Help with Form Study/What to look for in races…

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  • #18273

    • Total Posts 13

    Hey guys,

    Ok… So after an absolute age of trolling these forums i’ve finally deceided to register and start getting involved !

    Now, recently I have just become absolutley crazed by horse racing, the thrill of trying to figure out which horse will win based on previous form and watching past videos of races. I could spend hours just sitting watching races if only there was enough hours in the day lol

    At the moment , i dont gamble on the horses as i want to become confident in my selctions before even attempting to start up a betting bank for the horses.

    I’ve read countless threads on horse form study, so i know how to understand the form. but actually READING it i struggle with…

    I watch races and come to my own conclusion that this horse should romp home only to find that it runs a very average race and doesnt even place.. WHY ?? I’ve looked at the going, track, weights, jockey, trainer , watched vids etc etc But its quite clear im reading into it wrong.

    Basically what im looking for is for a few people who fancy exchanging PM’s and going through a certain race for a raceday to see what other things you guys take into account, what you look for in a horse and why you would make that selection. Obviously your own intiative pays a certain amount of judgement towards selections and i know you will not always pick a winner (I wish) but it would be good to just compare with someone how you would tackle a race.

    Do you start with the Going and eliminate horses straight away that you can see are alot better on Soft-Heavy when the going is Good-Firm? Would you look to see if its run at the track before and pay more attention to positions in those races than recent races at tracks going in the other direction and not as flat ? etc etc These kinda things you know !?

    What i just want to point out is im not asking for a step by step guide on how to pick a winner…i know that doesnt exist ! My ultimate goal to come from this is to post on here/other (Much lower quality and class :P) forums, with my own selections and be able to explain why i would pick it instead of the usual " Well it won last time out and looked good so…ill pick this one…"….Ya know be able to watch a race and see why a horse lost, was it because it ran outta steam ? Trip to long/short? Too quick a race for him but would win a slower one? Any good books which explain things to look for? or even websites that i have missed? Again i know this all takes time to learn( and i do mean Years as opposed to weeks/months, Obviously dont expect someone to PM me for years ha, altho ya never know could become racing friends haha) and alot of reviewing and losing lol, I am a realist so understand it will be hard to see why things havent worked out and will probally in alot of circumstances never understand why, if i could then i would make millions and everyone would do it huh.. its something i just want to invest my time in to learn and then maybe return my knowledge to someone else one day. Plus watching the horses is much more fun in my opinion than watching Eastenders or Corrie with the Other half…ha ! Never know one day i might even buy some shares into a horse…

    So anyone think they might have the kindesstime to help out a fellow punter ?? THink of it as a form study buddy :)

    Many Regards,


    P.S Im sure i’ll get flamed from someone with the usual moans and groans but hey thats what makes the internet a wonderfull place ha so all flames are welcome :)


    • Total Posts 18077

    It’s a process of overlapping cycles:

    1st – Use suitable software analytical tool, or formbook (that depends how much you want to spend – how good you are in learning to use specialist software).

    2nd – Look for second opinion from sound sources.

    3d – Paddock & going down observation.

    4th – Price fluctuations.

    With steps (2)-(3)-(4) it’s a bit erratic, because it means you change horse sometimes and because you can be carried away.
    So w.r. to steps (2)-(3)-(4) I think you ought to be careful.
    If the market says to you "this is a canon ball and I ‘m going to fire it" then so be it, you follow. But generally it is step (1) you go by.

    If anyone says only one method is good from among (1)-(2)-(3)-(4) described above, he is not telling the truth.


    • Total Posts 3056

    There’s a lot of stuff related to this buried away in the forum history. Two threads in particular that you might find interesting were detailed analysis of two major jump races – it’s a pity we didn’t persist with this process, although the amount of writing was very time consuming. … 10359.html … 10330.html

    Also worth trawling the Big Races and Cheltenham sections of the forum, where you’ll find plenty of detailed thinking about race analysis. You’ll have to read a lot of irrelevant stuff as well, but there is gold in there.

    You could also trying using the search option with keywords like ‘formbook’ etc.



    • Total Posts 18077

    Here is a Greek guy from America giving lessons:

    There is another good series for the paddock (spot the winner tactics). I lost the link it but I ‘m trying to find it again for you.
    If I don’t find it I ‘m going to email the person who made it (I have the email) and post it later.

