Throughout this site, in editorial content and on our award-winning Gold reports and racecards, there are references to various measures of performance or utility: horse racing metrics. Although some of the concepts may be new, their application – and therefore your understanding of them – is generally straightforward.
This article offers a brief run down of the metrics used, notably Impact Value (IV), Actual vs Expected (A/E) and Percentage of Rivals Beaten (PRB). In the following, I explain how the metrics are arrived at; but if you’re not a geeky type, simply make a note of the ‘what to look for’ component for each one.
Impact Value (IV)
IV helps to understand how often something happens in a specific situation by comparing it against a more general set of information for the same situation.
For example, we can get the IV of a trainer’s strike rate by comparing it with the average strike rate for all trainers.
Let’s say a trainer saddled 36 winners from 126 runners, a strike rate of 28.57%, during the National Hunt season.
And let's further say that, overall in that season, there were 3118 winners from 26441 runners. That’s an average strike rate of 11.79%.
We could simply divide the two strike rates:
28.57 / 11.79 = 2.42
Or we could do the long version, which at least helps understand the calculation. It goes like this:
('Thing' winners / All winners) / ('Thing' runners / All runners)
In this case,
(36 / 3118) / (126 / 26441)
= 0.011545 / 0.004765
What to look for with IV
An IV of 1 is the 'standard' for the total rate of incidence of something. A number greater than 1 relates that something happens more than standard, and a number less than 1 implies it happens less than standard.
The further above or below 1 the IV figure is, the more or less frequently than ‘standard’ something happens.
The example IV of 2.42 means our trainer won at a rate nearly two-and-a-half times the overall trainer seasonal average: 2.42 times, to be precise.
Note that very small data samples can produce misleading IV figures.
IV3 is a derivation of IV created by us here at geegeez.co.uk to help ‘smooth the curve’ on chart data. You can see examples of this when looking at draw data on this website.
IV3 simply adds the IV of a piece of data to the IV's of its closest neighbouring pieces of data, and divides the sum by three.
For example, the IV3 figure for stall five at a racecourse would be calculated as:
(IVs4 + IVs5 + IVs6) / 3
where IVs4 is the Impact Value of stall 4, the lower neighbour of stall 5, whose IV3 we are calculating, and IVs6 is the Impact Value of stall 6, the upper neighbour of the stall whose IV3 we are calculating.
Thus, in the below example which shows stalls 1-5, the IV3 figure for stall 2 is the average of the IV figures for stalls 1, 2 and 3:
(1.98 + 2.27 + 2.55) / 3 = 2.27
As with IV, the greater the value the better, with anything above 1 representing an outcome which occurs more frequently than standard.
N.B. For the lowest and highest stalls in a race, IV3 is calculated from an average of the stall and its sole neighbour (stall 2 in the case of stall 1, and stall H-1 in the case of the (H)ighest numbered stall).
What to look for with IV3
Used on this site mainly in charts, IV3 shows a smoother, more representative curve when looking at the impact of stall position.
Example IV Chart:
Same data plotted by IV3:
Actual vs Expected (A/E)
Whereas IV tells us how frequently, relatively, something happens, as bettors we need to know what the implied profitability of that something is. In concert, they are a powerful partnership, with favourable figures denoting an event that happens more frequently than average and with a positive betting expectation.
A/E, or the ratio of Actual versus Expected, attempts to establish the value proposition (profitability in simple terms) of a statistic. The 'actual' and 'expected' are the number of winners.
The ‘actual’ number of winners is just that. In the case of the IV example above, the trainer had 36 winners from 126 runners. Actual then is 36.
But how do we calculate the 'expected' number of winners?
We use a formula based on the starting price (you could just as easily use Betfair Starting Price or even tote return if you were sufficiently minded - we've used SP), thus:
Actual number of winners / Sum of ALL [entity] runners' SP's (in percentage terms)
So far we know that to be 36 / Sum of ALL [entity] runners' SP's (in percentage terms)
To establish a runner's SP in percentage terms, we do the sum 1/([SP as a decimal] + 1).
For instance, 4/1 SP would be 1/(4 + 1), or 1/5, which is 0.20,
evens SP would be 1/(1 + 1), or 1/2, which is 0.5,
1-4 SP would be 1/(0.25 + 1), or 1/1.25, which is 0.8, and so on.
The sum of our trainer's 126 runners' starting prices, calculated in the above fashion, is 33.15.
Our A/E then is 36 / 33.15 which is 1.09.
We can then say that this trainer’s horses have a slightly positive market expectation, and in general terms her horses look worth following.
What to look for with A/E
As with IV, a score above 1 is good and below 1 is not good, though in this case the degree of goodness or not goodness pertains to market expectation, or what might be summed up as ‘likelihood of future profitability’.
A dataset that shows a profit but has an A/E below 1 is probably as a result of one or two big outsiders winning. Such runners have a low expectation associated with them and are far less likely to represent winners in the future.
Clearly, then, we’re looking for an A/E above 1. But we need also to be apprehensive around ostensibly exciting profit figures when the A/E doesn’t back that up. That is, when the A/E figure is below 1.
Note also that very small data samples can produce misleading A/E figures.
Percentage of Rivals Beaten (PRB)
One of the main problems with assessing horseracing statistics is that we’re often faced with very small amounts of information from which to try to form a conclusion.
For this reason, I personally prefer place percentages to win percentages, as there are more place positions in a small group of races than there are winners. Thus, it tends to lead to slightly more representative findings.
PRB tries to take this race hierarchy a step further and produce a sliding scale of performance for every runner in a race based on where they finished.
So, for example, in a twelve-horse race, the winner beats 100% of its rivals, and the last placed horse beats 0% of its rivals. But what about those finishing between first and last?
The calculation is:
(runners - position) / (runners - 1)
The 4th placed horse's PRB in a 12-runner race would be calculated as:
(12 – 4) / (12 – 1)
= 8 / 11
= 0.73 (or 73%)
The full table of PRB’s for a 12-horse race is below.
A word on non-completions
There are different interpretations of how to cater for a horse which fails to complete (refused to race, unseated rider, fell, pulled up, etc).
Some exclude those runners from the calculation sample, others use a 50% of rivals beaten figure. The traditional way of dealing with non-completions - the way its creator, Simon Rowlands, has managed them since introducing %RB around 15 years ago - is to recode pulled ups as joint-last (so will be >0% if more than one), and fell etc as neutral (50% of rivals beaten).
Whilst I can see the rationale behind both of those, the approach we have taken is more literal: we assume a non-completing horse to have beaten 0% of its rivals. This is unfair on the leader who falls at the last but nor does it upgrade a tiring faller or a horse pulling up at the back of the field.
There is not really a perfect way to represent non-completions in PRB terms; this is at least a consistent interpretation which is of little consequence in larger datasets or where non-completions are rare (for example, in flat races).
What to look for with PRB
PRB is helpful when attempting to establish the merit of unplaced runs; for example, a horse finishing 5th of 24 in a big field handicap has fared a good bit better than a horse finishing 5th of 6.
A PRB figure of 55% or more can be considered a positive; by the same token, a PRB figure below 45% should be taken as a negative, all other things being equal.
The problem with PRB is that it assumes, as per the rules of racing, that every horse is ridden out to achieve its best possible placing. In reality that frequently fails to happen: horses whose chances have gone are eased off and allowed to come home in their own time.
Thus, the further from the winner you get, the less reliable is the PRB figure.
As the name suggests, this is the PRB figure, expressed as a decimal, times itself. This is also sometimes written as PRB^2, which means the same as PRB2.
So, for example, if the percentage of rivals beaten was 80%, or 0.8, the PRB2 figure would be 0.8 x 0.8 = 0.64
The reason this is useful is that it rewards those finishing nearer to first exponentially, as the table and chart for an 11-runner race below illustrates.
The chart lines start and end in the same place but, in between, they are divergent.
The difference in the values is greater the further down the top half of the field a horse finishes, and then gravitates back towards the PRB line in the latter half of the field (where PRB2 scores are lowest).
This is significant when looking at, for example, trainer statistics. Let’s take an example where two trainers have the following finishes from three horses, all in eleven-runner races (for ease of calculation):
Using our reference table above for eleven-runner races, we could calculate the PRB’s, using decimals rather than fractions, as follows:
Trainer A: 1.0 + 0.5 + 0.0 = 1.5
Trainer B: 0.5 + 0.5 + 0.5 = 1.5
Both have a score of 1.5 which, when divided by the three runs, gives a PRB rating of 0.5.
But Trainer A had a winner and Trainer B failed to secure a finish better than 6th, so should we afford them the same merit?
Some will argue yes, but I prefer – and PRB^2 offers – to recognise all that has happened but to reward the trainer with the ‘meaningful’ placing to a greater degree than her perma-midfield counterpart.
Here’s how PRB^2 views the same trio of performances:
Trainer A: 1.0 + 0.25 + 0.00 = 1.25 / 3 = 0.42
Trainer B: 0.25 + 0.25 + 0.25 = 0.75 / 3 = 0.25
This time we see the preference towards Trainer A, who had the same average finishing position but the more worthy finish in that one of his runners won.
That, in my view, is a more meaningful statistic for all that it is not straightforward to know what a ‘good’ PRB^2 figure is.
What to look for with PRB^2
Anything above 0.4 on a reasonable sample size implies ‘good’ performance whereas anything below 0.3 on a reasonable sample implies ‘poor’ performance, though there is some scope for different interpretations between 0.3 and 0.4.
PRB3, not to be confused with PRB^2, is used in the same way as IV3 when there is a logical and linear relationship between a data point and its closest neighbours. The example we used in IV3 was stall position and that holds equally for PRB3: it would be the average percentage of rivals beaten of a stall and its closest neighbours. Another example might be the rolling monthly percentage of rivals beaten for a trainer, although this will always be historical in its outlook (we cannot know next month's PRB).
As with IV3, its primary utility is one of smoothing the curve to make patterns in the data easier to spot.
Horse Racing Metrics Summary
Throughout the site, figures relating to Impact Value, Actual vs Expected, and Percentage of Rivals Beaten are referenced. There is nothing to be afraid of; rather, each metric simply provides an appropriate way of easily understanding the data (and, crucially, its utility), and comparing it within the context of the entity under investigation.
https://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/numbers.jpg320830Matt Bisognohttps://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/geegeez_banner_new_300x100.pngMatt Bisogno2020-05-13 12:14:502020-08-19 20:04:49Horse Racing Metrics: A/E, IV, PRB
Thank you very much for your contributions to this little horse profiling experiment. I've aggregated them all in a pdf report at the end of the article.
I've also created a page where the horses will be highlighted if they're running (you'll still need to check whether they satisfy the profile criteria).
This is version 1.0 and, if there are further submissions between now and the end of the week, I'll update the report to include them.
For now, though, if you've read this article already, please navigate to the bottom to download the report and find the page link.
If you've not yet read the piece, start here!
When racing resumes there will be a focus, understandably, on two-year-olds, first season sires, trainers who perform well with horses off a layoff, and of course the Classic generation. Plenty of what happens in those spaces will be less predictable than normal due to the coronavirus-enforced later start. This article eschews those staples of the current content vista in favour of another hardy perennial, a horses to follow list.
Back yon - about eight or nine years ago, I think - I worked with a great guy called David Peat, who was mad about horse profiles. He had written books on the subject, he had a subscription service dedicated to the subject, and he and I ended up co-producing a product/service around the idea.
The concept was, and still is, simple: where everyone else is looking at what's new during spring time, horse profiling requires a body of work to exist in the form book already. Its currency is exposed horses, those who have run scores of times and have shown an affinity for a specific set of circumstances.
As well as highlighting five such horses which might pay their way in 2020, I'll also attempt to show how easy it is to create these for yourself. There are scores of these horses to find and, as an extra bonus, I'll include some further races - chock full of profile types - that I've yet to research: perhaps some of the more community-spirited readers will take up my challenge to add a comment with their findings for a given horse off the list. Right, let's get to it...
Age: 6 Trainer: Roger Fell Career record: 10/52 Turf Record: 9/40 Turf Handicap Record: 9/37 Highest winning OR: 80 Current OR: 82 Win Profile:
10/10 6-12 runners
10/10 April to July
9/10 5f (all of last nine)
9/10 blinkers (other win in cheekpieces, 0/24 no headgear)
8/10 Good to Firm
Led in all of last six wins (3 of remaining 4 when racing prominently)
A great example to begin with, Dapper Man is a five furlong speedball. He likes to get out and stay out, and he's hard to catch when he does. Trainer Roger Fell has managed the gelding's form cycles brilliantly in the last two seasons: in 2018, Dapper Man won five times - beginning off a mark of 60 before achieving a high of 86 (top winning rating was 76); and in 2019, he won four times on the spin from marks between 72 and 80.
What is noteworthy is that in between those early summer winning sprees, Fell had got Dapper Man's mark back down from 86 to 72. After his final win last year, he was rated 89 and is now on 82. I suspect his trainer will want a few more pounds back before striking again, so expect to see the blinkers left off and a couple more runs on slower ground if he can. Once this lad gets back to around 75 he'll be dangerous.
Combining optimal conditions - handicaps of 12 or fewer runners, April to July, 5f, good to firm, and blinkers - Dapper Man is 7 from 10, 2 further places, and +28.41 at starting price. I'd be wary of the April to July element this term given the break in racing, but the other components look important.
Age: 7 Trainer: David O'Meara Career record: 8/41 Turf Record: 7/32 Turf Handicap Record: 7/30 Highest winning OR: 96 Current OR: 97 Win Profile:
8/8 Class 2-4
8/8 turning tracks (0/9 on straight tracks, though has run well)
7/8 1 mile
6/8 Good or Good to Firm (has also won on polytrack and heavy)
Last five wins off rating between 92 and 96
Bought from Ireland after a Dundalk maiden win in October 2016, it was a year before Waarif made his debut for David O'Meara and not until June 2018 - 13 starts later - that he got off the mark for his new trainer. It was worth the wait, however, as victory came in the Carlisle Bell, a valuable handicap at the Cumbrian track. That seemingly opened the floodgates as he won a further three of his next five starts to end 2018 with four victories and a mark of 100.
2019 began in the Lincoln off that lofty perch but it wasn't until he'd dropped to 92 that he scored again, on his fifth run of the season. That was a steadily run ten furlong contest which probably rode more like a mile, and was his only non-mile victory. Further scores from marks of 96 and 95 followed. Although it may be nothing more than coincidence, Waarif has yet to win for O'Meara prior to his fifth start of the season.
5/8 Good to Soft (also won once each on on Good, Soft, and Good to Firm)
4/8 Cheekpieces (plus 2 further places)
It's difficult to know whether this steadily progressive handicapper needs to drop a little in the weights. The gelding ran arguably his best race when second in a decent Ayr handicap last September, his final start of 2019. That moved him to a perch six pounds north of his highest winning mark but he was competitive off 88 that day.
In any case, Redarna has won second or third time off a layoff the past three seasons so it could be that his mark will drop at least a pound for his 2020 bow.
Seven furlongs ideally, or a mile, on the soft side of good; and both Ayr and Carlisle have been happy hunting grounds. I'm not convinced that cheekpieces are necessary though he's certainly run well in them (and previously without them).
De Vegas Kid
Age: 6 Trainer: Tony Carroll Career record: 8/39 Turf Record: 7/24 Turf Handicap Record: 7/19 Highest winning OR: 79 Current OR: 82 Win Profile:
7/7 turf wins on Good or Good to Firm (also won on Wolverhampton's tapeta track)
5/7 turf wins when apprentice ridden
5/7 turf wins on left-handed tracks (also won left-handed at Wolverhampton)
4 of last 5 wins at Brighton (overall Brighton record: 4/7)
3/6 off 60+ day layoff
Racehorses are funny creatures. Take De Vegas Kid: he was 0 from 21 going into a very modest seven furlong handicap in February 2018 off a basement mark of 51. Two years and eight wins later and he's now rated in the low 80's!
That confidence-boosting victory at Wolverhampton was his only all-weather win. Since then he's won seven times on the turf, including four at Brighton. There might be something about seaside air for De Vegas Kid, as he's also won at Goodwood and Yarmouth. His hold up style seems ideally suited to apprentices, who don't need to do much until the last part of a race, and he does seem especially effective on left-handed tracks (though the Brighton factor heavily influences that angle).
Four runs on the all-weather since his last Brighton triumph have reduced his rating from 85 to 82 but he may need to drop a few more before he's primed again. Sussex in late summer may again be a happy hunting ground.
10/11 Good or Good to Firm ground (also won on Newcastle's tapeta)
9/11 ridden by PJ McDonald, Martin Dwyer or Danny Tudhope
6/11 Class 4
A slightly more left field entry to close, Royal Brave won none of his eleven starts last year and was only sixth of eight on his 2020 debut in early March. If that's the bad news, the good news is that he's now rated a stone below his last winning mark. Moreover, he has run almost exclusively on either all-weather (1/15 lifetime) or softer than good (0/10 lifetime) in that barren spell.
In fact, it is arguable that he only got his conditions twice last season, both at Musselburgh: in the Scottish Sprint Cup, where he was beaten six lengths off a mark of 91; and in a small field Class 3 handicap where he was doing his best work at the finish.
All of his last six wins have come from a rating higher than his current figure which makes Royal Brave dangerously well-handicapped when he gets fast ground and a bit of pace to run at over Musselburgh's five furlong piste.
And those are my five for the tracker.
How to Find Profile Horses
It's an inexact science but in general terms what I am looking for are horses with a good amount of form to dissect, and which have shown a ready preference for a certain setup. All horses have an ability ceiling and tend to run in 'form cycles' up to that ceiling, then back down the weights, then up again. Spotting these cycles isn't difficult if you're looking for them; it's impossible if you're not!
Here's how to find profile horses...
Step 1: Get a list of possibles
There are a few ways to do this. One is to use Query Tool, though caution is advised because the 'sort by horse' function is likely to crash your browser as it tries to format a table with many thousand rows in it. To get around this:
- Select 'Last 2 Years'
- Select 'UK' (or 'Ireland' but not both)
- Select 'Flat Turf' (or whichever race code you want to investigate)
- Select age '5 to 7' (i.e. a horse age range appropriate for exposed form in your chosen discipline)
- Select 'Handicap' (or whatever, handicaps are best for this type of profiling)
That has brought back 14,272 qualifiers which is probably still too many.
We can whittle that down by choosing a distance range. Let's try 5f to 6f.
My sample is now 4,717 which is workable. So I'll be profiling sprint handicappers here, but I could have chosen seven-furlong specialists, milers, stayers or whatever.
Next I'll click the 'group by' radio button against 'Horse', and then sort by 'Wins'.
And bingo, I have a list of horses to potentially profile:
A second way is to start with a big field race you know will have been contested by numerous exposed handicappers. The Scottish Sprint Cup is a good example. (If you can't find a race, you can again use QT, by choosing e.g. 16+ runners, Class 3 or above, handicap).
Here is the result of the Scottish Sprint Cup with an instant list of 16 horses to dig into:
Step 2: Shortlist Horses to Profile
We now have a list of horses with which to work, but not all of them will have a consistent profile; and not all of them will have won enough races to demonstrate a profile. I look for at least half a dozen wins in a horse's career from which to try to discern patterns. It hopefully goes without saying that we're dealing with very small sample sizes here and all sorts of overlapping factors, so atom-splitters need not apply: this is broad brush stuff, and we will still need to apply judgement to our profile horses when they're entered in the future.
Let's have a look at Major Valentine and Highly Sprung, the top pair on our QT list.
Major Valentine has a few clear patterns, for example, 12 of his 14 career wins have been when ridden by apprentice jockeys. But he has a common problem when the most recent period has been used for search purposes: he is probably too high in the handicap. Having started 2019 off a mark of 64 he went on to win five races for jockey Kate Leahy and trainer John O'Shea. In his final 2019 start, he raced off a rating of 92. We could add Major Valentine to a tracker with his preferences appended, but the likelihood is he'll find winning difficult this year until he's dropped back down the weights.
Back to Highly Sprung, a son of Zebedee (of course) who is now seven. Looking at his Full Form page allows us to review his overall form by various subsets. The first thing to immediately stand out is that he is 0 from 12 on all-weather versus a very solid 10 from 50 on turf.
Checking the WINS filter allows us to see only the ten races Highly Sprung won, and to look for commonalities therein:
We can see he won five times for Mark Johnston before moving to Les Eyre who has also eked a quintet of victories from the horse. What else can we see?
All ten wins were over six furlongs. Eight of the ten were on good to firm ground, though not his most recent pair. Having won off as high as 83 (see the OR column) for Mark Johnston, he is now rated 81; that's a feasible mark but not a bargain: he might need to drop a few more.
Seven of his ten wins have been for either Joe Fanning or Silvestre de Sousa, and both jockeys have won on him for both of the horse's trainers. Six of his ten wins have come at Pontefract, from 15 starts at the track.
And as easily as that we now have a profile for Highly Sprung:
- 6f (he's 0/18, just three places, at other trips)
- ideally Good to Firm ground (though recent wins mean this is not a deal breaker)
- Extra point if racing at Ponte
- Extra point if ridden by Joe F or SdS
Step 3: Add to Tracker
Add your horse and all relevant notes to your Tracker. Users of Geegeez Gold tracker get an email the day before racing to alert them of the next day's runners (horses, trainers, jockeys, sires), so you should never miss a winner.
It's lockdown, there is still no racing, and we all have a bit of time on our hands. So what about a challenge? I'd like you to share your profile horses in the comments below. Add a few details like the ones above - I've put an example in the comments below for you to use as a template - for a horse you've profiled.
Wouldn't it be awesome if collectively we could pull together a list of 20 or more horses and their optimal conditions? Hint: do try a different race distance and/or code. Below are links to the results of some of the big field handicaps at various distances from last summer, which might help:
https://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/HighlySprung_SdS.jpg319830Matt Bisognohttps://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/geegeez_banner_new_300x100.pngMatt Bisogno2020-05-04 13:52:392020-05-05 14:08:23Form Profiling: Five to Follow in 2020
In the first half of this two-part mini-course we looked at the basics of multi-race bets, as well as the key area of staking. In this concluding part the focus will be on strategy and tactics: what to consider when framing your bets, and how to manage your position once your tickets are 'live'.
