Thank you so much for your headscratchers, and welcome to the very first Silly Question Friday article. In this and subsequent Friday posts, I will respond to those quandaries large and small which have been rattling around your craniums (crania?) unanswered.
There is a vague 'subject matter' format, with this week's questions relating to RACING and/or BETTING.
Let's get straight to it...
How does a jockey judge the pace of a race?
From: Simon B
Morning Matt, I've always wanted to know, how does a jockey judge the pace of a race?
Especially over 2 miles and further when one horse scoots clear by 20 lengths or so?
Cheers mate,all the best, Simon
Pace in UK and Irish horseracing remains somewhat subjective, though with more information being published, jockeyship can be expected to improve in this area in coming years. Pace maps, sectional timing and the like will be powerful allies to those riders who seek to improve the accuracy of 'the clock in their heads'.
Regarding how a jockey judges pace in a race, it will generally be the case that the horse they are riding will indicate to them whether the clip the leaders are going is too fast or too slow. If a horse refuses to settle, moving its head from side to side as the jockey attempts to restrain it, that is an obvious sign they're going steadily. This can be ratified by sectional split times on Sky Sports Racing (and other channels soon, hopefully).
If the leaders have gone off too fast, the field will generally be strung out with some runners being asked for effort to stay with the field.
The difficult scenario is the one you've outlined, where a single (usually) horse steals a march on its field. If the horse is travelling comfortably it has a reasonable chance to win, especially in a small field. However, often such runners have scooted clear because they are over-racing and will fail to see the race distance out. Look for how much control the jockey seems to have over the horse, and also the fluency of its jumping (if it's a jumps race, obviously; if it is jumping in a flat race, that would be a bad sign 😉 ).
Jockeys don't have the benefit of split / sectional timing, but we do; and we increasingly need to take these numbers on board. Elsewhere in the racing - and indeed sporting - world, such data is a fundamental staple of the game. It will be here soon, too. Embrace it.
What does ‘exposed’ mean in horse racing? And what is a ‘Conditional Handicap’?
From: Bill S
Two questions which immediately come to mind.
First what is meant when a horse is referred to as being exposed or not exposed?
Secondly, what is a Conditional Handicap?
Great idea to introduce SQF
'Exposed' is a term that means a horse has demonstrated its level of ability and is unlikely to improve markedly on that level. For instance, a horse with 20 flat runs, ten of them in mile and a half handicaps, would be considered exposed if running in another mile and a half handicap... unless there was something notably different this time, such as a first try on very different ground/all weather etc.
Even horses with lots of runs in the book can step forward for a change of race code, such as switching from flat racing to hurdling; in that context, the pedigree can offer some clues to try to fill the next context 'formbook void'.
An unexposed horse, then, is one that has had little public racing and, consequently, has the scope to improve beyond its hitherto demonstrated level of ability. Obvious examples, and horses to always give a second glance, are those running in a handicap for the first time after three runs down the field. This is especially the case if anything else is different today. For example, three runs at six furlongs in maiden races, then a first (or second or even third) run in a handicap over a mile and a quarter: this set up, especially if there was a break since the last run, might lead to an improved effort in a very different race scenario.
A conditional handicap is simply a handicap open only to conditional riders. Conditional riders are the National Hunt (jumps racing) equivalent of apprentice riders on the flat. So a conditional handicap will tend to be a handicap hurdle (occasionally chase) for inexperienced riders.
How are horses rated? How are races classed?
From: Ian L
Two basic questions that I think would be useful in this context:
1) How are horses rated?
2) How are races classed?
In order to receive a rating a horse must first run a few times in 'open' company; for example, in maidens or novice hurdles. That gives the handicapper, whose job it is to rate horses, a chance to see which horses a given animal has beaten and which horses have beaten it - and by how much. From this limited evidence an initial stab at a horse's ability - in ratings terms - is arrived at.
As horses race more, so they mature and their rating becomes a more likely reflection of true ability. This article, written in December 2014 but still as current now as it was then, explains more on ratings and the handicap system.
Races are classed based on the quality of animals expected to compete. In handicaps, this is simple: ratings bands, for instance 0-75, are used to restrict the runners to those rated 75 (or, in fact, 77 due to a recent +2 rule change) or lower. Depending on the top end of the rating band, a Class is attributed - in this case, Class 5 or occasionally Class 4.
