Tag Archive for: horse racing

New Metric on Geegeez Gold: PRB

We're constantly striving to improve Geegeez Gold, our flagship racecards and form tool service. After a few quieter months - lots going on in the background - we're about to inject a new metric into Gold.

We've deliberately kept it away from the more commonly used numbers, simply because if you don't want to engage with this, we don't want it in your way. At the same time, I very much believe you should take heed of the new number and that's why I've put this post together.

So, what is the new number? Well, it's not exactly brand new as we already display Percentage of Rivals Beaten (PRB) within our draw content. But we're now extending it calculation and display to trainer, jockey and sire data. Here is some more information on Percentage of Rivals Beaten...

What is PRB?

Percentage of Rivals Beaten (PRB) is a calculation based on a horse's finishing position in relation to field size. It makes key distinctions between a horse finishing, say, third in a five-horse race (PRB 50%, two rivals beaten, beaten by two rivals) and finishing third in an eleven-horse race (PRB 80%, eight rivals beaten, beaten by two rivals).

For a collection of results - for example, a trainer's record over the last year - we take an average of all the individual PRB scores.

On geegeez.co.uk, we express PRB as a number between 0 and 1. So, in the examples above, 50% is 0.5 and 80% is 0.8.

What is convenient about PRB is that a par score is always 50% of rivals beaten, or 0.5. This means that a trainer with a one-year PRB of 0.55, 55% of rivals beaten, is doing very well; conversely, a trainer with 0.45 as his PRB is under-performing in finishing position terms.

It is always important to remember that finishing position is not the only number in town and, as with all numbers, it should be used sensibly and in concert with other metrics.

Why is PRB useful?

PRB is useful because it helps to make small datasets bigger. In racing we are almost always hamstrung by small datasets, relative to what general statistics would consider so at any rate. And when we then try to discern knowledge from the data by looking only at wins we ignore seven-eighths of the information we have (assuming an average field size of eight, one winner, seven losers).

If we had 1,000,000 wins to consider, that wouldn't be much of an issue. But we don't. We have much smaller groups of wins and runs with which to work.

Historically I've used place percentages to enlarge the positive to negative comparison: using our eight-runner average, we now have three 'wins' (placed horses) for five losses (unplaced horses). That's much better but still lacking in nuance.

PRB awards 'score' to every runner except tail end Charlie in every race (ignoring non-completions which are dealt with separately - an explanation of how we've accounted for them will appear in the user guide as it will add little value here). This has some challenges of its own; for instance, a horse that went hard from the front and is still battling for third place will be ridden right to the line, whereas that same horse may be eased off if/when four others have already passed it: it has given its running already and there is little be gained from finishing fifth or ninth.

Such issues are accommodated up to a point by squaring the PRB figure, and you can see how that manages the curve in the post linked to at the bottom of this one if you're that way inclined.

The crux is this: PRB is useful because it helps us understand the totality of performance of a dataset rather than just a fraction (win or place, for instance).

How should I use PRB?

PRB has utility in isolation because every score can be compared to 0.5 to understand whether the thing being measured - trainer, jockey or sire performance in our case - is better or worse than what might be expected.

But, of course, we should expect that, for example, Paul Nicholls will have a far higher one-year National Hunt handicap PRB figure than Jimmy Moffatt. He does, 0.62 vs 0.5 at time of writing. But knowing that is unlikely to add to our bottom line; at least not in or of itself.

As it happens, both have been profitable to follow blindly in handicaps in the past twelve months: Nicholls has an A/E of 1.05 (and an SP win profit of +16.70) while Moffatt has 1.26 / +21.50.

If anything, Nicholls' figures are more impressive, for all that Moffatt's may be more sustainable.

What PRB tells us is the amount of merit in unplaced runs. It should be used to support understanding of an entity, rather than as an end in itself. And it is especially helpful in rendering the inference of small samples sizes slightly less of an act of folly.

Where does PRB live?

Regular Gold users will know that PRB - and its close relatives, PRB^2 and PRB3 - have been happily adding value to our draw content for some time.

And now (next week), PRB appears within trainer, jockey and sire data on the racecards and in reports. It is on the far right, out of trouble for those not (yet) interested in its utility.

