you will find back copies of old blog posts.
of the the texts are as valid today as they were then.
of old newsletters, which are also full of betting hints and advice,
be found on
their own page.
7 October 2011 - Winner-Finding Methods
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.
24 May 2011 - Comparison of odds comparison sources
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.
27 January 2011 - Too much information?
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
then, punters are better equipped to identify potential winners than
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%.
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.
13 January 2011 - Being prepared
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.
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.
Bargain results over the last few months clearly demonstrate the big advantages that can now be gained by
September 2010 - Accept your sequences
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.
May 2010 - Question of the Day
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?'
April 2010 - Analyse the opposition, not just the
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.
April 2010 - Don't take the stats too literally
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.
February 2010 - Racing Post Selection Box
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.
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.
January 2010 - No apology for
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.
January 2010 - Public Information
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.
Systems Trials results can be found in the Systems
December 2009 - Blog back soon
apologies for the lack of recent updates to the blog. I promise to resume posting
regularly again in the new year.
September 2009 - Never forget the basics
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.
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.
June 2009 - Ffos Las
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.
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.
April 2009 - Hints and tips
a quick reminder that back copies of all the newsletters, which are
full of hints and tips, can be found on the Newsletters
March 2009 - Simple mathematics
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
solid grasp of probability is essential for successful betting and this
particular observation didn't set a great example.
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.
February 2009 - Speed up the Racing Post
Racing Post site can be a heavy drain on your computer's resources.
Here's a simple tip to speed it up:
your browser, click: Tools/Manage Add-ons/Enable or Disable Add-ons.
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.
January 2009 - Comparing GoingStick
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
December 2008 - Polytrack/Fibresand
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
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.
November 2008 - Taking prices
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.
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.
October 2008 - Studying bad races
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.
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.
October 2008 - Draw advantage or pace advantage
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
12 September 2008 - Racing Post distance recording
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.
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'.
message, therefore, is to take care and check out all this data
yourself, and particularly when studying the sprints.
30 August 2008 - Future effects of poor draws
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.
23 August 2008 - Trends v coincidences
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:
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
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.
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
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.
8 August 2008 - Identifying front-runners
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
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.
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.
the record, the running styles of the winners of all 126 races were as
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.
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.
26 July 2008 - Following owners
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.
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.
19 July 2008 - Pick a race before you pick a horse
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.
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
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.
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.
10 July 2008 - Suitable conditions
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.
1 July 2008 - Tracks for specialists
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.
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
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.
21 June 2008 - Uncontrollable factors
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
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.
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
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.
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.
14 June 2008 - Adjust the Racing Post Ratings
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.
have a look at the RPRs that were calculated for three of the runners:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
7 June 2008 - Take the early price
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
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.
28 May 2008 - Horse/Jockey/Track combinations
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.
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.
is easy to see that previous experience, in terms of horse/jockey/track
combinations, is beneficial. Yet it is obviously underestimated in the
the application of a few filters, a profitable avenue awaits.
3.25 Myfrenchconnection 3rd
3.25 Bolton Hall 8th 11/2
4.25 Mr Crystal 2nd
5.00 Penel 3rd 6/1
7.00 Crofton Arch 8th 4/1
7.35 Ad Murum 4th 11/2
3.15 H Harrison 4th 10/1
4.55 Turn Me On Won
4.55 Violent Velocity 2nd
4.55 Flying Valentino 10th 8/1
2.05 Invisible Force 3rd
2.05 Northern Fling 4th 7/1
2.05 Knot In Wood 5th 9/2
2.05 Indian Trail 8th 5/1
4.10 Cape Vale 5th 4/1
4.45 Obezyana Won
5.15 Hunt The Bottle 5th 11/2
3.20 Ancien Regime Won
3.20 Prohibit 3rd 5/2
3.20 Victorian Bounty 6th 9/1
4.35 Yaddree Won 7/2
4.35 Masaalek 2nd 7/2
4.35 Meydan Dubai 8th 9/1
5.45 Brief Goodbye 2nd
5.45 Irish Quest 6th 2/1
5.40 Iffy 4th 20/1
5.40 Master Nimbus 5th 16/1
6.45 Lord Ryeford Won
6.45 Lord Jay Jay 4th 9/2
7.50 Down The Stretch Won
7.50 Aleron 7th 33/1
7.50 Alrafid 10th 33/1
22 May 2008 - Stamina requirements
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.
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.
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
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.
20 May 2008 - Eye-catching but often costly
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.
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.
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.
15 May 2008 - Comments can cost you money (or make you more)
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.
course, the opposite can also be true. The raising of question marks
against a particular runner tends to send the layers into action.
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.
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.
8 May 2008 - Pricing up a race (or sports event)
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
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.
5 May 2008 - System filters
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.
1 May 2008 - Betting for the wrong reasons
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.
April 2008 - Back to business
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.
spectacular profits I made throughout last summer started from around
this time - a repeat of that sort of performance would be very
April 2008 - Taking a break
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.
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.
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).
then, have a good week all.
April 2008 - The true class of a race
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.
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
dropped in grade from Class 4, when in actual fact that horse is
effectively up in class from 0-70 to 0-75.
April 2008 - Warwick sprints
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
April 2008 - Following trainers and jockeys
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
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.
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.
April 2008 - Origins of a price
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.
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.
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.
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.
April 2008 - The pace of a race
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
April 2008 - Topweights System adjustment
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.
April 2008 - Using Topspeed in the right way
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.
April 2008 - Fate of the favourites
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.
April 2008 - Dangerous assumptions
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.
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.
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.
April 2008 - The effects of weight
to the new blog and hopefully you will find some interesting points for
thought over the coming weeks and months.
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.
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.
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.
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