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The Punting Confessional – November 14th, 2012
by Tony Keenan
So you’ve got your video replays together, what next? You have to give each meeting the time it deserves. Broadly speaking, I would take about ten minutes per race so that’s an average of seventy minutes per meeting but some races/meetings will take longer or shorter depending on things like the type of race and field size. Down the years I have found most of my punting success coming from handicaps so I’m instinctively drawn to such races.
Handicaps by their nature are tightly knit affairs and things like pace, draw and race position tend to have more effect in such races than in conditions events where raw class wins out more often than not. Also, I would find I know more about handicappers than maidens and group horses having built up a view of them over time.
As regards storing the notes, I began with using hardback copybooks but have since migrated to Word documents. They’re easier to access and you can share them with others if you so choose; also by using an application like Dropbox you can set it up that they’re easily accessible on your phone while mobile. I type quicker than I write anyway and documents stored on the computer can be edited more easily than hard copies should new information come to light.
Some punters are visual learners and can remember how a race unfolds without recourse to notes but I’m far from a natural in this regard and need to write things down for recall purposes; knowing yourself is important. Be careful to back your work up if choosing this approach; there is nothing as frustrating as losing a piece of work on a meeting as you can be guaranteed that the very horse you pinpointed in that review will pop up at a big price with none of your money on.
It can be useful to use some sort of horse tracker function on a website to ensure you stay up to date with your eyecatchers and it may even have the facility to store some of your notes. This can be especially important with obscure lower class horses; let’s face it, there is no need to put in an alert about a Group 1 horse as the world and his wife knows where it will be running.
I’m thinking more of an under-the-radar type that may have shown promise but been off a for a while and turn up at a big price or particularly for Irish horses that may have moved yards or be running in England as I don’t keep up with day-to-day racing there.
With any video review, you get out what you put in and certainly you’ll get a lot more from a meeting if you have studied it in detail beforehand; video analysis is but another type of form study and there must be overlap between it and a more traditional type of form reading, looking at the overall quality of opposition a horse has beaten and how a race is working out; that is what I mean when I say video is but one of my edges.
It must become a before, during and after process where one isn’t going into a review blind and have an idea of which horses may be worth watching beforehand for whatever reason; that said, one doesn’t want to be close-minded.
An expectation of pace is a huge part of this. By looking at the typical run-style of the entries beforehand, one can make an educated guess about how the pace will unfold though this can always change depending on things like connections opting to ride a horse differently or something as simple as bad break from the stalls. In terms of having horses to watch in mind beforehand, I would often be looking out for horses that are running over the wrong trip be it too far or too sharp (I find it is easier for horses to win over an insufficient trip than one that stretches them), horses that may confirm or – less likely – deny an attitude issue, runners that are drawn badly or may not be suited by the pace or those coming off a break that may need the outing.
All of this requires intense concentration, a certain quality of attention. As I wrote last week, it isn’t easy to do which is why it provides an edge as one has to keep many balls in the air; one would be looking out for things like pace, temperament, trouble-in-running, jockey error, race position, trapped on the wrong part of the track amongst others. To be honest, I haven’t been able to sustain it throughout this entire year; I kept it going up until the end of July but having gone through a rotten run around that time I simply lost interest and from August have only been doing selected meetings.
They have mainly been ones on good ground or the all-weather as I have found much of the soft ground this summer providing boring racing and small fields of the same horses meeting over and again. But in reality, the only way to really get an in-depth knowledge of the horses that are running is to review every meeting.
It’s important not to force the issue and demand an eyecatcher or eyecatchers in each race; some races and meetings are simply uninformative. I’d argue that was the case with the prolonged period of soft ground this summer though that may be my own inadequacies. Again, I prefer handicaps to conditions races and maidens in the main though one has to be open-minded about where the next winner will come from.
Stonking eyecatchers don’t come along all the often, those horses that were just miles better than the bare form and nearly have to win next time granted normal luck and suitable conditions. Still, I’d encourage taking plenty of notes even if it’s not coming naturally. One never knows when your analysis will be of use and in a horrible race a horse that has shown even a glimmer of promise becomes interesting, particularly at a big price, being the lesser of the evils.