You'll also find a video tutorial on my Ticket Builder, as well as a link to access it.
When to play: Value Considerations
Any day is a good day to play a multi-race bet from a fun perspective; bets such as the placepot or Win 6 promise to keep a player engaged in a race meeting for as many as six races, and for a smallish stake.
Everyday tote placepot pools have around £50,000 to £60,000 in liquidity, but they also have their share of sharp players. Because of the nature of multi-race place pools - where players typically have two, three or four chances to get a horse into the frame - a big dividend probably requires something unexpected (in market terms) to occur in more than one race.
So, in order to play placepots semi-seriously, I believe a player must have a contrarian view in at least two of the six races, ideally more. Using the previously discussed ABCX approach, it is possible not to over-stake or poorly stake a bet which recognises the likelihood of most races being 'chalky' (i.e. the fancied horses making the frame) while still allowing for a less anticipated result which can make the bet.
Here is an example of a Place 6 (Colossus Bets equivalent of the placepot) where the first race set things up. It was a small pot, a feature of much of my betting as it allows for the prospect of 'scooping the pool', that is, winning the lot.
The opening race on this Yarmouth card was a low grade 0-60 handicap with a couple of handicap debutants and the market heavily skewed towards a single runner. The unexposed three-year-old Herringswell won, at 10/1 on his first start in a handicap. He'd been third last time out over course and distance, beaten half a length, so was hardly impossible to find.
As you can see from the green bars bottom right in the image, this result lopped the remaining tickets from nearly 3,000 to little more than 250.
The next three legs all saw top of the market horses (favourite or second-favourite) placed, but in leg five - where I'd gone four horses deep - the two outsiders of six placed. That said, Merhoob - my placed pick - was only 5/1, behind 3/1 joint-favourites, a 7/2 and a 9/2 shot.
Less than ten units went forward to the final leg, in which the third-, fourth- and joint-fifth-ranked horses in the market filled the places.
That left just 3.54 units to share the payout, of which this syndicate ticket - which was a caveman play, incidentally - comprised all of them! We shared out over three thousand pounds. Again, I need to make the point that the winning odds - return vs stake - was 'only' 9/1.
Is SP or the exchange a better bet?
Before placing a multi-race bet - or indeed any pool bet - we need to consider whether the return might be greater via another market medium. Specifically, will the SP (especially if Best Odds Guaranteed can be leveraged) or exchange accumulator pay more?
We obviously cannot know the answer to this in advance but, generally, when playing win pools it is prudent to stay close to the top of the market. As an example, if a 20/1 shot wins any race in the sequence I will almost certainly not have that runner selected. The reason is that, when multiplying the odds of the other five winners in a six-leg bet by 21 (20/1), it is somewhere between quite and very likely that the pool dividend will pay less than an SP or exchange accumulator bet on the same six races.
The exception to this rule is when there is a large rollover or a highly liquid pool, such as the American pool for the Breeders' Cup Pick 6, or indeed many of their Pick 4/5/6 pools, which are often guaranteed to $500,000 and more.
For your average Redcar jackpot, however, we need to stay close to the head of the market, or bet another way, or pass the opportunity.
In the example below (5.00 to 7.30 races), there was a rollover and the jackpot pool swelled to £30,000 for a Wolverhampton evening card. The SP accumulator paid £19,305 compared to a tote jackpot dividend of £20,153.20. But the Betfair SP accumulator (at 2% commission, which you should all be getting - see this link) paid £33,798. And the biggest priced winner in this sequence was 8/1 !
The Betting Market
Market Rank vs Market Price
One of the features of multi-race pools, more so than single race win markets, is the heavy domination of the top of the market. This is largely a function of poor staking and/or poor bankroll management and/or insufficient bankroll, whereby players who take one or two per leg (see part 1) rarely go beyond the third or fourth in the betting lists.
Moreover, when they do, it's typically a 'Hail Mary' pick at big odds staked exactly the same as a short-priced runner. Clearly, this is heavily sub-optimal; and it is precisely what gives smarter punters their edge. Those longshots belong on a C ticket or in the bin, generally.
A good example of this was leg five in the above Yarmouth ticket. 83% of remaining units went out there even though a 5/1 shot was placed; he was 5/1 fifth-favourite of six, and it was his market rank rather than his odds which blew most remaining ticket holders out of the pool.
Don't deviate too far from the market
The market is generally right, or at least not far wrong. It is an excellent indicator of a horse's chance, so much so that there is strong linearity between the two. This chart shows win strike rate by odds. Ignoring the price of 18/5, which has very little data and is the big outlier, this chart very well illustrates the robust relationship between price and win chance.
And this time by market rank, 1 being favourite, 12 being the twelfth in odds rank:
In Britain in the last five years, the favourite has won a third of all races, the favourite and second-favourite have collectively won a bit more than half of all races, and the first three in the betting have won two-thirds of all races.
Thus, in a random sample of six races, we might expect four of them - two-thirds - to be won by the first three in the betting. The further implication is that we may need to be looking further along the lists for a couple of the legs in a six-leg wager.
What does this mean in practice? It means that, across A's, B's and - usually in multi-race win pools only - C's, you should have reasonable coverage of the top of the market; and, somewhere in the race sequence, you should be risking a few longer priced horses - but usually in addition to, not at the expense of, the top of the market.
Steamers and Drifters
This section should come with a wealth warning: drifters DO win!
In case you're not familiar with the terms, a 'steamer' is a horse being backed - usually showing with a blue background on odds comparison sites, while a 'drifter' is a horse which is weak in the market, usually with a pink background on odds checker sites.
As a general principle, in races where form is fairly well established, I will note the market but follow my own form study. The exception is in bigger field handicaps where horses priced between 8/1 and 16/1 (approximately, not hard and fast) have taken notable support.
I tend to look at the markets in the morning, and then again an hour or so before the first race, which is the time when I'm starting to frame my bets.
In the example above, where the second favourite is weak and the third favourite is strong (favourite not shown), assuming I could see a reason for this in their form, I would quite likely put both runners on B. If I couldn't understand the weakness of the 'pink' runner, I'd probably play it on A.
There is quite a bit of 'feel' associated with this. Players need to get to know trainers and owners, too. For example, horses owned by J P McManus are often put in at defensive prices: odds which reflect the fact they might become subject to a gamble rather than which indicate the horse's true form chance.
Horses owned by large or wealthy syndicates - for instance, Elite Racing Club, Owners Group, or Highclere Thoroughbreds - are often overbet; consideration of the support for such runners needs to approached mindful of who might be backing it.
Equally, horses doing something notably different - first time in a handicap, coming back off a layoff, stepping up/down markedly in trip, etc - merit at least a second glance. Does the trainer have 'previous' in such a scenario? Is the horse bred for this extra distance? And so on. Geegeez reports have plenty of assistance in this regard, and the inline snippets in the card are instructive.
Using Unnamed Favourite
This is a great tactic and heavily under-utilised. It can be deployed in a number of different scenarios, of which these are just a couple.
Doubling up on A
Plenty of races, especially non-handicaps, have a very short-priced favourite and an obvious second-choice. Sometimes these races can be 10/1+ bar the front two. Depending on how the rest of your ticket looks - mainly, in how many other races you've got B and/or C picks - and how much bankroll you have, it can be a smarter play to double the favourite on A, rather than place the jolly on A and the 'second in' on B.
In this example, the favourite was Karl Der Grosse. He was 8/15 favourite, with Silver Star 4/1, Sweet Flight 5/1 and it was 16/1 and bigger the rest.
This was the first leg of a big rollover pool and I wanted the best chance of managing a profitable situation in the latter part of the sequence. So, rather than play the favourite as a banker, or put Silver Star on a B (or C) ticket, I went three deep on A, covering Karl twice (once with his racecard number and once as 'Favourite', unnamed favourite) and Silver Star once.
As can be seen, Karl Der Grosse won, which doubled the number of units the syndicate had running on to all subsequent legs. It cost three times as much as banking on the favourite, for two-thirds of the running-on equity (2/3 winning picks rather than 1/1 if just selecting Karl), but was the right play in the circumstances.
Extra pick on B (or C)
A tactic I sometimes use - and, to be brutally honest, I'm not certain that the maths support it - is to play unnamed favourite on B or C. I do this in one of two situations, as follows:
Weaker favourite that I like
Let's say the favourite is around 2/1 or 5/2. Mathematically, and assuming a) the market is correct and b) they bet to a 100% overround [they don't but go with it!], this horse has a circa 30% (28.57% to 33.33% if you like) chance of winning. If I think he's value - that is, he should be a little shorter - without necessarily feeling he's a very likely winner a la Karl Der Grosse above, I can play his racecard number on A and 'unnamed favourite' on B along with (an)other contender(s).
Inscrutable handicap with multiple favourite contenders
I will quite often include FAV when I go five, six or seven deep in an impossible-looking handicap: it's a degree of insurance against wide coverage being scuppered by a winning jolly. What I really want is for one of my longer-priced picks - more correctly, one of the least-covered horses in the pool - to win. But if the horse that the market ultimately sent off shortest wins, I will have all tickets containing that horse's racecard number as well as any ticket containing FAV for that race.
There were two races where I played variations of this tactic in an example I published in Part 1 of this mini-course, replicated below.
You can see the use of FAV in races 3 and 4. In race 3, I'd nominated the expected favourite on A, but I wanted to amplify him a little so added FAV to B; and in race 4, where I had far less certainty about which horse would be sent off favourite, I didn't want to lose my C investment because the jolly prevailed.
As it turned out, the favourite won race 3 and a C horse - not the favourite - won race 4.
Syndicates, Consolations and Cash Out
If you play at Colossus Bets, they have three features which make varying degrees of appeal.
The ability to create a syndicate ticket means one's bankroll goes further because, essentially, we are sharing the financial outlay - as well, of course, as any return - with other people. Alongside my own bets, I create a lot of syndicates on Colossus and we've had some fantastic paydays, the pick of which is shown towards the bottom of this post.
I started out taking only 10% of my syndicate tickets, the minimum a 'captain' must take, but these days I am usually invested for 50%, the maximum allowed. It is my understanding, and great hope, that the new team at tote are working on similar functionality. It will be a game changer for them in terms of liquidity, I believe.
Many of you will be familiar with the concept of 'cash out', which apparently was first offered by Colossus. Regardless, the simple maths are that it rarely makes financial sense to cash out, or even partially cash out, a ticket if there are other 'insurance' options available. I'll talk about those in the Insurance section.
I have very occasionally cashed out my stake on a ticket where there isn't really a smart or cost-effective way to hedge the bet, but I know I'm getting a rum deal when I do.
Conso's are a curate's egg: good in places. On the up side, players in a six-leg win pool will receive a dividend for getting five out of six, and even four out of six. These can often cover the cost of what, in tote jackpot terms, would be a losing bet. They are good for cashflow and confidence, but...
The downside is that half of the ticket cost goes into the consolation pool, which means the base bet is twice as expensive as if there was no consolation pool.
On balance, I like the added aggression I feel I can play win pools with as a result of having that safety net. Even if I get the first race wrong, I've still got a chance of making a small profit, getting my money back, or getting something back. That keeps players in the game and it's a lot better for the soul than getting short-headed in the only race you didn't have!
It always needs bearing in mind that one needs to halve the dividend for a £2 stake when comparing with a £1 accumulator (naturally).
Insurance is a term for managing a position between the start and end of a multi-race bet in order to mitigate for the chance of a losing outcome. In other words, it's a way of covering more eventualities than you have on your ticket, albeit at fractionally greater expense. As I've said, it is generally better to control the level of insurance you take rather than be dictated to by the cash out value.
There are a good number of insurance options, some of which are below:
When betting a multi-race place pool, banking on the shortest priced horse in the sequence is normally a good strategy - unless you plain don't like it. Even then, it makes sense to try to overcome any prejudices you might have associated with the horse or its connections. Assuming you have banked on that runner to make the frame, you can then lay it for a place on an exchange.
An even money favourite would be around 1.2 (give or take) to lay on Betfair. If your placepot stake is £50, you can insure the bet for £10 or so. That makes your overall commitment £60 and needs to be factored into your P&L. I will usually place lay for less than my stake: if I think the horse is very likely to get placed I don't want to spend what amounts to 20% of the ticket price buying insurance on one leg. But at the same time, I don't want to lose my entire stake. So I might place lay to get half my money back for example.
Last leg options
If you've been smart and/or lucky enough to get to the final leg, you will have some options. Depending on the type of race, and whether it's a win or place pool, the first option is to lay or place lay your pick. I would do that if I was on a short-priced runner as a banker.
If you have, for instance, the top three in the betting in a six runner race, you can place exacta bets on the remaining trio. As with the actual multi-race bet itself, we should not be placing a combination exacta (three picks equals six bets), as that is not a smart way to stake. Supposing the unsupported runners were 6/1, 8/1 and 20/1, we might legitimately place a reverse exacta to the same stake on the first two; but our stake should be smaller on each of the shorter pair beating the outsider, and smaller still on the outsider beating either of the other two. We're not looking for a 'lucky' payoff, we're just covering our existing bet.
Calculating the insurance stake
To calculate how much insurance to take, work out the worst possible outcome in terms of a winning ticket.
Placepot / Place pool
That involves adding the selection a player has with the most amount of pool tickets on it, alongside in a place pool the other best-supported runners up to the number of places available, as well as the unnamed favourite.
Adding the number of tickets on each of those together and dividing by the net pool (see Part 1 for gross and net) will produce the 'worst case dividend'. This is the figure, multiplied by the number of lines you have, against which you should hedge/insure.
In this placepot example, the net pool is 73% of the gross pool.
Let's say we have horses 1, 2 and 4 in this six horse race and we currently have 80p lines running on to each of them.
Our worst winning result - two places in a six-horse race - would be:
46F (the two horses with most units remaining, plus unnamed favourite)
= 83 + 31 +12.5 = 126.5 winning units
The worst winning dividend would then be:
41062.5/126.5 = £324.60
of which we would have 80p for our one placed horse, #4.
We staked £100.
So our worst case dividend would be £259.68 in this example. That number, less our £100 stake, is what we would use to work out how much to hedge/insure for. Or we could just insure for our £100 stake.
In a win pool, it often doesn't make sense to lay selected runners, mainly due to the cash needed. In that case, it is better to back unsupported runners assuming there aren't hordes of them!
Using our example race from above, where we have coverage of horses 1, 2, and 4, let's say the net win pool is £100,000 and we have those same 80p lines running into the final leg, from a stake of £100.
The worst case winning (for us) dividend is if the favourite, #4, wins. That leaves 95.5 units and a dividend of
100,000 / 95.5 = £1,047.12
We'd have 0.8 x £1,047.12 = £837.70 representing a profit of £737.70 (less £100 stake).
Suppose the Betfair odds on the other runners are 3 - 22.0, 5 - 150.0, 6 - 7.4
So we might back
#6 for £80 @ 7.4 returns £592 (commission to deduct also)
#3 for £20 @ 22.0 returns £440 (ditto)
#5 for £2.50 @ 150.0 returns £375 (ditto)
We are now guaranteed at least £837.70 back if one of our three Win 6 selections wins; and a sliding scale, based on likelihood, of returns if one of our insurance bets wins.
If the 150.0 outsider won, it would be a tough break, but at least we'd collect
£375 - £100 (losing insurance bets) - £100 Win 6 stake = £175 profit. On a 'losing' bet.
A final word on insurance
I am absolutely confident that I've made the art of hedging/insurance sound infinitely more complex in the above than it actually is. The key is to track your position and to know roughly where you are in terms of potential payout and how much of that you're booked for. Pretty much all pool operators have 'will pay' pages on their website to show how much is running on to the next leg, and on which horses.
Often we'll be in a losing position and insurance doesn't really make sense. Occasionally we'll be in a losing position and insurance will limit losses.
You'll soon get the hang of working out where you are but only if you get into the habit of tracking the remaining units in the pool.
Be Brave, There's Always Tomorrow
Multi-race bets, especially win varietals, are not for the faint-hearted. They can involve excruciating close calls where the difference between a nose victory or defeat runs to thousands of pounds. The flip side of that is obvious: they can involve halcyon close calls when the verdict goes your way for a vast sum. That's exciting!
The consolations offered by Colossus, albeit at the expense of a £2 ticket, are good value in terms of sanity, and they allow a player to display the one attribute above all others that is required to win in the multi-race jungle: bravery.
Over-staking is an affliction suffered by most placepot / win sequence punters: the fear of not 'having it' overrides the rationality of not diluting the value of the bet. As well as over-staking there is bad staking - placing the same faith in every pick on a ticket regardless of whether it's 4/6 or 14/1.
If you can learn to overcome those two near-ubiquitous staking errors, you have a far better than average chance of catching big fish in these pools.
Being brave also means acknowledging that, no matter how juicy the rollover or how tempting the guarantee today, there is always tomorrow.
A VERY Good Day
In closing, I want to share a ticket from what was a very good day. It was a syndicate play so plenty of others shared in this whopper of a dividend, which brought together a number of factors discussed in this second part. They include ABCX - this is the winning ticket, there were a bunch of losing/ consolation tickets as well; doubling the favourite; and insuring my personal position in the last leg (not shown here, but amounted to about £150).
Appendix: The Ticket Builder
Throughout this two-part series, I've referred to ABCX methodology, and to a mechanical means of computing the part-permutations. The ticket builder, which is a little 'rough and ready' but is free for all to use, can be accessed here. Please do watch the video below before trying to use it!
There are lots of ways to bet on horses. Win, place and each way are just the beginning: such bets involve a reliance on one horse winning or nearly winning, the outcome of which provides players with a (usually) known return.
I've long mixed up my 'singles' betting with more elaborate plays. Known as exotics in the States, such wagers tend to involve predicting a sequence of events: either the first two (or three or four) home in a race, or the winner (or a placed horse) in each of a number of consecutive races.
Incidentally, although this article will not explicitly cover bets such as fourfolds and accumulators with traditional fixed odds bookmakers, the principles can be applied and, where readers are able, best odds guarantees leveraged.
In this previous post - written ten years ago now - I outlined how to play, and win, the tote placepot. The principles outlined in that post remain true now and, of course, they extend to Colossus Bets place pools, Irish Tote placepots and indeed any multi-race place pool bet. Let's recap.
What are pool bets, and why are they of interest?
Pool bets involve all players' stakes being invested into a pot, from which winning players are paid a dividend after the pool owners have taken their commission. That means the objective is not only to find 'the right answer' but also for that correct answer to be less obvious than most players expect. It generally is.
Multi-race pool bets can offer an interest throughout the afternoon for a single ticket; and, if a few fancied runners under-perform, they can pay handsomely in relation to fixed odds equivalent wagers.
Let's consider an example of such a bet, in this case a placepot from Thursday's card at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival. The gross pool - that is, the total bet into the pool - was £823,150.20. After takeout, the pool operator's advertised commission from which all costs are paid, of 27% the net pool was £600,881.40.
That pot would be divided between the number of remaining - and therefore winning - tickets after leg six, with the dividend declared to a £1 stake. Players can bet in multiples from 5p upwards.
In the first race that day, the favourite, Faugheen, ran third, with 4/1 Samcro winning. 361,390.13 units went forward to leg two.
In the second race, all four placed horses were towards the top of the market, including the unnamed favourite. 146,064.28 units went to leg three.
The third race, the Ryanair Chase, saw 2/1 second favourite Min beat 16/1 Saint Calvados with the 7/4 favourite in third. Most of the remaining pool money prior to the race, 114,468.48 units' worth of it, went forward to leg four, the Stayers' Hurdle.
In that fourth race, around 83,000 units (nearly three-quarters of the remaining pool) were invested in Paisley Park, who ran a clunker and was unplaced. This race was the kingmaker on the day, just 2,198.41 units (less than 2% of the running-on total) successfully predicting any of 50/1 Lisnagar Oscar, 20/1 Ronald Pump, or 33/1 Bacardys.
As the warm favourite won leg five, 854.56 units contested the final leg, the Mares' Novices' Hurdle. Here, the very well-backed second choice of the market, Concertista, beat stable mate and 9/1 chance Dolcita, with a 100/1 shot back in third.
From a total of 823,150 tickets, and a net pool of 600,881.40, there were just 235.01 left standing after the six races. Thus the dividend paid
600,881.4 / 235.01 = £2,556.83
Because of something called 'breakage', see TIF's explanation here if you're interested, the dividend is rounded down to the nearest 10p, meaning every winning £1 ticket was worth £2,556.80. A 5p winning line would be worth 5% of that amount, or £127.84.
Let's talk about the takeout
The commission a pool operator levies for hosting the pool is usually referred to as the 'takeout'. In multi-race bets, some people consider that the takeout - 27% in the example above - is too high. But it needs to be considered in the context of the number of legs in the bet, and the perceived difficulty of landing the bet. The first part is more easily quantified.
For example, if the place pool for a single race has a 20% deduction - which it currently does in UK (ouch!) - then a six race accumulator in the place pools would result in 73.8% of stakes being 'taken out'. Double, triple and even sextuple ouch!
The actual per leg takeout on the tote placepot is around 5.1%, or 0.051, compounded six times; which leaves a 'live stake' of [1.00 - 0.051=] 0.9496 which equals 0.73 (1.00-0.73 = 0.27, 27% takeout).
Takeout takeaway: You don't need to understand the maths, you just need to know that there is relative value in the placepot compared with single leg win or place pool bets.
How can this be value?
Pool bets are another market, along with fixed odds and exchanges, framed around the same product, horse racing. Thus, they do not always offer the best value.
If you want to back the favourite, doing it on the tote is probably not the best option (though UK tote are currently offering an SP guarantee match, which locks in some insurance for the majority of times when the tote dividend on a winning favourite will pay less than SP). Still, you'll generally get better value on an exchange than either the tote or a fixed odds bookmaker can offer.
But if you want to bet a longer-priced horse, it will normally be the case that exchanges or the tote offer better value than fixed odds bookies.
And if you want to play a sequence of win or place bets - let's call them a placepot or Win 6 - you may get better value with a pool operator.
If you only like fancied runners in the sequence, you will have no edge in a pool and are better off betting either a fixed odds multiple or parlaying your winnings in exchange markets.
But if you have an eye for an interesting outsider - and, as a Gold subscriber, you are farbetter placed to see such horses than the vast majority of bettors - then multi-race sequences are for you!
