Read all sorts of commentaries and tips across a range of racing disciplines on the most popular horse racing blog in Britain, from staff and guest writers.

Clock Watcher: State of the Union

The intent of this Clock Watcher series is primarily educational, though obviously with some entertainment value lobbed in as well. It is not really meant to be a tipping piece for all that example horses are generally presumed to have potentially more ability than immediately meets the eye. That said, when trying to extol the virtues of sectional data it certainly helps, from a credibility perspective as much as anything, if some of the mentioned animals win in their near futures.

It was heartening then to see National Anthem, flagged in the inaugural episode of Clock Watcher, win yesterday - and do so in similar vein to his bullet-from-a-gun effort ten days previously. To have doubled up after overcoming trouble at the start was more meritorious than a winning margin of three-quarters of a length implies. With a further four lengths back to the third and three more to the fourth it will be interesting to see how the handicapper reacts.

National Anthem was available at 5/2 overnight before returning a heavily-supported 11/8 favourite and, after two taxing runs in ten days following an absence of 471 days, he may need a little time before his next assignment.

Union one to follow

Onwards, and a horse who caught the eye last week, sectionally speaking, was Union, a three-year-old New Approach colt. Sent off at 6/5, it seemed that very few people had missed the finishing-strongly nature of his Kempton debut: that day he was held up before making up ground late. Sadly we don't yet have sectional data for Kempton but happily we do have them for Newcastle; and this is what they tell us about Union.

Let's start with the chart. The black line is par, an expression of what an efficient expenditure of energy looks like, furlong by furlong. Note that the opening section is always relatively slow because the field begins from a standing start. (This is different from, for example, America where there is a distance of 'run up' before the clock starts).

The red line is Union's sectional percentage by furlong, We can see from the comparison of the lines that the early part of Union's race was run on the slow side of even before he began to quicken from the half mile (actually from between the five and four furlong markers, as can be seen by the upward curve).

There was a notable injection of pace from the two to the one after which the race was in the bag, Union eventually coming away by a couple of lengths from two or three other promising types.

As can be seen from his sectional blocks below the chart, his final quarter mile was very fast against par. That, of course, is largely as a result of having gone steadily early; and he still recorded a Topspeed figure of 70 in spite of that inefficiency. Adding his upgrade of 19 gives a composite figure of 89, the largest such rating in the review period.

The second, Blow Your Horn, lays claim to an 81 for what was his debut. Given some greenness and keenness early on, he should at least nearly win a similar race next time.

Global makes Giant stride

Another name to note is one of John Gosden's high class winter team, this time a rare trainer switch into the yard. Global Giant won a small field conditions race at Wolverhampton over most of a mile and a quarter: in what was quite a slowly run affair, the son of Shamardal passed his three rivals in short time and accelerated right away in the final furlong.

Below are the OMC (Opening, Midrace and Closing) sectionals for the race (at the top) and the individual runners (within the result table). They tell us that three of the quartet finished 'very fast', with Global Giant's final three furlongs almost 10% above par.

The '44441' running line (which, confusingly - sorry, is based on the five Call Points) tells us that Gosden's new recruit went from near two lengths last to nearly four lengths first in the final quarter mile. His Topspeed of 61 is unremarkable - a function of the tactical nature of this race - but an uplift of 27 is chunky and aggregates to 88. He might be one for the Easter Classic on All Weather Finals Day, though he'll need to find more to be competitive in that winter season centrepiece.

 

What does it mean: Sectional Percentage

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Sectional percentage is the time taken within a part of the race, in percentage terms relative to the total race time. It tells us how a horse was ridden: did it do too much too soon, did it finish with more to give, or was it ridden optimally throughout? The answer is normally one of the first two, though to wildly varying degrees.

There are race sectional percentages and runner sectional percentages, the former comprised of the sectional times for the race leader at the end of each section.

To calculate sectional percentage, you need to know the following:

- Length of race (A)
- Length of section (B)
- Time to complete race (C)
- Time to complete section (D)

Using Global Giant's 2-0 sectional percentage (note that any sectional percentage where the section runs to the finish, as in this case, is also known as finishing speed percentage) from the image above, we can give values to A, B, C and D.

A = Length of race = 1m 1f 104 yds, or 2084 yards
B = Length of section = 2 furlongs, or 440 yards [we're looking at the 2-0 section]
C = Time to complete race = 118.4 seconds
D = Time to complete section = 22.1 seconds

The formula is as follows:

(100 x B x C)    /    (A x D)

Applying values gives us:

(100 x 440 x 118.4)    /    (2084 x 22.1)

or

5,209,600    /    46,056.4

= 113.1

Here is the Call Points view of the result, with that 2-0 sectional percentage displayed.

 

This is a simple sum which can easily be configured in a spreadsheet program like Excel:

 

In the image above I've highlighted the calculation cell so that you can see the Excel notation for the formula. [The 'overall distance' field is a calculation of Yards/220 to get furlongs]

Things to note about sectional percentage

When looking at the coloured rectangles, deviation from green means inefficiency with stronger blues and reds implying a highly inefficient effort and, therefore, an upgrade figure indicating a horse is capable of significantly better. In the example above, Global Giant gets an upgrade of 27; but in the example below, Will To Win's rider, Jack Mitchell, has produced an almost perfect effort from the front.

 

One important footnote: whilst sectional percentages - and their ratings expression, upgrades - can point towards good or bad rides, such consideration should always be undertaken in the context of any known run style preference the horse has, and/or the way the race panned out.

For example, Rab Havlin could not be said to have ridden a poor race on Global Giant for all that the horse is presumed by its upgrade figure to have much more to give. It must always be remembered that the objective for a jockey is not to get a '0' upgrade but rather to win the bloody race!

More next week...

Matt

p.s. I encourage you to interact with the data yourself. Check out last week's post for more on how to get started.

SotD Update, 6th to 11th January 2020

Two winners and a placer from five runners and 3.66pts profit are the kind of numbers we like to see at the end of a week for SotD. It doesn't always pan out that way, of course, but January has started steadily enough with three winners on the board already. We're going to need another three if not four to ensure a profitable month, so there'll be no resting on laurels here. 2020 is a clean slate, so we've achieved nothing yet.

Chris

Selections & Results : 06/01/19 to 11/01/20

06/01 : Ripstick @ 11/4 BOG 3rd at 3/1
07/01 : Cold Harbour @ 10/3 BOG WON at 3/1
08/01 : Qaseeda @ 5/2 BOG 5th at 9/1
09/01 : Wenceslaus @ 7/2 BOG non-runner
10/01 : Instant Replay @ 10/3 BOG WON at 6/4
11/01 : George Valentine @ 7/2 BOG 16th at 4/1

06/01/20 to 11/01/20 :
2 winning bets from 5 = 40.00% SR
P/L: +3.66pts

January 2020 :
3 winner from 9 = 33.33% SR
P/L: +7.66pts
ROI = +85.11%

Overall:
659 winners from 2475 = 26.63% S.R
P/L: +539.53pts
ROI: +21.80%

P.S. The full month by month SotD story can be found right here.
P.P.S The review of SotD's 2012 performance is
here.
Whilst the details for 2013 are now online here.
And the figures for 2014 are
now available here.
Our review of 2015 can be found right here
Whilst 2016's details are right here
The full story from 2017 can be read here.
Whilst the yearly review for 2018 is right here

And here is the overview for 2019

Stat of the Day is just one component of the excellent package available to all Geegeez Gold Members, so why not take the plunge and get involved right now?

Click here for more details.

Monday Musings: May Debestyman Win (Soon)

It hardly beholds me to criticise a fellow member of the media, but prompted by my friend Peter Ashmore, with whom I attended Kempton Park races on Saturday, and having reviewed the film of the finish of the Lanzarote Hurdle, I have to agree with him, writes Tony Stafford. After the horse we’d mutually dug out, Debestyman had jumped the second-last flight in front and was clearly going further away, there could have been little danger.

But then, edging left as they often do approaching the last flight in hurdle races there, unlike first time round when they cluster on the far side, Debestyman, an 8-1 shot carrying a little of Peter’s hard-earned made the first semblance of any mistake. He hit the flight and, jack-knifing to an extent that made it impossible for Micheal Nolan to stay aboard, the jockey duly went out the side door.

Meanwhile the nearest challenger, Notre Pari with Barry Geraghty in the J P McManus colours, also came down, in his case with an authentic heavy fall leaving Nicky Henderson, Geraghty’s more usual employer in the UK, to benefit for another of his major owners, Michael Buckley, with Burrows Edge, ridden by Nico de Boinville.

Sometimes Peter favours watching some of the “away” races in the small William Hill betting shop and returning there we both found it pretty galling to hear the winning punters coming up to the counter behind us saying: “He probably would have won anyway.”

Debestyman had three-mile form, so this 2m5f was in no way the limit to his stamina and such comments were as ridiculous as the average betting-shop punter from the 1970’s who used to stay all day and do his cash every afternoon. “No names!” The big firms must be wishing there were a few more of us (sorry, them) around never mind the public face of the “bet responsibly” rubric.

But returning to my point, Debestyman was edging slightly leftward and as horses clearly do have peripheral vision, he could hardly have missed the sight that confronted him immediately behind the obstacle. There, standing on a step ladder, was a photographer intent on the best shot. He got one. Peter was sure in the moment of his jumping, he must have been at least a little distracted, maybe even a shade frightened by the sight of a giant human within yards of him in mid-leap. Scrutiny of the film does not entirely rule out the possibility.

I’d love to see his shot. In the old days it would have been hawked around the Fleet Street picture desks – any unusual action like the completely unbalanced attitude of Debestyman at the time of the collision with the obstacle. At Kempton just at the side as you enter the track, they have a hurdle and a fence and they are both – even the smaller hurdle – very solid and big enough.

There were many more disadvantaged people after that incident than Peter and myself, for all it had turned a nice winning day for us into a small loss. But for owners The Plumpton Party and trainer Suzy Smith it was an unmitigated disaster.

She’s gone to one of the top tracks for a featured hurdle race on the back of a season where from 30 previous runs, she’d won two races. I saw the latest at first hand at Fakenham on New Year’s Day when Clondaw Bisto collected £5,490 for winning a handicap chase in good style.

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Suzy, based on the old Lewes racecourse, has also won this season with Oscarsman, who earned £4,094 for his defeat of Bean in Trouble at local course Plumpton at the beginning of December.

She had gone to Tattersalls Cheltenham sale in May 2018, returning home with Irish point winner Debestyman for £28,500 and almost to the day of Saturday’s frustrating events, “did what it said on the tin” by winning a two and a half mile novice hurdle at Plumpton. A proper Plumpton Party indeed.

So then it was on to Kempton and a challenge for a big one. Before the day, a season’s endeavour had yielded a total of £21,061 in win and place earnings for the Smith stable. The owners collectively would have got around 65% of that; the trainer maybe enough to pay the diesel for a few trips to the races from her couple of grand share of the riches.

