In March I wrote an article ‘How To Bet On 3yo Handicaps’ where I shared my process of applying the principles of ‘Hot Form’ to find well handicapped runners from the classic generation.
At this year’s Doncaster St Leger meeting I wrote daily articles analysing races from a hot form perspective (with a decent level of success) and there were a few requests to expand upon the principle of hot form so here it is.
Hot form is the first thing I look at in any race I’m analysing and it’s responsible for 100% of the runners in my tracker. There are many other important factors I’ll look at before deciding upon a bet in any race but I’m not interested in backing anything that doesn’t have a level of hot form and this is a strategy that has served me very well for the best part of two decades.
What Constitutes Hot Form?
Hot form can be summarised as any race where several runners have subsequently improved their previous finishing positions. So if the 2nd, 3rd and 4th come out of a race and win next time out, that is very hot form.
Wins are the strongest barometer of success but if the 6th, 7th and 8th have all come out and finished 2nd since that could also be described as pretty hot form.
I prefer to mainly concentrate on handicaps when it comes to hot form because the form seems more transferrable from one race to another but hot form can definitely be applied to Group and Listed contests as well as maidens and novices.
Hot form is found in both flat and jumps racing. I prefer to concentrate on flat racing as handicappers over the jumps tend to be more exposed than many of their flat counterparts but I will often use hot form principles when looking at some jumps races too (staying handicaps are my preference).
Why Is Following Hot Form Profitable?
It is not uncommon for several well handicapped runners to participate in the same race. When this happens the best handicapped horse in conditions should win, but that’s not to say the horses that finish slightly down the field, perhaps in 5th and 6th, aren't still well enough handicapped to win an ordinary race.
If two or three runners emerge from a race and all win next time out it stands to reason that other runners who finished in close proximity to those subsequent winners in the original race are also well enough handicapped to win similar contests next time out.
By following hot form throughout the season you should be capable of finding somewhere between 100-200 well handicapped runners. That’s not to say you’ll find 100-200 future winners though. It’s the nature of horse racing that some of these runners will pick up injuries, lose their form, be sold abroad, etc. Others will simply never run quite as well as they did in the hot race you found and some will be campaigned poorly over the wrong trips, on the wrong ground or at the wrong courses.
However many of those 100-200 runners should be capable of reproducing their form again when conditions are in their favour and they’ll win on either their next starts or shortly after.
What About ‘Cold Form’?
Where there is hot form there must be cold form. Some races are very good, some are quite average and many are quite poor. Those poorer races where those that come out of the race struggle to win or even place in their next few runs could certainly be described as cold form.
These colder races can be useful as they’ll often help make the market in many races. A runner that has finished 2nd in a cold race will often be a shorter price than a runner that finished 5th in a hot race. Now that’s a huge generalisation but the bookies definitely seem to put more emphasis on finishing position and proximity to the winner than they do the actual strength of each race. On many occasions a horse will achieve more by finishing 5th in a hot race than 2nd in a cold race.
There is one important note about cold races though. A horse shouldn’t necessarily be disregarded for winning a cold race. If those behind the winner have let the form down it’s certainly not a positive but it’s also not the winner’s fault that those in behind weren’t up to scratch. If the winner was all out to win by a nose then perhaps you can group it with those behind but if the winning distance was even a cosy length the winner may have been a fair bit better than the rest of the field.
How Do I Find Hot Form?
There are two ways to go about finding hot form.
The first is to go through every result and look for races that are beginning to work out. If races are beginning to work out then you can bookmark them. If there have already been a couple of winners from the race you can add other runners who finished close up into your tracker. If a race is working out poorly then it can be disregarded.
Going through every race can be quite painstaking and the much easier method is to use the Geegeez Hot Form Report. You can find any runner with an entry over the next two days (today and tomorrow) that has run in a race with hot form (you set the criteria/filters for hot form). You can search from races 30 days in the past, 45 days in the past, 60 days in the past or 90 days in the past.
