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Be honest now – how many of you reading this article, actually make decent profits from racing? I would imagine, only a few of you do – that is not being detrimental, it is simply a fact that very few of us make money from this game.

 

Another interesting question is this - how many of you actually keep detailed records of your bets? Again I would imagine it will again be a small percentage of you. Indeed, despite betting for many years it has only been in the last 3 or 4 years that I have kept detailed records of my bets – this has seen a major improvement in my success. Keeping records means that I am less inclined to have a bet at the last minute. Also it stops me betting on horses that in the past I used to have “an interest” in. It focuses the mind updating the records on a daily basis I can tell you!

Microsoft excel spreadsheets are a useful tool for this. We have several available for download in the full member area at PunterProfits.com that will allow you to monitor your betting profits.

 

Going back to keeping records – the reason I started keeping records is due to the fact that virtually every good horse racing book I have read made it clear how important it is to do so.

I have read several books and thousands of articles on different subjects within horse racing and/or gambling, and I cannot stress enough how some of them have really helped me. In this article I am going to look at some books that I see as “key texts” in terms of educating horse racing punters.

 

These books may eventually lose their relevance, but I read each one at least once every year, and not only that I am constantly referring to certain chapters and extracts at varying points in the season. I believe these books will continue to vital reading over the next few years and certainly into the next decade.

 

 

BETTING FOR A LIVING by Nick Mordin

 

 

This book was first published back in 1990 and I believe I am right in saying it is the best selling racing book ever. The reason is simple – it is quite a brilliant book. It was updated 13 years later in 2003, but many of the original ideas and chapters remained. However, Mordin appreciated that times change and in 1990 computers were not really used much when it came to betting, researching, etc and hence the update.

 

As book it is a good read with plenty of sound advice, but there are several parts of it that I have learnt from. The best idea I took from the book when I first read it was concerning the draw. In 1990, draw bias was not really a major topic and there was a real edge for people who knew how strong any biases were. The draw was my first love, and hence when I picked the book up for the first time, I went straight to the chapter on the draw. One idea in this chapter really got me thinking – it was fairly straight-forward one concerning how to spot draw biases by looking at how successful each stall position had been at particular course and distance. At Chester for example, where low numbers dominate, using this data made it simple to highlight biases. For example, at Chester over a recent 7 year period the success of individual draw positions at a certain race distance looked as follows (see overleaf):

 

 

 

 

 

 

Draw position

Wins / Races

Win %

1

11/47

23.4%

2

5/47

10.6%

3

8/47

17.0%

4

7/47

14.9%

5

2/47

4.3%

6

7/47

14.9%

7

3/47

6.4%

8

2/47

4.3%

9

2/47

4.3%

10

0/47

0.0%

11

0/34

0.0%

12

0/25

0.0%

13

0/18

0.0%

14

0/13

0.0%

15

0/6

0.0%

16

0/2

0.0%

 

 

Looking at this table, it is clear that low draws have a massive edge. However, when there was a high draw bias using this method does not work. The problem with a high draw bias is that with the field size constantly changing, a stall position of say 10, could be the highest in a medium size field, but in a field of 16 runners it would 7th highest. Hence the stats for what is actually a high draw biased course could like this:

 

 

Draw position

Wins / Races

Win %

1

0/48

0.0%

2

2/48

4.2%

3

4/48

8.3%

4

5/48

10.4%

5

3/48

6.3%

6

5/46

10.9%

7

5/46

10.9%

8

4/39

10.3%

9

3/35

8.6%

10

4/33

12.1%

11

5/25

20.0%

12

2/20

10.0%

13

1/16

6.7%

14

3/12

25.0%

15

0/10

0.0%

16

2/9

22.2%

 

 

From this table, the results are patchy and it is unclear what advantage the draw offers.

 

Mordin’s neat idea was to re-interpret the draw positions so that the highest draw became draw 1, the second highest draw 2 and so on. Doing it this way, a different and much clearer picture would emerge. For example, the above data would now look like this:

 

Draw position

Wins / Races

Win %

1

7/48

14.6%

2

9/48

18.8%

3

8/48

16.7%

4

5/48

10.4%

5

6/48

12.5%

6

3/45

6.7%

7

2/43

4.7%

8

3/38

7.9%

9

1/35

2.9%

10

2/32

6.3%

11

0/29

0.0%

12

1/25

4.0%

13

0/16

0.0%

14

1/12

8.5%

15

0/10

0.0%

16

0/6

0.0%

 

Now we can see the picture much more clearly. There were 35 wins from 48 for the highest 5 drawn horses, which equates to a win percentage of 73%.