Saturday’s race was worth almost five thousand more alone at £26.5k and most annoyingly of all, as the Racing Post analysis glibly observed: “…he looked unlucky and the handicapper will take note, so this may have been an opportunity missed.”  That’s right, put him up 10lb and make sure he won’t win again. You have one good horse and opportunities are few and far between. Maybe this is a time for the handicapper to show some sympathy.

What I’d like to see is for the Horserace Writers and Photographers Association to identify the snapper concerned, confiscate his step ladder and offer Miss Smith and the owners an apology. Obviously nobody can tell whether the horse was distracted but there’s a fair chance he was.

It was interesting that Suzy Smith had a welcome winner at Fakenham on New Year’s Day, just before Waterproof, also the beneficiary of a last-flight exit, the fall of Bran when almost a length to the good.

Waterproof got a 127 rating which makes him a borderline possibility for the Boodles Handicap Hurdle (Fred Winter) but Shaun Keightley thinks we might need another win and say an extra 4lb to increase the chance of his making the cut.

It wasn’t the idea to brag about Ray Tooth’s Pour Moi gelding – not this week anyway! - but another nice one for the exiled sire, Wolf Prince, won again at Fairyhouse on Saturday and also has ‘our’ race in mind. It was simply to applaud the tiny but ultra-friendly Fakenham track, run so efficiently by David Hunter, for its excellent prize money.

Kempton’s card opened with what was in effect a Triumph Hurdle / Boodles warm-up and the first three finishers would all easily make the top half of the Boodles field. The winner Goa Lil (Twiston-Davies/ Munir, Souede); Lord Lamington (King/ Netherfield House Stud) and Fraser Island (Henderson/ Spence) will all be on at least 135, yet they were running for a scandalous £4,158. Waterproof, yet to show anything like their class, collected £5,198 for his four minutes around Norfolk.

Gary Moore had juvenile hurdle races on his mind after the Friday abandonment of Huntingdon, the course suffering a creeping flooding when the neighbouring streams suddenly encroached after it rained in mid-morning.

The loss of an obvious opportunity for his Triumph 7-1 joint-favourite Goshen was an irritation but nothing like his reaction to the news that the BHA would not re-schedule the race.

They argued a four-horse field was one factor while the availability of other options made it unnecessary. Gary seems set on a juvenile race at Ascot this Saturday when the penalty scales are only slightly different. At Huntingdon Goshen would have carried an 8lb penalty, whereas at Ascot it is 10lb. The Ascot race, Gary will have noted, is worth less than half the value of the abandoned Chatteris Fen Hurdle.

Interestingly, Moore, who was a frequent in-and-out visitor to our sometime perch in the little William Hill shop, looked thunderous most of the time. Maybe he was remembering that 12 months ago, he ran the similarly-penalised Beat The Judge in the same race and he was a well-beaten third behind two unpenalised rivals.

Beat The Judge, around 20lb inferior to Goshen on the Flat, has never won since, but remains rated around 140. Goshen is on 143 and I reckon on what I’ve seen of this highly-talented stayer he’d give Waterproof at least double the official amount between them and still kick him into touch.

My favourite moment from Saturday, apart from another fantastic performance from a Hughie Morrison bumper filly, Maridadi, a five-length victress at Wetherby, was further proof that three miles around Kempton takes some getting in soft ground.

In the handicap chase, On The Blind Side ran a brave race but was anchored by 11st12lb, still gallantly running on to pinch third on the line. The winner was Miss Millie Wonnacott, claiming 7lb on the Neil Mulholland bottom-weight Fingerontheswitch. Her allowance brought the 10-year-old’s weight down to 9st8lb and therefore he was receiving 32lb from Alan Spence’s horse. Up the straight there was only one horse running!

Sharp track isn’t it?

- TS

Stat of the Day, 13th January 2020

Saturday's pick was...

4.00 Warwick : George Valentine @ 7/2 BOG 16th at 4/1 (Prominent, lost place 3f out)

Monday's pick runs in the...

3.00 Southwell :

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Generally, I'll identify and share the selection in the evening before the following day's race and I then add a detailed write-up later on that night/next morning.

Those happy to take the early price on trust can do so, whilst some might prefer to wait for my reasoning. As I fit the early service in around my family life, I can't give an exact timing on the posts, so I suggest you follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for instant notifications of a published pick.

Who?

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Break The Silence @ 10/3 BOG

...in a 8-runner, Class 6, A/W handicap for 4yo+ over 7f on Fibresand worth £2,782 to the winner...

Why?...

Since mid-September, which was the last time of any his seven rivals won a race, this 6 yr old gelding has had ten consecutive top 4 finishes (9 in the first three home), culminating in a win over this class, course and distance ten days ago.

That win took him to 4 wins and 5 places from 14 starts over the track and trip, including..

  • 4 wins, 4 places from 11 at Class 6
  • 3 wins, 4 places from 10 in blinkers
  • and 3 wins, 3 places from 7 under today's jockey, Jonathan Fisher (all at C6, whilst wearing blinkers)

Moreover, since the start of 2016 in A/W handicaps here at Southwell, horses sent off at odds ranging from 11/10 to 7/1 within 30 days of an LTO win at the same class, course and distance are 37 from 112 (33% SR) for 37.1pts (+33.1% ROI), including of relevance today...

  • 31/90 (34.4%) for 40.7pts (+45.2%) from male runners
  • 24/72 (33.3%) for 28.4pts (+39.5%) at Class 6
  • 19/51 (37.3%) for 26.4pts (+51.8%) during January/February
  • 17/37 (45.9%) for 44.4pts (+119.9%) over 6/7 furlongs
  • 15/33 (45.5%) for 26.05pts (+78.9%) with 6/7 yr olds
  • 14/35 (40%) for 19pts (+54.3%) within 10 days of their last run
  • and 5/14 (35.7%) for 16.7pts (+119.4%) over this 7f C&D...

...whilst Class 6 males racing over 6/7f during December to February are 6 from 13 (46.2% SR) for 23.1pts (+177.4% ROI)...

...giving us...a 1pt win bet on Break The Silence @ 10/3 BOG as was widely available at 8.10am Monday morning (but please check your BOG status first). To see what your preferred bookie is quoting...

...click here for the betting on the 3.00 Southwell

Don't forget, we offer a full interactive racecard service every day!

REMINDER: THERE IS NO STAT OF THE DAY ON SUNDAYS

Here is today's racecard

P.S. all P/L returns quoted in the stats above are to Betfair SP, as I NEVER bet to ISP and neither should you. I always use BOG bookies for SotD, wherever possible, but I use BFSP for the stats as it is the nearest approximation I can give, so I actually expect to beat the returns I use to support my picks. If that's unclear, please ask!

Clock Watcher: Rise for National Anthem

Welcome to a new weekly feature, Clock Watcher, where we'll shine a light on a few horses that might be interesting to follow from a speed and/or sectional perspective. It is my hope that this column will also serve to introduce, embed and reinforce various concepts which may be unfamiliar at this stage.

Generally speaking, a run considered of sufficient merit to appear here will have two components: the horse will have recorded a time which is at least reasonably quick for the conditions; and the horse will have recorded a noteworthy upgrade on that performance.

The first component is fairly self-explanatory even if defining what is "at least reasonably quick" is highly subjective. Geegeez.co.uk doesn't currently produce its own speed ratings (and there is no plan for that to change at this stage), so for our purposes we will use Racing Post's Topspeed figures, which are published under license on this site.

The second component requires a bit more introduction. What is an 'upgrade', how does a horse achieve one, and how is this quantified?

What is an upgrade?

Track and field athletes run at their most efficient level - enabling them to produce their fastest times - when they travel at a constant speed. For instance, when Kenenisa Bekele broke the 5000m world record in 2004, a record which still stands today, his 1000m split times - or sectional times - were as follows:

12:37.35 (2:33.24, 2:32.23, 2:31.87, 2:30.59, 2:29.42)

Let's tabulate that:

A few months later, in the Olympic 5000m final, they covered the first 4 kilometres in 648.62 seconds, almost 41 seconds slower than the world record pace. Bekele, overwhelming favourite for gold, was readily out-sprinted and had to settle for silver, the winner recording a final time of 794.39 seconds, 37 seconds slower than the world record.

In a race where they crawled (relatively) and then sprinted, Bekele was unable to produce his best form. He could not run inefficiently to the same effect as his vanquisher, the Olympic 1500m champion Hicham El Guerrouj, whose superior kick facilitated his victory.

We know what is 'efficient' based on the body of similar historical races, and we call this par.

In simple terms, any deviation from efficiency - or par - whether fast early then fading, or slow early with a rapid finish, earns an upgrade. Thus, in this case, both the winner and second - as well, indeed, as the third through to sixth placed finishers - would have received upgrade figures.

An upgrade, then, is a recognition of the degree to which a horse raced inefficiently.

It should be noted that racing inefficiently will not necessarily prevent a horse, or an athlete, from winning. Indeed, El Guerrouj 'got the run of the race' back in 2004, that slow time suiting his questionable stamina but stronger kick. The primary objective is, after all, not to break records but to win the race.

What about par?

There is more detail in the User Guide around what may be new terms to some readers, and I'd encourage you to check that document (page 63 onwards in the current version, click here).

However, for the purposes of expediency, a quick line on par here. Par is the threshold against which all subsequent races over a course and distance are measured. From the User Guide,

Par is an assessment of the optimal energy distribution – based on relative time – between the sections of a race. It is not an average of all sectional times. Rather, it follows a fairly complex formula which uses an ‘nth percentile’ race as par. Further information can be found in Simon Rowlands’ excellent Sectional Timing Introduction report, available at this link. Indeed, that document is highly recommended for anyone keen to get a head start with the applications of sectional information.

So, in simple terms, par is a baseline, a means by which we may better understand the context of a performance.

Let's look at some examples.

 

An obvious one...

We'll start with a sore thumb, a horse on everyone's radar regardless of whether via visuals, sectionals or form. The very well related Waldkonig made his debut in a run-of-the-mill Wolverhampton novice stakes for two-year-olds on 7th December. A Kingman half-brother to Arc winner Waldgeist, he was sent off 6/4 favourite over the extended mile trip.

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In the end, he won by nine widening lengths; the data offer some interesting footnotes to that emphatic victory.

 

There is a lot going on in this image, so let's take it step by step. First up, note that I have selected 'Call Points' (a five section breakdown) top left and I have clicked the 'Show Chart' button, which then changes colour and displays 'Hide Chart', the action that would happen upon a further click. So those are my selected parameters. (I also have the data view selected from my My Geegeez page, check the User Guide for more on that).

Beneath the blue buttons is a line of five coloured rectangles. These are the Call Points sectionals for the race. That is, they relate to the race leader at five points during the race, specifically the six-furlong, four-furlong, three-furlong, two-furlong and finishing posts.

