The Punting Confessional: In-play action

Punting Confessional: In-play Action

Punting Confessional: In-play Action

Having guided us through the importance of note taking and showing us how he analyses his notes to help him pick his bets, Tony Keenan now offers his advice in how to make the most of your work by placing some bets in-running in this latest edition of...

...The Punting Confessional – December 5th, 2012

Having done your work on pace and such like, it would be foolish not to apply what you have learned to in-running punting; I don’t do an awful lot of this myself but it can be a useful tool in your repertoire. Of course, one is fighting against those with fast pictures and you only need to go to a meeting live and see how far the attheraces channel is behind the on-course feed; there can be as much at seven or eight seconds in the difference.

That said, I still believe there is a an edge for reading the race right as some of the fast picture boys aren’t the most diligent race readers and are merely playing their time edge.

It is inevitable that one will get sickeners playing in-running, marginally missing a price because your fingers were too slow but the rewards are out there and last year’s James Nicholson Chase at Down Royal is a good if extreme example. In the race, the strong-travelling Sizing Europe was always likely to come into the race going well with the strong possibility his stamina would fail as the slow Quito De La Roque came off the bridle early and found plenty in the closing stages; so it transpired as the former hit a low of 1.32 while the latter traded at 280 before winning.

A lot of how a horse’s price moves in-running has to do with race position; as a general rule, hold-up horses will drift (out of sight, out of mind perhaps?) while the price of a pacesetter will contract. How a horse travels also plays a big part; if it is one that tends to come off the bridle early then you can invariably hit it at a bigger price in-play though the trip and pace play a big part in this as the horse that can travel smoothly over a longer distance may find things happening too quickly over shorter.

It’s the opposite with strong travellers who tend to shorten in the run and they can provide the opportunity to lay off in-running; the merits and otherwise of doing this have been debated by much smarter people than me and the argument can be made that by laying off you are taking a bad value price but it’s probably best to judge each horse on an individual basis.

It depends on your temperament too if you want to insure against narrow defeats but either way is something that is worth bearing in mind with horses that are suspect stayers, likely to race on the pace or may be ungenuine. If taking such an approach, it could be worth adding a little extra to your initial stake to allow for the loss you’ll be facing if your lay gets matched though this can be more costly should things not turn out as planned.

It’s taken me a while to get onto jockeys and one thing to bear in mind is that they are all fallible, most are competent when given the right horse but some more than others and you learn who over time. The most obvious thing punters cop with a jockey is when a horse is given too much to do and comes with a late rattle but as we have seen pace can play its part in this and it is way overdone as an angle anyway; the aim is avoiding rather than spotting the obvious.

With jockeys there are a few things I’m looking out for that may not be quite so well reflected in the market. Premature or midrace moves are one and by this I mean when a jockey moves his mount through the field at a time when his rivals are content to sit in position; such a decision is invariably costly as these moves are hard to sustain. Hitting the front too soon – a much better guide to future winners than looking for the fast finisher – is a variation on this.

Pace duels is another notable aspect of jockeyship, i.e. when two or more frontrunners get into a battle for the lead and go too hard, too early; in such cases, all involved are likely to be better than the bare form and keep a particular eye for horses that set a strong pace and still got involved in the finish. Some riders have a tendency to take a pull at the wrong time or not kick on early enough; this is not a contradiction of my earlier point about giving a horse too much to do but must be judged on an individual basis; if you’ve got a horse that needs a relative stamina test over an insufficient trip the jockey needs to be kicking early.

There may also be jockeys that lack aggression in terms of going for gaps and their timidity can be costly; this should not simply be confused with hold-up types that cannot get a run and don’t fall into the trap of blaming every troubled run of a patiently ridden sort on the jockey; the very nature of how such horses are ridden means some trouble is inevitable. Finally, I don’t deny that horses can get a soft ride now and then and it can be profitable to spot one but don’t hang your hat on this as it happens a lot less frequently than most think.

Trouble-in-running is another thing to look out for though I acknowledge that this can be overdone in the market; it is certainly one of the most obvious video angles and these are just the sort of horses that tend to be backed next time as not getting a clear run tends to be clear to jockeys and connections. Some horses are more vulnerable to trouble than others – hold-up types, obviously – and the same is true of jockeys, a number of whom seem magnets for bad luck in running though perhaps that’s my pocket talking.

With those meeting traffic, there are a few things to look for. I particularly like a horse that makes late progress after trouble, indicating that they still had running to give, it may only be running on from eighth into sixth but it’s enough to be significant. If the horse’s effort stalls totally after trouble, I am less inclined to mark it up. There are times when you simply don’t know what a horse had to give, especially if the jockey eases down on them, and in cases like this you really need to be let prices and their overall profile dictate having a bet.

The daddy of them all in terms of bad luck in running however is shuffling, the situation where a horse tracking the pace is caught behind one of the leaders falling back through the field. This is significant on a couple of levels; not only is the horse losing ground at a crucial stage and allowing others have first run on it, but it is also costing momentum just when it is needed. Horses like this don’t come along too often but when they get up to win you are almost certainly onto something, a horse well ahead of its mark as they are likely to be raised off the bare form.

