Welcome to the World of Horseracing

Record of the blog selections

LOSS for the 2016-17 Jumps Season = £40.87

from wagers on 55 individual races (6 winners, 12 placed)

Total Staked = £609.00

Since March 2010, this blog has recommended wagers on 520 individual races on Jump Racing in the UK, at cumulative stakes of £5,726 - which has resulted in a PROFIT of £1,525.39 equivalent to a Return on Investment of 26.60%.

There are NO affiliate links on this site to bookies from whom the author receives 30% of your lost wagers.

advising selections on which to wager, since March 2010.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Early ante-post strategy for Jumps season 2017-18

One of the things I really enjoy about the jumps racing season is the familiarity of the racing programme, as that gives the long-term player the ability to take a view, make a judgement and (hopefully) place a winning wager at longer odds than will be available on the day of the event.

The antepost markets have been overlooked in recent seasons, but I think that is more to do with the attitude of today's gamblers than a change in how the sport is being campaigned by owners, trainers and bookmakers. The "modern" person of today wants a quick hit, instant satisfaction. The prospect of placing a wager and then waiting weeks, if not months, for the event is not something that the new breed of gamblers seems to want.  I may be wrong, and I hope I am (please enlighten me if I am). What I want to show through this blog is that there is still the capability to build a portfolio of "antepost" wagers that will result in a good profit. What I also want to (hopefully) demonstrate is that by playing a long-game, the punter can build-up a distinct knowledge of the horses competing in certain races and so place wagers in greater certainty. I've had some success in recent seasons with antepost wagers, most notably Coneygree in the 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup (I advised taking the 12/1 available on 9th February 2015 - 5 weeks before the race), and with Cue Card in the 2013 Ryanair Chase (I advised taking the 5/1 available on 16th February 2013).  I've also had more than a few losers, but I will be trying to avoid those this season.

Putting together an antepost strategy, the initial priority is avoiding wasted wagers - placing precious stake-money on horses that never start the race has to be avoided.  So, at this stage of the season, the target races are going to be the "championship" Grade 1 races. In terms of the Cheltenham Festival, that is the Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase, Cheltenham Gold Cup, and the "Stayers" Hurdle. I'm going to ignore the Ryanair Chase until after Christmas when we will have a better idea of which horses are more likely to compete in the Ryanair. Outside of the Cheltenham Festival, I will be considering races like the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day; the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November;  and also handicap races if the opportunity arises.

The Betfair Chase on 25th November is the first of these championship races to be run, and the market is currently headed by Sizing John who won the Cheltenham Gold Cup last March. Since joining Mrs Harrington, Sizing John has found a new level of consistency but I don't think he's shown yet that he is significantly superior to other staying chasers to warrant being the 2/1 fav for the Betfair Chase at this time. You also have to take into consideration the fact the Mrs Harrington very rarely sends horses to race in the UK outside of the Cheltenham Festival. It's my view that Sizing John won't line-up for the Betfair Chase. Last year's winner Cue Card is now an 11yo, but he has won the Betfair Chase for 3 of the last 4 years, his only defeat in the race being in 2014 when his trainer said he was suffering (at the time) from a back problem.  Kauto Star won the Betfair Chase as an 11yo, and Kauto Star had also won the Betfair Chase three times prior to that win, so the "omens" are there. His stablemate Thistlecrack would appear to have a better chance. He beat Cue Card fair & square in the King George VI Chase at Kempton and, if he were able to repeat his run when just beaten by Many Clouds in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham on 28th January, that would be good enough in my opinion. However, his trainer may be aiming him for the King George VI Chase again. The current 2nd-fav at 9/2 in the betting is Might Bite but, for me, the jury is still out on this one's ability. Sure, he is a good chaser but I don't expect his trainer Nicky Henderson will send him straight to Haydock for this race.  I reckon we will see Might Bite run in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby first and, depending on his run in that, we will see if he goes for the Betfair Chase.
Other horses in the betting with odds under 20/1 are Bristol De Mai, Tea For Two and Whisper but, to be fair, none of those look remotely capable of winning a Betfair Chase.  The way Minella Rocco ran in the Cheltenham Gold Cup to be 2nd would really see him amongst the market leaders if the early-season form of his trainer Jonjo O'Neill was stronger but, invariably, Jonjo's top chasers are brought into the season slowly with the focus being on the Cheltenham Festival.
There are two others in the race who are very capable of winning a Betfair Chase, Coneygree and Native River. I am going to look at the latter horse first, and Native River had a tremendous season last year winning both the Hennessey Gold Cup (now re-named the Ladbrokes Gold Cup) and the Welsh National.  He "only" carried 11st 1lb in the Hennessey last year when running off a rating of OR155 and, with a rating of OR166 now, he will almost certainly carry 11st 10lb if he returns to Newbury, and I cannot see that happening. For me, the Betfair Chase over 3-mile at Haydock is tailor-made for the horse. He has everything you want, and he will only be a 7yo (which makes him a year younger than the 2nd-season chaser Might Bite). Current odds of 20/1 look huge to me as, should he line-up for this race (and there's no good reason to say he wont) he will have odds under 6/1 and he may even start the fav.
Coneygree ran in last years Betfair Chase starting at odds of  2/1 when returning from a year off the track through injury. He ran bravely but, ultimately, lack of race fitness told and he threw-in the towel with 2 fences to jump. He then ran a stormer at Punchestown (he missed the Cheltenham Gold Cup) when relishing the good ground. I would not be too worried if the ground is soft at Haydock (it usually is in November) as Coneygree won the Cheltenham Gold Cup on soft ground, but if the ground is heavy then that will not be to his advantage. He has been prepared to run in the Kerry National, so fitness should not be a problem this year. Paddy Power go 10/1 about Coneygree (he's 7/1 elsewhere) but, compared with the 20/1 available about NATIVE RIVER, finding the value in the Betfair Chase market is a no-brainer.

