The Anatomy of a Successful Horse Racing Betting System: Part 2

In the first part of this series, I looked at the necessity of breaking the rules, always looking for value, and doing your utmost to spot repeat patterns. One lesson that bears repeating is the fact that the betting market, and horse racing in general, is always changing.

If you read a horse racing betting book from five years ago, for example, you’ll find that most, if not all, of the ‘systems’ outlined in it no longer work.


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Even horse racing courses change! No new racecourses opened in the UK from 1927 until April 2008 when Great Leighs hosted racing. The track ran into issues almost immediately and went in administration in January 2009. In January 2015, it reopened as Chelmsford City racecourse.

Newcastle racecourse added All-Weather racing by installing a tapeta track in early 2016. In March 2011, starting stalls on all right-hand tracks were switched, so they matched those at left-hand tracks. These are just some of the changes made in recent years that have forced punters into a rethink.

The purpose of this series isn’t to provide you with any set betting strategy. Instead, I hope to provide you with the knowledge to create your own. It may be trite, but the ‘feed a man, a fish’ analogy is especially relevant here. Hopefully, you will look into the principles of a successful system rather than trying to find a cure-all system.

4. Don’t Believe the Hype

Too many punters suffer from ‘shiny new toy’ syndrome. They hear a degree of hype about a horse and believe that it will be the next Frankel or Kauto Star. This is especially relevant when it comes to backing hotly tipped debutants. A major publication such as the Racing Post writes about this horse who has been purchased for a whopping sum.

The next thing you know, this debutant is thrown in against more experienced horses, and the odds are completely askew. In the UK since the beginning of 2010, there have been almost 5,300 horses with odds of 4.00 or less on their respective debuts. Only 32.22% of them have won.

Interestingly, horses with exactly one career run, and start their second races at odds of 4.00 or less have won 35.92% of the time. Aside from the better win rate, punters now have an idea of the horse’s general ability. In both scenarios, backing all of the horses would result in a Betfair Exchange loss of almost 6%.

Punters also tend to ignore maidens with 3+ runs in the belief that these horses are not good enough to win. Yet 34.48% of horses with 3-5 career runs and no wins, who set off at SP odds of 4.00 or less, win. Backing all of these horses would result in a loss of less than 1%. The A/E level is also several percent higher. In other words, these overlooked horses are often underbet and arguably overpriced.

As I hope you now realise; if you continue to use the same tools and methodology as the majority of punters, you will end up on the losing side of the equation.

5. Use Your Data Wisely

I’m a fan of micro systems because they can help you find a few nice-priced winners that aren’t always apparent from the bare form figures. However, while an increasing number of punters are finally using statistical data and trends in their analysis of races, they tend to place too much faith in relatively small samples of data; an inherent flaw in a micro system.

A prime example of this is recent trainer form. In one sense, you can argue the value of backing a yard that appears to be in form. It is likely to be a short-term thing, and you may be able to make a decent profit from it. However, yards can give the appearance of being ‘in’ and ‘out’ of form, when neither is the case.

Back in the 1980s, a statistician created a random number generator and found that trainers with a 25%-win rate have a 9% chance of sending out 11 consecutive losers. Since trainers can send out that many horses in a couple of days, it makes it seem as if the yard is in the midst of a bad run. If the trainer has a few of these ‘mini’ calamities close to one another, the average punter will run a mile.

What often happens then is that the same punter pays no attention to the quality of the horse. Imagine their horror when the trainer’s entry romps home by eight lengths; especially when a look at the form of the horse suggested such a run was possible.

A winning system takes note of potentially lucrative runs by a trainer or a micro system but doesn’t rely solely on small data samples.

6. Draw Bias is a Thing

While the change to stall numbers may have thrown punters off for a while, it did nothing to alter the fact that draw bias exists. One of my micro systems involves draw bias at Nottingham over the last few years. In sprints of 5f-6f with 10-15 runners, horses in stalls 1-3 win 33.61% of races.

The system is a pain because it involves backing three horses, which means you only win 11.34% of your bets. However, since the beginning of 2016, the system has resulted in an ROI of 161%. Just this week, I cheered home 25/1 and 7/1 shots and cursed the fact that I didn’t include them in a double.

Courses like Beverley and Chester provide horses in low-numbered stalls with an immense advantage in 5f sprints. Simply backing all runners at Beverley from Stall 1 since the beginning of 2015 would yield a Betfair Exchange profit of over 5%, regardless of the quality of the runner! You would win just over 11% of your bets.

If you focus on horses at SP odds of 11.00 or less, your win rate climbs towards 20% and the ROI increases to almost 12%.

It is a little different at Chester where horses drawn in Stall 1 perform very poorly. However, horses drawn in Stall 2 since the beginning of 2015 have won an incredible 32.2% of races! Your ROI would be almost 47%! Once again, focusing on horses at SP odds of 11.00 bears juicier fruit with a 40%-win rate, and an ROI of 84% on Betfair and 69% at SP prices!

Final Thoughts

That brings me to the end of the second part of the series. I would like to leave you with a few additional tips when trying to create a successful horse racing betting system:

  • Your system’s primary goal is to find horses underrated by the public, and by extension, the betting market. Look for errors in the average punter’s thinking and exploit it.
  • NEVER alter your system’s criteria to fit results. By all means, tweak as necessary to make it more profitable, but if you find that the new approach is working, it becomes its own system. Ideally, you will test the system and then make sure it keeps producing the expected results.
  • Remember that the vast majority of systems have a limited shelf life. Don’t hang on to a losing system any longer than you need to.

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