In non-handicaps, the Class will be related to prize money on offer, race conditions, and so on.
Class 1 races are Listed and Group/Grade 1, 2 or 3 races, the Group/Graded races making up the 'Pattern', and Listed races showing it. All are bestowed such a classification by the European Pattern Committee. Such races can move up or down the Pattern and, occasionally (though probably not often enough), can be removed from the Pattern. More information on the Pattern can be found here.
Is a rated race a stakes race? What is the equivalent going to yielding, etc?
From: Stuart H
In Irish racing is a RATED RACE stakes or Hcp?
In Irish racing what are the equivalent going in UK for the Irish going, eg Yielding etc?
A Rated Race in Ireland is a race where horses are eligible to run based on specific race conditions, usually associated with their official rating. They are generally stakes races rather than handicaps.
Irish racing has the same going range as UK racing, with the exception of yielding (and its gradations into good or soft) and soft to heavy.
Yielding is generally held to be similar to UK good to soft.
What is a patent? (and other bet types)
From: JOHN C
Can you explain to me what a Patent Bet is, because recently I had a Patent Bet, each way, which came home at what I thought were reasonable odds, but for this £7x2 bet, where possible returns were shown as £113.50, I received just under 20 quid, with Bet 365.
I expected this bet to be something special, so this is why I would like clarification.
A couple of things here. Firstly, if you're ever unsure of how/why a bet has been settled, it is important to take it up with the bookmaker that settled it. They are normally correct. But they are not always correct. Don't give up until you understand what they have done. If you are unhappy with the settlement (i.e. believe it to be wrong rather than just wished it came to more money!), you can contact IBAS for dispute resolution purposes. [NB if your bet was each way, it would have been a £1 e/w patent rather than a £2 patent]
Regarding bet types, a patent consists of seven bets across three selections as follows: three singles (selections 1, 2, and 3), three doubles (12, 13, 23), and one treble (123). This is an example of a full cover bet with singles. Others are Lucky 15 (four selections), Lucky 31 (five selections), Lucky 63 (six selections). The full cover variants excluding singles are trixie (three picks, doubles and treble), yankee (four picks, doubles, trebles and fourfold), super yankee (five picks), and heinz (six picks).
More information on bet types can be found here.
What is your favourite racecourse?
From: Arthur H
Which is your favourite racecourse (in the UK)? And why?
Good luck with this idea, I like it!
My favourite UK racecourse is either Sandown or Goodwood. Both are beautifully situated (though for different reasons), both epitomise much of the joy of the flat game, and both have pretty good viewing facilities.
But it's a tricky question. For different reasons, I love all of Ascot, Cheltenham, Fontwell, Plumpton, York, Beverley, Chester and many more.
For me it's true what they say: a bad day at the racetrack is better than a good day at the office!
How to play multiple system selections in the same race?
From: Paul L
I’ve got a question about systems betting particularly when the systems you use throw up more than one horse in a race.
How would you typically play this kind of scenario? Do you just back them all because that is what you should do with system bets? Do you take into account draw/conditions/form etc., all the things you would normally consider in selecting a bet, and use those to potentially dismiss one or more of the horses? I’m particularly interested in situations where the prices are such that if one of the horses wins you are still down because the price of the winner doesn’t cover the loss on the other horse(s)? I guess a similar scenario presents when back all the horses would return a profit if one wins - would you still back them all if all the other decision making factors would typically point to a no-bet or reduced bet situation?
Sorry that is actually a good number of questions, but all related. As you might have inferred I’m wrestling with system bets based on angles I’ve set up using the Query Tool (absolutely brilliant by the way, although I’d love to be able to add some notes and use days since last run as a filter) and am probably not currently disciplined enough to use the approach to best effect so your input and feedback would be much appreciated.
The idea of systematic betting is a good one: in theory it removes sentiment and helps retain sanity through the peaks and troughs of any sequence of wagers. However, it requires a certain mindset to follow qualifiers unerringly.
The results of systems are arrived at by adding the profit and loss of all qualifiers during the research period. That much is obvious. So it should follow that in order to expect a replication or continuation of performance, one must also back all qualifiers thereafter, regardless of how many appear in the same race.
If you are rigidly following a system, the answer is simple: back all qualifiers level stakes.
