Bettor Expectations (Part Six)

Saturday’s article focused on the need to know something beyond the obvious in order to gain an advantage over the markets and other bettors. Today, I want to illustrate this by talking about two aspects of approaching a racecard that you may not have considered. 

Making Sense of Jockey Bookings

When there is little form to study after a long lay-off like one we experienced during the Covid-19 lockdown, picking up on other clues could be more important than normal if we are to be profitable. 

However, these supposed ‘clues’ are not always as straight-forward as they may seem. One example is jockey bookings and here I’ll detail a few points on what to look for to increase the chances that what we are perceiving as a positive actually holds significance.

Of course, the better the rider, the better the chance of a horse’s success, but the importance of a particular jockey booking can extend beyond riding ability. If connections have made efforts to gain the use of the best available jockey (and have convinced him or her to accept the ride) then that in itself tells us something about their hopes and expectations.

But, there are a few factors that could lead us to misplace our reading of the situation.

Stable Jockeys

It’s worth becoming familiar with which jockeys are attached to which stables. We may be a big fan of a particular jockey, but if he or she has a collection of rides at a particular meeting then it will be common for some, most or all of those bookings to be for their boss. 

If it’s not unusual then it may not be much of a pointer, whereas it’s likely that if they take an ‘outside ride,’ for a trainer they are not attached to and rarely ride for, then that is more of a statement and worth closer examination.

Retained Riders

Similarly, there are some jockeys who have a deal to ride the horses owned by a particular group or individual. Again, it’s worth knowing these associations and avoiding getting overly encouraged by a booking when in actuality it is simply due to following a contract.

Keeping the Ride

After spotting a positive jockey booking, checking whether or not this is the first time they have been paired together can also be revealing. 

Here we should try to see what the information tells us and attempt to make sense of the story. Has the horse recently been ridden by inexperienced apprentices? Can the previous run(s) be excused? Are there other horses in the race the jockey normally rides?

With younger horses, if a high-profile rider sticks with a serial loser then it may be that the horse is seen as having potential that will prove worth persevering with in the long-term. Checking the trainer’s record with similar horses can be useful and help avoid us becoming involved too early or too late in the progression.

Stable Hierarchy

Larger stables may have a number of jockeys attached to them and knowing who is the senior rider is important information and can indicate which are their most fancied on a given day, meeting or race.

However, it’s also worth seeing whether the relevant horses are still being partnered by their normal pilots because the bookings could be chosen the way they have been due to familiarity rather than preference.

Timing of Bookings

When entries are made, it can be worth noting any jockey bookings that catch the eye. At this stage, the information is most likely to be useful whereas bookings made at the declaration stage will commonly include plenty of instances when it is merely a case of horse doesn’t have jockey, jockey doesn’t have ride, horse and jockey get put together. In the latter case what may appear to be a positive actually means little more than both parties taking advantage of circumstance, whereas the former involves planning and nailing colours to the mast at an early stage.

Going The Extra Mile

Whenever somebody does something unusual or makes an extra effort to normal there is often a reason behind it. This applies as much to horse racing as anything else.

For example, yesterday jockey Tom Marquand – who has had an excellent spell that has moved him up to 3rd in the Jockey Championship for this season – had a set of rides at Kempton’s evening meeting. Rather than make the short journey directly to the course from his base in Hungerford, he first went to Leicester for one ride. The addition of that sole bit of action would have resulted in around six hours travelling in the day.

When considering the time and travel costs involved in heading north only to turn around and travel south again – he would have had to leave almost immediately to get to Kempton on time – the only logical conclusion is that he went there with high expectations of winning the race.

On this occasion he was unsuccessful, but picking up on clues such as this can help to have an advantage over other punters and the market. That edge, with sensible bank management, will lead to profit in the long term.

During the winter months, UK flat racing will be contested on just six All-Weather (AW) tracks: Kempton, Lingfield and Chelmsford in the South-East, Wolverhampton and Southwell in the Midlands and Newcastle in the North.

With Newcastle the latest addition – the track was changed from turf to tapeta in 2016 – there was already the common occurrence of Northern and Scottish trainers making the long journey south, but it can be worth noting which trainers based further south now send their representatives to Newcastle when they have similar races available closer to home.

This extra effort can be worthwhile if a trainer has inmates who are likely to be suited to the track. The most obvious difference to the other five courses is that races up to a mile are run on a straight course, whereas Southwell’s 5 furlongs is the only other AW course and distance run on a straight (and on a very different, slower fibresand surface). Additionally, the long, stiff finish often suits runners held-up more than the other courses with their shorter finishing straights.

Since the change to an artificial surface, there have been just over 12,000 individual runs at Newcastle, of which 9762 runners have made a journey of under 240 miles to be there (let’s call them Group A) and 2288 have had a longer trek (Group B). I’ve used this figure because Newmarket is just over 240 miles away and trainers based there have the other options much closer to their base.

The difference in the results from the two sets is worth noting.

Group A have had a strike-rate of 8.39%, winning just under 1 in 12. Had you put a pound on each of these at Betfair SP then you would have lost £887.

However, Group B have won more than twice as frequently per run, giving a strike-rate of 18.66% and had you backed each for a quid at Betfair SP you’d have made a profit of £242 after deducting 5% commission.

As a large sample, even without any additional criteria, these results look statistically significant. Moreover, the figures make sense – why would these trainers travel further than necessary without a good reason for doing so? It appears their extra efforts are often rewarded.

We can break these figures down further. When a trainer makes the long journey with just the one runner, the strike-rate increases to 21%, whereas with more than one entrant – which enables the costs to be split and doesn’t require any more travel time – the strike-rate is 16%. 

When competing for prize money of £10,500 or less, the strike-rate is 19.85%, whereas when there is more reward on offer than this the strike-rate comes down to 13%. Once more this makes sense because when there is less to play for, expectations need to be higher to justify the effort involved.

Miles currently runs an excellent racing service and you can give it a try by clicking the link below…


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