Remember, the objective is not just to be right; but to be right when the vast majority of others are at least partially wrong.
Basic Staking: how players get it wrong
The nature of multi-race betting means that optimal staking is almost as important as picking the right horses. Again, I've written about this before but it's plenty important enough to reiterate here.
Smart pickers of horses often confound their own attempts to take down big pots by either under- or over-staking. A six-leg sequence involves the player selecting one or more horses per leg, the total number of 'bets' on the ticket being a multiple of the number of picks per leg.
Thus, a player picking one horse per race will have 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 = 1 bet. He or she will also have a very small chance of correctly predicting the required outcome unless he or she is either very lucky or most of the fancied horses make the frame/win. The former is not what this mini-course is about, the latter is generally self-defeating in the long-term.
This, then, is not an optimal way to bet such sequences.
A very common approach is to select two horses per race in a permutation (or perm for short). Twice as much coverage per race gives a better chance of finding the right answer, but it also invites the user to invest far more cash in a somewhat arbitrary manner. We can write the calculation for the number of bets by using 'to the power of six' (representing the six legs in the wager). Thus:
2 horses per leg = 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 = 26 = 64
3 horses per leg = 36 = 729
4 horses per leg = 46 = 4096
and so on.
As you can see, this quickly becomes expensive. Moreover, it is deeply sub-optimal. We won't necessarily feel we need the same amount of coverage in an eight horse race with an odds on favourite as we will with a twenty-runner sprint handicap, so staking them the same doesn't make a lot of sense. Again, such players are aiming to get lucky rather than playing smart.
A way to whittle the number of perms in one's bet is by deploying 'bankers', horses which must do whatever is required - win, or place - as a solo selection. Adding a 'single', as they're known in America, to a six-leg sequence can make a lot of difference to the number of bets. Such an entry makes a 'to the power of six' bet a 'to the power of five' one, as follows:
2 horses per leg with one banker = 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 1 = 25 = 32 bets
3 horses per leg with one banker = 35 = 243 bets
4 horses per leg with one banker = 45 = 1024 bets
and so on.
Using two bankers ratchets up the risk of a losing play but also dramatically further reduces the numbers of units staked:
2 horses per leg with two bankers = 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 1 x 1 = 24 = 16 bets
3 horses per leg with two bankers = 34 = 81 bets
4 horses per leg with two bankers = 44 = 256 bets
and so on.
So, for instance, a ticket with two bankers and four selections in the other four legs would amount to 256 bets, whereas four horses per leg through a six-leg sequence would be 4096 bets. At 10p a line, that's the difference between £25.60 and £409.60!
Any single ticket perm, where all selections are staked to the same value (e.g. 10p's in the example above), is known in the trade as a 'caveman' ticket. This is because it still doesn't properly reflect, in staking terms, how we feel about our selected horses and can be considered unsophisticated or a blunt instrument.
Advanced Staking: How to get it right
So if those approaches are varying degrees of how not to stake multi-race bets, how should we do it?
The answer is a strategy known as 'ABCX' which has long been used but was first expounded in print - to my knowledge at least - in a book by Steve Crist, the US writer and punter, called 'Exotic Betting'. It's quite hard to get hold of nowadays, especially this side of the pond, but is well worth about £25 if you'd like to get seriously into multi-race (or multi-horse in a race, i.e. exacta, trifecta, etc) bets. Crist writes fluidly and with familiarity, so it's an easy read in the main, though some sections are necessarily a little on the technical side.
The ABCX approach requires players to assign a wagering value to each horse in each race, like so:
A Horses: Top level contenders, likely winners, or horses which you think are significantly over-priced while retaining a decent win/place chance. In this latter group, a 50/1 shot you think should be 20/1 need not apply; but a 20/1 shot you make 5/1 is fair game (notwithstanding that such a disparity normally means you've made a mistake).
B Horses: Solid options, most likely to take advantage of any slip ups by the A brigade. Generally implying less ability and/or betting value than A's.
C Horses: Outside chances, horses who probably won't win but retain some sort of merit. Often it is a better play to allow these horses to beat you, or to bet them as win singles for small change to cover stakes.
X Horses: Horses that either lack the ability, or the race setup, to win (or place if playing a place wager), and which are thus excluded from consideration.
This approach works a lot better for multi-race win bets than for placepots and the like. In the latter bet types, it is usually sensible to focus solely on A's and B's, with C picks going in to the same discard pile as X's. The exception to that rule of thumb would be days like the Cheltenham Festival where the pools and the field sizes are huge: the only sensibly staked way to catch one of the placers in the Stayers' Hurdle would be on a C ticket!
Once this hierarchy has been established, a means of framing the selections into a bet - or bets - is required. I have used multiple tickets to optimize my staking for more than a decade and if you are not doing likewise, you are losing money, simple as that.
The good news is that, while the mechanics I'm about to share are somewhat convoluted, I had a tool built to do all the grunt work - which you can access for free in Part 2 of this two-part report. 🙂
Staking multiple tickets using ABCX
As I say, the heavy lifting will be done by a tool, details of which I'll share in the concluding part. But it is instructive to be aware of the maths of ABCX. The way I almost always use my A, B and C picks is as follows:
- All A's: 4x unit stake
- All A's except for one B pick: 2x unit stake
- Mostly A's with two B picks: 1x unit stake
- All A's except for one C pick: 1x unit stake
Let's take a recent example from a Win 6 - predict all six winners - at Clonmel. This was actually a rare occasion when I went 3x on the 'All A' ticket as I didn't feel strongly I was playing with value in my corner. In truth, given it was the last day of racing in UK or Ireland for most of four weeks at least, I wanted the action... ahem.
My ABCX (the X's not shown) looked like this:
As you can see, I had two A's in leg 1, three A's in leg 2, nine horses spread across A, B and C in leg three (as well as unnamed favourite), three on A and three on C (plus unnamed fav) in leg 4, a banker A in leg 5, and five A's with two B's in leg 6.
In terms of the actual picks, I moved the 279F group in leg 4 from B to C to reduce stakes, and I took a contrarian view in the last race where 7/11 were the first two in the betting: I didn't especially like them but I didn't want to let them beat me completely either. The 136810 group of A's represented the next five in the market. That was a bold play which paid off this time.
In leg five, #3 was the 4/6 favourite in a short field of chasers, the smart horse Bachasson.
The image above shows my picks in the ticket builder tool. What it doesn't show is the part-permutation tickets the tool created for me, or the associated stake values. So let's introduce those now.
At the top of this image, there is a series of check boxes where a user may decide which combinations of selections he/she wants to play. In this case, and indeed most cases, I have selected all of those possible options.
Beneath each ticket is a further trio of check boxes where users may amplify stakes. As you can see, ticket 1 has a 3x amplification (would normally be 4x for me), tickets 2 and 3 are 2x unit stake, and tickets 4-6 are 1x normal stakes.
The total amount wagered across these tickets was £214.80.
Ignoring the absolute cost and its relation to your own level of staking, consider that cost against a full perm 'caveman ticket' of
2 x 3 x 10 x 7 x 1 x 7 = 2940 bets, at 10p = £294.00
But it is not the £80 (approximately 25%) saving in absolute cost that is the smartest component here. Rather, it is the fact that my stronger fancies - and the more likely sequences of winners - are amplified to more than 10p.
We'll cover the use of unnamed favourites later. For now, suffice it to say that this is a means of a) keeping more tickets alive, and b) playing up the merit of the favourite. I use this tactic a lot in multi-race tickets and will discuss it in more detail anon.
It takes less than three minutes for me to place six tickets as per the above. Sometimes, I have as many as 20-25 tickets and it takes 12-15 minutes. That, clearly, is more time than it takes to place a single caveman ticket; but my extra effort is frequently repaid in the return.
The winning sequence at Clonmel looked like this:
Leg 1: #3, 6/4 favourite, an A selection
Leg 2: #13, 7/1 (drifted from 7/2), an A selection
Leg 3: #6, 9/4 favourite, an A and a B (FAV) selection
Leg 4: #7, 9/1, a C selection
Leg 5: #3, 4/6 favourite, an A banker
Leg 6: #1, 15/2, an A selection
There were three shortish winning favourites in the six-race sequence, and the winner of leg 2 was a strange price, given it had been strong in the market all morning at around 3/1, 7/2. It bolted up by 17 lengths!
The dividend, to a £2 stake, paid £10,710.85. My 5% unit was worth £620.21 including consolations for four- and five-out-of-six.
You can hopefully make out in the above that there was only 0.05 winning units. That, of course, was my ticket shown above, which means there will be a £10,000 or so rollover to the next Irish race meeting, whenever that may be.
The six tickets paid out as follows:
Ticket 1: £80.43 consolations
Ticket 2: £57.42 consolations
Ticket 3: £3.80 consolations
Ticket 4: £3.81 consolations
Ticket 5: £620.21 winning ticket, plus consolations
Ticket 6: £1.90 consolations
Total payout: £767.57
Total profit: £552.77
Approximate odds: 5/2
There is an important note in the totals above. The approximate payout on this bet was 5/2. Not 100/1 or 1000/1 or another big number.
With the safety net of consolation dividends, I am happy to stake more, relatively, in search of a bigger absolute (i.e. monetary) return.
This is another subject to which I'll return in Part 2, along with when to play, using unnamed favourites, taking insurance, the value of the early markets, syndicates/cash out features and, of course, the ticket builder. That second part can be read here.
In this bonus module, Part 3b, you'll learn about something I call 'mark up' angles. These are snippets of information which are not necessarily worthy of a bet in their own right, but will help me to form a view on a horse in the context of a race.
Again, if you've not seen the previous episodes, I urge you to start here.
In this bonus recording, we'll look at mark up angles for:
- Wind surgery runners
And we'll also look at horse profiling within Query Tool. Adding a few of these to your Tracker for the upcoming flat season will be a VERY good use of an hour or two during this downtime!
Here's the video - I hope you like it.
p.s. If anybody has any questions, I will be happy to record a QT Q&A session to help you get you out of the blocks as quickly as possible.
https://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/WindsweptGirl-e1603189967643.png320829Matt Bisognohttps://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/geegeez_banner_new_300x100.pngMatt Bisogno2020-04-02 19:34:002020-04-02 19:57:08Horse Racing Betting Angles: Part 3b, Bonus Module
This series of articles and videos has been designed to help inquisitive racing fans to understand more about the sport they love. Whether for betting or another, perhaps breeding research, purpose, there is much intelligence to be gained from looking beyond headline numbers; and Query Tool is a feature of Geegeez Gold which facilitates just such digging.
In the first part of this third part - part 3a - it is time to get into some examples. The angles highlighted have been selected in such a way that they provide a small amount of statistical 'nutrition' in and of themselves; but I hope their real value is in leading the viewer to conduct his or her own research along similar - or very different - lines.
I very much hope you enjoy it.
p.s. I strongly encourage you to take a look at the first two parts before diving into this one.
p.p.s. the subtitles took a very long time to add, but that doesn't mean they're useful. Please do leave a comment and let me know if they enhanced your enjoyment or were irrelevant. I'll not be offended - far from it, if I don't have to spend another nearly six hours of my life doing that again, I'll be delighted!
Full video transcript
So before you start pressing or clicking any buttons in anger the first thing to think about is a scenario.
What we essentially want to do is test hypotheses or theories or ideas that we have.
Using the Query Tool
So what kind of scenarios can you see?
A few examples would be trainers in certain situations like maybe early season trainer form or trainers.
Maybe trainers by jockey, maybe big trainers
Not their number one.
What about the impacts of wind surgery? We can look at that, we can look at first time after a wind op.
Any number of times after wind op. We could look into the sires or jockeys or racecourses from a draw pace perspective. There really are any number of possible scenarios to dig into.
In the remainder of this video what I'd like to do is highlight some
examples of a given scenario. So for instance,
I will evidence one trainer and we'll find a jockey to go with that.
But you of course you go away and look at...
With trainers there are any number of UK and Irish trainers who have had
400-500 runners per year so they have big sample sizes to work with and you won't always find
valuable angles. Sometimes, very often, you'll come up dry but the whole point is if you if they were all profitable then everybody would be at it and the fact that we have to work a little bit harder not a lot as you'll see but a little bit harder represents a barrier to entry for a lot of people as well of course as not having
ccess to a tool like Query Tool
One other thing that I want to say before I start I've been asked a couple of times about parameters how should I set things up Matt? What sort of win strike rate should I look for? Where should I be with A/E and IV? What kind of return on investment should I be looking for?
The answer to this question is it's up to.
The key thing to think about win and to a lesser degree place strike rate they basically tell you how long you'll
go between drinks. A lower strike rate will mean you need a bigger bank and more discipline: if you can't handle losing runs you need a high strike rate to keep you
in the game as it were, and so there's no point researching an angle with a 10% hit rate because you could very easily go 35
qualifiers without a winner, and that's not going to work for you.If you normally bet quite short and you need lots of winners to keep you engaged then you're going to be looking you need to be.
The win percentage maybe 25 or 33%, you need to set it high
to suit your tastes.
Likewise if you want something that wins often you can use IV and say one and a half on IV and that's going to give you certainly relative to the peer group it'll give you
those qualifiers who win
one-and-a-half times or more than average. The point I'm trying to make, and it is a really important point,
worth taking time with upfront, is that
the angles that I show you,
and the angles that you research,
they might be exciting in terms of their profit or their ROI...
But if they don't fundamentally suit the way you bet,
you're going to give up on them.
This applies to any system or service you might be interested in trying as well: if the fundamental metrics of that
angle or system or service are not aligned with the way you see the betting world, with how you want to...
you appetite for risk,
the number of bets you want to place, another one is your tolerance for losing runs.
If the metrics don't match up against
those things which are personal to you
the angle is going to fail for you. Not necessarily because it's a bad angle or a bad system or service, but because it doesn't meet your personal requirements.
I hope that makes sense. It's a really, really important point and, actually, if you take nothing else away from this video, please take that away because that will stand you in good stead going forward. You need to find something that suits you. Not everything will.
Ok good right now let's crack on the first thing I want to look at then I'm recording this on the last day of March we are in a lockdown this year 2020 you might be in 3 years time content will remain valid in its conceptual form the data will obviously move on I hope I hope we have some racing in the next few years so for the 31st of March is traditionally,
in any normal year we would have just had
Doncaster and the Lincoln.
And we'd be started in the flat turf season.
I'm going to kind of pretend that the flat turf season has started and I want to look at early season trainer form.
So to do that I'm going to
MONTH and I'm going to choose March, April, May.
That's my early season.
I'm going to go to the RACE
box, just going to look at UK for now but obviously we could do this in Ireland as well.
RACE CODE, Flat Turf and Flat AW.
That kind of gives us a look at those trainers who in the month of March have been in good form on the all-weather which
gives us hope that they will take that early season form into the turf, but it also doesn't preclude those who don't bother with AW and go straight to the grass. So that's that, race code, so I'm going to change it two years as well.
I'll just click GENERATE REPORT and see where we're at.
And we've got 27,000 runners there.
Just a reminder of the filters so far we got lost two years March April May flat races in the UK.
Now look at this data by
Trainer. I'm going to now look at RUNNER
I'll click the
TRAINER radio button, now this is the order by button. I'm sure I referenced it in part 2 but just as a reminder: the left-hand radio grey disc, if you select one of those in this case, TRAINER
And then hit GENERATE REPORT which I'll do in a second.
Summary box instead of just having this overview row
will have a breakdown by whatever you chosen to order by: in this case trainer. But it could be jockey, gender, it could be headgear, whatever, so let's hit the Generate
Report button and see what happens. It might take a few seconds to come back.
Because it's quite a big dataset.
And there we are.
All sorts of guys and girls in this list sorted alphabetically by surname we've got these with, like,.
two runs and three runs and they're not really any use to us so I'm going to apply some filters in this.
Anyway, these boxes here. Hopefully my cursor
is making a nice yellow circle where I'm clicking.
I'm going to say.
At least 20 runs, although that feels like not enough probably.
I'm going to set my win percentage at 15 which is roughly 1-in 7 and again you know that might be to low for some people; I'll set my each way to 33%.
And I'm going to do 1.25.for
A/E and IV which will all be familiar now because you checked out the information from parts 1 and 2 in this three-parter.
Ok so I'm going to click update and as you remember this is a list alphabetically ordered and it's alternate row shaded. When I click update it's simply going to
hide those rows of data that don't match my parameters here. It's not going to look as pretty as it's not re-ordering, it's just hiding them so I'll click update.
And you can see that we've now got a much
smaller subset of data
for the last 2 years.
What I'm going to do is I'm going to
extend that out maybe to the
last five years
And obviously this is
bigger data set than the previous one. We've got a few more entries in here, now what I like to do as a starting point is I sort
Expected, high-to-low, like this.
I can see something else that I haven't done.
Oh I have, yes, Paul Nicholls has had a few runs on the flat.
I am interested in
I'm not sure Garry Moss is training anymore, his sample size is much smaller as well.
Philip Hide not training any more.
I think we'll just go with those for the minute.
I'd better make these 1, I'm not sure I got enough data in the set.
Obviously what I'm doing here is I'm
mucking about with the parameters
to get a bigger, slightly more to look at in the first instance.
I'm kind of interested in
most of those. I'll just stick with these top...
He's definitely not training any more, I don't think he is.
These are quite small sample sizes.
I'm going to leave it at that just with those three there.
What I'm going to do if I just go back to TRAINER on RUNNER and if I open this box up,
by clicking not on the radio, not this side just clicking anywhere in here.
You will see that
those +'s that I selected
have... those trainers have appeared
within the trainer selection box. So if I now click generate report it's just going to bring back those three rows.
It's really important to remember to clear these because all of a sudden you will be wondering where the data is and it is there but it's hidden because it's not satisfying these parameters at the top.
I've done that now.
So I've got 3 trainers that I'm
potentially interested in early season.
Now I'm looking at Paul Henderson,
it's a smaller sample, just 22 runners.
And there's basically no profit there.
For all that the A/E is strong, it's just not going to give enough action I don't think.
So I'll remove him and you can see that the tick's gone there and Generate Report to get rid, so I've got two trainers of interest and just to remind us of our filters.
We got the last 5 years.
UK flat races March, April and May.
And you could actually just set that up
as as an angle as is.
And when Karen McLintock and Adrian Keatley have runners in the UK on the flat
in the early part of the season you would get notified on your...
within the race cards and on the report, that's actually something else I wanted to touch on so let's quickly do that. In the previous video I told you about
how to check your QT
And I told you about the report.
Which I now can't find, of course.
I didn't mention and I wanted to touch on here.
Is how they show up in the race card. As you remember there's no racing at the moment, so I can't show you how they show up in the race card but this is what happens.
You will see something like.
You would see a number that isn't 0 in the blue number column.
In this case it's a 1.
When you click on that, it will show you the angle in question.
and the Profit/Loss. Basically the data/metrics from that angle.
Now if you can't remember what the parameters were for the angle, if you just hover over it as I am now.
This will happen:
It will bring up your parameters.
Just over it and it will show you, in this case I did the last five years up to 24th July 2018.
5 Furlong flat handicaps.
With these five sires. So I quite like sprint sires.
Obviously the title 'Turf Sprint Sires' is very helpful. I could have put 'Turf Sprint Handicap Sires' or whatever, but this is a little angle that I have saved.
I wouldn't necessarily be backing this horse; it would just be another piece of data that I would throw into the mix when I was looking at this race.
So that's something that I wanted to bring out: the QT Angles
displays on the race card with the
blue numbers. Clicking on them shows the angle in question, hovering over the angle shows the parameters that you set up for that angle.
Right, let's go back to it.
So what I'm going to do I'm actually just going to save that as it is. Now, some people...
Good discipline really is to say right that's my...
That is my five year data...
But why don't we have a look at that, before we save it, let me have a look at it by year.
And make sure that, for instance,
all of the winners didn't come in one season.
You just quickly...
I've selected year here.
Clicked Generate Report and I'm going to sort it by year.
And we can see that...
Very few qualifiers.
In the full years 2016 through 2019 we can see that there was an approximately, well, there was a 20 plus percent win strike rate.
The each way strike rate was promising as well.
The win P/L has been a bit variable and last year was lower.
Quite a bit lower.
Two of them have placed so it's in the same bracket.
On a meaningless sample size of four.
It's too early this season obviously we lost the racing now.
I wouldn't be worrying about this year.
So I'm interested in this but I can see a
general degradation of the profit and the A/E figure reflects that as well.
I would be happy to save this Angle and as I say use it advisedly rather than backing these horses blind: it would just be an aide memoire to me that McLintock and Keatley
are trainers to keep on side in the early part of the season.
So then I'd add that to
my QT Angles.
"Early Season Trainers", Add Angle,
And then that's done.
And, of course, like everything else they're all zeros, but that is one angle and you could have an early National Hunt season trainers one, a summer jumps trainers one.
You could have a
sa Summer jumps by track angle. So there are lots of different... this is one example, but there are lots of different other ways that you could cut this data.
So that's the first one. Right let's look at trainers and jockeys now so I'm going to hit my reset.
I'm actually going to refresh the page entirely.
Now this time I'm
going to look at
two years of data
I'm going to go to.
Ireland, just for fun, just to change things up a bit.
I'm going to sort by trainer.
Just do that because I want to see who's got the most
There probably is some merit in looking at trainers who maybe only have 30 or 50 runners a year.
But really I think the value is looking at the big
And looking at things that
are maybe less obvious
to the man or woman
in the street.
I'm just going to change this to FLAT (TURF/AW) again
And now we've got a small subset, well, we've got a large number of trainers but a small subset of
essentially volume trainers.
The trainers I'm going to be interested in
I want 100+ wins
And that's going to quickly sort things out.
And then I'm going to sort
High to low.
And let's have a look at Aiden O'Brien. Let's select Aiden.
Generate Report, and that's going to bring just him up. I've got to remember to clear
my filters data here.
Now, I'm gping to say, show me Aiden O'Brien's runners in the last 2 years on the flat.
Sorry Aidan O'Brien Irish runners in the last 2 years on the flat
Click the JOCKEY radio button, click generate reports and then in my summary box.
