How To Bet On Flat Racing And Win
When Spring looms and the National Hunt season coming to a boil at Cheltenham in March, many punters thoughts turn to the start of the 2016 turf flat season. In this article we take a look at the months ahead and offer up some profitable ideas and betting hints for astute punters to follow.
#1 - Keep a "Draw diary"
Every day update an A-Z of all the flat courses, noting down any bias from the draw and rating it on a scale of 1-10. At almost every meeting of the season in 2015 at Pontefract for example, there was once again a dramatic pace bias against the far rail, with almost every race won in frontrunning style against the "magic carpet".
It is important to keep on top of this, and weather/watering means that such angles can change very quickly. Everyone is aware that a low draw is essential at the sharp Chester course, but often these biases are much more subtle and not in the public domain. At Catterick for example, frontrunners are always an advantage in sprints and it is very difficult to make ground up off the back on a fast surface, but when the ground softens up, the stands side rail can be hugely favoured (largely unraced on and less chewed up than the inside).
#2 - Compile and update daily your own ratings and specialise
Many of the most successful punters in flat racing compile their own ratings specific for certain categories of race. Whether it is juveniles or sprint handicappers, it is essential to focus in on a certain area and become "better than the market" in one aspect of the flat. The use of speed figures and sectionals, pioneered by the excellent Simon Rowlands (@RowleyfileRRR) is worth following for updated views, is one such example of expertise honed down to certain areas.
The amount of flat horse racing throughout the summer means it is almost impossible to stay on top of all the form, and cutting the workload down is imperative to stay sane and balanced. How can cutting down and specialising help you improve your betting on flat racing? Personally this means disregarding the all-weather meetings during the summer months, and putting a line through this altogether does manage to cut out a great deal of wasted time and energy. It is almost impossible when evening racing starts to effectively manage your time across all races, and the more astute and profitable flat racing punters recognise their limitations. Focus in on the 2-y-o's , keep your own notes and speedfigures, use a tracker. All those good intentions can soon go out the window when the sheer volume of racing through the summer gets on top of you. If you want to be profitable betting on flat horse racing, it is imperative to find a workable balance.
#3 - Watch everything in your chosen area of expertise and make notes
There is no getting away from the fact that watching flat horse racing is the key to becoming a consistently successful punter on the flat. Even the legendary professional Patrick Veitch amassed his fortune through hour after hour of "video watching and note taking". If you are relying solely on the comments of the traditional form books (many of whom pay their suppliers of "comments" a very low salary), then you are going to miss an awful lot. The obvious tends to get flagged up and overstated, while a lot of subtleties are missed completely. Some of the race commentaries now are done in two minutes by disinterested reporters. You can wonder if they watched the same race half the time. This laziness has to be improved upon to form a honed opinion of your own.
Concentrate on the first half of races to get an idea of who has been favoured or disadvantaged by the pace of the race, crowding, a poor draw etc. What happens in the final furlong is largely irrelevant and is something that even the laziest punter can remember. Many form books focus solely on what happens in the last two furlongs, i.e something having its run checked or a fast finisher off an overly fast gallop. But these findings are not secrets, and it is far better to watch the first two furlongs, especially in races under a mile, when early tactical decisions are far more critical in determining outcomes.
#4 - Avoid the obvious short priced favourites at the head of the market
If you really want to make money betting on flat racing, try and find reasons to play against underpriced, vulnerable favourites, public horses that are ridden by the top jockeys and trained by an establishment stable like Sir Michael Stoute. Be a contrarian and try to oppose the paper tips and hyped horses from big stables. Look for each-way races to play in where one of the few "runners" can be opposed, or is priced up on connections rather than actual form.
Finding these weak links in the chain is crucial to success when betting on flat horse racing. Stables such as Jeremy Noseda or Roger Varian have such a huge following that anything remotely "fancied" at the top of the market seems to have a momentum all of its own, regardless of their form chances. While the Betfair market in the last few minutes remains a very accurate guide as to what can be expected in the race itself, there is no doubt that things do get grossly "overbet" when they are fancied by the right faces. Very few people do the form properly on the flat, and a strong rumour or view of a select few high rollers can have a rapid crushing effect on the head of the market. Look elsewhere and away from the obvious.
