Are You Feeling Lucky Punk!

Its been a long time since I have ventured into a bookmaker, like all sensible punters I bet solely on the exchanges these days but I was tempted back in on Saturday to sample a lucky 15 bet and of course the delights of a modern punter friendly betting shop. The usual addicts were strapped into their machines conjuring memories of that classic Matrix Battery power plant scene. I asked the manager to explain the bonus system of the lucky 15. Now it is not too difficult in Betfred, you get one winner only and they triple the odds and if you get all four horses up then they add 10% to the winnings. He failed to inform me of the treble odds part. Make what you will of that.

My excursion began with an exchange on Twitter about the possibility of boosting long term winnings with under the radar bets like Lucky 15’s. The naive idea is that if you are taking money off bookmakers via single bets they will ban you but if you are taking money off them using Lucky 15’s they will make you free cups of tea and invite you to the staff do. So can lucky15’s turn a losing punter into a winning one and how less of a loser do you have to be to get lucky punk!.

I ran a siimulation using my own ratings on flat handicaps and selected my top rated horses from 2017 and 2018. This produces around 4,000 bets per year and across those two years they made a loss of around 9% to bookmaker SP. To Betfair SP they made a profit of +5.6% which should immediately make you curious as to why you are not pursuing Betfair especially if you have any ambition to become profitable as this is where you will be forced to bet in the long term.
To check the Lucky15 performance I ran some code to select 4 horses randomly from the top rated list and calculate the profit or loss using Betfred rules for a lucky 15. I did this 1,000 times to roughly represent a year and then ran the years 5,000 times. The results were interesting.

The best year to returned a profit of £251,502 to a £1 lucky 15 bet
Don’t get too excited though, the worse year was a loss of £5,579
The average profit or loss per Lucky15 came out at +1.75 per lucky 15 which equates to a 11.6% return on investment.

It would seem therefore that a Lucky15 can reduce a 9% loss to a healthy profit but one caveat I must mention. I had to ignore shorter priced horse to get the above results. Running on horses below or equal to 5/1 produced a bets year of +£8,465 and a worse year of -£3,529, the average profit per lucky was 0.02 pounds or 0.13% roi

I wont be pursuing this kind of bet in the future but I almost got very lucky on my sole and only venture any time soon into a betting shop. My selections came
3rd at 40/1 beaten a length
3rd again at 10/1 beaten 1.5 lengths
Won at 10/1
Won at 5/1

If they had all won we would be talking around 47k


Interview With Russell Clarke

Russell Clarke was one of my favourite interviews from my book The Newmarket Wizards. I have reproduced it here in response to a Twitter enquiry about him


Russell Clarke may be known to some readers from his monthly column in the now defunct magazine Odds On. Russell ran a column on the statistical side of betting along with a very successful advisory service. A clue to how well he had done can be gleamed from the fact that some of this interview took place in a restaurant at the Marina in Marbella. Russell took me up to see the location of his new build villa overlooking the city. Russell’s profit on the exchanges alone is in excess of seven figures, a fact I can personally verify. This was clearly a guy worth listening to and another major influence on my own betting. Since this interview Russell is now back in the UK where his daughters are finishing their education.

Q How did you first get interested in horse racing and betting?


I was probably around ten years old when I first took an interest in horse-racing. Both my Grandad and my Uncle were keen punters and the house always had a copy of The Sporting Life as we all lived together at that time.


My Grandad read all of the views of the racing correspondents in the papers at the bookmakers and then came to a conclusion based on that pool of knowledge. My Uncle took a more analytical approach by compiling his own speed-figures and keeping the records on index-cards. As a youngster I often did the simple math’s involved and helped him maintain the cards.


I became fascinated by the concept that the winner of a race could actually be worked out by the use of numbers or ratings. From there it was a natural progression to have a small “round robin” (my bet of choice at that age!)


Q How successful or unsuccessful were you when you first started to bet regularly, did you serve the typical losing apprenticeship?


I didn´t keep records back then, so I would be guessing, but my stakes were very small and I fondly remember a number of very good wins, so I would guess that my pre-teen betting days were profitable. As I got older, I did bet more regularly, but it was the 70´s and I was lucky enough to be using the speed-figures from the old Sporting Chronicle Handicap Book. These figures were powerful and largely anonymous to the general betting public and so I was fortunate to have stumbled upon a source of profit.

I don´t suffer from a need to win on any given day and so have never chased losses or got into difficulties by being reckless or “on tilt”.


Q Could you cite any pivotal moments or influences in your early regular betting life that shaped your style and approach to successful betting?


Lots! The first, and most important, was my belief that an objective approach to betting was more likely to succeed than a subjective one. This was almost the first conclusion I ever drew about betting on horse-racing. It came from a cursory glance at the Sporting Life Naps Table, which always showed that perhaps only 20% of the racing correspondents showed a profit on their daily “naps”. And, the really telling condemnation of subjective analysis is that, it was always a different 20% of the racing correspondents that managed a profit each year!.  Reading their columns, I concluded it was because they based their bets on their personal opinion. At that time, I didn´t really appreciate the importance of odds in betting, but nevertheless, I have never wavered from my belief in objective analysis from the conclusions drawn as a ten year old looking at the Sporting Life Naps Table.