I got all the different jockeys that Aiden has used in the last two years. Now again we've got these ones and bits and pieces, they're not really meaningful so let's sort by
wins and we'll say, "right well we're just get rid of
20 runs", let's say.
Small subset here, again sort by A/E.
And we've got.
Messrs Hussey, Moore Donnacha O'Brien,
Emmet McNamara, Seamie Heffernan,
and Wayne Lordan.
is an immediate chuck out and if you're a layer that might be interesting: an A/E of 0.53.
runners is terrible.
In fairness to him, he's almost always on a second, third or fourth string but nevertheless...
And again you'd need to check
Betfair SP because he might be riding some massive priced horses, but on the face of it these are eminently avoidable.
19 out of 20 get beaten.
5 out of 6 are not even in the frame.
These are not horses to go to war with generally.
At the other end Ryan Moore is quite interesting: 34% strike rate and a small profit, in fact a reasonable profit
at SP. So we'll have a look at Ryan.
Let's take Ryan Moore and Hussey and O'Brien is now training so he's stopped; we'll have McNamara and Seamie Heffernan as well.
The reason I've done that is I've got them here now so what I can do is I can look at them individually and I still got these names here to come back to. I'm going to have a look at
Ryan Moore first.
I want to look at
a bigger data period.
So I'm going to go back 5 years.
And I'm going to sort by year.
And order this by group.
You can see here...
in the last 2 years.
Is not replicated in any of the previous three.
This is kind of precarious territory now because we're not seeing
a replication of the Actual
over Expected, we're not seeing a replication of the profit and loss.
We are seeing that in the last couple of years Ryan's IV has risen.
Now, our job as researchers
is, if you remember the point from part 1, of logic logic logic...
If we can come up with a reason
for this, if we can explain why
It was not good, and in 2018 it was good,.
then we've got a bit of a chance.
And there is one credible reason, and it is this.
If I go back to RUNNER
and JOCKEY. And I'm just going to look for
this guy, Joseph O'Brien.
So if I do that and then sort by
Right now what I want to do is I'm ging to go to my dates and sort that by year.
And what we can see is that
Joseph stopped riding in 2015.
So that would partially explain
these data here. So 2015
plenty of the good Aiden horses.
It doesn't explain 2016 and 2017.
Notwithstanding that the A/E figures for those years are kind of more acceptable than
this one here.
When Ryan was competing in Ireland with
Joseph for the Aiden
rides (apologies for
first name terms).
So where do I get to with this? And again these are the kind of situations that you'll find yourself in when you're doing this.
You've got some kind of make value judgements.
Actually I should have cleared that I don't think it's going to make and difference.
I should have cleared that before.
So we've got a situation here where recent history is promising.
Longer-term history less so.
We've got kind of a partial explanation.
We've got a full explanation for the year 2015.
You can see that as Joseph stopped riding - in 2015 Ryan Moore only rode 27 of Aiden's horses in Ireland.
And in subsequent years he's ridden more, as you can see; and that is probably a factor in these numbers I think on balance it's definitely something worth
keeping in mind because it's the kind of thing...
It's one of these 'Hidden in Plain Sight' angles, it's the sort of thing that everybody thinks must be overexposed.
And it's potentially not.
Now what you might do this in the last 2 years there's kind of 200 runners there you might look at whether it's 2 year olds or Group races only you might look at
O'Brien and Ryan Moore have combined with for the most success.
And that might be your angle.
This is a trainer / jockey combination and, you know, who would have thunk that
O'Brien, the best trainer in the world or certainly in Britain and Ireland, and Ryan Moore, the best jockey in Britain and Ireland, I think both of them have only got one peer and they're a partnership as well.
Gosden nd Dettori
Who would have thought that those highest of high-profile trainers and jockeys would be
borderline profitable to follow blind.
It really is quite remarkable and it's and it's worth knowing.
Saving it to your angles if that's something that you want.
Let's do a slightly less obvious one.
This time I'm going to look at
UK trainers on the flat.
The last 2 years here, you see that there.
And from my RACE conditions I'm going to say UK.
Race code.FLAT (TURF/AW)
And then I'm going to look by trainer.
This is quite big dataset, so it will take a minute for the data to filter in. The query is complete and then it takes a second for your browser to order the data my browser is being told what to do.
And it's got to create this very big table.
And that takes a minute or a few seconds to do.
Right again we've got very small numbers in here so I'm going to sort by number of winners.
So I can see where a sensible cut-off point is.
And 150 wins
gives us plenty
to go at.
Sort by win strike right, now we can see that we've got David Evans who has
volume but low strike rate. I don't really want these
super low strike rate trainers so I'm going to put 10% in.
which actually doesn't get rid of many.
I just leave it like that I think.
So we've got quite a bit of data to go at.
like Mark Johnson uses Joe Fanning and Franny Norton
extensively and there actually aren't that many left around that. Other trainers like John Gosden will.
use Frankie and Rab Havlin for the vast majority of his. Let's have a look at Johnny G actually.
And Karl Burke
And maybe Roger Varian
So what we've got here are
three trainers who all perform better than average, one of them is a standout and that is Gosden.
We're going to look at Gosden first and again if you remember we can just deselect the other trainers.
That's Johnny G's - again forgive familiarity - that's his overall 2-year
record on the flat. I want to look by jockey.
Select the JOCKEY radio button and generate report and here are the data.
Robert Havlin has had the most rides and winners in the last two years Frankie is quite selective.
Let's sort by A/E.
And again we want to get rid of the small sample sizes.
Let's say at least 15 wins,
Now we've got a much smaller
more meaningful dataset. The first thing to look at is Frankie (Dettori).
See he wins 30% of the time
So let's have a look at that actually overl the last 5 years, I think it might be a profit over the last five.
Break-even, but at exchange prices that will be a profit. We'll go back to two years.
So we got Oisin Murphy, Jim Crowley, Frankie Dettori, Rab Havlin, Nicky Mackay and Kieran O'Neill.
The strike rate for Nicky and Kieran is 20% or lower which in the context of the group
is not really at the level I would like to be, so we'll look at just these four guys.
So we've got four here now.
What we can do is
It's going to be hard, I mean there might be some situations where he's
profitable to follow.
Potentially when he's on a second string so when
a horse at
a bigger price to Frankie.
That might be something worth looking at, you can do that with odds by selecting him but I'm going to
deselect him for now.
Generate report and I've got three in here.
I want to look at these guys over the longer term, we could just quickly look at Frankie but I want to look at.
Oisin and Jim as well.
And we can see that
When he rides for John Gosden
I mean 40%.is ridiculous...
It is a small sample size.
And these 30% numbers
certainly Frankie's, on
a bigger sample size are remarkable.
If you're betting in a race where Gosden
has got one of these jockeys up and you're not betting it
You've only got 70% of the winners to go at. Now that might be absolutely fine.
It's kind of a meaningless or misleading start in and of itself but you need to know that these guys are winning a lot of the time. Whether they're profitable or not is another question: in the case of Oisin Murphy who is
the retained jockey for Qatar Racing and it may very well be the case that
a lot of those 50 horses that he's ridden for Gosden in the last five years were for his retained owner.
That's by the by, what we need to know is that this is a guy worth following. So you might save this angle as...
Gosden and Oisin.
And add it to your setup and then when they have a qualifier you get your Gosden and Oisin...
You get your blue number here and it will tell you the numbers and you'll be able to factor that into your overall consideration of that race. It might be you might want to bet those blind or you might want to bet them more selectively as I do. But either way you have that data right in the card there and also on the QT Angles Report.
So those are jockeys and trainers. Maybe we'll just look at one more. Let's go back to
RUNNER and we'll look at the trainers.Let's have a look at Karl Burke
So I've selected TRAINER Karl Burke and I've still got this by JOCKEY.
I want to look at Burke's
rider selections in the last 2 years.
Again I'm going to sort it. I want to get rid of the small numbers so let's
cut that off at 50, that's fine.
Sort by A/E.
Ben Curtis is the guy that kind of immediately
jumps off the page.
Let's have a look at Ben.
Now what I want to do is I want to look I want to look by year.
Let's go 5 years and extend it out a bit.
That year actually if we look at
the win strike rate in recent years,
2017 and onwards, you can see that the strike rate is around
But last year was down.
This is one, again it's another value judgement, you've got to kind of say,
"Right, obviously if I got a year like
2017 or 2018 I'd be thrilled to be following these but if I got a year like 2019 where the strike rate was down
and I might be in the hole a fair bit at some.point,
would I be able to stomach that?"
The answer for most people is NO
Only you know the answer for you.
I'd be absolutely fine with this because, again, I'm not backing them religiously anyway. I'm missing winners but I'm missing plenty of losers as well by being selective.
What I want to do with Karl and Ben.
is I want to
look by MONTH...
I want to see, because most trainers have seasonal ups and downs, and looking at trainers by month is a valid thing to do, and often it is
So I've selected order by MONTH and Generate Report. .
Now we've got some interesting
Remember our filters, specifically Karl Burke when Ben Curtis is riding
On the flat in Britain in the last 5 years.
See that there are some ups and downs here and the easiest way to
visualise this is with the CHART.
This is something else I wanted to show you: when you've got a...
When you've got a number of
variables in your parameter, so I've got 'by month' here and I've obviously got 12 months - 12 variables in my parameter.
Or 12 parameters in my variable, I'm not even sure which of those is right! Anyway,
what our charting software does is it takes half the dataset, or sometimes a smaller percentage. But if you click .
in the top chart,
it will show you everything. Now sometimes, if you've got like a 1000 trainers in here that's going to be not going to be able to make sense of this so what you can also do is if you click and drag
you can select
of the chart to look at in more detail. And when you've got 1000 in here that selection I've made there which is, what?, about a quarter, that's still going to be 250-odd so I might actually be only wanting to
look at a smaller subset like that.
A single click and you'll get the full dataset. Right, so here we've got Burke and Curtis.
It's sorted by Win PL I'm going to sort it by A/E, which is a good friend of mine and again clicking in the chart [to view all data].
What we need to note here.
1.0 is the line of interest in A/E (and to a lesser degree IV).
And what we can see here.
In the early part of the year.
Certainly January-February March.
And the late part of the year - October November December - this is a period that obviously aligns with the all-weather.
Karl Burke and Ben Curtis have had a good time of it.
In the summer months,
less so and particularly less so between
I mean that's perfectly legitimate in my opinion.
To accept that seasonality I mean if you look at strike rate.
The average for the year, you can see this at the bottom, it's 16% overall.
And in July it's 10% or 9% in August it's 5%.
And in September it's
12%. It's much lower
than the overall averages in
April May are much lower as well so I wouldn't be including June and excluding April and May.
I'd be either including April and May as well as June, or excluding April through June, if you see what I mean. You've got to put logic behind the theory: now in this case the logic is probably these guys are
mustard on the all-weather and we can very easily check that. If we just
select the ON button here it's going to put all the months on I'm going to take out
May to September.
Is a little bit convenient maybe.
I'm going to do that, and then life looks more rosy obviously but what I want to do now.
Is I want to look at
by RACE CODE
There actually isn't a huge amount of difference.
So the theory about
most of their winners being on the all-weather is debunked.
They look absolutely fine on the flat turf as well so that's interesting that's good. One other thing that I might look at is by handicap or non-handicap.
Much better in handicap so might though it is profitable in
win profit and loss
terms in non-handicaps but if you look at the A/E that would give you cause for a slight reservation. Certainly
all of the metrics are better in handicaps.
I might change that to handicap and I might revisit my dates and see if that makes
any difference in the summer months.
And actually what it does
is it kind of reinforces
the previous date range
that we selected, which
was October through to April.
So if we delselect the summer months
We've now got...
We've essentially combined the two scenarios we've looked at so far which are kind of a sub-season.
It's sub-season trainer form with trainer by jockey.
Generate the report and we've got a nice little angle here which has been extremely profitable. It's worth looking at by year.
And we can see again that there was a
losing year in 2016.
So, again, are you comfortable with that? The answer might be no.
Generally speaking this is an approach that in the last few years has been a really
good one to have onside, so I'd always be mindful of Burke and Curtis
teaming up in handicaps in in the trainer's good times, which are October through to April.
That's an angle that I think it's worth saving.
So that's saved to my Angles now..
I want to show you one more. I am conscious of the length of this video and I might break it up into two recordings.
I will do that so I'll do this last one on trainers.
Actually I have got one more on trainers, so I'll do that in a part
3b if you like, and some people will obviously have got the general idea by now and choose not to look at
the angles highlighted in Part 3b, others will want to look at those as well.
I mean I would encourage you to look because I think,
not so much for the specific angle, but there are some more scenarios I'm going to highlight which might give you ideas to go and research on your own.
And I think there's plenty of value in that.
Let's go we're going to do another trainer jockey combo.
I do loves me a trainer jockey combo as long term
subscribers will know.
This time we're going to look at Red Raif, as I
somewhat unflatteringly call him.
Mr Beckett, who is an excellent trainer.
And a passionate man.
Somewhat political and not fully aligned with my own view of
the world. But that doesn't make him right or wrong, it just makes us different.
Anyway it is his ability to condition horses that we're interested in here so let's retain focus on that.
Beckett as you can see has a 16% strike rate in the
last two years. If we extend that out to five years, we can see he retains a very consistent strike rate.
And if we look by year,
we can see that he's...
...ignore this part year which is unrepresentative, as you can see by the number of runs, but in the main he
is consistently around 14% to
20%, average 16.5%, very solid overall figures from which to work. So what I want to do is I want to look at...
As you can see down the bottom here we've got two and a half thousand runs
So we've got a bit of data to work with..
So let's see if there are some sensible subsets within that.
We might look at
RACE CODE for flat turf and flat all-weather.
We can see that his strike rate again is consistent.
of interest there.
Is he better with sprinters or middle distance horses? He doesn't have a huge amount of runners
at sprint trips.
The ones he does are largely
consistent in strike rate terms, so
nothing really going on there.
Handicap or non-handicap?
Hmm, now that's interesting.
The strike rate is not
massively different, but it is notably different, kind of 10%.
16 + 10% of 1.6 - 17.6 and it is 17.43, let's call it 9% better in handicaps.
And we've got a bit of a chance looking at the A/E figures here and Win PL on a big sample size so I'm going to look at
'Red Raif' in handicaps.
And then we've got this summary number. Now let's look by
Longer-distance races look
potentially more interesting.
But what I really want to look at is by jockey.
So let's open up the JOCKEY radio button.
And get rid of some of these meaningless .
samples, so let's say we want.
we'll start with 20+ and work up from there.
Sort by Actual / Expected
And we've actually got some really interesting players here.
Now Fran Berry has retired and he and Pat Dobbs used to ride a lot for Ralph Beckett, as did
Richard Kingscote as you can see. They had the least good data in terms
of A/E and indeed
in terms of Impact Value which is a reference to strike rate as well so they are easily excluded.
Higher up the list we've got
the likes of Sylvestre De Sousa, Josephine Gordon
I think if we put a
win strike rate of at least 15%
Get rid of some of these so we can focus more clearly and an each-way strikerate of 33%.
Now we're getting to the juice of it. And a problem with Sylvestre is that he's a fantastic jockey - that's not a problem - the problem is that everybody knows he's a fantastic jockey.
Even in this loaded situation, Beckett in handicaps, where
he places his horses very well clearly.
The strike rate is high but we're never going to be able to get rich with this guy.
I think I'm going to look at the other four
You could do more with this but really, it might be worth looking at gender - Beckett is extremely good with training fillies and mares. He's won the Oaks a number of times.
There's not really much difference.
Male horses tend to win more often the female horses.
That's just a function of
genetics I suppose; age is worth having a look.
I just want to sort this by group, so I can get a feel for the linearity of it, if you like.
Rather than cherry-picking
based on A/E
Most of his runners are in the 2 to 4 year old age group, it might be worth focusing only on the the younger horses: 2 and 3 year olds.
I think that's probably a legitimate thing to do.
In this example I'm going to leave them all in but you might choose to focus only on those that small group you can see that they're the sort of 5, 6 and 7 year olds have very few runners. They've had 34 runs between them whereas 2-year olds alone in handicaps have had 45 runners in the period so I'm just going to leave it as is and
I think we've got a nice little trainer jockey angle here so Ralph Beckett in flat handicaps.
When he uses Oisin Murphy, Rob Hornby, Louis Steward or Harry Bentley. Now this is a five year view and again it's definitely worth looking at the year by year breakdown.
We can see that there's a
gorgeous consistency here that is an angle researcher's dream such is its
annual profit and its strike rate of
20+% (again, ignore this year because.that's
a small number of runs in the year so far). I mean that's really quite interesting.
We might look by month as well just to see if he has any seasonality to his form.
The easiest way to do this in a chart.
The 1.0 line is here and we see
again in June and July
High summer when trainers are running horses left, right and centre,
firing a lot of bullets,
it's quite difficult to retain
the higher strike rate.
And that has an impact on profitability and therefore A/E.
You might choose to leave
June and July out; I'm not seeing enough there to justify it for me so I'm going
to leave them all in.
Notwithstanding that June and July are
slightly less appealing.
I think it's a really solid angle and I'm going to save it to my QT Angles.
Alright and that's another angle.
And that is enough for this video I think. I hope
you've seen some interesting angles there. More importantly, I hope you see
some of the considerations that we need to work within when we're considering what might be an approach that suits us and when we're considering
the legitimacy of
data in terms of
it's long-term or future profitability potential.
And I hope this may have inspired you or encouraged you to maybe have a crack at researching some angles yourself. If it has and you've watched this video from the blog...
Please do leave a comment with anything that you'd be happy to share. You might want to keep some of them for yourself, and that's fine, but if you're happy to share that would be fantastic as well. Even if it's
a generic approach.
So, again, like a scenario that people could go away and look at their own
OK, enough already, this is Matt Bisogno saying thank you very much for watching this part 3a
of the Query Tool series. I hope you got some value from it, I'll be back the part 3b very soon.
But, for this one, byee for now.
https://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/John-Gosden-and-Dettori.jpg320692Matt Bisognohttps://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/geegeez_banner_new_300x100.pngMatt Bisogno2020-03-31 19:08:012020-04-01 07:24:30Horse Racing Betting Angles: Part 3a, Query Tool Examples
In Part 1 of this three-part series looking at horse racing betting angles, I talked about research principles: about knowing what works for you, about the importance of logic and a lot more besides. It's a foundation piece for the next two parts and, if you've not read it yet, I'd strongly encourage you to do that first. Here's the link: Horse Racing Betting Angles Part 1
Parts two and three are video-based for now, though I will endeavour to get transcripts at some point. The middle piece, then, is below, and it provides an introduction to Query Tool, Geegeez Gold's main research module. It can be used to drill down on courses, horses, trainers, jockeys, sires, damsires, and plenty of other things besides.
In this video, you'll discover what Query Tool (QT) is, where it lives, and how it works. You'll see how to visualise your analysis, display qualifiers and, best of all, save your research so that it is recalled when relevant, i.e. when there are qualifiers in the day's racing. Click the play button to watch Part 2.
In Part 3, which you can look at here, we'll look at some examples of angle research, produced with Query Tool. Each example is one element of a group of entities which can be researched. As such, there is ample opportunity for curious readers/listeners to try things out for themselves. Look out for that in the next couple of days.
https://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/QUERYTOOLIMAGE.png320830Matt Bisognohttps://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/geegeez_banner_new_300x100.pngMatt Bisogno2020-03-28 11:12:122020-03-31 19:11:30Horse Racing Betting Angles: Part 2, Query Tool Intro
To win at betting on horses, or indeed anything, one needs either to be lucky or to be smart. Ideally, one needs to be both. The best tactic of all is to use smarts to make your own luck, and that is how we'll proceed in this three part series. In this first episode we'll consider the cardinal principles, without which anything that follows will be precarious as a basis for betting decisions.
What is a betting angle?
Let's start at the start, and define what exactly is meant by a betting angle. For me it's a deliberately vague term because I don't want to be reduced to mechanistic wagers spat out by my computer's 'brain', even if whatever comes out is a direct result of what I fed in. I'd rather be advised or reminded of a nugget of information when I'm previewing a particular race.
Put another way, if my research tells me Trainer X has a great record with Jockey Y that will generally not be enough in itself for me to place a bet. But it will encourage me to look more closely at the overall profile of the runner around which Trainer X and Jockey Y are combining.
In other words, I want as many extra pieces of information - snippets which will generally be unknown to the vast majority of punters - as possible when I'm weighing up a race. What I don't want to do is simply back a list of horses generated from my angles.
That is system betting, and it works for a lot of people. If that's you, you will find plenty of utility in this series, but my main focus is on micro-angles which will add a point or two to the case for a given runner without necessarily commending it as a bet.
Betting angles then are snippets of information which can help decipher a race and potentially identify a dollop of otherwise unseen value.
No system or angle is God
Horse races are loose forms of organised chaos. An average of ten large animals, steered by small animals, with each other and/or obstacles in their way: there is plenty of scope for things to go wrong. Unsurprisingly, things frequently do go wrong. Thus the best horse often does not win. Rather, the best suited horse to conditions, or the best placed horse from the break, or the horse that makes the fewest mistakes, usually wins.
These kind of 'chaos variables' are generally not factored in to the price of horses at the top of the market, meaning such horses can not normally be considered value bets. Their chances are well advertised by the good judges in the racing media and the weight of money from lazy punters ensures their followers will eventually suffer death by a thousand poor value betting slip paper cuts. Or something like that.
My point is that we need to build in enough latitude to account for what used to be known in my software development project management days as OSINTOT's ("Oh Sh!t I Never Thought Of That"). Stuff happens, regularly in horse races, and our wagering approach must be sufficiently resilient to handle it.
No system is perfect, no angle immune to the bettors' scourge, variance: again, as I like to say, "after a good run expect a bad run; after a bad run expect a good run". Such is the nature of the beast.
For ultra-contrarians, the best time to get involved with a proven tipster or a solid-looking betting system is in the howling teeth of a downturn; after a bad run expect a good run. But only if you firmly believe in the underlying merit of the approach behind it.
We all want to be beautiful/handsome. And we all want to back big-priced winners on a regular basis. But, sadly, we have to play the hand we're dealt. You might have smouldering Dean Martin looks, but I get reminded more often than I'd like about my better than passing resemblance to Mister Bean. Such is life.
