The Price is Right?

The Punting Confessional: The Price is Right?

The Price is Right?

The Price is Right?

And we don't mean that terribly tacky game show we imported from the States in the 1980's. In this week's Punting Confessional, Tony Keenan explains how to get the right price for your wagers and the importance of doing so, using a couple of examples from...

...Killarney, August 30th

I had a pair of bets at this mixed meeting last Thursday, Alla Speranza at 10/1 and Authorization at 16/1, both at morning prices, with the former finishing up at 8/1 and the latter at 5/1, with respective Betfair Starting Prices of 12.o and 7.7 (I include the BSPs as they tend to give a fairer reflection of the market than the larcenous percentages bet to by the Irish on-course layers). Certainly, they performed in contrast to market expectations, Alla Speranza going down by less than a length despite being stagnant at best while the gamble on Authorization went astray as he finished fifth. It was yet another example of how drifters and steamers often perform in contrast to what the betting said beforehand and that the market gets it wrong frequently.

Getting the best price about a horse should of course be every punter’s aim and certainly one can develop a gut feeling for the sort of horses that are consistently under- and overrated by the market. Achieving this aim alone could help a few punters reach profitability while it would certainly limit the losses of all. It is worth remembering however that no one can get price-taking right the whole time; it is impossible to call the market correctly the whole time (unless you are putting down such substantial bets that you are influencing the entire thing) so resign yourself to a number of incorrect calls.

A good general rule to apply is that if you are satisfied the price is value, then take it unless you have good reason to believe you will get a bigger one by waiting (more of this anon). Remember that if you think a horse is overpriced and have a track record of calling these things correctly the chances are others will hold the same opinion. One needs something of substance to base this judgement call on; your own tissue prices are the obvious place to start or at least some sort of target price that has been ascertained before you see the available odds.

One thing that won’t help you after you have taken a price is to continually check the odds of your selection and whether it is shortening or drifting; the psychological theory of investment (as I read in a book called ‘Nudge’) suggests that when we continually checks whether the value of our investment is rising or falling, it affects our attitude to risk, making us more risk-averse, clearly not what one wants as a gambler. I do acknowledge that this is something of a double-edged sword as a punter has to check prices as part of their routine but it is worth being aware of the psychological problems this can cause.

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With calling the market, one needs to be aware of the various influences on it and by so doing one can improve their market reading. Tipping services are the most obvious place to start and the main ones have a huge influence. Pricewise in the Racing Post is the daddy of them all in terms of power but one thing I find hard to listen to is punters continually bemoaning Tom Segal putting up one of their fancies and contracting the price. With Pricewise, punters know the sort of race Segal will be tipping on – usually the big handicaps or group races of the day – and if you are concerned about him giving your selection then you need to get on the night before; with this sort of race, the markets are available from the day before the race if not even earlier so there is no excuse for not having at least half the stake on before the day of the race.

In reality, Segal’s doings have no real impact on my daily punting as he rarely does Irish racing and Gary O’Brien of attheraces has a much bigger influence on the market, not least because most of the Irish morning prices are fragile. One needs to be aware of the time his tips go up – usually between 10.30am and 11am though not always – and keep an eye on the ATR website. In fairness to O’Brien, the prices of the horses he tips don’t tend to contract instantly so one has a chance to get; from what I can gather this is not the case with the tips of Hugh Taylor whose selections have their prices cut to ribbons within seconds.

With O’Brien, as with any tipster for that matter, it can be useful to pre-empt his selections. Oftentimes he will go for the same type of horse, if not the same horse itself as he has done with something like Sure Reef in 2012; he has put that one up at least four times this year so if you fancied it, it was one to get on early. Pricewise Extra, usually released at midday on the day of the race is another tipping service that has power, notably so when Segal is in situ.

An awareness of stables that like to back their horses, and perhaps more importantly when they like to do so, is another skill of the good market reader. I am not so much talking about traditional gambling yards like those of Charles Byrnes or Tony Martin; horses from that sort of stable are underpriced as a rule and are ones to be against in most cases though they train mainly over jumps so are of little interest to me. Of course, all stables back their horses to some degree or another, some a lot more expertly than others, and if you intend backing one of their runners it’s important to know their modus operandi.