Other influences were, the speed-figures in the Sporting Chronicle Handicap Book, the figures of Dick Whitford in the Sporting Life (which were my first introduction to the world of collateral form ratings), Phil Bull´s Timeform Computer Timefigures which I used for ante-post betting on the following year´s Guineas and Derby during the 1980´s in particular, and, any number of trends that I have found measurable such as the influence of the draw in Flat racing.



Q My understanding is that you are more statistically prompted bettor than an interpretative one (i.e.- evaluating form via personal observations). How would you summarize your style?


As I have alluded to already, the central thread of my betting is objectivity. To summarize this in a sentence…”if I can´t measure it, I struggle to evaluate it and so tend to ignore it”

Throughout my betting life I have remained flexible in terms of changing my methods. Over the years I have relied on speed-figures, collateral form figures, draw, pace, statistical systems, and various mathematical approaches that highlight that most elusive of all variables… value


Q What would be a typical betting day for you (e.g.- 10.00pm compile list of contenders, 8.00am compile odds line, 10.00am check Belfair prices etc etc etc


It may surprise you to know that I rarely spend more than half an hour on any meeting. This is because of my objective style of betting. As I rely on figures and statistics and systems, the work has largely been done beforehand. Really, all I require are the runners and an accurate going description. Additional subjective analysis merely results in convergence towards the accepted wisdom, which I constantly strive to avoid. Then I look at Betfair and highlight the potential value horses in each race. It is then a case of deciding the best way to back them.


Q Do you have any particular methods or approaches to handling a bad run of results. Could you give an example of a typical poor run e.g. time span, bets,  points lost.


The importance of psychology cannot be stressed enough. It is the factor that governs longevity in betting, or indeed any type of investment. When I lived in England I ran a Subscription Service. I can´t recall the year, but during one Flat Season I made a paper profit of just 4 points to level stakes. In reality, the clients would have lost money because the profits were quoted at prices recommended and these became progressively more difficult to obtain with bookmakers. The meager profits that year, were also due to a 50-1 winner at Royal Ascot and I think the losing sequence prior to that winner was something around 40 points or maybe a little more. That year I lost over half my client base. I recently spoke to a hedge fund manager who operates a very similar investment criteria to myself, and, he confirmed that he also lost many clients after a poor spell of returns, regardless of past performance. As humans we all share the same psychological response to losses. We time-weight recent results, so that they have much more influence on our behaviour than past results. Unfortunately, these responses do nothing to help with profitable betting/investment.


Such runs can sap confidence. Nowadays I hardly watch a race, except for the big events. This helps me personally. Watching loser after loser can be soul destroying, you blame bad luck, bad jockeys, bad “anything”. If you watch 8 losers and then a 10-1 winner, it hardly feels like a profitable day! So, I watch very little racing and sometimes don´t even check the results for a few days (I think my record is catching up on 4 days worth of results). I actually got that tip from a client. He reasoned that what happened day to day wasn´t really of any consequence if you have long-term faith. I think he has a valid point.


Q When someone asks me if I have had a good day, I usually answer ‘I don’t care but I am having a good year’. I make this reply not because I wish to be flippant or because it’s easy to think this way but because that’s were I want to be psychologically. You seem to be there already. Has this always been the case and more importantly do you think it’s innate or can it be developed.


My literal answer to the question is always honest but vague…so something along the lines of “a bit behind”, “a bit ahead”, “no, not today” or “yes thanks”. I´m only vague because I feel it is a little vulgar to mention numbers, akin to mentioning your profit if someone asks about your business. I suppose it also depends on who asks the question.

Therefore I don´t think the answer to such a question reflects the broader point you are trying to convey regarding separating the short-term peaks and troughs from the long-term trend in your own mind. I´m lucky on this score because I´m putting faith in rigorous statistics and not my own ability to find winners, the former is established, the latter is subject to variations in confidence.

Q The betting arena has changed enormously over the last 10 years. What impact has this had on your betting?


A huge impact, at one stage I relied almost exclusively on early morning prices and had accounts with bookmakers all over the country. I visited towns to open accounts with any independent who offered early prices or who might lay me say, the Big 3 or 4. In the 80´s I had a spell on-course to avoid betting tax, but found this soul-destroying. I have just read Dave Nevison´s book (very entertaining) in which he states that he prefers being on-course, so there is no right or wrong, but it just wasn´t for me. Driving home after losing a four-figure sum made me feel like getting a proper job!


I then discovered the spreads, but restrictions were soon applied and the majority of my bets I placed “abroad” and this was well before Victor moved to Gibraltar! There was quite an underground betting scene and the main reason was to escape the betting tax.