The colour of the rectangles indicates the relative speed of each section, on a cold/slow/blue to hot/fast/red scale. Thus, this race was even (green) early, slow (blue) in the middle, and fast (orange) late. The OMC (Opening, Midrace, Closing) view below captures this more succinctly and is a better place for newbies to start, due to there being fewer data points.

Getting back to the main image, and the main part of it, we see a chart. This chart is highly configurable but the image shows the default, which is the sectional percentage data, by furlong, for the winner - and with the black par line also displayed. Any/all runners can be added or removed to/from the chart by clicking their name underneath or using the 'toggle' button top left.

Next to the toggle button is a statement of how many races comprise the par calculations and, therefore, the degree of confidence in par. In this case - indeed in the vast majority of all-weather race cases - confidence is high. At this stage, confidence is more limited elsewhere while the body of data grows as more races are run over various courses and distances.

The chart reflects what the coloured rectangles are saying: that the leader went even-ish (slightly above par) early, slowed up notably in the middle of the race, before finishing very strongly - well above the black par line.

Beneath the chart is the full result table, which has a familiar look to it. I have clicked on the winner's finishing position (i.e. on the text that says '1st') to reveal his sectional data - coloured rectangles for Call Points (including split times, aggregates time, and sectional time as a percentage of overall time, i.e. sectional percentage), running lines (the horse's position in the field and distance behind the leader, or in front if the race leader) - and in-running comment.

The rightmost column in the result table is 'UP', and it contains the upgrade figure. In this example, Waldkonig was calculated as having an upgrade of 29 by our algorithm. Again, in terms of quantifying ability, this tells us little more than that, like his father, Waldkonig is able to quicken impressively off a steady pace.

Waldkonig was given a Topspeed rating of 47 for his time performance in the race. That is far from a standout rating and would not highlight the horse's effort as noteworthy, though of course the nine length winning margin would be missed by nobody. By applying the upgrade figure to a representation of the time performance we get closer to an understanding of the merit of the effort: clearly it takes more ability to quicken off a fast pace than a slow one, with the degree to which a horse quickens also worthy of note.

We've been playing with combining various numbers to produce some sort of 'composite' time/performance rating, though I must declare at this stage that I'm not 100% certain that adding upgrades to Topspeed is a sensible thing to do.

We are currently trying to establish whether it improves the predictive ability of the raw speed figure: they are calculated on different scales so it is probably not entirely sensible to simply add the two together.

Nevertheless, there is some indication in the work done to date that this somewhat contrived 'combo' number has merit. In the case of Waldkonig, his 47 gets an extra 29 for a 76 overall. That is a better reflection of his performance, though probably not of his ability given this was a debut on a track that was likely not ideal. In any case, what it tells us unequivocally is that, in a race where the pace scenario looks muddling, Waldkonig is capable of a searing turn of foot.

 

A (slightly) less obvious one...

At a slightly less 'could be anything' level, trainer David Brown rewarded his and connections' patience when National Anthem, off the track for 417 days since running poorly at the same venue, blasted home in a six-furlong novice event at Southwell. Brown is the horse's third trainer in three career starts spanning 821 days and a wind operation!

Sent off at 15/2, fifth favourite of six but not completely unfancied, his performance was very different in sectional terms to that of Waldkonig, as the image below illustrates:

 

Here we see from the running line that National Anthem jumped very alertly and maintained that advantage, albeit that it was diminishing in the final furlong. He was better than four lengths in front after a furlong and fully nine lengths clear with an eighth to go. Little wonder that he tired close home. Also little wonder that he's entered over five furlongs at the same track on Monday where it will be very interesting to see how he goes in a handicap off a mark of 75, if taking up his engagement.

 

Far more speculatively...

Meanwhile, down in the basement, a horse called Disruptor might pop up at a price some time soon. He ran on 30th December at Lingfield, finishing third, and as can be seen from the below he ran an almost polar opposite race to par - based on the five Call Point sections:

 

This lad has had a few goes - twelve, including one since, to be precise - and has showed much improved form when leading or racing prominently recently. Prior to his run on Monday, where his inexperienced (14 rides) jockey shot up in the air as the stalls opened and then got sandwiched between two no-hopers for most of a furlong, he'd run his three best races from the front.

If/when he can get a slightly softer advantage - note the undesirable red zone section from five to four in his running data above - he has a chance to see his race out more effectively, albeit very likely in low grade company and with a more experienced pilot on top.

That said, looking more closely at the draw (DR) column below, it is worth noting that he has been consistently fortunate with his stall position in recent starts.

[NB note also that, in 'Show Sectionals' mode, races without sectionals have blanks. Hovering over the running lines segment displays details of the performance, including comments, position, distance beaten and jockey].

 

That's all for this inaugural edition of Clock Watcher. I hope it has provided food for thought and that, over time, it will support your understanding of the new data we are beginning to provide and how you might best take advantage of it for yourself.

Until next time...

Matt

p.s. as of Wednesday 8th January, sectional data is now live for Gold subscribers on geegeez.co.uk. You will need to enable it from the Race Card Options section of your My Geegeez page. On that page, you will also find a link to the most recent version of the User Guide, in which there is a comprehensive outline of sectional timing and how it is published on this site.

The current coverage comprises Total Performance Data tracks, as it is from them that we license our data. We hope to be able to integrate both Ascot and RTV (UK) tracks in due course. To be clear, we have no in house sectional aggregation function. Rather, we license 3rd party data as a publisher and aim to add value in the visualisation of that data. I very much hope by mid-year we have a far more comprehensive provision in terms of track coverage.

2020 Vision: Some Thoughts on Betting Better

It's the New Year and, depending on your reading of the calendar, a new decade, too. What better time then to commit to self-improvement and renewal? Out with the old and in with the new, resolve strengthened by the turning of the page.

That's the fantasy of a billion beings on Jan 1, only for the reality of the pain of change - in the midst of what are often the coldest, darkest, most financially stretched days of the year - to bite.

But some people do keep to their resolutions, and they do achieve their goals. Size 12, personal best 5k, profitable for the first time, whatever: the secret (such as it is) that separates the achievers from the make-believers is planning and execution.

Talk is cheap, thoughts are free; planning takes time and effort, but also locks in personal commitment.

I wish you whatever you wish yourself in 2020. If a part of it is to improve your betting, maybe you'll find some nutrition in what follows...

1: Understand generally where you are now

Why do you bet? Why do you bet win singles, each way doubles, Lucky 15's, or whatever? How often do you bet? How much? And why do you bet on horses rather than football, tennis, poker, roulette or bingo?

Is it to make a profit? If you're a Gold subscriber (or indeed pay for information from any source), it probably is, to some degree at least. But that's also very likely not the only reason.

From surveying readers on this site over many years, I know that any and all of passing time, solving puzzles/being proved right, and general engagement are common - and perfectly valid - reasons for betting. None of these, however, is specific to betting on horse racing. The same as betting for profit. So there must be more to it. Why racing? Why?

Perhaps it's the regular predictable availability of puzzles/profit opportunities; maybe it's the colour and pageantry; possibly it's the array of data enabling a deeper understanding and a chance of an edge. As with most things in life, it is almost certainly a combination of some or all of these elements.

Understanding ones general relationship with betting on racing is helpful because it finds a place for everything that follows: it offers a global context which, for many/most people, doesn't really have much to do with money at all.

Still, it is a legitimate question to ask oneself: am I betting on racing for profit primarily?

My answer is NO. There are lots of ways I could make a few quid (and a good few more quid than I do from betting on racing) in roughly the same amount of time I invest in looking for horses I like.

I bet primarily for enjoyment - for fun. But I do it with a profit expectation. Betting for fun and profit are not mutually exclusive. And don't let the dry arses tell you otherwise.

If you don't understand the underlying reasons for your racing betting, you may be chasing the wrong objectives and, consequently, a futile or frustrating relationship with the game.

Suggestion #1: Take time to understand the REAL reason(s) you bet on racing

 

2: Measure where you are now

If you can't measure it, you can't improve it

That quote is credited to Peter Drucker, a management consultant. It could have been uttered by a sports coach, a nutritionist, a headmistress, or a punter. It applies to any pursuit where we have a desire to move towards the right of whichever continuum consumes us.

But here's the tricky bit. What should we measure?

Again, the default is profit and loss, and that of course is something about which we all need a solid understanding. Doubtless these words contain enough pedagogy - pontification, perhaps - without a sermon on responsible gambling. So let us assume that we all understand those boundaries and operate within a range of acceptable loss to profit.

But how much are you losing, or winning? And how accurately do you know this? What is your method of calculation?

For me, I do an annual - six-monthly if I feel it's going especially poorly or well - review of account deposits and withdrawals. This tells me nothing about volume of bets, average stake size, race or bet types in which I excel or fail lamentably; but it gives me the most fundamental financial metric of up/down.

I've shared this info for previous years numerous times in the blog on this site.

Here's my 2019:

 

That's a good bit better than most years, due almost entirely to a couple of chunky wins in March. [The weird 'pence' figures relate to conversions from euro on Irish tote bets, in case you're wondering]

But note also the 'game of two halves' nature of the year. There is a reason for this, but I won't dwell on it here. Suffice it to say that betting when not in a sound mental state is more likely to lead to losses. On we go...

If I'd not had those spring draws, I'd have won about a grand. But it is important and fair to note that part of my betting approach is to tilt at windmills: to play 'gettable' multi-leg pools where there is the prospect of a disproportionate return on investment. As I've written elsewhere on here before, finding value is often more about fishing in the right (both literal and metaphorical) pools than backing the right horses.

My annual profit target, such as it is, is about £2,500; but really my target is to enjoy the process of finding bets. It's a time-consuming process and the investment of time is far more material than the cash (because the percentage of my time used for betting is more material than the percentage of my funds).

That's a verbose way of saying I have to enjoy it to justify the hours deployed. Maybe you have more time available than me, maybe you have less. Maybe you have more funds available, maybe you have less.

Therein lies the key to measuring success: choose the right metrics for you and measure where you are with them.

Time is always the kingpin metric for me, so if I don't have time I either won't bet or, more likely, I'll only make a casual action play. More on that in due course.

Suggestion #2: Understand your key metric(s) and quantify where you are against it/them as of the end of 2019

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3: Pause for breath

There is a temptation at this time of year to decide to do something - lose weight, change job, et cetera - and then charge ahead on this new life-changing trajectory.

Generally speaking, that is probably sub-optimal. Better, once a new objective has been determined, is to establish how to get there. But before that it is good to mull quietly the what and why of the resolution.

For example, it might be perfectly acceptable to lose £1000 over the course of a year betting on a sport in which hundreds of hours of recreational time are enjoyed. After all, that's £20 a week, the price of not much beer and increasingly little caffeine and froth. Of course it would be nice to save the 'bag of sand' but if it involves upsetting the pleasurable equilibrium of perusing form, striking wagers and watching racing, then perhaps it's not a price worth paying.

Decide what is important for you, not what others might tell you is important.

It might be enjoyment before profit.

It might be winners (i.e. being right) before profit.

