Category Archives: Horse Racing Tips

Interview with an expert: Mel Gee (Part Two)

[Ed Note: This interview took place in 2017. Mel’s service, First Favourite, obviously isn’t running at the moment due to Covid-19 but I’ve kept those questions in as they still offer valuable insight.]

You can read part one of the interview here.

JA: In terms of your strategy particularly, do you have a preference for flat over jumps or maybe even all weather?

MG: I’ve got to say I absolutely love it all. Now, I’ve got this tingle again, I can’t help it, you know, my shoulders are just shivering. I absolutely love it. When I started out getting an interest, it was 1970 so that is Lester Piggott and it’s Nijinsky and I fell in love with the sport, and Lester became my first hero, after John Wayne, and he remained so. And I’m very, very lucky to have met him several times. He is my hero. That was 1970.

The next year was the mighty Mill Reef in 71 and he absolutely rubber stamped, for me, what horse racing is all about. And there’s class, Lester Piggott, Nijinsky, Mill Reef. And then the following year, 1972-73, Henry Cecil was beginning to become something special.

So 20 years before the public cottoned onto him, Henry, later Sir Henry, he became my third hero within the sport and, so because those three are all flat, flat would be my number one…

But I love the festivals, Cheltenham, Aintree, Epsom, Goodwood, York, wherever. I love the festivals and I love seeing class horses running, and it doesn’t happen too often but when it does happen and you see a proper class horse coming into the last furlong, all the jockeys are rowing away except one which is on that one horse that is just a different class. And for me that’s the buzz of horse racing, seeing, I don’t know, seeing a Usain Bolt, a Seb Coe, a Cram, an Ovett, they are just half a notch above everything else. That’s why I love it.

JA: So I guess then you’d say you have a preference for open races over handicaps?

MG: Yes, most certainly. Yes. Handicaps are there… well the basis is that they all finish across the line together. I think it’s an open secret that, perhaps less so in these years but skulduggery can happen. 

There are some great handicappers and they make for some great races, you know, 20, 30 runners in an Ayr Gold Cup, something like that. They’re fantastic races. They are races I would have always betted but today I wouldn’t. I watch them because I love them but I wouldn’t put your pound on. I’d keep it in my pocket and tell you I’m not betting because I know I’m going to lose. But yes, they’re not betting… they’re a bookmakers betting medium. If people can make a profit from them, well done, good luck. I can’t.

JA: In more general terms, what do you make of the world of horse racing at the moment? Do you feel like it’s going in the right direction?

MG: No, I don’t actually. I think there’s far too much racing. I think all the big races, where they’re held, is right but then I think they should structure it to three meetings a day, North, South and the Midlands. 

Fewer races I think would make bigger fields and with respect to owners, trainers and the horses there’d be less dross. Class six handicaps, class seven banded races, when they come on, they are there for one reason and that’s the bookmaker to take your money and they will gladly. And then they will put a sign at the bottom, gamble aware. It’s shameful and something ought to be done about that.

So I think racing has got it wrong at the minute. I think the calendar could be better, keep all the top events but let’s have fewer races, bigger fields. That’s how I see it.

JA: So I’m guessing part of what you’re saying there is bookmakers seem to have too much power and certainly in terms of restrictions that’s something that affects me. Is it something you’ve had issues with?

MG: Yes, it’s issues from all of the major bookmakers with the exception in my case, and I think they should be named, of William Hill and Ladbrokes, but every other bookmaker has either restricted me or closed me, or restricted me that much it might just as well be closed. And the numbers are dozens not one or two.

I can remember when I first started out in racing and I noticed it, I could see that they were spending the money from racing going into hotels, into casinos. And I’m thinking wait a minute, the money is going out the wrong way; you know, the money should be coming back into racing, not going out into other avenues. And it went into other avenues because they could make more money. 

I think that would have been the early 70s which is when I got involved, I saw it then and 50 years later there is now something happening that more of the bookmakers’ money, particularly the offshore interests, is going to stay within racing. It should have been happening back in the 70s but nobody could stand up to the bookmaker or nobody wanted to.

JA: I think in one or two countries now they’re starting to incorporate a rule where bookmakers have to take a certain level of bet. I’m guessing you think that would be a good idea in this country too?