 

The idea is brilliant in its simplicity, but before reading it, would I have thought of it? Eventually perhaps – but if that “eventually” was 10 years down the line, how depressing that would have been in terms of “lost time”.

 

Another part of Betting for a Living that changed my thinking and made me do more research was the third chapter on “who is going to take the lead?” The chapter was only a short one, but it discussed the relevance of “pace”. Nowadays, I use a form of “pace bias” when analyzing certain races– normally 5f handicaps, or races with 7 or fewer runners. But for Mordin however, I would not have thought about for another 10 to 15 years.

 

Essentially, he discussed a simple method of allocating “speed points” to each horse in a race. From there, you should be able to build up a clearer picture of how the race was likely to be run. All this information can help you, the punter, get an “edge”, and reading this part of the book stimulated an interest and made me do some research. Of course before reading this, I took no interest in who was likely to lead, which horse might get into traffic problems, etc, etc. As stated above, pace considerations are a key part of my selection process in certain races, and it is still an area that not enough punters use or appreciate …. So don’t tell anyone!!

 

There is plenty more in the book worth reading – every chapter in fact. The journal at the end is also enlightening even if it covers Mordin’s betting exploits back in 1991. His methods and insights into racing were creative back then, but even moving the clock forward to say 2020, I believe the book will still influence punters for the better. I can’t prove it of course, but I’d bet on it if I could.

 

 

 

 

 

AGAINST THE CROWD by Alan Potts

 

This book was first published in 1995, but it was reprinted every year until the year 2000 (to my knowledge) – indeed I would not be surprised if it has been reprinted a few times since the turn of the decade.

 

In the book Alan Potts discussed the methods of a “modern” backer. It is an excellent read and I still flick through the book before the start of each season. The first chapter is a must read as Potts talks about the Four C’s – confidence, capital, calculation and cynicism. Anyone serious about their betting should read this chapter. All of the four C’s are important – for example without enough capital you cannot bet, but for me the two key factors are “confidence” and “cynicism”.

 

Confidence is a massive factor in betting – some punters cannot survive long losing runs without losing confidence. Without confidence, betting becomes even more of a minefield. When on a significant losing run, it is important to employ methods that have been successful over the longer term even if over the shorter term results have been poor. As long as your method is sound the losing run will eventually come to an end, but the worst thing to do is to try and change track. As the losers stack up, many people head for the “solace” of short priced favourites, even if their preferred method is backing horses priced 6/1 to 14/1. This is the road to disaster (unless you are very lucky). Thus, the message from Potts amongst others is stick to your methods as things will turn around.

 

Cynicism is an interesting one and Potts argues that this is the most important of the 4C’s. Essentially he is right as you need to treat the majority of peoples’ opinions with cynicism. He claims that most trainers, jockeys and newspaper hacks are not worth listening to, with a few exceptions. Again I agree – several trainers seem to have little idea when “placing” their horses, and jockeys simply ride to their trainer’s instructions. Newspaper writers are a mixed bunch – some are very good and worth listening to, but most are not. I make a point of not looking at any comments in the racing press before I analyse a race. For me it is important to make decisions based on my own knowledge, rather than being swayed by others. I do look at comments after I have looked a race, but only from people I respect. My confidence is enhanced if a respected writer has made positive noises about the horse or horses I have selected. In order to make money from racing I believe it is important to have a view that challenges the majority most of the time. If you do, then you should obtain a value price about your selections.

 

Another key point Alan Potts makes in the book is the need to “specialize”. I am a great believer in this and when you think that each year on the flat there are between 5000 and 6000 races, perhaps you can start to understand why specializing in certain races is the answer. My personal specialism will always be sprint handicaps, but I also focus on big races looking at key trends and statistics. For others, it may be selling hurdles, or Group races, but whatever is your “poison” it is best to stick with it. Potts suggests that the best way to choose which area to specialize in is by looking at your betting records – back to those betting records again!! If you don’t keep detailed records then you simply won’t be able to tell which races you perform best in. Another valid point in a book that is a must read if you have not read it already. Finally his ‘horses to follow” chapter is another key area of the book to take note of.

