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Horse Racing Betting in 2023: Five Key Differentiators

Betting is fun, perhaps more so on horses than most other sports because of the speed with which the result is known; that rapid production of endorphins induced by the short duration of a race compared with, say, a football match.

Arriving at a selection is also fun, the process taking a good bit longer than the actual event for most 'serious recreationals'. Whilst there are no genuine shortcuts outside of getting someone else's opinion (for better or worse), there are facilitators and differentiators.

What are facilitators and differentiators?

 

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A facilitator is merely something that greases the wheels, smooths the process, or saves time. In terms of horse racing betting, it's usually either the aforementioned trusted human advisor or, for fans - like me - of the puzzle, it's a website form resource like the one found elsewhere on these virtual pages. There's plenty of content about how to use the geegeez toolkit elsewhere - try this link for a run down, so in this post I want to consider the other term, differentiators.

 

 

Differentiators are characteristics that distinguish one entity from another.

 

Winners, or Profit?

The most important differentiation in racing bettors is between those seeking winners and those seeking profit. Let's just pause on this for a moment. While the two need not be mutually exclusive, it is usually the case that long-term profit is found away from the pointiest part of the market. Why? Because the favourite is usually the horse about which the most is known, or at least deduced: greater awareness leads to greater investment, generally speaking.

Desperately Seeking Certainty...

Those mythical beasts, the favourite backers, are often "on good terms with themselves" - as the vernacular of the lazy studio pundit hackneys - because, well, because the favourite wins more often than any other market rank. And, with dwindling field sizes and less competitive racing as a result of the emergence of a training cartel - a small band of elite handlers in whose yards a disproportionate amount of the best horses reside - the percentage of winning favourites is ever increasing, as the image below (UK clear favourite, win strike rate by year) attests.

 

 

This is not necessarily a problem in or of itself, because the price of favourites contracts to reflect the increased frequency with which they win. In other words, you still lose the same amount of dough backing 'the jolly old' as you did: between 6p and 8p in the £. [Although 2022, a full year of industry SP returns, was notably the worst in the past 15 years or so]

 

 

The upshot is that, for casual punters who want to win but don't want to do anything to facilitate that outcome, this is very likely a tolerable end: a slow and inevitable, but painless, death by a thousand betting slip cuts.

Of course, it is possible to rarely deviate from the sharp end of the betting list and win; this will generally mean somehow getting on prior to the final formation of the market (i.e. beating SP/BSP). And that is the aspiration for those who need regular consistent winners: to make money backings shorties. Possible, but pretty tricky.

 

A long time between drinks...

For those who have been around the game a little longer, and/or who have a tank and constitution capable of withstanding what Shakespeare once famously called "the slings and arrows of outrageous variance" (or something), the game is not about finding the most likely winner but, instead, about finding the one that is most incorrectly priced.

And there, in a nutshell, is the puzzle: price vs probability. We need to find the 4/1 shot that should be 7/2; or, in early markets, the 4/1 shot that should be 5/2 (until that concession gets taken away).

Even if we're right about the true odds being 7/2, we're still looking at 77.7% losers. But, over a thousand £1 bets, those 22.3% winners (223) will return £1,115 - or a profit of 11.5%. If you still think taking 7/2 is acceptable when you can get 4/1, you're doing it wrong.

Even at relatively short odds of 7/2, there may be a losing run of 27 or 28 bets in a 1000 race sample; so we have to be set up, emotionally and financially, to deal with that.

Five Key Differentiators

After what has been a circuitous introduction even by my own highly verbose standards, it's time for the meat. If you've got this far, I'm safely assuming you're at least receptive to the notion that finding bargains is different from - and better than - buying cheap stuff. With that in mind, here are five angles I personally use when trying to isolate value; that is, before striking any bet.

I feel that all of these five approaches (with the possible exception of the second half of the final one) should be suitable for even moderately experienced bettors with a small amount of available time - say half an hour to an hour. The master key - so many keys in this post - is in choosing our battles: if we select the right races, we have a way above average chance of coming out in front. Bookies have to price every race, we need only play when we feel advantaged. So let's crack on...