Antepost Advice:
25th November - Betfair Chase - NATIVE RIVER £10 win @ 20/1
(odds available with Skybet, BetVictor and Paddy Power)  

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Proposals for the 2017-18 Jumps season

Overall, last season was a difficult one for me as I was unable to find any consistency with my selections.  There were some high points, however (during the course of the season) I made selections in 55 races and (unfortunately) 9 of those selections ran 2nd, with some horses subsequently showing form that indicated they should have won.

Examples being:-
As De Mee selected at 7/1 on 12th November, ran unplaced, and then won next-time-out at 4/1.  
Courtown Oscar selected at 16/1 on 17th December pulled-up, and then won next-time-out at 8/1.
Milan Bound selected at 16/1 on 21st December pulled-up, and then won next-time-out at 12/1 
Otago Trail selected at 10/1 on 21st January ran 2nd, and then won next-time-out at 4/1
Label Des Obeaux selected at 20/1 on 14th March (Cheltenham Festival opening day 3-mile handicap chase) ran unplaced, and then won next-time-out at 12/1.

I had a better handle on the top-staying chase races, nominating via the blog Native River as an eachway Gold Cup wager at 20/1 on the morning before he won the Welsh National, and again at 10/1 after he'd won that race when (in the blog of 30th December) I suggested he should be 9/4 for the Gold Cup. 
Also (in that 30th December blog) I suggested taking 40/1 eachway about Minella Rocco for the Gold Cup.  Minella Rocco and Native River subsequently ran 2nd and 3rd in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Via the blog, I only found 6 winners in the season from the 55 races in which I made a selection, and this resulted in a loss of £40.87 to recommended stakes - stakes which totalled £609. 
It is a surprise that the loss was not worse (given the small number of winning selections) but my selections did result in a large number of placed horses, 12 in total (9 x 2nd and 3 x 3rd) at decent odds mitigated the deficit. That return in 18 of the 55 races (1-in-3) is the target I set myself, I just wish a few more of the placed horses could have won in the races in which I wagered on.  Season 2016-17 was the first jumps season in which my selections have shown a loss over the entire season since I started writing my blog in March 2010. One losing season in 7 isn't too shabby a strike-rate, even if I say so myself. 

However, I have found finding the time to write the blog, and conduct the form study to make it all worthwhile, a real struggle in the past 12 months and so I have decided to scale back and reduce the burden.  As such, although I will continue writing the blog it will probably only be once or twice a week during the coming jumps season. 

 My intention is to write a blog that is more commentary and opinion than selection based - although I am hoping the odd betting coup will occur.  There will also be more focus on the Cheltenham Festival races and I will be endeavouring to find a winner there come March 2018 about which I have long antepost odds. In the meantime, I thank you for your support in the past and hope you will continue to read the blog.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Holiday reflections

I'm currently on holiday (Sri Lanka) and I've been thinking about the blog and the way forward.
My opinion is that betting in general on horse-racing is becoming tougher mainly due to the expansion of rating services which is chiselling the "edge" away from old hands like me.  Horses which used to go off at 10/1 are now running with an SP of under 5/1 - what that means is that the "risk" factor is being reduced. 

To explain, I generally try and operate on a winner from every 5 wagers (20% strike rate), so to break-even my winners have to have odds of 4/1.  To make a profit, my selections have to have average odds of 9/2 or longer.  After building-in "margin" (about 2pts) and risk of the unexpected (another point), I'm looking for wagers at odds of 8/1 or longer on horses that I consider to have a chance on my odds-line of 4/1 or shorter.  Those opportunities are getting fewer, and I am looking at ways of overcoming the situation.