MG: It would be but I think they’re already taking a bet. It happened about ten years ago when they would offer a price on a horse and then they would take it to £20 or £25, which is great for the casual punter or the fun punter but for a professional bettor like myself, £25 or £50 is no good unless there were four or five bookmakers doing it and would take my bet, then that would be different but I think that’s highly unlikely, which is a shame.

JA: We’ll end with a couple more general points… have you got any betting highlights or lowlights in particular from your long period of doing this?

MG: Yes, I have, and I thought about this answer because I think most people like to say oh the day that I won this or the day that I lost that, so I’m going to take you way back to 1974, my first visit to Epsom, the derby won by Snow Knight, 50/1. I’m still waiting for that to come up in a quiz question because I know the answer!

What happened, I had been to the races and I was, in those days, very naive, wet behind the ears, unworldly, but I loved my horse racing and that’s why I’d gone to Epsom.

Leaving the course on the way back to the coach, I met a huddle of people and I thought oh, I’ll have a look at what’s going on. And the huddle was a card game called Find the Lady which I thought oh, what’s that about? So I was sort of three deep then I was two deep and then I was next to the board. What I didn’t know was that most of the people in the huddle all worked together with the man with the cards. I didn’t know that. And the fellow that I stood next to, he reached forward, lifted up one of the three cards and nudged me and said, that one. So I did, I put a fiver on it and lost it.

And he said oh, sorry, he must have switched it. And I said, yes, I wasn’t looking. And he said wait, I’ll do it again, and he did, and so did I, and now I’d lost £10. And I thought, mmm, I need to get out of here and I struggled to get out, away from these people, but they’d done what they set out to do; they got £10 from me.

Now, I don’t know whether you believe in the Almighty but I do. That was a Wednesday. So next day, Thursday, I’ve gone to my Coral bookmaker and I’ve had my normal 10p win, Yankee, four horses. The first three have won and I’m going on a six furlong sprint at Epsom, a horse called Moor Lane and it’s 13/2.  I’ve already got three winners in my Yankee and it won.  So having been, what I thought, fleeced by £10 on Wednesday, I drew £24 on the Thursday and felt very lucky and said thank you Lord.

I don’t do card games now, I don’t do machines, I don’t do poker, I don’t do casino for one reason, I’m going to lose. So I don’t do any… I’ll go and watch them and stand by a table and watch but I won’t, the only time I’ll put a chip on is if you give it to me and it’s your money. So I got a valuable lesson those two days which is trust no-one. So that was an up and a down in those years.

JA: You mentioned there cards etc. Is there anything else in a sporting sense which you will bet on? Do you have any strategies on football, for example, anything like that?

MG: Yes. Once upon a time, and I’m talking year 2000 to 2008, I got a big interest in golf, mainly through Jeremy Chapman in the Racing Post. And then latterly there was a golf form book called Elliot’s Form Book, and between 2000 and 2008 I never lost at golf. I won every single year and got it to a perfection that I was picking up every third week on average and it was fantastic. 

In 2009 Elliot’s golf book ended. So I don’t place golf bets now, only because it was not my choice. It would be someone else’s. But that was golf then.

What I have is a very small tight portfolio. First Favourite is number one and then I have two or three opportunities where you can win money, all on horse racing. The risk is minimal and in some instances nil, but the returns can be quite great.

Where First Favourite is portable, the other three are not. They would be a classroom situation, you would have to learn them, but then the one thing that most people couldn’t do is give time. I would spend an afternoon with one or two or three of these other approaches, which is a word I was introduced to some years ago, whereby if I’m not with First Favourite I can make an income there. But the risk is so small that if it doesn’t come off, the loss is minimal.

JA: To finish, where do you see yourself going in the next five, ten years with First Favourite and also generally?

MG: Well, my immediately plan is to continue to make First Favourite a respected winning service. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve got a fantastic clientele today but I would like to grow that because I’d like to continue to share my knowledge and win people some money, get them a return on investment.

I am a great believer in fate. What will be will be. Who knows what will happen? For example, I didn’t know today was going to happen. It came out of the blue. And I think that’s what might happen in the future; someone will read this interview, someone will read my website, someone will talk to someone, mention my name and something could develop from there on in.

What I would love, maybe there would be a collaboration down the road, I don’t know. I think beyond just the betting part, what I would like to do is to create syndicates, small, six, eight, ten syndicates for people who would like to be more involved in owning a horse but find the costs are prohibitive, and I would like to make that affordable to as many people as I could do. But that would take a lot of work, a lot of time and today it’s not going to happen but tomorrow it could be. So that’s something else I would like to look at.

