The concept of marginal gains in sport is probably best epitomised by Sky Sports cycle racing team and David Brailsford. Their attention to detail and the extraction of small marginal gains wherever possible underpinned the road success of UK cyclists. I prefer however the tale of Takeru Kobayashi and the world of speed hot dog eating. The world record for the New York Coney Island hot dog eating contest was 25.125 hot dogs. When hot dogs get measured down to the three decimal places you have to sit up and take the sport seriously, especially when in horse racing we cannot even measure the distance or going of races with any accuracy. Many rotund Americans (is there any other type) had tried and failed to beat the record and when Kobayashi turned up as a rather slim even small outsider he was not taken seriously. Kobayashi had however done his homework and applied the philosophy of marginal gains to his already reasonable speed eating skill. He experimented with eating the dog whole and then in half. He checked out the performance of dipping the buns in water. He tried different water temperatures and even water with oil. Any form of drink is allowed in the competition but no vomiting. He played around with stomach exercises to limit vomiting and impressively all these various experiments were entered in a spread sheet and analysed. When he got to Coney Island those New Yorker’s never stood a chance. In the allotted twelve minutes Kobayashi ate 50 hot dogs, pretty much doubling the previous record.

Bettors can learn a great deal from Kobayashi. Small gains can soon compound to impressive differences in end of year results and as a serious punter you should always be on the look out for any form of improvement. Allow me to give you a concrete example. A few years ago I was betting into Betfair at 1 minute to off time along with Betfair SP. The latter was more of a marker bet to gauge and difference between the two which was quite significant in favour of BFSP. Aware that I wanted to get closer to BFSP but equally aware that increasing bet size may result in cannabalising my own BFSP if I took this route I looked at ways to improve the returns on the one minute bets. First call was checking using weight of money on the price as I made bets. A horse with weight of money at the bet price indicating a drift would result in me placing the bet at one tick higher. The other bets would be placed at the price. Here are the results for 2018.

BFSP bets return +2.9%
Blindly backing at 1 min +1.03%
Backing using weight of money +1.41%

Niggling at the back of mind hwoever was whether weight of money was really the dominant factor in improving the returns. I therefore tried simply placing bets at one tick up regardless of weight of money.

One tick regardless +1.72%

These gains do not sound much but at the level of activity I pursue they add up to serious improvements.

Coney Island here I come