Focus on specific race types
The British Horseracing Board’s stats for the 2010 season showed that over both codes there were 1,392 meetings, 9,566 races and 92,025 individual runners.
It’s clear that unless you have the memory of Rain-man it is going to be impossible to stay on top of the form for ninety two thousand runners.
As such it’s a helpful to try to focus on the form of the horses that race in a specific area of the sport. For example some profitable racing gamblers will restrict their betting largely to 2 year olds on the flat, and novice hurdlers for the winter code.
Be selective with your bet frequency
There are no hard and fast rules to how many bets a winning punter should have, but it is worth bearing in mind that the bookmakers have to price up 9,500 races every season, a gambler only has to bet on a finite number of them.
Sometimes you can go through a card and are confident that you have selected horses that are viable winners, and crucially offer good value.
Come 4pm you have seen no horse come better than second and your best bet of the day fell at the last hurdle when leading convincingly.
The temptation that hits us all is to bet much larger in our selection for the fifth race, or even to smash into the “jolly” (slang for market leader) in the bumper that ends the card.
Perhaps we are drawn to heavily back the favourite in the last even though we didn’t intend to even bet in the race, having previously deemed the race unfathomable and planned to leave early to beat the traffic.
Don’t do it! Never chase, it either goes wrong, or even if it works you end up feeling bad and with shredded confidence the next time you are betting on the races.
If you are betting big it’s best not to have your brain fuddled by alcohol, so try not to get sloshed when punting!
I personally find that it’s nice to have a clear mind when gambling, if I have big worries foremost in my head I find it hard to focus on making the right choices when betting.
The state of the ground is a major consideration when looking to pick a winner in horse racing.
In more recent times accuracy of going has been improved by the introduction of a “going” stick, though there is still a great degree of scepticism amongst the betting public as to its accuracy.
The going varies from hard, firm, good to firm, good, good to soft, soft and heavy. Horses will show differing levels of form on different going, with some animals preferring it “top of the ground” and others out and out mud-larks.
The reasoning for varying performances on differing surfaces is a mixture of pedigree, physique, temperament and stamina.
It’s important to consider the going carefully before placing a bet.
A tip many successful punters employ is to analyse the earlier races times and how confirmed going horses perform; often an inaccuracy with the official going report can be detected. As with any edge over the betting market, it can be exploited for profit!
The trip is an important variable; ideally it is beneficial to look for good performances over the same or a similar trip.
If a horse is being stepped up/down in trip it is best if the increase isn’t too major.
Some flat courses are considered to be an easier trip than uphill tracks, as such a 7f’s race at Newmarket would be comparable to 6f’s at Sandown.
Be wary of a handicap horse running over a trip that doesn’t appear to suit, this is an often used strategy to get a horse back down to a lower handicap mark.
Breeding is of great interest to some punters and of less concern to others, partly because it has more relevance to those who focus their betting attentions on unexposed flat racing than contests for runners with reams of form.
For fans of flat racing, pedigree offers a real long term interest, as when you get older you start to see the offspring of the horses you followed start to appear on the track!
Jumps racing horses at the top level have considerably longer careers than their more expensive brethren on the flat, but with flat stars going to stud a different ingredient is added to the sport.
In short breeding is very important when looking at two year olds, or three year old flat horses, and it’s worth looking into the form of both sire and dam.
Pedigree is more of a focus for flat racing than jumps, though there is still relevant information in the public domain for those that require it.
In recent times French bred jumps horses have started to appear, amongst them public heroes like Kauto Star.
It is worth bearing in mind that they are bred to jump smaller French obstacles and tend to be of a smaller build than British/Irish breds, so can struggle in large field races.
Purists who are interested in breeding for both betting and as an interest should be sure to read Tony Morris’ regular Racing Post column on the subject.
The racehorse is bred from a species that by nature runs in a pack, and stays close to other horses to escape from predators.
The Thoroughbred bloodline picks chosen horses that display the opposite of this pack mentality, and hence the breed sees the benefit of champions whose natural instinct is to race ahead of its fellows and show fighting characteristics.
Such natural “triers” are held to be genuine, whereas horses that prefer to shy away from a challenge are often labelled as un-genuine.
The genuine and un-genuine labels are extremes, with the majority of runners falling in middle ground.
For example some runners will need to be produced late as if they hit the front too early they turn off.
Horses that suffer from a suspect temperament can be reinvigorated by the benefit of being given headgear to restrict their vision (blinkers, visor, hood, cheek pieces).