Relevant Form: Exposed, but consistent in today's conditions

This is perhaps the simplest of the five differentiators. We're looking for races where all runners are exposed; that is, they're experienced and have shown pretty much all they have to the handicapper already. In such races, we are not expecting a progressive horse to leap forward seven to ten pounds; rather, we expect that the horse best suited to conditions will have a great chance... and, from a value perspective, especially if that horse is returning to optimal conditions today having recently run under less suitable criteria.

These horses typically lurk in lower grade handicaps for older horses: four-year-old-plus Class 5 and 6 races, the type we see on the all-weather every day through the winter. If you think these races are no good, again, you're not doing it right.

The elements to look out for might include - amongst others - proven form at today's track and trip, on today's going, and / or in today's class and field size. Amazingly - it's almost like I knew where I was headed with this! - there's a tool on geegeez.co.uk that illuminates such things for the whole field in an instant. We call it the Instant Expert. Let's look at a couple of examples:

This was a Class 6 0-58 handicap for horses aged three and up. The three-year-olds in the field were relatively exposed, or else it wouldn't have been for me. We can immediately see from the coloured blocks which horses have won, and which have failed to win, under similar conditions. Here, the favourite, Zealot, had a line of green profile though that was achieved with just a single previous win over course and distance.

More wins or places in the horse's relevant form adds confidence. The horses that interested me here were Zealot, but I didn't like his price, and Rooful. The latter looked an attractive each way proposition; and so it proved: he wasn't good enough to beat the favourite - who scored easily - but he was best of the rest.

The exacta, which I didn't play, paid nearly 9/1.

Sometimes - often in fact - there is a lot of green in the grid, especially when looking on the place view. In these scenarios, we know immediately that it's probably a well contested event and that we should look for easier fish to fry. Here's an example:

Loads of green, plenty of amber and few dollops of red and white (no relevant data). Too tricky. Move on.

Below are a few more Instant Expert grids, and your challenge is to decide which horses offered playable value, and which races looked too competitive and should have been passed.

Play or Pass?

Answers - well my answers anyway, there aren't any right or wrong answers as such - are at the bottom.

1

 

2

 

3

 

4

 

5

 

6

 

My answers were as follows:

1 - Pass, too competitive. 66/1 Myboymax won!

2 - Pass, too competitive. Alligator Alley, 15/8 fav, won

3 - Borderline. Probably pass, but I'd have been drawn to Brazen Idol, who finished second at 5/1. 11/4 fav The Thin Blue Line won

4 - Pass! 15/8 fav Twilight Madness won

5 - Play. A perfect example of a terrible race in need of a winner, with a single horse moderately favoured by conditions and within a few pounds (see right hand columns) of its last winning mark. Back From Dubai had some Class 6 questions to answer but this 0-55 required very little winning. 9/4 was hardly rock n' roll but he was against quantity rather than quality opposition, even allowing for the grade.

6 - Play at the prices. Lots of imponderables in here but, of those with proven form against conditions, Thirtyfourstitches was 20/1 - and won!

This approach works just as well for National Hunt races as it does for those on the flat, as example 6 perfectly demonstrates.

 

Takeaway: It is quick and easy to rattle through a day's racing - especially the older horse handicaps - using the Instant Expert grids as a barometer of competitiveness. Of course, I'd advocate consuming more information before making a betting decision, but even if this won't necessarily isolate a bet by itself, it's a great way of shortlisting races to review in greater detail.

Which leads me onto my second differentiator...

 

The Shape of the Race: Draw and Run Style

If you've been reading stuff on here for any length of time, you'll have noted myself, but especially Dave Renham and Chris Worrall, evangelising about the value of draw and run style. Or, over jumps, just run style. Again, these angles play especially well on the all-weather, because most synthetic tracks in UK and Ireland race on turning tracks, many of them from the minimum trip up.