    • Total Posts 669

    Thanks Alan for pointing those threads out. It was good to see what people were thinking about Kauto Star before he won everything. I have also found your books (especially

    The Inside Track

    )useful. I know circumstances have changed but the comments on optimum age of horses (which I notice were applied to Beef or Salmon at age 10)and other insights have stood the test of time.

    However, I have to say, as a betting strategy, form study strikes me as very difficult. When you come to bet you are up against a combination of expert odds compilers, professional punters and insiders, plus an overround. It is not impossible to beat them routinely but I reckon you need to put in a lot of hours to do so.

    Now, there may be circumstances where you know something the market doesn’t, or an ignorant betting public distorts the market, in which case you can get ahead. However, I reckon for most people this would not happen very often.

    It seems to me one is better off going for easier money if one can. That means taking advantage of each-way and B.O.G. anomalies which crop up quite frequently, or focusing on obscure markets where little analysis has been done. Also I have found tennis and golf are much easier than horse-racing to analyse and don’t seem to get the full attention of expert odds-setters, nor are they rife with inside information.

    And yet there is something intrinsically satisfying about horse-racing form study. And, strangely, it doesn’t seem to be a well-documented field, so there is always hope that one might get insights that others don’t have. For example, I know from reading about Dave Nevison that ‘days since last run’ is a significant factor for sprinter assessment. However, I haven’t seen a statistical study of its effect on the probability of winning.So maybe I could spend a few hours on that, or maybe it would not be very productive……


    • Total Posts 18077

    Days since last race effect described here:

    First this may mean nothing to the trainer.
    Vety often he knows his animal is no good and needs runs to come to shape, other times he knows it’s ready and has no problem.
    To you, the distant observer, it’s a factor that tends to work like a negative exponential.
    The probability is lowered according to a mathematical function like exp(-d/D) where d=days, D=the time constant. D depends on distance.
    For sprints D is high of the order of 300 days (according to my calculations), so no big deal.
    For 7f-8f it is more significant (D = 120 TO 150).
    Over higher my statistics show no effect. Perhaps other people’s statistics show different but I think it is because the trainers will not field a horse in route races if it is n’t ready.

    When a horse comes from any length of absence the prep gallops are crucial however. Without information on prerace gallops we are in the dark.

    Maxilon 5
    Maxilon 5
    • Total Posts 2519

    Welcome to the forum, Shabbs. As one who was coached in the arcane and sorcerous ways of the Holy Book before he could read Janet and John, I would like to applaud your endeavours and wish you good luck.

    It can be hard work. Last night, I retired to my sanctum sanctorum for a good three hours of form study, foregoing the pleasures of the belly and the flesh, my only accompaniment a Pink Floyd CD and a tin of sherbert lemons.

    By candlelight, I leafed through the holy books, working my way through history, both recent and ancient, taking notes, interpreting the signs, compiling value based data using methods it took countless hard years of joy and pain to accumulate.

    Just before my wife knocked on the door to tell me Sons of Anarchy was on, two cast iron certainties had emerged for the Great Metropolitan and City and Suburban Handicaps at wondrous Epsom – home of the Blue Riband.

    The evidence seemed conclusive.
    Both had previously won in todays


    of race.
    Both had recorded decent


    Both were ridden by top quality


    Most importantly, (when considering idiosyncratic courses), both had rock solid


    form. (Others in the race were untested at Epsom – a crucial point.)
    Both races were high

    Prize Money

    contests worth winning – one £15,000 added, the other £35,000.
    Both horses came from

    In Form

    A quick look at Oddschecker showed me that the horses were in the

    first three in the betting,

    so I wasn’t too far away with the fairies in my selection – something, since my release, I’ve often been guilty of

    Smiling, I retired to my slumbers infused with that contented glow, that special feeling which results from a job well done. And a stiff neck.

    The first golden nugget I uncovered was Kings Troop. It would have been easier for the Hubble telescope to spot pixies dancing round a totem pole on one of the twin moons of Saturn than to sport Alan King’s horse in this contest.

    When I eventually


    spot it, his jockey was motionless and, sadly, it came in near last place. I can only assume the horse was sick.

    The second gem of certainty was Tartan Gigha who drifted like the Kontiki in the pre-race market and was similarly difficult to spot in the race.

    When the horse was eventually sighted, the jockey was motionless. It came in down the field. I can only assume the horse was sick.

    Always surprises me, Shabbs, how you can create a case for a horse using a form book which seems so clear, so crystal clear, to the extent that you place a bet which would feed a family for a week, then add a just-in-case double which would pay for the gas to cook it all. The game that never ends, huh!