On reports, it can be found in the same rightmost column location:

Use it or don't use it, but I'd suggest you make yourself aware, as a minimum, of what Percentage of Rivals Beaten is; and when it might pay to keep it in mind.

You can read more about all of our key metrics - A/E, IV and PRB - in this post.


p.s. more new features coming soon!

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Geegeez Racecards

Many of you have used Geegeez Gold racecards to look at the day's racing for quite a while. But still, lots of racing fans remain unaware of the reasons why our cards are regarded as just about the most powerful on the webz. Let me explain...

The Geegeez racecard is a highly effective "information processor", interpreting reams of trainer, sire, jockey, and of course, horse, data into insightful visual form that you can use to make better choices in less time.

For many, though, a number of the key features - and their associated benefits in terms of knowledge, and value edge - have gone undetected... until now.

Below I list 10 things you may not have known were there, and show you how you can put them to work for you. We start with one of the original features, and still easily the most popular, Instant Expert.

#1 Instant Expert

If you want to know which horses in a race are best suited to conditions, this rather boldly titled view is the first port of call for a majority of our users. The reason? It cuts right to the heart of the matter in just a few seconds. If you've ever looked at Instant Expert, you'll be familiar with its traffic light ranking system and how that can immediately shine a light on a potential value play; or, just as useful, highlight a fancied runner with plenty to prove.

But two aspects that you may not have known about are:

i. you can review the relevant form history of trainers, jockeys and sires as well as horses
ii. you can view the form detail by clicking on the summary in question

To look at non-horse form, just select the entity you want from the dropdown menu top left. This helpful moving image shows both of these 'hidden gems' in action.

That is something well worth knowing, and here are nine more killer 'form hacks' lurking within our UK and Irish racecards.

Pro Tip: Look for races where there is a strong contrast between one, perhaps two, horses with a lot of green and amber, and the remainder of the field which are largely red. This everyday occurrence can indicate a lack of depth to the race, in form profiling terms at least, and offers some great value play opportunities.

#2 Trainer Form

Horse form is super important, especially when there is lots of it to review. But what about when a horse is making its debut, or has run only a few times, or is doing something new and different for the first time today? Our trainer form cuts right to the chase by not only showing recent - and longer-term course - form; but also by isolating those contextual aspects of this horse in this race.

Like most things in life, it's easier to explain if we use an example.

As you can see, the trainer form is broken into two parts. The first half is fairly common or garden, standard intel, though not without its uses by any means. In fact, simply comparing a trainer's recent form with his or her longer-term course record is more than enough to add a point - or a knock - to a runner's credentials.

But the real power is in the second section, where users are presented with the trainer's two-year record in a variety of relevant scenarios. In this instance, we can see that Mick Appleby's general two-year figures are not especially exciting in the context of this race... with one very notable exception: horses having their first run for the yard. Edraak, on first start for Appleby, won by three lengths at 16/1.

This is the real power hidden under the bonnet of our trainer form icon, and you can harness it daily for yourself.

Pro Tip: Look for trainers whose performance in the specific context of today's race is better than their overall two-year record.

#3 Report Angles

If the first two of our 'top ten' under the radar racecard features are point and shoot, number three, Report Angles, offers you all the flexibility you could want. It works in two parts: first, you choose which of our suite of 15+ reports you are interested in, and on what basis; and second, qualifying runners appear as a red number against the horse in question.

Let's say you'd selected our brilliant Trainer Jockey Combination report as one of those you wanted to know about, but only when the combo had at least a 20% hit rate and an A/E (positive market expectation) of 1.5 or more in the past year.

Set that up in your Report Angles settings, along with any other parameters you're interested in:

Report Angles qualifiers appear in the racecard

Once defined, Report Angles qualifiers appear directly in the racecard


And bingo, there's a little red '1' against this horse. When I click on it, the specific Report Angle detail makes itself known.

This 'no name' trainer was running a horse with moderate form that was eventually sent off at 12/1. Although he didn't win on this occasion, he finished a fine second of 16, rewarding each way support. These are the kind of horses that most punters wouldn't look twice at; Report Angles forces us to give them a second glance.