And so it is with betting systems. We hanker after the golden goose, the method that gets all the girls. But that's not what we need. What we need is a steady little portfolio of pointers that keep us honest, content and on the right side of both the bottom line and sanity. That is achievable, sustainable, and far more nourishing than a golden goose. How B-O-R-I-N-G would life be then?
This game is about little fish tasting sweet. It is about the thrill of the chase, about engagement and fun: solving the puzzle lower down the lists where others have fallen into its top of the market traps.
There is no such thing as a golden goose system, thank the deities. But there are myriad in's that offer slivers of value, shards of profitable light, to those who care to seek them out.
This series is for you.
A bit about you
On that point, then, let's talk about you.
One of the best pieces of business advice I ever received was to create customer avatars. A customer avatar is a very specific definition of the core client of a business.
Understanding this has helped geegeez.co.uk to stop focusing on 'all horse racing bettors' and home in on 'horse racing bettors who know they want more information than is available for free elsewhere, and don't mind getting their hands dirty in the quest to find their own value picks'.
That's less catchy, and is a very (VERY!) small subset of 'all horse racing bettors', but I can talk to almost every single one of these guys - you guys - as an equal, and expect that what I say will largely resonate with your own general outlook on the racing and betting game.
Back to you and, specifically, your betting approach. If you've read this far, you almost certainly are interested in finding your own betting angles - the good Lord Sugar knows this introduction has been long enough to disqualify those who are not!
But a betting angle that works for you will not necessarily be the same as one that works for me, or that works for the next reader. Some examples will help.
Betting Angle A has a 3% ROI on more than 10,000 selections. That's 300 points profit. Nice right? Well, maybe.
What if Angle A identifies 40 bets per day? What if the average odds of winners are 25/1?
The downswings with an approach like that could run to many hundreds of points. To operate it profitably would require a very large bank, very small unit stakes (in percentage terms), and titanium sphericals. The profit is attractive to all; the modus operandi suitable for very few.
Let's try another.
Betting Angle B has a 9% ROI. It finds roughly 40 bets a year and has been profitable in four of the last five years. In the other year, it lost 28 points. Could you handle that loss and still retain belief in the angle? You probably could if you were being selective when playing it, and if the 40 bets were in a particular context - for example, early season trainer form.
Whether you could or you couldn't, the key here is that while we may all be similar in terms of our general aspirations from the game, we are all different in how we can scratch that itch.
We have different bankrolls, different appetites to risk, different styles of betting, different amounts of time to invest in finding our bets, and so on.
That diversity is to be celebrated: it ultimately means we'll land on different horses and back winners on different days. It won't stop any of us from being profitable or from enjoying our betting as long as we recognise our own terms of reference before getting stuck in.
It is very well worth taking a few minutes to think about your approach, and how optimal that approach is for you. If you use our Bet Tracker tool, you'll have a better insight than most into the way you bet, what works and what needs more thought.
What to look for in a good system/angle
The first thing to say here is to refer back to the previous section: make sure any angle you identify looks sustainable in terms of the way you play. If you need a winner every third qualifier there is little point in deploying an angle with a 10% strike rate; you'll give up on it after a few losers which, almost inevitably, means before you've made any profit.
If you only want to place one of two bets a day, there is little point in identifying a great angle with an average of six bets a day. You'll immediately feel uncomfortable with the different staking and wagering regimen, and that is not a position of strength from which to enjoy the sport.
Any research you undertake needs to be mindful of how you bet: how often, how risky, and so on.
A good system, then, will speak to you personally in terms of its numbers. It will fit your appetite for risk, volume and available time. If it doesn't, it's only a matter of time before you pull the plug, profitable edge or not.
Aside from the personal elements, there are generic precursors to good angles, too.
LOGIC LOGIC LOGIC
The first, and most crucial, component of angle research is logic. An angle should be explainable in a shortish sentence and, if you were explaining it to a fellow punter, she should not spit out her beer in disgust at the case you make.
It is never enough to reason, "well it's profitable". If you can't explain why it is profitable the approach is very likely built on foundations of sand.
It might be fine to have an angle based around big trainers' performance in Saturday handicaps. But it would never make sense to create an angle around performance on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, for instance. There's simply no underlying logic.
Likewise, trainer angles where there are gaps in the months which qualify make no sense; conversely, however, plenty of trainers have certain parts of the year/season when they're in bloom. As long as there is a consecutive nature to the period, that may well be predicated on the schedule of the yard's year.
Just think 'why' for every variable within your angles. If you can't explain it, you should probably bin it.
Less is (usually) more
The always compelling Tony Keenan wrote about focus for optimal betting decisions in this excellent article. In it, he refers to neuroscientist Daniel Levitin's contention that we should unburden the brain by placing information in the physical world. Keenan talks about 'to do' lists as an example but it is equally true of betting angles: we should move these from our cluttered crania to, well, to a query tool or other aide memoire.
He goes on to reference Levitin's work on something called optimal complexity theory. Here's Tony:
...the idea that too little information is no good but so is too much. This applies with any decision we make, like buying a house or car say. Having too many parameters to consider leads to confusion in decision-making, with humans apparently unable to process more than ten variables for any choice, the optimal number being closer to five.
Betting angles should be simple in the main, predicated on sound logic, and often 'hiding in plain sight'. The more convoluted they are, the more likely the creator has added an extra variable or two to filter out some inconvenient truth. This is a subjective area and one where common sense is our greatest ally. Less is usually more.
Be wary of small sample sizes
The nature of looking at horse racing statistically, which is essentially what angle research boils down to, is that we are invited to make inferences on insignificant sample sizes. The conundrum is thus: too large a sample and the angle is well known and profit gone, too small a sample and the angle is unreliable and may be a fluke.
So what to do? Two things...
1 Seek a happy medium
Somewhere in between those two unsatisfactory sample size groups is a reasonable amount of data and the chance of profit continuing in the short- to medium-term. Where possible, look for as big a sample as you can. An angle with eight winners from ten runners looks fantastic, but how sustainable is that? It's impossible to know on such limited evidence.
One thing we can do in such situations is to widen out the search. For example, if Sire Z's progeny have had eight all-weather sprint winners from ten runners, how does that compare with his turf sprint winners? Or with his all-weather runners overall? We're looking for greater assurance in larger numbers. Chances are we'll still be dealing with relatively small samples, but we'll have a better feel for the sustainability of the micro-micro-sample of ten runs.
2 Proceed with caution
Wise men say only fools rush in
But I can't help falling in love with you
So sung the immortal Elvis Presley, and he wasn't wrong. Once you've satisfied yourself that there at least might be merit in an angle, go forward carefully. Do not rush in. Only fools rush in.
Such angles are prime contenders to be considered in the context of the race overall rather than bet blind. For instance, a trainer with an excellent record with handicap debutants from a tiny sample: is there anything else about this runner to corroborate its chance? Has it been off for more than a month? Is it stepping up in trip, or down in class? Is there a notable jockey change? Has there been money for the horse?
It doesn't take long in most cases to see whether the qualifier should be a 'proper' bet, an 'action' bet, or a watch and squirm job. (For me, there is no such thing as the last named. I'm either betting to win a few quid, or I'm betting to win a cup of tea and a sticky bun, or I'm not betting and I won't cry if the horse wins).
Profit is not the best measure
Most angle researchers have an unhealthy obsession with the Profit/Loss column. Of course we are trying to secure a positive return, but there are any number of traps for the greedy punter whose alpha and omega is pee and ell.
Harking back to what suits a particular bettor, and mindful of the small sample sizes that often manifest, it may be prudent to focus on each way percentage, percentage of rivals beaten (PRB) or percentage of rivals beaten squared (PRB^2). The last named pair, especially PRB^2, are very interesting metrics that will make their way into Geegeez Gold later in 2020 and I will cover them in greater depth at that time. For now, though, Gold users might look to each way percentage as a way of - somewhat artificially but perfectly legitimately - extending the sample size in question.
In terms of profitability, A/E (Actual vs Expected, more information here) is a solid barometer of ongoing value. It's a simple enough concept, where an A/E of greater than 1.00 is considered a positive, an A/E of less than 1.00 is considered a negative, and the further away from 1.00 the number, the better or worse is the expected merit. The A/E column can be found within Geegeez Gold's Query Tool, a tool that will form the cornerstone of parts two and three in this series.
Review, and Realise
Once you've found your angle(s), stored them, and started to bet them, there are two important 'maintenance' jobs to take on. The first is one of review. No matter how large or small the research sample was, every qualifier thereafter swells the knowledge base. Returning to your set of angles on a regular - maybe quarterly, but it depends how much action an angle throws up - basis is excellent discipline. Don't get too hung up on profit and loss from quarter to quarter, but rather focus on whether the horses looked likely beforehand, took a degree of support, and ran well even if in defeat.
Through this review process we start to realise - make real - the angle. A trainer becomes someone whose methods we get to know; likewise a sire, or a course profile, or whatever. We must make friends with these entities, ask questions of them, become more familiar than the market. This is a lot easier than it might sound, particularly in terms of the early markets, which are heavily focused on 'top down' information such as basic recent form, newspaper tipsters and fashionable trainers and jockeys.
'Bottom up' intel - first start in a handicap, favourable draw/pace, no name trainer with his job jockey, and the like - is factored into the market later. This late intelligence is generally underpinned by people close to yards who want to bet, and they can't get a meaningful bet on until nearer the off time. As angle punters we have to second guess them: we'll generally not nick their price, but can nab a few quid at 'ignorant odds' before the smart money arrives.
More often than this, though, are the occasions when we realise that the first flush of love was misguided; that we rushed in as fools, or maybe merely flirted dangerously with a dataset which failed to substantiate itself for the application of further evidence. Reviewing and rejecting these false dawns (no offence, Dawn, if you're reading!) is as valuable - arguably more valuable - than finding a great angle: the first job is to try not to lose money, the second job is to try to win money.
Nothing Lasts Forever
The final point to make in this overture to Angle Research is that nothing lasts forever. You will know you have found a great angle if the strike rate remains largely the same over time while the profit diminishes to a loss. That is simply a function of market awareness and is the lot of any and all statistical edges.
The game, of course, is to continually reinvent our portfolio.
Every week, month or year, there are new trainers waxing and old trainers waning. Likewise sires and, to a lesser extent, jockeys. Tracks change their drainage and, in so doing, reverse their draw biases. Surfaces get relaid and the front-running bias is mitigated as the kickback to later runners becomes less severe.
It's the circle of life, and all the joy within: there is always something else to learn, to discover, to deploy.
Evolve or die: this is the angle punter's mantra.
In part two of this series, which you can review here, I'll introduce you to Query Tool: what it is, where it lives, what it does and how it does it. And in part three, we'll work through a series of examples: micro angles which can be deployed as they are but, importantly, which are singular examples from rich seams whose nuggets are waiting to be extracted by the inquisitive Gold miner! 😉
https://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/optimalcomplexitytheory.jpg320830Matt Bisognohttps://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/geegeez_banner_new_300x100.pngMatt Bisogno2020-03-26 13:42:082020-03-31 19:12:41Horse Racing Betting Angles: Part 1, Research Principles
Original post published 26th March 2012. Latest revised list published 1st February 2018
The Racing Post last Friday published a controversial list of 'Racing's Top Tweeters'. It listed the top hundred racing personalities, by number of followers.
So why was it controversial? Well, in my opinion, anything which is based on quantity over quality must be flawed. I mean, imagine if there was a 'racing's top blogs' based on the same notion. geegeez would be very close to the top... I rest my case! 😉
As an example, the number one racing personality according to the Racing Post, was Michael Owen! Yes, you know, the occasional footballer and occasional racehorse owner, Michael Owen. Number four was Alex Hammond. Very attractive, especially as a twitter-follower-magnet... but adding value? Come off it.
So, partly in rally against such a lazy piece of journalism (in my opinion), and partly because I'd love to encourage a few more of you into the tweet space (for reasons I'll share at the end of this piece), here is my strawman top twenty-t'ree Twittery tweeters.
By strawman, I mean this is intended as a starting list, which is up for discussion. It is based on a subset of the people I follow, and of course there are squillions of others out there, many of whom will also be worth following. So, where you see a glaring omission, leave a comment, and I may update the list. It's my aspiration to create some sort of living guide to the top tweeters.
I should say that I've deliberately omitted any trainers or jockeys, largely because anything they say which is worth knowing gets re-tweeted by some of the below. And trainers and jockeys generally tweet a load of old crap around the occasional important snippet. (There are probably exceptions but I've yet to find any. I welcome suggestions in this space).
[Note, with respect, I'd encourage you to suggest other people's twitter feeds rather than your own. Thanks!]
To sign up for a Twitter account, just go to https://twitter.com/ and follow the (very simple) prompts.
As and when you're a registered user, you can follow my suggestions below - should you so wish - by clicking their @name, and then clicking the 'Follow' button that appears in the newly opened window. Simples, as a certain fictional meerkat of dubious origins might say.
They say: Official feed of the British Horseracing Authority Stewards. Enquiries, notices and raceday information.
I say: A one stop shop for stewards' reports, jockey changes and other important/instructive raceday updates.
They say: Daily going reports across all tracks from the Racecourse Association. Information correct at time of posting.
I say: My first port of call each morning when I'm having a bet. Latest going as of the morning of racing.
They say: Horseracing Bettors Forum. Officially recognised voluntary body representing views/concerns of those who bet on British horseracing.
I say: Increasingly credible lobby group for British punters. Good source of news updates on progress. [Full disclosure: I have been a Forum member since its inception]
She says: Racing fan. And journalist. Stalker update: Lie Forrit, Taws & Djakadam are used to it. Beware, Vanishing: you're my latest fixation. I miss Antigua Sunrise.
I say: Articulate, honest, passionate, knowledgeable. Everything I believe a racing journo should be. Top class. Easy enough on the eye too… (can I say that?!)
He says: Irish Horse Racing punter. Form, pace, video analysis. Write for @BetfairRacing, @geegeez_uk and @racingaheadmag. Contrary bastard.
I say: Top scribe, always thought-provoking, always data-driven, often found on the virtual pages of geegeez.co.uk.
He says: Muck out, ride out, and talk about horses on radio and television for a living. Just started producing, filming and editing on my own and loving it....
I say: Luke Harvey. Lovable joker. Occasional buffoon. Deservedly won the 2017 HWPA Broadcaster of the Year award.
He says: Guardian and Observer racing editor
I say: A bit ‘establishment’ perhaps, but then he has a serious day job to jeopardize. Also a hopeless PNE romantic (as all fans of lower league football should be).
He says: Write about horse racing for The Guardian. Just looking for the next winner. "A journalist of no doubt good repute" (BHA barrister)
I say: One of the most determined journos in the game (apols for damning with faint praise somewhat), and a solid value judge to boot.
He says: Racing correspondent. Brighton & Barca fan. Love baseball too. All views mine.
I say: The third brain at Guardian. Strongly held views, always well articulated. Covers much of the overseas action for his 'paper.
He says: Racing Post hack generously voted racing journalist of the year by some ever so nice people. A lover of the gee gees, Strictly Come Dancing and home baking.
I say: Just about the only Racing Post journalist worth reading (sad but true), and surely not long for that world as the bright lights of TV will tempt him away. Eloquent, erudite, and just a little bit soft. Lovely.
He says: TV presenter on Attheraces and ITV Racing. 2010 HWPA Broadcaster of the Year. Winner of the 2010 Racing Post Broadcasters' World Cup.
I say: Matt Chapman. As you can see from his blurb, not shy when it comes to self-promotion. And of course not shy when it comes to broadcasting. Extremely well-connected modern day Thommo, which is probably the biggest back-handed compliment I can pay anyone. In any case, an occasional guilty pleasure. I do enjoy his opinionated candour.
He says: ex-various things.
I say: Unquestionably one of my favourite racing journalists ever. Now dealing with serious illness, and sharing the bittersweet battle in typically sanguine fashion. Top tweeter. Terrible tipster. 😉
He says: Ex-Timeform/J R Gask. Now freelance racing journo (RP, Irish Field etc), horse breeder, business owner and kickboxer. Topped the 2011 Irish Field Naps Table. You say: Very knowledgable, outside-the-box views, ATR blogs worth a read
He says: Associate editor at the Racing Post. Facilitating exponential change (nice one that, got it out of a mag). Opinions etc
I say: One of the wittiest racing writers you probably don't know about. Always worth looking out for his weekly column.
He says: Freelance racing writer and form/time analyst. Chips into: Timeform, ATR, Irish Field, others. Chair HBF. Fellow RSS, Judicial Panel.
I say: Simon Rowlands. Some very interesting analyses of racing from outside of the usual spectrum of interpretation, as you'd expect from one of the top number-crunchers in the game. Colleague (chairman) on Horseracing Bettors Forum.
He says: Horseracing mainly, work as Flat Editor for @Timeform. Enthusiastic only about running these days, despite perennial injuries. My views, not my employers
I say: Obviously sound judge of flat racing.
He says: Full time sports punter/analyst and writer/broadcaster on RUK. Most sports esp racing, NFL, cricket, rugby league and football. Former Betfair staff. You say: Tweets plenty of interesting stuff and because he travels to different meetings each day is good for updates on travel problems and any other live snippets from the course. Very good on the NFL too, if you like that sort of thing.
They say: Horse Racing's favourite Podcast previewing the biggest races with an array of special guests.
I say: Excellent craic, strong opinions, and generally thought-provoking as well as laughter-inducing.
He says: Horse racing publisher, syndicate manager and punter. Creator of the Geegeez Gold next gen formbook... Opinionated, vocal and frequently wrong. AFC Bournemouth.
I say: You don’t need me to tell you what I’m like. You already know well enough! My Twitter presence is a bit more ‘snapshot’ (i.e. less considered) than most of my blog ramblings. Might be worth a look though.
He says: Writer of the Daily Punt, monthly writer for Betting Insiders, bits & pieces for Radio Winchcombe, Normally mooching on a racecourse somewhere.
I say: Smart guy. Funny guy. Nice guy. Eminently readable output!
He says: Author of Horse Racing Trends book 'Narrowing The Field - Using The Dosage Method to Win at National Hunt Racing' - Member of the Twitterati, owners of Trending.
I say: Ben Aitken. ‘Hairy Ben’ as I call him. Dosage guru, trends analyst and all round hairy man. Prefers jumps to flat, but then, don’t most people?
He says: Lucky enough to have worked in Ballydoyle, studied Equine Science in U.L & now working with ATR. Blogger for Paddy Power. Big sports fan too, Man Utd & Tipperary.
I say: Declan Rix. Interesting perspectives on Irish horses, and the sort of chap likely to reply to your questions. Twitter should, in my opinion, be about access / information, and Declan fulfils the remit.
He says: Trends compiler. Highlights are The Festival and York Ebor meetings. Proud to have owned a winner in MISS WIZZ.
I say: Tony McCormick. Trends analyst, and owner of Irish Big Race Trends. (Strong) opinions, and also writes the popular Each Way Double Dutch thread on the Gold Forum…
He says: I wrote the first book ever written about betting on football Win At Fixed Odds Football Betting back in 1993 with nine subsequent horse racing books penned.
I say: Our own placepot and stats man, Mal tweets some interesting snippets on the racing most days.
He says: Managing to eke out a profit in the clandestine world of UK racing. Any info provided is given in good faith but in Racing things can change at short notice. You say: Very, very useful! Reveals declarations
They say: Average racing fan. Work for the Press Association. One For Arthur's biggest fan. Views my own and not of my employer. You say: People with such a passion are always worth listening to and Adam looks at things differently.
He says: CEO of Great British Racing & British Champions Series Ltd. Husband. Dad . Seagull. Avocado farmer. Runner.
I say: Rod Street. The man behind Racing For Change and Great British Racing. Partly responsible for racing’s recent renaissance. Rod is a keen tweeter, and often shares interesting titbits from the wider world. Just fancy that!
He says: Racing. Betting. Other.
I say: Coral head of racing trading. Frequent tweeter, often deliberately antagonistic. Usually gets a bite from somewhere...
As I said, I'm keen for more of you to dip your toe into the warm Mediterranean waters of Twitter, and savour sound bites in easily digestible format from your favourite racing bods, and perhaps even me! 😉
To sign up for a Twitter account, just go to https://twitter.com/ and follow the (very simple) prompts.
As and when you're a registered user, you can follow my suggestions above - should you so wish - by clicking their @name, and then clicking the 'Follow' button that appears in the newly opened window. Simples, as a certain fictional meekat of dubious origins might say.
And if you're already connected on there, do leave a comment/suggestion below as to who you reckon is well worthy of a 'follow'.
https://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/twitterimage.jpg320830Matt Bisognohttps://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/geegeez_banner_new_300x100.pngMatt Bisogno2018-02-01 09:43:472018-02-04 17:34:07Horse Racing People to follow on Twitter
I backed a winner yesterday. Believe me, if you've endured my recent form that's more a resuscitation than a boast or, heaven forbid, an aftertime.
Anyway, it won at 10/1 after I'd backed it at 7/1 (ever the judge, me), and it reminded me of an old post I wrote which was the inspiration for yesterday's bet as well as many other good ones in the interim.
That post is below, refreshed and updated - including a very appealing update on the systematic suggestion originally posited on 31st January 2014, three years less a fortnight ago.
Heavy horses are a breed apart
Rain, rain, incessant infernal rain. It seems just now - and, actually, at around this time most years - that pretty much all of the jumps racing is either abandoned or run on heavy ground.
Moan, moan, grumble, grumble, go the form students. "This ground throws up all sorts of freak results", etc etc, blah blah.
Well, guess what? It's a load of old cobblers. What those naysayers are implying is that they find it difficult to deal with a change in the ground. Me? I love it, because it often makes the job of handicapping easier, not harder.
Let me expound on that.
Heavy ground is the most extreme level of sodden turf on which horses are asked to race. Whilst it takes on varying degrees of mud and splosh depending on the track, it is always more testing than merely 'soft' ground. So, whereas most horses can be expected to perform, at least to some degree, on middling terrain - good to soft, good, and good to firm - only a subset of the equine population will perform close to their optimal on very quick or very slow turf.