    Seriously, you’ll get some good information on how to interpret form on here, Shabbs. Best of luck.


    • Total Posts 18077

    Trainers and jocks dislike computer form analysts.
    They want to shoot them.
    Just like the mother in law.


    • Total Posts 13

    Maxilon 5 , Thank you very much!

    Your story today reminds me very much of my daily outcome haha

    Funny you mention Epsom, because today was one of those days for me. I picked the winner for the last… and that was it lol

    As much as i know form alone will never ever pick a horse that will win 100% of the time. It will show you some horses which get overlooked for one reason or another, or even if it just narrows the pack down to a few to choose from lol

    Would be quite interesting to compare a race selection to you to see how different our opinions could be ?!

    AP – Thank you very much for diggint out those links for me, i love the way the debate sparked up and the way people looked at the races. Give us all some hope for the form bashers.

    One thing that really interested me was the way people priced up the horses to how they see them. Especially the whole Kauto Star and Beef and Salmon debate. Which obvisouly now with hindsight was a very good vision and well worked out. However, this is something i wouldn’t know the first thing about how to go about this. Is there anything forum post’s or anybody that could explain how to come to decision like this? Or is this values that you take from the form , create your own personal formula and come out with the odds that way ??

    One thing i think i am going to look to do is maybe do a race a day from a racecard and go through it to explain my choices and the reasons why for the whole world to rip apart. Maybe putting it down and explaining my reasons might even help me in seeing mistakes/error in judgement once looking over the notes i have made and reasons behind picking/laying a horse…


    • Total Posts 3056

    Weiting down your reasons for a bet is an excellent way of helping to avoid the sort of daft bets we all make and that eat away at any chance of profit.

    I had to do this when I worked as a tipster and the discipline involved really helped my betting. There were more than a few occasions when I went to bed confident I’d found a great bet to send out next morning, only to realise when I started to write my script, that my arguments in favour of the horse were totally ridiculous.

    The other advantage of writing it all down is that you have something to look back at after the race. And that after the event review of your bets is just as important as what you do before the race, because it’s the only way to learn from your mistakes.



    • Total Posts 161


    I sympathise with your situation, and years ago spent many an hour with the Form Book trying to work out which horse should win the race I was seeking to analyse, with much the same result as that you describe.

    What I now recognise I needed was some help in learning HOW to read the Form Book, ie guidance as to what I should be looking for in its terse and rather daunting pages. And that help for me came initially when I read the following phrase: "it is the balance between class, form and the other factors which shows the good things". (By "other factors" the writer showed he meant the circumstances of the race such as track, distance, going and where relevant draw.)

    That led me to think about what "class" and "form" meant, and how they could be best judged, and over the years I’ve explored a number of ways of defining them and thus being able to read the Form Book more purposefully. In getting started, I found the work of two authors particularly helpful, one long dead and the other, as far as I know, hasn’t written on the subject for nearly 20 years. First, Paul Selby, who wrote (and ran a ratings service) under the pseudonym "Marvex" in the late 1940s and 1950s, and second "Che Van der Wheil" (another pseudonym) who wrote from the late 1970s through ’til the mid 1990s.

    I am NOT suggesting that either author will provide you with answers. Merely that both view the Form Book as central, discuss the issues of how to judge class and form in interesting ways, and offer concrete suggestions that can be explored. Their suggestions enabled me to begin to read the Form Book more purposefully than previously and have formed a basis for developing the tools for judging class and form that I now use.

    • Total Posts 5145

    Funny you mention Epsom, because today was one of those days for me. I picked the winner for the last… and that was it lol .

    Does this mean you felt it necessary, or wanted to find a bet in every race at Epsom?

    With so much racing around particularly over the summer months you really should consider restricting your betting activity to a small subset of races. For you on the learning curve who’s made the very wise decision to not actually part with money but ‘paper trade’ your bets whilst on that long curve, I’d recommend cocentrating on the Class A races which encompass all the Group and Listed events. From the Guineas meeting onwards through May till October there are riches galore.

    Specialization is the key to success IMO as it enables you to become familiar with the characteristics of a limited number of horses and the (sometimes diverse) methods of a limited number of trainers. The time will come when you glance at a race and can immediately recognise all the names: the ‘form study’ then begins whirring away in your little grey cells before a leaf of the formbook has been turned as the knowledge you’ve gained of the horses, trainers and jockeys enables a ‘virtual race’ to unfold in the mind’s eye.