It might be profit at all costs.

And, again, it very well might be a combination of all three.

Suggestion #3: Before moving forward, take some time to allow your understanding of the current status quo to inform your next move

 

4: Set up to succeed

If, after pausing for thought, the route forward still looks different from the path hitherto then it is time to take action. Action works best when it is considered, informed and documented. I know, boring, right? All I'm really saying is that we have a better chance of success when we set up to succeed.

Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable — the art of the next best

This quote, attributed to the German statesman Otto von Bismarck, could easily have supplanted the word 'politics' with 'Betting on horse racing'; but I don't suppose OvB was much of a punter, at least not of equines.

He was, however, a man of action; a man who believed that words were secondary to deeds. We probably all believe that, but we have to live it, too.

Getting back to it, betting on horse racing is the art of the possible, the attainable. It is very often the art of the next best. In other words, forget lottery win utopia (unless you play, and win, the lottery) and instead work on incremental improvement of approach.

For example, if you want to live off betting income but you're currently a losing punter, stage one is to either lose less or break even. It is not to live off betting income.

For example, if you want to look at more than four races a day but only have twenty minutes to do it, be aware that you will have to sacrifice the amount you can discern at the altar of covering much ground.

For example, if you need lots of winners to retain confidence, betting longshots more than occasionally is going to be incompatible.

For example, if you want to take a value betting approach (hint: you should if you want to improve your bottom line), failing to watch racing and/or use the best information sources will make it hard for you to know anything not already completely subsumed within the market.

Suggestion #4: Have time, bank, strategy and tools in place to optimise - and elevate - your desire outcome

 

5: Review, Review, Review

Your bet just lost. Or won. What now? On to the next one? No, not for the improvers.

Like everything in life, to be better we have to do more of what works and less of what doesn't. And, to do that, we have to understand what works and what doesn't.

A bet is a record of effort expended, of a decision made and, ultimately, of money won or lost. How often do you ask yourself whether the reasons for choosing a particular horse, one component of which should always be price for the value player, proved accurate? How often do you see a horse fail to win for a reason you predicted but which you felt was over-stated in the available odds? Was it then a good bet, or a bad bet?

Which other horse(s) caught your eye during the race? Were any unlucky in running? [NB ignore perennial hard luck horses: they're overbet and don't win nearly enough to legitimise the volume of trackers in which they reside]. What happened at the start of the race? [Plenty of horses cannot win after getting mangled at the start, such unlucky runners almost always missed by the in-running comment writers].

Use a tracker, and add horses - with comments - to it. Or use the notes feature in your chosen form tool.

Here is a snap of my Tracker for those entered in the next few days:

 

And a Tracker note, complete with dreadful pun for my own later pleasure, displayed when hovering over the gold star on the race in question:

 

As it turns out, Kraka has run four times since on the all-weather and lucked out hugely with the draw, see the DR column below. Now rated 64, he'll win soon (I hope), though I'd definitely prefer his chance at six furlongs rather than this seven panels affair.

 

Another great means of improvement is to review your bets as a body of work. I have to say I do not personally do this, mainly because of the time but also because of the nature of my betting (often incompatible with Bet Tracker constraints). Mainly, though, because I can't be bothered. This is what I mean by working within your capabilities. I have to measure all sorts of things for business reasons and, when it comes to my betting, I just want to know my bottom line.

Could I improve if I cut out areas of weakness? Of course! But the opportunity cost - the time spent recording, which could be spent watching races, or with my family, or reading a book, or kicking a ball, or in the pub - is too great for me.

Others will relish the opportunity to dissect their wagers by any number of parameters. Geegeez has a free bet tracker which allows just this. Introduced only last year, it has been wildly popular: the feedback - words - has been effusive and the number of users tracking their bets - actions - has actually taken me a little by surprise. Clearly many have a stronger desire to understand the nuances of their wagering set, and fair play and the best of luck to them. They give themselves every chance.

Here's an example - anonymous - of one geegeez.co.uk Bet Tracker user (a free subscriber as it happens), who has recorded almost 400 bets to date:

By Handicap or Non-Handicap

By Race Distance

 

Non-Handicaps up to 7 furlongs

 

Yes, of course it's a tiny sample size and possibly, maybe even probably, just noise. But there's a near 100% chance that this user previously did not know they might be quite good at identifying value in this context...

Suggestion #5: Review what you're doing, not just for signs of improvement but to ensure you're not sterilising something which used to be fun

 

6: Action vs Fancy: Enjoy the GAME

At the end of the day, the most important thing for me is to enjoy the game. To be involved, through this website, with sponsoring jockeys (David Probert, Callum Rodriguez, Rex Dingle, Mitch Godwin) and a training yard (Anthony Honeyball), and to syndicate racehorses (ten currently, with Anthony, Olly Murphy, Mick Appleby and Wilf Storey) so that other like-minded souls can also get closer to the action, is a genuine 24 carat bona fide 100% pleasure. To call it work is a truly great fortune.

Betting on racing is not incidental to me, but it is a pleasurable pursuit. I bet most days, some days more than others, and sometimes staking more or less.

When I have the time to really get stuck into a card, and I identify a sore thumb of a bet, I will wager accordingly. Never massive but big enough to justify the perceived opportunity.

When I have less time and/or I spot a few of mild interest, I'll have action bets.

I don't want to look at the card for an hour or two and not have a bet. That's what the arid bottoms suggest we do. No ta. If I don't have a strong view, or I think the market about has it, I'll make a cup of tea bet; and if I like more than one I might strike a sticky bun wager as well. But I will be invested in some small way in the outcome.

It is generally obvious whether a horse should be a cup of tea or a Dom Perignon stake; where it isn't, it should probably be somewhere in between erring towards the 'Rosie' urn. For me anyway.

The point: enjoy the ride. Or what is the point?

After all, if it's not fun, we might as well go and get a(nother) job.

Suggestion #6: bet in line with the strength of your fancy (and always in line with your means, obvs). And enjoy it: one day all this might no longer be possible

 

Matt

Stat of the Day: The 2019 Review

*IMPORTANT: the email I sent this morning opened with "Let me start with the caveat. Free, potentially, yes; but risk-free"

It should have said "Free, potentially, yes; but NOT risk-free" - sincere apologies. Matt

Last Tuesday marked the end of SotD's eighth full calendar year since its inception as a non-tipping piece back in November 2011, so thank you to those of you (including Matt) for putting up with me all that time!

The logic behind this daily feature is to take a slight step from the normal form book/ race card approach to betting, since form is temporary at best and race cards are still largely inadequate, although Matt's efforts here at Geegeez are the exception to the rule.

My brief is to give some statistical pointers as to how you could frame a bet from another angle and whilst we don't expect all of them to win, we do expect a decent run for our money and often the stats we quote will pinpoint winners elsewhere too. So it's really more than a tip, it's a way-in to a bet that you can use over and over again.

We attract lots of new members to the site every year, thanks mainly to the continual improvements made to the racing toolkit and partly due to SotD's success, and this is bringing in more savvy punters looking for better data, information and racecards than they'll find anywhere else on the 'net, so here's briefly how I "do my bit"...

My first port of call is find runners who fit a stat (or usually a number of stats) suggesting they will go well. I have quite a large portfolio of saved micro-systems and angles (our Query Tool is brilliant for this) and they generate a list of possibles each day. I also look at the Shortlist report and the qualifiers generated from the Report Angles facility and I end up with a fairly long list of horses/races to assess.

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I then cross off the races that I don't even want to consider and only then do I start to look at a race card. Where I have multiple selections in a race, I'll then make a decision on which would be my preferred runner in the race. At this point, I should now have less than 10 races/horses on my shortlist, I then put them in an order that I think reflects their likelihood of winning and at this point, I look at the prices.

Once I've got the prices, I cross out those that don't offer me enough perceived value and then the one that now stands top of the list is the daily selection. We aim to have the selection online in the early evening before racing (preferably by 6.00pm) where possible but occasionally due to home-life, travel plans and/or holidays, it can be later, but there's a selection every day except Sundays and we don't take Bank Holidays, Easter nor Christmas off!

That said, we are currently trialling a morning of racing delivery of Stat of the Day, with the pick generally online by 8.15am.

I try to find runners priced around the 11/4 to 6/1 mark at BOG prices and look for some value in the odds achieved, but sometimes I have to stray outside those parameters a little. A large proportion of selections are sent off at much shorter odds than advised, and constantly beating SP is a key in making long-term profits. Basically, our profit figures aren't massaged by some freakishly long-priced winners, nor is our strike rate bolstered by a string of odds-on jollies.

What we do have is a consistent approach that aims to highlight one value selection per day and although this "one-a-day" stats-based approach to bet selection suffers all the obligatory peaks and troughs associated with betting on horses, we did manage to make a profit yet again in 2019, but it was a real tough slog towards the end of the year, if I'm brutally honest.

Normally at this point, I'm typing this out with a fairly satisfied smile on my face, but the final quarter of the year gave us little to smile about. Nevertheless, the bigger picture is that we managed to secure yet another yearly profit, our eighth on the bounce. We're quietly proud of our record of profit in every year since SotD's inception, for what is essentially a free add-on to the Gold toolbox package, but we're also aware that recent form has been below long-term levels... although I think I said that form was only temporary anyway!

A full month-by-month analysis of SotD's results can always be found at
http://www.geegeez.co.uk/stat-of-the-day-month-by-month/ , and the overall picture for 2019 was as follows:

Number of bets/selections/pts wagered: 290 (two fewer than 2018)
Winning Bets: 66 (67 in 2018)
Strike Rate: 22.76% (2018 = 22.95%)
Average payout from winning bet : 3.93/1 (2018 = 3.57/1)

Yearly Profit: 35.46pts (2018 = 14.16pts)
Profit on Stakes Invested: 12.23% (2018 was 4.85%)

From inception in November 2011 to end 2019: +531.87 points

The overall bottom line is still, we think, impressive and one that both Matt and I (it's a team game) are happy with; and, although I've been quite vocal in expressing my disappointment about the way 2019 fizzled out, a 12.23% return actually shows us in a good light against many of our peers.

We're already up and running for January, a month that has traditionally been kind to us, so fingers crossed for more of the same and a good year overall.

Many Thanks for being a part of Geegeez and SotD,
Chris, Matt and the whole Geegeez team.

***Stat of the Day is just one component of the excellent package available to all Geegeez Gold Members, so if you're not part of our community already, why not take your £1/30-day trial now?

Click here for more details.

Monday Musings: What a difference a win makes!

A New Year – A New Dawn? Maybe. What Sod’s Law, Say Nothing and co couldn’t deliver in any race for Raymond Tooth in 2019, Waterproof tested my “Pour Moi’s are better jumpers than Flat-racers” theory at Fakenham on January 1, writes Tony Stafford. He duly confirmed it, and by 15 lengths.

True, it needed a last-flight capitulation by Bran - a length up with only a short run-in to survive – but he was miles ahead of the rest after a nimble exhibition of jumping and enthusiastic galloping.

