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Steve's Blog

Here you will find back copies of old blog posts.

Many of the the texts are as valid today as they were then.

Back copies of old newsletters, which are also full of betting hints and advice,

can be found on their own page.


Friday 7 October 2011 - Winner-Finding Methods


Many punters spend their entire betting lives searching for that special winner-finding method, yet they still lose. That is because they are looking for the wrong thing. Winner-finding methods alone are of no use whatsoever. What is needed to be a winner is a consistently accurate chance quantification method. Only those punters who can quantify chance accurately and consistently will be winners in the long run. Once an effective chance quantification method is in place, combined with a solid staking structure, the necessary winners will come along on their own.


Tuesday 24 May 2011 - Comparison of odds comparison sources


In order to secure those all-important best prices, we currently need a combination of three main sources of regularly updated information. Here is a table listing the bookmakers, exchanges and spreads which are currently monitored by each of the three sources.




888sport   X X



Betdaq (exchange)


Betfair (exchange)






Blue Square













Paddy Power


Sky Bet



Sporting Index (sprd)   X X
Sportingbet   X X
Stan James







Totepool     X
Victor Chandler


William Hill


Youwin     X
WBX (exchange)   X  



Thursday 27 January 2011 - Too much information?


Nowadays, the information available to punters is more detailed and varied than ever before. The major racing websites are packed with statistical data and the Racing Post even provides a facility whereby punters can visually 'pre-run' a race, having first entered, in a very basic and limited way, their opinions of the strengths and weaknesses of each runner.

Surely, then, punters are better equipped to identify potential winners than ever before? In actual fact, their present success rate shows exactly the opposite to be true. Twenty years ago, with just basic (and mainly relevant) information, punters correctly identified the winners of 37% of all races (based on the first two years of the 90s). Over the last two years, the strike rate of all favourites has been steady at 34%.

This development strongly indicates that much of today's sophisticated new data has little or no significance to the outcome of specific races. Furthermore, the extent to which it is taken on board by punters is hindering them rather than helping them.


Thursday 13 January 2011 - Being prepared


Not so long ago, only major races were priced up by bookmakers on the day before racing. Nowadays, even run-of-the-mill handicaps are priced up during the afternoon of the day before. bet365 started the trend and now the likes of William Hill, Victor Chandler and Paddy Power are all getting involved at this early stage.

If we have our target races analysed by mid afternoon on the day before racing, we give ourselves every chance of snapping up those early bookmakers' errors before our rival punters have a chance to spot them.

Daily Bargain results over the last few months clearly demonstrate the big advantages that can now be gained by preparing early.


Sunday 19 September 2010 - Accept your sequences


Flip a coin for an hour and record all the results. Pretend you are betting on heads at even money throughout the hour. There is a 50% chance that, somewhere within your results, there will be a losing run of 9 or more. That is well within the realms of mathematical probability. So, if you regularly bet on selections you have evaluated as even money chances, and suddenly hit a losing run of 9, it doesn't necessarily mean you are doing anything wrong. On the contrary, you have to accept that there is a significant chance of that happening, even if your evaluations are accurate. There is exactly the same chance, at that price, of hitting an equivalent winning sequence and you certainly wouldn't think anything was wrong then. The key is to accept that mathematical probability controls sequences and there is nothing you can do about them. It is very important to know what sequences to expect, based on the average evaluated price of your bets, and how likely they are to occur (see 'Don't Go Broke'). To change your methods because of expected sequences, either good or bad, can be a big mistake.


Tuesday 4 May 2010 - Question of the Day


The Racing Post website has a daily Question of the Day for readers to answer. Some of the questions are a bit strange. This morning's is: 'What is your best bet for day one of Chester's May meeting?' The meeting begins tomorrow. Given that the potential merits of any bet are totally reliant upon prices, and there is currently only one race priced up for tomorrow, the question could only have been: 'What is your best bet for the Chester Cup?'


Thursday 29 April 2010 - Analyse the opposition, not just the horse


Horses on losing runs are often repeatedly supported just because their handicap marks are dropping. Far more important is the quality of opposition they are facing. A horse whose handicap mark is constant, but who is facing progressively lower rated opposition is usually a far better bet than a horse whose handicap mark is dropping but it faces similar or better opposition to that which has beaten it before.


Thursday 1 April 2010 - Don't take the stats too literally


Lots of punters like to refer to trainer/track stats when selecting their bets. At Folkestone this afternoon, John Jenkins weighed in with three consecutive winners (12/1 to 5/2, 5/4 to Evs and 5/1 to 4/1). Prior to today, the trainer had returned just two winners from his 62 runners at the track over the last five years (3.23%). That stat wouldn't have been too appealing to those who take them very seriously. Still, the horses were obviously ready to win and Jenkins had booked Richard Hughes, Ryan Moore and Kieren Fallon to do the job. They were backed accordingly, especially the first one (which was today's Daily Bargain bet). The performances of the yard's previous visitors bore no relevance whatsoever to how today's ran.


Tuesday 2 February 2010 - Racing Post Selection Box


The Racing Post provides a list of newspaper tipsters' selections for each race, usually numbering a dozen or more. These lists seem to be very popular tools used by punters when making their own choices. What punters don't seem to realise, however, is that the collective opinion of these tipsters can be greatly exaggerated.