Race days are also something that I thoroughly enjoy because it gives me the opportunity to talk about my passion for horse racing to 50, 60, 70 people, some of whom are like-minded. Some have little interest but may find what I’m saying of interest. So that’s what I’m looking forward to in the future.

Interview with an expert: Mel Gee (Part One)

[Ed Note: This interview took place in 2017. Mel’s service, First Favourite, obviously isn’t running at the moment due to Covid-19 but I’ve kept those questions in as they still offer valuable insight.]

Josh Allen: So, let’s start at the beginning… What attracted you to horse racing and what attracted you to betting on horse racing?

Mel Gee: Originally it would have been my dad back in the days of black and white TV, and I’d probably be three, four, five years old and forever being told shush because my dad’s watching the racing.

My dad was an archetypal mug punter. He didn’t win but always thought he would. So in answer to that question, watching came first and betting came much, much later on. It was easy not to bet in the early days simply because I didn’t have any money, so I found that easy.

So I watched and I watched and I watched and I read as much as I could, mainly newspapers, because for me horse racing was, and the people within horse racing were on a very, very different level from me and I would never be on that level. So I was a watcher and a lover of horse racing.

JA: So obviously at some point you started betting on it. How long would you say it took you before you started to actually turn a profit?

MG: Putting hand on heart to say I’m making my living from betting… approximately 40 years!

That might sound a long apprenticeship and it most certainly was, but back in the day there was no computer. It was hard copy newspapers really and what was available to you was very poor in terms of what we have today…

And of course there is no book written that would truthfully show you how to win consistently and if there is, of all the books that I’ve read, I haven’t found that book yet. We can all back winners and we do. We can do that with your granny’s hat pin if you want. We’ve had systems, hunches, but nothing that would sustain an income.

So when I say 40 years, I went through the ups and the downs of all early punters, not really having a strategy, not really knowing what I’m doing, just having a bet. So you’re never going to win like that. But in those 40 years, in the latter part of those 40 years, I learned why horses might lose and that gives me the edge now to why horses might win.

I would never say this horse won’t win because that’s arrogance and I wouldn’t be arrogant, but knowing why they might lose is a real, real edge. And this might not sound very obvious, and I think it’s quite a simple point, but I now do not look for winners. When I’m looking through a race, I’m not looking to see who will win this race. I’m looking to see am I going to have a bet or not, and that’s quite a subtle difference and it’s a big difference.

Betting is dead easy. Anyone can do that. But to make a consistent profit, that’s the key.

JA: Obviously you talk about the highs and lows and we all certainly make mistakes. Would you say there are any particular mistakes that stand out for you?

MG: Yes, indeed, and making the same mistake is the biggest mistake that I made and I think it’s the mistake that most punters starting out do. You repeat that mistake.

It could be something that’s running on the wrong going, something that’s got a bad draw, you might be backing a horse over fences that is coming off from hurdle racing and vice-versa, going the other way, and they really are minefields. But if you’re in the bookmakers or you’re going through the newspaper, you’ll probably bet on one of those, and it’s those kinds of mistakes that once you’ve lost enough money then you’ll stop making them.

So with me, making mistakes and repeating those mistakes is the biggest mistake, and once you learn that then you’ll stop it. You learn that and then you try to find out why a horse may win or may not win.

JA: So I guess you’d say the key is very much patience and constantly learning. There are no shortcuts.

MG: There are no shortcuts and you have to be patient and you have to instil in yourself disciplines and, it really depends on how far you want to take your racing. Most people are happy to remain as punters and they will remain losing punters…

Yes, they’ll have a winner and we all know, we’ve all been there, once you’ve had a winner you’ve forgotten all your losers but you never really get in front and I think that’s where most people are happy to remain, the once, twice, three times a year punters. They’re happy. They’re perhaps playing with £20, £25, if it’s gone, it’s gone. It doesn’t affect them. But if you want to take the business of horse race betting professionally, you have to stop having fun bets. If you’re losing it’s no fun and they are not fun bets and you have to get beyond that hurdle, for want of a better phrase, of having fun bets. Cut them out.

JA: Bearing all that in mind, what’s the number one piece of advice you would give a new starter?