Draw and run style seem to be fairly well subsumed into market prices these days; at least into starting price market prices. That leaves an opportunity on earlier shows to snaffle some value. But the big opportunity in my view is with draw and run style in concert. Going a step further, I'd favour run style over draw in certain scenarios which I'll come on to. And I'd especially favour a horse from a wide gate with an ostensibly uncontested lead. These horses are very often great bets, presumably because the wide post blinds the market (or at least temporarily unsights it) in spite of the fact that there is a good chance of the runner in question making it to the bend in front without burning too much fuel in the process.

The caveat is that we're looking for a horse that we hope will get an uncontested lead; that is, one which looks as though it is the lone pace angle. Here are some recent examples.

 

 

We're looking at the PACE tab on the geegeez racecards here, and our mate Back From Dubai, whose profile was the only compelling one in his race in the previous section. Here, although it's far from a likelihood, we can see the pace prediction showing 'Possible Lone Speed' and Back From Dubai showing up as 'that guy'.

In this example, I'd have been wary of the three, perhaps four, prominent racers drawn inside him. But he also had the form profile in his corner: in a race where very few had anything to recommend them, he had lukewarm plusses from a couple of different perspectives.

As it happened, Back From Dubai did make all for the win.

Here's another pace map - this time, a race where the front end might well not be the place to be:

 

We can see the pace prediction this time is 'Possible Strongly Contested Speed' and the visual shows three, perhaps four, horses all in the LED column for the average of their past four runs. In these situations, those on the front often take each other on early: this makes for an overly fast gallop in the first part of the race and usually an attritional crawl home at the finish. Such races play to those horses incapable of early speed but who see out the trip well, albeit in their own time!

This particular race was won by the unexposed, and still unbeaten - now in three races - Hickory, who was a class above his rivals. As the result shows, he was good enough to travel on the heels of the speed, while the placed horses came from far back, even though typically this course and distance favours front-runners (see the green blob above the pace map).

 

This doesn't just work on all-weather or on turning tracks, by the way. Both Newmarket courses, for example, offer great advantage to front-runners over most trips up to about nine furlongs. If you'd had the proverbial crystal ball and been able to predict every front-runner at HQ since 2009, you'd have been on to a very good thing as you can see from the table below, taken from geegeez' Query Tool. '4' signifies an early front runner, '3' a prominent racer early, '2' a midfield runner, and '1' a hold up type. Many tracks have a similar profit profile. The advantage of early speed is hard to overstate.

 

And what of the jumps? Here's an example from a handicap chase:

 

Under the conditions of the race, we can see that 'Led' (green blob) types have fared best. According to the pace map itself, Quick Draw figured to take them along and, as must be the way in such cherry-picked examples, he did just that after besting an early challenge and repelling the later runners, only one of which could get within ten lengths.

 

Takeaway: Look for one ideally, possibly two, horses in the 'Led' column, regardless of draw; and try to flesh out a form case from there. If two look to go forward, the inside drawn horse has a geometrical advantage in terms of bagging the rail, all other things being equal. But if the lone pace is drawn wide, you can generally expect a positive value proposition. When three or more horses appear in the 'Led' column, it might not be a race in which to be playing a front-runner.

 

Trainer Patterns: HC1 and TC

There are lots of ways for a trainer to elicit improvement from a horse, but two for me stand above all others: first time in a handicap and first run for a new yard. Let's take them in turn.

First run in a handicap

Before a horse can run in a handicap it must qualify for a handicap rating. To do that, it will typically (ignoring dual winners on the flat or those in the top four twice over hurdles) need to run three times in open or confined novice or maiden company. If that read like a foreign language, fret not. Here's the gist: the best and the worst horses are often forced to keep the same company at the start of their careers; after a small number of races they'll start to find their place in the hierarchy of ability.

If you're John (or Thady) Gosden or Charlie Appleby, you take the free hits early doors and then move up in search of the three horses in your yard who can legitimately contest for the Guineas or Derby etc. If you're John Butler or Mick Appleby - with the greatest respect to those genuinely fine exponents of their craft - you don't have the luxury of a conveyor belt of million-pound yearlings lolloping into your barn annually.

