Horseracing has a long history, records go back to 648 BC and the ancient Greek Olympics, during the Roman empire horse racing was a major industry. Thoroughbred racing was and is, popular with the aristocrats and royalty of British society, it is known as the sport of kings.
There are three categories of horse races , flat, jump and Trotting , economic importance lies in the gambling associated with it, in 2010 it was thought that the horse racing market generated a world-wide worth of over €100 billion.
This guide will help the novice to intermediate punter understand the thought process behind evaluating a race, there are so many factors that need taking into consideration:
For the sake of this article we will assume that all of the horses are fully exposed, by this we mean, they have run often enough for the handicapper to have given them a rating based on fact, this does not allow for the handicapper guessing the horses mark, such as when a horse as only run the minimum of three times or as won a race.
When reading the horses form we need to consider many facts, for UK racing use the Database available at www.racingpost.com and for French racing i prefer www.geny.com, you will need to log in for maximum information.
Consider the horses ability to handle the track, has it ever raced at this venue, if yes, how did it perform (always take into consideration the quality of its form at the track), was the race worse/same/better than todays, if the horse as know course form, you will need to consider the horses performance at similar tracks.
Inform yourself about all the relative worths of each track, consider:
-Is the track right or left handed? or will the race be run on a straight course, are the bends galloping ( likely to suit the long striding rangy horse) or are they sharp ( likely to suit the small nippy type of horse).
-Flat or undulating? (contours of the track are not level), the horses ability to handle such tracks should be proven.
-Stiff or easy? long uphill finish could be classed as stiff, an horse will need to be a strong stayer if he is to see out the race, such tracks tend to suit ¨hold up¨horses, easy tracks are usually flat and smallish in circumference, they mainly suit horses that race prominently.
-Track bias, does it tend to suit finishers (hold up horses that come late) or horses that lay up with the pace, is a finisher likely to get a clear run or could he expect bunching and traffic.
-Effect of the draw, this can be going dependent (underfoot conditions), much will depend on the distance of race, when will they hit the first bend, some horses will be suited by a worse draw so they can drop in (Know your horse)!
-Fences, in steeplechasing fences vary from track to track, consider what you have for an horse and how it will handle the situation
Never underestimate the value of racing on preferred ground, if a horse doesn´t like the underfoot conditions he won´t win, unless of course he his far superior to the horses he will race against, pay particular attention to seasonal changes has horses tend to run in and out of form, some like it hot and sunny with dried out underfoot conditions, others are happier racing on rain softened ground, in fact, more often than not, its all about the ability to act in such conditions rather than a liking for them (the inconvenience factor). A horses favorite going can often be seen in its genes ( hereditary ), however, that is not an exact science, as an horse becomes more exposed it is relatively straightforward to understand its ground preference, the hard part is figuring out the actual going on the track, be prudent if betting early!
It is certainly a good thing if the punter can identify how a horse will race over a certain trip, with an exposed horse, it should be relatively straightforward to judge what is optimum and what is not, considerations that might have a bearing, include, underfoot conditions, racetrack idiosyncrasies (stiff/easy) and the likely pace of the race, most horses can operate within a range of varying distances, for example, an horse that runs 2000m on softish ground at a stiff track should be able to get 2400m on good ground at an easy track, after all, the same amount of energy is being used, compare it to a car driving on an incline and using 10L per 100km, the same car going on the level and using 8L per 100km will go further , the motor doesn´t have to work so hard!
Reading a race
You have worked out, the track is perfect, the going conditions are optimum and we are racing at the right trip, with all these scenarios in our favor we now need to ask the ultimate question, will the race be run to suit ?, for this, we need to analyze our opponents and try and figure out what they are likely to do, consider the following:
-Size of field, ever heard the saying?, the bigger the field, the bigger the certainty! , big fields should equal an honest race, but will that suit your selection? some horses don't like to be crowded and front runners might have it easier in a small field where there is no competition for the lead, traffic is another issue.
-Pace in the race, does the horse need a lead/strong pace or is it a front runner that would benefit from being left alone.
There is a certain amount of guessing that will need to take place, it´s not an exact science, however, it is the punters duty to try and fathom out how a race will be run, liken it to playing chess!
Where is the point in betting a hold up horse that comes with speed if there is no natural pacemaker in the race (a slow, muddling pace won´t suit the horses stregnths), it could be risky betting a front runner when there are several in the field?, so much pace is likely to make a race that will suit hold up horses, does your horse need cover?, does he like racing close to other horses?when should he be in front?,who are the dangers? should i watch the early part of the race then place my bets in-play? , these are all questions that come to the fore!
It¨s also worth bearing in mind that ´hold up´ horses will find it hard to quicken on dead or heavy ground, first run and a tenacious spirit are usually the winners!
First lets make it clear we are referring to the extra weight a horse must carry (Jockey-Saddle-Lead), it is the handicappers duty to give horses an handicap mark, in the UK where we still live with the imperial system (Stones and pounds) the scale is 1 = 1lb ( 1 pound = 0.454 kilo and there are 14lbs in a Stone). In an handicap race where the top horse as a rating of 60 and carries 9st. 7lb. a horse rated 56 will carry 4lbs less (60-56 = 4), in this case 9st. 3lb. , now we have that out of the way!.