One swallow might not make a summer, but one winning jumper certainly invigorated the Raymond Tooth team. The boss has been saying for ages that it’s getting almost impossible to compete with the big battalions of both codes, but one “1” beside a horse’s name certainly brings optimism to aim at greater targets.

One more novice or handicap win – and as a four-year-old he’ll still get a hefty allowance against his elders – could get him into the Fred Winter (Boodles Juvenile) at the Festival. The Tooth colours of pink and grey, which collected the top hurdling prize 11 years ago when Punjabi won an epic Champion Hurdle tussle with Celestial Halo and Binocular, might just be dusted off in eight weeks’ time.

Shaun Keightley has done well to turn a 51-rated middle-distance horse to a winning jumper at only the second attempt. Jack Quinlan, who’d ridden him on debut and schooled him on the morning before the race but had to be at Cheltenham on Wednesday for a very disappointing Kalashnikov, reported immediately on first acquaintance that Waterproof was a natural.

The initial steps were actually undertaken by Josephine Gordon, his regular partner in recent Flat runs, and she accompanied the party to Fakenham on Wednesday. Now we’re scouring the entry pages to try to find a suitable follow-up, preferably where we won’t be meeting any stars.

The problem with any win is that instinctively you project forward. It’s the same when people are thinking of selling their improving horses, or in fact not, but are being pestered to do so. The tendency is to ask too much – the new figure more usually what the horse would be worth if he did win that next target. Yet if you keep him and win that race, the new people will think that’s one less opportunity for them if they did manage to buy. I can report that to date J P McManus has not put in a bid, so we’ll be soldiering on!

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After the flurry of big meetings in Ireland, the pace will be much slower over there this week with only Clonmel on Thursday and Fairyhouse on Saturday to offer opportunities for the major stables. Not even a Sunday this week.

It is almost uncanny how closely matched the two big Irish jumping entities have been over Christmas and New Year. Willie Mullins won with 17 of his 99 runners: Gordon Elliott with 16 of 98. So far this jumps season (May to May) their scores are Mullins 117 from 493 and Elliott 120 from 812. Elliott’s numerical advantage also extends to individual horses raced – 267 to 206.

It would have been impossible for the old-time trainers to get their heads around such numbers. When Nicky Henderson started out with Fred Winter, normal stable strength for the top teams was in the 40-50 range. Now Henderson controls an operation which has sent out 145 individual animals for 77 wins from 292 runs, only exceeded by the 193 horses that have combined to get Dan Skelton up to 97 for the season.

Elliott has once or twice come to the business part of the Irish jumping season challenging long-standing champion Mullins but his ambitions of a first title, decided of course on prizemoney,  have been thwarted usually by the big guns from Closutton cleaning up at the season’s conclusion at Punchestown.

In 2016-7 it seemed an inevitability that Elliott would prevail, but his financial advantage was whittled down and then exceeded at Punchestown even though he had 13 more winners than his rival. This season he is around €340k ahead but, with many big prizes to be contested and among potential game-changers, the arrival of Cheveley Park Stud as major jumps owners can give Elliott hope that he can stay at the helm.

Yesterday Cheveley Park’s Envoi Allen made it seven out of seven with a convincing defeat of Mullins’ front-running Elixir D’Ainay in the Lawlor’s of Naas Novice Hurdle over two and a half miles. I’m not sure that he is ready for the Champion Hurdle on what I saw once he headed the runner-up. Maybe he can follow Istabraq’s example by winning the two and a half mile novice at Cheltenham before returning to dominate the next three Champions.

The embryo stars are lining up for the three Cheltenham novice races. Abacadabras, so impressive over Christmas, had been a length and a half behind Envoi Allen, his fellow Elliott inmate, over the minimum at Fairyhouse on December 1 and is the nearest to him in the betting for the Skybet Supreme Novice Hurdle. Envoi Allen is favourite both for that Festival opener and also the longer Ballymore Properties Novice, and is a shorter price (7-4) for the latter.

Here Thyme Hill, at the moment the leader from among the home contingent, is 7-1 second best. The form of his wins keep working out well, as with his Chepstow October victim Fiddlerontheroof, much too good for Saturday’s Tolworth Hurdle rivals, and still tempting at around 20-1 for whichever Cheltenham option Colin Tizzard selects.

**

This writer has – as do many in racing – a high regard for the talents of Ian Williams and one of his all-weather performers has all the signs of becoming a winter star. Noble Behest is a six-year-old that joined Williams last year following a 541-day absence, having previously enjoyed rewarding initial spells with Marcus Tregoning (three wins) and Robert Stephens (two out of two).

Four of the five wins had been in all-weather races of two miles and more. Once he got racing with his new handler it took a few runs (and a good few pounds off!) for Williams to get the cobwebs fully blown away. A running-on second at Wolverhampton over 1m6f was the signal that normal service was imminent and so it has proved.

Victories since on the Chelmsford Polytrack (his third there) and Wolverhampton Tapeta (second) were the prelude to a first try on Fibresand at Southwell. I made the mistake of contacting Williams yesterday morning when wondering whether the son of Sir Percy would cope with the surface. “The Sir Percy’s have a horrendous record at Southwell” reported Williams, a few hours before Noble Behest went off in front and came home in splendid isolation five lengths clear. That’s one way of avoiding the kick-back!

His rating yesterday was 73, still 3lb below his last winning mark of the pre-Williams era, achieved almost two years to the day at Chelmsford so that’s due a hike.

As the reports stated, this was a seventh win in nine all-weather starts when racing at two miles plus – he lost the other twice at shorter – but what they do not reveal is what a look at all his race videos told me. He’s one of the gamest horses I’ve ever seen. Low level or not, there’s the potential for him to go a lot further up the rankings if the shrewd Williams can keep him sound.

- TS

Stat of the Day, 6th January 2020

Saturday's pick was...

11.40 Lingfield : Capriolette @ 11/4 BOG 4th at 7/2 (In touch, headway 2f out, ridden and unable to quicken over 1f out, kept on one pace)

Monday's pick runs in the...

1.35 Ayr :

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Generally, I'll identify and share the selection in the evening before the following day's race and I then add a detailed write-up later on that night/next morning.

Those happy to take the early price on trust can do so, whilst some might prefer to wait for my reasoning. As I fit the early service in around my family life, I can't give an exact timing on the posts, so I suggest you follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for instant notifications of a published pick.

Who?

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Ripstick @ 11/4 BOG

...in an 8-runner, Class 5,  Handicap Chase for 5yo+ over 2m½f  on heavy (soft in places) ground worth £3,184 to the winner...

Why?...

This 9 yr old gelding is a former dual PTP winner and was also a winner under Rules over fences when last seen 11 days ago (Boxing Day). He landed a similar Class 5 contest at Sedgefield on soft ground that day with today's jockey, Conor O'Farrell, in the saddle.

Conor's in really good touch post-Christmas, landing three winners on Boxing Day amongst his 7 from 23 (30.4% SR) record since the break that has rewarded those following him with 64.1pts profit at an ROI of some 278.1%, including...

  • 6/12 (50%) for 55.1pts (+458.8%) over trips shorter than 2m1f
  • 5/13 (38.5%) for 68pts (+523.4%) in handicaps
  • 4/5 (80%) for 56pts (+1120%) in handicaps shorter than 2m1f
  • 2/7 (28.6%) for 4.88pts (+69.7%) over fences
  • 2/5 (40%) for 2.81pts (+56.2%) at Class 5
  • 2/4 (50%) for 2pts (+50%) at odds shorter than 5/1
  • and 1/1 (100%) (on Ripstick LTO) for 4.94pts (+494%) for today's trainer James Walton...

...whose handicap chasers sent off at odds ranging from 2/1 to 14/1 are 6 from 30 (20% SR) for 23.6pts (+78.7% ROI) over the last two years, including of note today...

  • 6/23 (26.1%) for 30.6pts (+133%) with 8-11 yr olds
  • 5/23 (21.7%) for 14.7pts (+64%) with those sent off shorter than 10/1
  • 5/11 (45.5%) for 26.7pts (+243%) at Class 5
  • and 4/12 (33.3%) for 23.5pts (+195.8%) with Conor O'Farrell in the saddle...

...whilst James' 8-11 yr olds sent off shorter than 10/1 in Class 5 contests are 5 from 8 (62.5% SR) for 29.73pts (+371.6% ROI) with Conor O'Farrell riding 3 winners from 5 (60%) for 14.63pts (+292.6%) profit...

...giving us...a 1pt win bet on Ripstick @ 11/4 BOG as was available from Bet365 & BetVictor (and also Hills, but please check your BOG status there first) at 8.05am on Monday. To see what your preferred bookie is quoting...

...click here for the betting on the 1.35 Ayr

Don't forget, we offer a full interactive racecard service every day!

REMINDER: THERE IS NO STAT OF THE DAY ON SUNDAYS

Here is today's racecard

P.S. all P/L returns quoted in the stats above are to Betfair SP, as I NEVER bet to ISP and neither should you. I always use BOG bookies for SotD, wherever possible, but I use BFSP for the stats as it is the nearest approximation I can give, so I actually expect to beat the returns I use to support my picks. If that's unclear, please ask!

SotD Update, 30th December to 4th January

It was, if I'm honest, another annoying/frustrating week with just the one winner and December going out with a whimper, as did the year as a whole. The bright spot of the week was a horse picked at 4/1 BOG (which I thought was too good to pass up) getting home at 7/1, which at least sets January off in the right direction.

I'm not going to say too much about December or 2019 as a whole, because (a) I'll do 2019 in the yearly review and (b) I told you last week about how I felt about December's performance and nobody needs me moaning twice in a week.

January has started OK, I'm still scratching about for form, but I'm confident that it'll come and that's pretty much all I've got to say today other than slightly belatedly wishing you all a very Happy New Year that will hopefully see us all healthy and wealthy!

Chris

Selections & Results : 30/12/19 to 04/01/20

30/12 : Longhousesignora @ 4/1 9th at 15/2
31/12 : Knockout Blow @ 11/4 BOG 4th at 11/4
-----------------------------------------------------------
01/01 : Redford Road @ 3/1 5th at 2/1
02/01 : Falcon Cliffs @ 10/3 BOG 3rd at 7/2
03/01 : Katheefa @ 4/1 BOG WON at 7/1
04/01 : Capriolette @ 11/4 BOG 4th at 7/2

30/12/19 to 04/01/20 :
1 winning bet from 6 = 16.66% SR
P/L: +2.00pts

December 2019 :
3 winners from 22 = 13.64% SR
P/L: -9.84pts
ROI = -44.73%

2019 totals :
66 winners from 290 = 22.76% SR
P/L: +35.46pts
ROI = +12.23%

January 2020 :
1 winner from 4 = 25.00% SR
P/L: +4.00pts
ROI = +100.00%

Overall:
657 winners from 2470 = 26.60% S.R
P/L: +535.87pts
ROI: +21.70%

P.S. The full month by month SotD story can be found right here.
P.P.S The review of SotD's 2012 performance is
here.
Whilst the details for 2013 are now online here.
And the figures for 2014 are
now available here.
Our review of 2015 can be found right here
Whilst 2016's details are right here
The full story from 2017 can be read here.
Whilst the yearly review for 2018 is right here

The fuller story of 2019 will be posted this week!

