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

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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.

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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.

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4 replies
  1. Kieran Ward
    Kieran Ward says:

    Superb article, Tony – very enlightening. I agree completely with your thoughts on the post race analysis in the racing post – I sometimes wonder if I was watching the same race!


  2. Eric Arnold
    Eric Arnold says:

    Great Tony: I have been compiling my own analysis using video replays, I read where you state everyone will interpret the race differently. However the edge will be eroded with more punters trying. Would you accept that the punters enemy is not the bookmaker but the other punters. Time spent on study should be rewarded and I would hope most readers of your articles are diligent in this anyway, it would be interesting to know which sites are used by the majority of your readers. I personally use ATR and Racinguk.

  3. Dunc
    Dunc says:

    Excellent piece. ATR and Racing uk for me too.
    It’s a time consuming business though and not sure what’s the best approach. Look forward to more on this subject

  4. Denis
    Denis says:

    The only thing I do differently is to record the actual ATR footage and try and review it within a day or 2 as it takes up a lot of recording space. That way you get to see the prelims and the full race- sometimes the start in Ireland can be most illuminating (triers up the front etc) and I love the 2 minute spiel God (Gary O’B) gives before the off. You also get to watch the interviews with jocks and trainers which occasionally give up the odd nugget. The biggest problem I have is time- though it’s much easier now the clocks have gone back.

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