MG: Don’t bet!

It’s very difficult and I can say that today and understand what it means. If someone had told me that 40 years ago, I would have not taken his advice. I would have bet. So what I would say to a new person is don’t bet.

Practice, practice, practice until you can sustain losses, knowing that the win will come, it will bring back those losses and then you will turn a profit. And you’re into golf so you’ll probably know who I’m talking about, the South African golfer, Gary Player, who said the more I practice, the luckier I get, and it’s so true in horse racing. People say you’re so lucky, you keep winning. Yes, but you didn’t see how I got here, and it’s all about practice.

JA: As well as betting yourself you’ve run successful services. When did the first come about and what made you decide to start running a service?

MG: Well I started on a forum putting up selections back in 2012. It was just something new to me. I’d never been on a forum like that before and I became popular because I was giving them winners and some people were then beginning to follow me. And I think one or two got concerned that I might just stop and move on somewhere and a couple of them said, this information is so good I’d be willing to pay £100 a month. And obviously my ears pricked up and I thought, really?

So I started thinking, I wonder if I could do a service and I thought about it, about the possibilities, and what I thought I needed and what I wanted to be was different.

I wanted to be different from most services that were already out there. And I decided number one would be honesty, and that would be the key to what I did so that if anybody asked me anything today and then asked a similar question later down the line, the answer would be exactly the same. And I kind of thought, through experience, if you’ve got this honesty you’re already set apart from most of the services.

Transparency, that was key, and also accessibility. If people wanted to talk to me through email then I would reply to them out of courtesy as soon as possible. I was always confident, because of the 40 years I’d done, that I could remain profitable and consistently provide the winners. And whoever followed me, I was certain that long term, because long term is so important, that if they followed me long term then they would win with me.

Also, anyone who knows me knows that my sport is horse racing and always has been and I would never knowingly do anything that would bring the sport into disrepute. And so I was quite happy to start a service, keep it clean, keep it honest and then no way would the sport be hurt by me. And that was really what made me say give it a go. So First Favourite was born. I went public as a paying service in 2013, but my own personal betting remained as it was and as it still is.

JA: Obviously running the service is very different to just placing the bets yourself. What do you find are the main challenges from doing that and actually providing information to people?

MG: Well, some days it is a real challenge. Staying honest is okay. I’m happy with that and that’s not a challenge. And I don’t do hype but what I do try to do is convey what is happening each week through a Sunday weekly summary so that my clients know exactly what my thoughts are, what we’re doing, where we are, where we’re going.

Because First Favourite is very selective, we have many no bet days and that in itself brings its own frustration and pressures. It puts pressure on the next selection because if you’ve gone three, four, five, six days with no bet, everyone thinks this one must be going to win. So that’s quite a pressure and I do feel that.

That said, consistently we get a better than 55% strike rate year after year, so my clients expect winners. And should the inevitable happen, which it does, and we have two or three consecutive losses, it’s their money that I’ve lost them and that does bother me…

It’s something I care deeply about. And that turns the pressure up again to quite a degree because I know my clients, they’re expecting me to deliver winners and when I’m not, I feel the hurt. And I lose my money as well. It’s not that I’m asking them to do something that I’m not doing. I’m doing exactly the same.

That said, the client base that I’ve got is fantastic. I’ve got their trust, I’ve got their support and it’s brilliant. I can say I’ve never had a cross word with anyone and I’ve never had to fend off the email of abuse and that’s all credit to them.

Because of the success that they’ve enjoyed with me today, and that’s anybody that’s been with me since March of this year, 2017, back to when I started, 2013, and there’s a lot of them that have been with me for that period, the size of their bets have increased because with winning it increases confidence and they’ve increased their bets.

So I’m aware that when I give a selection there is a lot of money on. But I take that pressure willingly, not gladly because it’s a lot of pressure, but I take it willingly because I knew what I wanted to do when I started out. And the process that I use for First Favourite I know long term will win and so do my clients. And I think that’s why I don’t get any abuse. They expect to have losses but they know long term they’ll get it back and then some.

JA: There’s a bit of a punter cliché that favourites offer no value and you’ve got to bet long shots. So why have you decided to focus on favourites?

MG: That is so true. I think the accepted percentage is something like 31-32% of favourites win, but I’ve hit something like 55% in First Favourite. I don’t know how many thousands of hours that I’ve spent getting to this point, it’s frightening, but I’ve studied, studied and I got good at what I did.