For example, the Reggie Roberts yard seem to have a clear method behind their gambles; they want to get on as early as possible with the morning prices, often long before all the layers have priced up, though I can’t really see this as a good strategy as the limits at this time of the day tend to be restrictive. They landed one such gamble this past weekend with Timeless Call at Dundalk. The Kevin Prendergast stable tend to back their better 2yos early in the morning too and often it is a case that no price is short enough about an unraced sort – see Nurpur earlier in the year at Leopardstown. In such cases, they often become insensitive to price and silly season kicks in so as a rule it’s probably best to oppose them though it should be pointed out that the usefulness of this approach is not what it was with the yard not having so many winners these days.

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8 replies
  1. mick says:

    Very good post Tony containing some good advice.I tend to look for betting patterns from different stables and even owners as its not only helpful in deciding when to place your wager if you wish to back one of theirs but also when opposing one.

  2. Johnny5 says:


    Very interesting article – thanks

    I feel a Bisogno/Worrall style SotD or Market Movements of the day column could be built to spot these punts …

    One key way to manage profitability is the use of BOG bookmakers which is invaluable on the occasion that a drifting winner is backed

    It still has the benefit of taking the price one believes is value , with the insurance of not getting a worse deal

    Bet365 the daddy of this as they also offer this on forecasts and tricasts , greyhounds , dog forecasts and tricasts .

  3. Pennies Punter says:

    I think all punters generally find trainers/jockeys that they almost develop a sixth sense rapport with. I was on to O’ Meara very early on when he was still under the radar. I learned a long time ago that some of the smaller stables are the places to pursue profit because often they need to land three or four big gambles every year to stay in business. They simply don’t have enough horses to stay afloat solely on training fees.

    On the other hand there are trainers where it seems impossible to get any form of ‘handle’ on even though they get frequent winners. For example David Evans and Richard Guest. I cannot for the life of me find any pattern or consistent basis on whith they either run their horses or win with them. Do other punters find this problem? I would be surprised if they didn’t.

  4. KPnutz says:

    The Nurpur example is an extreme one. She was available at 4/1 in the morning and happened to run into a vey useful filly from the John Oxx yard. John Oxx’s yard struggle to know what horse is best in the morning markets because he’s simply not a punting tyard and works his horses in a way that keeps their ability masked. The market forces that left her trade at 7/1 in the morning were far worse than the Nurpur backers.

  5. KPnutz says:

    The more I think about this the more I disagree with your point. It’s not the stable that causes the “silly season” in the morning. It’s an absolute fact that it only takes one and I mean one ‘mark’ to back a horse in the morning to cause a price crash. It’s not the stable ghat keeps ploughing in. It’s the lemmings that don’t know a good mark from a bad mark. You can’t respect early moves unless you know why the first move was made. That’s the key with early moves, unless you know why their moving the price you can’t join in but that never stops the “silly season”. To blame the yard for taking any price is lazy, it’s a not how it works.

    • Matt Bisogno says:

      I don’t think it’s possible to be so categorical, KP. I think it sometimes IS the yard. Not always, but often enough. Some stables gamble.

      Your point about knowing WHY a move has started is spot on, and that could be because you know a yard gambles. It could also be because you know a horse has back class, a favourable pace scenario, or whatever.

      It’s impossible to discount, or to exclusively nominate, a single cause. Racing is of course much more nuanced than that. 🙂


  6. Peter says:

    Good read. Agree with most. There are definite yards who bolt early in the morning. I cannot understand this. As you get less on, set alarm bells ringing, the market overreacts and leaves you with little or no value taken.
    The beauty of knowing (hoping) your selection is value is generally there may be room as well. Eg 12/1 shot you would back down to 6/1 minimum, the cut off in your mind where horse stops being value. In morning horses are cut drastically for little staked eg 10/1-15/2-6/1-4/1. Where as on the show or during racing price movements maybe by the half eg 10/1-9/1-8/1-15/2-7/1-13/2 etc and an intense 15min period you may get ten times more on whilst knowing more about how horse travelled, ground, non runners/r4s etc
    I think yards who play early have a poor strategy or are a big yard who struggle to keep information from travelling outside it, essentially the staff like a punt and it’s a race to get on first thing. The K Prendergast is a good example I believe, horses are often backed in the morning to a price at say midday, which is shorter than it’s SP.

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