Along came Flutter….my first dalliance with exchanges. They were swallowed up by Betfair and the exchanges changed the betting map of the UK.


Q Some people complain that the exchanges have ruined early morning value whilst others feel things have never been so good. How do you stand, is it easier to make a profit now than pre exchanges. (note profit encompasses all aspects including getting on)


I believe bookmakers have become more astute at identifying winning punters, and, at an earlier stage. This makes it difficult to get on and as even accounts in friends and family names, that previously had served you well for a long period of time, are now heavily restricted very early on.

The exchanges are certainly lacking in liquidity in the morning markets. I think this highlights a flaw in the betting exchange business model, which is that eventually you can run out of “layers”.

With that caveat, I believe the exchanges have been a positive for punters overall.


Q I know you bet on horse racing, do you bet on other events. How about laying and trading, do they play any significant part in your activities?


I don´t trade unless the odds dictate that I should. For example, if I rate something a 14-1 shot and I can back it at 25-1 then I do so. If the price subsequently shortens to 8-1, then I will become a layer and effectively trade that position. But overall, I don´t trade.


My main activity nowadays is football betting. The liquidity is much stronger than for horse racing and I find it a new and fascinating challenge. For football, I have joined forces with a really talented partner. The software we use generates prices for all markets (including in-play) and we simply back and lay around those prices. Just as for the racing, it is totally objective, and we aim to become the biggest players in the UK.

Q I am no expert on the football markets, but my guess would be that the bigger profits and turnover is within the chaos of in play betting?. I have always thought the pre match odds were pretty tight?.


There are anomalies in the pre-match markets, but you are probably correct that the greater potential for profits occur during a game, when the market is constantly changing and reacting to events. However, the differences are not as marked as I believed they would be. As with horse-racing, certain factors are overlooked or even misunderstood by the market and this can happen almost as much pre-match as in-play.


Q What do you see as the key characteristics needed in a successful professional gambler?


Boring stuff really…..being sensible, realistic and brave. But your greatest ally is Belief


Q There will always be a nucleus of people contemplating becoming a full time pro’ in the betting world. What are the positives and negatives of such a working life style?


It is no different to running any business of your own. My advice would be to forget it is about betting…just treat it as a business. Do all the things you would do to make any business successful.


Q How do you balance the demands of pro’ gambling with home life. Have you had to make adjustments over the years and have you at any time in the past felt like you were simply working too hard at the betting?


Some summers have been hard in the past because of the plethora of racing once the evening meetings kick-in. But I have never felt like I am working too hard.


Q If I presented in front of you a willing wannabe professional punter (horse racing), who is the type of punter who doesn’t lose a lot over the year but cannot quite break into the regular profit zone. What advice would you offer such a person? Are there any simple tips that might improve the bottom line by the required amount?


I couldn´t really offer advice unless I knew this punter´s modus operandi. If we assume he utilizes best prices, exchanges, spreads etc, but is till not winning, then he needs to change his selection methods. But a generic piece of advice that we should all have transplanted into our heads is;


It´s ALL about the odds, NOTHING else matters. It is engrained in punters to try and find the winner of any race. This is reinforced by the “experts” on TV making a case for/against a horse, with little, or cursory reference to the odds available. It is a nonsense of course, but, the reality is that a well researched argument or opinion is far more interesting than a bland statistic. The opinion makes interesting television, the statistic doesn’t.



Q What are your basic figures, i.e. number of bets, strike rate, profit rate (per year).  Also, how long have you been able to sustain these figures?


The number of bets depends on the profit margins that I set. For example, if I set a requirement of a margin of 20% between assessed price and odds available, I will have less bets than if I set the margin at 10%.


Strike-rate also varies with the levels of margin set, but a broad average would be between 15 and 18%.


This has been relatively consistent over the years, though I am always a little surprised by the amount of variation season to season.


Football betting is a different animal. There are less unknown variables and so I can price up all markets and have a back and lay price for ALL selections. Therefore the number of bets on an individual game can run into 3 figures.


Q What do you consider to be the tools of your betting profession


All that is required, given that “it´s all about price…nothing else matters” is a means to accurately assess an accurate true price.


For Horse Racing I use a systematic approach utilizing statistics, alongside collateral form.

For Football I use a 100% mathematical approach to produce goal expectations and from these, all other prices can be calculated.


I use software, written for me, to actually place the bets.


Q What is the worse bet you ever made (gory details included please)


The year Seagram won the Grand National, I had my biggest ever bet on Garrison Savannah. At that time, I was heavily into ante-post betting and I had backed Garrison at all prices, I think from 25-1 to 10-1. I would have won enough to buy a terraced house, so the equivalent of 100,000 pounds today. The scale of the bet was due to a theory I have about the Grand National, which has brought me numerous winners of the race. On the day, I didn´t even watch the race….I was at Sincil Bank watching Lincoln City. People in the crowd had radios on and I asked a chap behind me, quite nonchalantly, who had won the National? “They´re just coming to the last…” he said….. “Garrison Savannah has gone 10 lengths clear”. I kept really cool and started dreaming of my winnings. A minute later the chap patted me on the shoulder and said “Seagram won it”. Deflated wasn´t the word!