At higher prices good is 18, 20, 23% strike rate, winners to bets. But even with a strike rate around 20%, say, the probability of a long losing run is still there, and the probability around a 20% strike rate is something like 36, 37, 38 losing bets. It’s only a probability but it means it can happen.

When I took the knowledge that I had to get me to that kind of percentage strike rate, I just had one of those what ‘would happen if?’ moments and what I said was, what would happen if I put my strategy, my knowledge to favourites only? And it was like, bingo, there it is. I went from 20% to almost 60% strike rate just by putting it into favourites.

But even with 60% strike rate, as it was, there were a lot of low priced favourites winning so I put a cap at odds of 1/2. The logic there was if you can get 50% return on an investment, that’s pretty damn good. So I capped it at 1/2 and that reduced the strike rate, but only slightly, to around 57% year after year. But I only claim 55% for two reasons; one, if I claim 57% and we hit 56, people can shoot at me. So I only claim 55 and I haven’t dropped below 55. So I’m not a target today to be shot at.

The average winning price is around evens. So the maths are there; long term you can’t lose if you stay with it. If you’re in and out, jumping in and out, altering your stake up and down, up and down, you are likely not to win. But within the members area of First Favourite I have a plan. If you follow that plan, keep to the discipline that I suggest, then you should, we should end up winning. We’re not gambling. We’ve taken the gamble out. We’ve now become investors and that’s how I see First Favourite today.

JA: Within the analysis of favourites, you obviously look at lots of different parameters, suitability on the ground etc. Would you say there’s maybe one or two in particular that really stand out, if you could give a tip to anyone in what to look for in a good favourite?

MG: Yes. For me the number one thing, once you’ve decided I’ll look at this horse, which is a favourite, the number one thing is class. If the horse has the class to win its race that it’s been entered for, that’s the trick or the key. Most of the other things will follow.

If the horse has got the class, particularly if it’s got a shade more class than the others, it will overcome a draw, it will overcome unsuitable going, it will overcome that it’s not at its best distance because of its class. But once I’ve found the horse, once I’ve decided it’s got the class to win, there are many, many other factors that I run through that horse to make sure that it’s going to be a bet rather than my first decision it might win the race. So class is number one but it’s not the be all and end all.

Part two of my interview with Mel will be sent tomorrow, so do keep an eye out for that.

Your weekend away with ISIS

At the weekend you’re going to Aylesbury to watch the inter-species inaugural sprint (ISIS)…

You’ve been looking forward to this for several years after signing up at a weekend away that you can’t remember much about. You’re not going to make your sandwiches yet, otherwise they’ll be stale, but you have a Tupperware container ready and you’ve already booked your seat on the bus.

The race itself will be run over 100 metres on a straight course. There are eight contenders and each will be given a lane which will have a wall along it to avoid the competitors straying into each other’s running space.

Representing mankind we have Les Dennis and he is up against a horse, a greyhound, a worm, a sloth, a leaf, a squirrel and a trout.

We can probably rule a few of these out pretty quickly: the trout is literally a fish out of water; the sloth is likely to sleep through it; the worm isn’t known for his turn of foot, largely because he doesn’t have any.

The leaf is an outsider and may not move, but if there is a big gust of wind in the right direction at the right moment then he could pull off a surprise.

The squirrel isn’t great at going in straight lines and might prefer a zig-zag course, so his best chance may be to distract the greyhound and upset the horse by jumping up on top of the wall. Even if this happens, the bushy-tailed one would still need to resume in the correct direction.

It’s likely to come down to being a contest between the horse and the greyhound, with both having the speed to take this but they’ll each need a good start and to keep focused on the job in hand all the way to the line.

Meanwhile, we have the Dennis…

He plods on reliably. He’s not as quick as the horse or greyhound, even the leaf may outpace him in full flight and the squirrel could have the beating of him on a going day. But, it’s likely that at least several of these opponents will make a mistake and the 65 year-old looks very likely to be in the places and can take advantage if all others under-perform.

At the time of writing, odds don’t seem to be available with the major bookmakers, so it may be worth going into your local shop and asking if they can offer you a price. If you do, please let us know how you get on. While you’re at it, you could also see if there are any old acquaintances in there, and if there is you could ask them if they know anything about the race that you don’t know.

