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     The book of this article's title can only be appreciated if you have a moderate grasp of English history. Published in 1930 and reprinted virtually every year since, it is one of the funniest books I have ever read. I recommend it to anyone.

     But what has it to do with horse racing?

     The writers claimed the book provided all the history you could remember and in the preface they said "History is not what you thought. It is what you can remember". These two sentences come to mind every time I hear stories of people who once used to know or who presently know someone who uses or once used a system that always won.

     When asked what the system is or was, and why are they not using it now to win some money, the air becomes replete with vague replies and nebulous outlines of what the system rules were. They can't precisely remember what the system was except for; "If I remember correctly, it went something like this...."

     Then, depending on who is relating the rules, you begin to hear opaque references to form figures, weight in handicaps, tips of certain pundits, where the horse ran when backed down to a certain price, what type of race the horse last ran in, Towerfo - sorry - Timeform ratings in certain races, ad infinitum.

     Here, I have to pass on my absolute favourite: Use Spotform in the Daily Mirror (now simply The Mirror) in handicaps. If the Spotform horse finished out of the first four last time out, then, starting at the bottom of the handicap and going up horse by horse, the first one that finished in the first four last time out was the bet. If the horse was ridden by an apprentice it was a nap bet. I cringe to admit I actually checked it. Of course, I soon discovered it was pure bunkum. But when I told the conveyer of this priceless system exactly what I thought of it, he told me I must have done something wrong. Hilariously, after a short pause, he said, "Hold on. It might have been Formcast in the Daily Mail, or was it in The Sun...."

     In my long experience, there is no such thing as a winning system. All supposed systems are merely ephemeral trends. Someone sees the forecast second favourite win three claiming races in a row and they assume they have discovered the Golden Egg. Eventually, the system fails, money is lost and the system is disregarded.

     Unfortunately, such systemites continue their search for a winning, infallible system, continue to lose money, then eventually come to the conclusion that you can't win at racing unless you are on speaking terms with trainers, owners, jockeys, the stable cat, or Mother Shipton.

     There are methods you can use to come to a selection, but method is not an exact synonym for system. Some people say it is the same thing. It is not.

     A system has rules to follow and if most of the rules are met, the horse being studied is a selection. That sounds fine. But the error systemites make is that when the system hits a bad patch, they "adapt" the rules to minimise losers. This normally has the effect not only of reducing selections considerably, but also reducing the magical Return on Investment (ROI) - if there was one in the first place. The fact is they are not "adapting", they are tinkering. Effectly, they are subconsciously admitting defeat. Curiously, when they consciously admit defeat, they continue their fruitless search.

     Naturally, some who read this will say continual winning systems do exist - they are using them. But to those I would say go back and work out how you use the system, then return to the bottom of THIS PAGE and tell me how you make your tea....