There is no one correct way to selecting winners in Horse Racing, but there are a combination of several different factors that all play a part in framing race speedmaps, setting the correct market prices and taking the value on offer. The following factors when used together should allow you to create a winning strategy, whether that strategy is backing value, backing a genuine chance who maps to lead and setting an in-play lay, betting into the opening market runners your stats tell you will be significantly backed up until start time and hedging… there really are many ways to play the game.
Speedmapping / Track Bias / Weather
I have combined these three factors into the one factor as they directly influence each other. Before making your way into the form, the first few things you need to do are:
– Look up where the track rail is positioned, where it was previous positioned, where recent trials have been run on course rail-wise and how the track played when the rail was previous in this position
– Understand what the track is rated at the time of doing your form, find out what the racing club believes the track rating will be at jump time and look at the weather forecast to determine whether there may be an upgrade or downgrade and at what time during the day
– Create your own speedmap based on runners form. If you don’t feel you have time to do this research then you can use a speedmap developed by other people or websites. Punters.com.au provide a free speedmap for every race. If you listen to RSN during the week or google the horses name, you may find some further thoughts from the trainer and how the horse will map on the day (form guides generally won’t note these changes). @RVStewards will generally tweet out any advised mapping changes.
Horses are strange creatures. After about 10 runs under their belt you can really get a feel for what type of track they are best conditioned to. Some only show their peak performances going the Melbourne way while others peak the Sydney way. Some jump out of their skin down a straight while others simply don’t handle it (more often than not they don’t handle the straight first time at least unless trained on it). Melbourne racing is in the unique position, at least in the short term until the idiots ruin Moonee Valley, of having two metro tracks with very long straights (Sandown and Flemington), a medium straight (Caulfield) and a very short straight with a tight corner leading into it (Moonee Valley). It’s no accident that when measuring up in city class, you will find some horses simply just go better at some tracks than others. Take note of the horses peak runs, take note of their last win most importantly if it has been a while and include track specialist ratings into your overall price for a runner. A very good example which will be fresh in your mind is Rowland.
Straight vs Round Track Form
There is a huge edge for the smart punter in straight races when it comes to backing horses who peak down the straight or more importantly, laying (betting against) horses who are in form but having their first run ever on a straight track. It is important to note that if the trainer operates on a straight track, then it is safe to assume the horse has handled a straight track in training. I would also note that it is very hard to match up this factor in 2YO and early 3YO class races… the factor becomes more useable when runners have had 8+ runs to base the form off.
The average and even the advanced punter most likely doesn’t have access to the best time sectional information available with this information costing four figures per year from most reliable sources. With this in mind, I’m not writing this article for those who are willing to spend this amount, but if you can, then you can take advantage of it. Previous time form combined with video footage can give you the final sectionals as well as the race time. You can then start profiling a horse on how well it runs depending on how much work it had to do early, mid-race and finishing off the race. A prime example of using 200m by 200m sectionals and race replay review last year was Fawkner going into the Caulfield Cup. Covering a large amount of ground and doing a lot of work early, Fawkner’s sectionals were the stand out run going into the Caulfield Cup and with less early work expected and a much better run during the race, plus the distance increase, times were on of the many factors that pointed us towards the horse.
As you all know, I’m not the biggest fan of stewards. I find they ask the questions of certain jockeys and horses in a race while completely ignoring those who deserve to be questioned or more importantly, go very light in their questioning. Still, the stewards report is a gold mine of information for factoring in the price of a horse in its next run. While the average punter may look at a horse who stung them the last time they went around, the stewards report may reveal information such as slow recovery, galloped on, lame or many other excuses as to why the horse under-preformed. The stewards will only do a certain amount of work for you, if the horse under-preforms by lengths, it is you who has to explain to yourself why!
One of the most important factors in horse racing is the barrier in which the horse is drawn. The more runners in a race increases the importance of the barrier a horse is drawn, while this does decrease depending on how far forward the horse generally sits in running and also how many horses are mapped to push for a forward position. It is up to you to determine how important the barrier is for a runner. I find that it can be the difference between a win and a loss, even for a backmarker who may have sat 2 lengths closer to the speed on the day with a barrier draw of 6 instead of 13. This factor relates directly to speedmapping.
One of the most important factors in racing is the weight given to a horse. This can be altered by putting on a claiming apprentice in most levels of races, but that weight decrease isn’t always worth losing the skill of a senior rider onboard. Looking back over previous runnings of the race can provide you will the highest weight held to win the race which is a nice place to start, especially in feature races. Some trainers or owners are known for compressing weights by nominating horses that are higher rated that are never going to run… this generally gives their other horses an advantage in the race and has to be considered. It takes a very good horse to give the majority of the field 3-4kgs and it takes an even better one to lead all the way or come from the back with that weight. If taking a high weight giving weight to others, speedmapping has to suit.