My personal preference is to cast the net as wide as possible and then use personal judgement as to whether or not a race is working out rather relying completely on data. This is because the raw data can sometimes be misleading. For example you might see a race where there have seemingly been three winners from three runs. That would initially look very interesting but it might be the case that a horse that won the race by 5 lengths has since followed up with three more wins. Those subsequent exploits aren’t really of any relevance to the rest of the field.
My preferred filters for the Hot Form report would be along the lines of:
Runs – Any – You want to find hot form as early as possible before you’ve missed the boat.
Wins – Any – The next lowest setting is 5 if there have already been 5 winners you’ve missed the boat.
Places – Any – Similar reasoning to the above.
Win Percentage – Min. 20%, Max. 100%. Runners who were well beaten can run poorly again and skew this percentage so don’t set the minimum too high.
Place Percentage - Min. 25%, Max. 100%. Similar reasoning to the above but you can set this one a little higher.
Win PL – Min. Any, Max. Any. It’s worth referencing this in the report but play it safe and leave it as any. The other filters should do the heavy lifting here.
EW PL - Min. Any, Max. Any. Similar reasoning to the above.
You will be presented with plenty of races that are NOT hot form but using these filters should also mean you don’t miss out on some races that are hot form that may have been missed with more prejudicial filters.
If you sort your results by Win Percentage you are likely to find the majority of the most interesting races at the top of the list (races with a minimum of two runs are preferable). However you should remember that each runner’s finishing position (denoted by the ‘Result’ field) in each race is arguably as important as anything else you’ll see in the report. If something has finished 12th in a hot race it’s almost certainly too far back to be of any relevance. How far you should go back can vary from race to race (and is addressed below) but generally you won’t be looking any lower than 6th or 7th and you will most commonly be interested in top 3 or 4 finishes.
Check each well placed runner in a potential hot race by clicking on the Hot Race Date and then click on the Result tab. Ensure ‘Future Form’ in the top left corner of the result page is switched on so you can easily consume the subsequent exploits of each runner. You are looking for good subsequent runs from those that ran well in the race.
The Hot Form report on the day this article is being written can be seen below.
The top horse looks very interesting on the basis of the a 100% subsequent win record from 3 runs. A closer look at the form also looks interesting with the first three places all going on to win next time out, for all only the first two runners won handicaps.
As it turns out Rueben James was well beaten but the theory remains sound and you certainly don’t expect all of the runners to win.
The Most Important Hot Form Considerations
Hot form is not simply a case of judging races based on the finishing positions of subsequent runners from each race. The finishing positions are very important but you have to be able to judge the relative worth of those finishing positions.
It's unlikely every runner will come out and run on exactly the same ground. If encountering different ground conditions some will improve for this change and others will perform less well. If the ground is different on the subsequent run take a look at the horse’s previous form to judge if the change in going would have suited or not.
A mudlark that came 4th on fast ground and then wins next time in heavy ground won’t necessarily have franked the form. Likewise a mudlark that finishes 2nd in soft ground then 6th on faster ground next time hasn’t necessarily let the form down. In fact in this latter scenario, if the rest of the race is working out, these runners can be great value next time when returned to more favourable conditions.
You may look at a mile handicap where the winner and the 3rd have since won and you think it is hot form. However if the winner came out and won over ten furlongs and the 3rd subsequently won over twelve furlongs that doesn’t mean this is hot mile form – or cold mile form for that matter.
If the majority of the subsequent winners have won over the same distance then you can draw stronger conclusions about the form being hot.
If runners have come out of a race and won or run well always check the type of race they have run in. It’s particularly the case with 3yo handicaps that a runner might drop into maiden company after a decent run in a handicap. An 80 rated horse winning a maiden at 10/11 probably won’t be much of a form boost.
Likewise an 80 rated filly chasing some black type in an Oaks Trial may not be letting the form down by only finishing 5th or 6th.
Not quite as strong a consideration as the race type but class is also important. A runner that was 2nd in a class 4 handicap might only be able to finish 7th in a class 2 handicap but that doesn’t mean they should be disregarded when back down in grade where they’d be more capable of running to their original form.