If the odds are as expected, then the Dennis may be worth an each-way punt…

This may be an unusual set-up, but taking into account that three of the eight are unlikely to finish the race, let alone feature in the places, and that the leaf and squirrel are also likely to let us down, it could be the case that our representative only needs to perform to his usual standards to give us a return.

While it can be expected that there will be little value in the win side of the bet, because of how the odds for the place side of an each-way bet are dictated by the odds for the win side (typically ¼ or 1/5 of the odds) this can present opportunities when the odds for the place are hugely out of line with what they should be.

The table below details the standard place terms for horse racing:

RunnersPlacesTerms
1 to 4win only
5 to 721/4
8 or more31/5
HandicapsPlacesTerms
12 to 1531/4
15 or more41/4

At first glance it appears that there are some races giving better each-way opportunities than others…

For example, the number of places and the terms are the same whether there are 5 or 7 runners but in a race with only 5 involved there are fewer rivals to beat.

While this is often the case, as we have seen above with Leslie, there are other factors that can make backing each-way more appealing. 

Next week I’ll go into more detail and pick out some occasions when this approach can be beneficial and others when it is less advantageous.

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

Improvers

This free angle WILL make you money

Whenever somebody does something unusual or makes an extra effort to normal then 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 sight of northern and Scottish trainers making the long journey south, but it can be worth noting which trainers based further south commonly or selectively 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 home.

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%. Again, this is logical because all costs etc. are down to this one chance on the day.

When competing for prize money of £10,500 or less, the strike-rate is 19.85%, whereas when there is more reward of 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.

The strike-rate for these long travellers is also higher with 2 and 3 year-old runners – 21.79% against 13% for older horses.

These pointers give strong starting points and positive rules of thumb. There are, of course, some trainers who do better than the norm and some exceptions to the rules.

Among particular trainers to look for when running at Newcastle are, unsurprisingly, some big names: Charlie Appleby (12 wins from 27 runs, 44% strike-rate), Sir Michael Stoute (12/32, 37.5%), John Gosden (35/94, 37%), William Haggas (25/69, 36%).

There are also a collection of trainers who have been profitable to back at Newcastle with a smaller number of runners: Heather Main (7 wins from 25 for a 49.8 point profit), Michael Wigham (8/33, 19 points), Ishmail Mohammed (7/22, 12), Richard Spencer (6/18, 14), Daniel Kublar (6/24, 17) and Roger Charlton (6/14, 6).

There’s a meeting at Newcastle on Wednesday evening and 13 horses have been declared that will have travelled over 240 miles to be there. Knowing which ones they are might be a useful signpost or starting point for further analysis. This can work in either adding to the strength of the case for backing one of these or in helping to avoid races that may be tougher than they first appear.

These were the horses set to run on Wednesday evening (when I wrote this article) with the positives mentioned above highlighted in bold:

5.15 (Prize money £9.6k)
Dantes View. (Trainer by Sir Michael Stoute, 3 year-old)

6.15 (£5.8k)
Anastarsia (John Gosden, his only runner on the card, 2 year-old)
Anno Lucis (Sir Mark Prescott, 2 year-old)
Crystal Pegasus (Sir Michael Stoute2 year-old)
Zegalo (Roger Varian, 2 year-old)

6.45 (£5.8k)
Jovial (Sir Michael Stoute, 2 year old)
Rock of Fame (Roger Varian, 2 year-old)
Zezenia (Roger Varian, 2 year-old)

7.45 (£6k)
Kitos (Sir Mark Prescott, 2 year-old)
Kyllwind (Martyn Meade, his only runner on the card, 2 year-old)

8.15 (£7k)
Critical Time (William Haggas, his only runner on the card, 3 year-old)
Nooshin (Amy Murphy, her only runner on the card, 3 year-old)
Regal Banner (Roger Varian, 3 year-old)

With the large sample size we can be confident that noting when trainers have made a such a journey as described above is meaningful and not a statistical quirk. How you use this information is up to you, but, personally, I would want to use it as a starting point and attempt to find out more about each individual trainer.

For example, despite the overall trend, Roger Varian has a lesser record with 2 year-olds at Newcastle (4/32) than 3 year-olds running in Maidens or Novice Stakes (10/21).

This is the sort of approach that can prove to be extremely profitable and I would always recommend trying to find a range of angles or clues such as the above that would otherwise be missed if attention focused on a particular horses’s form.

