While gaming at casinos is always -- ultimately -- a function of luck, the Sport of Kings is elevated far above games of mere chance. Regardless of the elegance of the roulette wheel or the intensity of the blackjack table, neither came approach racing for its subtlety, complexity, and beauty. The terms of casino games are always set. The odds might just as well be written in stone. Not so with this great sport. Flesh and blood come into play. The interplay of horse and rider. The conditions of the track. The field. Timing.

In order to bet successfully in this great sport, you must bring to bear your skill and judgment. In no other betting environment do you have so much control over your fate.

Your greatest advantage over the bookmakers is one of choice. Whereas you can choose your races -- and bets -- the bookmaker is obligated to participate in virtually every race conducted for 52 weeks a year. You can avoid a bet in a race that is not to your advantage. The bookmaker enjoys no such freedom.

Yes, choice is your greatest ally. Yet for too many, it is their greatest enemy as well. Without mincing words, the simple truth is that the average bettor frequently makes the wrong choice. In doing so, he concedes the edge he has over the bookmaker and virtually guarantees that he will remain a loser over time.

Common wisdom dictates that you should familiarize yourself with the individual characteristics of the horses, the field, the track and the form book. Needless to say, such an endeavor demands a huge commitment -- in time and effort. Indeed, it is virtually a full-time job. Those who master this knowledge will always be best placed to beat the book. They deserve the profits they earn.

But you are not such a person. You already have a job and you cannot invest the time or energy to compete with these professionals. What are you to do? By being disciplined, intelligent and sticking to a system that works, you can increase your odds of success.

Bookmakers love the bettor who places bets on whim, on the name of a horse, on the colour eyes of the jockey -- on anything but a system. You need a system if you are to win! The worst possible system you could use is no system at all!

You must focus on the most dependable horses if you are to correctly pick the day's best bet. Favourites will almost always be the ones you will look at. With good reason. They are favourites for a reason. By simply selecting any favourite at random you will have a 30% - 40% chance of picking a winner.

The question is, how to improve those chances!

The most reliable favourites on any given day inevitably are those who occupy the lower end of the price range. You must remember that because of all the variables involved in horse racing, the actual favourite cannot possibly be determined until right before the race. Obviously, you will have to consult with one of the printed betting forecasts such as the national dailies or The Sporting Life.

Study each race to be run that day and write down the names of the five favourites with the lowest odds. In the event that there is a tie, include all such runners for further consideration. From this short list, you will be determining the day's single horse selection.

Do not fear low odds. Short odds should not be rejected due to a cursory examination. Even money often translates into an outstanding value if its true price should be 4-7.

There are those who reject the favourite on the grounds that they can get better "value" elsewhere. We call these people fools. What is the "value" of backing a horse at 5-1 if, in reality, there is only a one in ten chance that your bet will succeed? There is only one person who will profit from a "system" like that -- the bookmaker.

The real key to successful betting is not being greedy. Do not look for a small stake to garner you thousands of pounds. Rather, use a system which will consistently make you a winner. Financially -- and psychologically -- winning small but often is a smart approach to any kind of wager.

Okay, so now you have your five favourites. What next?

Your next gambit is to establish a system to evaluate these five contenders. By following this point system, you will take the guess work out of your evaluation.
Forecast Odds
Points Given

Further, it is possible to evaluate a horse based on its last outing. This makes sense. After all, winning begets winning. For this reason, we can begin to quantify this aspect of our evaluation.

If a horse placed 1st in its last race, award 45 points.

If a horse placed 2nd in its last race, award 40 points.

If a horse placed 3rd in its last race, award 40 points.

For all other finishes, award 35 points. Also, horses that have yet to race in the current season receive 35 points irrespective of their final finish of the previous season.

Another consideration in quantifying your decision is the value of your horse's last race. If the winner's prize money of the previous race was worth at least 20% more than the current prize money, award the horse 50 points. All others should follow this criteria:

Last race prize same as current race, award 40 points.

Last race prize 20% less than current race, award 30 points.

You should also bear in mind that favourites win more regularly in non-handicap events. For this reason, it makes more sense to award more points to contenders in these events. Therefore, award 40 points to a contender running in a non-handicap race and 30 points for running in handicap or nursery races.

Another consideration in evaluating your contender is the size of the field. After careful review of the long history of racing, we have concluded that favourites succeed less often in events containing a large field. Therefore, we reject the "folk wisdom" that a bigger field means a "bigger" certainty and suggest the following awards:

45 points in those races with 10 or fewer runners.

40 points in those races with 11 - 16 runners.

30 points in those races with 16 or more runners.

Market leaders often have a poorer record in competitive races. Consider the following point award:

45 points if there are no rivals which won the last time out.

45 points if there is one rival which won last time out.

35 points if there are two rivals which won the last time out.

If three or more rivals won their last time out, award 30 points.

Finally, if a horse has demonstrated success on the day's course then this must be factored into your calculations. Award your horse 10 points if it has previously won on the course and 10 points if it has previously won over the day's distance.

Once you have factored in all these considerations, tally the points you have awarded to each of your five contenders. The horse with the greatest total is your best qualifier for the day's bet. It's that simple. No "feelings in the belly". No emotion. No getting caught up in the thrill of the race. Just smart calculation.

Even so, you should never forget that both horse and rider are living creatures bound to have better and worse days. This is a variable which you cannot often calculate and which makes betting exciting. Remember, it is the uncertainty which makes it wonderful. Never give up. Follow these calculations and you will win -- if not today then certainly