Goldplated was a brilliant example of this when winning at Limerick early in 2011 and duly went on to climb the weights and it’s just the sort of angle missed by the market.

The Punting Confessional: Pace and Position

Punting Confessional: Pace & Position

Punting Confessional: Pace & Position

Last week, Tony Keenan began to take us through the process of making our referral notes/videos, now he goes on to explain how he analyses those races in terms of pace and position in...

...The Punting Confessional – Wednesday, November 21st 2012

By now you’ve got your replays stored and have set up some way of storing your notes so let’s get down to the nuts-and-bolts of the process itself. Essentially you’re looking for eyecatchers, positive and negative, and both can work to providing bets in the future. I don’t believe in adopting the rose-tinted view of so many in the racing media and tend to view with a cynical eye, if anything being more negative than I have to be.

One wants to ignore efforts the obvious in spotting these eyecatchers and by this I mean the sort of superficially positive run that any attheraces presenter can spot in the 30 seconds following the race when needing to fill up airtime. Three obvious examples of these that spring to mind are the supposed non-trier given an easy ride, the horse motoring at the finish or the impressive wide-margin winner.

All three can easily be turned on their heads and read entirely differently: the one that wasn’t off may be a dog that needs tender handling, the fast-finisher could have made cheap late gains and been suited by the pace scenario while the wide-margin winner may have had the race fall apart or be vulnerable to the bounce. Crucially however, because their efforts were so falsely positive and flagged up by all and sundry, they tend to be overbet next time.

Let’s start with pace which is a key factor as it’s underrated by the market; as far as I can see, the likely run of a race has little to no bearing on the pricing of Irish races. The reason for this is simple: in Ireland (and the UK for that matter), we have next to no access to sectionals so the exact pace of a race is hard to quantify. That’s unsatisfactory for the intelligent punter on one level but on another plane it’s a good thing as it provides an edge; one has to go with some educated guesswork in understanding the pace and while there will inevitably be many times when one calls it wrong, the lack of market awareness to this approach means the prices offered leave room for manoeuvre.

In terms of gauging the pace, it’s important to have some sense of what is likely to unfold pre-race, an idea of the number of front-runners and such like in the race. Yes, tactics can change but it is better to have some knowledge prior to the event than none. In the race itself, look at how many horses are battling for the lead and how hard does the eventual leader have to work to get there. Do the runners get spread out early – indicating a likely decent pace – or are they racing in a bunch? How many of the runners are keen or fighting for their head?

If this is so, the pace is likely to be slow. Be aware of how pace works in relation to certain tracks; I’m not completely sold on this and suspect that the key thing is not the track but how the horses run but there do seem to be some courses where front-runners are at least marginally favoured; Ballinrobe with its tight turns and the round track at Tipperary spring to mind. Pace can also impact a horse’s trip preference; if there is a strong pace over 7f, a miler may get away with the distance but not if it is slowly run. Should the latter circumstances unfold, be willing to forgive said horse a seemingly bad run.

Race position and draw location are factors that link in with pace. There has been a rising consensus among English pundits of late that the draw has been done to death and become all too mainstream and the value is now in going against perceived biases; Tom Segal as Pricewise has advocated backing ones that seem to be drawn badly and are overpriced as a result.

I’m not so sure this is the case in Ireland as we’re backward in almost every aspect of racing and thank god for that as it provides no end of punting angles. Certainly, Irish punters can continue to look for ones that are favoured or unfavoured by the draw though an awareness of how such biases can shift depending ground is important; at Naas and Tipperary for instance, soft ground can see the high numbers favoured.

Race position – i.e. where a horse sits in the race – is a product of the draw; where one starts has an impact on where it races. Being trapped wide is something to look out for. When a horse is wide races on the outside of the pack, it may get a clear run but this one positive is heavily outweighed by negatives. Firstly, the horse racing wide doesn’t get cover and this increases the chance of it racing keenly which in turn expends vital energy necessary for the finish.

Not only that but the horse on the outer tend to travel further which is simple maths; as a fellow columnist Kevin Blake once said if you go around a track four horse-widths off the rail with a trundle wheel and do the same tight to the rail, you soon see the significance of this. At some tracks, often those with sweeping bends, such a race position can be fatal; Dundalk is a good example.

How a horse travels in its races is another thing to note. This can be determined by the trip and/or the pace and looking at how it moves and whether or not it is keen can tell you if it needs to go up or down in distance which is always useful to know; one that is off it from a long way out when most of the field around it are going well within themselves but runs on in the finish is almost certainly looking for a step up in trip but I prefer to base this on how it went through the race rather than the gains it made late.

I tend to like habitual strong travellers – something like one of this year’s progressive sprint handicappers An Saighduir is a good example –  as they make life easy on themselves and can h0ld race position at little cost. There are however horses that are keen over every trip and off every pace; such horses are to be avoided as lack the strength for a finish and with quite a few races in Ireland being slowly run tend not to get the breakneck gallop they need to show their best.