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

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Q & A with Miles Tredwell

My name’s Miles Tredwell and I’m here to answer your horse racing questions!

If you have any to add to the following, you can reach me at clients@thebetchat.com. 

Is it true that you should back the ‘outsider of 3?’

This refers to a race with three horses and I suppose the logic behind it is that the most likely pair will be more concerned about each other and because of this the outsider can sometimes take advantage.

But do the figures support this?

Since the beginning of 2009, at the time of writing, there have been 1388 races in the UK with exactly 3 runners. The outsider of the 3 has won 198 times and, surprisingly, had you or I backed each outsider for a £1 stake then we’d have made a profit of £41.08 at SP and £217.23 (after 5% commission) at Betfair’s SP.

Even more surprising is that a profit has been shown across jumps, flat and all-weather, although the vast majority has been made in jumps races. Furthermore, these results haven’t been overly skewed by a couple of massive prices – the biggest price winner has been 46 on Betfair and 33/1 with the bookies.

However, there have been four losing years with the worst being 2012 which made a loss of £61 and there have been losing runs of 30, 34 and 44.Although there may be a grain of truth in this, it’s not something I’d be looking out for.

Is it a positive or a negative that a horse is making its handicap debut?

When there is plenty of information available it’s a lot easier to arrive at a sound conclusion than when there is little to go on and it follows that when a horse first has a handicap mark – typically after three runs or a first victory – there is going to be more guesswork involved than further down the line. 

This can mean there is more scope for an erroneous handicap rating initially, but this can work both ways…

Many horses improve dramatically through their first few outings and may continue to do so when entering handicaps, yet the handicapper can only base his or her assessment on what has been shown on the track and not on what the horse may become and this can result in some horses starting off at a level beneath their capabilities.

But, to complicate the matter, those early races are likely to be against other newcomers who are also being assessed, making finding a yardstick more difficult and if they are tricky to assess by a handicapper they are also going to be tricky to assess by a bettor.

Then there are trainers who make the most of the system…

For example, beware handicap debutants from Sir Mark Prescott who were given an opening mark based on performances over short distances then have a break for 6 months or more and return over further… 

In the last decade he’s used this routine 67 times and it’s produced 20 winners at a strike-rate of almost 30% and a Return on Investment (ROI) of 78%.Generally, horses that either did very well or very badly on their last run prior to handicap debut are the worst to back. 

Those coming into handicaps on the back of a win or narrow defeat (by a head or less) have lost £750 to £1 stakes since 2019 in UK racing at an ROI of minus 7.6% after commission, perhaps due to being given too high an opening mark or being overbet or a combination of the two. Meanwhile, runners that had lost by more than 5 lengths or failed to complete have lost £1017 at an ROI of minus 6.8%.

Handicap debutants that had lost by more than a head but less than 5 lengths have around a break even record.

Why do you back some to win and others at the same price each-way?

Bookmakers will have the same place terms for every horse in the race and this will be derived from the win odds. But, it doesn’t necessarily follow that every runner’s chances of placing will be a quarter or a fifth of their chances of winning.

For example, if you take an experienced horse who has been consistently close over course and distance and runs off the same handicap rating once more, then he’s likely to run his race again and likely to place. But, if he’s taking on a bunch of handicap debutants then it’s probable that one or more will show a bit more improvement and be better than him… 

The experienced horse might be a sound each-way play whereas an inexperienced rival might be more of an all or nothing option and better backed win only.

The odds for a win are shown for us and we can make our judgement without having to do any extra work, but I’d encourage working out the odds for placing, noting the terms involved and number of places on offer. Once done, a decision can then be made about whether the chances of placing are better or worse than the odds imply.

It’s also worth considering the number of runners involved who are true contenders and using this in your assessment rather than simply looking at the number of runners… 

For example, particularly outside of handicaps, there may be a field of 15 with only 5 standing any chance and this is going to be a more attractive each-way race than a field of 8 that all have a similar chance.

How do I know if a horse is long-striding?

I’m afraid that’s not an expression I’m familiar with. However, it can be useful to take note of a horse’s running style. 

Generally speaking, a horse with a high knee action is going to be more suited to softer ground, whereas a horse with a ‘daisy cutter’ action with low hooves barely ever above the ground will be a fast ground horse.

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

Improvers