 

 

 

 

BETTING ON FLAT HANDICAPS by Jon Gibby

 

This book was revised in 2003 and as a backer in sprint handicaps I found this book an excellent resource. Like Potts in Against the Crowd, he makes the case for specializing and covers it in great depth in the very first chapter aptly named “The Importance of Being Different”. Interestingly, two writers he mentions in this first chapter are … yep you’ve guessed it Nick Mordin and Alan Potts. Gibby ends the chapter thus, “if your aim is to be a more successful bettor you too will need to concentrate your efforts on finding ways to be different that have a basis in logic; instead of wasting your trying to develop ways to pick more short-priced winners.” Perfectly put.

 

The second chapter looks at “pace” via examining the running styles of horses. He discusses the same speed points method as Mordin discussed in Betting for a Living, but he goes into much more depth. It is a chapter that helped me to develop my own ideas of pace bias, and it made me create my own speed point method that has proved very successful in helping me unravel 5f handicap sprints. I have used this method for not just creating pace figures for horses, but for courses as well. It is all very well knowing that a front runner has a real chance of getting a soft lead, but if it is racing at a course where front runners struggle, this information is key in determining whether to bet or not.

 

The fifth chapter on the selection process is excellent. He discusses numerous key factors including factors I had never really thought about before – for example “what does the horse’s entries indicate”. Gibby makes the point that it is worthwhile keeping a record on how many entries a horse has each week. He mentions that several handicappers tend to have a few “quiet” runs at the beginning of the season. They tend to have single entries and quite often race fairly close to their training centre. However, he pointed out that such horses should be noted when they have multiple entries after a series of single entries. Multiple entries usually signal that a trainer is trying to find the most suitable opportunity for their charges, and such homework can often be rewarded. Of course, this made total sense when I read it, but before I read it, this was not a factor I even considered. Indeed, I wonder how many readers ever consider this idea. I’d hazard a guess that not many of you do. However, if you are a punter that backs in handicaps I suggest you start to make note of this. It could help you find a few good priced winners.

 

This is another example of how important it is to learn from others. Of course it pays to decide which writers are worth listening to and which writers are not…. but Gibby certainly is one to take note of.

 

WINNING WITHOUT THINKING by Nick Mordin

 

I make no apologies for including another Nick Mordin book is this collection. Winning Without Thinking was written in 2002 and is essentially a guide to betting systems in horse racing. What is great about this book is that there are 21 chapters discussing totally different ideas. The 30-page section on breeding / pedigrees is a particularly interesting read. Using breeding as an analysis tool to pinpoint betting opportunities is still an underrated method. However, for anyone backing in 2yo races and Group races, using breeding / pedigrees will improve your chances of success.

 

Although some of Mordin’s breeding analysis is becoming a little outdated, the basic methodology will remain for years to come. He writes in depth about the Dosage Index and how he has used it successfully when attempting to find the winner of races such as the Derby and the St Leger. The Dosage Index is a numerical figure based on the last four generations of a horse’s pedigree. It seems to be an excellent tool to help determine a horse’s chances of staying the 1m4f trip in the Derby for example. For the record from 1940 to 2006 all Derby winners had a dosage Index of 4.00 or lower. Essentially, any Derby entrant with a Dosage Index of over 4.00 can be eliminated from calculations. Again, this is using methods that very few punters employ – hence the chance of gaining an “edge” over other punters is much greater.

 

Possibly the best part of this book is the way that Mordin encourages you, the reader, to think differently. He encourages methods of research and one neat idea is a way of looking at several years of data. Instead of a year by year approach, he often blocks years together to give a clearer picture. For example he suggests when testing an idea over a 10-year period, you look at the stats generated thus:

 

1993 to 1997 – data set 1

1994 to 1998 – data set 2

1995 to 1999 – data set 3

1996 to 2000 – data set 4

1997 to 2001 – data set 5

1998 to 2002 – data set 6

 

The years are ‘blocked” in groups of 5 - this avoids the yearly blips confusing matters and gives a more data and reliable sample sizes to examine. This is something that I have found has been extremely helpful when examining certain trends and statistics.

 

I could go on, but at this rate this article will become the length of a book! Suffice to say that these four books should be at the top of your list of reading material – now and for many years to come.








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