When I got home I watched the race on video. If any of you can recall the race, Garrison jumps past Seagram at the last and quickly powers 10 lengths clear… this stage, had Betfair been around, he would have been 1.01! As I watched the video, I couldn´t believe that somehow this horse would get beat. But, at the elbow, he simply died, like Crisp had done years before.


Certainly my worst betting experience.


Q Is most of your daily selection process automated, even down to the selection of value or do you have to resort to some manual analysis?


In horse racing, 95% is automated. But, some things I just find easier to assess manually than trying to assign a numerical value to.


In football, 95% is automated. Even the team news prior to kick off generates an automatic numerical indication of the effect it will have on goal expectations. However, to do that player ratings are required and they are a mixture of Opta stats and watching every Premiership game each week….so that is the 5% manual analysis.


Q You live abroad now, how has this affected you on a personal quality of life level and on a betting level?.


We have lived in Spain for 4 years and now 4 years in Dubai. Moving to a new country brings frustrations, but overall we have enjoyed the experiences. It has exposed my family and myself to different cultures and other ways of life.


On the betting front, it has taken me even further away from consensus opinion as I no longer have the Racing Post or other mainstream publications drip-feeding me opinions. Whether this has been positive or negative in terms of profitability is difficult to tell, but it has certainly made decisions more clear cut.


The technology of today means that geographical distance isn´t really an issue.

Whip Ban 2019 ?

As we turn towards the new year much talk about pressure on the BHA to address the alleged cruelty to racehorses in the shape of the whip.  Kevin Blake makes a case for rallying against this fresh tide of concern in his column today and in a previous column of his he refers to the possibility that a total whip ban would produce races which favour free going horses over those that need some persuasion to pull out that extra to win races. This set me thinking, does he have any evidence for this or is he just putting 2+2 together and getting 5, an incorrect answer but one nevertheless that no one will dispute. If whipless races do produce a very different flavour to winner finding then this could be a useful tool especially if we go down a total whip ban under a Labour government.

I decided to check this by taking a look first of all at horse between 2005 and 2010 that were running in hands and heel races and had pulled or been ‘keen’ in a previous race. The results for backing all these horse types was

Bets 471 PL to Bookie SP -119 ROI% -25.3%

Now looking at those that had not pulled before we have

Bets 484 PL -90 ROI% -18.6%

It would appear that non pullers were better bets in hands and heels races than keen types, but how does that 25.3% compare with all races for pullers/keen type. Ignoring the race type and backing previous keen types lost you -20.15%. It would appear that during this period keen types had a greater disadvantage in hands and heel races.

There was another interesting reversal in these races over the period covered. Those hold up horses, who one could interpret as members of the lazy, need lots of riding types fair a lot better than expected in hands and heel races. You would only have lost 18% on turnover compared to -32% on prominent runners. As usual when quoting these figures I am referring to pre race pace figures which are published daily on SmarterSig.

Where does this leave Kevin Blake ?. Well I have almost both feet in his camp but I seem to be finding some polished turds on my shoes and cannot help feeling that we will need other persuasive arguments if whips are to continue.

Should We Avoid Low Class Races

One of the most repeated myths, especially on TV, is that punters would be best served betting on higher class races as lower class races are unreliable due to the erratic nature of lower class animals or perhaps the shear level playing field of modest form. Why this has come about I have no idea as I have long since smelt a rat about this piece of advice. Whether its bookmaker propoganda, as I am pretty sure they want you to bet on high class races, is anyone’s guess. The real question are higher class horses more reliable from a punting point of view ?.

For the purpose of this article I will take a punter view of reliable, namely that punters tend to overbet the last run and usually get swept up with placed horse last time out in preference to those with a more chequered last run figure. If we take a look at the profit and loss to backing to Betfair SP runners who placed first second or third last time out we would expect, if the message is correct, to find less loss in higher class races. Indeed the lower class figures should show that we lose more following ‘form’ in lower class races. Is this the case for the last 5 years Handicaps on the flat?

Class 2 6969 bets PL -346.77 ROI -4.97%

Class 3  6264 bets PL -401.87 ROI -6.41%

Class 4 12768 Bets PL -530.69 ROI -4.15%

Class 5 15475 Bets PL -353.48 ROI -2.28%

Class 6 13994 Bets PL -459.2 ROI -3.28%

The least loss occurred in class 5 and class 6 the very races the media is telling you to avoid and very races bookmakers do not really want you to bet in. Ask yourself this why do some bookmakers state in their new max liability rules that they will take a bet but only in class 4 and above. Enjoy Kempton tonight, I like Hombre Casado and Cool Strutter in the last two handicaps.

