Monday, 7 April 2008

Future horse-racing strategy

I touched on this in an earlier post but I’d like to expand on what I’m going to be doing on the horse-racing going forward. Part of the reason for this is so that I stick to it!

Basically, when I’ve had these crazy ideas of gambling on horse-racing and trying to become a professional gambler or trying to trade full-time, one thing has remained constant as far I can see. My ability to pick out nice priced handicapped winners is hopefully a skill I retain and now’s the time to try to use it.

There are three main reasons why I’ve never made much money from gambling on horse-racing in the past.

One has been a lack of capital. I’ve only been working full-time for 3 years as I was at university before that for 4 years, so I’ve haven’t really been able to gamble much as I couldn’t afford to lose! Once I return to work though, I’ll be a bit better off than I have been for a while and I can afford to set up a betting balance purely to gamble with.

Another reason is my lack of discipline. Like most gamblers, when I want to put on a horse, I usually do it for enjoyment and not purely to win. Anytime I do find one I really fancy, I usually back it with higher stakes and I do well from doing this. However, all my profits are usually eroded in the long-run from my other bets which are just for the sake of it. One thing I have developed over the last 2 months is more discipline and I can watch a race now without betting on it! This probably seems a bit strange to most people but I’m the sort of person who would happily waste £2-£5 on a race just because I’m watching it! This has now stopped I’m glad to say!

Lastly, I have found that my ability to pick winners is highly correlated to the amount of time I spend studying the form for the race. Sometimes, I can take this a bit too far but I usually try to limit myself to 45 minutes a race or so depending on the size of the field and the type of race. Unraced 2 Year old maidens don’t take very long to analyse!

So, I now have a little bit of capital, a bit of discipline and a bit of time on my hands. Therefore, now seems the time to try to exploit my understanding of form and try to win from it.

Which races will I bet on?

Past experience has shown that I’m much better at reading form on Flat Turf racing rather than NH racing or All Weather. I think there are fewer imponderables on the flat turf racing than NH racing and All Weather racing.

Obviously, the Flat turf season runs from April to September really, so I don’t have a plan for the winter! I’ll worry about this when the time comes……

On the flat, there are certain races which I will always avoid. I will not bet in Sellers or Claimers simply because the horses which run in these races are not very good. Rarely, I will back a horse in a claimer simply because it’s claiming amount means that it is very well handicapped but these horses are usually very easy to find and will be short-priced favourites.

I will not bet in any 2 year old race as there is no form to go on. Simple as that!

I will not bet in 3 year old + maidens as there is not enough form to go on. In maiden races, you need to try to separate the horses which are trying to win the race and the horses which are trying to get a handicap mark. There is nothing wrong with this in my eyes but I wish people would admit that this goes on in racing. Everyone knows that a horse which is pretty ordinary doesn’t want to finish in front of a 70+ rated horse as the handicapper may read the race literally and handicap the horse accordingly.

I tend to not bet in Listed or Group races as the betting tends to be very informative in these races and there is no margin for the punters. Unless I stumble across a Group horse which everyone thinks is only a handicapper, I will not bet in group races.

So, for all of the reasons above, we are left with 2 year old handicaps, 3 year old handicaps, 3 year old and older handicaps and 4 year olds plus handicaps.

I will never bet in a 2 year old handicap unless I find a horse which is extremely well handicapped. These races tend to favour the favourites and those higher up in the weights but 2 year olds can improve significantly as a season progresses, so it is difficult to work out which horses are well handicapped.

Same comment applies to 3 year old handicaps. Unless I find a horse which is very well handicapped, I will not touch 3 Year Old handicaps. The only people who should bet on these races are the stable staff as they must know how well handicapped their horse is. Punters have little chance.

In 3 year old and older handicaps, I will never bet on a 3 year old. I don’t care how well handicapped the horse is and how much it has in hand, I will not take a 3 year old to beat older horses. I will only bet in these races if I can find an older horse to beat the 3 year olds.

So, we are left with 4 year old plus handicaps…….

These are the races I specialise in and have done for years. Basically, by the time a flat horse reached age 4+, it is very mature and will be on a realistic handicap mark. However, lots of horses still improve with age and can exploit their handicap mark.

In these sorts of handicaps, there are always 4 types of horses:

Horses which are in form and increasing up the handicap
Horses which are in form and at the same mark
Horses which are out of form and at the same mark
Horses which are out of form and coming down the handicap.

I tend to specialise in the top group and especially the bottom group. Horses whose handicap mark isn’t changing aren’t going to be winning races. If they haven’t managed to win off this mark already, unless they have feasible excuses (ground, draw etc.), then why should they suddenly win?