For example, let's say there is a race where two contenders stand out. There is very little between them, but a particular piece of form seems to give one of them a slight edge. The newspaper tipsters, being experienced form readers, will all pick up on this one factor and give a narrow verdict to the same horse. We then see something like a 12-1 verdict between the two runners in question, which appears to be a very confident majority vote. In actual fact, all the tipsters have realised there is very little between the two runners in question, but one small factor has swayed them all the same way. Punters, unsurprisingly, interpret a confident majority verdict and the market subsequently reflects their belief. This situation is bound to lead to disproportionate prices, sometimes massively so. Nine times out of ten in these situations, the value has to lie with the bigger priced runner.


Tuesday 26 January 2010 - No apology for repetition...


It really can't be stressed enough - whether you are backing or laying, it is price control that is paramount - not the search for potential winners and losers. Investors who are able to quantify chance consistently and accurately will always come out way ahead of those who merely concentrate on finding winners and losers without attempting to quantify their chances.


Tuesday 19 January 2010 - Public Information


Public information, when emphasised in the media, almost always has an exaggerated effect on prices. Two examples which keep cropping up are top trainers who have sent just one runner to a meeting and top riders who have travelled to a track for just one ride. A quick look at the results of System Trials 30 and 33 will show that backing this information blindly will lead to substantial losses in the long term. That is because the horses concerned are over-bet as a direct result of this information being emphasised by the media.

Note: Systems Trials results can be found in the Systems Archive.


Saturday 5 December 2009 - Blog back soon


My apologies for the lack of recent updates to the blog. I promise to resume posting regularly again in the new year.


Thursday 3 September 2009 - Never forget the basics


It can be very easy to lose track of what betting is all about. It isn't about trying to find the winner of a race or sporting event and then automatically making a bet. That's the way most punters lose.

The only way to succeed at betting in the long term is to become adept at quantifying chance. Every contender in a race or event has a chance of some sort, be it large or very small. The players who are able to quantify chance most accurately are the ones who will win. Those who look for winners, without attempting to quantify chance, are on the wrong track completely.


Wednesday 10 June 2009 - Ffos Las


The first meeting at Britain's newest racecourse, Ffos Las, takes place on 18 June 2009. Ffos Las, situated near Llanelli in Wales, is a dual-purpose venue which will host both Flat and NH fixtures. The track itself looks similar to Newbury, being a left-handed, flat oval circuit with sweeping bends and long straights.

Jockey Seamus Durack has been testing the track extensively and will know it better than anyone when racing commences, which might be well worth bearing in mind.


Monday 6 April 2009 - Hints and tips


Just a quick reminder that back copies of all the newsletters, which are full of hints and tips, can be found on the Newsletters page.


Friday 27 March 2009 - Simple mathematics


Whilst assessing a couple of significant market moves shortly before a recent handicap, a TV presenter deduced that: 'According to punters, the favourite (2/1) is now twice as likely to score as its main market rival (4/1).'

A solid grasp of probability is essential for successful betting and this particular observation didn't set a great example.

2/1 is the same as one chance in three (a 33.33% chance) whereas 4/1 represents one chance in five (a 20% chance). If those prices were a true reflection of chance, the favourite was nowhere near twice as likely to score as its main rival.


Saturday 21 February 2009 - Speed up the Racing Post site


The Racing Post site can be a heavy drain on your computer's resources. Here's a simple tip to speed it up:

In your browser, click: Tools/Manage Add-ons/Enable or Disable Add-ons.

Then disable all those you don't need. Disabling all of them will speed up the RP site considerably and you can always re-enable as required.


Saturday 17 January 2009 - Comparing GoingStick readings


Going has always been a highly subjective topic. With that in mind, the GoingStick was developed as a device that gives actual readings to supplement the official going descriptions. It works very well when comparing readings made on the same track but the comparison of readings between different tracks can be very tricky and often misleading. From that point of view, comparison of GoingStick readings between different tracks should be made only with great caution or better still not made at all.


Tuesday 30 December 2008 - Polytrack/Fibresand


It is important to distinguish between Polytrack form and Fibresand form. Many horses act well on one surface but not on the other, so the fact that a horse has just scored easily on the Lingfield Polytrack is no indication that it will do the same, or even similar, in its next run on the Southwell Fibresand. An all-weather lay system with decent potential would involve opposing favourites that have recently won on one surface but are running on the other today, with their favouritism being due mainly to that last performance.


Thursday 20 November 2008 - Taking prices


Having decided on the minimum price you will take for your intended win bet, it makes sense to hang fire for a while should that price or bigger be available with several different bookmakers at the same time. Keeping a close eye on the development of the price at Betfair is a wise move because bookmakers' prices tend to mirror the activity there. Once a Betfair price begins to shorten, the bookmakers won't be far behind.

Obviously it helps to hold accounts with a few different bookmakers, as well as one with Betfair. That way, and by carefully monitoring price movements, you will give yourself every chance of securing the best price for your bet, wherever and whenever it appears.


Saturday 25 October 2008 - Studying bad races


The vast majority of punters and analysts tend to concentrate on higher-profile races and, as a result, much less attention is paid to lower-grade events, particularly well in advance of the race.

If you can spend some quality time getting an angle on a poor race at a lesser track, you will find yourself in an excellent position to seek out value that most others haven't spotted. This applies even more so if you conduct your analysis before any of the markets open, because at that stage you will know more about the race than virtually anyone else.