Regardless of the quality of horse, the job of any trainer is to optimise the results from those horses. That typically means finding a race the horse can win and, for bonus points, doing it when the money is down. This post won't cogitate on the ethics of such action for one simple reason: there's no ethical case to answer. As punters, we can discern the blueprint of a trainer as well as we can that of a horse's form cycle. And we should. We absolutely must.

If you are scanning a race, spot a horse making its handicap debut (or even its second run in a handicap), and you don't make a note to look a tad more closely at said runner, more fool you. If a horse that has form of 566, is stepping up a quarter mile in distance (and happens to be bred for it), and showing at 6/1 in the betting for its handicap debut doesn't have you watching the replays, you may be better off swerving races where these inexperienced and progressive - often from an extremely low base - runners hang out.

And, of course, that's absolutely fine because - remember - the number one takeaway from these million words is, Choose Your Battles. CYB. Play where you know most, and where you're as comfortable as possible with what you don't know. Like which trainers, and which of their horses, might leap forward on handicap bow.

Geegeez has some assistance for you, natch. We have a report entitled Trainer Handicap 1st Run. Does what it says on the tin. We also have a handy HC1 (and HC2) indicator on the racecard. And we display in line the trainer's performance in the past two years with such types. These things look a bit like this, report first:

 

 

As with all the reports, you can set parameters at the top to filter the day's qualifiers. And there are various other filtering options - for instance, I'm looking at the Course 5 Year Form view here, which tells me Harry Fry has run two handicap debutants at Plumpton since 19th December 2017. Clicking on the trainer's name reveals today's runner(s), and clicking the little up arrow to the left hand side displays inline the relevant past performances - here we can see that one of the pair won and the other was third.

Obviously, two is an inconsequential sample size, and it is for you to gauge what sort of figure is (vaguely) meaningful to you. What I can say is that, in the context of HC1, small sample sizes and low strike rates are the norm: it really is nailing jelly territory. Again, if that puts you off, pass races where there is an array of 'cap debuts. There will still be 200 other contests on the day!

Here is the indicator and inline trainer snippet content:

 

It's worth noting a few other things while we're here. This horse is having its second run after a wind op and its first wearing a tongue tie. Both of those might be expected to eke out a little improvement; and look at the contextual snippets block - accessed by clicking the trainer icon (with the red box around it). There we see Fry's two year record with handicap debutants at any track, which is fairly unexciting, but note above it his record when moving a horse notably in distance. Hmm, interesting.

The nature of most HC1 plays is that we're grappling in the dark, with every chance that the horse is just not very able and runs a clunker. In that context, we MUST be price sensitive. Would I bet the horse above at 3/1? No. At the 13/2 showing up now? I'm tempted...

 

Change of scenery, change of luck?

A change of stable will often lead to a change of fortunes for a horse. It might be the way the horses are trained, the gallop, the box in which a horse is stabled, or some more personal attention (moving from a large 'factory' yard to a small 'boutique' operation). Like humans, horses respond to different stimuli. The challenge is in knowing which trainers are more capable, and with which type of 'cast off'. If all of what has been proffered heretofore has been 'inexact science', this really is quack territory!

It's an area that geegeez can offer some clues, but in truth I'd like for us to be able to do more. Currently we have a 'Trainer Change' report and a 'TC' indicator on the card, and two-year records on the racecard view for the trainers of all such runners. The report looks like this (5 Year Form view here) :

 

And the racecard view like this:

 

Again, note the additional insights: of those nine runners making their stable debut in the past five years, only three ran in the past two years. Note also that Lucy Wadham has excellent PRB (percentage of rivals beaten) stats across the board - 0.50 (50% of rivals beaten) is a par score and her record is consistently above that. Course form is a positive, too, and this mare wears cheekpieces for the first time. Who knows whether that's a plus or not? [It's generally not but, of course, geegeez has a report for it - and I can tell you Lucy is 0 from 10 with first time cheekies in the past two years, only two placed, a moderate 43% of rivals beaten. Won't stop this one winning if she's good enough, but it's a big red 'x' on her scorecard for me]