Horses which are improving and going up the handicap will usually be the short priced horses in the race. I tend to ignore the short-priced horses as I like to look for value bets and every so often, you may get a horse which was 2nd last time and has been increased a few pounds by the handicapper. This will be scorned upon by the trainer and the press and as such the horse will be over-priced. If I think the handicapper was correct to increase its mark even though it lost, I will back it accordingly.

OK, so we are now on the horses which are out of form and who are coming down the handicap mark accordingly. These are the ‘jewels in the crown’ and the horses that I’m going to be concentrating on for the remainder of The Experiment. The ideal horse is a horse who has been badly out of form but who then shows a glimmer of ability. These are the ones I’ll be looking for.

I have had some amazing priced winners over the years from backing these sorts of horses but the annoying thing about these horses is that you only get one opportunity to back these horses. Once the horse has bounced back to form, the world and his wife will know about it and the price will be gone. The skill in reading the form is to be able to find the horse before everyone else………….

I can give you 100s of examples from over the years but I will give you an example of a race I analysed about 2 weeks ago. This was the first race I analysed on the flat this year (and I haven’t done any since!)

It was a 6f handicap at Pontefract and after looking at the form, I spotted 2 potential ‘good things’ in the race. These were Swinbrook and Varadouro. I backed both for £5 stakes at decent prices the night before the race. When I came home at lunchtime before the race to trade, I noticed that I backed Varadouro at 40 and it was now 60 on Betfair. I backed Swinbrook at 12 and it was now 6.

I then got on with my trading and when it came to that race, I noticed that Varadouro was trading at 36. I had got myself an OK bet but I should have backed it again at 60!

Anyway, I traded on Swinbrook as I was sure that would drift and it rightly drifted on course as all the wise money was down in the morning. However, I should have traded on Varadouro as it was backed from 36 to 12 on Betfair in the space of 5 minutes. Clearly, someone has spotted it was well handicapped!

Anyway, the race was run and Swinbrook got beat by a head and Varadouro finished 4th having travelled well. Both traded at less than 2 in running. Unfortunately, I didn’t leave in any in-running lays as I wasn’t thinking about this at the time.

In summary, I won nothing from backing these 2 as I only had £2 stakes on them.

Now, what would have happened if I had backed both with £20? I could have had £20 on Varadouro at 36, laid £20 off at 20 or around this mark and had a riskfree return of £320. I could have put an in running lay of 2 for £100 and won £100 guaranteed on the race. Obviously, I could have done a similar thing with Swinbrook.

As I said above, the key to finding well handicapped horses is that you need to do it before everyone else. Swinbrook turned out in a handicap 7 days later and won at 7/4.

So, that’s my strategy for the horse-racing going forward. I will use stakes of £10-£50 on each horse depending on the price of the horse and how well handicapped I think it is.

I will look to get my stake back and generate a riskfree return on every horse I bet on. Hopefully, the riskfree returns will outweigh any losses I may suffer from not getting my bet matched.

One issue I may have is that when I’m back at work, I’ll need to enter my backs and lays the night before the race. This is a very dangerous strategy but it’s the best I can think of at the moment. I do have Betfair on my mobile phone, so I can check if my bets are matched while I’m at work.

Since I’m going to be doing my form analysis the night before the race, I’ll try to post up any selections and my stake amount on the blog.

I’d be interested to hear from anyone out there who understands form and would like any comments about what I propose to do.

3 comments:

Alistair said...

Hi Graeme

Good luck with your knew plan for the horses. Certainly, if your not happy trading the horses pre-race then you are wise to quit. However, having read your last two posts I couldn't help think that perhaps you've been coming at the trading side from the wrong angle.

You seem to have genuine skill in understanding the form figures and you certainly are strong in your conviction regarding the position you formulate from those studies. In many respects such analysis counts for nothing when trading the pre-race markets but it's a completely different matter when one considers the in-play markets.

It may simply be that your skills are more suited to trading the in-play markets and this might provide another area to look at that may compliment your new plan.

Anyway, something to think about perhaps.

Best of luck

Alistair

Anonymous said...

Hi Graeme.

That's a couple of long posts there but it's good reading as usual. Keep it up.

I'm quite interested in understanding how you analyse a race. You appear to think you have an excellent knowledge of form but I've come across lots of punters who think they can read the form book but they don't have a clue about form.

I'm not really a formbook man myself but I do like to think I know a little bit about form. Can you possibly talk through an example of a race so we can see how you analyse it. Obviously, I don't expect you to reveal all of your secrets but it would help readers like myself understand exactly what it is you are trying to do.

Incidentally, I've continued to follow your golf selections and like you, I'm showing a nice profit thus far. Can you post up your Master's selections at some point please.

Thanks,

Rob

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