    You also mention the ‘pricing-up’ of horses i.e compiling your own set of odds for all the runners in the race that you feel reflects their chance. There’s been many TRF discussions on this subject and the contentious issue of ‘value’

    Using the Search facility try entering any or all of the keywords VALUE TISSUE ODDSLINE COMPILING COMPILATION OVERLAY UNDERLAY

    As APRacing has mentioned there’s nuggets of gold to be found in the TRF bedrock. Don’t waste money buying books, spend Easter here panning for the gold

    Her’s a couple for starters: Pyrite, 8-carat, and 24-carat :) … 69143.html … 71494.html


    • Total Posts 18077

    Welcome Shabbs,

    This thread reminds me of someone else asking a similar question a few months back. … ml#p364501



    • Total Posts 18077

    The startpoint is speed.
    Every horse has a series of speed figures like:

    {t1, t2, t3 … tn}

    where t1 is the last time out, tn is the oldest.

    A weighted histogram gives the probable next term in the series, i.e. the upcoming race.
    The central value of what is a normal-like pdf that is.

    But the values t1, t2, t3 may be from different distances, different race-tracks.
    So conversion formulae are applied. The formula connecting 5f to 6f for example could be something like t(6f) = 1.292 . t(5f).

    When the likely t values for each runner are thus approximated, a probability distribution function comes into play, for the win probability.

    P = C . exp ( – offset from t best / T ) ……………. (1)

    where C is normalization constant, T = the time constant for the race distance (e.g. T(5f) = 0.5 sec approx.).

    So you know the probabilities for each runner.
    The initial estimate of the probabilities rather, because there are refinements relating to various factors, such as the early speed distribution and the jockey ability.

    But this is the startpoint for every expert and for everyone’s racing (UK-Australia-Japan-Mars).

    Equation (1) is a simple model equation really.
    Using advanced methods and Student’s probability theory a better approximation can be worked out.

    All this hard work is not visible to you. If you have a reliable software product you hit a button and the answer pops out.
    It is however essential to analyze the horses by speed first and foremost, so you have appreciation of the entire field.
    It is not also sufficient because you have to look into other areas also, as I have already indicated (jockeys, days since last race, likely progress, sectionals).

    Any other method of analyzing form is likely to be cumbersome and flawed.

    • Total Posts 24854

    How I Work Out Form:
    For any race I am interested in having a bet, I look at race cards and make a note of age, jockeys and headgear, including if it’s the first time in that type of appendage.

    Trainers In Form:
    One win does not make an “in form trainer”. It is one of the most overly / wrongly used sayings in racing circles. Don’t judge purely on winners either, rather let price be a guide. Any 33/1 shot who’s placed has obviously run very well, not so an odds-on second. Sometimes a trainer is “in form” without it showing up in the wins column. Best not to have a set amount of days to go back, when stables have a lot of runners (Hannon, Channon etc) it is only necessary to go back a few days (if that). For a trainer without many runners, the full three week record may be needed.
    Looking at the website’s racecard, my first job is to rate every horse for what sort of form each trainer is in. Clicking on every name to give a three week history of every runner the stable has had. With too many numbers on my paper; instead of rating them 1 to 10 it’s: *** unbelievable form, through ** brilliant, * excellent, */ good, // average, / ok form, /- bit below form (questions should be asked), – below form (saver only if anything), -x very poor (think twice) and x “Don’t touch it”. Most will be between * and /-. Some, like *** appear rarely, only if the trainer has won his last four or five starts at reasonable prices; “x” would be a trainer on a long run of losers and no placed runners. Any race could have many in-form horses or very few. Seldom make an out of form trainer the main bet, just a saver bet instead, although they’re rarely value bets anyway.
    Few horses return to form when a trainer is out of form. Where as one who’s trainer was out of form last time it ran (a poor run), that is now in good form; can help pinpoint a big priced winner. Also, a trainer who had an unusually poor season (probably due to a virus) last term, could end up with well handicapped horses this time around; witness Alan King this season. Might be worth keeping an eye on a trainer who has been out of form so far this season, if and when he/she shows signs of a return to form.

    Am a Timeform subscriber and get the Timeform Perspective. Their form book in race by race format (as opposed to the Black Book which is horse by horse). It comes three times a week in A4 sheets with the latest results to add to a file folder.