Stat of the Day is just one component of the excellent package available to all Geegeez Gold Members, so why not take the plunge and get involved right now?

Click here for more details.

A Decade in the Life of geegeez.co.uk

It's that time of the year, of the decade, when retrospectives are all the rage. So, while I appreciate you've probably had more than your fill of such self-congratulatory mush in recent days, what follows will add to the pile. For regular readers who have joined at any point after 2010, there may be some interesting factoids in the below.

geegeez.co.uk first saw the light of day in August 2008, as a one man - me - blog. Now, more than eleven years later, I still drive the bus, though with co-pilots, mechanics and conductors aplenty. This remains a boutique site, it remains funded by your Geegeez Gold subscriptions (as opposed to bookmaker revenue share, which is a different model from basically every other major racecard/form provider), and it remains privately owned with an ethos that focuses on you, our loyal reader/subscriber, rather than 'shareholder value'.

Right, self-righteous back-slapping out of the way, on with the show...

Before the decade began

As mentioned, geegeez.co.uk actually began life in the second half of 2008, when we were all a little younger and faster. It looked very much like this, and sat - for those of a vaguely techie nature - on google's blogger platform. High art it was not...

 

January 2010

Moving on, and the first of many failed cosmetic enhancements was applied in early 2009. The site retained this look at the beginning of the decade, having now moved from blogger to WordPress which, ten years later, is the de facto platform for such content hubs and used by the likes of cnn.com.

The red, white and blue banner was in situ at this point but the site remained a blog funded by affiliate commissions from products we reviewed, as well as those sold ourselves such as Trainer Track Stats.

July 2011

By July 2011, there had been another facelift - things were looking a lot more professional now - and we also had a small team of writers including Ross Birkett (amateur jockey and assistant trainer to his mum, Julia Feilden) and Mal Boyle, the placepot guru.

On reflection, that front page looks better than the current one - a job to be addressed early in 2020! - and the box bottom right hints at a change in direction for the site towards what you currently know and, hopefully, love.

 

January 2012

Inexplicably, to me at least, the previous look failed to appeal to site users, so we reverted to linking from the home page to bundles of content. At this time, Ian Sutherland was writing news articles as well as some 'what's in a name' insights on horses and lost racecourses, and we were still reviewing betting products as we continue to do to this day (albeit on a smaller scale).

The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice the third item down in the middle column, Stat of the Day. This feature was incepted in November 2011, meaning we recently passed eight years of service, every one of them profitable thanks, almost exclusively, to one man, Chris Worrall. He has been as important a member of the team as anybody during this past decade and I'm extremely grateful to him for his help and support, as well as his - generally - calm influence. Thanks Chris!

 

May 2013

This guy turned up in 2013, and I kind of liked him. But, in the end, he became a victim of the corporate culture as he was deemed not sufficiently professional looking for a site with upwardly mobile aspirations. Sigh.

 

Anyway, he was cool!

 

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January 2014

In the middle of 2013, geegeez.co.uk published its first racecards. They were pretty basic and they were free. There was a problem with this: I couldn't afford the data and development costs to keep them going. So, after much soul searching, I decided they needed to be a premium product based on a monthly or annual subscription. The initial fee was set at just £12 a month, a figure that recognised both my discomfort at charging for something I'd expected to monetise in other ways and the fact that there wasn't a huge amount of depth to them at that stage.

Here's how a card looked back then:

However, what we did have - in its embryonic format - was Instant Expert. Here is a very early incarnation - at that time called Race Analysis Report, or RAR - of what has become a cornerstone of form profile punters' betting activity.

Of course, Alder Mairi won this race, and below are early images of both Full Form (Filter) and the Result.

 

To be perfectly honest, it was successes like this one that gave me the confidence to plough on with Geegeez Gold. The end of 2013 was a pivotal time for me and the site, as the stress of making a commercial go of what had become a significant cost base was leading me to wonder if I hadn't made a massive mistake.

I'd written this post - https://www.geegeez.co.uk/a-new-beginning-for-geegeez-co-uk/ - at the end of 2013 when it had "all come on top" as Arthur Daley used to say, and I was looking for a buyer. What an error that would have been, in so many ways, for me personally; and I'm glad that people didn't see the future value in the site that I did.

 

September 2015

By the end of 2015, the Gold service was very much the core of what we did, as it has been ever since. I tend not to blow my trumpet too much in public (though this article may contradict that!), but I had privately decided I wanted to make Geegeez Gold the best racecard and form tool service in Britain and Ireland. Five years from September 2015 - i.e. in nine months' time - I think I'll be happy we've achieved that.

Here's how the main features on Gold shaped up roughly four years ago:

 

January 2018

The site continued to provide cutting edge data driven editorial from incisive and pithy writers such as Tony Keenan, as well as Fleet Street denizens like Tony Stafford. And Geegeez Gold continued its feature accumulation, with the following being added since autumn 2015:

Meanwhile, geegeez.co.uk had evolved visually once more, into something close to its current aesthetic:

 

January 2019

And so to 2019. The 'look and feel' is fresher, with the red being dropped from the branding in favour of the white/blue combination. Content has been a little quieter this year, though where quantity has been limited we've deliberately focused on quality.

 

January 2020

And so to a new decade. Where are we?

From those humble beginnings as a little blog site with, as the excellent Robin Gibson of Racing Post's Surf and Turf feature once said, "a few serviceable posts", we've created a community of racing fans, and a betting information hub with few - arguably, no - peers.

During that time, we've syndicated horses and enjoyed numerous winners; we've sponsored jockeys such as David Probert, Rex Dingle and Callum Rodriguez, and the ever-brilliant Anthony Honeyball yard; and I/we continue to re-invest pretty much everything that doesn't put bread on my family's table into this website.

Whether it's top class editorial from the Tony's, Keenan and Stafford, Jon Shenton, Dave Renham, Andy Newton, and of course Stat of the Day Chris and myself; or new features within Geegeez Gold, such as sectional timing, additional reports, and greater user configurability (all built by the peerless Nige and our new database whizz, Jean-Francois), the subscriptions you pay contribute directly to the ongoing development of the service and the site.

*

December 2020

We've a very busy year of development planned. Here's what's on the menu for 2020 and where I hope we'll be by this time next year:

- Hiring some content and marketing people to help share what we have with existing and new readers

- Bringing sectional timing to life, an ongoing project

- A revamped Query Tool allowing for far greater depth and analytical tinkery-pokery

- Betfair exchange data and interface to wager directly into the exchange

- A raft of smaller upgrades including PRB (percentage of rivals beaten), a trainer 'days since last run' report, graphical race visualisations, overrounds, HC2 and TC2 (2nd start in a handicap or for a new trainer), ROI calculations in reports and draw/pace content, and plenty more besides

*

Finally, a very heartfelt word, directly from me to you.

For allowing me to live my dream for more than a decade now, I cannot thank you enough. Whether you've been here since the get go or have stumbled upon us more recently, THANK YOU. Thank you. Thank you. I hope that the content on these virtual pages attests to the sincerity of my gratitude.

Here's to the next decade!

Matt, and all of the team at geegeez.co.uk

Monday Musings: Short Sharp Shocks

They were at it again last week. Sir Anthony McCoy urged Harry Cobden not to doubt his mount Cyrname’s stamina first time over three miles in the King George, writes Tony Stafford. In the same Racing Post article, Lee Mottershead wondered whether the same three miles would be a sufficient stamina test to play to Lostintranslation’s strengths. As well as Paul Nicholls, the former’s trainer, Nicky Henderson, his fellow OBE recipient in the New Year’s Honours list, also reckons Kempton Park is a sharp track.

They almost got me at it too. After decades of arguing that it’s one thing to call it sharp when a few 0-120 journeymen trundle around Sunbury on good ground, which often pertains at Kempton, but in championship races in soft ground if you don’t stay you drop away.

What constitutes a sharp track: nippy mile or mile two around circuits with tight bends? Kempton is near enough a mile and five furlongs around; the fences take jumping and from the end of the back straight there’s a long easy bend into a three-furlong run-in with three final obstacles to negotiate. How can that be sharp when there’s nowhere to take a breather?

We knew Cyrname was good over two miles five, as at Ascot where he inflicted the only jumping defeat ever experienced by the previously-flawless Altior. At Kempton, sharing rather than dominating the pace as Sir AP encouraged, he stopped as if shot in the straight, in the end beaten 21 lengths into second by his stable-companion Clan Des Obeaux, an 11th King George winner for Nicholls.

Footpad was third for Ireland ahead of Aso, an outclassed nine-year-old and the only non-member of the gang of seven <years old> completed by the very disappointing Lostintranslation who was the first beaten simply because he jumped badly.

Top-class races, where all the participants are entitled to be there, put extra demands on horses. It was Cyrname’s 12th race over fences last Thursday, and his first over the distance less than five weeks after that battle royal with Altior. It had also taken Paul Nicholls plenty of time before allowing Clan Des Obeaux to try three miles which he did in his tenth steeplechase. He was third, around ten lengths behind Might Bite in the Betway Aintree Bowl, which ended his season. Nicholls then brought him back to finish fourth behind course-specialist Bristol De Mai in the Betfair Chase at Haydock  in November 2018, so when he turned up at Kempton last Boxing Day, he was a 12-1 shot for the King George.

He took advantage of mishaps to both those horses – Might Bite finished last and was found to have bled during the race, while Bristol De Mai was an early faller - and beat Thistlecrack by a length and a half. It was unfortunate that the veteran Thistlecrack, who had given Paisley Park such an examination over hurdles at Newbury last month, was unable to take part on Thursday after sustaining a minor injury.

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Though only a seven-year-old, Clan Des Obeaux was having his 17th race over fences.  After last year’s King George he picked up a nice pot at Ascot in February; was fifth to Al Boum Photo in the Gold Cup and second to Kemboy at Punchestown in May at the end of a demanding season. He reappeared at Down Royal last month, going under only to the smart Road To Respect.

If you thought Christmas might clear up the Gold Cup situation, think again. Saturday’s Savills Chase at Leopardstown, which featured the much-heralded return for Kemboy after the problems surrounding his ownership had finally been cleared up, might have brought clarity. Instead coming to the bend into the short straight, all eight horses were in with a chance, and it was Delta Work, coming fast and late and hanging left  in the Gigginstown first colours that got up to beat front-running Monalee near the line.