Obviously how horses are travelling will give an insight into the pace.

The Punting Confessional: Further Notes on Form Study


The Punting Confessional: More on Form

The Punting Confessional – November 7th, 2012

by Tony Keenan

Dundalk, Friday November 2nd

I’d been impressed with Paene Magnus on his October 5th run over the same course-and-distance and he looked a bet at 6/1 in the morning; on his previous start which came off a break, he set a strong pace and having beaten off those that raced up with him the 3yo retained enough in the finish to run out a comfortable winner from a couple of closers. The market agreed and sent the Bolger horse off an eventual 10/3 favourite and he ran out an easy victor.

This was a video-based play and is one of my main ways of approaching a race these days; I like to review race meetings in the days afterwards and pick out horses of note, positives and negatives. It is form study of a sort but rather than viewing the race in words on a page through in-running lines, I look at the race in 3D which adds depth to my understanding of what really unfolded; oftentimes, the words of the formbook simply don’t tell the whole story.

Such an approach has become part of my edge on the market. Any successful punter needs a heads-up on the betting public, be it speed figures, inside information, trainer angles, statistics or any other. Video reviews are part of mine and my aim in doing such is to hold an exclusive view that is not widely available.

I suspect more people are taking such an approach now than in the past with its value having been established by the likes of Hugh Taylor on attheraces, his weekly eyecatchers tending to form a large part of his subsequent bets. Tom Segal is another devotee of watching as much racing as possible and the more widespread availability of video replays has made the logistics of such a project easier.

That said, I still suspect it is an edge for two reasons. Firstly, it is bloody hard work to analyse a meeting and even harder to sustain it over a punting season; most will give up at the thought of such labour. Secondly, by its very nature video analysis is interpretative rather than objective and what one viewer will see, another will miss.

It could be argued that taking the time to do such reviews is unnecessary when one can just read the post-race analysis in the Racing Post and allow the professional race-readers to sort it out for you. Au contraire. I wrote last week about some of the pros and cons of the trade paper and this section certainly falls into the latter category as their flaws here are many.

Firstly, and this is only as far as I know, the Racing Post journalists who analyse the races (and who tend to double up as news reporters at the same meetings) often complete their post-race analysis in the gaps between races; this is why the analysis are available on the website soon afterwards and in the paper the next day.

The timespan here is too tight; I assume that most racing journalists are also punters and having made a play in some of the races they are simply too close to the race – in every sense – to make an objective call about the result. Timeform do a much better job of this by waiting for a few days and allowing the dust to settle.

The Racing Post would be better advised to do a full results section with in-running lines and starting prices and such like the next day but leave the analysis until later at a time when ratings and relative times are available as well as a point of critical distance having been reached. Weekly papers like the Weekender and Irish Field really fall down in this regard; their print deadlines mean that they could really go into detail with post-race analysis (on at least a select number of races) but they ignore this avenue totally.

There is also the feeling that much of the analysis in the Post – and I am speaking mainly on Irish racing here as that is what I follow – is toothless; a journalist may be unwilling to call an ungenuine type a dog for fear of offending the owner who is almost certain to read the breakdown of his horse’s performance; the old line about how you can insult a man’s wife but not his horse rings true. Furthermore, some analysts are clearly better than others and it takes time to sort the wheat from the chaff.

A few just state the obvious, rehashing the in-running lines (which have improved notably in Ireland over the past months) into boring, uninformative copy. In terms of getting a better standard of analysis overall, Timeform is probably the place to go; I have used it in the past myself though not at present, preferring to compile my own analysis. Another problem with using the Racing Post reviews is that their views are in the public domain, accessible to the majority of the betting public which nullifies at least in part any points of value they have made.

So ideally, one wants to put together one's own reviews but what are the logistics of doing this? As I alluded to above, one really has to do it after the event, not the same day, and probably not the next day either. The aim should be to suppress one’s emotions in relation to the race which basically means winning and losing money and take a dispassionate view of the race.

In terms of getting the replays and storing them, I’d advocate putting a series link up on Sky Plus and recording the Racing Review programme (goes out every morning between roughly nine and eleven) on attheraces; I don’t have Racing UK as I don’t really play English racing but assume it’s the same over there. Any decent Sky Box can store a hell of a lot of racing though the Racing Review approach isn’t perfect; there are times on the days when there were lots of meetings that attheraces leave out the start of races and only show the finish which is a mess as you need to see the entire picture.

Alternatively, one can watch the replays on the various websites that provide such a service but the picture quality is not always great on the small screen and I prefer to watch them in comfort on a big TV though connecting a HDMI cable from your laptop to the TV is an option. Some of the websites have the irritating habit of including pre-race ads or plugs before each replay which can waste time; ATR have been running the Breeders’ Cup promo for weeks now and are sure to replace it with something else.

I’ll spend the next two weeks developing on this topic.