In this study, I'm going to focus specifically on National Hunt handicap races, for two reasons:
1. There are not that many flat handicaps run on heavy ground (though results are similar to the below)
2. In non-handicap events - novice races and the like - it is as likely that a horse outclasses its rivals as it is that a horse 'out-acts' its rivals on the prevailing squelchy grass
Let's first look at the performance of horses in handicap races being run on heavy ground. The table below is sorted by number of previous heavy ground wins.
National Hunt Handicap performance by previous heavy ground wins
As we can see, the vast majority of horses have yet to win on heavy ground, and many of them will have never encountered such a test before. Indeed, after failing on a first attempt in the deep, many will never encounter such a test again.
Materially, note the correlation between number of heavy ground wins and the win percentage in subsequent heavy ground handicaps. Ignoring the small group of 5- and 6-time heavy ground winners that failed to score a further mud success, we can see a fair relationship between number of heavy ground wins and subsequent heavy win strike rate.
Whilst that is fairly logical and, in itself, not especially helpful, what is perhaps more surprising is that following multiple (two-plus) heavy ground winners in National Hunt handicaps run on heavy ground is a profitable strategy to embrace blindly, at Betfair SP or early prices at least.
Let me emphasise that with the following table:
Comparison of multi-mud winners versus 0 or 1 win
The American author, James Quinn, talks throughout his book, The Complete Handicapper, about 'the rule of two'. This rule, again entirely sensible and a very good way of avoiding bad value bets, is predicated on the market overreaction to a single instance of an event.
That could be a single good run, a single heavy ground performance, or a single bad run. Or anything else which has not been replicated or built upon before or since. Hence the two-plus heavy ground wins proviso demonstrates beyond reasonable doubt that a horse is likely to run to form on that sort of surface, all other things being equal.
How to optimize this knowledge
Getting to within 5% of parity at starting price with a simple stat like that opens a window of research opportunity through which we may be able to spot pockets of value.
Poor run last time out
One trick here, from a value perspective, may be to see if horses with a poor finishing position last time can improve the ROI. Focusing only on those runners which finished outside the top five on their previous start has a profound impact on the figures.
2+ heavy wins, outside the top five last time out
Firstly, it reduces the number of bets to roughly a half. Secondly, it retains an acceptable strike rate of 11% win and 27% place. Thirdly, the ROI is now around 10% on a meaningful number of bets at industry SP.
Mature. But not over-ripe...
Without tampering questionably with the dataset it is worth evaluating performance by age, as there do seem to be a fair number of octogenarians (in horse years at least) asked to persist with a fading career on heavy turf. The data bear that out:
Multi-heavy NH 'cap winners, not top 5 LTO, by age
The strike rates for horses in the prime of their careers - from ages seven to ten (using the more reliable place strike rates as guidance) - are significantly better than their older and younger counterparts.
And, in case you were wondering, that shape is not replicated when one removes the 'heavy going' factor. Overall, horses tend to place at a fairly consistent percentage (c.25%) under the other conditions outlined above from ages four to six, before dropping to 24% aged seven, 23% at eight and 21% at nine and ten. Older than that and the general population running in this context hit the board at less than 20%.
It probably makes sense that most horses would mature into sloggers at a slightly later time than those naturally equipped to race on faster terrain, and that is certainly what the data say.
Focusing only on those horses aged seven to ten with proven (multi-winning) heavy ground form in NH handicaps who were outside the top five last time gives this:
Multi-heavy winners, aged 7 to 10, in NH handicaps, who missed the top 5 LTO
A 25% ROI on 1000 bets at starting price is pretty nifty. But, clearly, any approach with a 12% strike rate will suffer extended losing spells, and the figures above include two fairly painful downturns in 2010 and 2013.
One way to take the edge off that is to consider betting each way. Although not always a good strategy, with these fellows making the frame 30% of the time, it will definitely keep the shorter of bankroll engaged for longer, and help to ride out the worst of the inevitable corrections.
Backing each way at 9/2 or bigger in 5+ runner fields (i.e. each way races) gives 84 wins (10.1%) and 227 placed horses (27.28%) from 832 bets, for an SP profit of 335.12 points. Obviously, backing each way requires a two point stake (one win, one place), meaning the ROI is slightly diminished at 20.14%, but that's more profit overall and a more consistent draw.
The 'rules' then, such as they are, go like this:
- Heavy ground National Hunt handicaps (hurdles or chases)
- Multiple (2+) previous heavy ground winner
- Finished 6th or worse, or failed to complete, last time out
- Aged seven to ten
In terms of explaining the 'system' in a sentence - something you should be looking to do when developing your own mechanistic approaches - we can say the following:
"On extremely testing going, look for proven ability from a horse in its prime that may have been badly outpaced last time"
I appreciate that, for some, the age brackets and last day finishing positions may seem too arbitrary. Fair enough, though it is worth noting a 'tapering' in the datasets at the edges of the ranges which lends a credibility to the numbers.
Regardless of that, one thing is clear: if a horse has shown it can win on heavy ground, and it ran a clunker last time, be prepared to forgive that clunker back on the quaggy stuff.
Finding this kind of horse
So, how to find these diamonds in the mud? Why, with the geegeez racecards of course! Here's an example from last week.
Courtown Oscar fits the bill snugly
The Instant Expert tab reveals that Courtown Oscar was one of only two horses to have previously won twice or more on heavy ground, the other being Bryden Boy. But looking at their respective last time out figures, we can see that Bryden Boy won whereas Courtown Oscar was pulled up.
Courtown Oscar finished outside the top five last time
Also, take a look at how Oscar performed on heavy ground the last time he encountered it.
Impressive handicap previous on heavy - he won again
Courtown Oscar won at 8/1.
And if you look at the top form line in the image above, can you see who was second? Yes, Bryden Boy, the other multiple heavy ground winner.
The exacta paid £87.60, and no, of course I didn't have it!
[As an aside, One For Arthur - who Oscar beat on his previous heavy start - won the Warwick Classic Chase at the weekend; and Bryden Boy sandwiched his second place to Oscar with heavy ground scores either side. The form looks pretty solid!]
So, to recap, in order to find these horses:
Look for meetings run on heavy ground (and be sure to check for going changes when the weather is closing in)
Check Instant Expert ('win' button) for two or more going wins on heavy
Check age and last time out finishing position on the card
Er, that's it
You might also want to look at the overall previous form profile on heavy ground and, obviously, the depth of competition in the race from a going perspective. Though, looking purely through the system lens, that is not necessary.
Instant Expert and Full Form Filter are two components of the Geegeez Gold visual form book. If you're not currently a subscriber and would like to know more about what we offer, you can discover us here.
p.s. there's one runner today of interest in the context of the above... 😉
https://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/heavyground.jpg350660Matt Bisognohttps://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/geegeez_banner_new_300x100.pngMatt Bisogno2017-01-17 09:23:142020-04-30 17:59:07The Value of Heavy Ground Form
It's Newmarket's Future Champions Weekend today and tomorrow, comprising eight races restricted to two-year-olds only. Such contests are notoriously tricky from a betting perspective, because we have little or no form to go on. Worse, most of the contenders are still unexposed to a lesser or greater degree meaning they can be expected to improve on what they've demonstrated so far. So how do we frame a puzzle like this?
The first thing to say is that, personally, I'm not a massive fan of such heats. I prefer an established level of form in the book, with only one or two possible (and predictable) improvers: for instance, a low grade handicap with a horse stepping up markedly in trip and another running for the first time in a handicap after a month off the course.
But still, there are times when I'm forced to have a view on races with little form, the most everyday of which is when selecting a six race placepot sequence.
Here are six ways to get a handle on a minimal amount of form... Oh, and by the way, most of these approaches apply equally to a novice hurdle at Chepstow in January as they do to a juvenile Group 1 in October at HQ, so keep an open mind in terms of the usable context of these hints.
1 Horse Form
The most obvious and logical place to start is always the form book. Incomplete as the picture may be, the basic ability indicators are located right there. The Instant Expert, which I would never use as 'alpha and omega' for this - or indeed any - job, does offer a view on the story so far. As you can see from this example, taken from tomorrow's Autumn Stakes, it is only a partially complete puzzle.
Autumn Stakes Instant Expert
Note two things in particular:
The large number of grey boxes. These denote the absence of form for a given horse under one or more of today's conditions. For instance, Rodaini has yet to race over the distance of a mile, nor in a field of 8-11 runners. That latter point is a touch misleading because he's won in a seven runner race and a twelve runner race, too. [Side note: I personally use field size - and going - primarily when the race is run on an extreme, i.e. very small field or very large field; heavy or firm going]
The number of red boxes where there is only one run to go on. It is extremely dangerous to draw strong conclusions from the evidence of one run, especially using the 'win' view on Instant Expert. Take a look at these two views of The Anvil:
The Anvil should not be discounted in spite of a line of red on the 'win' view
On the win view, it would be easy for an inexperienced - or cursory - eye to discount The Anvil's chance. But the place view, superimposed below for contrast purposes, reveals a very different opinion on his prospects.
Closer inspection of his most recent form line informs that he was a fast-finishing second over course and distance last time out in a better race: a Group 2 compared with today's Group 3.
However, getting back to the main image, we can also give Montataire a chance. He is the most exposed in the field, with eight runs already to his name, and he's achieved more than most of these. The question is whether he is now susceptible to those who have a lot more to come and, on the evidence of his last run - behind The Anvil - the probability is that he is.
2 Speed Ratings
Although, like with the form in the book, the race times in the book are a retrospective on the contenders which fails to account for future improvement, they can be very useful for two reasons.
Firstly, it is often hard for the casual punter to discern between one set of form figures that read '11121' and another. Naturally, we should be more sophisticated in our outlook than that but, largely through conditioning - looking at very partial racecards in the printed press, predominantly - the eye still wanders to the numeric string at the left of a horse's name.
Ratings, especially speed ratings in juvenile races, help us to form a hierarchy from the pile of similar looking form figures.
Secondly, because most two-year-olds are inexperienced and immature, they tend to race 'with the choke out' (i.e. the go as fast as they can for as long as the can, with limited ability to proportion their energy for the task in hand). This means that most juvenile races - typically run at five to seven furlongs before October - are not tactical and the numbers are generally more reliable than might be the case in longer runs.
Here's an example for this afternoon's Cornwallis Stakes, to be run over the minimum trip of five furlongs. Battaash is the highest rated on Geegeez Speed Ratings (SR column, his rating 94), and we can see that his only poor run was on soft ground. We can also see that he's 16/1.
He's not raced on good to firm ground before, so that's a question mark - one that we will look at shortly - but he might be overpriced. At least we know he can run fast in what will be a fast-run event.
Top Speed Rating, and 16/1 in the Cornwallis Stakes
3 Subsequent Form Value
Another way of separating the good 123's from the not so good 123's is to look at what has happened to the other runners in those races since the wins and places were achieved. Here at geegeez, we use something called 'Then What?', which you can see in Battaash's form lines above, and also in the below: a view of the form for those to have previously run in the 4.20 this afternoon, a maiden fillies' race.
Which of the runs so far have worked out best? 'Then What?' has some suggestions
In the above, there are a couple of very interesting points to note. First, the favourite, Highland Pass, has run relatively slowly (48) thus far, and none of the three horses to come out of her races since have made the frame. It's a very small sample but doesn't light my fire when invited to accept 7/2 about her chance.
Compare that with the 68 and 65 rated fillies - the top two speed figures in the field (though plenty are making their debuts today, more on that shortly) - and she has some stepping up to do.
Vigee Le Brun is top rated, and her run has seen one winner from four to exit the race to date. Note, however, that her prior start was on soft ground, versus good to firm today.
The 65 filly is Paradwys, whose two runs have worked out well. Moreover, the most recent was over seven furlongs on good to firm, on the July course here at Newmarket. Clicking on the form line opens up the result, where we can see that all of the runners to finish in front of Paradwys that day to have run again since, have won. Now that's more interesting; and she's a 12/1 chance!
Will punters be in Paradwys this afternoon?
4 Trainer Form / Patterns
First time out, second time out, first time in a handicap, second time in a handicap, up in trip. When a horse does something new, or we have little form to go on, the habits of the trainer can help fill in some of the blanks.
A horse called Fleabiscuit runs in the Group 1 Fillies' Mile this afternoon. She's run once, and she won. No horses have emerged from that race - less than two weeks ago - so how do we know if Fleabiscuit has a chance today?
Her speed figure gives her plenty to find but, with just one run to her name so far, she could step forward significantly. Take a look at her trainer's form:
Trainer Hugo Palmer's record offers plenty of hope
Hugo Palmer is in perma-good form. He's been scoring at a near 40% rate in the past fortnight, and better than one in four over the entire month. He has the champion jockey-elect riding for him, and note Palmer's 'snippets' in the blue box above.
They show his performance over the last two years under certain relevant conditions. For example, we can see that he's got a nigh on 30% win rate with last time out winners. Moreover, he has a 27% strike rate with horses making their second racecourse start.
These are rock solid numbers, as we might expect from geegeez's implied man of the year. Fleabiscuit is probably not experienced - or talented - enough to win a race of this stature so early in her career. But she's not definitely not, and at 20/1 her trainer's record offers cause for optimism.
5 Sire Form
Earlier in this post, I mentioned a filly called Vigee Le Brun, whose one run came on soft ground, as opposed to today's good to firm. How could we know if she'll act on today's surface? The short answer is that we cannot know that; but what we can do is look to her sire for clues.
As with trainers above, geegeez also publishes Sire Snippets, attempting to shine a light on the two-year performance of stallions. Here's Vigee Le Brun's sire, Dark Angel:
Dark Angel's Sire Snippets in the context of this race
We can see that Dark Angel has a close to 12% win rate overall in the last two years, which is incredible on 2264 runners. We can also see that two year olds and sprinters perform above the overall benchmark, at 12.22% and 12.63% respectively.
But what we can't see is how Dark Angel progeny have fared on good to firm ground. The reason for this is that the going can - and often does - change from when we publish this data to race time. Fear not, however, for we have that covered.
On the main race card, the going can be changed from a dropdown, and the revised going will reflect in both Instant Expert and Full Form Filter. In this case, we don't need to change the going, so we'll head straight over the FFF.
Dark Angel 5 year going form
As you can see, I've selected the Sire option top right, chosen Vigee Le Brun from the horse dropdown, then 5 year form, and going.
The Race Record box shows me Dark Angel's five-year record on today's (good to firm) going. It's 12.74%, which is again some way above his two year batting average overall, offering hope to backers of this filly.
I could also take this a step further and add distance to the filter, to see how Dark Angel's have fared over seven furlongs in the last five years.
Dark Angel five year distance and going form
Interestingly, this drops the win percentage back a good bit, and upon checking the two year form I noticed that it is even lower, so that would be a concern.
Full Form Filter is a very flexible tool, and its sire option is one of the most under-used elements of the entire arsenal.
6 The market
At the end of the day, in races where there is limited racecourse evidence on which to base a judgment, the market can be an insightful predictor. With a filly like Vigee Le Brun, I'd be very interested in whether she had taken support in the early skirmishes. Checking an odds comparison function, such as the 'Odds' tab on Geegeez, will shed some light.
Both Paradwys and Vigee Le Brun have taken support
During the time I've been writing this post, we can see that both Paradwys and especially Vigee Le Brun have taken support. They're not the only ones to be fancied, but this certainly helps - with confidence if nothing else - in making a wagering decision, allied to what we've learned for ourselves in points one to five of course!
Many people, including myself, use Gold mainly when the level of form is thoroughly exposed. But I hope the six suggestions above offer some food for thought in terms of how we can get a few inside lines on those where it is all in front of them. Gold is full of hints, tips and pointers, for all types of race. We just have to go a little 'off piste' in some situations. 🙂
p.s. Gold trial: 30 days access to the full Gold toolkit, speed ratings, tips, forum threads, reports, tracker, prize tipping league and more. One pound.
https://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Oddstab_new2.png13491845Matt Bisognohttps://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/geegeez_banner_new_300x100.pngMatt Bisogno2016-10-07 10:30:452017-06-23 18:14:34How to Find Winners When There is Little Form in the Book
I'm not really sure why I started trying to assign a score to jockeyship. The notion hatched on the rattler to Salisbury last week, where I was going to meet David Probert, geegeez.co.uk's sponsored jockey. I guess, then, that is why...
My apprehension was - and remains - that jockey performance is so dependent on two other major actors, the horse and the trainer, that it is very difficult trying to pare the incidental from the coincidental.
What to measure?
The first question to answer then is 'what to measure?'
Number of wins or places is too simplistic. So is percentage of wins or places. Profit and loss is no more than a basic indicator, which can be heavily skewed by a single big-priced winner.
No, none of these will add much value, if indeed any value can be added from such figures.
Better barometers are percentage of horses beaten and / or performance against market rank.
But perhaps better than all of those is performance against market expectation. For example, even money shots win roughly 45% of the time. Thus any jockey winning on more than 45% of even money shots can be said to be performing above expectation (assuming the sample is of a reasonable size).
There is an inherent problem in that last sentence, one of sample size. Carving all results up into constituent starting prices, such that 10/11 is a different group from even money which in turn is a different group from 11/10 will do little towards achieving remotely representative sample sizes.
Instead, it makes sense to bracket odds together into groups. This will necessarily be arbitrary, but hopefully you'll see the general logic of the groupings.
I focused on UK flat racing during the 2014 and 2015 seasons, breaking the runners up into the above odds bands. For a jockey to appear in an odds group, he/she had to have ridden at least ten horses with odds in that bracket.
For each odds bracket, we can see the runs, wins, win percent, level stakes loss, places, place percent, number of races, and ROI
I've highlighted three columns - win %, place % and ROI - which will act as baselines.
So, for example, in the 4/1 to 13/2 bracket, horses at those starting prices win 14.37% of the time, place 39.56% of the time, and have a negative ROI of 14.31%.
We can now compare the performance of jockeys to these baseline data, with only those whose record betters at least one of the trio of baselines appearing in the tables.
Let's first look at the shortest odds groups, comprised of odds on and even money chances. In each grouping, I've highlighted in green the columns where the jockey's performance is better than the odds bracket benchmark. For the shorties, though, there is not a great deal of data to go on...
These are generally small samples, and there is little to note with the possible exception of Paul Hanagan's excellent showing across 40+ rides.
11/10 to 7/2
Slightly more data now, so a touch more optimism about the meaningfulness of the results.
Plenty of jockeys with a double positive for all three stats here, notably Paul Hanagan (again), Joe Fanning, Adam Kirby, Richard Kingscote, and Paul Mulrennan.
4/1 to 10/1
Into the bigger datasets now, and this is a group where some riders will reveal themselves as potential punters' allies.
Those appearing in both lists this time are Charles Bishop, William Carson, Paddy Mathers, Frankie Dettori (again), Paul Mulrennan (again), James Doyle, Robert Winston, Ted Durcan, Paul Hanagan (again again!), Harry Bentley, and David Nolan.
15/1 to 25/1
Now, just for fun, let's take a look at the bigger priced horses, from 15/1 (or more traditionally 16/1) to 25/1. This table is susceptible to fluke results - one big winner can skew a rider's performance - and should not be taken at face value. Still, it might throw up one or two interesting niblets.
In the context of what's gone before, it is interesting to note the presence as 'triple green' entries of Paddy Mathers, David Allan and James Doyle (all again, having featured at least in the previous section).
All good fun, but so what?
At the end of the day, the above reveals something and nothing. It is a circuitous route to demonstrate the lies and damned lies of jockey statistics, with various riders appearing at once brilliant and moderate, depending on which table one focuses.
However, some names do crop up repeatedly. Paul Hanagan and James Doyle could lay claim to being close to the pick of their peer group, based on this means of scoring at any rate; while Frankie Dettori also comes out well. Likewise Joe Fanning and Adam Kirby are seemingly more reliable than many.
Meanwhile, if looking for jockeys on the up - or currently under-rated - these data suggest the likes of Charles Bishop, Paddy Mathers and David Allan all deserve at least a second glance when jocked up.
They are, like the vast majority of jockeys, dependent on the form of their retained stables - in these cases, those of Mick Channon, Richard Fahey and Tim Easterby respectively.
At the end of the day, the difference between a horse winning and losing is probably not very often down to the rider, in my opinion. It should certainly be a given that the ability of the horse (duh!) and the trainer - both in conditioning and placing the horse - are of more importance.
Nevertheless, some jocks are better than others, and actual versus expected is a very good way of gauging jockey ability in the market context. In other words, whether jockeys might be profitable to keep onside (regardless of whether their performance is a function of horse and/or trainer form).
Geegeez Gold publishes jockey stats for four different periodicities:
14 Day Form
30 Day Form
Course 1 Year Form
Course 5 Year Form
For each, users can view both the Actual vs Expected (a figure greater than 1.0 implies a rider's runners are sent off at bigger odds than they should be) and Impact Value.
Impact Value attempts to state the likelihood, compared to the average, of a jockey winning. This is market agnostic (i.e. it doesn't consider the odds in its judgment).
A rider with scores greater then 1.1 for both A/E and IV on a meaningful number of rides is one to keep onside. Here's an example from the racecard, for Paul Mulrennan:
This view is available to all users of geegeez.co.uk racecards, even those not registered on the website.
For Gold users, our jockey report is a single view digest of all riders competing on a given day, and can be viewed by any of the four periodicities mentioned above.
Here's a filtered example of Monday's riders. In it, I've selected the Course 5 Year Form view, and I've added some filters (100+ runs, A/E and IV of 1.00 or greater)
I clicked on J(immy) Fortune's entry to reveal, inline, his rides today. Clicking on any of those line items will take you directly to the race in question. Of the trio, Northern Thunder was a non-runner, Great Fun was second and Irrevocable was a 10/1 third. So, no dice for Jimmy today, but he competed well, as his numbers suggested he would.
Note at the bottom of that quintet of pilots the name of David Allan, the only one with positive figures for both win and each way profit/loss. He's a name I'll be paying closer attention to, albeit towards the end of my form deliberations rather than as a starting point.
From the tables above or, better yet, from the daily jockey statistics report, you can start forming your own educated opinions on the riders worth a few extra pounds, both in terms of weight carried and stakes wagered!
https://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/jockey_odds_0.5orless.png160468Matt Bisognohttps://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/geegeez_banner_new_300x100.pngMatt Bisogno2016-05-16 21:02:192020-04-15 22:01:04Creating Jockey Ratings: A Few Thoughts
In November 2013, I wrote the post below. It remains as pertinent today as it was then. I have, however, updated some of the information - including my own betting profit and loss - to make it current. It's a really important piece, in my opinion, and I hope you get something from it.
