The Punting Confessional: Compiling a Tissue

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Compiling a Tissue

Compiling a Tissue

To make your betting profitable, it is essential to make sure you get the best value from your selections. Compiling your own tissue is the way to ensure that the odds you take represent enough value to be successful in the long run. Backing 2/1 horses at 4/1 is the way forward where possible, of course! But by not knowing the “true” price of a horse, you may well end up doing the exact opposite.

This week, Tony Keenan takes us through how he would approach the compilation of a tissue for a race in…

…The Punting Confessional – Wednesday, January 16th 2013

Back in the comments section of this diary in January 2nd, a reader Ger asked that I write something on compiling my own tissue and that’s the spur for this piece. As a contrarian I’ve never been great at doing exactly what I’m told so I’ve decided to take a race from scratch and look at how I played it, from analysis stage through pace and tissues to striking a bet.

The race in question is the 8.50 from Dundalk on Friday January 4th, a ten-furlong handicap for horses aged four and up with the top-weight racing off 89.

The first notable about this race is that it’s an older horse handicap; these are my bread-and-butter races and I know I’m not alone in such things, Dave Nevison having commented similarly in one of his books. With horses like this, inside information becomes much less relevant as their form is in the book as they have had a number of runs and this provides the pure form student with an edge.

I will have an intimate knowledge of the horses involved, having watched most if not all of their recent starts on replay, and will know what to expect. Also, this is a classic example of the middle-of-the-road racing I prefer; the horses are good enough to be reliable as opposed to the bottom feeders yet not well enough known by the betting public to have the value squeezed out of their prices. Finally, the race was at Dundalk, a track whose virtues I have extolled in the past.

My notes from the race are below. Initially I cut-and-paste the entire race-card from Horse Racing Ireland’s race administration site after which I add my own notes, pace comments, tissue prices and shortlist. It’s handy to save these files on your computer as you can look back and check them again.

(8:50)  4E Floodlit Friday Nights At Dundalk H’cap
€6,900.00  ( 1m 2f 150y – 4yo+ )[MAX 14]    

  1  2 King’s Trail (JPN) (89) (TKodama) – RCoakley(7) ……………. 10,00 – no recent form – NO – prominent – 20/1

  2  7 Salam Alaykum (82) (JFEgan) – JFEgan …..  9,07 – is likely one that is ahead of his mark still, the Placere form worked out; interesting in a race like this – tracks pace/prominent over this trip – 9/2

  4 Denny Crane (GB) (81) (ELynam) – SFoley(V) …………………  9,06 – isn’t in form nor well-treated – NO – held up – 12/1

  4  1 Shake The Bucket (79) (NMadden) – LPDempsey(7) ………….  9,04 – obvious chance with affinity for course – tracks pace – 9/2

  5  6 Alghanem (76) (MPhelan) – DEMullins(3)…..  9,01 – rising out of bottom grade to take on decent types; one to be against in this good company as also a dodge – ? – chases pace – 8/1

  6  3 Prince Of Fashion (76) (JGeoghegan) – PJSmullen(T) ……………  9,01 – met trouble last time and drop to this trip won’t be a problem; player and does go well for Smullen – mid-div – 9/2

  7  5 Shukhov (76) (GMLyons) – GFCarroll ………..  8,13 – would be one to take on having gotten a rise in the weights, taking a long time to win beforehand; last time out winner likely to be overbet – chases pace – 8/1

  9 Hurricane In Dubai (73) (DMarnane) – FLynch …………………….  8,10 – stable switch – NO – new connections; hard to call – 20/1

  8 Silverlord (FR) (69) (GElliott) – .(T) ……………  8,08 – dog –  NO – chases pace – 16/1


PACE: King’s Trail may go on with Salam Alaykhum a possibility but it’s unlikely to be break-neck.

SHORTLIST: This looks between Salam Alaykhum, Shake The Bucket and Prince Of Fashion; the first-named most likely to be overpriced.  
First to explain each note; after all the factual stuff about weight, trainer and such like I add my own comments. They tend to be quite short here as I’m dealing with horses I know well and after that I put a NO if I think they have no chance, a question mark if I have doubts or leave it blank if I give them a chance. Next I put in the pace comment which is an amalgam of their run styles over their last three to five starts with a mix of intuition if I expect something different today; perhaps there is a dramatic change in distance or headgear being applied.