Wednesday 1 October 2008 - Draw advantage or pace advantage


When studying the results of sprints on straight tracks, it is important to distinguish between a draw advantage (between one side of the track and the other) and a pace advantage, and it can be very easy to confuse the two. For example, there may have been three recent sprints run on soft ground at a particular track, all of which were dominated by far side runners. The early temptation is to assume that the far side is the place to be on that track when the ground is soft. However, on closer inspection we might realise that the most potent early pace in each of those races was on the far side and the advantage lay, as is so often the case in sprints on straight tracks, with horses drawn near the pace rather than one side of the track necessarily having an advantage over the other. The first thing to do when studying sprints, and particularly those with plenty of runners, is to locate the early pace and work from there.


Friday 12 September 2008 - Racing Post distance recording


When browsing the form of a horse in the Racing Post records, it is always handy to realise that distances are rounded up to the nearest furlong. Some of the time that might not matter too much, but it certainly makes a difference when studying sprints.

For example, tomorrow's Portland Handicap is run over 5.6f but the winner's Racing Post record will be updated with a 6f win. The horse may not actually stay 6f strongly, which would make that a misleading statistic when considering any future 6f races it may contest.

To make matters even more confusing, don't take the 'D' (distance winner) indicators on the racecards for granted either. Taking tomorrow's Portland as an example, Oldjoesaid has only ever won over 5f (furthest win 5.15f), yet he has a 'D' against his name on the 5.6f Portland racecard. Meanwhile, Fathom Five, another to have won exclusively at 5f, has no 'D'.

The message, therefore, is to take care and check out all this data yourself, and particularly when studying the sprints.


Saturday 30 August 2008 - Future effects of poor draws


When flicking through the form book, it is easy to overlook the fact that a 'bad' run may have been caused by a poor draw. This is particularly so in sprints, when a poor draw, whether that involves being located well away from the pace or being on the wrong side of the track (very often the latter is the result of the former), can make things virtually impossible for a horse. A quick check, involving taking a closer look at a piece of form, in order to compare a horse's stalls position with that of the winner and placed horses, is well worth the effort. It can often mean you are able to put a line through what you might otherwise have taken as a bad run. For obvious reasons, horses that have been unfortunate enough to suffer a string of consecutive poor draws can represent good value when they are finally drawn to advantage under favourable conditions. Taking the theme a step further, a good run from a poor draw deserves a lot more credit that it is often given. In fact, a quick and potentially profitable route involves looking for placed sprinters drawn more than half the field away from the winner and other placed runners.


Saturday 23 August 2008 - Trends v coincidences


Lots of statistics are quoted before every race, and it is important to recognise which ones might be relevant to the outcome. Some of the statistics indicate valid trends which are worthy of consideration, whilst others are merely coincidences which don't say anything that will affect the outcome of the race. Here are a few examples:

"No favourite has won this race in the last five years." This is purely coincidental and does not in any way affect the chances of the favourite in today's contest. The same rule applies in reverse. Races which have regularly been won by favourites don't provide today's favourite with a better chance than it already has. If a coin lands on heads five times in a row, it doesn't give it any more or less chance of landing on heads the sixth time.

"No runner drawn in single figures has been placed in the last five soft-ground renewals of this race." That is a valid trend which needs close inspection because it affects the conditions under which the horses are to perform. The more horses that are included in a trend, the more valid it is likely to be. In this case, the 45 indicated can't all have been no-hopers.

"This trainer hasn't had a winner for three months." This could be either a trend or a coincidence. It depends on how may runners we are talking about and what chances they had to start with. If the trainer has run only a dozen outsiders in that time it isn't fair to say the yard is out of form. Indeed, the reverse may be true and several of them could have run much better than their price indicated. However, if the sequence included plenty of favourites and well-supported horses it is obviously worth looking at more closely. All statistics connected with trainers and jockeys need to be looked at in this kind of way.

There are many more examples, with the important thing being to distinguish the statistics which may be relevant to the outcome of today's race from those that can not affect it.


Saturday 8 August 2008 - Identifying front-runners


If you do nothing else other than try to identify the front-runner in each race, and then bet them blindly, you have the potential for a decent profit.

Over the four-day period 4 August to 7 August, there were 20 UK Flat meetings with a total of 126 races. Only one of those 20 meetings failed to produce a front-running winner despite a variety of track types and ground conditions. In fact, 32 of the 126 races were won by front-runners (25.4%) and they returned a very healthy profit of 137.4 points to 1 point level stakes.

Compare that to blindly betting favourites, as so many do, and you can see the difference in performance. Over the same period, favourites (including joint-favourites) won 45 of the 126 races (35.7%) but returned a profit of just 3.1 points.

For the record, the running styles of the winners of all 126 races were as follows:

Front-runners 32 (25.4%), prominent runners 49 (38.9%), horses held up in midfield or further back 45 (35.7%). The winners of nearly two thirds of the races ran up with, or just behind, the pace.

Of course, identifying a front-runner is the trick, but there aren't normally too many possibles to choose from in a race. Quite often the front-runner will be fairly obvious, based on a combination of the runners' past records and today's draw positions.


Saturday 26 July 2008 - Following owners


Many punters have their favourite trainers and jockeys, who they follow on a regular basis. Owners tend not to have anything like the same following, but they really should have. Over the whole of the 2007 Flat season, only 5 of the top 50 prize-winning jockeys returned level-stake profits. In the same season, just 11 of the top 50 prize-winning trainers returned level-stake profits.

