In this article I am going to go through a betting process / approach that I used over a day of racing primarily deploying the pace data found on Geegeez, writes Dave Renham. When there is a strong pace bias at a particular course and distance I would argue that this is the most important factor to take into consideration. The aim when studying each race is to hopefully pinpoint value selections using pace as the key consideration.
Different punters have different approaches to how they bet. Some vary staking, some stick to a price band, some dutch more than one runner; for me I tend to steer away from short prices and I am not averse to backing two or three runners in the same race. I am not saying this is necessarily the best strategy, but it is a strategy I am most comfortable with. I also often bet each way – again not the method for some but it is frequently my preference.
Some days can pass by with limited or no pace betting opportunities; however when looking at the racing for Monday 12th October 2020 there were several races that caught my eye. I always lookout for certain courses and Musselburgh is one such course. On this Monday there were races that potentially offered us a real pace edge. Below I will look at each one individually and go through how I ‘tackled’ each one; as you'll see, it didn't all go my way - far from it - but the value game is about profit, not winners, and one good score was enough to finish in front.
1.30 Musselburgh – this was a 7f handicap and my starting point was this screenshot from Geegeez:
As a numbers man I prefer looking at the ‘data’ view rather than the graphic or heat map option and I order the four-race pace totals highest to lowest. I also change the going to cover all possible goings as my starting point and then narrow down to more specific goings when required. From the article I wrote about Musselburgh I know the bias seems to strengthen on softer ground as this graphic when looking at good to soft to heavy going shows:
I also adjusted the numbers of runners depending on the data set; here, with it being an 11-runner race, I have used 10 to 12 runners. If the data set was small I would increase this to perhaps 9 to 13 or 8 to 14.
Looking at the horses now, the race was not stacked with pace. Kupa River has the highest pace score of 14 having led early in two of his last four starts. Looking further back he has only led three times in the last ten runs. This tempers my enthusiasm in terms of him leading. I’m not saying he won’t, maybe the last four runs have persuaded the trainer that racing ‘on the front end’ is his best tactic. Alix James is next highest on 13 having led once and raced prominently three times in his last four runs. Going back further he has led in four of his last seven starts winning twice. There is a potential excuse, too, for perhaps not leading on his last two runs as he was drawn wide at both Ayr and Haydock making it difficult to cross to the inside and lead. There were three other horses that had led once in their last four starts but none of them had a long term front-running pace profile.
So Alix James looked the most likely front runner to me in a race of little pace. His draw, though, for the third race running was high (away from the inside). However, before putting a line through him I wanted to look at the draw/pace combinations data which you can find in the ‘draw’ tab of the race in question. Here I found some good news:
As can be seen, being drawn high is not such an insurmountable challenge for horses to a) get to the lead, and b) be successful. Inside draws (low) do lead more often but in reality there is little in it. High draws actually have the best strike rate which is a clear positive.
Alix James looked the pace angle to me so I just wanted to check other factors about this horse. I noted he was two from two at the course having won over course and distance in July on good to soft. He was only 2lbs higher here and the class of the race was the same. The main ‘fly in the ointment’ was his last run when he was beaten out of sight when favourite. Last year I noted he ran very poorly at Ayr in September but, eight days later, returned to form finishing a decent 3rd at Chester: he had proved he can bounce back from a poor run.
My conclusion was that Alix James was the value option. If he led early then there was an excellent chance he would at least hit the frame. He was forecast at 14/1 but the best I managed to get was 15/2 BOG. I backed him each way as I felt, with a shortish priced favourite and a race lacking depth, that was the right call.
What happened in the actual race?
The start of the race panned out as planned with Alix James getting to the lead; however, he was never in complete control up front and despite still being in front three furlongs from home, he started to fade in the final quarter mile. He finished a pretty distant 8th of 10 in the end (there was a non runner).
Conclusion: I feel it is really important to have a personal debrief after each race whether your bet was successful or not. It is part of the learning process and, believe me, you never stop learning regardless of how experienced you think you might be. I suppose the key question, irrespective of result, is always ‘would I make the same decision next time given a similar set of circumstances and data?’
My answer to myself was, if given the same type of scenario in the future, yes I would probably make the same decision. I correctly picked the front runner: the long term 7f stats at Musselburgh show that if you consistently pick the front runner you will generate long term profits.
2.30 Musselburgh – this was another 7f handicap – Class 2 this time.
At first glance this was more competitive than the first race from a pace / front running perspective, at least when looking at the last four run pace totals. On closer inspection though the top two in the list, Three Saints Bay and Muntadab, were the only horses to have led in their past four races: Three Saints Bay three times and Muntadab once. Both horses had decent long term pace profiles - Three Saints Bay had led in seven of his last 13 races and Muntadab in nine of his last 13. The stats were strongly suggesting that one of these two would lead early. Both had decent form on good to soft and both had won on soft.
The concerns for both was recent form. Three Saints Bay had failed to reach the frame this summer in seven starts although on the positive side he had finished close over course and distance on July 1st (beaten ¼ length when 3rd of 6) and three starts back had led at Beverley into the final furlong before fading late on. Musselburgh is an easier 7f than Beverley and also around 90 yards shorter in distance. Muntadab won at Epsom back in July but since then had been well beaten in his last six runs. On the flip side of course their poor recent form had seen them both look potentially well handicapped.