A horse is only as good as the ride given to it by a jockey. Factoring in the form and riding style of different jockeys is one of the most essential factors in racing. Right now, there is a certain high-profile Melbourne Cup winning male jockey in Melbourne who is so out of form that you have to add almost a full point to the horses odds of winning. There is also a very talented female apprentice jockey who is very good riding horses in the lead or close to the front but finds herself in trouble from the back and is worth at least 1.5 points added to the horses price. You have your speedmap already created by the point of considering the jockey onboard the horse, so now you know where the horse will most likely sit during the race and can account for the ‘inform or out of form’ stats of the jockey and also where their best/worst rides are generally produced from.
A very confusing and most of the time incorrectly applied factor, the class of race a horse is placed into has to be studied closely. Trainers are always under pressure from Owners to put a horse into the most prestigious races possible on racedays of substance, when in reality, the horses should be placed into classes that more suit their ability. Pay special attention to horses who have been competing in Open or Listed level and take a step back in class looking for a win. It is also important to realise that while on paper it may say the R90 is an easier race than the Open class race they competed in last start, there is a good chance that there is always a horse under-rated making its way through the grades instead of being pushed into the deep-end.
I don’t rely on video replays as much as other punters, but I do find they back-up my confidence in the form and also when viewed with the full days racing, you can find horses who struck the worst ground and can be given lengths on their actual result that day (I find if a horse is blocked for a run that the market generally does adjust for this next start about 80% of the time). Hooked is a prime recent example this year of a run that stood out for me. Watching a replay of the Rosehill Guineas run when preparing for the ATC Derby form, I started by noting the track trends for the day which were some of the hardest I’ve seen for jockeys to pick out in recent memory. There were two clear speed lanes later in the day and Hooked didn’t go near them. The horse mapped to do a lot of work in the run and Hooked certainly had to do that. Even though the horse only ran 5th, my calculations had the horse with a better run doing a lot less work getting close to the winner. A much more favourable barrier saw Hooked get a dream run in the ATC Derby jumping at a little over $40 as our top pick in the race (Criterion was an obvious other bet in the race on ratings and included as a secondary bet). Hooked loomed up at the 200m as the winner but just didn’t have the legs to beat home Criterion and Tupac Amaru.. taking 3rd by a gap to 4th. Just because you didn’t get the win, doesn’t mean you were wrong… we were very right with the tip at the price.
Where is Form as a factor?
I hear you asking about form.. while in my opinion, you have already accounted for form in everything you have looked at above. You have compared runs and matched up form lines. I do agree that it is worth noting if a horse has run well behind another form horse who has gone on to win in harder company, but that can only be believed so far… in the end, you should have found the form lines are good enough above and will hold up.
Now that we have gone through all the factors above, we get to and can determine the correct prices of each runner in the race. How do you do this exactly? You do it yourself. You won’t get it correct the first time and you won’t get it correct the first month, but constantly setting your own market prices and reviewing where you went wrong or got it right at the end of the race-day will allow you to grow your knowledge of setting prices correctly and becoming more accurate. Many form analysts use formulas to help them to determine these prices and can save you critical time in analysing fields, but I would urge you to not take the easy road for the first week or even month as the information you will learn will be valuable.
We get to 4 races into the card at Caufield on a Heavy 8 track and what has been a slight leader bias has now seen the ground from the rail to 3m out chop up. Firstly you need to now check out the times run and the early speed of the previous races. This will give us a guide on whether there really has been a shift in the bias of the track or more importantly, it was a speed induced change. The last thing you want to do is over-react. If you are unsure, sit out the next race or lower you bet confidence and staking if the change in bias doesn’t suit you. It is also important to note that when you get to the last race of the day, the ground 3-5 metres out may now have chopped up so much that the lengths gained by going out side is negated by the ground saved on the chopped up rail and you will find one or two jockey’s willing to take this risk. Be very careful of betting into these races on days when ground is uncertain.
How serious are you?
You are only as good as your data. As mentioned previously, there is software available that will help you push along your form and give you key insight into forgiving horses previous runs due to sectional times. One prime example I remember was one of my favourite front running horses up in Sydney. It went around as a $6 2nd favourite and ran an early sectional that was almost 9.7 metres above the class average. The horses previous winning runs had certainly been fast, but the previous win saw early sectionals of 3.7 metres above class average. No horse can run those early sectionals and continue on late into the race.. as expected the horse fell out to run close to last. Next start the horse was sent around in the high $20s and won fairly well. If you want a recent example, look at the early sectionals Fab Fevola put in at Caulfield in front of Lord of the Sky. He fell out to run 12th out of 13 in that race but then bounced back for a 0.8L 3rd and 0.1L 2nd the next two starts. Sectionals told us to ignore the runs and rate on every other factor. DailySectionals and Southcoast Database are two prime examples of systems that cost a lot but provide information.
Do you use any other factors when compiling your tips? Share them below in the comments section!