Oh, and regarding the setting up bit, it's a one time five minute job which rewards that micro-effort over and over again.

Pro tip: Be selective! Less is more with Report Angles: that way, you know every highlighted horse is worth taking a moment to review.


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#4 Draw Tab

Flat races are anything but with Geegeez racecards, with our industry-leading draw information. Not only do we have more - more metrics, more configurability, more insight - but it's two-click easy to discover exactly what you want to know. Which part of the draw, if any, is favoured in big field mile handicaps at York?

Head straight to the draw tab and you'll see it pre-populated with going, field size and handicap races. In this example, I've also selected the 'Actual Draw' button to exclude non-runners' stalls.

There seems to be a fairly strong advantage for low drawn runners, and those drawn highest - and therefore widest - appear to be somewhat compromised by their stall position.

Sure enough, this 16-runner race was won by a horse drawn in stall 3 at an SP of 12/1. Nice.

As well as simple High/Middle/Low draw thirds, the draw tab also includes individual stall breakdowns in table and chart form.

And, as a further power feature, we overlay historical run style to draw thirds to show which combination of draw and early race position is optimal. It looks like this, displayed in very easy-to-digest colour code. We call it our heat map:


Pro Tip: We've included some more advanced metrics like A/E, IV and PRB (and derivatives of them). They're not as complicated as they perhaps sound and keeping them in mind will definitely add another level to your understanding of draw biases. You can read more on our metrics here.

#5 Pace Tab

"Pace wins the race", or so the adage goes. In fact, pace is a massive factor in determining the outcome of races and, in Britain and Ireland at least, remains significantly overlooked. This presents clued in bettors with one of the best - if not the best - opportunity to profit from betting on horseracing.

You may or may not be familiar with the pace tab within Gold racecards. It looks like the image below and I want to pick a few things out for you.

Firstly, check out the four coloured 'blobs' at the top. These show the performance of different run styles over this course and distance, and in this field size/on this going. If selected, the data are filtered for handicap runs only (as in this case).

In this example, it is clear that horses coming from the back of the field have an almost impossible task (held up runners are 1 from 107 !), and those racing midfield don't fare much better. Prominent racers and especially front-runners have virtually monopolised 5f handicaps at Kempton since the all-weather was laid.

Below the blobs and the going/field size/race selection variables, we have a pace prediction - 'possible contested speed'. There are also two more variables for users to select: number of previous runs to include, and display type. Here I've chosen last three runs and 'heat map'.

Because I've selected 'Heat Map' view, the display underlays colour to identify which parts of the track are favoured from a draw/pace perspective. Again, this is a pretty open and shut case with horses that lead or race prominently being favoured regardless of draw.

Being able to visualise how a race is likely to be run, and having the historical context, is hugely powerful in isolating those runners whose chance is improved or reduced by their run style.

Quite simply, I wouldn't bet without checking this first. And nor should you!

Pro Tip: Look for horses matching the historically favoured run style - especially when they might be 'uncontested leaders'.

#6 Full Form

Arguably the most under-rated aspect of the entire Geegeez Gold offering is Full Form, a place where it is possible to drill down on a horse's (or trainer's or sire's or jockey's) form to any number of form elements relevant to today's race.

Full Form is comprised of a series of content blocks, each one collapsible so you can keep your view neat and tidy if you're not interested in some components. In the example below, I've collapsed the Runner Details, Race Record and Race Entries blocks, leaving only what I'm interested in: the Filters and Race Form blocks.

In this, granted extreme, example Halling's Comet has a phenomenal record at Worcester (I've filtered by 'course') where he almost always leads.


I have also selected the 'Proximity Form' filter. When selected, a traffic light appears to the left of each form line, based on how far, per furlong, the horse was beaten. On the 14th August 2019, for instance, Halling's Comet was beaten 12 1/4 lengths over two and a half miles (20 furlongs). That averaged to 0.61 lengths per furlong and an amber traffic light.

This is very useful for understanding when horses may have run better (or worse) than their finishing position implies.

One final point to note on Full Form is that it is not just for horse form; by selecting Trainer or Jockey or Sire from the buttons top right, it is easy to drill down and establish how those actors performed against various form filters appropriate to today's contest.