Having done each horse in sequence, I’ll look their pace comments to see how the race is likely to be run and only then will I do the tissues; they come after the pace as the I want to factor that into my figures, pace being an underrated aspect that can provide an edge. I price up the race to 100% and for a small field like this it only takes a matter of minutes and if I’m out on my first set of figures, I’ll adjust them until they’re right. Only then will I put together the shortlist which is more of list of overpriced horses than likely winners.

Now the really interesting part comes as you compare your prices to others in the public domain and those offered by the bookmakers.
Here, in three columns are the relevant prices, the first is my tissue, the second the best morning odds and the third the final starting price:

King’s Trail                          20/1         16/1         18/1

Salam Alaykhum                9/2          8/1           9/2

Denny Crane                       12/1          9/1           7/1

Shake The Bucket              9/2          4/1           10/3

Alghanem                            8/1           3/1           4/1

Prince Of Fashion              9/2          11/2          5/1

Shukhov                               8/1           7/1           7/1

Hurricane In Dubai            Non-runner

Silverlord                              16/1         14/1         14/1
It’s pretty obvious the horse(s) I’d want to back looking at those prices but one also needs to know why they, and others, are the wrong prices. Let’s start with Alghanem who is the key horse in the race in many respects as he’s a bad favourite. A bad favourite is the best thing a punter can have as it makes it a betting race. Alghanem was a bad favourite for a few reasons; he was just one from sixteen before this race, having shown head carriage and weak-finishing tendencies in the past, and he was also coming out of the bottom grade of handicaps having copped a 12lbs rise from 63 to 75 for his sole win.

He was facing a seismic jump in class, going from racing against horses rated in the 50s and low-60s to taking on a handicap where the top weight was rated 87, essentially skipping a couple of grades, something few horses can do and much less, ones with dodgy temperaments. Not only that he had a really interesting betting profile and by this I mean how he tends to move in the market. He had landed a colossal on December 7th, backed from 8/1 in the morning to 9/4 on course, and I suspect the layers were still nursing their wounds from this and priced him up far too cautiously which meant other horses were value.

Shukhov was another I wanted to be against as he simply won in his turn last time in a weak race having been a long-standing maiden beforehand and was going to find this tougher upped in the weights; disappointingly however, he was not put in short in the morning even though he was a last time out winner which may have been to do with his trainer Ger Lyons. Despite being the preeminent handler at the track, his horses are not often punted.

The trio to note were Shake The Bucket, Prince Of Fashion and Salam Alaykhum. Shake The Bucket was just a fair price in the morning as his chance was there for all to see, an in-form course specialist. He often drifts in the market pre-race so may have been of interest at that point but I felt a slow pace would be against him as this trip was his minimum and he is often dropped in. Prince Of Fashion was a touch overpriced at 11/2 though not hugely but Salam Alaykhum was the rick and the reason was simple: out of sight, out of mind.

He hadn’t run since October 5th but looked a well-treated horse, his form with Placere from the summer having worked out particularly well and he had been a well-backed favourite in the Ladies Derby at the Curragh on ground he wouldn’t have liked. That wouldn’t always be the best guide as such market moves can be false but I felt it was true in his case and he was certainly overpriced, indeed the opposite of the recency-biased thinking that had Alghanem in favourite.

In the end I backed Salam Alaykhum at an average of 8/1 and Prince Of Fashion at an average of just over 5/1 to split stakes. The former was a great bet as the market told, supporting him into 9/2 at the off. I hoped he would go on at the trip as he had done in the past with no real pace pressure likely. The latter was a poor bet as I got suckered into backing him in the morning when there appeared to be some support from him and I punted at just over my tissue price which isn’t a good move; you really need more of an edge.

I saw the market shift for him and panicked which was a mistake and I also should have remembered that he’s not really the horse to back at a short price; he wins a low percentage of his starts and is inconsistent and is mainly one to take a chance on at bigger prices.

In the end, the pace scuppered the race for as neither King’s Trail nor Salam Alaykhum went on and it was run at a crawl with Shake The Bucket making all and winning with a bit in hand; he got a soft lead. It was a surprise to see him do such as he’d never raced on the pace before. I made one good bet in the race with Salam Alaykhum and he shaped like one ahead of his mark, held up in rear and the only one to make any ground up in the closing stages, ultimately finishing fourth of eight in the manner of one that can win soon. Prince Of Fashion was a poor bet and ran like one.