    Timeform Briefing:
    The “Briefing” gives five day declarations. Main ratings, what they think the horse is capable of given ideal conditions (the race in question may not be ideal). Attached to the rating can be a Timeform “P” capable of much better form; “p” likely to improve (although it is up to punters to decide if a horse without a suffix is capable of better), “+” may be better than the rating (e.g. if a horse has not produced its best for some time, it may be rated on its last performance, but with +); “$” (squiggle) unreliable; “x” poor jumper; “?” can be given with a rating for a suspect rating; or without a rating when it can not be assessed with any confidence / well out of form.
    Also ratings for each of the horses last three performances. e.g. c20d 137, means it ran in a chase over 20 furlongs (2 ½ miles) on dead (good-soft) and ran to a rating of 137. (Ratings are already changed, weight and age related to the race it is entered in). Reference number is provided to look up the horse’s last race; then that race provides another reference number to the previous race, and so on.
    In conditions races there are TRW figures (Timeform Race Winners), a weight-adjusted rating for the last five winners (and a five year average rating) of the particular race. This allows punters to judge if the best rated horse is much better than the average winner, whether he still needs to improve; or how much a progressive performer needs to improve to win an average running. It also makes it possible to quickly judge if a race is a poor, average or a good renewal.

    Timeform Perspective:
    I look through the Perspective (results) and note down any relevant information. At least, information I might not remember. Sometimes it is only necessary to go back one race for a particular horse, but usually it’s two or three, occasionally as much as eight or nine. To get information on going, distance, pace and temperament. At Newbury on 27th November 2010, I backed Mount Oscar @ 10/1 early price (SP 11/2). His start before this win on 9th October read:

    1775 Rhys Howells Memorial Handicap Chase (class 2) 3M (miles)

    4471 3rd Mount Oscar (Ire) CL Tizzard 11 11-3 135 (official mark ran off) t (tongue tie) Joe Tizzard…20/1… 12 lengths (and 1 ¼) 3rd

    “MOUNT OSCAR hasn’t had much racing for his age (11) and starts the season well treated, so he may be worth chancing off a potentially lenient mark with this reappearance under his belt, encouragingly avoiding the mistakes that held him back after winning his first two starts last season but shaping as if in need of the run, his stamina for a testing 3 miles an unknown as well”.

    Timeform Racehorses and Chasers And Hurdlers Annuals:
    I’ve got both Timeform Racehorses (flat) and Chasers & Hurdlers annuals going back to 1984. Hard backed form books in horse by horse format, giving a summary record of all relevant information for every horse that ran last season. What the horse did and how it did it. From temperament to jumping ability, known or likely (judged by breeding and characteristics) distance and going requirements. The best horses can have essays of 10 or more pages long, the worst just a few lines. A quick look at the 09/10 C&H enabled me to see Mount Oscar win on good-soft in the very same race last year at 2 ½ miles. Timeform give their own assessment of going conditions and thankfully don’t follow official going reports.

    It was clear, Mount Oscar comes to hand early, two wins on first two starts last year, looked “well treated” on his old handicap mark and dropped a further 2 lbs to 133. Return to 2 ½ miles (from 3m) on good-soft around Newbury looked ideal conditions. Should still be capable of running to form, even at 11 years old. Rated 148+, however, working out the rating on his old form could be 164. Which is 3 lbs above the “top rated” horse Prince De Beauchene, who may not be suited by the drying ground anyway. I rated Colin Tizzard’s recent stable form */ (7/10). A look at another book, Timeform Statistical Review told me the trainer had his best month in November in the previous two seasons 5 wins from 40 runners in 08 and 9 from 46 in 09. Favourite in this particular race, Working Title came from the bang in form, ** (9/10) stable of Nicky Henderson. Not particularly well handicapped on last season’s chase form; but could be thought of as well treated on recent improved hurdles form. However, bookmakers seemed to price the horse up as if he’d definitely be capable of his hurdles rating. Described in Timeform Chasers And Hurdlers as “compact”, there was a doubt in my mind whether he’d be as effective over the larger obstacles. Making his price (in my opinion) too short.

    It is not all about Timeform, also have my own knowledge / opinion on things (as you may have learnt). Have a poor memory for every subject bar horse racing. A love of racing and not just betting helps tremendously in my form study, otherwise I’d find it boring. Although rubbish racing is yawn inspiring. Since I’ve been at this forum, I’ve used a few patterns to point me in the direction of a winner or two. It’s not like following trends, just something else to take in to account. Certain statistics like best fresh, horses for courses and time of year etc.