I've been reading a book by a young Irish fellow called Kevin Blake. It's about betting on horses, and specifically it's about how he made over £40,000 from betting on horses this year on Irish flat racing.
The keys, you may not be surprised to learn, were discipline, selectivity, discipline, form study, discipline, specialization, and discipline.
The book, "It Can Be Done", is a good read and it's full of strong insights.
But it might be a bit lacking in fun.
Most pro backers are serious types who spend much of their time studying the form book and video replays to eke out their profit. In fairness to Kevin, he doesn't fit that archetype at all.
If that sounds a bit dull, then I have some good news. The book was a catalyst for me taking an early look at my own betting profit and loss for the year (I normally do this at calendar year end), and the results were as pleasant as I expected.
In a nutshell, I'm showing a profit of £6,186 [2013 figure] £4,574 from my betting so far this year, 2016, on a turnover of almost exactly £20,000 [2013 figure] £6,871 (which excludes most of a thousand still sitting in accounts). Please note three things:
1. The numbers are shared as context, not (obviously) to gloat (if indeed you might consider them 'gloatworthy')
2. I love a bet, and I have lots of action bets, and I have fun with my betting.
3. I do not bet massive amounts, in terms of stake size.
I want to remind readers of my unshakeable contention that betting for fun and profit is possible, and that these two are not mutually exclusive. And I'll share some of the keys to my philosophy, such as it, in this post.
Key Principle #1: Have fun!
Firstly, I do not set profit targets. My target is to have fun. I set enjoyment targets. That doesn't mean I don't want to win. Of course I do. But if winning is at the cost of entertainment, then I might as well get a job. (You know, a proper job, not goofing about on the internet scribbling a few paragraphs about whatever tickles my fancy).
No, it starts with fun. I'll bet almost every day. Some days, especially on Mondays when the racing is generally desperate, I might have one little bet in the afternoon, or do a placepot for a bit of interest while I'm doing whatever else I'm doing.
On Saturdays, I generally don't bet much because racing outside of the festival meetings is never more competitive than it is on a Saturday.
But on Sunday, and from Tuesday to Friday, I take a keener interest in what's happening.
Key Principle #2: Get V-A-L-U-E
If you still don't 'get' this, you're completely and utterly doomed. Betting 3/1 when you could have bet 4/1 is just plain unfettered idiocy. And, forgive me, if you're still doing this, you're either very rich and are keen to become less rich; or you're a plain unfettered idiot.
Look. You cannot can't CANNOT win if you habitually take under the odds about your fancies, no matter how smart you are. (And, in case you didn't get my, ahem, inference in the above, you're not very smart if you habitually take under the odds about your fancies).
geegeez trumpets the best bookmaker offers because the very best chance you have of winning is to avail of any concession you're still qualified so to do.
Let me put it another way, and this is becoming something of a catchphrase for me. "Any fool can bet 30% winners".
Just grab a betting slip, or pull up a bookmaker site, and etch onto it/tick the box which says 'Fav'. Simple. Dull. Uninspired. And a little bit sad.
It will also ultimately cause a financial death by a thousand cuts. Slow. Insipid. Inexorable.
Actually, in Britain since the start of 2015, that number is up to 35%. So, Any fool can bet 35% winners !
Now don't get me wrong. There are plenty of occasions when a market leader can be a value bet. But simply backing the 'fav' is a mug's game. It's the ultimate mug's game. And if you do it, you're a mug. Get over it, and try something different. You might surprise yourself.
So what is value? Well, you've heard the coin toss example probably a million times. The problem is not 'what is value?', but rather 'how do I identify value?'
And here's a thing: that's an open book of a question. There is no right answer.
Many people say to quantify value, you must create your own 'tissue', or forecast betting odds. That's all well and good, but on what do you base those odds?
I've done it a few times, and it's an interesting exercise for sure. Comparing your tissue with the actual starting prices will tell you what sort of a handle you have on the market.
But generally, I determine value by feel. If that sounds cheap - perhaps even a cop out - then so be it. The fact is, I don't have all the time in the world to review the racing. I run a business akin to a (very) small iceberg, the main visible element of which is this site.
It takes a lot of maintaining. There are a lot of people involved. I have a young son and a lovely partner with whom I want to spend time. And I like beer. Not as much as I used to, but I still like it.
Time is limited for me, as it is for most people. But that doesn't mean we can't bet profitably, and enjoy the process as well. Value is key.
A Shortcut to finding value
By far the biggest blind spot in the early markets is a recency bias. Specifically, a bad run last time out can double a horse's odds. Take Bobs Worth as an example. He was 5/2 for the Gold Cup before disappointing in his prep race. He drifted out to 5/1. Had his chance halved as a result of that seasonal setback?
[From the original article]: Well, time will tell of course, but to my eye he has so many more positive runs to that one negative effort.
And, here's where the concession thing comes in, if he runs poorly again he might not even go for the Gold Cup. So, backing him at top price with a bookmaker offering non-runner free bet, feels like a smart thing to do. My entire Cheltenham ante-post portfolio so far - which is only about six or seven bets - has been struck with BetVictor, with no bet bigger than the £50 limit on that free bet concession.
Why would I bet anywhere else if they're matching the top price? To do so shows at best a lack of value acumen, and at worst, plain unfettered idiocy. 😉
The point: look beyond a bad run, especially if there's a probable reason for the bad run. Ground, trip, fitness, pace setup, missing the break, whatever. If a horse failed to get his normal luck in running - or ideal race conditions - last time, there's a good chance the market has under-estimated that horse's chance today, assuming race conditions are more in its favour this time.
[Post script: Bobs Worth didn't win the Gold Cup, but he was sent off the 6/4 favourite. 5/1? About a 6/4 shot? Any and every day, please.]
Another shortcut to finding value
Check the bookmaker concessions. Check the best odds available. And be sure to bet at the best odds available, and the best concessions. For as long as you can before they close you down.
I've got a good few winning accounts, and a few losing accounts. For whatever reason, I've only got one restricted account. [Update: I've got several more restricted accounts now]
If you don't currently have an account with the firm offering the best price, open an account with them. Here are three reasons why:
1. You'll get the best odds on your fancy today
2. They'll almost certainly give you some free bet bait to sign up (always great when you were going to sign up anyway)
3. Next time they're top price, you won't have to faff about.
Key Principle #3: "Let The Bet Make You"
There's this American bloke called Michael Pizzola. He writes about racing, and he lives in Las Vegas, and he lounges in the racebooks (betting shops) there. He writes very, very articulate and compelling books, and some of his core ideas are generic. One I really like is his strap line, "Let The Bet Make You".
What he means is simply that if you don't fancy something in a race, don't have a bet. You don't have to bet. You won't stop breathing if you don't bet. Most days, you won't even have to wait more than ten minutes for another wagering opportunity.
If you really must have a bet when you don't have an opinion, make it a very small bet. When it wins, you can buy a cup of tea and a sticky bun. When it loses, you won't kick yourself too hard.
That's the thing about discipline: it doesn't need to be a straightjacket. It's your leisure pound, and you can spend it as freely as you choose. But once it's spent, it's spent. Unless you backed a winner. Bet more when you have more of a view. But never bet too much.
Key Principle #4: Contrast is Key
Have you seen the Instant Expert reports on this site? You know, the traffic light thingies, with loads of numbers on them. The idea is that they'll help you see, at a glance, horses in a race which are suited by today's going, class, course, distance and field size, and that may be handicapped to win.
The amber and red box outlines are deliberately similar colours, in order to accentuate the dark green boxes which symbolize a positive profile.
The ideal situation is a horse which has a line of dark green in a race where very little else can offer much, if any, of that verdant hue. Next best is one with green and amber where most are red or grey. Here's an example from later today, 10th May 2016:
Double Czech looks well suited to conditions, while plenty of others may not be...
With the ground having changed to good to soft, soft in places; and with more rain forecast, it could easily be soft by race time. Double Czech should relish that, and has great course form too. He also has the best speed rating in the field, though that's irrelevant for the purposes of this example. Let's just stick to the colours. DC is green and amber all the way. His rivals are almost all red with occasional blobs of amber (and Zaria's impressive 3 from 3 course record).
Double Czech is 7/2 as I write. He might not win, but that looks too big. I've had a cheeky £20 on him with a Best Odds Guaranteed bookmaker. He might be favourite. I've backed the favourite. He looks a value bet, irrespective of the outcome.
The point of this piece was/is not to gloat about winning at betting. After all, the tools on this website make winning from betting a distinct possibility.
And anyway, let's face it, there are plenty of people out there with far more to gloat about than me (though most don't have nearly as much fun 😉 ).
Rather, what I've tried to outline is a vague blueprint for profitable and enjoyable betting.
Profitable and enjoyable betting.
Those are the cornerstones of what geegeez is about.
Finally, in case you're interested, here's the summary of my betting activities, based on a sanitized download of my bank statement (i.e. I removed the occasional non-betting bank transaction - you know, like the mortgage, and the electricity bill).
N.B. The first image is from the original post, the second from May 2016's updated variant.
Betting P&L 2013
2016: a good year so far...
There may be some who don't believe these accounts to be true, and frankly I've long since grown tired of the trolls that hide behind their screens in cyberspace, so I won't be saying anything further than that I can assure you this is the full and complete record of my wagering deposits and withdrawals...
...except, as I mentioned above, that it doesn't include things like the £1,000-odd I have in various bookie accounts, or the £500 of unsettled football bets I have to come (placed last year, so 'kind of' irrelevant in this context anyway). 😉
I use Geegeez Gold. Obviously. I built it to suit my needs as a recreational punter who likes to win.
It seems to suit the needs of these guys, too...
And these guys do as well...
I have over 100 such emails in a file, and probably twice as many again that I've not captured from email into images.
People like you are using Gold in lots of ways to have fun...
...and they're backing big-priced winners. And they're making their betting pay.
Good luck with your betting. First and foremost, enjoy it.
And if you've any tips for readers on how to improve their own bottom line or fun factor, leave a comment below, and share your investment advice!
p.s. Although I love the buzz of backing a good winner, especially one that most people could never find in a hundred years, I also enjoy converting profit into good times. That 2016 number above - £4,574 - had already booked a two week family holiday for my family to Lake Garda in the Summer (yes, I'll be trying to take a few days off!).
And last night, it booked my flights to California for the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita later in the year. It's not 'profit': it's hotels, flights, days out, calorific dinners, extravagant bottles of wine, and so on.
Again, indulge me for the point, please. The first thing is to enjoy betting on horses. The second thing is to stop losing so much, then to stop losing. After that, it's all gravy. Or jus if that's your thing.
https://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/buratinobeatsairforceblue.jpg320790Matt Bisognohttps://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/geegeez_banner_new_300x100.pngMatt Bisogno2016-05-10 09:52:052017-06-23 15:19:55“Any fool can back 35% winners”
The horse's name, the colour of the jockey's silks, a favourite number. These are all legitimate ways to choose a horse to bet. Sadly, they are all destined to be long-term losers for the committed (i.e. should be committed) follower.
As a reader of geegeez.co.uk, you obviously already know that, and are probably adopting a more scientific approach - occasionally if not consistently - to your handicapping endeavours.
In this post, I'd like to offer a few thoughts on the handicapping process: on how to find a horse to bet. The key word in the title is the smallest word in it - "an" - for there is no right or wrong way to handicap a horse race. There are better and worse ways, most being better than names, colours and lucky numbers.
Whilst on the subject of definitions, let me touch on what I'm trying to achieve with "the handicapping process". I'm not trying to find the most likely winner. I'll write that again, to be clear: I am NOT trying to find THE MOST LIKELY winner. Not necessarily, at least.
Rather, I am trying to eke out a long-term profit from backing horses whose chances are under-estimated by the market. In other words, I'm looking for VALUE. There will be no lecture, or even expansion, on the concept of value in this post - it has been covered ad nauseum elsewhere, including on this blog here (amongst other entries).
A better question than "What is value?" is always "How do I know if I've got value?". The answer to that second, more real world, question can be found on the balance of your betting ledger after a year. If it is positive, chapeau, you're on your way. If not, fear not, but pledge to work on your handicapping technique.
So, here follows an approach to the handicapping process. It is not the only approach, nor will it be the best or even necessarily an optimal one. But it has worked for me, and it may work for you too.
Why we need a handicapping process
As soon as one engages with the handicapping process, it is no longer enough to pick from the top two or three in the market based on the string of numbers to the left of a horse's name. A majority of horse racing punters have been conditioned into that by the presentation style of race cards in newspapers and on-course race day literature since forever.
It's just not that simple. It can't be, can it? Sure, if you don't keep score that will provide enough winners to convince the self-delusional that they're in front. But here is the cost of following the head of the market, in cash terms, since the start of 2015 in all UK and Irish races.
The wagering equivalent of self-harm.
Backing the top favourite in all UK and Irish races since the start of 2015 would have led to a winning bet bang on one in three wagers. And a loss of 8% will give you plenty of fun before you inevitably go skint.
As can be seen, the second and third market choices win roughly the same amount of races combined as does the favourite. But the financial cuts are deeper: self-mutilation versus punting masochism.
That is not to say that there is never value at the top of the market. On the contrary, there may often be more value there than anywhere else in the list of runners and prices. It is how we sift that decides our degree of success.
For many, bizarrely, the need for winners is predominant. A need for vindication, to be proven correct, to solve the puzzle, trumps the quest for profit. There are thousands - probably millions - of punters who are happy to "BOOM!!!!!!!" after 'nailing' a 4/6 winner (that should have been even money in any case). If you need confirmation of that, just search 'boom' on twitter any afternoon during racing.
The good news is that, for those of us who prefer to eat less often, but gorge ourselves when we do, figuratively and relatively at least, those bombastic boomers butter our bread.
A Process of Four Parts
The approach I'm about to set out consists of four elements. It starts in a place where most punters don't go. And it ends in a place where most punters - casual punters at least - start.
The four parts are thus:
By looking at the race conditions, its shape, and its apparent competitiveness, we can take an early view on whether it is playable or not. Although that view will sometimes be incorrect, choosing the right battles is of paramount importance.
A bookmaker has to price up - or at least lay pre-race market odds - on every race. As punters, we can be as discerning as we wish. Only if we like the look of a race do we have to step forward to look more closely at the horses.
When looking at the horses, we can split them into three main groups: OBVIOUS contenders, CONCEALED possibles, and UNLIKELY winners. Note that there is no "no hoper" group. Any horse can win any race: our objective is to measure a proposition in terms of price and prospects.
Or, to put it another way, to establish if a horse is over- or under-priced against the chance we perceive it has.
Where a race is comprised of horses with many form lines already in the book, most of the evidence can be found therein. However, in races where there is less form - maidens, novice events, and early forays into handicap or Group class - a consideration of actors should be made.
By "actors", I mean trainers especially, but also jockeys and, sometimes, owners. What do we know about their past performance that could impact on the ability of a horse to show a different level of form in today's race context? As a consequence of this analysis, our three groups - obvious, concealed, unlikely - may be re-shuffled.
Finally, a decision to bet can only ever be based on the availability of a compelling offer in terms of the horse's or horses' perceived chance(s). Thus the market is the final arbiter of whether a bet is struck or not.
We are far from the realms of rocket science at this stage, but the steps in the process - and, importantly, their sequence - are worth the time to outline. Having done that, let's step through things in a touch more detail.
Step 1: The Race
Understanding race parameters is a crucial first stage in the handicapping process. Race distance, class, the going (especially in changeable weather), are just some of the more obvious factors to bear in mind. So the first question to answer is,
"What do we KNOW about the race?"
We know the course it will be run on.
We know the race distance (give or take a few yards for unadvertised rail movements, etc)
We know the class of the race
By post time, we will know the number of runners (barring very late withdrawals).
Everything else, we perceive. We think we know. And that's fine as long as we know we don't absolutely know. If you see what I mean.
We perceive the state of the ground. The going is arguably the most important least scientifically recorded element in horse racing today. Whilst most people who bet even remotely seriously think that needs to change - as do horsemen and, well, anyone who doesn't run a racecourse - the official going remains a very unreliable piece of 'data'.
So what do we know about the going? Well, we know the weather forecast for the day, which can help us understand going changes before they're announced. And, after race one, we will know both the race time and the horses who performed well and/or poorly. From that we can make some educated guesses as to the state of the surface. In the land of the blind, and all that...
As you'll have noted, there is actually very little we can unequivocally 'know' about a race. Even things which ought to be unambiguous - the race distance, the number of runners, and, to a lesser degree, the going - may not be quite as they seem.
Happily, predicting the outcome of horse races rarely involves a microscope or an atom-splitter (whatever one of those might be). Thus, reasonable approximations normally suffice:
If there were ten runners but one was withdrawn at the start, it will likely only affect the rate of return on a successful bet (unless that horse is a key to the pace of the race - more in a mo). If the race was advertised as six furlongs, but a rail movement added ten yards, only in the closest finish will that have a material impact.
When it comes to going, we should rely on our own awareness more than the official report. If the going is reported as good, but we know it has been raining for three hours in the morning (or is forecast to do so), then we do not need to wait for the revised going statement after race one, nor for the further revision after race two. Successful handicapping is about leading not following, and about taking calculated risks others might not take.
"About what can we have a reasonable opinion in the race?"
There are three things about which I want to have a reasonable opinion if I'm betting in a race. First, competitiveness: how many horses are coming into the race with obvious credentials? Are there horses with 'back class'?
Based on the first point, do I think the favourite/head of the market is opposable?
Unrelated to points one and two, is there a distinct shape to the pace in the race?
Looking at your average race card, either in the newspaper, race programme, or online, won't reveal much. But there are some tools - and of course Geegeez Gold is one - that offer a lot of answers to these questions.
The answer to the competitiveness question can be found on this site most simply in a view called Instant Expert. Here's an example of a competitive-looking race. [N.B. What looks competitive may not transpire that way; and, of course, the converse is also true].
Lots of green and amber suggests many are suited by conditions
This is a form profiling tool which aims to visualize the historical performance of all runners in a race against today's conditions. The presence of a significant amount of green and amber implies that this could be a competitive race, whereas what we may ideally be interested in are races that look uncompetitive at first glance. As I've said, they may not turn out that way, but it is a better starting point, especially when the market leader(s) is/are not ideally suited to conditions.
Here's an example of an ostensibly less competitive race:
Lots of red, not much else, implies one or two might be better suited than the rest.
In this instance, one horse - Most Honourable - looks significantly better suited to conditions than its rivals. Note that the example is based on 'win' data, where 'place' data may give a more rounded perspective.
At this stage it is important to say that I don't restrict my betting solely to uncompetitive races, for two reasons: firstly, there are plenty of other ways to whittle a field; and secondly, I'd have no problem with backing more than one horse in a race, if the prices were right.
The next opinion I want to form is whether the top of the market should sensibly be opposed. The key to value often lies in spotting a weak or false favourite. If there are solid reasons for looking beyond a 2/1 market leader, there could be plenty to go at elsewhere in the field.
We're wandering into element two, horse form, here so let's sit tight a while longer but, as you can imagine, the elements are intrinsically linked.
It is amazing to me that, even in 2016, most British and Irish punters don't give the shape of a race a second thought. Some will talk about draw bias in flat races, but generally without any real awareness of the difference between draw, pace and track biases.
Most however won't even go that far. Again, as a geegeez.co.uk reader, you can consider yourself ahead of many putting cash into the market, and you are hopefully already looking at the influence of pace in shaping a race. Geegeez Gold has two tools currently - soon to be improved/combined - for looking at pace and draw.
Let's take a look at some draw data for the five furlong distance around Chester's famously tight bullring circuit.
A very strong draw bias exists at the five furlong distance around Chester's track
The top chart and table displays the draw information in thirds, the bottom view shows the individual draw output. Both reveal an almost linear relationship between proximity to the rail and chance of, in this case, getting placed (note the dropdowns on the charts are set to place%).
A low draw then can be considered an advantage at Chester, especially when amplified by a pace-pressing run style. The Geegeez Gold pace tab reveals the early running position of the field in their last four UK or Irish races. Here's the Gold pace view for the same race, sorted by draw.
A low draw and prominent run style is favoured at Chester
This view looks complicated but it's really not. It shows, on the left hand side, the runner number, draw position, recent form figures, silks, horse name, trainer and jockey names; and on the right side, the last four pace scores (LR = last run, 2LR = second last run, etc), the total score, the percentage of the pace in the race, the master speed rating, and current odds.
Pace scores are from 4 to 1, as follows: 4 led, 3 prominent, 2 mid-division, 1 held up. Thus a horse may be scored from 16 (led in each of its last four races) to 4 (held up in each of its last four races) for four completed UK/Irish runs.
The above shows us that one of the (almost) guaranteed pace horses - Seve - is quite well drawn in stall five. Meanwhile, the other habitual front runner, Green Door, has been allotted a car park stall in 13: probably unlucky for him.
Three things worth noting in this particular example are:
The market looks quite strongly influenced by draw. Boxes 1-4, those closest to the rail, are the first four in the betting, while 12-15, those furthest from the rail, are the outsiders of the field.
Horses that do not normally chase the early pace may change their run style given a favourable draw. In that context, the likes of Roudee, Mukaynis and Kimberella could be gunned from the gate in order to take best advantage of their inside draw.
Although the race does not look overloaded with pace on the face of it, the prospect of inside duels could set things up for a later running horse. Based on a cursory look, I don't expect that to happen, but it is something to keep in mind when framing races like these.
In any case, what I would be reasonably confident of is that Seve, with a slow starter on his inside, will be on or close to the pace at the first turn. That alone could make him moderately interesting at around 14/1.
Step 2: The Horses
By now, we understand something about the race - how competitive it is, whether the favourite looks vulnerable, and how the early part of proceedings might pan out. It's high time, then, that we got our hands dirty with the form book, drilling down into the horses themselves.
You may remember I referred to three groups of runners in my introduction: OBVIOUS contenders, CONCEALED possibles, and UNLIKELY winners. A horse from any group may win the race, but this is about a rough classification of their prospects.