In this race, I got it wrong in terms of the result but not with Salam Alaykhum at the prices; he was definitely a bet. Not every race will throw up overpriced horses like him but tissue prices are certainly a big help in finding his like.

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7 Responses to The Punting Confessional: Compiling a Tissue

  1. Hi Tony,

    Brilliant article and a useful insight into how someone prices up a race. I was inspired by Dave Nevison some years ago now and went about a lengthy mission to understand how a “tissue” was compiled. I eventually got to grips with it and have been succesfully betting with it ever since.

    I think people struggle to understand that as long as your wager has been struck at a bigger price than the SP then you should be happy, EVEN if it goes onto lose!! You’ll show a profit eventually.

    I approach it a little differently to yourself. By using stats initially to pinpoint a race I feel I’ll be able to find an edge in. I’ll start with trainer stats (fully endorsed by Matt and Chris no doubt!!) and look for consistency from a trainer. Combining this with jockey, track stats and form reading I’ll come to a conclusion as to what price the horse should be. I’ll then go about pricing the rest of the field around that selection. Upon looking at the market (which I avoid until all tissues are complete) if I’m confident that I’ve got it right then it’s a wager. I’m happy then if the SP returns shorter than my bet was struck at because I know that I have found value. Sometimes I get it horribly wrong though and these bets need to looked into to see where the mistake was made!

    Anyway thanks again for an enjoyable read and may your punting continue to be succesful.



    January 16, 2013 at 11:58 am

  2. Great, Tony, but the real info would be to expand on this sentence “I price up the race to 100% and for a small field like this it only takes a matter of minutes and if I’m out on my first set of figures, I’ll adjust them until they’re right.” What we want to know is how do you (personally) translate all the variables you have assessed into the prices. ‘Fess up!

    January 16, 2013 at 12:49 pm

  3. Hi Gavin,

    You could try this yourself. Odds represent the percentage likelihood of the horse winning. For example even money (2.00) represents a 50% chance. 7/2 (4.50) would represent a 22.22% chance etc. It’s always the left number of the fraction divided by the right number and then add one. Your new decimal odds are then divided into a 100 to give you the percentage. I apologise if you know all that but just making sure.

    A simple way to get started would be to assign ratings for each horse in the race depending on positives or negatives. Start with a small handicap race of say 5 to 8 runners and using form reading, analysis of the weights etc assign a number to each runner. It’s obviously open to interpretation but once you have an idea of the percentage chance of a horse you can then assign it some odds.

    Have a practice on a race and then compare your findings with the actual market (try to avoid looking at the market before hand as this will bias your opinions!). You’ll probably get it wrong on the first few attempts but as you practice and get a feel for how a race is priced up then you’ll be amazed at how well you’ll do in the long run. Be careful though of the big ones as I call them. If I’ve priced a horse up as a 5/1 shot and it’s available at 33′s I know I’ve done something wrong or missed something!!

    If I’ve got a horse at 7/2 and it’s available at 5′s then I get on at that price. It’s a good feeling then when it goes off at 7/2, as you know you were spot on!

    Good Luck,


    January 16, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    • Nicely laid out there, Ed. Thank you.


      Matt Bisogno
      January 16, 2013 at 2:04 pm

  4. Really interesting piece, thank you.

    Ronnie Combo
    January 16, 2013 at 4:42 pm

  5. cheers tony.interesting read

    January 17, 2013 at 8:23 pm

  6. Great read. Thanks for that. There was a bloke on the Betfair forum who got a few members together (I was one of them) and, for about eight weeks or so, priced a couple of races up every Saturday. Was a great experiment. I found it a little time consuming at first but it certainly helps you appreciate, and, look for value. How you actually arrive at a price for a horse depends on how you weight/value the individual variables, of course. That’s the holy grail, I suppose, but it was a fantastic way of approaching how to look at a race and made me think more deeply about prices and value. I’ve not actually tried to price a race up for ages but I’ll give it a go again after reading this and would recommend anyone to have a go themselves.

    thanks again, Paul

    January 20, 2013 at 7:25 pm