As a simple rule, unless a big price I tend to overlook horses that have a temperament issue that is being remedied by head-gear. Likewise I don’t frequently like chancing horses that have to be produced late, unless sure that the race will be run to suit perfectly.
When picking a horse to carry my bet the ideal is a game and genuine runner that will do its utmost to win.
It’s worth looking at running frequency when looking to pick bets, a long lay off is often indicative of an injury.
When betting older horses making a seasonal debut it is beneficial to see if they have gone well fresh in the past, or indeed if the trainer has a record of producing horses that can run well.
A caveat to add is that Godolphin will often race their horses in trial races at their training grounds, as such their inmates typically don’t “need a run” to show solid form.
In the heat of the season it’s good to see a horse have between 25-50 days off between performances (less important for sprinters) as this indicates a horse is fully recovered from its exertions, but is free from an injury that may explain a longer absence.
I personally don’t tend to back runners that are returned to the track almost instantaneously after recording a victory, they can overcome the invariable penalty weight but I find backing them a bit of a penalty kick and prefer to stick to runners with form that stands with greater certitude.
I wrote a feature blog about paddock judgement, but as a summary the main things to look out for are the negatives, these being a horse that is sweating profusely (without a record of doing so and still running well) and/or an animal that is “on its toes” and showing distress.If you are at the track (or watching on television) then it is beneficial to observe the runner going down to post, if the horse is bolting and expending excess energy then it is worth taking serious note.
If you observe these negative traits then it is advisable to either not bet the relevant horse, or if you still fancy it as value consider reducing the betting stake.
In terms of positive signs, a horse that is well muscled, with alert ears and a good shiny coat is the ideal.
But do bear in mind that even if a horse is in peak fitness it still isn’t guaranteed to show more than five or six pounds improvement in form, an unfit champion will beat a supremely conditioned plater!
A handicapper’s impossible task is to see each horse cross the line at the exact same time, and by careful examination of form horses are assigned a weight according to their ability.
On the flat it’s accepted that over 5f’s 1lb accounts for a neck, over a mile 2lbs is a length, and over 2 miles 1lb is a length. So that means that in a 1m handicap horse A who carries 4lbs more than horse B would finish two lengths ahead of horse B off level weights.
Over jumps for standard distances I consider a lb to be a length, and for 3m+ I use a length and a half as the rule of thumb.
In the racing press there is always a handicap chart showing the form of runners under various marks, and it is often possible to see a horse that is returning to what can be a winning mark. If a horse is still fit and strong and still running to a true form then such beneficial handicap marks can be an indication of the time to have a bet.
It’s possible to observe horses that have been raced over the wrong trip to get their handicap mark lowered, and if you can identify the time when the handicap is right and the conditions are correct then it’s possible to enjoy great betting profits from betting on handicaps.
The last piece of advice when betting on handicap contests is to allow for improvement in form for younger progressive sorts, stability of form for exposed and solid types, and a deterioration of form for older horses whose career is in decline.
The modern punter has never had it so good!
If you want to win with betting on races then it’s important that you spend a lot of time following and researching racing.
The main resources I use are the Racing Post newspaper and website (the video replays are very good) and subscriptions to racing channels to follow the form.
In addition, it’s essential to get good value bets so always check out the offers on Sportsbook Guardian.
Run race in mind’s eye
Try to think whether the race is lined up to suit front runners (slow early pace) or will benefit stayers (quick early pace).
In top races there are often pace makers that are set to tow them along. If you run the race in your mind it helps to predict an outcome.
Shape of race
Individual punters will find certain forms of racing will suit them; the same will apply to shapes of races.
I personally prefer a field that isn’t unmanageable, and with a clear betting shape, typically with a favourite that can be supported or opposed.
An ideal race would be a nine runner affair with a 6/4 favourite.
If I can rule the favourite out as under-priced and not fancied I can invariably find value in the opposition.
I prefer this type of race to an 18 runner field where the betting is 13/2 joint favourites. Partly because the ability to knock a sizeable percentage of the betting book out is very appealable and also because when the market leader is beaten there are invariably clear and logical alternatives.
It’s hard to enunciate in words, but these types of betting shape races are where most of my profits come from and are the races I focus on.
In addition with a short priced favourite the market is set up for each-way stealing which in many cases will see the each-way book offering very generous prices.
Another consideration is that with a focus on medium sized fields, often the outsiders can be ruled out and if you decide to oppose the market leader there are only 3-4 likely winners.
This means form study won’t take as long as for a 25 runner race, where any of the 25 could quite foreseeably win.