Form Reading Systems and Machine Learning

So what is the difference between Trevor picking horses based on

1.Ad hoc reading of form

2. A system

3. A machine learning model.

First of all Trevor’s method is number 1 and probably highly subjective, even if you told him to focus on the same criteria eg trainer form, as a machine learning model there would be no guarantee that he would interpret the data correctly of if he would interpret it the same way on every day he read form. In an attempt to introduce some sort of rigour and consistency he may attempt to devise a system.

Flatstats tweeted the following data the other day.

Best Value Jockey at Wolverhampton: Rossa Ryan

21/77, 27% strike rate, 1.59 A/E, 57% profit

6:15 Brockley Rise 6:45 Ventura Island 7:15 Fox Power

Based on this Trevor may decide to back all Rossa Ryan mounts at Wolves from now on. He may even decide to back all best value jockeys at every track from now on. This would be an example of a system. It would be a tricky system to follow as Trevor would have to have access to or keep updated figures on who is the top value jockey at each track.

Trevor however gets up one morning, especially when things have not been going too well with the system and wonders if he can integrate trainers into the system. He likes following trainers and thinks it could add value to the system. The problem is that keeping updated values for both trainers and jockeys is going to complicate things further. Also how do you combine the two inputs, should it be a system in which the top valued jockey is riding for the top valued trainer?. That might be too restrictive. What about top valued jockey riding for one of the top three trainers at the track. You can see how just introducing an extra variable has made the possibilities far more complex. Perhaps he should go for trainers over a minimum strike rate at the track.

This is where Machine Learning steps in. With ML we can feed in to an ML algorithm values for our two variables. Maybe initially this would be jockey strike rate at the track and trainer strike rate at the track. Let us say we do this for 2010 through to 2016 and each line of data looks like




From the first 3 lines of this data which we shall say is for Wolves only we can see that the first runner had a 10% jock on board riding for a 12% trainer (all figures for Wolves) and the horse finished out of first place at odds of 3.5. The third line is a 12% jock for an 11% trainer who finished first in this race. There would be many lines of such data for the period which we call the training period because we will use this data to train a model to hopefully find meaningful relationships between the two inputs and the output (win/lose). The odds would not be used in the model other than to test how much profit or loss it made. Furthermore we can get the model to predict the percentage chance a horse with a certain jock percentage and trainer percentage has of winning a future race and hence see how we would have done backing perhaps when a horse is above a certain threshold.

Once we have trained the model we can then see how it performs on new unseen data which we call the test data. For us this may well be data for 2016 to 2018. This will give us a far more realistic idea of how well this model performs.

Sometimes data we want include is not in the correct form. Machine learning models in some applications like Python need all data to be in numeric form. So if we included a third field say headgear where b means blinkered and b1 means blinkered first time and so on. Here we have a problem with non numeric data but it is fairly straight forward to convert the data into numeric representations.  There is also the possibility that our two inputs are correlated in that better jockeys tend to ride for better trainers. This highlights that careful thought is needed about how we pick data to include. These are perhaps topics for another post. This post was an attempt to clarify the difference between the three modes of bet analysis.

Recent Flat Trainer Form

In response to a recent twitter exchange I am posting this up from an old article I wrote in 2010. I had previously written and shown that NH figures seemed to say the opposite ie one was better off backing trainers ‘in form’. Interestingly the flat figures below also show what Joseph Buchdahl’s football figures showed for teams in or out of form ie that there is sweet spot before positive results swing the other way.


Last month I took a look at how recent trainer form affected the performance of runners and the pound in your pocket. It showed that some improvement on your bottom line can be obtained from looking at recent strike rates of trainers although not enough to produce any outright profits. Last months article focused on National Hunt racing. This month I will take a similar look at Flat trainers and see if any similar trends emerge.

As with last months article I will look at trainers with an overall strike rate of more than 10%, but this time on the Flat. This would hopefully rule out small trainers with very few runners which could in turn skew the results.. My first port of call was to see how these trainers faired when their recent form was inferior to their overall form. To do this I plumped for the last 25 runs as an indicator of recent form. A broad brush approach would therefore initially be to state that any ratio ie overall SR% / last 25 SR%, greater than 1 would mean ‘out of form’. Yes very broad brush I know but we have to start somewhere. The results were as follows for all horses going off under 8/1 for the years 1999 to 2005.


All horses regardless of recent form :-

Bets                          Wins                           PL                        ROI%

48469 10846 -4674 -9.6%


Strike rate ratio > 1

23077 5160 -1963 -8.5%


Slightly better returns for those trainers on the wrong side of the ‘in form’ ratio. If we increase the ratio to greater than 1.2 ie more significantly out of form, we have

18179 4018 -1427 -7.85%


Further improvement in the returns !.

