How to bet successfully on National Hunt Racing

Trying to answer this question has become somewhat of a holy grail for punters up and down betting shops throughout the country. Is it now easier to pick winners than hitherto?" rel="attachment wp-att-2401]

The answer according to Fenwaypark believe is a resounding yes. Punters today live in an age of technology where all the information they require to make betting successful is only the touch of a screen away. The trick or should I say the hard bit is how to decipher this information in the correct way so as to maximise you odds of success. There are five parts to successful betting. These are:
  1. Choosing the right races to bet on
  2. Drawing up a shortlist of winners
  3. Applying the concept of value to selection(s)
  4. Bet Size
  5. Discipline
What races to bet on?

The great thing about jump races like the Hennessy, King George and festivals like Cheltenham is that trainers have targeted their horses for specific races and each horse is running on its merits whether that is in a handicap or a graded race. This makes it easier for punters as they don’t find themselves trying to second guess whether a particular horse is “off” or not today.

Does this mean that punters should just it punt in grade 1 races? Certainly not, but the clue is to bet on those races where you the punter can be confident that most if not all horses are putting their best foot forward. With that in mind, I find it is much better to focus my efforts on races that are classified as class B and above. The other advantage of this is that it reduces the amount of homework I have to do. There simply are not enough hours in the day to study each race in the detail required to make punting successful. Using this approach, you should not have more than a handful of races to focus your efforts.

Drawing up a shortlist of winners

Now that you have decided what sort of races you should be betting on, you must examine a number of factors which helps to identify whether a particular horse or horses have its optimum conditions which logically increases its probability of winning. These are:

Stable Form – If a stable is going well it increases the chances of a horse’s success and vice versa. For example, Long Run looked like a handicap good thing when running in the Paddy Power Gold Cup last November off 158. At the time, the Henderson yard was not going that well, which may explain his disappointing effort.

Ground – Some horses prefer good ground while others prefer soft/heavy. Winter ground tends to be mostly soft or heavy while spring ground tends to be good in the main. Some horses can improve significantly on their winter performances for encountering this better ground. One could be forgiven for discounting the chance of Albertas Run in last season’s Ryanair based on his form during the winter. However he has always produced his best marks/runs on spring ground. Many novice hurdlers will be by Presenting and his progeny tend to improve when racing on better ground, hence their fine record at the Cheltenham Festival. First Lieutenant’s win in this year’s Neptune Hurdle at the festival is an obvious example.

Course – This can be broken down into two areas:

<p style="padding-left: 60px;]Type – Is the track lefthanded or righthanded? Some horses are better going left-handed while others are better going right-handed. If a horse has shown a distinct preference for going righthanded and the race is being run on a left handed track, then this greatly reduces the horses’s chance of winning. He may get away with such a tendency in a lesser race but in a better race he surrenders too much ground to his rivals. For example, Denman has shown throughout his racing career that he is must better on a lefthanded track, thus it was not surprising to see him beaten at odds of 11-8 at Punchestown (righthanded track) at the end of 2009/2010 season. <p style="padding-left: 60px;]Formation – Race tracks come in many different formations. The most common are:
  • Lefthanded and tight e.g. Aintree
  • Lefthanded and galloping e.g. Newbury
  • Lefthanded and undulating e.g. Cheltenham
  • Righthanded and tight e.g. Kempton
  • Righthanded and galloping e.g. Huntingdon
  • Righthanded and undulating e.g. CarlisleLook for horses that have run well at a particular track or similar style of tracks i.e. horses for courses.
Distance – Every horse has a specialist distance i.e. a distance that is their optimum trip. This could be 2 miles, 2 ½ miles, 3 miles or staying trips in excess of 3 miles. You can come a across a horse that can perform well over a number of distances but fundamentally each horse has an optimum trip. If a horse is running over its optimum trip then that is a positive. Some horses may be trying a trip for the first time. It can be very difficult to decide whether this is a positive or a negative. Watching recordings of previous races, reading race reports and examining the optimum trip of family members can help you make a value judgment on this. For example, Bobs Worth was stepping up in trip in the Albert Bartlett but in all his races prior to this, he had been noted to be staying on very well at the finish.

Gap between races – Has the horse shown a preference for being fresh i.e. having a considerable gap between his races? If so after what time period has it produced its best runs? Is this a horse that has shown a noticeable improvement after its first run, or first couple of runs? It may be that this is a stuffy horse that needs plenty of racing to get it race fit. If a discernable trend can be identified and a horse fulfils it in this race, then this can be taken as a positive otherwise it’s a negative. For example Diamond Harry has won first time out in each of the last five seasons.

Application of Tackle – Some horses have run to their best marks when certain tackle has being applied e.g. blinkers, cheekpieces or tongue tie. Watch for reapplication of such equipment. For example Like a Charm ran its two best races on the flat when she was equipped with cheekpieces. These were reapplied for the first time over hurdles in the Fred Winter at the Festival, where she improved massively on any form achieved up to that point. It is quite common for horses to receive a wind operation. In a lot of cases, horses will run their best races in their first run directly after this operation.

Pace - Get a feel for the pace of a race by identifying how many horses are frontrunners, how many like to be ridden prominently and how many like to be held up. If you fancy a horse that is a lone frontrunner in a race this greatly increases his chances as it allows him to dominate and set his own pace. On the otherhand, if there are a number of frontrunners they may end up cutting each other’s throat, expending too much energy and will have very little chance of seeing out their race. A lack of pace may be a positive to helping a horse who is stepping up in trip for the first time.

Jockey Bookings – If a top jockey such as AP McCoy, Ruby Walsh, Barry Geraghty etc. have a ride for an outside stable then this should be noted as a positive for the horse in question. Similarly the booking of a top conditional can also be considered a positive.