Pro Tip: Experiment with the Filters. Discovering that a horse has won three times from four runs within 10 days, or for today's jockey, etc., can be very rewarding!


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#7 Sectional Data

One of the new frontiers of horseracing information in Britain in the last couple of years is the publication of sectional timing data. After a few false dawns down the years, this staple of international racing has begun to make its way into the form book here. The problem, like many things in racing, is that divisions in ownership and media have meant that the information is not available for all race tracks. At least not yet.

Geegeez publishes data from a company called Total Performance Data (TPD), and we've tried to make it as versatile as users could wish for. There is much more information on sectional timing data here, but I wanted to pick out a couple of aspects with which you may not be familiar.

To the untrained eye, there is a lot going on with a presentation of sectional timing. Those who like to get knee deep will find satisfaction in the Geegeez sectional content but, for most, a toehold into this new realm will be enough, so let's try to address that here.

The most generally-discussed metric is 'finishing speed percentage' and it tells us a lot about not just the finish but the race overall. We break the race into either five or three sections - the display below showing five - and each section is colour-coded red to blue.

The top colour row is the 'race speed', based on the leader throughout the race. In this case, the race leader was the same horse throughout, National Anthem. He went hard - very hard (see the orange/red) - early and finished commensurately slowly.

Compare his colour bars with second-placed Mabre, who ran almost an opposite race. Very slow at the start (15 lengths back after two furlongs!), he closed to within four lengths of the winner by the line.

National Anthem had a finishing speed of 88% which means he went very fast early; Mabre had a finishing speed of 96.6%, which means he ran a more measured race overall in spite of his slow start.

Below the colour bars for each runner is a sequence of numbers that we call 'running lines'. These five numbers, and their associated superscript, outline the race position and the distance behind the leader at different 'call points' during the race.

In the example race above, National Anthem was 1st, seven lengths clear, at the second call. We can see that the second race section, the end of which is the second 'call', was 5-4 (i.e. from the five furlong to the four furlong pole). So National Anthem was seven lengths clear at the four furlongs from home point.

Conversely, Mabre was 15 lengths sixth (of six) at the same point.

This is invaluable information for understanding how much ground a horse has made up during a race. Those who like their visuals might also have a look at the chart representation of this (from the 'Chart' button at the top).

In this chart image, I've highlighted the second horse, Mabre, by hovering over the 5-4 point on this 'behind leader' view. The winner led all the way and, therefore, is the red line at the bottom of the chart: he was 0 lengths behind the leader (because he was the leader!) throughout.

Sectional data is more in-depth than a lot of bettors wish to get, and if that's you, don't worry - there's plenty else to go at!

Pro Tip: Do not get too bogged down in sectional data if it's all new. But know that, if a race looks likely to be steadily/falsely run (our pace prediction will help here), a horse with fast finishing speed percentage figures will be of interest, all other things being equal.

#8 QT Angles

If you're one of those people who likes to ask, and find answers to, your own questions then our Query Tool is for you. Query Tool, or QT for short, allows users to build angles or systems from our extensive racing database. Crucially, it allows them to save those angles and have qualifying horses highlighted right within the racecard.

This information is unique to a user and means the card is your own, and as powerful/insightful as you want to make it.

The legwork is done elsewhere, within Query Tool; but once done users reap the benefit over and over again. There is much more information on Query Tool here.

Pro Tip: Some of our savviest subscribers use QT to identify positive factors, which are not necessarily profitable by themselves but contribute to the case to be made for a horse. Having a range of these Angles saved in QT - and displaying right in the racecard - is dynamite!

#9 Sire Data

If a horse has had thirty runs, the primary consideration is always its own form. But, when there is less racecourse evidence from which to base a judgement, the form of a trainer or a sire can be instructive. We've discussed trainer form already and now it is the turn of the sire.

Geegeez racecards have a sire icon behind which is a raft of facts and figures.

As well as the basic breeding line, Geegeez Gold racecards also publish latest sales information, and notable relatives. But the real insight comes from the two-year Sire Snippets (highlighted in the box). The top line is always the overall two year form of the sire's progeny, while subsequent rows relate to the specific context of the race in question.