Best prices early doors for the pair were 9/1 on Three Saints Bay and 33/1 on Muntadab. I thought Muntadab offered some value at such odds – you don’t have to be right very many times at this sort of price to make money in the long term. Hence I went each way for Muntadab but decided to go with Sky Bet at 28/1 as they were offering four places. I felt Three Saints Bay was priced about right but I knew he was extremely well handicapped and that he had been very well backed last time out (16/1 into 17/2). Therefore my guess was that he would start shorter than 9/1 and if he did then the 9/1 would offer good value.
What happened in the actual race?
Well I was right about Three Saints Bay as he was backed off the boards late into 4/1 joint favourite. He also got to the front early and dictated the race but perhaps went slightly quicker than ideal. He was still leading into the final furlong before being nabbed around 150 yards out. He was beaten 1½ lengths back in 2nd, while Muntadab was possibly a little unlucky at the start and was forced to 'stay in his lane' as the horse drawn inside him kept him from cutting across. To make matters worse the jockey then went much wider after about 50-100 yards ending up nine horses from the rail and, from there, he was never going to challenge. His finished 8th.
Conclusion - Ultimately racing is about getting value and getting 9/1 early (albeit with a small rule 4) about Three Saints Bay was a value bet. Muntadab was not competitive this time, but as I said earlier you don’t need many big priced runners to win to make money in the long term. If given the same race profile in the future I think I would make the same two bets.
3.00 Musselburgh – 5f handicap was next on my list of races to check out:
The front-running bias at 5f is not quite as strong as the 7f bias but it is still pretty strong and this was a very simple and quick race for me to decide upon one selection. Autumn Flight is a habitual front runner having led in his last six races and also 12 of his last 14. Add into the mix that on good to soft or softer he had won four times and been placed a further four times from 15 starts, and he looked the logical call. He was also 12/1 early morning and with a short priced favourite this looked a solid each-way bet.
What happened in the actual race?
Autumn Flight did get to the front but perhaps had to expend more energy than ideal in the first furlong. With two furlongs to go he was still leading and seemingly going well but by the final furlong he was being joined at the front and gradually slipped back finishing a close up 4th.
By the time this race was run the going was soft and getting more testing by the minute. When I had dug down into the pace data the previous evening the good to soft to heavy stats for front runners still showed a front running bias for this field size. However, if I had checked only the soft or heavy stats I would have noted that it becomes a much more level playing field. Whether that would have put me off the selection I’m not sure but it would have made the decision more difficult.
Looking at the pace profile of the race I had expected that Autumn Flight would have had a relatively easy lead, but he needed to be rousted quite vigorously to get in command by the end of the first furlong. Ultimately, this, coupled with the more testing ground, cost him in the final furlong – even so he was only beaten by 1½ lengths. I think overall the bet was a decent one being one place away from getting a return for my money.
3.30 Musselburgh – the second division of the 5f handicap.
As with the previous sprint this race has a clear pace angle with Somewhere Secret. The concern was the draw as he drawn furthest from the rail. Generally at Musselburgh the early leader grabs the rail and therefore I wanted to check the draw/pace combinations data once again to see whether a low draw was a big disadvantage for a potential front runner.
As can be seen, from a win perspective a lower draw would have been ideal; however, there is little in it in terms of the place data and, actually, front runners have made a small each-way profit even when drawn low. Somewhere Secret had form on easy ground (four of his five wins had come on good to soft or softer) and at an early 8/1 BOG he was my first pick.
Another horse that interested me was Glory Fighter. At first glance he was not the archetypical 5f horse that I would normally be interested in. In his last three runs he had dwelt and lost lengths early; in fact, he totally blew his chance in his most recent race rearing at the start. However, two starts back, he had finished 7th beaten only 2 lengths, despite a dreadful start. Earlier in the season, Glory Fighter had won two races in August, importantly not missing the break, and racing close to the pace. My eye was also caught by the jockey booking of Jamie Gormley, who had ridden him in his first two starts of the season back in June. That horse and jockey combo combined to be placed both times and Gormley had raced prominently in one race and led in the other. If he got away on terms I thought at double figure odds he would have a good chance. One of those successes this season had been on good to soft so he had shown he could act with cut in the ground. I got 10/1 BOG on Glory Fighter.
What happened in the actual race?
Somewhere Secret tried to force the issue but never got to the lead and ultimately it was the outside draw that was his downfall. He raced competitively but never got close to the rail and, by the time he entered the final two furlongs, the writing was on the wall: he finished 7th. Glory Fighter on the other hand read the script; thankfully he did not miss the break and raced close up in 5th early. He was produced at exactly the right time, hitting the front around the furlong pole and winning relatively well in the end. His 12/1 SP was an added bonus.
This race perhaps shows that you do sometimes have to look more deeply into the pace figures and the ‘in running’ comments. Glory Fighter could easily have missed the break for a fourth race running and that probably would have scuppered his chance, but these are the decisions as punters we have to ponder. Also, as stated earlier, the going had deteriorated from when making my decisions/selections, so I would tentatively suggest I got lucky here. Having said that, there is plenty of truth in the saying you are better to be lucky than good!
So there you have it – a bit of mixed bag of results but that’s racing. It is important to point out that making profits is not really about finding winners. If you want to back lots of winners then back favourites! If you want to make long term profits then you need to find an edge and value selections – I believe pace can undoubtedly give us that edge.