Here are a full set of ratios :-


Ratio                Bets                      Wins                PL                       ROI%

>1.4 12524 2779 -876 -7.0
>1.6 9960 2192 -735 -7.3
>1.8 8133 1770 -675 -8.3
>2.0 6795 1462 -631 -9.28
<1.0 24854 5562 -2708 -10.8
<0.8 15632 3519 -1463 -9.3
<0.6 7162 1609 -586 -8.19
<0.4 2070 422 -277 -13.4


The interesting figures from the above are the improvement shown when a trainer is out of form but not drastically so ie when the ratio of strike rate to recent strike rate is somewhere between 1.4 and 1.8. In fact betting those within that band produced :-

Bets                            Wins                           PL                        ROI%

4391 1009 -201 -4.5%


Using the above band for the following 3 years ie 2005 to 2008 produced for those 3 years :-

Bets                            Wins                           PL                        ROI%

2661 606 -97 -3.6%


Certainly -3.6% is surmountable using Betfair.

When it comes to which trainers are best to follow when ‘out of form’, here is a list of profitable trainers when the ratio is set to > 1.4 and < 1.8

Trainer                 Profit

T D Barron 39.53
Saeed Bin Suroor 38.03
M A Jarvis 27.39
W R Swinburn 24.75
T G Mills 21.01
N A Callaghan 19.43
Andrew Reid 19.3
M C Pipe 16.21
J Noseda 15.28
R Hannon 12.93
P R Webber 11.75
N J Henderson 10
Ferdy Murphy 8
L Lungo 7.5
M A Magnusson 7.25
N J Vaughan 7
Tom Dascombe 7
M Wigham 6.75
D R Lanigan 6
R M Beckett 6
H Morrison 5.91
H Candy 5.24
Miss S J Wilton 5
Carl Llewellyn 4.87
John M Oxx 4.87
D R Loder 4.86
J W Payne 4.75
A C Stewart 4.5
E S McMahon 4
Miss Tor Sturgis 4
S P C Woods 3.88
M Pitman 3.33
D J Daly 2.5
George Baker 2.5
A P O’Brien 2.36
R Brotherton 2.25
Paul Johnson 2
A M Balding 1.72
W Jarvis 1.7
P W Chapple-Hyam 1.62
M Botti 1.33
D Flood 1.22
R J Smith 1.1
M Johnston 0.12


Good luck with the above figures. One thing for sure most media pundits are guessing when they refer to trainer form.

Educating Trevor 2

As a retired gentleman Trevor likes a bet, in fact I first met him in a Bookmakers shop around ten years ago. He wasn’t a profitable punter but his daily walk into town for a bet, some banter and a cup of tea was a regular ritual. Trevor has one quality however that Bookmaker’s do not like, he has a brain in his head. He demonstrated this by expressing to me an interest in becoming more successful with his betting. How many punters have you met who seem to want to validate their own failure rather than improve their own betting, Trevor was not one of them and he was about to take his first steps towards profit.

He first asked me what was the single most important thing he could do to improve his bottom line, how could he at least perhaps break even and maybe even win long term. I asked him how he bets, what is his daily routine. It is a familiar one to us all. He makes his picks around 8am, has some breakfast and then strolls into town around 10am to his favourite Bookmaker which at the time happened to be Paddy Power. It sometimes changes, if the manager makes him unhappy for some reason. He will then switch to Ladbrokes, Coral, Fred or Hills. If there is one thing FOBTs have given punters its more shops to choose from, but it is probably the only thing. Trevor will write out his bet taking the odds the bookmaker is currently offering at around 10.30am.

So what can Trevor do that will improve his bottom line. Study more form? Follow a tipster? Invest in some fancy speed figures and follow them? My first line of advice was none of these. What all punters should do to improve their betting is to take the best price available. I suggested that Trevor checked which Bookmaker has the best odds amongst his Bookmakers and make the effort to grab those prices. If he could include online bookmakers then his prospects would be even better. Trevor managed to do this (although not via online books) and admitted that he felt better off financially. The second thing I got Trevor to do was check out Betfair and once again Trevor was not only open to this idea but came back to me amazed at some of the prices he was getting.
Okay, so far this is all anecdotal although I can assure you perfectly true. The real question is how much better off is Trevor and could he do even better with his bet placement choices? To test this I gathered 10:05 am prices for all High street and online Bookmakers for a period of just over 2 weeks starting around the St Ledger meeting. I wanted to see how better or worse off the profit would be with various bet placement strategies. First of all I wanted a baseline to compare to. I decided on profit and loss to Bookmaker SP on all horse who had a 10:05am average price of less than decimal 10.0 (9/1). To keep things simple I only considered races where, from 10:05am onwards, there were no non runners up to race off time. Both Flat and NH were analysed.