In this example, where Little Jo was running in a mile handiap at Newcastle (all-weather), we can see the sire's (Major Cadeaux) form in all-weather races and in middle distance races flagged this one as a live contender. With form in the bank, too, he was hardly a shock winner at an eventual SP of 9/1.

This can be very helpful, especially for horses either running in maiden and novice races, or trying something different for the first (or second) time.

Pro Tip: Compare contextual snippets with a sire's overall two-year form (the top row) to see if his progeny fare better or worse in today's circumstances.

#10 Form Indicators

There is a huge amount of information available via the racecards, and some of us don't have either the time or the inclination to sift through all of it. That, of course, is absolutely fine - nobody uses everything - and the Gold cards have lots of shortcuts and indicators.

With our trainer and jockey indicators you can see at a glance who is hot and who is not. They reveal recent (14 and 30 day) form, and longer-term (course one year and five year) form. Green is good, red is not good.

Also notice the numbered arrows next to Vaziani and Steel Native. These relate that, respectively, Vaziani is dropping one class and Steel Native is up one class bracket.

Most other indicators (C = course winner, CD = course and distance winner, etc) are fairly standard, but notice how Gold racecards deploy a 5+ notation for horses wearing a piece of apparatus, or running after wind surgery, for a fifth or greater time. By the same token, a W3 notation, for instance, would imply a horse was running for the third time after wind surgery; and h2 would be a second start wearing a hood, and so on.

Horses making their first start in a handicap are flagged by 'HC1' next to their name (and they also have trainer snippets to help users understand the trainer's record with such runners).

And horses running for the first time since a change of stable have 'TC' (trainer change) against their name on the card:


In each case, these indicators provide valuable time-saving shortcuts to help you understand more information quicker; and there is always more detail a click away for those who are curious or wish to drill down.

Pro Tip: Although the indicators offer a snapshot flavour of noteworthy elements, it is always advisable to make the extra click required to see the related data. Knowing a horse is making its handicap debut is interesting; knowing that the trainer has a 30% strike rate with such horses is very, very interesting!


And those are ten things which perhaps you didn't know about Geegeez Gold racecards.

But wait, there's more. Ten items just isn't enough to share all of the hidden gems lurking in our cards, and I simply cannot fail to mention these two more...


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#11 Bet Tracker

How is your betting going? Well? Okay? Not so good? Chances are you have a hunch as to the general direction of your wagering travel but the specifics are a little harder to come by. Many Geegeez users have not only grabbed their P&L by the scruff of the neck, but are also now starting to understand where they do well and where they do less well thanks to our Bet Tracker tool.

It works very simply: click the BT icon on the card and enter your bet details.

When the results are confirmed your bets will be settled within the Bet Tracker tool. After you've accrued a history in Bet Tracker you will be able to perform detailed analysis to see where you're doing best... and worst!

For those who take just a minute or two a day to add their bet details, it is turning their entire game around. It can do the same for you, too.

Pro Tip: Add all of your single bets to Bet Tracker. When you've got 100+ bets recorded, start to review for pointers. When you've got 500+ bets recorded, you'll be able to make some highly targeted changes to your betting approach: cut out what's not working, do more of what is.

#12 Price / Rate A Race

If you really want to test your value edge, try pricing a few races up yourself. Our 'My Ratings' feature allows users to add notes about a race during the pre-race form study period (we also have a separate horse / race / meeting notes and rating facility within the results).

Most people don't price up races in this way, but for those who do, their judgement of value is sure to be improved. And everyone should do this at least once or twice a month.

Pro Tip: From your My Geegeez profile page, you can opt to turn off bookmaker odds. Pricing a race 'blind' is a Jedi Master trick for testing your feel for the market. Don't be discouraged if early attempts miss the mark somewhat; after all, you wouldn't expect to learn Slovak in an afternoon!


So that's ten - sorry, twelve - things you perhaps didn't know you didn't know about Geegeez Racecards.

If you're not yet a Gold subscriber, you can put all of these - as well as our Query Tool, Draw and Pace Analysers, Stat of the Day picks, and so much more besides - to work for you. Sign up today and get your first month for just £1 >>>

‘Money Without Work’ 2: Wisdom of Crowds

Part 1 of this series can be found here.

