How To Use A Racing Database To Find Winners
There a many horse racing databases on the market, but which is best in terms of both usability and pricing? In this article we discuss a range of racing database options and explain why bettingexpert racing expert Stephen Harris prefers to use Timeform.
Any racing punter, whether full time or recreational, should use one of the many excellent racing databases available to help give them an edge over the market. There are numerous excellent products on the market, some of them now competitively priced and very time efficient. In recent years some up-and-coming sites have also emerged, often offering completely different approaches to pre-race analysis.
When it comes to choosing a racing database, there are a number of options available.
Proform for example offer a large number of statistical tools for discovering unconsidered trends. It is as good as your imagination is and can unveil some quite startling statistics if used properly.
Both Attheraces and Racing UK websites now offer access to live racing broadcast on their respective TV channels which is a very helpful tool, while the Racing Post website (when working smoothly) is pretty comprehensive and offers up to date live information about the day’s action, combined with the standard results data and exclusive Racing Post ratings.
How To Use Timeform To Find Winners
In this article we take a look at the positive aspects of using bettingexpert racing expert Stephen Harris' preferred racing database, Timeform. He has used Timeform in various guises for over twenty years as a punter and bookmaker, and found them the most consistent and authoritative, with a relatively simple database to access and understand.
1. Reasonably Priced
Timeform is affordable and can be tailored to suit each punters individual needs. Access to the full database with ratings works out at a few pounds a day, while there is a free app to look at the most basic summaries of a horse’s performance (with comments about its chances on the day of racing).
For the more recreational punter who does not have the time to maintain a full database with his own comments and views, it is possible to buy racecards for around five pounds per meeting, or buy the weekly "black books" with a comprehensive analysis of the previous weeks action (including highlighting the most eye catching performances in the "horse to follow" section).
Full speed figures and computer Timeform is more expensive, working out around fifty pounds per month, but it really is a case of working out which service suits your own budget (and time availability).
2. Full results database with invaluable exclusive Timeform ratings
Like many of the other services, Timeform offers a comprehensive database of horse racing results, combined with their own race analysis and exclusive ratings of every horse in every race.
They also provide comments on the characteristics of all runners, for example "best dominating and was taken on for the lead at a fast pace here" or "carries head awkwardly and not keen under pressure". This is a big improvement on the typical race comments available with their rivals, and is valuable given the expertise of their experienced race readers.
Understanding the traits and nature of each individual runner is a key aspect of successful betting on horse racing. There is little upside for instance in backing a proven front runner when several others have the same game plan. They are likely to spoil each other on the lead and tee things up for a more patiently ridden rival.
The Timeform results database is easy to navigate and can save enormous amounts of time in studying the form for a day’s racing. In the old days, one had paper ring binders full of that seasons form and had to manually find each race an individual horse had run in during that period. It genuinely took many hours to do the necessary research, whereas now the process is straightforward and simple. You still need judgement and understanding of the sport, but it is possible for a relative newcomer to pick things up quickly and start forming his own opinions.
It is easy for instance to access every career race for a chosen horse run on heavy ground, quickly forming an accurate view as to whether he handles deep conditions or otherwise. In a rapidly evolving betting market i.e if the ground eases dramatically after rain, this can be extremely useful for the astute punter.
3. Ability to add in your own comments and views
This facility is vital and means you can personalise the database in the mould of your own opinions. Adding comments can allow frankness about the merits of certain horses or riders, that Timeform may not be able to say for fear of upsetting/libelling connections. Also plenty of things go unseen, and watching racing over and over again means you can provide a unique insight that the market may have missed.
This is particularly true of early track positioning in all races, particularly over jumps, that largely go uncommented on but is important. The whole world will have spotted the unlucky loser that blunders his chance away at the last fence when poised to win, but who has spotted the tenderly ridden 5th who was given far too much ground to make up off a steady pace after a slow start.
Searching away from the obvious is the key to profitable betting these days. Using your eyes and recording those thoughts can still be rewarding.
4. Ready access to a broad range of statistics
Timeform provides a huge range of useful statistics about trainers and jockeys (both recent and long term achievements). With their excellent ratings they can provide a historical context for what has been needed to win certain races in the past.
Knowing for example that a rating of 75 has been enough to win the 2.30 at Thirsk for 9 of the past 10 years is a handy starting point. As usual with stats they can be a double edged sword, and those punters that rely on them entirely rather than using judgement to assess unique events, usually find winners easy to find after the event.
For those who are statistically minded Proform might be a better option, and their database is a lot more flexible in what information it can throw out at the punters request. If you would like to know the record of Sir Michael Stoute when teaming up with William Buick at York over the last ten seasons, or what percentage of Frankel's offspring win first time out, then Proform is an excellent tool.
5. Connection to Betfair now means live exchange prices are displayed on the racecard
This is very helpful and saves jumping between different windows to check the latest prices.
