The Anatomy of a Successful Horse Racing Betting System: Part 1

I used to believe that there was no such thing as a successful horse racing betting system. As I have become more acquainted with the Sport of Kings, I have begun to realise that there probably is. There’s both a problem and a catch with this scenario.

The problem is that any successful betting strategy devised by someone else is likely to be something you’ll never see. Think about it: Rule #1 of betting, in general, is to find value in as many selections as possible.


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In horse racing, if thousands or tens of thousands of pounds begin to flood in for a horse; the bookmakers react VERY swiftly and cut the odds.

If you and a few hundred other punters have paid for a decent system, you need to act fast or else the odds will tumble along with your value. If you have devised a genuinely profitable system based on getting better odds than you should, why on Earth would you put it on public display?

You may make a few grand selling it, but ultimately, it could destroy your system if the bookmakers gain knowledge of it.

The catch with a winning system is that it can take hundreds of hours, if not longer, to get to a stage where you can create a betting system that allows you to program the criteria into a database which spits out the contenders.

However, it is still possible to make a profit from betting on horse racing. Professional gamblers and even casual punters manage it. The thing is, the percentage of individuals capable of making money long-term is in the single digits. Would you like to join them? If so, read on to discover what a successful system looks like.

Please note that this isn’t going to be a ‘get rich quick scheme’ type of article. You have to do ALL of the work! I’m just pointing you in the right direction.

1: Break the Rules!

There are a plethora of reasons why the vast majority of betting systems fail. One of the main reasons is an insistence on creating a set of rigid ‘rules’ within a system. Horse racing does NOT reward rigidity!

Plugging in data and blindly following the ‘rules’ will not work in the long-term. You need to analyse the horses in question to determine if they are (a) likely to win and (b) value bets.

However, the biggest reason for a ‘set in stone’ system’s downfall is due to the ever-changing nature of horse racing. No matter how successful your system is initially, it is based on circumstances that will eventually change.

According to Nick Mordin, who has spent over 30,000 hours researching horse racing betting systems and wrote Winning Without Thinking on top of that, the vast majority of successful systems have a life span of three years tops.

Eventually, other punters will either catch on and screw up the odds, or else the circumstances that enabled it to be profitable will change. Rather than rely on rules, learn to understand the principles behind the rules. By doing so, you will be able to come up with another system once the current one is past its sell-by date.

The betting market catches up to a specific system and its criteria, but it won’t catch up with the principles behind any given system. Why? Because too many people do things unthinkingly. How many people do you know that are capable of deeply analysing anything, let alone possess the capacity for complex reasoning on a wider scale?

Perhaps the most important takeaway from this section is to try and find ‘rarity’ in the market. A HUGE proportion of punters are casual bettors who bet based on a tipster’s word, a cursory glance at form, or their gut instinct.

Such punters are not ‘fools.’ They merely don’t have the time or inclination to conduct the excessively detailed approach to finding winners on a long-term basis. Making a profit from horse racing betting is a hard way to earn easy money!

Mordin illustrated one example of breaking the rules and profiting from rarity. Years ago, most punters were unaware if a 2yo running in a Maiden race was already booked in a future Group race. It was important because such horses had a very high strike rate compared to their odds.

Back then, it was a profitable system. Today, it isn’t because publications such as the Racing Post tell punters about it! As a result, the odds on such entries are no longer profitable.

2: It’s Always About Value

You may have noticed that in previous articles, I have included the A/E figure of certain betting systems. It stands for Actual against Expected winners, and when the figure is above 1.00, it means the horses that meet the system’s criteria win more often than expected. Such systems are usually, though not always, profitable.

A successful betting system will always involve backing horses at better odds than their actual chances of winning. For instance, a horse at 2.50 (6/4) odds is given a 40% chance of winning. If your system focuses on finding horses with a 45% chance of winning at odds of 2.50, for instance, you should come out on top.

The beauty of horse racing is that you can find value if a horse is at odds of 1.10 or 51.00. One savvy way to make small profits long-term is to find races with good each-way value. There are certain races that when you calculate the place odds, you’ll find that the ‘book’ percentage is in your favour.

Focus on handicap races with 8-9 runners because you benefit from three places; a key aspect of getting value for this particular market. Such races often contain 3-4 no-hopers with place odds of 21.00+. This tips the balance towards the bettor who could have a double-digit edge!

Most people won’t bother with the obvious choice because it doesn’t pay out huge odds. Over time, however, these small profits will lead to a significant bump in the betting bank. The point of this section is to show you that there are still ways to find value; you just need to think outside the box.

3: Remember That History Repeats

As unpredictable as horse racing undoubtedly is, there are patterns. Not easy to spot to be sure, but they are there, waiting for the eagle-eyed punters to come along and make money from them. For example, certain trainers are notorious for running horses in unsuitable races to pick up a low handicap mark. Then they return next season and cruise to a few easy wins off an artificially low mark because they were entered in suitable races.

The problem here is that obvious patterns are no good. They’ll get picked up by the bookies and provide you with no edge. This brings me back to the rigidity of the average system. Punters usually fail to remember that the statistics they see are things that happened in the past; they are not necessarily an indicator of what is to come. The key is to understand why the data says one thing and not another.

Why do top trainers often do well with lightly raced horses in maiden events? According to Winning Without Thinking, the main reason is that they receive expensive, well-bred horses since they work with very wealthy owners. Therefore, in maiden races, success could be a case of identifying the owners with the deepest pockets.

At the other end of the scale, it may be worth checking out trainers who have won the least amount of money per start but have won a few races. In this instance, these trainers could be savvy enough to identify the right minor races to enter horses in.

When it comes to spotting patterns, the habits of top and lesser-known trainers is a great place to start.

Final Thoughts

This ends the first instalment of what I hope will be at least a three-part series. I originally intended to create a single article but have so much material to hand that I couldn’t squeeze it into one piece. Hopefully, this guide has already helped you begin your search for winners. You will soon learn that there is no ‘magic’ formula. It takes a remarkable amount of effort to get that edge, but when you do, you will join an elite group, and it will be very satisfying!

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