The story of the top 50 prize-winning owners is completely different. No less than 29 of them made level-stake profits for the same season.


Saturday 19 July 2008 - Pick a race before you pick a horse


There are many different approaches to selecting horses to back. When you pick up your newspaper with a view to finding a bet, what is your first move? Too many punters scroll through a day's racing aimlessly looking for a suitable horse. They may be focusing on trainers, jockeys, or other random criteria, but basically they are skipping the fundamental step of choosing a race before selecting a horse.

Selecting a horse without first evaluating the opposition properly, or without determining how a race will be run in terms of pace, is an unprofessional approach which never gets very far in the long run for obvious reasons.

Select a race type/track combination you feel comfortable with, and concentrate on one event. Decide how the race will be run. Which horses will force the pace and how hard will they go in the early stages? What will be the position of the other runners behind them and when will they start their runs? Evaluate each runner under these unique circumstances and try to visualise the outcome. Use the merits and limitations of each runner to arrive at your conclusion.

That is only a very basic description of the professional approach, but by getting into the habit of proceeding in this way, you will develop your own method of operation within this framework. By that, I mean you will emphasise the elements within a race that you feel are important and ignore the ones you don't. Crucially, you will be considering factors like class, track, distance, ground, draw, speed, trainer, jockey etc within the confines of one race rather than just in general terms. Those factors look much more vivid when considered under a unique set of circumstances, and the emphasis you put on each will vary with the individual requirements of each race you study.


Thursday 10 July 2008 - Suitable conditions


Just because a horse has won on soft ground doesn't mean he/she likes it. The horse may just have been too good for some poor opposition and won despite the ground rather than because of it. The same comment applies to track types too. The only safe way to be sure that a horse will handle today's combination of track type and ground conditions is if he/she has done so at today's level of competition or above.


Tuesday 1 July 2008 - Tracks for specialists


Although big, long-striding horses are seen to particularly good effect on galloping tracks, there is nothing about these venues to prevent most other types of runner from performing creditably too, given the right trip and ground. The reverse, however, is a different story. The courses for specialists tend to be those unusual circuits which demand that a horse be particularly well-balanced, due to their undulations. It is certainly true to say that long-striding gallopers are inconvenienced on those tracks because they can become unbalanced much more easily than the smaller, more agile types.

Because it takes a certain type of horse to handle these tracks effectively, they tend to produce a number of course specialists who come back time and time again to account for opponents who aren't cut out for the gradients.

The places to be wary of long-striding gallopers (horses with plenty of form on galloping tracks) is at the undulating venues. They are the places which produce far more course specialists than other more conventional tracks. For a break-down of all UK track characteristics, go to the 'Tracks - Flat' and 'Tracks - NH' pages from the menu on the left.


Saturday 21 June 2008 - Uncontrollable factors


No matter how well a horse is prepared, and no matter how suitable the ground conditions and track type, it may have little chance of winning even though it looks the best-equipped horse in the race. That is because, if the race isn't run to suit, the best-laid plans can go down the drain.

There have been several notable examples at this week's Royal Ascot. In the Royal Hunt Cup, the front-runners immediately headed for the stands' side. From that moment on, the trackers left towards the middle and far side high had no chance at all. No horse drawn higher than 6 in the 29-runner field finished in the first four home. 

The same thing happened in the Golden Jubilee Stakes, when the overall leader ran down the stands' side. As a result, the first five home in that 17-strong field came from the lowest five stalls. That wasn't because there was any bias between the two sides of the track, it was down purely to the location of the early pace on a straight course. The proof that there had been no track bias came half an hour after the Golden Jubilee, in the Wokingham, which was run over the same straight 6f.

Obviously then, a horse's positioning on the track is crucial in certain circumstances, but a more frequent cause of a horse's failure through no fault of its own, despite having a full set of conditions in its favour, is the pace at which the race is run. That is how Monte Alto suffered in the Wolferton Handicap. A horse who needs to come from off a solid pace, Monte Alto had looked to have everything going for him with four front-runners in the line-up.

However, the firm ground caused the withdrawal, one by one, of three of them, leaving a lone front-runner to dictate his own pace. With no competition for the early lead, the front-runner was then able to set just a moderate pace before quickening off the final bend. In situations like that, it is crucial to be up with pace and hold-up horses are severely disadvantaged no matter how good they are. All of a sudden, from looking to have an outstanding chance, Monte Alto's hopes had been ruined by the subsequent withdrawal of other horses.


Saturday 14 June 2008 - Adjust the Racing Post Ratings


The accuracy of the Racing Post Ratings are compromised by the their excessive weight considerations. A blatant example can be seen from the recent Totesport Dash at Epsom (7 June 2008). This is the fastest 5f in the world. It is mainly downhill and the ground was good, so the effects of additional weight would have been negligible.

Let's have a look at the RPRs that were calculated for three of the runners:

Tournedos finished tenth in the race and was awarded a RPR of 92. Just a neck behind him was Hereford Boy, but his RPR was just 77. To compound the problem further, Evens And Odds finished over two lengths behind Hereford Boy and was given a RPR of 88.

The reasons were all to do with weight. Tournedos carried 9-4, Hereford Boy 8-1 and Evens And Odds 9-5. Hereford Boy could have carried the same weight as Tournedos down that hill and still finished upsides him, yet the difference in their RPRs was a huge 15 points for just a neck. Evens And Odds would still have finished behind Hereford Boy at level weights, yet his rating was 11 points higher.