Road To Respect (Gigginstown and Gordon Elliott again), Kemboy and Presenting Percy were in a cluster just behind and three of the five – Kemboy (6-1), Delta Work (8-1) and Presenting Percy (10-1) – are among the leaders in the market for next March’s Gold Cup along with Clan Des Obeaux (7-1) and Lostintranslation, the deposed former favourite at 8’s.

The title-holder, Al Boum Photo, Willie Mullins’ first winner of the big race last March, has a potentially facile opportunity to get his season going at Tramore on New Year’s Day in a 2m5f conditions chase which appeals more than last week’s alternatives including the Savills Chase.

There were some Christmas re-alignments, too, in Champion Hurdle betting with seismic blows first at Kempton where the mare Epatante majestically outpointed the boys with a mixture of speed and accuracy. She is now the 3-1 favourite to give Nicky Henderson another championship, while the Mullins forces were also shaken up with yesterday’s demise of Klassical Dream in the Matheson Hurdle at Leopardstown.

Klassical Dream was reckoned to have needed the run when dropping away late on behind one stable-companion Saldier and excellent yardstick Petit Mouchoir in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown last month but there could be no fitness excuses for yesterday’s abject failure behind another team-mate Sharjah in the Matheson, with Petit Mouchoir again second but twice as far behind this Mullins winner.

Saldier is second favourite for Cheltenham at 6-1 ahead of a second Henderson runner, the rising five-year-old Pentland Hills, last season’s Triumph and Aintree winner. His underwhelming fifth on comeback this month to another Nicky hurdler, Call Me Lord, was explained by a refusal to settle. He’ll need to get that out of his system next time.

The one name that might emerge to give that particular market a shake-up is Honeysuckle. The Henry de Bromhead-trained mare has a record of six wins in as many hurdles starts, five of them at Fairyhouse. Her winning margins to date have been 12 lengths, 3¼, 6, 5½, 11 and 9, and only once was the word “easily” not used to characterise the victory. That happened on her penultimate start when she beat Saturday’s Leopardstown winner Easy Game by 11 lengths. The comment here was “eased clear…not extended”.

Honeysuckle is generally a 10-1 shot but, like so many mares, especially those trained by Willie Mullins, there is a ready alternative at the Festival to stay with her own sex. It could well be, though, that de Bromhead might be persuaded to go for the big one. On the issue of persuasion, if you could entice your friendly <are there any?> bookmaker to give you say 8-1 with the run-guarantee concession, that might well be one to keep in the locker.

**

I got a call the other day from a very shrewd friend who said, “While Hughie Morrison’s in this sort of form you’ve got to stay with him”, and on the same day Hughie’s juvenile, Kipps, duly confirmed debut promise with a nice win at Lingfield, auguring well for his future as a stayer next year.

Unbeknown to my friend, Supamouse, one of the trainer’s two Boxing Day winners that had prompted the call after his 14-length bumper defeat of the Nicholls favourite and previous course winner Confirmation Bias, had collapsed and died back at the stables.

As the trainer said, with horses you can be up one minute and down on the floor the next. It must have seemed momentarily for Hughie, Mary and everyone else at Summerdown that all the hard work and planning had  been worthwhile with a brilliant future ready to map out for Supamouse, a son of his former star Stimulation, only for it to come crashing down. My sympathies go out to a wonderful trainer and a thoroughly good man.

- TS

Stat of the Day, 30th December 2019

Saturday's pick was...

3.35 Newbury : Tidal Flow @ 7/2 BOG 2nd at 5/2 (Chased leaders, led 11th, pushed along and headed 3 out, chased winner, one pace and well held)

Monday's pick runs in the...

12.25 Haydock :

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Generally, I'll identify and share the selection in the evening before the following day's race and I then add a detailed write-up later on that night/next morning.

Those happy to take the early price on trust can do so, whilst some might prefer to wait for my reasoning. As I fit the early service in around my family life, I can't give an exact timing on the posts, so I suggest you follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for instant notifications of a published pick.

Who?

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Longhousesignora @ 4/1

...in an 11-runner, Class 4, Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle for 3yo+ over 3m½f on soft ground worth £6,498 to the winner...

Why?...

This 7 yr old mare won a Class 2 chase by 15 lengths last time out, at Hereford over 3m1½f on soft ground, so this should be well within her capabilities reverting back to hurldes in a lower grade and sporting the blinkers she successful wore for the first time for that win. She'll be seeking to add to trainer Venetia Williams' good run of form, which has seen the yard land 15 winners from 45 (33.33% SR) and 19.62pts (+43.6% ROI) over the last 21 racing days.

Mind you, this run of form comes as no surprise to me, as one of my saved angles tells me to back all of her Class 2 to 4 handicappers during November/December, because the last six of those pairs of months have produced 89 winners from 420 (21.2% SR) for a profit of some 164.7pts (+39.2% ROI), including of relevance today...

  • 5-8 yr olds are 74/310 (23.9%) for 187.5pts (+60.5%)
  • those racing over 2m3f to 3m4½f are 74/308 (24%) for 201.4pts (+65.4%)
  • those racing on soft or "worse" ground are 70/294 (23.8%) for 121.3pts (+41.2%)
  • those racing at Class 4 are 38/177 (29.9%) for 77.4pts (+60.9%)
  • since the start of November 2018, they are 28/115 (24.3%) for 84.8pts (+73.7%)
  • hurdlers have won 22 of 108 (20.4%) for 30.2pts (+28%)
  • LTO Winners are 19/65 (29.2%) for 30.6pts (+47.1%)
  • whilst those sent here to Haydock are 8/26 (30.8%) for 25.5pts (+98%)

...all of which then leads us to a secondary saved micro-system of mine, where from the above 420 runners, we back 5-8 yr olds racing over 2m3f to 3m4½f on soft or worse ground. This gives us over 84% of the original profit from just 39% of the bets as 49 winners from 164 (29.9% SR) have generated 138.6pts at an ROI of 84.5% and that's the basis for the bet today.

If you wanted to filter down as before then you'd get...

  • 22/55 (40%) for 62.1pts (+112.8%) at Class 4
  • 18/50 (36%) for 64pts (+128%) in 2018/19
  • 11/43 (25.6%) for 41pts (+95.3%) over hurdles
  • 8/35 (22.9%) for 4.4pts (+12.5%) from LTO winners
  • and 5/12 (41.7%) for 25.8pts (+215.2%) here at Haydock (our racecard icons are already alerting you to the yard's overall success at this track)...

...giving us...a 1pt win bet on Longhousesignora @ 4/1 as was offered by both BetVictor & SkyBet at 10.10pm on Sunday, with plenty of 7/2 elsewhere. To see what your preferred bookie is quoting...

...click here for the betting on the 12.25 Haydock

Don't forget, we offer a full interactive racecard service every day!

REMINDER: THERE IS NO STAT OF THE DAY ON SUNDAYS

Here is today's racecard

P.S. all P/L returns quoted in the stats above are to Betfair SP, as I NEVER bet to ISP and neither should you. I always use BOG bookies for SotD, wherever possible, but I use BFSP for the stats as it is the nearest approximation I can give, so I actually expect to beat the returns I use to support my picks. If that's unclear, please ask!

SotD Update, 23rd to 28th December 2019

A short and frustrating week, folks. Once again we were far happier with our picks than the actual results we achieved.

I picked Roll Again on Boxing Day and he was travelling really well until coming down, whilst yesterday I went with Tidal Flow who did absolutely nothing wrong, but was simply second best to an impressive winner on the day.

I was otherwise engaged in the North East on Boxing Day, so Matt stepped in with Classic Design on Friday, who made a mess of the start, went right, but still managed to be leading inside the final furlong. He'd possibly done too much to get to the front and was subsequently headed deep into that final furlong. Don't, however, be fooled by his eventual 6th place finish, he really wasn't that far off.

All of which means that it's highly unlikely that we'll post a profit for the month, unless I can end with a pair of 4/1 winners! It's not inconceivable, but we should be realistic about these things. The very worst case scenario on the other hand is two more defeats, a loss of almost 10pts on the month and a final result of plus 35.5pts for the year.

As this is the last roundup of 2019, I'd like to thank you all for your continued support and encouragement in what has been a very frustrating and frankly disappointing year for me. A 35.5pts return might be considered decent from other "tipsters", but it's someway short of my own privately-set personal target (Matt/GGZ don't set targets for me, I "work" free from such pressure : that's the Geegeez way.) and I'll expand a little more on that next weekend.

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Hoping for a better next two days, a better 2020 and that you all have a fantastic New Year.

Chris

Selections & Results : 23/12/19 to 28/12/19

23/12 : No Racing
24/12 : No Racing
25/12 : No Racing
26/12 : Roll Again @ 3/1 BOG fell at 3/1
27/12 : Classic Design @ 4/1 BOG 6th at 7/2
28/12 : Tidal Flow @ 7/2 BOG 2nd at 5/2

23/12/19 to 28/12/19 :
0 winning bet from 3 = 0.00% SR
P/L: -3.00pts

December 2019 :
3 winners from 20 = 15.00% SR
P/L: -7.84pts
ROI = -39.20%

2019 to date :
66 winners from 288 = 22.92% SR
P/L: +37.46pts
ROI = +13.00%

Overall:
656 winners from 2464 = 26.62% S.R
P/L: +533.87pts
ROI: +21.67%

P.S. The full month by month SotD story can be found right here.
P.P.S The review of SotD's 2012 performance is
here.
Whilst the details for 2013 are now online here.
And the figures for 2014 are
now available here.
Our review of 2015 can be found right here
Whilst 2016's details are right here
And here is the full story from 2017.

2018 was the latest full year for SotD and the yearly review is right here

Stat of the Day is just one component of the excellent package available to all Geegeez Gold Members, so why not take the plunge and get involved right now?

Click here for more details.

Jon Shenton: Some Thoughts on Action vs Angle Bets

I’ve been penning on these pages for well over a year now, writes Jon Shenton. As a novice who has never written anything for public consumption previously, it’s been very challenging. It’s also been highly enjoyable, and I’ve learnt plenty regarding racing, and basic grammar, along the way!

For regulars, you'll know the form: a bit of data, a chunk of blurb and perhaps a few nice angles (and some occasionally less nice ones) on the journey.

But this edition is a bit different, a little more reflective and general in nature, aiming to mull some of the challenges associated with a systematic betting approach. I very much hope that it’s not too self-indulgent [it's not. Ed.] and is of some interest to the data driven bettor.

 

Angles and Demons

My name is Jon Shenton and I have 679 angles / betting systems saved in my portfolio. Many aren’t active but most are.

I’ve been building, maintaining and running angles since April 2016. Prior to that, an annual trip to Gold Cup day was my only exposure to racing and resulted in nine straight years without a hint of trouble for the bookies. However, three winners at Cheltenham on a Friday in March, using detailed but on reflection misguided study, changed everything. My success that day was without doubt 100% attributable to good fortune rather than skill, but in my mind I was up and running.

From that moment, I spent seemingly every spare second researching, analysing and listening in order to develop a deeper understanding of racing.   I began betting only pennies (paper trading is not for me!) initially, but over time those pennies have turned into a few pounds as confidence levels and results have improved.

