allowed of $3.

If the horse you are backing is at, say, 5/2, you'd need to bet $2 to achieve the target of $5. If the horse wins, your series would stand at a total stake of $4 for a return of $7, a profit of $3. You could then rule off this series with a $3 profit or you could continue to chase the remaining $2 target.

Your fourth bet would comprise the $2 leftover, plus the $1 you need from the fourth bet, a total target of $3. (Maximum bet allowed at this stage is $4.)

Let's say your fourth bet is at 7/2. To achieve the $3 target, you need to bet only $1. If we assume this horse wins, the series would stand at a total of $5 bet for a total return of $11.50, an overall profit of $6.50. You are well in profit, so rule off the series and start another one.

1 usually work on the basis that as soon as a profit is shown on a series, you rule off and start again. Profit is the name of the game and when you get into profit, the safe way to go is to call it quits on that series, and begin anew. At least, this is the path I favour.

Let's look at another example, using selections on a BAD day (these are taken from a well-known tipster in a weekly formguide, who shall remain anonymous!).

The first bet went down. Loss $1. Target for race 2 is $3. The second bet lost. The target for race 3 is $5. The horse lost. The target for race 4 is $7. The horse lost, making the target for the fifth race $9.

This horse lost as well. The target for the next race is $11.

At last a winner. Now, the maximum bet allowed at this stage is $6, but the price of the next selection is 8/1. So we need to bet only $2 to more than cover what we need (incidentally, all the previous bets were at $1 because prices allowed).

Okay, so we bet $2 on this sixth bet. The horse won at $9 (8/1). Our return is $18.

We now look at our entire series. We have bet a total of $7 and we have got $18 returned to us. This gives the series a profit of $11. The series, then, is over. We have achieved our profit and we start again.

Let's look at another example. The first bet loses with a bet of $1. The target for the second race is $3 and the bet required is $1.50. It loses. The third bet has a target of $5.50 and the bet needed is only $1. It loses.

The fourth bet has a target of $7.50 and the bet required is $2. It loses.

The fifth bet has a target of $10.50 and the bet required is $1.50. It loses. The sixth bet has a target of $13 and the bet required is $2. It loses.

At this stage of the series, we are losing a total of $9. The next bet, the seventh in the series, has a target of $16. The maximum bet allowed is $7 but the selection is priced at 4/1 so we need to stake $4.

Bingo! The horse wins. Our return on the bet is $20. In all, we have staked $13, so our profit on the series is $7. It's time to wind up again and begin a new series.

So, even though you have been hit with six losers in a row, you get into profit with a winner at 4/1, and you really haven't been betting in outrageous fashion. It's all been very much under control.

If you wish, you can introduce a safety brake' by ruling off a series if you have struck, say, four or five losers in a row. It's not a move I would recommend because if your selections are generally sound you will be reasonably confident that the losing run will not stretch further, and you are assured of a profit on your next winner.

You control things very much anyway because of the maximum bet rule.

By Denton Jardine