However, increasingly, bettors are not following systems blindly but, rather, using them to identify potential runners of interest. Thereafter, a user may eliminate runners on the basis of form considerations or vary stakes for the same reason.
I personally use Query Tool to flag runners of interest and to add further considerations into the 'fixed format' output of the racecards, draw and pace, Instant Expert and reports.
I do not follow systems blindly because I want to have more control over my betting. For others, this is exactly the reason they like to follow systems blindly.
Regardless, all mechanical angles should be regularly reviewed to ensure that they remain profitable and that the underlying logic still holds.
I have just had my account severely restricted after just 17 days. Is this a record ?
From: Bob G
I have just had my account severely restricted after just 17 days. I haven't made any money and I am ten quid down.
Is this a record ?
No, this is not a record. Bookmakers restrict accounts more often based on the price movements of the horses you've backed than the amount of profit you've made. Obviously the latter is also a factor, but if you end up on 'shorteners', you'll be caught in the algorithmic dragnet that says you're a shrewdie, and restricted accordingly.
Horseracing Bettors Forum and others are working with bookmakers to counter this, both by a 'right to reply' / feedback loop and by way of a Minimum Bet Liability (i.e. allowing bettors a bet to win at least a certain amount, usually £500). But not all bookmakers are yet receptive to such 'level playing field' concepts, sadly.
Why do some bumper horses have an OR?
From: Alan C
I’m interested in bumper races. I asked the BHA if a horse can be handicapped on bumper form. Their answer is ‘a horse must run over obstacles to qualify for a handicap mark’. When I look at the race results on GeeGeez, ATR etc for the bumper championship races at Chelt and Aintree, the runners are all shown with OR figures. For example, The Glancing Queen is shown with OR 124 for the G1 Champions Bumper at Cheltenham (she was 5th) and OR 122 for the G2 mares championship bumper at Aintree which she won. When I look up the OR on the BHA Ratings Database there are no results for the bumper horses. My question is where do the published OR ratings come from if they don’t officially exist?
Thanks for the chance to ask my ‘silly question’
This is an interesting question. As far as I'm aware, the BHA now publish 'performance ratings' for Graded National Hunt Flat (NHF, or bumper) races only. There is a distinction between a performance rating and official rating, notwithstanding that the former is used to arrive at the latter in the normal run of things.
The issue with bumpers is that they are considered a distinct racing code, and it is a code which has no handicap races. Thus, such published ratings can be considered 'for information purposes only'.
The BHA handicappers are not allowed to take account of bumper form when allocating opening hurdles (or chase) marks, meaning horses need to qualify for an initial mark in one of those before being able to race in a handicap hurdle (or chase).
Bottom line: the published NHF figures are NOT 'Official ratings' but rather they are 'performance ratings'. Official ratings in bumpers do not exist.
What does ‘is he off?’ mean, and how do we know the answer?!
From: Eddie F
So lets light up the Q's
Starting with a full explanation (uncensored!) of "IS HE OFF?"
'Is he off?' means 'is the horse trying its best today?', to which the answer should, according to the rules of racing, always be, 'yes'.
I tend to believe that generally horses are trying their best. [If you don't believe that, then betting on horses is probably not a sensible option...]
However, the better question is whether the race distance, ground, class, fitness level and so on are a 'best fit' for the horse. That is where the toolkit at Geegeez Gold (other services are available) comes into its own, and where value bets are isolated.
Thoughts on backing last time out beaten favourites?
From: Liam C
I do quite well backing last time out beaten favourites in lucky 15s . Ok I'm kept in the black a lot of times by the one winner bonus paid by my bookie, but have had some nice pay days and rarely lose my whole stake. Would be nice to hear your take on this, perhaps a list of last time out beaten favourites in your race card.
From the start of 2015 to mid-September 2019, last time out beaten favourites won about 5000 of about 27000 races. That strike rate of 18.6% was worth an SP loss of 3800 points, or a negative 14% ROI. Not good.
However, as you say, by using an approach like double odds on a single winner you've a chance of getting close to parity. More pertinently perhaps, you'll stay in the game longer and sustain your enjoyment as a consequence.
Following last day beaten favourites, or indeed any other approach predicated on a single data item, is not an approach I'd recommend; but each to their own.
BF is not something we plan to add to Geegeez cards.
When is the best time to bet?
From: STEPHEN C
When is the best to bet?