 

Takeaway: with HC1, check the trainer's performance with similar types; and look for additional 'tells', such as a layoff of one to three months (perhaps to get the horse fully fit), equipment changes (notably a hood or tongue tie), wind or gelding surgery (wind ops overall are incrementally more effective across as many as a dozen runs, so W2, W3, W4, W5+ are all material - better in fact than W1, more on this another day), a change in race distance (especially if pedigree suggests it will be favourable), and so on. With HC2, look out for when HC1 was quite soon after the previous run with a break prior to HC2 - again, this could imply some 'bolt tightening' since the last day.

On trainer changes, it is obvious that not all trainers are equally talented and, especially, not all trainers are equally good at finding the key to a horse in their care. A change of scenery is sometimes enough, but often it is a change of regime or some personal attention - maybe a weekly back massage or whatever - that can aid a horse's progression.

 

Going: Fast or Slow

This article is mainly about racing form differentiators, and a little bit about how Gold helps as a facilitator. In terms of form differentiation, one of the great separators of men (and women) from boys (and girls) is extreme conditions. One example of this - there will be another for my fifth and final point - is the going. Almost all horses act on good ground, though some are slower than others; by extension, most horses act on good to soft or good to firm (flat racing). To a lesser degree, many - though not most - horses act on soft going. But only a few genuinely handle extreme underfoot conditions: heavy and firm ground.

These conditions place additional emphasis on dealing with the terrain as opposed to the opposition, and it is often the case that a horse which has shown it can win on extremes prevails over classier rivals less suited to, or unproven on, the outlying state of the sod.

Here's a table with some percentages in it:

 

The percentages in isolation are irrelevant, especially when comparing different going descriptions. This is because less extreme going conditions tend to have bigger field sizes and, therefore, smaller win percentages.

No, the job here is to look at how the percentages within a going column change based on the number of previous wins on that going. For example, on good ground officially (we won't get into unofficial interpretations of going, or incorrect official ones, we'll take all that as read because we're dealing with large sample sizes in the main), horses with no prior winning form score about 10% of the time. This rises to a bit more than 12% for those with a single prior win on good ground and hovers around the same figure for runners who have twice won previously on good; it then drops a notable bit for triple good scorers.

Good to soft has a similar, if slightly more consistent for prior winners of one to three on the same ground, profile. Good to firm shows a similar increase from going maidens to those with a single verdict on the same official turf, then a regressive profile for winners of two and three. Deviating the other way, to soft, we see a fairly consistent picture for winners of one to three previous races on soft turf.

But look at heavy ground. Winners of one or two races on heavy are 1.4 times more likely to win than heavy maidens; and winners of three heavy ground races previously are more than 1.5 times more likely to prevail than maidens on that extreme of going.

On firm ground, we see a similar leap from maiden on that terrain to those with one or two wins. The thrice-winner sample size is only 70 (all other samples across the table were in at least multiple hundreds and generally thousands).

Now, of course, there is a selection bias here: horses unraced on heavy or firm that perform below expectations may never race on that going again; and, those which won on extreme going are more inclined to be entered under similarly differentiating conditions in future. It is often the case that a horse doesn't 'need' extreme going but, rather, that it inconveniences other horses more than the runner in question. Plenty of horses either don't have the stamina to cope with heavy ground (which makes races last longer at a slower speed), or "won't let themselves down" (i.e. don't put it all in) on very fast ground that some, especially bigger horses, find stinging or jarring.

Win strike rates are all very well but they don't pay the bills, as alluded to at the top of the piece. So let's flesh out the percentages with some Betfair SP ROI (return on investment) data.

 

 

Interesting. We can see that dual and three-time winners on heavy have a positive expectation; and winners of one and two on firm have also returned players to the black (remember, that bottom right cell in the table is a very small sample size - four-time firm ground winners, an even smaller group (obviously, because they're a subset of the three-timers), had a strike rate of 16.67% and a BF SP ROI of 51.99% - albeit from two winners out of twelve!)