    Ratings are only a starting point, it may be top rated but how likely is it to run to that rating given conditions? Is the horse out of form? Was there a good reason for it running below form? Can it improve? What rating is it likely to run to?

    Going requirements:
    Punters obviously need to look at a horse’s record on the prevailing ground conditions. If proven on it there is usually no reason to look at anything else. Unless it has improved since then, when racing on a different surface. It is sometimes thought a horse goes on the ground if it has won on it. This is not always the case; it might have run off a higher mark or against better horses to be 3rd or even 6th. Improving to be 6th, exactly because of the different going than its “success”. Going requirements can also change after injury. One who acted on firm before cracking a cannon-bone, may not act on it afterwards. I don’t like taking Timeform’s word for going requirements. Sometimes they might say “acts on good-firm and a soft surface”, where as looking closer, its soft ground form might be around 10lbs worse than on a sound surface. Though you’ve always got to question, is it just coincidence? If a runner is yet to race on a surface or if evidence is inconclusive, I take a look at the type of stride. Round, pounding action with fore-legs suggests it may be best on soft ground; where as one who points its toe, might prefer a sound surface. Also breeding; certain sires progeny seem to enjoy a soft surface. On the flat, sires such as Captain Rio, Pivotal, and Danehill Dancer amongst others, usually go well on it. However, evidence for each runner actually racing on the surface is more reliable than just knowing the sire (most Pivotals do act on soft, but some don’t).

    Stamina, Distance, Temperament and Pace:
    It is easy to think just because a horse has won at a distance it is fully effective at the trip. Depends when, under what conditions and whether characteristics of a horse have changed since? A two year old might win at 7 furlongs, yet need middle-distances at three. A three year old may be able to win early in the season at 10 furlongs, yet might improve as stamina is tested, eventually wanting 14 furlongs by the end. Similarly, a novice chaser like Time For Rupert might win at 2m4f, yet is likely to improve considerably given 3m+. Breeding is an obvious influence on distance requirements. Though it is too simplistic to say sire’s best distance + dam’s best distance, divided by two. Horses often take after one or the other, or sometimes a grand-sire / grand-dam. Sometimes a sire / dam can install more speed or stamina than its own racing record suggests. Again, Timeform Statistical Review comes in handy for this.

    Character is important too. Headstrong individuals often pull too hard and don’t stay as far as their breeding indicates; where as lazy types relax so well, they can stay further. If a horse becomes too free, it may not get a trip it once did. One who learns to settle might stay further than previously. There is a horse called Kawagino, who once barely got two miles over hurdles as a youngster when pulling too hard. Settles much better these days, and with age, is now plying his trade over extreme distances.

    Pace in an individual race can be a great advantage to a punter, knowing horses likely to be suited by a slow or fast pace. Slow sectionals might enable one to stay further than it would at normal pace. However, the opposite can also be true. If a horse is known to take a hold and not settle; slower fractions may lead to it taking an even greater tug. Ending up with nothing left in the ensuing sprint for home. A slightly better pace might enable this type to be more amenable to restraint. Settling can outweigh the so-called “increased test-of-stamina” produced with a slightly faster pace; so might stand a better chance of lasting out. If it relaxes in races at a mile it will probably get 1m2f (especially if bred for it). Sometimes a horse may outstay it’s pedigree because of a relaxed temperament. Where as one that takes a tug at a shorter distance may not get the longer trip even if bred for it (Frankel in the Derby?).
    If relaxing well, a prominent position is usually an advantage when pace is poor. Being in the right place to strike when speed increases. I like to go through a race looking for those who front run, race prominently, track pace, race mid-division, be held up or dropped out. If there is only one of the first two or three categories, the horse in question might get an easy lead and get an advantage. Although if there is only one possible front runner who needs a test of stamina at the trip, it still needs to make a good pace so as to not get out-speeded, ie the race is likely to be truly run despite only one confirmed prominent runner. The opposite is also true. Races with three or four prominent runners, or two who need to lead to produce their best; might take each other on. Resulting in an overly strong pace, favouring those coming from rear. Though again, any horse with stamina doubts might not get home. Some front runners may sulk if unable to get their own way in front, so may be poor value if there are other front runners. Conversely, those with plenty of speed might be suited by a slowly run race, whether a prominent runner or not; provided of course they settle well.
    Racing is full of contradictions; a horse finishing fastest of all, coming from the back to win going away, is often described as showing a tremendous “turn of foot”. Another over-used saying. In fact, it could be just slowing down at less of a rate than the others; using its stamina (not speed) to win.
    So characteristics as well as breeding are both vital considerations when assessing stamina.
    Knowing the horses and their characteristics is a vital part of making a profit. Horses who get the run of the race don’t always win, but they are more likely to have a better chance than betting indicates (value). Sometimes punters believe they are unlucky when their selection finishes fastest of all, beaten by a front runner getting an easy lead; or curse if it goes off too quickly. Yet it can be possible to identify both those who will “leave it too late” and the “lucky winner” before the race and before selection; by going through form.