The only way to avoid these discrepancies, which can sometimes be so severe as to make the ratings unusable, is to take out the weight factor.

RPRs on the flat are calculated to 10st. So all we need to do is calculate the number of pounds a horse carries below 10st and add it to the rating. In the above example, Tournedos would have got a rating of 102 (10st less 9-4 = 10lbs. 10 + original rating of 92 = 102). Hereford Boy's RPR would have been 101 (104 less the rider's 3lbs claim) and Evens And Odds would have been given 97. These figures give a far more accurate comparison between those horses' performances on that day.

Weight can obviously be a factor for consideration under certain circumstances (uphill tracks, long galloping straights etc), but it is still given far more consideration than it deserves. Obviously, if we are to adjust RPRs for weight then we would need to adjust all the races in a sample to be studied and compared. Nevertheless, it is fairly quick and easy and, if you like ratings, a worthwhile exercise to try.


Saturday 7 June 2008 - Take the early price


A carefully considered bet has to be made up of two components: a selection and a price. You can't have one without the other, which is why SP betting doesn't make sense. If you were contemplating the spin of a coin, your selection might be heads, but you wouldn't bet on it without first knowing exactly what the payout would be. After all, the only reason for betting in the first place is because you believe your selection has a better chance of winning than the price on offer reflects.

On Saturday 17 May 2008, there were 11 races unaffected by non-runners (which automatically affect the early prices). Of the 11 winners of those races, 8 were returned at shorter prices than had been available in the morning. Two were the same and only one was a bigger price. Those figures confirm the fact that early-price punters are getting the best deals, whilst SP bettors are missing out badly.


Wednesday 28 May 2008 - Horse/Jockey/Track combinations


When a horse/rider partnership is familiar with a particular track, they already know what is required and how it should be achieved. To demonstrate the effect of this previous experience, here is a list of the finishers for Saturday 24 May 2008 that had already appeared on the track with the same rider.

The only qualifying criteria for this list is that the horse/jockey partnership had appeared on the track before, regardless of performance or result. Nothing else. The class, distance, ground conditions etc of those previous appearances were not taken into account at all. The only thing considered was that the partnership had been there before.

It is easy to see that previous experience, in terms of horse/jockey/track combinations, is beneficial. Yet it is obviously underestimated in the betting market.

With the application of a few filters, a profitable avenue awaits.


Bev 3.25 Myfrenchconnection 3rd 3/1

Bev 3.25 Bolton Hall 8th 11/2


Bev 4.25 Mr Crystal 2nd 13/8


Bev 5.00 Penel 3rd 6/1


Cart 7.00 Crofton Arch 8th 4/1


Cart 7.35 Ad Murum 4th 11/2


Catt 3.15 H Harrison 4th 10/1


Catt 4.55 Turn Me On Won 11/1

Catt 4.55 Violent Velocity 2nd 11/4

Exacta paid 96/1

Catt 4.55 Flying Valentino 10th 8/1


Hay 2.05 Invisible Force 3rd 10/1

Hay 2.05 Northern Fling 4th 7/1

Hay 2.05 Knot In Wood 5th 9/2

Hay 2.05 Indian Trail 8th 5/1


Hay 4.10 Cape Vale 5th 4/1


Hay 4.45 Obezyana Won 10/1


Hay 5.15 Hunt The Bottle 5th 11/2


Nmkt 3.20 Ancien Regime Won 9/2

Nmkt 3.20 Prohibit 3rd 5/2

Nmkt 3.20 Victorian Bounty 6th 9/1


Nmkt 4.35 Yaddree Won 7/2

Nmkt 4.35 Masaalek 2nd 7/2

Exacta paid 23/1

Nmkt 4.35 Meydan Dubai 8th 9/1


Nmkt 5.45 Brief Goodbye 2nd 7/1

Nmkt 5.45 Irish Quest 6th 2/1


Strat 5.40 Iffy 4th 20/1

Strat 5.40 Master Nimbus 5th 16/1


Strat 6.45 Lord Ryeford Won 10/1

Strat 6.45 Lord Jay Jay 4th 9/2


Strat 7.50 Down The Stretch Won 16/1

Strat 7.50 Aleron 7th 33/1

Start 7.50 Alrafid 10th 33/1


Thursday 22 May 2008 - Stamina requirements


When comparing stamina requirements from one track to another, a good technique is to use standard times. Compare standard times for the same distance, on tracks of a similar shape, to see which one demands the most stamina. These comparisons are only valid if the tracks concerned involve the same number of bends being negotiated during the trip in question. The comparisons work particularly well on straight tracks.

For example, two horses of identical ability run over 5f, one at Goodwood and the other at Salisbury. The ground conditions are the same and the two horses start simultaneously, running at a strong pace. If you were to view the two performances side by side, you would see that the Goodwood runner would cross the line more than fifteen lengths in front of the Salisbury runner.

We can gather from that example that a horse who barely stays 5f when running flat-out at Goodwood is going to struggle in a similar race at Salisbury.

Therefore, to say a horse stays a particular trip is not really an accurate statement. It may stay the trip on an easy track but not necessarily on a testing one, with pace and ground conditions being crucial factors.