Meanwhile, from soft going to good to firm, it was all but impossible to find a profit via proven going performers.

I've spoken historically about "the rule of two", whereby we get past the notion that a single heavy ground win might have been in a very weak race or by some sort of fluke. Two wins affirms that a horse is definitely suited - or can at least handle - extreme going. Naturally, if the horse is two from five, it will be more compelling than if it's two from 25! And, of course, as we should never tire of saying, the price makes the play.

Those tables above are race code agnostic, by the way: they include flat turf, hurdles, chases, and National Hunt Flat races; and both UK and Irish form, since 2008. And they were reproduced from the excellent horseracebase.

 

Takeaway: when the going is heavy or firm, look to proven performers on that terrain, especially if they're reverting to those conditions for the first time in a while and are commensurately attractively priced. Here's Downforce, a three-time winner on heavy, and a 14/1 scorer this day at the end of the flat season:

 

Field Size: Strong Travellers / Fast Finishers

The final component in my facilitation/differentiation quintet is field size. The number of runners in a race often has a bearing on the tempo at which the race is run; and that in turn has a notable influence over which horses in the field might be best suited. Again, we're looking towards the extremes here, though, having said that, with the continued shrinkage of field sizes comes a problem for those one-paced galloping types. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Let's think about an average five-runner race. Unless there are two or more front-running types in the field, the balance of probabilities is that the race will be steadily run with an acceleration in the latter part of the contest. That suits horses which are able to change gear, i.e. accelerate, late in the play. Many horses cannot, and for these more galloping types, field size truncation is not good.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have the likes of heritage handicaps in which volume of runners more often than not guarantees a strong early tempo. In such events, a horse able to travel kindly through the race, and then able to keep travelling when others are in the red zone, is the one to side with. These types might have been habitually outpaced in small field affairs before arriving at their more suitable setup: as such, they're often attractive prices.

How about some examples?

Big field bulldozers

Big fields first, and a horse called Fresh. Trained by James Fanshawe, this lad is a top class sprint handicapper. Here is his handicap form, by field size:

 

 

We can see from his percentage of rivals beaten (PRB) figures that he is generally on the premises; but, in smaller fields, he tends not to have the speed to match less resilient but nippier rivals. However, in those big heritage handicaps he's an evergreen challenger:

 

 

There are lots of other examples of horses like this: Commanche Falls, Mister Wagyu, Albegone, Primo's Comet, Lawful Command, Give It Some Teddy, Escobar, Bopedro. Over jumps, there's Third Wind, Sire du Berlais, Lightly Squeeze, Dans Le Vent, Lively Citizen etc. With many firms paying five, six, even seven or eight places in big field handicaps, these guys and their ilk are well worth playing.

The best place to find them is our old friend Instant Expert. Clicking on a colour block opens the contextual form inline, so you can also check for any near misses to the places:

 

 

Small field edges: race position

At the other end of the spectrum is the growing number of small field, often tactical, races. Here, positioning and toe are the attributes needed. By positioning, I mean run style essentially: if it's a steadily run race, the ones at the front have a head start in a sprint finish. Where do you want your horse to be?

 

 

One point to you if you said, "at the front". The table above shows the performance in handicaps of four to seven runners over the last five years. It includes all-weather, flat turf, hurdles and chases, UK and Ireland.

It doesn't matter if you look at win strike rate, each way strike rate, return on investment, A/E, IV or whatever: there is a linear pattern whereby those at the front do best (by miles), those handy do next best, and those in the second half of the field fare not well.

To counter any claims of a selection bias in race positioning based on ability, the table below is a subset of the one above containing only horses sent off clear favourite:

 

 

The bias is less extreme but the linearity remains, with front-runners still well favoured over prominent racers, and the later running styles about even behind those further forward.

Identifying front runners is is a challenge, but these tables articulate unequivocally why it is worth our time to attempt that act of clairvoyance. Geegeez Pace Maps, available for every race, assist considerably with the challenge.