    Temperament is another important factor. Some are genuine triers and very difficult to beat. It might seem as though they win “all out” and would lose with another pound on their back. Yet the will to win – or rather more accurately – will to remain in front; can help them keep on improving; out-battling rivals and remain a value bet. One such individual is Peddler’s Cross. In the wild, some horses are leaders and some followers. Those like Forpaddytheplasterer often pluck defeat out of the jaws of victory, so are usually poor win bets. Consequently, ungenuine equines might not be value bets, even if going down in grade. Although it is possible they could be good place only bets on betfair, if near their bookmaker place odds (without needing to back them to win).
    Another question; is headgear likely to help? A lazy but genuine horse, yes. An ungenuine one, usually but not always no. Some trainers have a good record running horses with appendages. You can sometimes see whether an individual is likely to run well in first time headgear by looking in the paddock. If throwing its head around and / or sweating, it’s probably a negative. If just strolling around without a care, probably a positive. Though it may be of benefit to keep an eye on them to see if things change before the off.

    At The Races:
    Other things I like to look out for in the paddock are: Horses throwing away nervous energy. Jig-jogging / edgy, is a slight negative, something worth keeping an eye on, as it might lead to a bigger problem (sweating, lashing out, or too free to post). Sometimes you can see a horse trying to push its lad / lass in to the rail. In most animals sweating is a bad sign, however, in some racehorses it is a natural trait, and you’d worry if they did not sweat. Barry Hills three year old Red Jazz is one of those. Although any horse who’s awash with sweat is a big negative. Probably not in the right frame of mind to produce a good performance.

    “Green”, young or inexperienced horse is a big negative, showing that they might not be ready to show their ability. The word can cover a multitude of sins. Most noticeable is being vocal in the paddock (whinnieing), talking to its fellow students. Looking around too much at the crowds, thinking to himself “what’s this racing game about? Lethargic animals, seemingly uninterested, walking slowly, with head to the floor, probably won’t have learnt enough. “Coltish”, basically a colt (young male) with an erection. Has his mind on other things and may not be able to give a good account of himself. He’d better learn fast, otherwise will be gelded! If possible, look at young horses set off to post. Some need the jockey to bump his bum up and down on its back, to encourage him to gallop. These can start slowly and take time to realise what is required. Finishing well when the penny finally drops, but all too late. On the other hand, one that is difficult to control in the paddock can be too free to post, little energy left for the race itself. It is wise to make a note of green horses, as they may be able to show abnormal improvement next time, particularly if not showing the same greenness, having learnt from experience. Some trainers are good at preparing two year olds for debut. Other trainers horses seem to come on a great deal for the initiation. Making a note of debutants running well from yards with a poor first time record, can pay dividends. As they may be able to show abnormal improvement next time; having a better chance than their form / likely price may suggest.

    A sprinter who shows some edgy / sweating characteristics is not so much of a negative as it would be in a stayer. Likewise, lethargic tendencies are permitted more in a stayer than sprinter. A horse will stay further as it relaxes (usually with age).

    Every punter has their own ideas about who is and who isn’t a top / good / bad jockey. For me three, AP McCoy, Ruby Walsh and Barry Geraghty; are the best there has ever been. Of course, in other years there’s been outstanding jockeys; but if Francome, Scudamore, O’Neil, Dunwoody, Winter etc were brought by tardis to the present day; they’d struggle.
    However, in my opinion the effect of a top jockey riding a horse is over-stated by a lot of punters. On an average horse he might be able to improve the rating a pound or two. Although there are certain horses who do particularly well for one jockey. Big Zeb for example, seems to go better for Geraghty than anyone else. AP can get more out of some temperamental horses. One advantage top jockeys do have is their consistency, making fewer mistakes. But it is the horses hooves that are on the ground, doing the running. A good jockey has his limitations and can not make a bad quality horse good. In my opinion the advantages a top jockey brings for the punter, is often outweighed by the horse being shorter in the betting (often too short). Much better to find up and coming young or under-rated jockeys who often go off a bigger price than they should. However, jockeyship is usually an aspect of form I give less regard to than others. Trainers (or rather trainers in or out of form) effect my betting a great deal more.

