Making money betting on horse racing is becoming tougher and tougher, with the betting exchanges frequently "shopping" the opinion of the shrewdest professionals for just a few coppers traded early in the morning. In this article we consider strategies that may help us find some value away from the crowd.
#1- Follow new yards over the established "names"
Latch onto a select few smaller stables and become familiar with all of the inmates. Most up and coming stables have an excellent website where information about the regard that certain horses are held in, and what their preferences are in terms of going, track etc.
This is invaluable for punters and can provide a real edge away from the obvious. In particular news about wind-operations or excuses for disappointing runs can often appear that is not in the public domain. Stables such as Lawney Hill or Anthony Honeyball are two National Hunt racing yards with impressive strike rates in a relatively short space of time, both of whom are media-savvy and open with the public.
Far better to become an "expert" on less exposed yards that have just started out than to know what Paul Nicholls regards as the "next Kauto Star". The market still grossly over estimates the chances of runners from the top yards and the astute punter can take advantage of this.
#2- The Effect of the Draw
Keep a "Draw book" for every flat meeting in diary format. With watering commonplace this is absolutely essential and will give a real edge if done properly. This A-Z of flat courses is a massive aid to memory and can help pinpoint future winners and certainly narrow down the "runners" in any given race.
Pontefract for example in recent seasons saw the far-rail and frontrunners hugely favoured, with those held up and challenging up the middle of the course regularly struggling to get involved. Frontrunners with a low draw enjoyed fantastic success if securing the rail, although when the ground eased significantly the bias ended. Sandown's sprint course similarly saw a big edge as usual up the far-rail, while soft ground at Brighton meant the stands side was hugely favoured.
Keeping accurate records of each meeting, even noting when no bias at all existed, can provide a punter with a different viewpoint from the lazy views often published as gospel in the conventional racing press.
#3- Regulate your staking
The hardest part of the game. Simply the aim must be to play biggest when the difference between your view of a horses chance and its actual price is at its greatest. Finding a winner has never been that difficult but getting the level of the bet right has been (and at the "right" price).
Many who make consistent profit betting on horse racing find it much easier to play well within themselves, never risking too high a proportion of their bank, and remaining in "second gear" as they grind out a profit without too much drama. Others opt for an "all-in" "head-down" mentality when they are very confident of success.
The main aim must be to be consistent and calm, not constantly changing style or stake, and not to invest too much emotion into betting. It must be a business not a hobby, and ego must be totally removed from the entire process.
#4- Use the Betting Shops
Betting accounts on the internet are easy to track, mark, factor and limit. A stranger wandering into a betting shop is far harder to assess, although it has to be said that restrictions are now clearly stated on a number of regular "instructions" sent out to the beleaguered betting shop managers. "Bad ew" races are usually flagged and the pro must box very clever now to get his wagers on, especially at the often mythical "morning prices".
A shrewd player told us once that he often befriends punters he has seen losing in the shop and asks them to place a few bets on his behalf, while another pretends to play the Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) in the shop for 20 minutes, cursing his luck loudly, before wandering up to the counter and calmly asking for £100 ew at 8-1 in a 16 runner handicap. Already marked as a "mug" in the eyes of the manager, he finds these bets often get placed without need for referral.
Winner finding these days is only half of the battle and sometimes the astute player needs to become something else in order to get past the layers barricades.
#5- Latch onto a young claiming rider early
Finding a competent rider who can claim weight because of his inexperience is a crucial skill. The main thing is to be one of the first to realise that a rider has the necessary attributes to make it right to the top, principally before he has been noticed and talked up in the press.
Darren Egan was one such rider in recent years who immediately impressed with his strength and positioning in some low grade, all-weather racing that tends to bypass the attention of the press-room.
#6- Cross out races you will never bet on
Specialise in a certain area and immediately rule out playing in the majority of races each day. With the ever increasing volume of racing it has become nigh on impossible to keep track with the form across the entire racing spectrum.
For example narrow the field by only playing in chases during the jumps season, or concentrating entirely on 2-y-o races on the flat. The workload is cut right down and the astute punter will find he becomes a specialist in a certain area and his profitability increases. Perhaps keep up-to-date ratings and notes solely in this area. And do not even look at racing that is outside of one's comfort zone of knowledge.
#7- Watch the Races....But Not The Principals
Review each days racing and watch the races as much as possible. But try to concentrate in areas away from the public eye. It often fascinates us how racing pundits spend many minutes of airtime debating the last 100 yards of a race and debating whether interference affected the result, or whether so and so was unlucky with a blocked run etc etc.
Forget this area of race watching and focus instead on the first half and look for pace angles, run styles, hard pullers etc etc. The finishing result and order is common knowledge and of little use to anyone searching for an edge.
For example, search for frontrunners who are unable to dominate in the early stages yet manage to last much longer than might have been expected, or for hard-pulling free-goers who faded in the soft ground but might be able to last home on a faster surface.
When making notes on horses try to write down what would be an ideal circumstance for that horse to show his best form i.e frontrunner, best dominating on a sharp RH course e.g Taunton when the ground dries out. It is amazing how often trainers and connections will feel the same and hunt out such a race, if the pro is doing it right anyway!
#8- Form a view before considering other opinions
Try and view each potential betting race cleanly. Don't read the racing press or use Betfair to get an idea of the structure for pricing up a contest. Come at it with a completely clear mind, uncluttered by an often manipulated exchange price. Forming that 100% market is a crucial part of both winner finding and knowing when to bet, and if a punter can achieve an accurate "tissue" price without "help" then he is halfway there already.
Try and find a weak link in the chain at the front of the market and play against it, perhaps by supporting the other runners each-way if the conditions of the race allow.
#9- Check the entries and get into a trainer's mind
Particularly when it comes to flat racing, it can be a useful edge to see what a trainer has entered up for the week ahead. With some obvious gambling yards i.e Sir Mark Prescott, it can be significant when a horse is entered up in several engagements close to hand in the week ahead, as the trainer clearly believes he is capable of running up a winning sequence under penalties before the handicapper gets a chance to re-assess his mark.
With smaller yards it can be a huge clue if a juvenile is entered up early into bigger races later in the calender. Whereas huge yards can adopt a scatter gun approach with their inmates, the less-established trainer is always likely to be more circumspect given the costs involved.
Also it can be useful to have a list of yards that often see their geese as swans and consistently overrate their most moderate of inmates.
#10- Ignore all hype
Winners and unbeaten horses at the start of their careers always get talked up, with the press keen to trumpet impressive debut winners as the next superstar. Occasionally they will be, but generally this "exciting prospect" "my best two year-old" etc etc will prove anything but, and the astute player will always look to be against these under-priced and over-bet hyped horses.
We know of one pro who specialises in playing in 2-y-o races against the horses who have already won, usually from the bigger stables and always penalised. It is not a system as such but a modus operandi that has proved remarkably successful down the years.
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