It all sounds perfect, doesn't it? Making a small amount of pocket money on the nags is something that never seemed to be a realistic proposition; having a leisure activity, that hands out a bit of spendo is a wonderful pursuit.

However, in recent times my enjoyment levels from racing, and betting on it, have been waning a little. I haven’t given it a huge amount of thought until now. But when I was challenged to write this article it became a catalyst to think about the bigger picture and to step back from the day to day noise. It was then that I realised that I haven’t really been plugged into the sport in the same way over the past few months.

Ultimately, I think it’s because the process of systematically wagering on racing through angles is exceptionally transactional in nature. Zooming out and evaluating from a distance it can feel - and had started to feel - in large part like a glorified admin function. And, frankly, there aren’t many people in the world who relish a good bit of relaxing admin in their own spare time.

A typical weekday starts in the evening when all the following day's qualifying bets are written down from the relevant website(s) and tools. Then, at 5.15am on the day of racing, the alarm delivers its familiar but always rude awakening. A quick shower, and with a cup of tea all bets are placed for the day. Then it’s out of the door bright and early to the day job.

Working full-time as I do, it’s nigh on impossible to keep across racing during working hours (deliberately avoided for obvious reasons hopefully) and I check the results when I get home. Then it’s the treat of recording all of the results on a tracking spreadsheet and repeating the process. Every single day.

Some days are quieter than others: in 2019 thus far there have been north of 3,200 angle-generated bets that have been struck. Not sure how I feel about that in the cold light of day - perhaps I need to be more selective - but it certainly illustrates the associated admin challenge.

The graph below shows the result of these type of wagers from that start point in 2016.

Predominantly, these numbers have been delivered through win only level stake betting (more on staking later): it’s non-emotive, low engagement wagering; and there is very little in the way of subjectivity or personal thought in the process. That process is rigid: identify a qualifier, write it down, place a bet, check the result and record the outcome.

The results are strong undoubtedly, with margin ordinarily 10-15% over the course of a year. At this point it should be noted that a portion of this return is attributable to best odds guaranteed. Transacting at early prices with BOG presents an element of 'natural value' with the relatively high volume of bets that are placed. The retreat of this offer to later in the day is creating a hurdle that in time will need to be overcome to maintain my current margin. Placing bets any later than 6am is not going to be possible due to other commitments, so I’m going to need to find a way to evolve or accept a lower rate of return.

Putting these thoughts to print has helped me to recognise that it’s the research, number crunching and theory testing that keeps the fire burning. Sure, the results have a certain satisfaction associated with them, but there is no doubt that the overall process is a little cold, clinical and mechanical.  The highly structured, highly disciplined, admin heavy approach works financially but my level of engagement with the sport is lacking.

 

Action Man

The alternative to stuffy system/angle betting is the good old emotional roller coaster of traditional wagering: taking stock of all the usual elements and variables of a given race and pinning your colours to the mast around one animal.

I am partial to a “normal” bet too, the general parlance used on geegeez.co.uk is “action” betting so we’ll stick with that terminology from here on in.

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Angle/system betting is the rhythm section of the gambling universe, whereas action bets might be seen as the freewheeling, edgy lead guitarist.

Here is a graph illustrating the outcome of my guitar licks over the past 2-and-a-half years.

Not exactly Slash or Hendrix is it?

The graph follows a profile like a Next Big Thing that burns brightly for a time before hitting the skids and hurtling back into relative obscurity.

2019 has clearly been the year of excessive drink, substance abuse, creative differences and a spectacular fall from grace (metaphorically, of course) for my action bets. For context, there have been 645 of them in 2019 to date with 81 successes (counting an E/W collection as 0.2 of a win). Depressingly, I’m not entirely sure why this year has been so difficult, though I suspect there is an element of attempting to be too smart and punting beyond my means and capabilities. A little knowledge can be dangerous, especially when there is a natural attraction to against the crowd punting and (ostensibly) generous prices!

A result of the downturn has been an easing back on the volume of action bets. Roughly speaking, I’ve had less than half the action bets over the past three months that I would have had based on the previous two-year volume averages.

Easing off on the action seems a sensible approach. A brutal personal assessment (stats don’t lie?) is that my race reading ability is not in the same league as the cold data-driven angle approach; so why bother wasting time trying to pick winners when the angles do it better? There is certainly limited financial reason to play in action betting, based on the recent numbers, and locking money away in a cash ISA would make more sense commercially. But not even Derren Brown could convince me that a risk-free return in a tax-free saving account was more fun than poring through race cards, form, pace maps and whatever else.

Through trying to get under the skin of a race and piecing it together, it affords an opportunity to further learn and to develop a deeper understanding of the complexities involved in racing - and in betting on racing. It is sport after all, and an action bet can solidify the link to it. The spectacle and sense of occasion obviously stands on its own merit but evaluating a race closely (betting or not) creates a deeper and more vested interest in the outcome. Most importantly, it generates interest, excitement, and fun.

My life has revolved around sport since I was knee high to the proverbial green jumpy insect. However, my career has generally revolved around the use of data. Racing is perfectly positioned to straddle both. The rational side of me struggles with undue risk and losing money; the sporting and emotional side connects with the characters, animals and theatre of the event, and wants to be financially implicated.

But a recent conscious choice to withdraw from action betting had resulted in less time invested in the sport and, as a result, my previously voracious appetite to consume as much information and knowledge as possible has ebbed a little.

On introspection, then, I know that action betting must be here to stay: I just need to get better at it! It’s a wonderful sport, and to measure the enjoyment of it by financial return and transactions alone is the wrong way of looking at it. Being less uptight about action bets is key. And keeping them separate / treating them as fun, rather than angle-driven investments, is a clear and necessary way forward.

 

Action Learnings

The single biggest challenge with action betting is finding the capacity to do it properly. Finding time to study in any depth is difficult for me due to other commitments, like - you know - work and family! Undoubtedly, that’s where the toolkit on geegeez assists hugely in cutting through some of the noise.

What geegeez cannot do is support with the mental challenges associated with a ticking clock and wagering. It’s a personal thing but occasionally in the evening I’ll put on ATR or Racing TV and decide to have a quick check of the card just before the off. The intent is to evaluate the race at high level and see how that goes. Who’s going to lead? Who has course form? And so on...

However, it’s hard not to get attracted to a bet even in that very short window. Each to their own, but over the past couple of months I’ve refrained from these type of wagers as, for me, they invariably end in disappointment.

A similar limitation related to time, laziness or general apathy is that once pinpointing a “good thing” it can be devilishly difficult to walk away without a wagering commitment. It is the potential opportunity cost of reversing from a successful bet where the problem lies. A race comprises of many possible winners, certainly not just the one identified as having the course form, front-running potential, good draw or whatever edge seems to be apparent. Finding contenders isn’t the main challenge. No, my main challenge relates to understanding how the highlighted horse compares against the rest of the field and knowing when to step back rather than ploughing in regardless.

I’ve committed to at least evaluating the top four or five in the market before making an action bet now. It sounds basic and obvious, but part of the process of trying to improve is assessing why things aren’t working. My hope is that, by implementing this basic rule, there will be an upturn in action-based performance. We’ll see.

 

General angle betting thoughts

Getting back to angle betting, I have a few other observations to share.

Firstly, should all qualifiers get backed blindly or not? A lot of people use an angle as a starting point and then apply subjective judgement to that qualifier in determining whether to put the money down.

This does not work for me. I am an advocate of backing blind. Here's why: the angle works because it’s not subjective, and it can throw up contrarian winners to which the market is largely blind. By applying a judgement filter there is a danger of conforming to the market view and losing the angle's edge.

Below is a case study that burns, even today.

This race from 2017 is taken from my 'I know better' phase where I’d evaluate each qualifier and exclude some from a bet based on my opinion.

The qualifier in question is Guishan from a Mick Appleby sprint angle, number 3 on the card above.  This animal was discounted due to its sub-optimal draw in box 11 of 12.  Everyone knows a horse can’t win from that draw over a sprint trip at Chester, don’t they? Anyway, as I sat down to watch it with a nice cup of tea and a smug feeling of avoiding an inevitable loss, I was gripped by unfolding sense of horror. Guishan tacked over from a high draw, secured a reasonable position and swept by all-comers in the home straight to win with a degree of comfort. At 25/1. There are lots of other case studies with resemblance to this one but I'll spare you - and me! - the details.

Moving on, if there is a good reason to adapt an angle I will. For example, certain trainers may qualify at specific tracks or under certain conditions but they have a poor record with horses first or second time out. In such a situation, I would have no qualms adjusting or improving the angle by excluding these, because that decision would be evidence-based. But those subjective, opinion-based exclusions need to be consigned to the wheelie bin of history.

 

Staking Plan

Before closing, a line or two on staking. There are countless words available on this subject and no doubt the vast majority are better informed than what follows. However, I hope my relative inexperience can be of some reassurance to those of you who are still finding your way.

Quite frankly, in terms of staking, keeping it simple is the most important for me. I have researched and read a fair amount on optimising stakes but, in all honesty, I don’t understand a great deal of it! I certainly have no real idea how much value there is in each bet to adjust stakes accordingly, and I’d be guessing if applying something like the Kelly Criterion in the real world. I’ve tried measuring value by creating my own tissue prices but I’m a million miles away from making that work for me effectively.

Basically, the less I think about from a staking perspective the better. In general, level stakes keep it a thought free process for me. That said, there is some room for manoeuvre, depending on the category of bet and my track record with them. My current staking plan is as follows:

  • 2 points win – All-weather premium angle
  • 1.5-point win – All-weather standard angle
  • 1.5-point win – Flat turf premium angle
  • 1-point win – Flat turf standard angle
  • 1-point win – National Hunt angle
  • 1-point win / 0.5 points EW – Action bet

The only subjective part is what makes a premium or standard angle. That’s down to performance and chi score (one for another day) which is a statistical measure to indicate the likelihood of results being attributable to chance or not.

An example of a premium angle is the Derek Shaw, Chelmsford Class 4-7 at 11/1 or shorter contained within the below edition of punting angles. That is proven over a period in a live environment.

https://www.geegeez.co.uk/punting-angles-chelmsford-city-racecourse-part-1/

I think staking plans boil down to understanding ones strengths and weaknesses, and betting accordingly. If you do struggle or worry about staking, then in my experience a level stakes approach takes a lot of the noise and confusion away.

In fact, I think that’s what this article is predominantly about. Strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes. Writing it has certainly helped me to think about my betting - specifically, what I’m good at and what I have as development areas (corporate speak).

Even if the experiences I've shared in this article don’t help directly, taking a bit of time out to reflect on your betting approach, strategies and performance is a sensible and pragmatic thing to do occasionally. And no better moment than during this break.

I hope you enjoy the festivities, and here’s to an exciting, fun and profitable 2020 racing. It really is a special sport like no other.

- JS

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