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System Betting Revisited

Last month I discussed five National Hunt systems that had proved profitable over a 15-year period. This month, with the turf flat season around 2 weeks away, I have been looking at a variety of flat systems in a search for profitable ones that readers could potentially use over the next six months. I have come up with several, and for this article I will share 3 of them with you.


The systems in this article have been tested over last 15 years and all profits / losses are calculated to £1 win stakes:


System 1 – Penalty Carriers


Many successful flat systems of recent years have been based on horses that return to the track after a short period of time. The market has started to catch up, so some value has diminished, but this method continues to produce profits. One of the NH systems utilized horses carrying a penalty, and this system exploits such runners on the flat.


For the record, if you backed all penalty carriers on the flat “blind” you would have lost just 8% of your money over this 15-year period. That is not a bad starting point. The rules for the penalty system are as follows:


1.       Penalty carriers

2.       3yo only handicaps

3.       Males only

4.       Last run 1 to 7 days


As with all the best systems the rules are fairly simple. The sooner penalty carriers return to the track the better, while 3yo male handicappers outperform female ones. Statistics show that a male runner is more than 1.3 times more likely to win than a female one in 3yo handicaps. The results for the penalty carrier system have been as follows:




Strike Rate


% Profit







The system has seen 11 winning years out of 15, and it had one of its best years in 2006 with 22 wins from 63 (strike rate 34.9%) for a profit of £16.14 (ROI +19.8%). Hence it seems that this system should continue to perform well in the near future.


System 2 – Fit and fancied system


As stated above, horses returning to the track after a short break has been a key factor in many successful flat systems. Indeed the shorter the break, the better and the second system demonstrates this well. The rules are as follows:


1.      Last run – 3 days or less

2.      Run previous to last run - no longer than 7 days before last run

3.      Horse age 2 to 7

4.      Race Class 4 or lower

5.       Forecast Price 15/2 or shorter


This system is attempting to pinpoint fit horses (2 runs within the last 10 days) that the market suggests have a reasonable chance of winning (forecast price 15/2 or less). The reason for using “forecast price” in this system rather than “starting price” is one that most system punters tend to use. Using a forecast price means that the system punter can place his/her bet at any time of the day. Using starting price as a factor can be difficult, as you can never be 100% sure about what the final starting price will be. For example, in this system’s case, if a horse is trading at 6/1 in the morning, can you be sure the sure will not drift to bigger than 15/2 by the off? Hence, in many cases, punters would be forced to wait until very close to the start of the race to make the decision of whether they place the bet or not. This goes against the grain for system punters – they want a simple selection method which means they can place their bet without any other considerations.


The overall results of the system are as follows:




Strike Rate


% Profit







One beauty of this particular system is that in the past 7 seasons there has been between 91 and 134 qualifying bets per year. Through the summer therefore, this system should produce on average 2 bets a week.


Looking at the other rules in this system - it has an age restriction as horses older than 8 seem to struggle to perform well after such a short break, especially when you consider that they would have had 2 runs in 10 days or less. The class rule is in place because if you look separately at class 3 races, although the results show a profit, they are very inconsistent and have 9 losing years out of 15. Looking at races of class 2 or above, there were only 14 qualifying horses in 15 years so it would have been a very small and unreliable sample to use.


The “fit and fancied system” has seen 9 winning seasons out of the last 11, with an overall record of 11 winning years from 15. Hence it has been fairly consistent.


System 3 – Sadler’s Wells 3yo system


Many systems use factors that are well known to betting public and bookmakers alike. For example, good recent form, a high position in the betting, winning form at the distance, a recent run, etc, etc. However, although it is fairly straight-forward to produce a system that has a good strike rate, it is not so easy to find one that is consistently profitable. The reason being, that all these popular factors are taken into account by the prices on offer. Hence, there is no value in backing them as the market has them covered. In order to find profitable systems, it is important to try to think of ideas that the majority of punters would not consider. This is one such system.


Sadler’s Wells has been one of the most successful sires over the last 15 years, but how many punters take sires into account when they bet? I would estimate less than 1% of punters look at sires when contemplating their bets, and even serious punters it is doubtful whether any more than 20% of them give breeding a second thought. However, let us look at the record of horses sired by Sadler’s Wells since 1992:




Strike Rate


% Profit







Not a bad overall record considering this takes into account EVERY run of EVERY horse sired by Sadler’s Wells. Digging deeper into this sire’s record we see that there specific areas to concentrate on. Firstly let us look at the performance of different age groups sired by Sadler’s Wells:


Horse Age



Strike Rate


% Profit


























This is a very revealing table where it shows that 3yos are clearly the age group to concentrate on. A strike rate of nearly 1 in 5 is impressive and an overall loss of only 5.5% is also impressive in the context of over 2000 races.


The progeny (offspring) of Sadler’s Wells also show a preference for softer ground as the following tables indicates:





Strike Rate


% Profit

Good to soft or softer






Good or firmer







Horses sired by Sadler’s Wells racing on good to soft or softer ground have a remarkable record losing just 72 pence if betting all runners over the past 15 years. It is clear that good to soft or softer ground suits much better.


The next factor to consider is distance:





Strike Rate


% Profit

Less than 1m1f






1m1f to 1m4f






More than 1m4f







Horses racing over distances of 1m1f to 1m4f have a definite edge with the best strike rate of 17% and showing the least loss in percentage terms (12.3%).


Finally the next factor to explore is class.





Strike Rate


% Profit

Group class / class 1






Class 2 or below







Although the strike rates are the same, it seems that the market does not take race class as much into account as it should. Runners in class 2 races or lower perform better by around 9% in terms of percentage profits/losses.


Having explored the record of Sadler’s Wells progeny in detail, we are now in a position to produce a simple system to take advantage of the positive factors we have found. Hence the system reads as follows:


1.       Sire – Sadler’s Wells

2.       Horse age 3yo

3.       Good to soft or softer going

4.       1m1f to 1m4f

5.       Class 2 or lower


The 15-year results using this simple system are as follows:




Strike Rate


% Profit







This system would have produced excellent returns since 1992 and a profit of over 50% for any system is impressive to say the least. In terms of consistency though, on the face of it the system has been less impressive – 8 winning years and 7 losing years may start to make one question the validity of it. However, the worst losing year saw a loss of only £4.54, so all losing years showed minimal losses. Indeed, this type of system is always likely to be more inconsistent as the rules do not take price or recent form into account.


The only problem with this system for the future, is that it has a shelf-life of only 1 or 2 more seasons with the sire in question reaching the end of his stallion life. Having said that, there will be some qualifiers this season (assuming we have some rain!) and hopefully it will produce some more winning bets.


Systems do have a shelf-life and profitable ones will not necessarily remain profitable forever. The reason why systems start to lose money, after several years of making money, is mainly due to fact that the betting market eventually adjusts to take account of any winning method or selection process. The prices shorten and eventually a gain becomes a loss.


The market is ever changing and as punters, be it form-based, stats-based or system-based, it is important for us to understand such changes and exploit them as best we can.



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