Tony Keenan has been guiding us through his whole process of race watching and note taking, followed by showing us how he analyses and uses the information gleaned. He concludes this process today by adding his final thoughts on video analysis in...
...The Punting Confessional – Wednesday 12th December, 2012
To conclude this short series on video analysis, let’s look at two final aspects of the process: ascertaining ease of victory and the role of attitude. The former is an intangible factor and that’s not necessarily a bad thing as it means the market can be slow to cotton on to it. Basically you’re looking for a result where the margin of victory doesn’t reflect the ease of victory and this can be for many reasons.
Has the horse only got racing room near the finish and quickened up well?
Has there been shuffling at a key earlier part in the race?
Has the pace scenario in one way or another masked the winner’s superiority?
Has the horse simply idled in the finish, taking the mickey out of its opposition?
With regard to the last type, I particularly like strong travellers who cruise through the race, pick up well and then are happy that they have done enough.
All this needs to be married to more traditional form study; again the point needs to be made that video analysis is just another type of form study. You need to compare how the horse won to the rise it has taken in the weights; I’m talking handicaps here where I do most of my punting. Ratings are the key for handicap punters and I’m not so much interested in the weight a horse carries as its mark and what that mark says about class and where it can compete next time.
Keeping an eye on the grade of race a horse competes in is important; for instance, a horse getting a hike from 65 to 76 can be a killer as it is has to jump from the bottom level to a 0-85, missing out the 0-75 in between. This is where wide-margin, last time out winners who are invariably sent off a short price may be worth opposing and in the main I prefer those that win narrowly so they can rise through the grades gradually.
If I have one rule in punting, it is this: never back a dog.
Rules are meant to be broken and there are times when I break this one but over time it has proven to work for me. I don’t find maidens all that interesting for betting purposes but they can be informative for the future as you can spot horses that aren’t giving their all. When reviewing any race, our eyes are naturally drawn to the first few horses, but we should also try to register what is going on down the field because the horse that was sent off 33/1 in the maiden could be an 8/1 shot in its first handicap despite being an utter rogue and can thus be rule out.
The signs of a dodge are well-known: awkward head carriage (whether high or to the side), hanging when asked for an effort or given the whip, finding little, swishing the tail.
I’m not at all forgiving when it comes to horses that have shown temperament and probably miss out on the odd winner as a result but I suspect I back more winners because of it as I am always against fancied horses that have an attitude. There can be many causes for a horse showing attitude but I’m less interested in that than the effect, i.e. that dogs don’t win as often as they should, are invariably involved in the finish without getting their head in front and as such take up a disproportionate chunk of the market.
It’s fair to say that every dog has its day – and that’s become more common in Ireland in recent years as the competitiveness of our racing has dropped somewhat – but it’s best to think long-term with them. One final point on dogs; just because a horse doesn’t show temperament every day it runs does not mean it is a reformed character. It may just be a case that it hasn’t had a chance to given the way the race has unfolded. There are some leopards that change their spots but they are the exception rather than the rule.
To conclude, I want to say that I am no expert in the area of video analysis; indeed, I am a learner but what I do know is what the market tends to underestimate. If you want to learn more, much more, about this approach then I suggest buying a copy of Andrew Beyer’s ‘The Winning Horseplayer’ and focusing on the section about trip handicapping, his term for video analysis. The book may take all its examples from America but offers huge insight into racing over here too.
If you prefer a more visual approach to this, I advise watching Hugh Taylor’s weekly attheraces slot ‘The Form Factor’ aired on Wednesday on Sky channel 415 around midday. It is filled with object lessons on how to spot eyecatchers and clear examples are given on clips, all explained in a cogent manner.
All this said one doesn’t want to become a slave to video analysis. Certainly these eyecatchers have market value and are an underrated angle but sometimes even they are overbet. Don’t forget value is the all-important concept and always be price-sensitive. Sometimes a simple formbook case will present better value than an eyecatcher and try to remain flexible in your thinking.