#5 - Avoid playing strongly until the ground and weather settle down
The 2015 summer was something of a disaster for form students, with continuous rain and unusual ever-changing ground conditions throughout the season. Usually there is a sustained "golden period" that bookmakers dread, where conditions ride good or faster and the formbook settles down into an expensive groove of punter friendly results. This usually happens between June and August in the UK.
The modern age of information means there are no excuses for punters to be armed with the very latest news from the tracks, and following the courses and clerks on twitter is an excellent way of staying ahead of the game. Use the excellent @RCAGoingReports for information first thing every morning about any overnight rain, the current going and the forecast for the day ahead.
#6 - Get as many betting accounts as you possibly can
One of the hardest things these days is not necessarily finding the right horses and playing in the right races, but rather it is maintaining a portfolio of accounts so that the best prices can be obtained in the desired size. Many backers have now used up every wife, girlfriend, granny or local waiter, so find themselves swimming with all the other sharks on Betfair. The introduction of a premium charge has also made things decidedly difficult for many. New strategies to ensure survival have been sought.
Those who have a long term success rate at betting UK flat racing are going back to their roots by trying to get money on in the shops, employing a number of putter-oners to get through the layers defences while they are distracted counting 10p's from the Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs). In an encouraging move Coral now have guaranteed minimum amounts that they are willing to lay in the shops (2k after 11am during the week and 5k on a Saturday on the TV races). This is a step in the right direction and hopefully signals a return to bookmaking for the major chain (rather than the arcades they have basically become).
#7 - Avoid hype and gossip
The UK flat racing season has more coded messages flying around than the KGB at its peak during the Cold War. My favourite one that usually surfaces in the middle of April at Lingfield in a poor all weather maiden is "that is his best 2-y-o". But whatever the merits of these "secrets" there is little doubt that the market already knows about them before you do, so the price available is reflective of these pearls of wisdom. Experience tells us that your eyes are a far better judge than your ears. Generally speaking, backing first time out horses on the back of a "hot tip" is a route to the poorhouse and has no long term possibility of profit.
#8 - Structure the punting day carefully
It comes as a shock every year in April when the evening flat racing season kicks off in the UK, with often 6,7 or 8 meetings in one day, and many followers of the sport quickly feel overwhelmed by the volume of all the flat racing on offer (much of it low grade rubbish on the all-weather that is little more than fodder for the betting shops). The need to specialise is essential and putting a line completely through certain types of racing i.e the all-weather from April to September, becomes necessary for many.
It is also important to structure your punting week, with working seven days a week with only Sunday evening off a complete impossibility for all but the most dedicated. Keep a structure, have frequent breaks and regular nights off, otherwise it takes over completely and you can quickly become stale with it all, missing winners as a result.
#9 – Stables To Follow, Stables To Avoid
David Simcock and Richard Hughes are astute trainers, both on the up, with excellent strike rates and achieving what they have without the patronage of a big, high profile owner. Both are expert at landing a touch and the market is an excellent guide as to what is expected, with improvement from other yard's "cast offs" a particularly noticeable trait.
Conversely, the much feared and revered Sir Mark Prescott yard is one to consistently field against, with the obvious handicap "plots" consistently underpriced and struggling to make much of an impact these days. His reputation in the market assures there is never any value about his runners, and past performances are becoming a distant memory. As with most betting in this exchange driven age, the value tends to lie away from the obvious.
#10 – Horses To Follow For the 2016 Flat Racing Season
Bess of Hardwick: Only seen out twice for Cumani in 2015, but showed plenty of ability in defeat and victory, racing with the choke out when landing the odds at Wolverhampton in October. She is just the type to develop into a cracking handicapper at least this time around, as she learns to settle in the early stages and her stamina is drawn out further.
Swiss Affair: Impressed when getting off the mark at Windsor, where she was always cantering over her rivals and showed a smart turn of foot to assert. Seems sure to be campaigned realistically by the excellent Gosden yard and could easily develop into a Group or listed performer this summer.
Australian Queen: David Elsworth does not have many first time out winners, but the market spoke very positively for this Fastnet Rock filly at Kempton last Novemeber. However, backers had little chance as the missed the break and was soon racing green in rear, doing well to make steady headway out wide up the straight to finish a never nearer fifth. There will be loads of improvement in the tank, especially over trips of a mile plus, and she will surely take plenty of beating in ordinary maiden company when she reappears.