Having a price structure with every race also gives you an order in which to assess the individual runners, starting with the favourite and getting a feel for the depth to the races (Betfair has shown up how uncompetitive many races actually are, with several horses offered at huge prices with minimal support)
6. Succinct individual horse comments save time
When studying up to eight cards on a busy summer Saturday, using the Timeform comments can be a huge time saver, and they have the benefit of generally being accurate in pinpointing the optimum conditions needed for the horse to show its best form.
For the more casual or time strapped punter they can be invaluable and are miles ahead of the nearest competition in this regard. On the flat in particular, their snapshot of an unraced horses breeding can be particularly useful, with a pointer to the likely stamina capabilities based on the ability of the dam and sire especially handy.
They have also now added numerous features such as trainer form, jockey upgrades etc which are all useful in pinpointing those runners capable of improving for reasons that might not be obvious in the formbook.
7. An unbiased analysis
With the trade press and TV channels terrified of upsetting anyone in racing for fear of losing goodwill (or future interviews and coverage), Timeform remains professionally dispassionate and far less fawning than the normal coverage of the sport. If a horse looks unlikely he is awarded the dreaded Timeform squiggle (or more damningly, the double squiggle) to indicate temperament.
The merits of certain trainers and jockeys are discussed without fear or favour. There is no hidden agenda or bias, just clear-headed analysis in the quest for winners. Combined with your own detailed notes inserted easily into the database and readily accessed, it can be a very powerful tool in the backers armoury.
8. Speed figures and pioneering sectional analysis
Timeform speed figures provide an excellent "at a glance" assessment of the time merits of every particular race run in the UK, with the benefit of several decades of information to compare performances with.
It was the Timeform organisation that uncovered in 2015 that several races at our top tracks were actually being run over the wrong advertised distance, and most embarrassingly alerted Newcastle that their new AW track was also miles out with their race distances on the opening day! Without such an independent authoritative organisation, British racing would be in an even worse state.
Furthermore they have led the way with the quest for sectional times (furlong by furlong times of every race to provide accurate information of the pace races are run at). These are commonly available in the USA and in many other countries, but have so far been resisted on cost grounds by the BHA and racecourses.
Slowly though the tide is turning, with both Timeform and Racing UK gradually introducing the wider public to the benefits of such timings and adding a scientific, factual structure to every race.
In this information age it is imperative in attracting new blood that racing drags itself into the 21st century, and Timeform has been at the forefront of that process.
9. Coping with volume
There is now so much racing, particularly in the summer months when evening racing bombards the punter, that a decent database is imperative to keep up with the form and stay on top of it all. Most racing professionals will now focus on a certain area and become expert on it. Covering every side of the sport has become a virtually impossible task.
Betting expert’s racing expert Stephen Harris tends to focus on National Hunt racing (jumps), where it is possible to keep up with every race and make one’s own notes about each performance. Others may concentrate on 2yo races only on the flat, or sticking to just Group or Listed races. It really depends on your own preference and area where you feel your knowledge is strongest.
10. Pinpointing horses to follow
Timeform are excellent at finding future winners, with their "horses to follow" section each week in the black book very useful. Furthermore following those horses rated with a small "p" or large "P" alongside their actual figure have an excellent record, and are generally worth keeping on side of (although they can be overbet and too short these days given the dominance that Timeform has established in the marketplace).
These horses are noted as ones likely to improve dramatically on their current rating as they mature with more racing, and the organisation has decades of experience in race-reading behind it to be very accurate in this regard.
Three Negatives Of Using Timeform
1. Has become far too widely available
Since teaming up with Betfair, the Timeform product has been marketed much more widely (and successfully) and is available in various forms on a number of different sites.
Ratings and views that were previously only available to loyal subscribers are now in the public domain and this undoubtedly has a negative effect on their value (particularly in relation to prices available). Clear top rated horses or those awarded a "large P" are always well found in the market and the edge of having the ratings to hand has diminished.
2. Connection with Betfair has seen a slight drop in standards
With the Betfair merger it can be argued that some of the reporting and race analysis has dipped.
Some of the race comments are wide of the mark and you do get the impression, particularly on very busy Saturdays, that their reporting staff are spread very thinly and the coverage reduced.
3. Can make your own views merge with theirs and encourage laziness
The sheer scale of racing and trying to maintain a database can be overwhelming, and it can make you lazy and reliant purely on the official Timeform views and ratings.
Original thought is hard to maintain when faced with results from eight meetings on a busy summer’s day, and it can be tempting to not do the hard work yourself (this is in fairness more a problem with UK racing rather than a fault of the service itself).
However recreational or professional your interest in racing is, keeping and using a top class database can add to the experience both in terms of understanding and profitability. Timeform offers a service that is both comprehensive and versatile, with a vast bank of easy to use data and proven ratings, combined with the ability to add one’s own views and thoughts alongside theirs.
Combined with a fair pricing policy and a broad range of tailored products, and it really is head and shoulders above the competition in this field.