Tuesday 20 May 2008 - Eye-catching but often costly


'Eye-catching' jockey bookings are regularly reported in the racing press. A top rider is booked for a small yard for whom he hardly ever rides. That is normally a guarantee of market support, very often to the exclusion of any value. The horse tends to be supported because of the 'eye-catching' booking rather than for any stand-out factors in its form.

The trouble is, the best rider for a horse is one who knows it well. A top rider, who has never even sat on one of these 'eye-catchers' before, has only advice and instruction to go on. For the first ride, that is often not enough. If the top rider returns to partner the horse again shortly afterwards, there is often a more positive outcome, but the first time the partnership is formed is not the time to lump on at a short price, and particularly if the horse isn't a straightforward ride.

It makes far more sense to support a horse that has already developed a successful partnership with its rider. From a value point of view, this can be a particularly good move if the rider isn't a household name.


Thursday 15 May 2008 - Comments can cost you money (or make you more)


Comments made in the media can go a long way to ruining any potential value in a bet. The more high-profile the comments are, the more chance of them affecting the price of the horse being discussed. Bullish trainers and jockeys on television, particularly on terrestrial coverage, will have punters logging onto betting accounts in their masses. A similar effect can be seen when high-profile journalists make over-confident remarks.

Of course, the opposite can also be true. The raising of question marks against a particular runner tends to send the layers into action.

The key to all this frenzy is to keep a clear head. Having formulated your own views, don't let someone who has spent far less time studying the race affect your decision without very good reason. Newspaper correspondents have to analyse a full meeting, at least, within a few hours. For the Racing Post's Spotlight, for example, that means commenting on about seventy runners as well as formulating forecast prices. If you are an experienced student who knows how to perform effective analysis, you have a big edge on those correspondents if you select just one race. You can spend about six times as long as they can on the analysis of that event, and you should stick with your verdict unless some subsequent factor significantly affects it.

Certainly, trainers and jockeys, who have more pressing things to do, will spend much less time analysing the ins and outs of an average handicap than you will. As a result, they are far less informed on the strengths of the opposition than you should be. The main thing to take from their interviews is the well-being of their runner, and very little else.


Thursday 8 May 2008 - Pricing up a race (or sports event)


Every potential bet has to have two parts: a selection (horse, football team etc) and a price (which you deem to be acceptable). The two elements go together. A selection without a price doesn’t make sense. You wouldn’t go to the shop to buy a bottle of milk without having some idea of what you were willing to pay for it. Buying chances in a horse is exactly the same and the punters who come unstuck are those who regularly buy fewer chances than they should for their money. That means they accept prices that are too short to reflect the chance of their bets winning.


Anyone who hasn’t tried pricing up a race should really start having a go. To make it easy to begin with, choose a race with only a few runners. Have a quick try to see how you get on – it needn’t take long for a practice attempt. It is important not to look at any forecast prices or actual prices whilst you carry out your calculations. Study the form and credentials of all the runners as you would normally do, but give each one a mark out of 100. The trick is to ensure that all your marks add up to 100 when you have finished - because the total of all the individual chances in any race must equal 100%. You will have to change the scores a few times before you get them back to 100, and don’t worry about awarding any strange numbers like 37 or 19.
Once you have done that, you have effectively priced up the race – just divide each score in turn into 100 to obtain your prices (eg. a score of 37 would equate to a price of 2.70, which is 100 divided by 37). I’m using decimal prices for the example because it is easier.

Now compare your prices with those on offer. Divide the price on offer (decimal) by your price to get your value index. An index above 1.00 indicates value. The higher the value index the more attractive the bet. The horse with the highest index is your best bet for the race you have priced up – and it won’t necessarily be the horse you chose as your favourite to win!

PS The bookmakers’ prices will always add up to more than 100% because of their profit margins.
PPS Try the same practice exercise with a football match – it’s a quick way to get used to prices.


Monday 5 May 2008 - System filters


One thing I should mention about the systems is that they are deliberately trialled using very basic rules. The reason being that, should a method show promise in a very basic format, there is a fair chance that by adding a few carefully considered filters it can be improved again - perhaps significantly. I intend, at some stage, to review the best of the systems and suggest appropriate filters. Ultimately, I would like to combine the significant points of the better systems into one or two 'super systems'. That would be very satisfying to achieve because we will then be able to look back and see how they gradually evolved from a series of simple ideas.


Thursday 1 May 2008 - Betting for the wrong reasons


Following the most successful trainers and jockeys blindly is an expensive business because most of their runners go off at shorter prices than they should. Obviously it is advisable to be selective, and that must involve paying plenty of attention to the credentials of the horses rather than the fact that they are representing strong connections. A good example of the wrong reasons for betting came at Wolverhampton on Tuesday night (29 April) when Jamie Spencer travelled for just the one ride in the final event on the card. Many punters latch on to things like that, and the Racing Post's Spotlight made matters worse for the price by emphasising it. The horse was Gold Prospect, who is better over further than the distance of that race and obviously needed a strong pace to hold any sort of chance. The small field was made up exclusively of hold-up horses, which couldn't have been a worse scenario for Gold Prospect because, being a slow starter himself, he would have found it difficult to dictate had that been the plan. It wasn't the plan, Gold Prospect was held up as normal behind a moderate pace and, as a result, finished fourth of five at 5/4. He never had any chance off that sort of pace but the heavy support, which strengthened further following a pre-race television interview with Spencer in which he voiced his expectation of victory, was a good example of betting on a large scale for all the wrong reasons.