As the name suggests, these will generally be horses whose chance screams from the pages of the form book. As such, odds will generally be somewhat compressed. Generally, but not universally. Examples of OBVIOUS contenders include last time out winners running under similar conditions; horses reverting to well-touted favourable conditions; and runners from big stables and/or ridden by high profile jockeys.
Let's look again at our example race, that five furlong heat from Chester.
An open handicap, but some runners are more 'obvious' than others...
This is quite an open race, if the betting is any measure, with best prices showing 6/1 the field. The OBVIOUS horses in this race might be the well drawn winners within two starts Roudee, Mukaynis, and Avon Breeze.
With no Frankie Dettori or Ryan Moore, and no Sir Michael Stoute or Aiden O'Brien, there are no jockey/trainer entries of a very obvious nature. But that trio of well-drawn in-form horses merits closer inspection at the prices, especially given what we know about the mountain wide drawn horses typically have to climb in this context.
Roudee first. Here, I've used the new Full Form Filter version 2.0 (or FFFv2 for short) to look at course and distance form. [Click on any image to view full size, and without blur]
Roudee has very solid course and distance form
As you can see, Roudee has won over course and distance, and been placed second twice, on a range of going. Indeed, the win was at this meeting last year off a rating of 85. Today's mark is 94, nine pounds higher. However, it is worth noting the running line for Roudee that day: he ran loose to post having unseated the rider, and was drawn widest of the five runners. He still managed to win. That suggests he had a fair bit in hand.
And again, when second last June, he was drawn second widest of the seven runners. He has led too, so it looks as though a lot is in Roudee's favour in spite of that high rating.
Mukaynis comes here off a second place last time out and a win on his final run of 2015. He's run twice at Chester, over six furlongs and a mile, the mile effort (three years ago) proving the better effort. However, in four more recent spins over this trip, he's finished 4142, the second placed finish being the only turf start.
With a tendency to fluff the start on occasion - something which is hard to overcome at Chester - he's not as attractive a proposition as the inside drawn Roudee.
As for Avon Breeze, she's won five of her 16 five furlong turf races, including two of her last four at that range. But all her Class 2 form - today's grade - has been over six furlongs and she may just found herself outpaced early, and possibly crowded out as a consequence. Her quote of 10/1 just about accommodates that concern, but with little latitude to my eye.
So I'd still be interested in 6/1 about Roudee of the OBVIOUS horses at this stage.
The next bunch are the CONCEALED possibles. They are usually made up of two types of runner: those near the head of the market with no recent form - in the image two up, ordered by market rank, look at Growl, Kimberella and Lexi's Hero; and those whose chance becomes evident from a look at form profiles or the race shape.
That latter angle throws the pace-pushing Seve into the CONCEALED possibles group, along with Blithe Spirit.
Scanning through these, I can quickly see that all of Growl's placed form has come in fields of six or fewer runners. This double digit cavalry charge won't obviously suit him, and at 5/1 or so he's overlooked in spite of the Doctor (Marwan Koukash, owner and huge supporter of Chester races) Factor. It's worth noting that he's generally tardy at the gate and has never run over five furlongs before. Whilst he could improve for it, the worries make him no sort of price to be finding out.
Kimberella is a course winner at a furlong further, and has won at York over this trip. He's reasonably treated on his best form, but five and a half furlongs might just be his best trip, and he also has a slovenly tendency when the stalls open (though he did ping them when winning at York). 6/1 is unappetising to my palate.
Most interesting perhaps is Lexi's Hero. At eight, he's getting on a bit now, and his form last season - debut win aside - was pretty moderate. However, that 2015 debut win was over course and distance - in this race in fact - and with similarly 'nothing' form figures. Rated 87 then, he's down to 83 now, with Sammy Jo Bell's three pound claim a further lightening of the load, to 80. But he was drawn four then, and is in box nine this time.
11/1 recognises all of those truths, and a charmed run will likely see this occasionally talented lad go close.
Seve has no recent form but may get the run of things on the front end. Trained, like Roudee, by local handler Tom Dascombe (of whom more shortly), Seve is three from ten at the trip, and has been placed in six of those ten runs. His two Chester efforts comprise a maiden win, and a close fourth in a Class 3 handicap, both at today's minimum distance.
Although well beaten in his most recent pair of runs, he has had a nice break and went well on his only prior start after two-plus months off. He'd be on the shortlist at 14/1.
Last in the CONCEALED group is Blithe Spirit. A veteran of seven course and distance sprints, this lad has form of 2411491 in that context. Drawn eight - sub-optimal but not impossible at the right price - he was down the field in this race last year, but his overall profile begs for a second chance. 16/1 grants it.
The rest - Confessional, Noble Storm, Masamah, Lucky Beggar (a non-runner in any case), Lexington Place, Green Door and Snap Shots - are bracketed together in the UNLIKELY winners group.
In the case of Confessional, Noble Storm and Masamah, it is the combination of very poor draw (15, 10 and 12 respectively) and the passage of time that undermines their chance. Masamah and Confessional actually won this race in 2010 and 2012 respectively, the latter also running second last year.
Lexington Place has run well in defeat in his only two class and distance races, though probably wants the ground a touch faster. Snap Shots is a third string to Dascombe's bow, but he ran poorly on his only start here when eight lengths behind Roudee. Stall eleven hardly assists his claim.
Green Door has been unlucky with the draw, Robert Cowell's early speedster getting stall 13. Still, his gate speed should enable him to grab something of a position and, if he can break more alertly than Masamah on his immediate inside, there are five habitual late runners inside of that one. That could give him a midfield sit, and this former Group 2-winning juvenile (when with Olly Stevens) has plenty of 'back class'.
A winner of his last five furlong race in Britain (he's been running without much success in Dubai through the winter), the draw issue is clearly a big hindrance to his chance. But, with a fair shot at getting a reasonable early position, 33/1 might justify a piece of a portfolio wager (i.e. a bet covering a number of horses in the race).
Phew! Recap Time
This is a long post, because I want to talk theory and practice. If it seems involved, well, to some degree it is. If you want to make good bets, based on a solid understanding of the race, the runners, the actors and the market, it takes time. But with tools specifically designed for the job, it doesn't take that much time.
In fact, if I wasn't writing and explaining my way through this, I reckon I'd have spent little more than quarter of an hour to get to where we are so far.
And remember, the first thing we do is look at the race and make a call on whether we want to take a deeper dive. Generally speaking I'd leave a race like this alone, unless it was part of a big placepot pool I was targeting (as it will be - hint hint 😉 )
But it makes for a great example race, so that's that.
OK, things move a little quicker now.
Step 3: The Actors
Step three is about the 'actors': trainers, jockeys and sometimes owners. For the most part this is about trainers for me. However, at quirky tricks like Chester's very tight oval, jockeyship can be more important than at more run-of-the-mill circuits. And at this particular track more than most, one owner - Dr Marwan Koukash - is hellbent on getting winners.
Trainers first, and let's take another look at the Geegeez racecard:
Trainer pointers galore, both inline and at-a-glance
Firstly, have a squint at the trainer/jockey column. Notice the little green alphanumeric combinations? They denote trainer form, 14 day, 30 day, Course 1 Year, Course 5 Year - and are an instantly digestible measure of who is hot.
Next, look at the horizontally highlighted box. That contains the underlying data from which the green form icons are generated.
In a less Geegeez-specific, more handicapping process-generic focus, we are trying to ascertain whether any given trainer performs especially well at the course, and/or is in good form right now. The level of information here shows overall performance, but form students might care to look specifically at trainer performance with sprinters (or whichever distance range is relevant) or, on extremes of going, with runners on that type of test.
In the example above, Tom Dascombe has a lot of Chester winners, but historically they've failed to pay for the losers. This is a microcosm of the perennial punters' challenge: do you want winners? Or profit?
Dascombe will deliver winners at Chester, as sure as night follows day. But we need to know if they will pay for the losers, and leave a bit over to butter our bread. The answer over five years is that they won't, Tom D's 24 winners coming from a whopping 206 runners, for a level stakes loss of 53.54 points.
More recent evidence, however, offers greater hope. He's done well in the last year and, materially, he's in good form right now.
In some instances, a trainer's form - either current or long-term at the track - can be a stronger pointer to a horse's chance than the horse's own form. In this case, it is probably slightly positive to the chances of Dascombe's trio of runners, without adding notable ballast to the form credentials of those horses. However, importantly, nor is his form a negative.
Contrast that with the form of Dandy Nicholls and Kevin Ryan, as seen below.
In form, or not? Actors are important factors in the handicapping process...
Nicholls has had just one winner from 17 runners in the last fortnight, is 0 from 7 at the track in the past year, and three from 62 in the last five years. His place record at the course hardly offers hope either.
Kevin Ryan has a less than 8% win record in the last fortnight, though his place form is consistently fair (only fair, mind). Importantly, note the sea of red in the P/L columns, and the A/E (actual vs expected) of, generally, a lot less than one. These are complementary pointers to the general lack of value in these trainers' runners.
In the future, we are planning to introduce more contextual form into these inline boxes, covering things like the trainer's record first time in a handicap, or off a layoff, or a trainer switch, or with an unraced horse, or with a trip increment, or with a last time out winner.
The form line will only display when it is relevant - e.g. if a horse won last time, the trainer's record with last time winners will be displayed; if it didn't, it won't.
Trainer form is always important. When a trainer is hot, it can be a solid supplement to a middling horse's prospects. When it is cold, it can be, well, cold water to pour on the warmest fancy. Pay heed to stable form.
This same information is available on geegeez.co.uk for jockeys, and most of it is available for no charge. At Chester, it is quite well known that Fearless Franny Norton is the 'go to' guy. His winner record emphasises that.
Fearless Franny, Chester's main man...
He has both course icons, and a closer inspection of the inline form box shows he's actually in pretty good recent form too. Of course, he's riding for Nicholls, so one has to balance the various forces and make a judgement call on which is stronger when they're not pushing or pulling in the same direction, as this pair are not.
In this case - in most cases - it will be the price that determines which way to go. 6/1 is a no thank you for me, Franny or no Franny.
Dr Koukash has three in this race, and he'll have thirty-odd runners in three days on Chester's Roodee course, his eleven entries on the opening day attesting to that. Owner angles are not really my thing, except to look out for well-supported horses when connections are known to like a punt.
Sadly, this info is not available on geegeez.co.uk - nor anywhere else to my knowledge - but we are starting to gather data which could be used to this end, at some point.
Trainer form is especially important in races where there is little or no horse form - maiden races, unexposed handicaps, and the like. There, how a handler has performed in the specific context is often a huge 'tell' as to whether a horse might step forward markedly on previous racecourse evidence. This post about handicap first-timers is a must read if you've not seen it already (or even if you have - it's one of the best I've written, for what it's worth).
Step 4: The Market
If you pay more than you should, you'll go skint. I could leave it at that, but allow me to expound on that somewhat pithy statement. It is basically about getting paid a fair rate for one's endeavours.
Here's a question: when you spend twenty minutes, or an hour, or however long, researching a bet, how much do you want to get paid for it?
Let's say your normal bet size is £10 (it doesn't matter what it is, it's all relative), and you have the option to get paid £50, £60 or £70, which would you choose? I think you'll probably be with me and want £70 if you have the option.
And now what if you could get paid £70 flat rate, or £70 with a possible bonus for good (counter-market) research; which would you choose then?
Naturally, you'd opt for the potential of a bonus, all other things being equal. So, please tell me,
WHY THE HELL DON'T YOU HAVE ALL THE AVAILABLE BOOKMAKER ACCOUNTS AND ALWAYS USE BEST ODDS GUARANTEED WHEN YOU CAN?!!
Note: I know many of you do, and I know many of you can no longer avail of such concessions. But, for those who can but don't, this is like "winning at betting 101". If you continually under-value your efforts in this way, you are sabotaging your own bottom line. It's stupid and you shouldn't do it. So, please, for your sake, don't.
*puts soap box away (somewhere close by, will need it again soon)*
BOG is not the only option in town, and betting to win is not the only wagering option either. It is not within the province of this post to talk about 'bad each way', bookmaker arbitrage, or any of the other free money opportunities that will get you barred faster than a rocket-powered penguin (don't ask me, I was looking for a metaphor on google...)
But you should know that there are other marketplaces outside of bookmakers. If you don't need to get on early for fear of missing the price, then exchanges are a very good option, with plentiful liquidity in the immediate pre-race period. Tote pools are less attractive, for win and/or place betting at least. But they do have their, erm, place.
Exotic bets are an excellent way to compound value, by overlaying one opinion (say, the winner of a race, or a horse to make the frame in a race) with other opinions (the second horse in the race, to make an exacta; or a horse to place in five further races, a placepot).
The more you can balance the probable with the possible, the better your chances of long-term success. That is to say, the more you can recognise the strength (or weakness) of market leaders, and consequently when to go deep and when play tight, the better the punter you will become.
But it is all for nought if you fail to take the very best odds available to you.
Let's return to our example race, and the shortlist I tentatively drew up...
These prices are all Best Odds Guaranteed so, if I wanted, I could dutch them (i.e. back them all to achieve the same return, regardless of which one wins) at very close to 13/8 (£10 total stake returns £26.24).
In so doing, I would achieve a minimum profit of £16.24 for my example £10 stake. With BOG in my corner, that figure would grow if the starting price was greater than the price I took about any of the quintet.
But I don't think they each have an equivalent chance, and nor do I think they all represent the same value proposition. So I'd rather gear my stakes towards those I prefer: those I think have a greater disparity between their market price and their true chance.
I actually quite like Roudee (cue terrible run!) and think he should be closer to 4/1 with so much in his favour. From the same in-form stable, Seve appeals, as well, and I'd be happy to get the lion's share of any profit jam from that pair of well-berthed Dascombe dynamos.
So why not dutch this pair with £8, for a profit of £28.18 if either wins (total return, £38.18), and split the other £2 between the rest. Dutching that trio would guarantee a profit of £1.66 (return of £11.66) for a winner.
Now my preferred pair are worth £28.18 to me, as opposed to £16.24 in the first example. Of course, the lesser fancied trio barely cover the cost of the tea bag, let alone the hot water, should one of them prevail, but they do at least preserve the bank.
It was not really my intention to go into staking, so the above is what it is: an example of how one could play the shortlist. You might choose to back Roudee, as the main fancy; or to bet another each way, or to play an exacta combo, or whatever.
This is about the shortlisting process - the handicapping process - and it is but one approach to that infinitely-faceted conundrum.
Final Thoughts / Summary
Handicapping horses takes in as many elements of the narrow and broad fields of vision as the player chooses. For me it majors on four elements - the race, the horses, the actors, and the market.
Some people swear by ratings. I do not. Some people follow the money. I respect it, but generally have little desire to attend a wagering funeral having missed the wedding. I will, however, look to understand why a horse might have been backed.
Others follow the top of the market, or trainer form, or favourite jockeys, or last day winners, or whatever, in isolation.
But handicapping horse races effectively is a symphony performed by an orchestra of different sections, each bringing something significant to the composition, none especially pleasing of themselves. Together, there can be harmony - and sometimes discord - but the sum of those four sections is usually greater than any individual contribution.
The above may seem complex to the casual bettor, but with the right tools, and even average race selection in step one, the process will quickly become second nature.
I built Geegeez Gold to support this handicapping framework. With help from a small but dedicated development team, and suggestions from you, our passionate user, we are continuing to build.
This week sees a big change and a couple of small changes. The introduction of Full Form Filter v2.0 - showcased briefly in the above - is a size 13 step forward in terms of filtering form for all of horses, trainers, jockeys and stallions. Less significant but still useful, we're finessing our draw output; and have finally accounted for non-runners on the pace tab, updating the pace percentages accordingly.
In my opinion, the handicapping process should be fun. There are too many dry arses in racing for my tastes. (There, I've said it!). But that most definitely does not mean it cannot be profitable. More and more Gold users are finding their way into profit, and enjoying the journey as well as the destination.
I hope there has been at least something in this outline that you can take away and try. Thanks a lot for reading, and good luck with your betting, however you arrive at your selections.
p.s. Geegeez Gold is an evolving computer form book, with beautifully presented data/feature-rich racecards, form tools, and a suite of reports. You've seen some components in this post, and if you'd like to try it for yourself, you have two options:
If you haven't already, register a free account here. That will give you daily access to Races of the Day, which include ALL of the Gold features for those races. You'll also get a daily Feature of the Day - which might be a report, or a tool, or a tip. That register link is here.
Or, if you'd like unrestricted access, sign up for a ONE MONTH trial for just £1, and have a play with everything we have to offer. After your month is up, you'll be billed £30 monthly, or £297 for a full year. Naturally, you can cancel at any time, and we'll even sort you out if you forget for any reason. We're good like that 😉
p.p.s. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to share it on twitter, facebook, Google+, or via email. Thanks a lot - the buttons are below.
p.p.p.s. If you have any thoughts, or comments, on this post, or on the handicapping process in general, do please leave a note below. I love hearing from you, and will be happy to clarify anything you're not sure about if I can.
https://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/handicappingprocess.png320830Matt Bisognohttps://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/geegeez_banner_new_300x100.pngMatt Bisogno2016-05-04 08:29:182017-06-23 15:02:41The Handicapping Process: An Approach
Value betting is the most mainstream concept in the modern betting landscape, writes Tony Keenan. It has passed into the lexicon of gambling and there can hardly be a punter around that hasn’t heard of the idea. We’ve reached a point where Tom Segal, the public face of value betting, is on The Morning Line more often than Tony McCoy and it has even spawned parody comments like ‘value loser’ and ‘you can’t eat value.’
For most, value betting means one thing: big prices. While a value bet can theoretically be a 1/3 shot that should be 1/10, in the main such examples aren’t referenced and the typical comment about a favourite in much racing writing and programming can be summed up as ‘he’ll probably win but he’s a bit short.’ Rarely do we hear mention of the odds-on shot that should be even shorter.
But perhaps the pendulum has swung too far the other way and the runners that appear short, far from being priced lower than their real chance of winning, actually aren’t short enough. This favourite-longshot bias certainly seemed at play over the recent Cheltenham Festival with some of the Mullins hotpots but it’s not just that; the place markets on the exchanges for the Grand National on Saturday were wildly out of sync with the same place odds available in an each-way bet with the bookmakers, the favourites seemingly bigger than they should be and the outsiders representing the flip-side.
I think this applies far more in day-to-day racing now than it used to and we need to be aware that markets are fluid and don’t remain the same: it is important to zig when most people are zagging. And that can be a problem for an old-style value punter who is used to looking on shorties with scorn. In fact, many of these punters – and I include myself here – would have personal betting rules like ‘never bet odds-on’, tenets that might have served you well in the past but have become outdated. As we’ll see later, taking that approach to the current Irish national hunt season would have meant there were 311 odds-on shots (judging on BSP) that you refused to back; 195 of them have won so you were taking out a large chunk of possible betting opportunities.
In the tables that follow, I will look at the fortunes of odds-on shots, defined as having a Betfair Starting Price of 2.0 or shorter, in recent Irish jumps campaigns. Using Horse Race Base, I’ve put together the numbers to see if there are any patterns emerging. When I refer to actual over expected in the final column of the table, it is done to official starting price rather than the Betfair equivalent as this is the method used on Horse Race Base.
Let’s first look at the number of odds-on shots to run over jumps in Ireland in each season since 2008/9:
The first thing that jumps out is the gradual rise in the number of odds-on shots; again, punters who are excluding themselves from betting in races with money-on pokes are ruling out a hell of a lot of races. We see that prior to last season, there was not a campaign with more than 272 odds-on shots but there were 303 last year and already we are at 311 in 2015/16 and there are three weeks of the season left. The other notable feature is that backing all these odds-on shots, though not profitable, has come close to breakeven point in each of the last three seasons judging by the actual over expected. Given that those figures are worked out from official SP suggests there is an edge here; Betfair SPs are typically bigger even allowing for commission while many of these winners will have been available at bigger prices before the off.
I suspect at least some of this edge is down to the attitude punters approach the market with, i.e. they want to oppose the fancied horses as they are perceived as too short. There are other reasons though. The concentration of talent in the Mullins yard has played a big part as has that trainer’s approach in that he tries to keep his horses apart as much as possible to maximise the number of races won, rather than run them in what might be seen as the most logical races. Racing has facilitated much of this with a greatly expanded programme book and I’d be in the camp that competitiveness has suffered because there is too much racing. Competitive racing, of course, produces much fewer odds-on shots.
Next, we have the record of odds-on favourites by month and instead of going back as far as 2008/9 here, I’ve worked from 2010/11 to the present day in the hope this will provide a better picture of the current state of the markets.
The findings here are surprising. One might expect odds-on shots to do best in the traditional jumps season from November to April when Willie Mullins has his best horses running. In fact, the opposite is true as betting the odds-on over summer jumps is [much] more profitable with the exception of June. It may just be a quirk of sample size – there are fewer jumps races at this time of the year – but the pattern is still quite marked and it offers food for thought at least.
Different types of Irish national hunt race are also worth considering:
Again, the results here are unusual. One might expect chases to be the least predictable of the three disciplines as fences bring in a great possibility of falling but the opposite is true as odds-on shots here do best and come very close to making a small profit off level-stakes.
Finally, the record of trainers with odds-on runners since 2010/11 and for the purposes of the table I’ve looked at those with at least 20 such qualifiers. The table is in alphabetical order.
H. De Bromhead
Willie Mullins has had just a staggering number of odds-on shots; in fact, in the period covered he has sent out 41.4% of the total odds-on favourites. Finding an edge with Mullins is difficult – though betting his shorties at the Cheltenham Festival makes sense – and I prefer to look at other trainers. Henry De Bromhead is one that stands out. He comes out best both on overall strikerate and actual over expected and the best spots to back his short-priced horses are in graded races and over fences and ideally a combination of both. Noel Meade also does well; his 69% return his hard on the heels of De Bromhead and, along with Edward O’Grady, they are the three trainers with actual over expecteds of greater than 1.00.
From a brief glance at the figures for the flat in Ireland, the rise in odds-on shots seems nothing like as marked but it is something I may return to over the summer. For now, be wary of opposing short-priced runners in Irish jumps races for the sake of it and, indeed, don’t be afraid to back some of them; though starting the project at Punchestown might be a little too brave as the meeting can produce some surprising end-of-season results.
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