If asked what is the most important element to be considered when making selections, it is likely that the majority of racing people would say, "Form" Some people, however, including the late Phil Bull (one of the greatest of the professional backers in his early days), would maintain otherwise. He was once quoted as saying: "The outcome of a race will be decided by the characteristics of the horse rather than other circumstances'. This rather categorical statement has much truth in it judging by the constant flow of form upsets, or "shock results", which are an all too regular feature of modem day competitive racing. It would be well to remember from time to time that in racing, results which are seemingly incomprehensible to the student of form occur with great frequency, thus confirming the almost cynical view that there is no such thing as a shock result. What cannot be denied, however, is that form is the focal point around which most other factors revolve. Although bare form by itself is not enough, it is still the foundation on which we base our considerations when assessing the possible outcome of a race.
There are two types of form: direct and collateral (indirect). The first named, for example, is when two or more runners in a race have met before, so making a direct form linkage with today's race tenable. In the case of collateral form; if two runners in a particular race have never before met, their comparative ability - one against the other - can be roughly gauged by using "key horses" which have run against both of them, thereby allowing indirect lines of form to be drawn. For example: if horses A and B have never before met in a race, but horse C has competed against both in the past, then C will become the key horse and will be used to create comparisons of ability. Very often there will be more than one key horse, thereby making comparisons more substantive.
There are a multitude of differing types of races, either mixed or framed specially for the certain categories of racehorses according to age, sex and ability, including, in order of merit: Group One, Group Two, Group Three, Listed; Conditions and Rated- Stakes, Limited Stakes, Auction, Claiming, Maiden, Selling; plus a variety of graded Handicaps. Because they are the weaker sex, fillies receive either a 3Ibs or 51bs weight allowance from the colts and geldings, and winners of races, be they handicaps or non-handicaps are, in nearly all cases, penalized right up to Group Two (inclusive).
The weight a horse has to carry in all-aged non-handicaps is, apart from penalties, based on the Official Weight-for-Age Scale. It is advisable to get to know this scale well by referring to it frequently, it is also important to familiarize oneself with the class divisions of the various types of races and to be able to recognize the "class" of a horse while engaged in the study of a race. Any form student who can classify horses will always be one step ahead.
• Take note when the form of a particular race is working out well. If, for instance, the winner of a race at York the previous week defies a penalty in a competitive field at Newmarket, and the third horse home in that York race has just won well, then obviously the horse which finished second at York will go into your notebook, and its reappearance eagerly awaited.
• Always mark a dual winner of consecutive handicaps, and note those runners which finished close up behind on its first win. They will have run close to a horse which was at the top of its form, and about to win again under a penalty. First though, satisfy yourself that the wins were gained in races of a competitive or worthy nature.
• Note the winner of a race which beat a field containing two or more previous recent winners. This winner was defeating runners which have been at the top of their form, and may well follow up with another victory.
• Perform a careful study of horses which finished either first or second on their previous outing and were clear of the third horse. Also note the size of the field: the higher the field, the more meritorious in the performance.
• It is generally unwise to accept form recorded more than six weeks previously. So much can happen during a longish period of absence, a horse may lose its edge or it may have been off the course through injury; so be cagey about supporting a runner which has been absent for some time until it proves itself on the racecourse again (Good recent form is the ideal criterion that should be used as evidence when studying a race. The only exceptions to this rule are when:
a) A particular horse is known to run best.
b) When the trainer is noted for being able to produce his runners either on their debuts or after a lengthy absence (H. Cecil and J. Berry are two such trainers).
c) Those horses of the highest calibre who are raced infrequently, with lengthy gaps between their races. Much attendant media publicity is given to the home gallops' preparations of these horses leading up to the major races.
• In the main, back an animal on the evidence of what it has achieved on the racecourse and not - according to gossip - what it is going to achieve. If any hapless punter had backed every "Morning Glory" that had been touted in his direction, he would almost certainly have ended up showing a hefty financial deficit.
• Have reservations concerning runners which have run "with promise". Inexperienced horses which run promisingly sometimes do justify the tag placed on them by the race readers and other commentators, but many of them reappear only to disappoint their connections - and backers too. These animals often start at false odds; so unless one has indisputable and compelling evidence to justify support, such as a fast time performance or good form lines, then caution is the watchword.
• Bearing in mind what has been discussed in the previous paragraph, watch for an opportunity where a horse which made a debut of promise and substance on a mgn grade track is up against an un-raced "talking horse". Experience and proven ability are plus factors in just such a case, and these combined may prove too much for the heavily touted beast to overcome. A value bet is often to be found when such opportunities arise.
• A race which contains a field of newcomers can, on the odd occasion, throw up a betting opportunity for the shrewd and experienced rails' and paddockside judge. Using information such as breeding lines, foaling dates and yearling purchase price combined with observations concerning overall physical appearance and bearing, temperament and action, one can often narrow the field down to two or three likely candidates for the winners enclosure which stand out from the rest. One will often find that these are among the market leaders, but 3 value bet can sometimes be found.
• One should never try to find prospective future winners from the above type of race, either from the grandstand or the form book. They are notoriously unreliable races from which to forge any kind of judgement, purely because there is no prior form to fall back on for inference or confirmation in respect of the abilities of the winner or the placed horses. Unless a fast timefigure has been recorded. Let these horses prove themselves again before lending our support.
• Excepting an operation to improve its breathing, which will often bring about an improvement in performance, a lot of horses which undergo operations often lose some of their previous form. This seems to apply more especially to those animals which have received surgery to the legs. Again, let these ones prove themselves first before risking a bet on them.
• Maiden race winners are notoriously difficult to assess, unless the maiden race win was recorded in a fast time or one of the runners-up has franked the form next time out. If a horse wins its maiden from a large-size field in a bunched finish - even on a high grade track - then it is likely that the race was a moderate affair. However, if it wins impressively at a high grade course in a fast time with the rest of the field strung out like a row of beans, then one may be sure that the winner is useful.
• That great trainer, the late Captain Ryan Price was brilliant when it came to preparing a horse for one of the big handicap races, whether Flat or National Hunt. He once said of these races, "A few pounds either way does not really matter, it is the horse that is right on the day that wins". The major handicap races are so competitive that a horse needs to be either a fast improving type, or one that has received a thorough preparation and to be "spot on" for the day of the race to stand a chance of winning. Those runners that are "cherry-ripe" will stand out on looks in the paddock: another good reason to go to the races!
• If a horse is the clear form choice in a race and has all other conditions in its favour, yet still manages to get beaten, avoid backing the beast in the future - it might well be ungenuine. In fact, back against it if the circumstances and the odds are right.
Labels: Betting Systems