These factors allow us to assess the chances of each runner and identify the probably winner or a shortlist of probable winners.

Applying the concept of value to selections

Now that you have identified the probable winner, should you definitely back this horse? It all depends on whether you are getting value.

The concept of value in betting is underestimated. Many would believe that the key to successful betting is simply to back more winners than losers. I would strongly disagree with this strategy. For example, if you back five horses and three of those win at odds on but you have two losers at odds against, you may actually have lost money. On the other hand if you back 5 horses and only one of those win at a decent price i.e. greater than 5-1, you have actually made money.

Once you have identified the probable winner of the race using the strategy outlined above, you must attach a probability to that horse’s chance. It is important to understand the relationship between odds and relative probabilities:

Odds of a-b represent a relative probability of b/(a + b) e.g. 2-1 = 1/(2 + 1) = 33.33%.

A relative probability of x represents odds of (1 - x)/x, e.g. 40% = (1 - 0.4)/0.4 = 6/4.

At this point it would be useful to explain how a bookmaker prices up a race i.e. the overround.

[nohang element=“div” width=“440”]]Read the full story here

Good write up Fenners and for people who aren’t that familar with how betting works it is nice and concise. What you said at the end is very important - discipline. I’m by no means an expert on betting but i know that you are going nowhere without discipline and patience. One way to make yourself more disciplined is to make a note of every bet you make. You can review this then at the end of the month or the end of the year. Fairly quickly it will become apparent if you are up or down. If you are down you can pinpoint why you are down, for example you could be doing well on GAA but losing money hand over fist backing horses. Then you can re-assess whether you should be backing horses at all, or at the very least cutting back/working harder at that area…

You see, when you comment on something you’re interested in Dunph, as in something not associated with cricket, you actually sound so much more intelligent.

This has been a helpful article by Fenners.

For those of us who are not experienced in betting on sport generally, could someone do the same for general sports betting? As in football games. For example, when people talk about laying a bet, I haven’t a clue what that means.

laying a bet is offering odds to someone. bookies are also known as layers. On betfair and other exhanges you can ‘lay’ outcomes e.g. back Man Utd to lose by offering odds to others.

An excel spreadsheet is great for this. record your bets here in the morning and in the evening update how the horse ran with a comment.

another thing i look at is a trainer’s record in a particular race. A good record is a positive as it means that the trainer knows the type of horse needed to win a particular race.

Not the best example in the world - you’re offering odds on an outcome not happening so you offer odds on Manchester United to not win (as opposed to losing). Obviously there are some markets of Man United + Draw that you can achieve the above with but it’s a bit misleading.

Thanks for clearing that up. Yes not to win Fitzy.

So team a to win evs (2.0)

Draw 5/2 (3.5)

Team b 2/1 (3.0)

You dont fancy team b and lay them at 3.0 for $100 ie you need to have enough funds in your account to meet the potential liability so the loss ($200) and your stake ($100)

Conversely it can also be viewed that you are effectively betting $200 to win $100 (1.5 or 1/2) for team b not to win (lose or draw).

Laying is accepting a bet on an outcome.
You are acting as the bookmaker, if the other persons selection loses you keep the cash, if the other persons selection wins then you have to pay out at the agreed odds.

In a real life scenario, say you are in the pub, and your mate says,

“what price will you give me on Dublin to win”
you say " I’ll give you 6/4"

So your mate has a €10 bet with you, you have now “layed” dublin.

The Dubs lose, you keep the money,
the dubs win you pay out 25 (15 winnings + the stake)

Betfair basically allows you to do this with people online.

A slightly more sophisticated way to do this would be to implement the Kelly criterion, which (assuming you’ve got your probabilities right) will maximise your winnings in the long run. If we let o be the odds (o = b/a in your notation), and assigning p to the probability that you assign to the outcome (as opposed to the probability implied by the odds), then the proportion (z) of your bank that you should bet is:
z = (op - (1-p))/o

So if you get odds of 6/4, then o =1.5. This implies a probability of 40%. Say you think the probability of the outcome is in fact 45%. You should bet
(1.5 * 45% - 55%)/1.5 = 8.3% (or 1/12th of your pot).

Kelly maximises the outcome in the long run, but can lead to fairly wild short term volatility so you can perhaps bet a fixed fraction of the Kelly recommended amount. This also helps to mitigate against the fact that your assignation of probability is subjective, so obviously very much subject to error.

I only have basic enough knowledge of the maths behind Kelly. I know it maximises the expected logarithmic value as opposed to just expected value though. The idea is that to maximise expected value, you would bet everything once you thought you had an edge, but you would go bankrupt very quickly if you did that. So maximising the logarithmic value actually maximises value in the long run.

who is this guy braz?

a thread about betting that doesnt mention dutching

to the dungeon

i could not include a section on dutching as that should be left to the king of the dutch bet.

He was a mathematician. Came up with this in the 50s for fixed odds games where you have an edge over the house (e.g. by counting cards or whatever). It works much better for that, because you know exactly what your edge is and the games repeat in the exact same conditions over and over again.

i was thinking that he was in something along those lines.

If you were consistently right about calculating your probabilities, the theory would still hold. Some decent bullet point arguments against using it (or at least for using fractional Kelly if you are using it) here.

I think if you are going to the bother of calculating how you see the probabilities then using fractional Kelly is a better method than simply putting 5% of your pot on every bet. I am a nerd that likes to bring a bit of maths into everything though.

betting on horses is not black and white braz :slight_smile: .

You should try betting on cricket. I’m generally trying to take a position for or against the draw in Test matches. Been meaning to try to build a probability model based on past results for a while but have been too lazy to get around to it.

bumpppppppppppp …