There are many things to consider when looking at the weights, you need to go through the bible (form book) and figure out the following
-What is better?, does this horse prefer giving weight to inferior rivals or receiving it from superior horses, horses size could and tenacity can influence this!
-What is weight worth?, in the UK they say over 2000m on good ground 3 pounds is worth a length, on heavy ground over an extreme distance (3200m +) 1.5lbs is worth a length, sprinters over 1000m on fast ground are least effected, 4-5lbs is worth a length, in steeplechasing the calculation starts at 1lb for 1 length!!
-How does the going effect weights? Carrying a big weight on heavy ground is much tougher than carrying the same on fast ground.
-Further they go, weight tells with distance, compare it to carrying your shopping home from the supermarket, this should be incorporated into your analytical thoughts on the race!
You have heard the saying? ´weight stops trains´, well, in horse racing weight certainly stops horses!
Time of year
I´m told that females understand this better, but i will give it my best shot.
Some horses are simply consistent throughout the year and others run into form at certain times, this could be down to varying situations such has condition changes (going), hormonal effects, training rituals and race planning f(rom the trainers side), comparing this to humans, my grandmother used to be so happy when spring came, the cold damp winter was left behind, the sun wasn´t unbearable and the colours of spring put an extra bubble in her step, to keep my weight down i visit the gym nearly everyday, i give it one hour of going through a routine, it helps me maintain my condition, however, about a month before my annual jilt into the mountains for ski-ing i begin to increase my exercise, get myself as fit as possible, racehorse trainers do the same!
Consistant horses who always run there race tend to struggle in handicaps, the reason being the handicapper does´t give them any leeway, on the other hand, a horse who just ticks along, only 80% fit, racing on the wrong ground will drop in the handicappers ratings, when the time of the year is right and conditions become optimum the trainer will start working on the fitness, the result will be a better performance and often a return to winning ways, planning is part of the parcel!
You need to identify these opportunities!
How much importance should we attach to trainer form?
If you know anything about international racing you would have heard of a horse called Cirrus Des Aigles trained in France by Corine Barande Barbe, the horse is an international globe trotter, rated 131 by the UK handicapper, in July of this year the horse was entered in the ´King George´ at Ascot, officially the horse was 12lbs superior to his rivals, in the ante post market a week before the race he was best priced even money (on the day he drifted to 6/4), reading the press before the race indicated a straightforward win, the sheep in the forums where in agreement, not one person had picked up on the fact that the trainers horses where badly out of form, upto the day of the race she was on a losing run of 84, luckily for me i was in France the week before and i had picked up on the fact that she had problems, the horse was well and truly beaten, by 8 lengths. I have noticed in the past that the UK Bookmakers know very little about French horse racing, however, i would have thought they would have put a bit more thought into this group 1 event.
Mme Barbe is by know means a top trainer, a losing run of 15 wouldn´t have rang alarm bells, if someone like Michael Stoute or Aiden O´Brien had a losing run of 10 we would probably think the worst, a good way to get a fix on trainer form is look at expectancy, for example, if a trainer had sent out a load of rags (big prices) he can be forgiven if they where beaten, in this scenario, you would simply look how far they where beaten, if a trainer was sending out a load of hot favourites and they where being beaten, you might want to think twice before supporting of of their horses!
Trainer form also works on the flip, if you notice that a trainer is in good form you should at least get a run for your money, again, take into account expectancy.
I would certainly do the exploration, it´s just a matter of practice!
Having a good jockey on board can be an asset, however, top jockeys tend to be over supported, it will reflect in the odds.
Normally having a top jockey wouldn´t bother me, however, if the going (ground) was extreme, the track was difficult to ride or the horse was complicated, i would want maximum assistance from the saddle, in steeplechasing jockeymanship counts for much more, look for a jockey suiting the horse, ask questions to yourself like, has the jockey won on the horse before?, does the horse need a lot of riding?, is the jockey the normal pilot?. Some jockeys are better on front runners (they have a good clock in there head) and others are better at riding a waiting race, having a feel for whether a jockey will suit or not is all part of finding the right equation.
-Paddock inspection, learn to look at a horse, see if it´s settled, has good condition (look at it´s coat)
-Vibes , Drifting big time in the market might mean something, try and identify why this is happening, maybe its just support for others, market is not always right!
-Going to post, see if its relaxed and galloping in the manner it should (watch for horses pulling or resenting the ground)
-Market price, establish the odds in your head that you are willing to take, be prepared to recalculate when occurrences happen.
-Don´t let silly comments in the newspaper put you off or have a bearing on your selection.
-Devoid yourself of emotion, stay professional!
Do your homework, get a feel for the game, learn to understand market value (never sell yourself short), anyone with half a brain can make money at sports-betting, horse racing is a much bigger challenge,however, the rewards are much greater if you figure it out, never consider yourself lucky or unlucky, everything will balance out, you will have horses fall at the last fence whilst in the lead and you will have times when others fall at the last and you benefit, photo finishes go both ways, don´t just remember the bad luck, it´s a game of swings and roundabouts.
Emotion has no place in business, bare that in mind if you are an aspiring professional punter!