I have deliberately kept mathematical 'proof' and academic rigour of the theories of Wisdom Of Crowds and the related Efficient Market Hypothesis out of this article, writes Russell Clarke. Those who are interested can easily research further their efficacy online. For what it's worth, I believe both theories have limited real world applications, though their usefulness in sporting prediction markets is undeniable.

A brief definition of the Wisdom of the Crowd is that large groups of people are collectively smarter than individual experts at predicting outcomes. Explanations of the wisdom of the crowd are numerous but the Diversity Prediction Theorum attempts to mathematically quantify via the definition, “the squared error of the collective prediction equals the average squared error minus the prediction diversity”.

In layman’s terms, when group of predictors is large and diverse, the error is small. There are more complex layers to add to the wisdom of the crowd theories and explanations involving independence, bootstrapping and other exotically named theories, but for our purposes, we will omit the bells and whistles of academia. This is simply about, to misquote Jeremy Corbyn, “why the many are smarter than the few”. It is especially true when the crowd is diverse and independent, which is very much the situation in betting markets.

It has been demonstrated in numerous studies that the crowd is particularly accurate in the fields of quantity estimate, general world knowledge and spatial reasoning. If we look at quantity estimate, I saw a programme on this subject where office workers were asked to guess the number of sweets in a large jar. The estimates had a huge range and yet the average was just 4 sweets from being correct! More famously, at a 1906 Plymouth Fair, 800 people were asked to guess the weight of an ox and the average was within 1% of the actual weight. I know, I need to get out more…

Related to Wisdom Of Crowds is the Efficient Market Hypothesis. The EMH in its simplest form suggests that asset prices reflect all available information (and thus, by association, it is impossible to beat the market). The latter conclusion is a stretch of the theory, particularly in sports betting.

So, what are the implications of this theory when we look at, for example, horse racing? I have evidence that in recent times a real sea-change has occurred in the racing markets and this has been caused by the increasing wisdom of the crowd. It has gone largely unnoticed as it has been gradual and marginal. However, it has been incremental and, as a result, the marketplace today is very different from that of even a few years ago.

Let me rewind to a time when starting prices were produced by the on-course betting market. A few “good men and true” would form a huddle at the 'off' of each race and compare the prices they saw offered by the bookmakers. They came to an agreement or average and that was declared as the starting price. This SP was basically the result of supply and demand in the on-course marketplace (racecourse punters and the major bookmaking offices who sent cash to the course to reduce the prices of horses that they had large liabilities on). This method was later replaced by a similar method, but one which included more on-course bookmakers.

However, the methodology is not of major importance. The SP’s were still, in theory, a result of supply and demand mechanics within the racecourse crowd. The rise and rise of betting exchanges and, crucially, their use by virtually every racecourse bookmaker means that is no longer the case. Today, the SP’s are a reflection of the betting activity on the exchanges rather than the activity on a racecourse. Suddenly, the crowd is no longer a few hundred punters on a racecourse, it is tens of thousands on an exchange. The new crowd is better informed, more diverse and greater in number. The wisdom of the crowd has increased.

If we accept the aforementioned theories at face value, the best approximation of the chance of an outcome would, in horse racing, be the Betfair Starting Price (BSP) and, in football, the Asian Handicap closing lines. That is because those markets are the largest, deepest and smartest markets for those individual sports. The participants in those marketplaces are diverse, independent and largely devoid of any 'group think'.

In both of these markets there is virtually no margin to account for and so the final prices (once every participant has eventually 'voted') can be readily converted into a percentage chance of that outcome actually happening. A BSP of 2.0 represents a 50% chance, 3.0 represents a 33% chance, 5.0 represents a 20% chance etc. Similarly, Asian Handicap Lines can be converted into % chances for football betting. Numerous empirical studies have shown both to be almost wholly accurate.