Tuesday 29 April 2008 - Back to business


After a great week's walking in the Yorkshire Dales, I'm back fully refreshed (apart from some aching limbs) and ready to resume business. I'll spend today catching up on all the recent sporting results and developments, so that I'm fully up-to-date again.

The spectacular profits I made throughout last summer started from around this time - a repeat of that sort of performance would be very satisfying.


Sunday 20 April 2008 - Taking a break


I have always found it beneficial to take short breaks a couple of times a year. It helps refresh the mind and body, as well as providing a good opportunity to refocus on strategy. It is surprisingly easy, during the day-to-day hustle and bustle of the fast-moving world of betting, to drift too far away from the basic principles that underpin your strategy. A short break gives you the chance to defragment and re-boot your mind, just as you would with your computer, so that you can return to work with the basic and fundamental principles at the forefront of your consciousness once more.

I have certainly found the benefits of short breaks to be tangible from a results point of view. Many of my most profitable periods have occurred shortly after a break, which adds more fuel to the logic behind taking them.

I am off on a walking trip to one of my favourite places, the Yorkshire Dales, from tomorrow (Monday 21 April) and I'll be back again next Monday (28th). The site will be up and running again late on Monday 28 April with the all the bets for Tuesday (29th).

Until then, have a good week all.


Friday 18 April 2008 - The true class of a race


When analysing form, it is important to identify the true (or effective) class of races in which runners have previously competed, particularly in the handicap sphere. For example, a 0-80 handicap, which fell into the Class 4 bracket, may have had a topweight rated 75, effectively making it a Class 5 event. If that topweight was completely unfancied and ran poorly, we need to go down the list even further. It could be that the highest-rated horse with solid credentials was rated 70. We are then looking at what was effectively a 0-70 handicap, mid-range for Class 5, disguised as a Class 4 handicap.

If we are not careful, we could completely overestimate the form of that race. We may be studying today's 0-75 Class 5 handicap (which contains a few solid performers rated between 71 and 75), thinking we have found a runner dropped in grade from Class 4, when in actual fact that horse is effectively up in class from 0-70 to 0-75.


Wednesday 16 April 2008 - Warwick sprints


Warwick is a track on which hold-up horses have become extremely difficult to win with in sprints, even when the pace is strong. Prominent runners have dominated every sprint at Warwick since July 2007, and a good few of those races have seen several front-runners in opposition, creating the sort of pace on which strong finishers normally thrive. However, regardless of ground conditions, the hold-up horses haven't been able to peg back the deficit, even when prominent runners have been exposed to a strong headwind.


Monday 14 April 2008 - Following trainers and jockeys


Blindly following specific trainers or jockeys can be a risky business, especially following the most successful ones. The six flat jockeys to ride over 100 winners in 2007 all made level-stakes losses. They had a total of 4993 rides between them, returning a combined level-stakes loss of 672 points. The top flat trainers fared no better. The top 14 in the prize money table for 2007 saddled a total of 8310 runners between them, returning a level-stakes loss of 1457 points, with all of them returning individual losses.

The story is the same over the jumps. The powerful yards of Nicholls and Pipe have sent out a total of 1213 runners between them in the 07/08 season (to 13/4/08), both showing individual level-stakes losses and a combined level-stakes loss of 140 points. Meanwhile, the top 10 NH riders in terms of winners during the 07/08 season (to 13/4/08) have had a combined total of 5437 rides, returning a level-stakes loss of 950 points. All 10 have also made individual level-stakes losses.

The reason is that the most successful trainers and jockeys are also the most popular with punters - for that very reason. As a result, most of their horses start at prices which are too short to reflect their true chance of winning.


Saturday 12 April 2008 - Origins of a price


There is little doubt that the prices with which bookmakers open in a morning are influenced by overnight and early morning trading on the exchanges. Betfair opens a race for trading during the previous afternoon and, although there isn't normally a great deal of activity, a market with a book percentage of 120% or less has nevertheless formed by the early morning of the race. BetFred is usually the first of the major bookmakers to open, early on the morning of the race, offering prices that roughly mirror the partly-developed Betfair market.

Bigger investors, who are looking to place fair-sized bets with bookmakers, try to manipulate the Betfair market very early in the morning. They lay, to small amounts, the horse they ultimately want to back, and they do so at around the price they intend to take. They often need to keep topping up these small lays in order that their target price, or above, is still visible at Betfair when BetFred, and subsequently the other major bookmakers, are ready to open.

They then dive into these manipulated bookmakers' prices and place the bets they want. The price of the horse then collapses, both at the exchanges and at the bookmakers, with the later-opening bookmakers coming in at the new shorter prices.

BetFred appears happy, for the time being at least, to subject itself to these tactics. Obviously the extra amount of early trade they attract by opening early, together with the number of targeted horses that ultimately lose, makes it worthwhile for them.


Thursday 10 April 2008 - The pace of a race


The pace of a race affects the final result to a far greater extent than most punters appreciate. The same group of horses could run the same race three times, with a different pace structure to the race on each occasion, and there would likely be a different result each time. Those results could be very different too.

Races which are most reliant on pace tend to be handicaps on the flat run over a mile or more. A fast pace suits horses who can stay further than the bare trip, and also hold-up horses who can finish strongly. A slow pace suits those who run more prominently and can quicken. They have often shown the tactical speed to go well over shorter trips.

