Among the many letters sent to me by P.P.M. readers have been quite a number seeking help with place-bet selection methods. The readers say they can pick out the placed horses all right but pose the inevitable question: How do I back them?

Because of the often skinny prices paid for placed horses, you cannot rely on the old 'quarter of the price' routine to work out a dividend. As a 'rule of thumb' principle I usually assume a one-fifth dividend. If a horse is 3-1, I expect a place dividend on the tote of $1.60 (for a $1 unit). If a horse is 6~4, I expect no more than $1.30. On an even money chance, no more than $1.20. Anything above the one fifth level I rate as a bonus!

Many years ago, while in America, I learned of the following method of place betting. It's a most innovative one.

What you do is set yourself a target amount to win per race. You bet three times the amount you want to win. So, if we assume you have decided you want to win $2, then you would bet $6. If you wanted to win $10 per race, you would bet $30. The essential point about the method is that you MUST back crackerjack selections. They MUST be horses you have chosen to win the race. It's vitally important that you bet on horses that have excellent prospects of running a place.

The rules are as follows:


This example has been taken using seven bets for the day, one race after another, and this is not the best way to operate the method. You need to be far more selective. Maybe three bets a day is enough. That means you can pick out one top place bet at Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne.

Let's look at the Courier-Mail's best three for the day on February 20, 1988:

EAGLE FARM: Diver's Delight
WARWICK FARM: Prince Anton

If we had applied the target method we would have simply had three bets all at $6 each, because each horse was placed. The profit on the day would have been as follows: Diver's Delight $6 at $1.40 for a profit of $2.40; $6 on Prince Anton at $1.70 for a profit of $4.20, and $6 on Snippets at $1.25 for a profit of $1.50.

This is a total of $7.60 on an outlay of $18, a return of 42.2 per cent on turnover. This is an average profit of $2.53 per race. In the previous example the average profit per race achieved was $1 per race. Think of all this another way: Let's say you bet in $10 units. On February 20, you would have made $76 on an outlay of $180. This is an ideal way to operate the target place betting idea-three super bets for the day, and leave it at that. If you are good enough with your bets you might never need to go beyond your $6 bets!

The key to survival with this target method is to be conservative in your approach. Do not try to have a mass of bets. In this way, your judgement will be put too much under stress.

Pick your bets carefully. Pick 'em to win, and bet them for a place, as the professionals always maintain. That way, you have the odds on your side and winning comes regularly.

By Jon Hudson