AM av’g Price < 10 in betting to bookmakers’ SP £1 bets

Bets                              PL                 Returns to £1
2090                        -£192.86                    £0.91

From the above we can see that during this period if we had 2090 £1 bets we would have lost £192.86 which equates on average to getting 91p back for every pound bet. What we would really like to see from a betting strategy is that last column to be above £1.00 or with this article we are looking to see what method of bet placement moves us closer to £1.00 when betting blindly.
So how can we improve matters before we even consider how we are picking our bets? Well what if we do what Trevor is now doing. What if we bet at best 10:05am prices rather than Bookmakers’ SP. The first question is, which Bookmakers should we realistically consider? Trevor is not going to have accounts with every available checkable Bookmaker. Perhaps a look first at betting to best price at 10:05am with the main High street shops, namely Ladbrokes, Coral, Hills, Fred and Power.

AM av’g price < 10 in betting to best 10:05am price with main high street firms

Bets                                PL                       Returns to £1
2090                         -£124.73                          £0.94

Excellent a small improvement: a loss of £124.73 which equates to a return on every pound of 94p.
However what if Trevor is willing to really do the leg work and open accounts with all online Bookmakers? For these results I have excluded all exchanges except Betfair exchange and Betfair Sportsbook.

          AM av’g price < 10 in betting to best 10:05am price with all firms

Bets                              PL                          Returns to £1
2090                         -£36.69                            £0.98

It is worth noting that we will need larger samples than this to feel confident about whether that 0.98 is a realistic figure but what we are really interested in at this stage is the relative behaviour of these numbers. Is one strategy is better than another and by how much.
Let us be a little more realistic. Trevor may not want to have over twenty online accounts. Perhaps he is only prepared to open two or three. The question now becomes one of which two or three bookmakers should he open online accounts with. A count of how often each bookmaker is top priced or joint top priced on a race should tell Trevor where to have his two or three accounts. The chart below shows this count for the period under examination.


The above chart suggests Trevor should have accounts with BetVictor, Betfair and Bet365 in addition to his high street shops. If Trevor makes the effort and adds these three online bookmakers to his access he now has the following figures.

 AM av’g < 10 betting to best 10:05am prices with High st + Three online

Bets                         PL                  Returns to £1
2090                     -61.97                      £0.97

Let us now take a look at how Trevor would have performed if he took the easy option and simply placed all the bets at Betfair SP. This can be done with a single click in the morning and then the rest of the day is his.

          AM av’g < 10 in betting to Betfair SP after 5% comm’ deducted

Bets                          PL                Returns to £1
2090                      -27.48                    £0.98

Betting all horses with an 10:05am average price less than 10.0 in the betting at Betfair SP has produced a loss of £27.48, which equates to a return of £0.98 for every pound invested. This is equal to best price with all bookies but adjusting commission from 5% to 4% places it ahead of best AM price with all bookmakers.

Many people will be surprised to find that the easy Betfair SP option outperformed all the other scenarios when realistic commission is used. Furthermore there is no chance of you getting your account restricted or closed betting to Betfair or Betfair SP. Seems that the old adage of don’t work hard work smart, applies to your betting as well.
Finally is there any Bookmaker based betting that can beat Betfair SP? Well so far there is one but it would rely on getting Best Odds Guaranteed (BOG) with any of the high street Bookmakers at 10:05am. Where BOG is offered on a race you can take a price and if the SP is bigger your bet will be settled at the bigger price. I am unconvinced that this is likely, my understanding is that they all have various time and race caveats when offering BOG and of course it is the first thing to go when you show any sign of intelligent punting.

   Av’g price < 10 in betting to best high street only and BOG at 10:05am

Bets                     PL              Returns to £1
2090               +58.96                  £1.03

If you are not a long term winning punter then these figures suggest that when and how you bet can make a major impact on your loss figures. What if you are a winning punter?. Unless the current bookmaker climate changes you may well be forced onto Betfair anyway but in the meantime I would advocate placing small breadcrumb bets on Betfair alongside your normal bets to gauge the difference in overall performance.

If there is interest in this article I will follow it up with a look at whether the intelligence of the market or wisdom of the crowds can be harnessed to produce a profit from the data. Twitter @SmarterSig

Key Race Analysis 2

OK so I have set the scene for what I mean by key race. In this entry I want to look at some numbers for various key race performance. I am going to look at the first runner coming out of a handicap and how subsequent runners fair when the first runner to appear has run well when up in class, down in class or in the same class. I will look at this from two angles, backing all runners coming out of the race and only backing the next runner, that is to say the second runner coming out of the race. The reason for the latter is that perhaps any benefit gets eroded if a race is more obviously becoming a key race and perhaps using only the second runner as a bet may produce better figures.

Now our intuition may lead us to think that the first runner coming out of a race and running well in a more valuable race would be the stronger indicator, so lets see how things worked out to bookmaker SP.

First of all backing all runners from the second runner onwards, next time out after the first runner ran well –

1. Up in class = Bets 11495 PL -2677 ROI -22.4%
2. Same class = Bets 20442 PL -3490 ROI -17.07%
3. Down in class = Bets 12913 PL -2278 ROI -17.6%

This seems to contradict our instinct with a good run up in class from the first emerging horse paving the way for greater loss than down or same class.