This is an often overlooked factor but Geegeez readers should know the importance of course biases, namely pace and draw. If a horse comes out of a race and finishes down the field next time out when held up from stall 11 at Chester, or running against any other pace bias, that’s not a sign that the form has been let down.
Use the same marking up and marking down system you would ordinarily use when looking at form when you look back at results and future form.
When looking at the subsequent exploits of runners from any given race it’s always worth thinking about how far they have been beaten if they haven’t been victorious since. If something has finished 4th since, but only been beaten half a length, it hasn’t necessarily franked the form but that’s not a bad run at all and shouldn’t be judged too harshly, especially if others are giving the form a strong look.
Another thing that should be checked is the in running comments from subsequent runs. Some defeats can be pretty much marked up into victories if the horse was particularly unlucky next time out. Alternatively a 5th place finish might have been value for 2nd. It’s another factor that should be investigated.
So Conditions Are Key!
The closer conditions are in subsequent runs compared to the original race, the more reliable the form will be. Where there have been variations in the conditions you’ll have to use your judgement as to whether to mark the form up or down or to put a question mark over it. This is why it makes sense to keep the filters pretty broad in the Hot Form Report. Not all wins (or other finishing positions) are created equal.
How Many Runners Should I Track From A Hot Race?
There is no given formula for this and it depends on several factors.
The simplest explanation is you should follow as many runners from a hot race that have finished in relatively close proximity, or deserved to finish in close proximity, to a runner that has gone close to winning since.
The stronger the race, the more horses you’ll follow from it. If it’s a big field contest that is working out really well you might end up following six, seven or even eight runners from it. If the 2nd, 7th and 8th all win on their next starts you’ll know that at the very least the winner, the 3rd, the 4th, the 5th and the 6th should be of interest in the future. If the 9th was only a head behind the 8th that should be of interest too.
If the first three home have pulled clear in an eight runner field and the 2nd and 3rd have won since but the 4th has run badly then that’s a good sign that the winner is the only one worth following going forward.
What I like to do when I have found what seems to be a hot race is break it up into smaller races. If there was a gap of a couple of lengths between the 4th and the 5th then those are treated as different races and something that finished close to the 5th will need to have won, or gone very close since, for that to be of interest.
When judging these finishing positions in the hot race I am of course considering all the factors listed just above this section (course bias, luck, etc) and marking runners up and down. In many cases you may decide a horse that finished say 6th is worth following but the 5th might not be.
Should I Back Runners That Have Already Won Since?
What we are looking for with hot form is horses that are well handicapped AND are likely to be underestimated by the bookies next time out – therefore offering a value bet with a good chance of winning.
If you have found a race that has worked out well there is always a question mark over whether you follow those who have already won. If something has come out and won by five lengths then the chances are it will be hammered by the handicapper and the opportunity to back it off that sort of mark has gone. If something comes out and win by a neck, perhaps not getting the run of the race, then it may only be punished with a raise of about 2lbs and should still be of interest if a decent enough price next time.
The more a race has worked out, and the stronger it seems to be, the more you’ll probably still want to be with those that have won since, price permitting of course. If the 1st and 3rd have since rated around a stone higher and the 2nd is only 4lbs higher after a win then the likelihood is it’s still pretty well handicapped.
How Long Does It Take For Hot Form To Develop?
Around two weeks after any given race you should find that maybe two runners have run since and given some initial clues as to how strong the form is. Then over the next couple of weeks you should find a few more runners have runs since and by that point you should have a very strong indication of the strength of the form.
There is always a chance of missing the boat, noticing the hot form when it’s all too late and all the runners of interest have already come out and won. As previously mentioned, just because they have already won it doesn’t mean they are of zero interest going forward, but you have already missed one opportunity to successfully back them.
If there are more positive signs than negative signs that a race is working out, for example if the winner and 5th have won since but the 2nd has run poorly, then it’s time to start getting involved. Then the more winners that come out of a race whilst you are following the form, the more confident you can be on your bets going forward. If you’ve already won by backing the 3rd and the 4th, you are going to be pretty keen on the 2nd when it next runs assuming it hasn’t already come out and won itself.
