Why The Best Horse Doesn’t Always Win

I wrote this post before I sent the ‘Conditions to Suit’ post to Brian, I meant to send this through first, so if it’s a bit ‘back to front’, I apologise. Grab a coffee, make yourself comfortable and get ready for another BV rant…

I have been pondering something I read recently in Davey Towey’s excellent book, The Solidus, and one quote I want to share with you is the basis of this article… “The horse that wins is not necessarily the best horse in the race, the horse that wins is the one that has the most factors in its favour on the day”.

What I am going to tell you now may, or may not, be the difference between you personally winning or losing long-term when betting horses, but it will hopefully encourage you to take a step back, think about, and reassess the basis upon which you make selections.

The average punter has a ‘back to front’ approach to betting I think personally. They start out looking for the likely ‘winner’ of a race, when in actual fact what they should be doing is looking for the most likely ‘losers’ in the race first.

By reversing this process, the punter allows himself the opportunity to ‘narrow down’ the field considerably to just the possible main contenders. It’s a lot easier to pick a winner from 3 potential selections, than one from 8+ selections I feel personally.

I started to use this concept towards the end of last year and I am scratching my head and wondering why on earth this simple concept never dawned on me earlier, it’s such a basic principle, unyet it’s one that many punters miss the boat on and pay dearly with a succession of losing bets.

In his book, “A Bloody Good Winner”, Dave Nevison also highlighted this realisation as a ‘eureka moment’ in his betting career also. It just makes so much sense to narrow down the field based on the factors a horse needs to be in place in order to run optimally and hopefully win.

The ‘find the winner in one go’ approach is easy I think, that’s the reason why many punters opt to go down that route. They see the jockey is a high-profile one, or read in the Racing Post that so and so trainer is on the ‘hot list’ and they latch on to that as the main basis of their selection. The problem with this approach is that long-term there is a huge downside to this – the market has this information also, and by the time you latch on to it (unless you get on before they do), the price has generally diminished to odds more advantageous to the bookie rather than the punter.

The best horse in the race doesn’t always win! The horse with conditions to suit on the day will always be the most likely winner. By eliminating horses where the conditions today don’t match the winning profile of the horse, there is a huge profit opportunity waiting to happen. Refer to my recent article, ‘Horse Racing – Conditions to Suit’ for a basic guide.

I use to use the ‘find the winner in one go’ approach, or more specifically ‘find the winner in 3-4 goes’ with my own betting on Betfair for a long time – trying to find a few horses in the race that could turn over the favourite at decent odds. I still do it now to a degree, but less so as I have turned the process around completely and make more money in the process just betting 1 or 2 at decent odds and laying a dodgy favourite at short odds in the same race where possible.

The steps are simply…

1. Start the selection process by ELIMINATING those horses that cannot win based on their required factors. This could be unsuitable ground, inadequate distance, breeding stats, poor jockey form, poor trainer form, weight, handicap mark, days since last run, course preference, course orientation, jockey performance at the course, trainer performance at the course, age, draw, etc. These are all factors that come into play when deciding what cannot win.

2. Once you have eliminated those horses you feel are disadvantaged by todays race conditions, the process of finding the winner becomes a lot easier. You are then working with a few selections that on the face of it DO have conditions to suit – you have a potential edge over the market at this point.

I personally like to narrow a race down to 2-4 or less selections (depending on the number of runners in the race: 2-3 in 8 or less runner races, 4 in races where there are more than 8 runners). I know that if I am left with just 1 selection after going through the elimination process, I have a potentially good bet just waiting to happen.

Using this process was how I found Golden Chieftain recently, a winner at 16/1, and Baron Alco at 16/1 who was narrowly beaten into 2nd by another of the 4 I had narrowed the race down to at shorter odds. It was also how I found Realize who was a nice 6/1 winner for us recently and was the only remaining selection after the elimination process was completed.

And this process was equally effective as recently as today when we picked up the nice winner, Wild Tobacco at 11/1 in a selling race at Southwell where I felt the front 2 in the market were vulnerable and looked to find something more likely to win the race with conditions to suit.

By first eliminating horses that can’t win, you are better able than to find the ones that stand a good chance – the decision then can be undertaken based on the odds available to find some great value bets.

Something else I have realised, more so in the last couple of weeks, is that focusing on 1-2 races a day is better than trying to find the winner across multiple races and cards. Punters become lazy and tend to take ‘shortcuts’ when faced with too much choice. So what I start to do is focus initially on the most valuable handicaps of the day as the priority – races where there is a lot of information about the horses, and only look at the lower grade races where there is definitely a ‘stand out’ horse at the odds when my tissue price is very low compared to what the market is offering – the ‘value radar’ is always on for those opportunities!

Studying better quality races makes finding winners that much easier when you have quality information you can use to eliminate horses and find winners.