I realise I have ‘banged on’ a bit here, but, the importance of this knowledge cannot be overstated. It demonstrates the futility of trying to beat the market when it is at its most accurate. In plain English, it is arrogant in the extreme to believe you know more than the market at the closing and you will eventually find out that it pays to be humble! If you bet at BSP (Betfair Starting Price), the commission is likely to ensure you are a long-term loser (although it is a more favourable strategy than betting with bookmakers at SP with their much higher margins than the exchange commission). If you accept that logic, then it is clear that you should be betting early, when the market has less participants and is therefore less accurate.

Another use for the EMH is if you want to accurately assess systems, strategies or the records of tipsters/experts. It is a quicker and faster way to assess than simply looking at a profit/loss account, which can be wildly erroneous. So, traditionally, even those that do their research, will look at a series of results and concentrate on factors such as profit/loss, strike-rate, longest losing run, taken from a set of past results. On the surface this seems logical and sensible. However, the downside is that you will almost certainly be dealing with an inadequate sample size (again, if you need the maths, then an online check) and even if you have thousands of results, a simple Monte Carlo simulation will demonstrate the huge variance in results you could experience moving forward (more of which anon).

Using our appreciation of the accuracy of the markets, we can gain a quicker and more accurate guide to how a strategy will perform in the future and in the longer-term. We can ignore profit/loss figures and instead concentrate on how the selections (winners and losers) perform against the market. There are a few criteria you could apply but a very simple method is demonstrated below:

Two figures you require are the price at which the selection is advised (or a morning price) and the eventual BSP. Then it becomes a simple comparison. If a horse is advised at 10/1 (11.0 digital odds) and the bsp is 7.0, then that would be assessed as +4 (11-7). Similarly, a horse advised at 8/1 (9.0) and the bsp is 9.0 would be assessed as 0 (9-9) and a horse advised at 12/1 (13.0) that has an eventual bsp of 18.0 would be -5 (13-18).

After as few as fifty bets you would get a good reading of the number of selections that are positive as opposed to negative, and, the running total would give an indication of the magnitude of the long-term profits/losses that are likely. The actual results and profits/loss are largely irrelevant as they may just reflect either a favourable or unfavourable run of winners/losers. You can be sure, however, that if you continue to beat the "closing line” you have unearthed a source of long-term profit.

- RC

Next week: Part 3: Bookmakers - Sharps and Softs

Why Sectionals Matter

Galileo Gold wins at Royal Ascot. Sectional times tell us how good a performance this was.

Galileo Gold wins at Royal Ascot. Sectional times tell us how good a performance this was.

One of the more surprising stories to emerge from Irish racing in the past few weeks was a revelation from Johnny Ward of the Racing Post that SIS plan to back the establishment of sectional timing at all Irish tracks from the start of 2017, writes Tony Keenan. This news was unexpected on a number of levels, not least because Irish racing is essentially backward in nature, and whether it comes to fruition or not, be it in 2017 or beyond, remains to be seen.

But I for one would be strongly in favour of not only their use but the idea that they could be widely disseminated to the betting public and it is hoped this initiative is not a pipedream. The reasons why sectional times matter have been covered many times before, and often by bigger and better brains than mine, but even so it is worth restating their benefits here, if only to put my views on record. Much of the focus of these articles is on punting as that is the perspective I feel best qualified to represent but for this one I have tried to keep the focus away from mere gambling and look at the industry as a whole.


  1. Reading Races Better

The central cog to the sectionals argument, the one that most the other benefits stem from, is that these times allow for much better race reading. Pace is a vital component of any race, as even the most limited club runner who has gone off too fast or finished with running to give in a 10k race can tell you, and the naked eye simply cannot capture as much about pace as a number can. From my own perspective, my understanding of a how a race has unfolded is enhanced greatly by using sectional times to such a point that I now find that my reviews of races without these times are missing something.

There are a number of punters currently either taking their own sectional times or using Timeform’s archive of the same and they have an edge; from experience I can say that sectional upgrade horses are often underbet in the market now. The public availability of these times, and the eventual understanding of what they mean, could erode this edge to a degree but punters who want it to continue as such are being selfish; a strong sport is better for everyone.