Small field edges: fast finishers

Regular readers might have known I'd try to squeeze in a mention of sectional timing somewhere. Eager not to disappoint, this is an example of where that information can be very helpful. Specifically in this case, it answers the question, "in small fields, which horse(s) - apart from the likely leader - have the gears to contend?" [There are, of course, all sorts of other considerations, like ability (!), to keep in mind - but let's stay with the script for now]

Sectional times can tell us how fast horses finished their races; importantly, they also tell us the overall race context in which the finishing time was achieved.

A little more scene-setting: in a big field truly run race, we might (depending on going and track layout) expect the winner to finish in a time close to 100% of the overall race time, section for section (e.g. a five furlong race run in 60 seconds, the final two furlongs run in 24 seconds). A fast finish in that context might be a finishing speed of 103%.

But in a steadily run race, where the field has dawdled through the first three furlongs in 40 seconds, we might expect the closing two furlongs to be more in the order of 22.5 seconds (again, depending on going and track layout) - much faster than the earlier part, and a finishing speed of 111%.

Once we've identified likely fast finishers in the field, we need to overlay the circumstances in which they recorded their fast finish on top of how we perceive today's race will be run. Using the two examples above, if today's race looked like having a good solid tempo - perhaps a couple or three horses who tend to either lead or be prominent - we might favour the 103% fast finish, because that was achieved under similar conditions. If, on the other hand, there was no obvious pace horse - or a single front runner - we should probably be more interested in the 111% fast finisher, which has shown its ability to quicken takingly off a pedestrian pace.

Here is an example of how this works in reality. In the race below, a six-runner mile handicap, we can see that, based on the last three races for each horse in the field, Zealot is likely to get his way in front. Note the Pace Prediction: Probable Lone Speed.

 

If that's correct, we'd expect a steady tempo to the race; after all, if you're leading without any contention, it makes sense usually to conserve as much energy for the finish as possible. With three or four habitual waited-with sorts in opposition, which if any have shown the ability to quicken off a potentially false gallop? Our Fast Finishers report suggests the well-backed Dingle, but only tentatively at best.

 

 

That fast finishing effort was six races ago, on a different track and under what is presumed to be a different tempo to today's race.

Meanwhile, a look at the Full Form tab - with 'Show Sectionals' checked - reveals another contender:

 

 

Hovering over  the coloured blobs in the 'Race Speed vs Par' column (title unhelpfully obscured in the image above), shows the sectional percentages for our OMC (Opening / Mid-race  / Closing) format. We can see that this race was run slowly early (S-6, start to 6f out, run 91.1% as quickly as the race overall), before picking up to an even tempo in the middle half mile (6-2) and a very fast closing quarter mile (105% of the overall race speed).

That race tempo looks a reasonable fit against today's likely setup and, what's more, the horse in question, Tropez Power, won it - over today's course and distance and in today's class. He's a dual winner from four starts on all-weather and, in between those wins, he again showed good acceleration to close from 3 3/4 lengths behind to a length behind at the line in another similarly run race.

It's possible that Zealot just leads from start to finish, though up in grade he's short enough for me. At around 9/2, Tropez Power could be a bit of value. (And, naturally, there are any number of other eventualities, but we're in the business of finding one of the more credible ones at odds which appeal!)

[Update: Zealot, despite missing the break, was rushed up to lead and held up gamely from the two fast finisher horses, Dingle and Tropez Power. Tropez Power actually made a big acceleration a quarter mile out - which got me excited - but then flattened out and looked a bit of a tricky ride. You can't win 'em all]

Getting one's head around sectional timing is not the easiest way to play the horses, but there are real insights to be gleaned for those who take some time to figure it out.

*

Betting horses is a great puzzle, a glorious uncertainty indeed. For me, and many/most geegeez readers, much of the joy is in the thrill of the chase: the time sunk into reading the clues and fathoming a plausible value play from there. To that end, these five differentiators may help your levelling up agenda in 2023; and, needless to say, Geegeez Gold is the great facilitator that underpins them all.