I've been reading a book called "Against The Odds - the remarkable story of risk" by Peter Bernstein.  It confirms what I had already concluded myself (although I do not consider myself a scholar or professor) that knowledge of risk is understood by very few.  I have made note of a passage which summarises the 1992 paper (by Kahneman and Tversky) titled "Prospect Theory": "Theories of choice are, at best, approximate and incomplete... Choice is a constructive and contingent process. When faced with a complex problem (ie. horseracing) people use computational shortcuts and editing operations." Since 1494, when Luca Paccioli set out the basics of algebra in his book Summa de arithmetic, geometria et proportionalita, mathematicians have tried to ascertain how to measure risk as a formula and, essentially, all have failed - although in the intervening years each advance in risk management has brought a greater understanding of risk and its complexities. What reading this book has confirmed to me is that few people understand what risk is, so if you don't understand it how can you value it? However, if you are to make a long-term profit from gambling on horseracing then you must at least make due allowance for risk in the structure of how you wager.  Right now, I don't think enough people take risk into account when placing a wager, and so they accept odds that do not accommodate a reasonable element of risk. It is not good enough just to bet on the winner of a race if the odds do not accommodate risk and offer the punter "value" - unless you are capable of finding winners at a very high strike-rate; and by high I mean over 40% of all wagers must win. If you do not accommodate risk within your odds assessment, then you will lose in the long run. 

What this has led me to consider is that with high a turnover of wagers, shortcuts have to be taken and, in taking shortcuts, you end up making decisions with incomplete or approximate information. As such, I will be intending to reduce the number of wagers I make in the coming 12 months to enable me to take as much information into account as possible.  With a reduced number of wagers, there needs to be a corresponding increase in the stake applied. Some years ago, I suggested that in order for wagers to have significance they should be at a level at which losing would "hurt". I took this from the memoirs of Sir Clement Freud and, at the time, I suggested the wager amount should be a days wage.  This produced a fair amount of comment back then, and I expect it will do the same again. As a freelance consultant in construction, I know what my daily rate is but, if you don't and you are on a salary then you have to divide your salary by 230 which is approximately the number of days a typical person works in a year. You can do this in your head by dividing your salary by 100 (if your salary is £40,000 divide by 100 equals £400), then halve that number (half of £400 is £200) and taking off another 10% (that is 10% of £200 which is £20), so £180 is a days wage for someone on £40,000pa.

I will be trialling this approach over the coming weeks, and the Royal Ascot meeting will provide several suitable races. I will be using every tool in my betting armoury to make a profit including laying-off my stake before the off should the odds provide the opportunity.

Post-blog notes: some differing responses via twitter with one suggestion being to give up betting on horseracing altogether, and another suggesting I increase the number of wagers and reduce the stake rather than reduce them and increase the stake. I have tried that latter suggestion before privately, but that is akin to adopting horseracing betting as a full-time occupation. This blog is essentially to provide readers with entertainment and information that will (hopefully) provide a profit. 

Friday, 14 April 2017

Easter thoughts - a time of reflection

The 2016-17 Jumps season hasn't been successful for me, in fact it has probably been the worst for my betting bank since I started blogging back in March 2010.

I need to update the profit & loss scenario for advised wagers on the blog, but I'm putting it off as it probably won't be good reading. I think, or perhaps I know, what the problem for me has been this season, and that is time - or (rather) the lack of it.

The way horse-racing is developing now into a season fixated on the Cheltenham Festival - and that has been made very evident by the lack of competition for some of the Grade 1 races at last weeks Aintree "Grand National" meeting -    is that horses are being prepared slowly and you cannot know just when they will be at their peak.

A perfect example of this is Saphir Du Rheu who I advised a wager on for the 2m5f chase at Cheltenham on 28th January. The ground that day was soft, which was perfect for the horse as he'd won the Lanzarote Hurdle a Class 1 "Listed" handicap on soft, and the Grade 2 "Cleeve" Hurdle at this meeting in January 2015. His worst ever run on soft ground had been over an inadequate 2-mile when a novice hurdler. The 2m5f trip was also suitable as he'd won all 4 of his completed races at a similar trip (only failure was unseating his rider in a novice chase won by Coneygree). He should have been race-fit as he'd run 3rd at Ascot in October over 3-mile and he'd fallen early-on in the Hennessy Gold Cup so, all-in-all he should have started the short-priced fav for this race and not had an SP of 6/1 when running off OR153 - especially when you consider his good performance in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last month which has resulted in his Official Rating being raised to OR162.
Instead, he was given a "gentle" ride by his jockey and only started racing "proper" after the 3rd last fence by which time the eventual winner opened-up at least a 12-length lead. Sure, Saphir Du Rheu managed to peg-back the leader, and some may be wanting to describe this as an ill-judged ride. However, the horse was so tenderly ridden until the 3rd-last fence that I think his trainer was ensuring he still had something to work with for Cheltenham. Remember, when he won the "Cleeve" Hurdle in 2015, he went to Cheltenham as the 5/1 fav for the Grade 1 "World" Hurdle over 3-miles and came home 2nd beaten by Cole Harden - a horse who has not won again since - so it's possible that trainer Paul Nicholls wanted to get plenty of work into this horse in preparation for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Some will read this and say I'm just griping and that there are always hard-luck stories - that is the nature of placing wagers on horse-racing. And there is an element of that in this post, but I need to cleanse - draw a line under this jumps season and put it behind me. Writing this post is one of the steps that forms part of that process. The next will be formulating a way forward, and then finding a way of putting that into practise.  What I do know is that what I've been doing this season while being good, just isn't good enough.  Coming 2nd is not the same as winning.