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The Punting Confessional: Opportunities and Threats

Opportunities & Threats

Opportunities & Threats

Tony Keenan has taken us all the way through race analysis to bet formation, followed by an explanation on how to review your year as a whole. Last week, Tony gave us a review of his own personal performance in 2012 and he closes this chapter by taking a look back at the opportunities and threats that he was presented with last year in...

...The Punting Confessional – January 9th 2013

Let’s conclude this short series on analysing a punting year by looking at the opportunities and threats that arose in the last twelve months for me.

Opportunities: Chances for development take many forms in betting; for someone who struggles to get on, something as small as the arrival of a new betting shop in the locality with fresh staff who don’t know you could be an opportunity.

On a larger scale, the arrival of the all-weather track at Dundalk in 2007 was a boon to me though it took a few years for me to grasp it; the course offers just the grade of racing I like betting on, wild market fluctuations (particularly on the exchanges), consistent ground conditions, draw biases and pedigree angles. Best of all, some seem prejudiced against it – perhaps due to the perception from the UK that all-weather is muck or at least monotonous – which has led to it being largely under-analysed and resulting in overpriced horses.

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Opportunity also refers to planning for the next year and I could write a full article on this itself. The backbone of my form study in the past two years has been doing video reviews of almost every flat meeting run in Ireland during that period and some of the results have been published on a sister site to this one.

While profitable in terms of throwing up future winners, the time cost of doing these is huge and I am not quite sure I can afford it in 2013. There is no replacement for doing one’s own video analysis as it is exclusive by nature and I still intend to do as many as I can but already I am going to raise the white flag in terms of doing every meeting.

To compensate for this I am seriously considering using Timeform is some shape or form to plug the gap and it may not be the perfect solution there are only so many hours in the day.

Pace is another area that I want to develop my knowledge. While it wouldn’t be the determining factor it is in dirt racing in the US, pace is an important component of racing in these islands and crucially it is underrated by the market.

The absence of sectional times is central to this as it becomes a subjective issue with no data to analyse; in this regard, backwardness is a plus for punters. Pace is perhaps a better tool for post-race analysis rather than pre-race prediction as tactics often change but it is noticeable how often Hugh Taylor puts up eye-catchers based solely on pace and there is an edge to be had here.

In terms of improving in this area, I want to do some reading on the subject, particularly the somewhat arcane ‘Modern Pace Handicapping’ by Tom Brohamer, a literary Everest I have stalled on the foothills in the past. In other areas, I’m interested in reading ‘Fooled by Randomness’ by Nassim Nicholas Taleb and ‘Risk Intelligence’ by Dylan Evans.

Part of me wants to get into the area of speed figures but with the exception of Dundalk where there are no rail movements, I am very dubious about the accuracy or otherwise of race distances in Ireland which would render such calculations difficult. I recall a letter from Naas racecourse manager Tom Ryan to the Irish Field last June in which he talked about rail movements at the track and I suspect that is the norm at Irish venues.

This is by no means to get a dig into Ryan as he is one of the better track managers (though the competition is hardly stiff), merely support for the belief that compiling speed figures on Irish racing would be difficult. Instead, I’d like to work on pedigrees and find those sires whose progeny have strong predilections for particular surfaces or distances.

Some of these are well-known – such as Captain Rios on soft ground – but there are certainly less obvious ones that are underestimated by the market.

Threats: The main threat for any even moderately successful punter is no more than the obvious, getting on. These days the clampers at the big bookmakers are out in force at even the whiff of a winning punter and while actual account closures may not be all that common, restrictions to buttons and phone-calls to the trading department are constant.

There are ways and means of getting around this (and if anyone wants to reveal more, don’t be afraid to comment on the bottom of this post!) but one also has to deal with it psychologically; there are times when you see a price that you just cannot take and it’s important not to get frustrated by this and go on tilt.

Restrictions are the job of the modern bookmaker and it’s best to look for solutions not problems as you would drive yourself mad at the unfairness of it; some sort of equanimity, difficult though it may be, seems the best approach.

Coping with the boredom and grind of day-to-day punting is another challenge. Sometimes the slog of the summer is difficult with meetings almost every day and you can be threading water in terms of making a profit for a long period; as I’ve said before, touches tend to come sporadically not regularly.

You have to tell yourself that every piece of form study, though not always valuable, has the potential to be so, one just doesn’t know it beforehand, akin to a prospector looking for gold. There are times when I struggle with the boredom angle but it can be good to think that I’ll deal with it when it becomes unbearable which it probably never will, it’s more the thought of it than anything.

My ideal punting scenario would probably be somewhere between the meetings mania of the summer and fallow lands of the winter with about three meetings per week. The reality of course is that you can’t have your cake and eat and you have to go with the calendar. You may tell yourself that you can’t miss out a meeting but you must do that sometimes in order to have a break.