**If you enjoyed this article, please do share with others on the soshul meejahs. There are some links below where it says "Share this entry". [Thank you]

Good luck,
Matt

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14 replies
  1. ian roddison
    ian roddison says:

    I think i have been with you Matt since your first post. I have to say i think this is the best you have done.It should help anybody from an old git like me to a newcomer to Geegeez Gold.

    • Matt Bisogno
      Matt Bisogno says:

      Thanks Ian, I’m glad you enjoyed it. And it’s great to know you’re also in the old gits club – surprised I haven’t seen you in there! 😉

      Matt

  2. wattyk14
    wattyk14 says:

    This is your best article Matt. Great !!.
    Could you tell me how you treat horses that have been backed off the boards with form that is not so outstanding. An example was Bernard Spierpoint 8.0 pm Wolves on January 3. I made this a 3/1 shot . It suddenly was backed to 4/6 and amazingly ran a stone better than its previous race. I normally only bet handicaps but this was a stakes race. I agree , I love the lower class handicaps but it is so obvious big money bets bring out massive improvement.
    I play the win market to small stakes but feel the betfair place markets are more akin to actual form.

    • Matt Bisogno
      Matt Bisogno says:

      Thank you, Keith.

      I think with strong money like that you’d have to put it front and centre as a consideration. If you can see the case for the cash, then maybe it’s a no bet race; but if it looks a precarious conveyance, there might be value elsewhere.

      Steamers get whacked daily, drifters win daily.

      We need to assimilate price and value, in the context of a static form book and a dynamic market. In other words, the horse to bet at 10am may not be the horse to bet at 1pm.

      Basically, in a race like that, I’d either see the form case but not like the missed boat on price (pass), or not fully see the form case and know I might get a touch of value elsewhere in the race (play).

      Hopefully that makes some vague sort of sense.
      Matt

  3. stevecockell1973
    stevecockell1973 says:

    Great article Matt and as always, some really good take aways. If anything it helps refocus on some areas that have been left alone or I’ve lost faith in. It is after all a game of losing most of the time! I also think that you highlight the key thing which is consistency in looking for value bets and love the idea of “choosing your battles” – I think I’ve got better at selecting key races to look at which are either due to ground, type of race (I love an 2m-3m HCP chase full of exposed horses) or one that features a tracked horse on the day. Much easier to solve the puzzle if you have a few pieces in the right place first! Thanks for the content and best of luck with things this year

    • Matt Bisogno
      Matt Bisogno says:

      Hi Steve

      Thanks for your comment. Absolutely agree about looking at a day’s racing and quickly (through experience / preference) seeing, say, a heavy ground handicap or a three mile chase or a speed/draw bias or whatever… then blotting out the other 52 races on the day to focus where we have a bit more of a chance.

      The other thing with racing, in most larger jurisdictions, is its relentlessness: it’s quite hard to step off the wheel for a few days to refresh. That will be my personal challenge in 2023, I think.

      Matt

  4. AndrewP
    AndrewP says:

    Hi Matt . Hope all is well . Another great article , easy to understand , clear and succinct and ,as someone said earlier , with many clear take outs . I’ve just – for small stakes – used the heavy ground approach in the 325 at Catterick . Dutched 3 horses and recklessly got involved in small stakes combo forecasts and trifecta . Forecast and winner landed so a profit going into Chelmsford tonight thanks to your insight. Appreciate time constraints but please keep these articles coming . I know you’ve written stuff on this before but an update on your approach to tote betting – Placepot , forecast , exactas etc would for me and I hope the wider geegeez team be welcomed . All the best Andrew

  5. chazzer66
    chazzer66 says:

    Thanks Matt – extremely good article which I will re-read from time to time. My education continues! I especially like the Fast Finishers report and I am trying to fine tune it as I like the AW and I feel it is most useful there. Also Trainer Change and HC1 have both been really helpful for me.

    • Matt Bisogno
      Matt Bisogno says:

      Hi Charles

      Thank you, and yes, all good approaches, but selectivity/fine tuning a must, as you highlight.

      Matt

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