    Having said all of that….

    Fair Odds / Value:
    Any positive or negative point does not mean a horse should or shouldn’t be backed, all it means is it has to be allowed for in the price a punter is willing to take (value). I can sometimes back the horse I believe has the worst chance of winning. If I work 4 horse race out as:

    A 40%, B 30%, C 20% and D 10% (obviously working to 100%).
    At level stakes punters need an average price of better than 6/4 40%, 9/4 30% (actually 9/4 is 30.8%), 4/1 20% and 9/1 10%.
    So if the best available prices are:
    A 5/4, B 2/1, C 7/2 and D 12/1. A 40% strike rate at 5/4 would result in a loss. So too would 30% @ 2/1 and 20% @ 7/2. Where as a 10% SR at 12/1 would result in a profit. So D @ 12/1 is the only possible bet, despite believing it to have a quarter the chance of A, third of B and half of C.

    It is impossible to say how much one factor influences my 100% tissue price. As each horse is unique; individual factors like distance, going, temperament etc. will effect one horse more or less than its rivals. I don’t add up all the statistics for each factor. e.g in my mind a bad temperament might be 80% of a horses chance; a horse with a reasonable temperament may be below 5%. Its a matter of looking at the overall chance of each individual, it has to be a subjective, informed opinion. Working out the best, second best, down to the worst chance of winning (1 to however many runners there are). Sometimes I start with the favourite (sometimes the rank outsider) when calculating odds.

    If in a five horse race; I believe one horse “A” has the same chance of winning as the rest of the field put together; he goes in as a provisional 50% (fair Evens) chance. Then if “B” is believed to be slightly better than half of my favourite’s chance, he’d be say 27% 11/4. “C” might be considered a little more than a quarter of “A”’s chance 14% 6/1, just over half of “B”. “D” might be a fifth of “A” 10% 9/1. “E” around half of “C”, 6% 16/1.

    A 50% + B 27% + C 14% + D 10% + E 6% = 107%

    All the horses must add up to 100%, so the 107% needs to be reduced. Taking another look, would two of “D” really have the same chance as “C” and “E” combined? May be not, so “D” is reduced to 9% 10/1. Has “A” really got the same chance as the rest? Reduce him to 48% 11/10. May be “E” does not quite have two thirds of “D”, reduce him to 5¼%. May be “C” is dead on half of “B”, 13.5% 13/2.

    A 48% + B 27% + C 13.5% + D 9% + E 5.25% = 102.75%

    Still too big. Does “A” + “B” really add up to ¾, 75% of the total? Reduce “A” to 47% and “B” to 26% still roughly 11/10 and 11/4. For “C” to be still half of “B”, he’d need to be 13%.

    A 47% + B 26% + C 13% + D 9% + E 5.5% = 100.25%

    Still 0.25 too big, take it off the favourite.

    A 46.75% is between 11/10 and 5/4 + 26% 11/4 + 13% 13/2 + 9% 10/1 + 5.25% 18/1 = 100%
    These are my prices.

    Well 11/10 is actually 47.62% (5/4 is 44.44%), 11/4 = 26.67%, 13/2 = 13.33%, 10/1 = 9.1% and 18/1 = 5.26%; but there is no need to be that accurate. Especially when it is best to have a margin for error anyway. No gambler is 100% accurate in his assessment. So instead of backing “A” at 5/4 (only just better than my 11/10 assessment), I’d want 11/8 (or more). For 26% (fair or “true” 11/4 chance) I need 100/30 or bigger. For 13% (fair 13/2) I’d probably want 8/1. For 9% (fair 10/1) I’d probably want 13/1 and for 5.25% (fair 18/1) I’d probably want 25/1.
    If I thought the race / runner was particularly difficult to work out the percentage chance, I’d want more of a margin for error, for an easy race / runner I’d want less of a difference. Novice compilers would need a larger margin.

    It may all sound too time consuming, but once a punter is used to it, most comes without thinking.

    Hope that helps Shabbs (if you’ve got this far) :lol:


    value is everything
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