Don’t Get Carried Away With Limited Data
If you have caught a potentially hot race very early, possibly the first horse to come out of a race has already won, you may be tempted to assume lots of others who finished close up are going to also come out and win, or at least run very well.
You do get plenty of ‘false positives’ though. Any horse can improve from race to race and go from running okay in one race to very well in another race. It is always best to wait for at least two runs from a race before you begin to draw conclusions or you may get your fingers burned more often than not.
If you find a race where one horse has come out and won the best strategy is generally to bookmark it and check it regularly. Check the entries of the horses that ran well in the race and when the next horse runs watch the race and be ready to add several other runners to your tracker should it win and confirm the race as hot form.
Continue To Monitor The Form
If you aren’t quite sure if a race is hot form or not, continue to keep an eye on the race. Perhaps there have been two good runs and two bad runs from it, there is no harm in watching how the next couple of runners fare.
It is not completely uncommon for a race to initially just look okay and then start to work out much better. Equally just because a race is beginning to look hot, it isn’t guaranteed to stay that way after a couple more runs.
Don’t be afraid to change your mind about a race. If you are becoming lukewarm towards a race you thought was hot you can reduce your stakes next time a runner comes out of it and then review it again.
Value In Hot Form
One of the main reasons following hot form tends to work so well is you are often aware of something the bookies may have overlooked, or simply don’t think as is important as it is.
Horses that have been previously beaten in handicaps don’t have as sexy a profile as last time out winners, especially those coming from maidens or novices that are completely unproven from their handicap marks. As a result we often get great value on these hot form runners and we can be more confident they will run their races than those making their handicap debuts, or those who have run well in races that are working out less well.
Keeping The Faith
Those horses that you earmark as well handicapped but who fluff their lines on their next starts can often be the runners who offer the best value going forward. There are many reasons why a well handicapped horse might not run to form next time, be it the ground, they could get worked up beforehand, they could pick up a knock or they could just have an off day.
Not all horses that should win because of hot form do actually win but a decent proportion of them won’t win on their next starts but will win shortly after. Keeping the faith in these runs and giving them at least a couple of chances when faced with optimum conditions is important. If a horse fails to run to the same standard without any obvious excuses more than once then it might be time to give up on them.
Hot Form And Race Class
One thing to look out for when deciding which horses to track from a hot race is those that have run pretty well but are capable of dropping a class or two. If you have a class 2 race that is hot form and one of those that ran well in that race drops into a class 4 next time out then this usually offers a great chance for them to get their head in front. They are less likely to bump into anything with similar scope down in grade.
Filling Your Tracker
With all the horses you come across in the search for hot form you should be adding them to your tracker. Add notes about what race was hot, where they finished, if they should be marked up from that run and how hot the form is. You’ll end up deleting some of them off your tracker as your views on each race develop but it’s best to be aware of them when they are entered.
My Favourite Hot Form Race From This Season
The great thing about hot form is the most unlikely races can work out really well. This was the case with a 7f class 5 handicap run at Yarmouth on June 3rd, shortly after racing resumed following lockdown.
This race certainly caught the bookies napping. I’ve added green ticks to the future form screenshot of this race to make the wins easier to spot but that shows eight subsequent wins from twenty-seven subsequent starts from the top seven finishers (26.9% strike rate). The odds of those wins, which is quite remarkable, were:
A £10 stake on each of those subsequent runs would have cost £270 and returned £587. That’s an ROI of 117.4% and those prices are at SP. Some of those were available at much bigger prices ahead of their wins.
A Final Note
Hot form is a great way of finding runners that should be successful in the near future and you can add lots of future winners to your tracker. When they are entered they should simply be a starting point in your analysis of any race and this is by no means a short cut or a guarantee of winners. You'll still need to check the relative form of each of the other runners as well as working out the make up of the race and which runners are likely to be seen to best effect. If the runner you have pinpointed has conditions to suit and the price is reasonable it will hopefully be a good bet!