#1- Bet in the morning, shop around for the value and play when the terms are favourable
The Royal Ascot betting ring has some of the strongest layers in the country, more than willing to lay bets in any size demanded, but in the past decade or so most of the business has drained away from the track. However, the expenses remain fearsomely high for layers and as a result they now bet to a much higher margin, with the prices broadly uniform and always several ticks below the Betfair price.
There is no doubt at all that the value lies in shopping around the pick of the morning prices with the numerous off-course bookmakers, all fighting each other to be top price the front ones in the market (and usually with best odds guaranteed and 1/4 the odds a place all races). At all major festivals these days, the price grid in the morning rarely gets anywhere close to 100% when taking into account the best prices available and the astute punter is usually given a much easier time of things "getting on" given the nature of the ultra competitive racing.
Play early, shop around, play each-way when the terms are right, give yourself a real chance to profit while the value is there in the morning rather than when the dust has settled come post time.
#2- Be patient and don't play in every race
There are 30 races over the five days with 17 Group races, and plenty of them are extremely competitive, huge field contests where the margins are high and the each-way terms not in the punters favour. Pick your punches, don't get involved just to be part of the action. It can be very tempting to punt race to race and chase any losses when the racing is of such a high standard (and some really talented top notch performers are available at much bigger prices than they are usually sent off). Have a clearly betting strategy and stick to it.
#3- Don't underestimate the foreign trained raiders
With over four million pounds in prize money, the Royal meeting has traditionally attracted runners from all around the world and in recent years this has grown considerably. This year there are 164 overseas entries (beating a previous best of 156 in 2013). These include a record 35 possible runners from outside of Europe, previous high 27, so clearly the international appeal of this week is growing apace.
Wesley Ward (top USA trainer who specialises in producing very pacey speedballs) often aims his fastest juveniles at this meeting, and they have made a real impact (often looking more like 3-y-o's against their leaner UK opponents). The French challenge has traditionally been strong, with Solow a standard bearer at the highest level recently (however he will miss trying to retain his title this season after sustaining a leg injury). A Shin Hikari is set to represent Japan in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes and could be one of the market principals judged on his top class form achieved at home. The five-year-old came to prominence with an impressive front-running victory in the Group One Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin in December.
#4- Look for prominent racers on the round course
The round course at Ascot is remarkably sharp, with the races often won by those racing handily and getting first run off the final turn (and quickening clear while others are forced to fan out wide and lose ground from off the back). Try and identify obvious front-runners who are likely to get an unpestered lead and dictate their own tempo. Often in the Group 1's a pacemaker will be added to assist the market leader (with Aidan O'Brien in particularly very adept at getting tactics right for his best horses), Work out how you think the races will be run, lean towards those likely to be ridden forwards and avoid jockeys such as Jamie Spencer who are often looking to do the impossible and come from last to first regardless of the tempo of the race.
#5- Course form works out back here time and time again
Take close notice of previous course winners returning to the scene of their former triumph. They have a very good record at this meeting and pay to follow. Fast ground and true run big field races are the usual conditions for all of the five days, and clearly these unique factors suit certain horses more than others. The hard-pulling handicapper who often fails to settle in the early stages in smaller fields, can suddenly drop the bit in races run at a breakneck gallop from the gate, utilising his energy much better and finishing strongly rather than fading when asked to quicken. In the impossible handicaps in particular, previous CD winners often outrun their price, even if they have not shown much in recent starts.
#6- Search for fresh horses who have been laid out for this meeting
The Royal meeting falls right in the middle of a very busy summer season on the turf, coming after the Guineas and Derby meetings. For many it can be one race too many in a short space of time, with the fast ground taking its toll and the edge taken off their peak performance by previous battles at the highest level. Search instead for runners deliberately aimed at this meeting, with perhaps just one run so far this season and other targets swerved to wait for the valuable prizes on offer. The two-year-old races in particular tend to go to runners with just one or perhaps two runs under their belt so far, as the exposed, proven sorts are found wanting as the later juveniles come out. Some of the early season, small field form on the turf can also be meaningless if it has come on much softer ground (the wet spring in 2016 makes this particularly relevant), and winning form does not often get backed up as the ground changes.
#7- Avoid the overbet public following horses and jockeys
Frankie Dettori has a huge following at Ascot, with the public remembering his Magnificent 7 in the distant past, and all of his rides are sure to be well supported and tend to be underpriced as a result. In the same way, the Ryan Moore ridden horses often represent little value, especially the Coolmore runners that are hyped up and expected to be punted by their very wealthy (and astute) connections. Try and look away from the obvious and find bigger prices, particularly with runners from overseas or those horses ridden by promising claimers such as Sean Levey or Tom Marquand. These are not household names (yet) but are riders on the up who have shown already in 2016 that they have what it takes at the top table.
#8- Wait to see any draw bias in the huge fields up the straight course
The track is always in immaculate condition, with state of the art watering ensuring that there is a lush covering of grass and the turf usually riding on the fast side of good (and often genuinely firm by the Friday and Saturday). However, there can be a pronounced bias towards one side of the track or the other on the straight course, and the shrewd punters will be very quick to latch onto this by watching carefully the first race or two each day. Sometimes the apparent dominance of high or low drawn numbers can be down to where the pace is drawn in any race, but frequently a strip of ground will be slightly faster and this can translate to a significant advantage by the finish of some of the big field handicaps (where the field always splits into at least two groups). With all the racing priced up early, the astute players can take advantage of any bias by backing a few of the runners with the best draw later on in the card (before the public latches on and the prices crash).
#9- Take advantage of all the bookmaker offers, concessions and free bets
With racing more and more of a loss leader for many firms, the value on offer can be superb for the more discerning punter. Not only are the best prices available rarely over 100% across the ever-growing band of eager bookmakers, but there is a huge range of enhanced prices and concessions available on the day of the big race. Check the invaluable bettingexpert free bets page for a summary of the best available for Royal Ascot 2019, and make sure you have a full range of accounts funded and ready to take advantage.
#10- Nap of the 2019 meeting
Check back here for our Royal Ascot 2019 NAP of the meeting.
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