When perhaps there are only two hours to go through the form, I have a preference to be able to study 4-5 races instead of just 1 or 2 massive field wide-open contests.
It is always a good sign if a horse has shown good solid form around the track it’s racing on.
If the animal has won at the track it will have a “C” next to its name in the race-card, and even better “CD” if it has won both at the track and on the same distance.
The expression “horses for courses” is oft used in day to day life (as is “pass the buck”) with most users of the saying not attributing that its meaning derives from race betting.
The ability to handle a course is one of the crucial variants along with ability to perform on the going and stay the trip.
There are several different courses, some are left handed, some are right, some have hills and slopes (undulations), others are particularly tight, or offer sweeping bends.
All different courses will suit specific runners.
For example Desert Orchid though he won plenty of big races going left handed had a tendency to jump to the right when tired, and partly for this reason didn’t enter the Grand National with its tight left turns.
By following racing it’s possible to observe which horses will be best suited to individual tracks, as mentioned elsewhere it can pay dividends to focus attention on a specific type of racing in order to stay on top of the form.
Today’s gamblers have more information at their fingertips than ever before, and a recent innovation is race replays being streamed to subscribers of the Racing Post’s website. These videos can prove indispensible.
As a general rule big horses with a wide galloping gait are better suited to courses that offer big smooth bends that can offer them the chance to use their speed around the turns.
Smaller horses of a more compact nature are better suited to handling the corners of a tight track like Chester.
Horses with an abundance of speed over stamina are typically better suited to courses with a level surface, upon which they can bring their pace to bear.
Likewise dour stayers can often employ their stamina to take victory at tracks with inclines, a classic example being the uphill finish at Cheltenham.
The last thing to point out regarding course form is rather obvious, but important nonetheless. Look for a good performance on a similar track, for example if your selection ran well at Newbury, then it’s likely good form will be repeated at Haydock which shares the characteristics of being left handed, level, and with wide turns.
For a complete list of UK Racecourses and running specifics for betting visit the gallery here.
By following racing regularly you will notice that certain jockeys are suited to particular horses, for example a strong pilot like Tony McCoy is best suited to grinding out a win on a dour 3m Handicap Chaser on bottomless going whilst other horses are better suited by a softer ride by a different jockey.
It pays to give thought to how a horse will be ridden and the respective skills of the person on board.
It is not a route to profitability to base betting purely on the jockey as a jockey is a not a magician (well with a few exceptions!). But it does help to have a good rider on board.
There are a few jockeys who punters view as bad. If you don’t like the jockey who is riding the horse you wish to bet on, then it’s worth either passing on the bet, or reducing stake accordingly.
In my opinion a more important factor than jockey is the trainer.
A jockey can be out of form, but physically he/she is fine, they are just having bad luck, or making a few bad decisions. However a trainer may have something physically affecting their entire yard, often a virus or a cough will lay waste to the chances of all the trainer’s charges. It’s important to analyse recent results to check all is fine with the yard.
If an illness lingers in a yard for over a month big profits can be obtained by identifying when the horses return to full fitness as the handicappers will often be well treated.
Full data on Trainer’s form is found in the racing press.
For flat racing (especially over shorter distances) the draw is an important consideration.
The best resource for this is the day’s Racing Post; the paper’s data will indicate the potential draw advantage/disadvantage.
As with the going, monitor the races throughout the day to ascertain if there is a new draw advantage forming.
Time in greyhound racing is absolutely key but surprisingly for horse racing it’s not the absolute that a new comer to betting would consider.
Years ago I worked at Sporting Index and asked the head trader for racing whether he looked at the clock when pricing a race and his view was that it was not a prime concern.
Likewise it’s interesting to note that the “Top Speed” rating always finishes well down the pack in the Racing Post tipsters challenge.
In the States where racing is primarily conducted on artificial surfaces the stopwatch is given much greater credence and sectional timing is offered as the norm.
On all weather surfaces in the UK, there is a growing trend seeing clock watchers gain more of an edge.
With the consistency of going that artificial tracks offer timings are set to become more relevant to people’s horse betting systems.
Personally it’s not a chief consideration when I am analysing the form, but then I don’t focus heavily on the all weather.
The tagline for betting shops’ virtual racing is “there is nothing virtual about a winner”, that’s true, but by betting on random number generated racing you also guarantee that you are not getting value.
In the long run, to finish profitably each year you need to both pick a fair share of winners, and ultimately get value odds.
When having a bet, back at 3/1 if you consider the horse to be 5/2, but leave if it is priced at 15/8.