Had most of my BOG so have to rely on a guess when to bet. Never seem to get it right. When I bet early the price goes out. When I wait it always seems come in. Is some type of analysis around that might help and average out early or late?
Really good question. The first thing to say is that what 'seems' to be the case almost certainly isn't, inasmuch as you probably frequently get close to the best of the odds differential but remember the reversals more than those which go your way.
Regardless of that, the general point about when is best to bet is a good one, to which I don't have a great answer sadly.
The article here highlights some of the considerations to factor in, most of which are outside of our control. Sigh.
One thing I try to keep in mind in this context is what I know about a horse/trainer/jockey that the market will know before off time. For example, I might see that a horse is a 'lone pace' angle in a race, or has a superb record on today's heavy ground, etc. These things are rarely lost on the closing market but often take time to filter into the pricing. Here, I'd bet early.
However, with a handicap debutant from a trainer with a good HC1 record I'd probably wait to see how the market went. Trying to second guess whether a horse is just not very good or has been placed in maiden races to acquire a workable handicap mark is a volatile pursuit where the market can certainly guide. Usually, because very little money is taken overnight, such moves don't manifest until early to mid-morning.
It is at best an inexact science, but certainly an area where we should endeavour to be as expedient as is practical.
What in a horse’s run style suggests it wants further?
What is it - apart from the obvious- that suggests in a horses style of running it needs further?
Run style is not normally something which would highlight a horse's distance preferences. A trainer might want the horse to be held up if it feels the runner has suspect stamina at today's race distance. Equally, a horse with one pace but who gets the trip well might be ridden forcefully from the front. But neither suggests the horse needs further.
More characteristic might be that the horse in question gets outpaced at a point in the race - though this may just mean the animal is moderate, or perhaps unsuited by other factors (the pace of the race, ground, course constitution) - or, most obviously, if it finishes the race well.
Further clues can be gleaned from the pedigree: does the sire generally get horses that stay further? Over what sort of trip did the mare win? Was the damsire an influence for stamina?
It's not an easy question to answer; but generally I'd not be looking for anything other than finishing well, in terms of run style, to indicate a horse might want a longer race distance.
What does CSF stand for?
From: Aodhan O'C
CSF in results stands for ? straight forecast?
CSF stands for Computer Straight Forecast, a nod to the computerised and formulaic calculation of the dividends.
You may request a copy of the formula from the Association of British Bookmakers, I understand, though it runs to many pages of A4 according to racing legend.
Does anyone really make a living from betting or trading?
From: Jeffrey O
I have been trying to make money from gambling trading etc for 20 plus years and the best I can do is break even footy horses about the same.
Do you think anyone really does earn a living from it?
YES! I am absolutely certain some people make a living from betting and/or trading. But the key phrase here is 'make a living'. They have it as an occupation and invest a lot of time into the activity. Increasingly, that time is reduced by computer legwork, such as the kind that Geegeez Gold provides its subscribers.
More than the knowledge, as fundamentally important as that is, those whose living comes from betting or trading have an investment mindset.
That's a key point because not all of us have - or indeed want - such a mindset. For example, I bet recreationally but to make a profit. Betting is not, and never will be, my primary source of income; but I still have a positive expectation from it. I allow myself loads of action bets, and then make more 'robust' wagers when I really like a horse and its value proposition.
Lots of people are making a living from betting, but they invest a lot of time and energy both into finding the right wagers and getting those wagers on. They also have a supportive bankroll which will generally run into at least tens and normally hundreds of thousands.
How is the order of stalls loading determined?
From: Chris J
My question is how do the decide what order to load the horses into the stalls. They don't seem to do it in order of draw and I don't think they do it in even then odd order either so how exactly do they decide? Quite often a commentator mentions that a particular horse is hanging back to be loaded last but surely it can't be down to the jockey to decide?
I asked geegeez.co.uk-sponsored jockey David Probert for an answer to this one. He told me:
"The odd numbers are loaded first: stall 1, then 3, 5, 7, etc. Then the evens, 2, 4, 6, etc.
The exceptions are that all horses wearing a hood or wearing a rug for stalls entry must load first unless the trainer has 'taken a ticket', which entitles them to go in last"
So there you have it!
That's all for this first edition of SQF. I hope you now know at least one thing you didn't when you started reading this! If you've any more questions on racing, betting, Geegeez Gold, and so on, please do drop me a line and I'll add it to the list!