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To Dob Or Not To Dob
To ‘dob’ or not to ‘dob’ – that is the question by David Renham
Over the years I have studied numerous ideas in an attempt to find profitable angles in horse racing. Some of my research has been worthwhile; a fair proportion has not. The great thing however, is my passion for testing ideas and theories is as strong as ever – the shame is I rarely follow up any positive findings in real life betting. This is due to a variety of factors:
1 – lack of time - I find I spend so much time researching and then writing up my findings for various publications there never seems enough time to spend on betting preparation and consequently betting itself. This research and writing is alongside trying to help run three websites, and work part time at school;
2 – ‘too many’ potentially profitable angles – due to the amount of the research I have embarked upon, there is a good number of methods, systems, etc that have proved profitable over the period of my research. The problem about this is that I want to investigate them in more depth before putting any hard earned cash on any selections. So once again the time factor, or lack of it, comes into play;
3 – patience – I don’t seem to have the patience to focus on one potentially good idea and see it through to a ‘final’ conclusion. I would argue that this is partly down to time once again, but I know that patience, or lack of it plays a major part.
So why am I sharing all this? Well because, I have started to research something new and I want to share my initial findings. It is to do with ‘dobbing’.
Dobbing is a term I came across a few years back – I am not sure where it originates from, but essentially a ‘DOB’ means ‘double or bust’. Essentially if we win, we double our original stake, if we lose we ‘bust’ or lose our stake. I am concentrating on the idea of dobbing ‘in running’. It may be easier to explain by giving you an example:
Let us imagine you back a horse pre race at 8.0 for £10; in order to create a potential DOB you try and lay at half the odds for double the stake – so a lay at 4.0 for £20. If the horse hits 4.0 or lower in running, your lay bet will be matched and regardless of the result you will win £10 (less commission). Here is the simple maths behind the two potential winning outcomes - if the horse goes onto win the race you get £70 returned from the ‘back’ part of the bet; you lose £60 on the ‘lay’ part of the bet giving you that £10 profit; if the horse does not go onto win, you lose your £10 stake from the ‘back’ bet, but gain £20 from the lay stake – again giving you a £10 profit.
Of course if the lay part of the bet is not matched you will lose your £10.
So there is the basic idea – from here I am going to attempt to find ways of improving your chances of obtaining a successful dob. The data has been taken from just over 16,000 races and the focus is FLAT racing.
To give readers a benchmark; looking at all the runners in the study, 41% of them dobbed. In order to profit from dobbing we need to get this figure 53% or higher (taking commission into account).
It may be stating the obvious, but the running style of each horse is the biggest factor in whether a horse dobs or not. Horses that lead early ‘dob’ more than those that track pace, who in turn ‘dob’ more than horses that are held up. Here are the dobbing percentages:
Hence, as far as front runners are concerned, 2 in every 3 ‘dob’, whereas less than 1 in 3 of hold up horses ‘dob’.
The perennial problem here is the fact that we cannot predict the front runner before the race 100% of the time. If we could, dobbing front runners would be a license to print money. Unfortunately, it is hard enough to predict the front runner 50% of the time and that is not good enough to secure a profit through dobbing. However, if you treat dobbing as a type of form study, then looking at past running styles should certainly help sift out genuine hold up horses if nothing else. This will increase your chances considerably of getting close to that magical 53% dobbing percentage.
Most trainers will have a say in how the horse is ridden in terms of his running style. In addition, some trainers are simply better than others and hence more of their runners should ‘dob’. Hence, it makes sense to see if certain trainers have better dobbing percentages than others. I have focused on trainers that saddled over 400 runners and here are trainers whose percentage of runners that dobbed was 45% or higher:
James Fanshawe heads the list which I actually find surprising as so few of his runners lead early, and the majority of his runners are held up for a late run. Indeed his ‘dob’ percentage for hold up horses is an impressive 46.5%. If you exclude maiden races, Fanshawe’s ‘dob’ percentage increases to 52% getting close to the figure we are looking for. One final Fanshawe stat that is worth mentioning is that when Hayley Turner has been riding, 27 of the 44 horses have dobbed equating to a ‘dob’ percentage of just over 61%.
Jonathan Portman is second in the list and what is remarkable about his stats is that how well his big priced runners have done. Using traditional SP prices as a guide – when his runners have started 16/1 or bigger 54% of them have dobbed (122 of the 226 runners). As we will see later, lower prices ‘dob’ more often than higher ones, so these Portman stats are hard to explain. Maybe his outsiders just run above expectations – I’m not entirely sure.
Let me now look at those trainers with low dobbing percentages.
The majority of these trainers are the less successful ones in win percentage terms, but Sir Mark Prescott is a trainer with a surprisingly low ‘dob’ percentage.
Most jockeys have a preferred style of riding but will of course be influenced by some of the trainers they ride for. I have compiled jockey ‘dob’ percentages and again I have focused on those that have had a decent number of rides – 300 rides and as with trainers the cut off figure is 45%:
Stephen Craine heads the table with that magical 53%+ figure. Indeed, focusing on handicaps only this figure increases to 56.4%. Overall Craine’s figures look very solid – why he ‘dobs’ so often is something I cannot answer, but if he is riding a horse that I think will ‘dob’, that will give me added confidence.
Now a look at the jockeys with low ‘dob’ percentages:
I certainly would be wary of these jockeys if they were riding a horse that I thought looking dobbing material.
I mentioned earlier that lower prices ‘dob’ more often than higher ones and here are the stats to back this up:
There are no prices 2.00 or shorter as they cannot ‘dob’ as the lowest price a runner can go is 1.01. The best prices for dobbing seem to be those priced under 6.00, and generally the rule is the lower the better.
Does the distance make any difference was the next port of call. Here are the figures:
As we can see, the longer the distance, the better in terms of ‘dobbers’. I am not surprised at this, especially when thinking about how sprint races are run. Most sprints are run at a genuine pace and a good proportion of the runners just never get competitive – hence most of these runners are never going to ‘dob’. Most of the longer races are run at a steady or even slow pace and hence a higher proportion of runners will stay ‘competitive’ for longer. The more competitive a horse looks in a race, the more likely their price will contract ‘in running’ – so the more likely it will ‘dob’.
Number of runners
Finally I am going to look at the number of runners in a race to see what difference, if any, that makes:
Races with runners of 6 to 9 see more ‘dobbers’ in percentage terms. As soon as we get to bigger fields, the dobbing percentages do drop a significant amount – this is arguably down to the fact that for ‘in running’ punters, there are just too many runners to keep tabs on. Couple this with the fact that bigger fields tend to be the shorter races anyway which we have already seen have lowish ‘dob’ percentages.
To conclude – I am not at the stage where I can confidently make money from predicting horses that will ‘dob’ – however, this initial research certainly pinpoints areas to concentrate on and areas to avoid. Assuming I don’t do my ‘normal’ of getting bogged down in other new research, I plan to revisit this idea in a future article.
* for this section I used Proform pace data in conjunction with my Betfair dobbing stats. Proform professional is excellent software for anyone who bets regularly and/or is into racing research.
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