Now backing only the second runner from a race by the above categories

1. Up in class = Bets 1687 PL -353 ROI -20.9%
2. Same class = Bets 2811 PL -447 ROI -15.9%
3. Down in class = Bets 1740 PL -40.2 ROI -2.31%

The variable PL on down in class was +4.87 so that -40.2 does not seem to have been facilitated by a big priced winner or two.

This has a touch of the Mordin philosophy about it. Whats is intuitive is wrong and what is counter intuitive is better. This is because we are dealing with a market and often what seems right also seems right to the market.

Comments welcome

Key Race Analysis 1

Key races is a term that probably originated around American racing although it would be fair to say that we have always been informally aware that some races produce lots of good future form whilst others produce a steady stream of losers. By winners and losers here I am talking about next time out runs. Clearly if we knew that the 2.30 this afternoon was going to have 3 winners next time out from the 8 runners we would be in a position to make money provided the odds where generous enough.

The SmarterSig site has a key race page and others also try to highlight hot races from previous form but what I want to look at in this blog is how useful are they when it comes to seeking out profit. First of all I need to define what parameters I am using so that everyone understands what is being measured. This topic can have people going up blind alleys of misunderstanding from the get go if a little thought is not spent on the method. It is also an analysis that can take many different forms and this is by no means the only slant on the topic.

Firstly I am going to look at handicap races that have had one runner come out of them. Sure more runners will appear but it is at this one emerging runner point that I will mark the race down as being a certain category of race. Let me explain with an example. At the time of writing on 22/08/2018 Surrey Blaze is running at York. His last run was in a race that has produced one future runner namely Trouble and Strife who came 2nd beaten 1.25 lengths over 14f, he then came out in the same class of race and ran well to finish 2nd again beaten 2.25 lengths over 14f.

These are some explanation needed here. First of all I will define the same class as being within 0.5k of prize money either way. Anything greater than 0.5k will be classed as a class rise and below a 0.5k drop will be classed as a class drop. We can argue about these values and they can be adjusted but for now they will do fine. I also want initially to bucket races as key races where a good run has come out of a next time out class drop, next time out class rise and next time out class same so that we can compare them as markers. For example do people overbet subsequent runners just because a race has produced a good run next time out in a higher class from its first emerging runner ?. Also what if the first emerging runner runs in a lower class and runs poorly, does this mark the previous race as a donkey race ?.

Next stop was defining ‘good run’. Again there are a few ways to do this, I chose a good run to be where the distance beaten was less than the race distance multiplied by 0.2. So for 5f its less than 1 length and for 10f its less than 2 lengths.

Now the question remains is it more favourable to blindly back horses where the first emerging horse has run well in lower, higher or the same class. Also what other tweeks or parameters might be of interest. One tweeter suggested looking at percentage of horses beaten in subsequent next time out races as a way of comparing rather than ROI%. Have your say in the comments below and in the next post we will check out some numbers.

Betting Fast and Slow

Excuse the play on an excellent book that you should all read called Thinking Fast and Slow. I have mentioned this book before in an earlier blog but that is not the topic I am talking about today. Another book did howver prompt todays theme, the book is called The Signal and the Noise although I am not quite sure how I moved from ending a chapter in the book to investigating pace and time in relation to winner finding. It may have just been a motivating factor rather than a particular subject matter.

We are often told that slow run races are unreliable and that even run races are best, even fast run races can be frowned upon. Now I know where you are positioned in these different kind of races may help or hinder a horse in winning next time out but what I wanted to do for the time being is ignore the fine detail and simply look at whether the different pace categories as defined by ATR are better or worse when it comes to providing future winners. Let’s face it anything that narrows the field but increases the winner finding is bound to be beneficial unless the market has latched onto it.

The baseline for consideration was to be how horses that had run in a pace defined race did next time regardless of the pace. I initially started out looking at only horses that had placed in a pace defined race. This produced a strike rate of 17.17%.

I then looked at how the strike rates vary according to the pace of the last race for the above horses. This produced the following

Ev-Fs runs = 376 SR% = 15.95%
Ev-Sl runs = 507 SR% = 15.77%
Ev runs = 1299 SR% = 16.55%
Fast runs = 345 SR% = 21.15%
Slow runs = 408 SR% = 18.62%

This seems to fly in the face of conventional logic so I next looked at the performance of all horses next time out coming from pace races regardless of whether they placed or not.

All horse SR% = 11.28%

Ev-Fs runs = 1095 SR% = 10.86%
Ev-Sl runs = 1233 SR% = 10.21%
Ev runs = 3599 SR% = 11.22%
Fast runs = 1018 SR% = 11.88%
Slow runs = 905 SR% = 12.81%

The bias within Fast and Slow has not been removed but interestingly the deficit within Ev-Fs and Ev-Sl still remains. Its not as though as we move away from an even pace things get better, both exhibit a kind of W shaped curve.

Further data and angles of investigation are needed on this and comments are welcome but for the time being dont be too fast to dismiss slow races.