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Uncovering All Weather Biases
For this article I am looking at two less fashionable biases that should help punters to increase profits or at the very least limit losses when punting on the sand.
Gender bias – for the first bias I am going to look at the fairer sex; now not what some of you might be thinking, but I am talking about the equine fairer sex. You often hear the following comments: “follow a filly in form”, or “back fillies in the autumn”, etc. However, what you do not often hear is: “fillies and mares are at a disadvantage when racing against their male counterparts”. This statement however, is TRUE! Looking all types of mixed sex races since 2000, which equates to over 35,000 races, we get the following results:
Colts / Geldings (male) – win strike rate 9.4%; ROI -25.6%
Fillies / Mares (female) – win strike rate 7.5%; ROI -36.6%
Essentially therefore, male horses have been 1.25 times more successful than female ones. This might not sound too significant, but when you look at their respective ROIs (return on investments) it is clear that it is significant. If you randomly backed females rather than males, you would lose an extra £11.10 per every £100 you bet.
This bias is even more acute on the all weather in mixed sex races as the following figures show:
Colts / Geldings (male) – win strike rate 10%; ROI -23.3%
Fillies / Mares (female) – win strike rate 6.9%; ROI -42.4%
Hence, on the all weather male horses have been 1.44 times more than successful than females. This is a strong bias, while in monetary terms the bias is also now very significant with females losing £19.10 more per £100 staked than males. Clearly therefore, when betting on the all weather you must consider the “sex” of the horse in races open to both genders.
As punters, we can take even greater advantage of this bias as the gender bias varies at the four all weather courses as figure 1 shows:
At Lingfield, the gender bias is at its strongest with male horses 1.59 times more successful females. In addition, female horses lose £28.40 more per £100 staked than males. This is a considerable amount and if punters want to improve their all weather betting, this bias must be given serious consideration.
For system punters, knowledge of this bias means that creating winning systems on the all weather becomes easier, especially at Lingfield. Here is one such system which focuses on in form runners that start favourite:
1. Lingfield (aw)
2. Open Handicap races only (mixed sex)
4. Last time out winner
5. Age 2, 3 or 4
6. Gender – male
The results since 2000 for this system read:
Strike Rate 38%
Profit +£625.20 (to £10 level stakes)
This system would have produced a steady return on investment of nearly 18% with 7 winning years out of the last 8. Indeed, this system also made a profit between 1990 and 1999, so this recent period has simply replicated past success.
For the layers out there, laying systems involving female horses is the logical step. Indeed there is a system involving horses that finished 2nd or 3rd last time out that actually makes considerable losses:
1. Lingfield (aw)
2. Open Handicap races only (mixed sex)
3. Price 8/1 or bigger
4. Last time 2nd or 3rd
5. Gender – female (filly / mare)
The results since 2000 for this laying system read:
Strike Rate 2.9%
Profit -£2680.00 (to £10 level stakes)
Hence taking commission into account coupled with exchange prices at 20% above starting price, laying these horses should have yielded a profit of around 40%. This is very impressive considering the horses involved in the system clearly had run well last time out.
These two simple systems highlight how important the sex of the horse is when betting at Lingfield.
Pace bias – in recent years the question of “pace” in a horse race is something that has received far more coverage than it used to. In the Racing Post for example, it is not unusual to read comments such as “I expect runners on the far side to be favoured as there is more pace on that flank”; or “there is plenty of pace in the race, which could set the race up for a finisher”; or “XX could get a soft lead in front and might be difficult to pass”. Knowing how a race is likely to pan out in terms of a “pace angle” can give a valuable insight, which in turn can lead to that all important “edge” over fellow punters.
To illustrate this point let us look at the following: I took data from 3000 5 furlong races (turf and all weather) with 10 or more runners. My main aim was to see how well front runners fared in such contests, and with at least 10 runners in every race I was unsure what to expect. To establish the “front runner” in each race, I needed to define its criteria. At the minimum trip of 5 furlongs the lead does not tend to change hands very often early in the race. Indeed the vast majority of horses that lead early are still leading as they reach the final furlong. I decided that the criteria for the “front runner” would be the horse that was leading after the first furlong. I used the form book to glean which horse was leading after the first furlong of each contest and remarkably over 22% of them actually went onto win the race. Considering we are dealing with races of 10 or more runners a strike rate of over 22% is an incredible statistic. It means that front runners win on average more than twice as often as they should given a level playing field.
On the all weather, over 5 furlongs, the front running bias is strongest at Kempton and at Wolverhampton. At Southwell front runners still have a decent edge, while at Lingfield, a course renowned to be tough for front runners at any distance, the edge is minimal.
Of course, we can only profit from this idea, if we have a good appreciation of which horse or horses are likely to lead. Occasionally, this is fairly straight-forward. For example, when a renowned front runner has one of inside draws at Wolverhampton or Kempton, and all the other runners are generally “hold up” horses, it does not take a rocket-scientist to work out that the well drawn front runner should lead. Indeed, with no likely competition for the early lead, one would expect this horse to have an excellent chance of making all the running and securing a win.
The effect of the draw, coupled with early pace is clearly worth further exploration. In my recent draw bias article I discussed that at Wolverhampton, the low draw bias does not seem as strong as it did when the Polytrack surface was first laid back in 2004. However, I still believe a lower draw is far more preferable than a higher one, especially when a horse drawn low has good early pace.
My hypothesis therefore is that the majority of front running winners over 5 furlongs at Wolverhampton would have had a low to middle draw. The reason being that is far easier to lead and successfully lead from an inside stall position (low) than it is to lead and successfully lead from one of the outside stalls (high). If drawn high, front runners often have to use up too much energy in attempting to get to the front, as they are forced to run round the outside of most of the other runners. The results back up my theory. Of the 44 front running winners, 32 were drawn 5 or lower (72.7%). Meanwhile, draws 6 to 13 provided the other 12 winners. Clearly a lower draw coupled with good early pace was a strong combination. Indeed if we split the draw positions into “thirds” we can perhaps see this more clearly:
Bottom third of the draw – 50% of front running winners
Middle third of draw- 32% of front running winners
Top third of the draw – 18% of front running winners
Of course life will not always that simple and there will be occasions when there may be two well drawn front runners. However, as punters we can leave these races alone and wait for better opportunities.
In order to profit from front runners in 5f races at Wolverhampton, Kempton and Southwell, punters will need to put in some work. For my own personal betting in 5 furlong races, I produce “pace figures” for each horse to give me a numerical representation of their running style. However, these figures can take some time to produce so I would suggest as a starting point to look at the last three races of each horse and see which horses have led in one or more of these races. If they have led twice or three times you are likely to have a genuine front runner on your hands, and if you have a potential front runner, you have a horse that will win much more often that the bare statistics suggest.
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