Moreover, this sort of data-rich sporting landscape is exactly what the modern fan wants, indeed expects. Analytics may have been born in America with the likes of Baseball Prospectus and Football Outsiders, but such methods are over here now in soccer (yes I do call it soccer) through people like Michael Cox of Zonal Marking; and bringing something similar to racing would surely attract more followers to this most complex of sports.


  1. Early Talent Identification

The fact that a number of racing yards, not least Ballydoyle, already use their own sectional timing in training their horses speaks plenty about how useful they can be and it can certainly help those go-ahead stables in ascertaining what they have from an early stage. This applies on the track, too, where horses like Golden Horn have stood out from an early stage on the clock. So, while it is only one method of talent evaluation and may get horses wrong, it seems as reliable as any purely visual approach: indeed, it would be best if both methods were combined.

If we can understand a horse’s sectionals within overall times we are able to place them in a historical context and get a sense of where they might fit in terms of ability, for instance by looking at all the sectionals at a given track over a period of time. This would not only help punters but also owners, trainers and breeders. The owner might spot an undervalued horse he wishes to buy; the trainer might become better at rating his horses from an early stage and thus place them more appropriately; and the breeder can know what sires or dams might be over- or underrated.


  1. Accurate Rating of Jockeys

One of more interesting developments in American sports analytics has been the idea of WAR or Wins Above Replacement, a number that rates how superior a player is to a limited (or replacement level) alternative and is basically one of the best ways of evaluating how good a player is. I have a dream that we will one day have a WAR statistic for jockeys that will allow us to properly discuss their respective skillsets and abilities, because so often analysis of riders now boils down to the ‘how many winners have you ridden’ argument.

Sectionals could play a part in this sort of analysis and, over the course of Royal Ascot, they were able to inform on a number of poor rides that the oft-unimpeachable Ryan Moore gave over the few days: importantly, with the substantial logic to back this up. Of course, there is more to evaluating a jockey; these figures would not be able to put a value on how good a jockey is at riding work or dealing with connections or providing feedback on a horse. But to say that such numbers are useless would be as wrong-headed as to say they are everything.

Not only would such times help us to properly rate jockeys but they might even improve race-riding as jockeys become aware of mistakes they are making. Every jockey gives bad rides as race riding is simply too dynamic for anything else, but we have far too much preciousness around criticising them at present. Arming ourselves with the facts and not personalising these critiques would go a long way to building a proper analysis – and development – framework for jockeys.


  1. Improvements in Integrity

If sectional times allow us to rate rides better, then surely they can also be used for integrity purposes, providing the authorities with facts and data - rather than the current opinion and conjecture - to support their battle for a cleaner sport. The Turf Club have suffered some high-profile defeats in integrity case appeals this year and it is ironic that one of the central arguments that saw Barry Geraghty and Tony Martin exonerated in the Noble Emperor case came from sectional timing as Donn McClean explained how the horse was making up little to no ground on the winner late on.

It is bizarre that the defendants rather than the prosecution was using this approach and it makes sense that stewards on the track would have access to such data at the time rather than merely after the event, perhaps comparing them to historical events. Rightly or wrongly (and it’s wrongly if you ask for my view), Irish racing has a reputation for skulduggery, a sort of nod-and-wink conspiracy that we’re ok with horses being none too busy. Sectional times could certainly play their part in improving this perception and making our racing more appealing.


  1. Opens New Data Horizons

There is a sense from some racing people that it’s cool not to be interested in sectional times, or times of any kind for that matter, and it is almost as if the ‘sectionals boys’ are being set up against the traditionalists, much like the scouts and the data nerds in ‘Moneyball.’ Even the term ‘sectional boy’ is dismissive and I find it disappointing that many in the industry, not content with adopting an ‘each to their own’ philosophy, seek to actively block developments in this area.

I am for more and more data and sectional timing is part of this; if you want to know about wind operations and weights of horses then already having gotten the sectional times can only help you get this information. Data begets data. With all this information, people can then decide what they do and don’t want to use; maybe ten-year trends are your thing: if so, good luck to you, I won’t stand in your way.

The establishment of sectional times in Irish racing would demand higher standards around going reports and measurements of race distances both of which are badly needed and could eventually lead to the sort of next level data that makes modern sports analytics so interesting. But only if we in racing allow it…

- Tony Keenan