A quick look through the historical in-running form will highlight potential front-runners in a race. The use of headgear can also influence the way a horse will run - often much faster or keener than normal in the early stages when it is worn for the first time, or after a spell of racing without it.

Two or three confirmed front-runners usually means a solid pace because the early lead is contested. Those are the races which suit the stamina horses, and also those who can pull hard. No obvious front-runner (or just one, who likes to dictate a modest pace) will usually mean a more tactical affair which is slower in the early stages, suiting those who can quicken, usually from a prominent position. An uncontested lead in such races is a big advantage to a horse able to do that.

Particularly in the lower grade handicaps for 4yos and above, horses have developed one particular way of running and will only ever win if the pace, either fast, moderate or slow, suits that style. They generally have no chance if it doesn't, even if they are in top form.


Tuesday 8 April 2008 - Topweights System adjustment


Many thanks to the readers who keep me updated with their success using some of the old systems (from the Systems Archive). When the trials are initially run, I deliberately present each system in a very basic format, knowing that if they do work well in that simplified mode, there is every chance of an even better performance with one or two logical adjustments. A good example is the Topweights System, which has been popular for a long time in its basic format. However, as a result of a recent query, I gave it a bit of extra thought and decided that it might be improved further with the omission of a couple of the qualifying tracks (Plumpton and Wetherby). The reason being, the system relies on tracks where stamina is relatively unimportant, thus negating the handicap of carrying additional weight and thereby putting the best horses on a level playing field with those of less ability. Plumpton and Wetherby, although both classified as tight tracks, have significant uphill stretches which can sap strength and stamina in a way that isn't evident at the other tight tracks. From that point of view, taking them off the qualifying list for the system would seem logical and looking back at the original trial results, that would certainly have been justified because there were 18 qualifying bets at those two tracks, with only a 3/1 winner to show for them.


Saturday 5 April 2008 - Using Topspeed in the right way


I have always had a lot of respect for the work Dave Edwards does on Topspeed in the Racing Post, much of which goes relatively unnoticed. Bearing in mind that his ratings are only of any use in races where the pace is fast, he does well to achieve a 20% success rate, or thereabouts, from all races rated. By applying his ratings only to races where there are two or three recognised front-runners, that success rate can be expected to increase very significantly, which is perfectly logical because there is no point in supporting a horse that needs a fast pace in a race where there is no front-runner.


Friday 4 April 2008 - Fate of the favourites


A lot of the stats provided by TV pundits are really meaningless, and one that is given out on a regular basis is the record of favourites in a given race. We hear comments such as 'only one favourite has won this race in the last ten years', a fact which bears absolutely no relevance to the chances of today's favourite. Every race is a completely separate entity, a puzzle in itself, and betting patterns from races in the dim and distant past (or even recent ones for that matter) have no bearing whatsoever.


Wednesday 2 April 2008 - Dangerous assumptions


Punters still don't seem to realise the dangers of trying to translate turf form to the all-weather, and particularly to Fibresand. Yesterday's Daily Bargain bet, Regal Parade, had finished eight lengths behind Benandonner in the Spring Mile at Doncaster last month. On that basis, he was trading at an early 11/1 (up to 19/1 on the exchanges) for yesterday's mile handicap on the Southwell Fibresand, with Benandonner a 6/4 favourite. For the weight-watchers, Benandonner was also 3lbs better with his rival yesterday.

Fibresand, however, is a completely different ball game and Regal Parade, who had previously scored on the surface, was extremely unlucky not to cut down Benandonner, who hadn't, in a driving finish. Had Regal Parade not been hampered at the top of the home straight he would have won instead of going down by a fast-diminishing neck.

Yet the prices before the contest suggested that Benandonner had a 40% chance of winning the race, compared with Regal Parade's 5%. The assumptions were based, for the most part, on irrelevant data (turf form and weight differential on a tight track) and they created a lot of value for Regal Parade's supporters because of that.


Tuesday 1 April 2008 - The effects of weight


Welcome to the new blog and hopefully you will find some interesting points for thought over the coming weeks and months.


It is always interesting listening to TV commentators, who are so quick to put a horse's defeat down to it carrying a bit of extra weight. On tight tracks that would very rarely be the reason, and often a horse can run faster in defeat when carrying more weight than it did in victory carrying less, although the defeat somehow comes across as a lesser performance. Pundits continue to roll out the excuse that the handicapper has 'caught up with him', when he has actually carried more weight and run faster.

There seems to be a media obsession with weight, and it is grossly overstated in most cases. Additional weight is only a discernable factor in protracted gallops or up hills. I have even heard weight being discussed and analysed in connection with sprints at Epsom, which is downhill all the way.

If we look at older horses that have put together a series of consecutive handicap victories, we will almost always see that they have achieved them on tight tracks or down hills. Those horses are hailed as being vastly improved because they have carried progressively bigger burdens to victory, when in actual fact the weight hasn't made any difference on those tracks, and they have merely been showing consistency under conditions they obviously like. That reasoning is endorsed when the same horse, with its newly inflated handicap mark, then runs on a track where weight does make a difference, and is comprehensively beaten, much to the surprise of its followers. Even then, the weight effect has to be tempered with the fact that the horse obviously prefers tight tracks, so will perform to a lower level when out of its comfort zone.

© 2000 - 2023 Professional Betting Advice and Strategy from cdsystems






by Steve Jones





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