The Punting Confessional , Wednesday, June 19th
Racing is sport of complexities from pace analysis to ratings figures to sectional times and breeding angles and these nuances should be sought out by the punter seeking an edge. One does, however, have to be aware of the folly of over thinking or at least not forgetting the KISS principle, i.e. Keep It Simple Stupid!
The basics of gambling are important and shouldn’t be forgotten in the rush to grasp the difficult concepts mentioned above; avoiding what one might call ‘schoolboy errors’ while perhaps not making you a profitable gambler can at least cut your losses, a lesson I am repeatedly reminded of.
Perhaps the most common ‘schoolboy error’ is failure to check the ground and going updates. I have ranted about the lack of going updates from the racecourses and authorities through other mediums for long enough and to be fair to both groups, in Ireland at least, their communication of this information to punters has improved markedly in the last year.
Morning updates are available through Twitter – both the trade paper The Irish Field (@TheIrishField) and Horse Racing Ireland (@HRI_Racing) have going updates early – and any punter that isn’t on Twitter at this point needs to get their act together as it’s the quickest place to get information. In terms of advance weather forecasts, the HRI’s race administration site (info.hr-racing.ie) provides decent predictions, specific to each course, and if you want something more detailed there are plenty of other sites available.
At the risk of sounding like a farmer, met.ie is good for forecasts as is accuweather.com while irelandsweather.com has access to a number of weather stations that register things such as localised rainfall, many of which are close to racecourses. There are similar Twitter feeds and websites that provide such information in the UK.
With changeable weather a fact of life in these islands, as punters we need to be aware that ground can change in a matter of hours as we saw at Fairyhouse last Wednesday; going that was described as good before the first race was yielding to soft by the last. While many bemoan a change in ground, it can also be a big plus as prices that were framed for fast ground can now offer value among horses that may be suited by an ease. Such was the case at Leopardstown last Thursday where good to firm ground became good to yielding in the hours before the off.
This meant that Reply who would have been a strong fancy for the Ballycorus Stakes had his chances ruined as he is dependent on fast ground while the Ballyogan Stakes favourite Tickled Pink was a similar case if not quite so marked; the eventual winner Fiesolana was well-suited by some cut and it also placed a greater emphasis on stamina as she had previously won over a mile. It also made the penultimate handicap more interesting as the two potentially best-treated horses in the field – Bensoon and Dane Street – needed contrasting conditions, the rain swinging the race in favour of the latter.
None of this is to say that the ground should be everything; indeed it is sometimes an overrated factor and it’s worth pointing out that ability, or at least ability relative to mark, remains the most important factor. But not registering what the ground is or how it may have changed is a basic error that should be avoided.
Another mistake one can make involves targets for horses in ante-post races and I got a costly reminder about same when I backed both Olympic Glory and Mars for the Irish 2,000 Guineas on the Tuesday before the race only for neither to turn up, a fact I would have been aware of had I paid closer attention to stable announcements. Nowadays, targets are mainly transparent though some yards are better than others.
Willie Mullins is one I find particularly frustrating with his tendency to hold back on confirmations until the very last minute while Jim Bolger has been known to throw in a volte-face or two. Every now and then one has to take a chance on a big price about a horse and hope it will turn up – just like a few did with Dawn Approach on the exchanges for the St. James’s Palace and it was hardly out of character for the trainer – but in the main it pays to be as certain as one can be that a horse is going to take its chance.
My advice would be read as widely as you can if planning an ante-post bet; search racingpost.com and Twitter and the wider internet. It’s not a bad idea to read the paper Racing Post everyday as not all articles in the print edition make it onto the website though I should follow my own advice here as I’m not a daily reader. Doing so might have prevented me from backing Mars, a bet a felt pretty hard done by given how well he shaped in the Derby on this next starts.
With bookmakers, there is no excuse for anyone not to have an array of online accounts; brand loyalty is a nonsense as by so doing you are playing right into the firms’ hands; they love nothing more than a ‘one bookie’ customer that will take their prices regardless of what may be available with a competitor. And it’s the same with shop punters; Jane in your local betting office may well be ‘a fine bit of stuff’ and very pleasant when you’re backing one but that’s not going to put you in profit.
Top price may be a fiction for the winning punter as bookies are unwilling to lay it but for the beginning punter getting on is not an issue and by always taking the best available price you’ve got some sort of chance if not of becoming profitable then at least of limiting your losses. So take the option of walking across the road or opening another window.
Finally, be wary of night before prices and don’t rush in. While every now and then a price may be completely wrong, the layers at this point are often betting to ludicrous percentages which means there will be bigger prices available the following morning or closer to the off. I find with Irish racing there are certainly fewer moves overnight with more punters seemingly practicing patience in the markets.