There is also another reason I do this now. Horses, Trainers and Jockeys are competing for BIG prize money, so every one of them is trying to get their head in front. The motivation is there to win when there’s a lot at stake. Unlike an 8 runner handicap at say Southwell, with prize money of around £2k and horses that can barely walk, let alone run! Any nag can win that sort of race, but it takes a standout horse, with conditions to suit, to take home a big prize. Finding them is made a lot easier if you first eliminate those runners that simply cannot win based on the current race conditions and the runner requirements.

I no longer bet on races where there are more than 4 selections on my shortlist that can win. It becomes a chance bet then again. The more narrowed down the approach, the more effective it is, and the more likely you are to hit the winner.

Think about it… it makes sense to approach your selections this way. Isn’t it easier to focus on what can win, rather than what waste time looking for positives in horses that can’t get their head in front under the race conditions today?

Yes, it takes more time to reverse the selection process, I spent over 3 hours on the race at Wincanton won by Golden Chieftain, the selection… and have spent many hours on other races where the result hasn’t been so good, but ultimately the research has paid off and my win rate has increased significantly as a result.

If you need proof that this method of selection works, think back to the 19th of December, 2015 and take a look at my betting history. That was the day I came back to the tipping board, I was -£475.35 on that day.

Up until that point I was ‘winner in one’ focused with my tipping – I was looking for the winner amongst all the runners in a race – had some good success initially with that, got in to the top 10 position on the board, but then it all started to go wrong around the time of Cheltenham last year.

For a few months after that I was desperately trying to use the same short-term ‘winner finding’ process as before to correct an inevitable long-term problem – I was trying to find the winner in one go, when what I realise now I should have been doing was trying to find the winner in no more than 3-4 in a race that could actually win at decent value odds. It was only when I realised that I was doing things ‘back to front’ that the job of finding winners again was made that much easier.

The results speak for themselves, I pulled back that £-475.35 deficit, won the tipping competition in December and for this month I am currently +485.10 on the board overall and +£613.95 for the month.

Was that a fluke?

I ask myself that often, but I know it isn’t. Sure, I may not find the winner every time – but as long as I find it enough times to stay ahead of the game at the odds, the totals will continue rising. This ‘reverse method’ of selection works!

Eliminate horses that cannot win first, then focus on the one’s that have conditions to suit in today’s race that can!

Focus is the key. I realised that as an essential requirement now – I am like a lot of punters, I tend to suffer from ‘tip`itus’ at times. Ron has pulled me up on it just recently, and I know myself that I have a tendancy to get carried away at times, putting up way to many tips on any given day. So I have done something about it… I have restricted myself to 2 tips a day from now on and asked Brian to put in place the necessary restrictions to ensure that I cannot exceed that ever.

Why did I do that? To become more focused. There are tips, and there are good tips. What I want to do is apply the ‘elimination’ process to the selections I end up with as well – really weed out the ‘might wins’ and only put up the ‘can win’ tips. It also allows me to still focus on the areas I am strongest at, odds of >= 6 and <= 11, and >= 16. These are the tips I want to be putting up now, and 2 tips a day allows me the opportunity to really home in on my strengths in this area and identify the bets that have the best chance of gaining points and making money for followers.

It’s all part of the process to make myself a better, more profitable tipster over the longer period, rather than just look for short-term success – the focus is very much long-term for me now, and just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, the principles in this game are the same. Slowly catches the monkey!

I will leave you with a parting thought – Regardless of where you are on the board, tipsters are vulnerable to losing runs. Never make the mistake I made and assume that once you are +£700 up and in the top 10 on the board you are infallible. You aren’t (as I found out the hard way when I was in that position and then dropped rapidly!) – a losing run will wipe you out within a month at 5 tips a day. The fall is quick, the panic sets in, you chase losers, pray for winners, and it all goes horribly wrong so quickly! Better to have a sound selection process in place, set yourself limits and stick to them regardless of whether you are on a losing run or a winning one – plan to win, work to the plan. Expect the positive results, but be prepared for the negatives.

And for those who are in the minus zone on the board, there is good reason for hope. Don’t reflect on the past, look to the future. Take the necessary steps to correct things, look at your selection process, analyse your tips, learn from others, and apply what you learn to your own tipping style. It can really pay off big time and I can think of no other better place to learn than bettingtools.com, there is a wealth of information available, you just have to look for it, and if you can’t find it then simply ask someone to help you – 2 sets of eyes are better than 1.

I still spend hours day trawling through tips on the board, asking myself why a tipster put up a tip – what was the basis of that recommendation, is it something I should apply to my own selection system, or something I should seriously avoid. So much to learn, and the opportunity is there daily to gain just that little bit more knowledge that can mean the difference between being a good tipster and a great tipster – it just requires a bit of effort to make it happen. I am still very much learning!

I will be expounding on the selection process more over the coming weeks in future articles, really delving into the subject.

“The joy is in the learning, the proof you have learnt well is in the positive result”.