GUIDE TO HORSE RACING

Top tips from Pricewise

Picking The Winner

Pricewise pearls: top tips from the professionals

Want to know how the professionals do it? Top Pricewise tipster, Tom Segal, shares his thoughts and advice on how to pick a winner.

1. Stick to what you know best

Racing can be incredibly complicated and there are many ways to approach winner-finding, but attempting to use all of them is extremely hard mentally. Work out which method suits you best, whether it be using speed figures or form ratings or whatever, and stick to it because the losers are easier to take when you’ve done all the work that has been successful for you in the past.

2. Watch as much racing as you can

Race reporters do an incredibly good job on the whole but you have to remember they can only read a race through their own eyes and their own way of thinking. More often than not, you will see a race differently and therefore watching races and making up your own mind about horses is hugely significant.

3. Analysis to paralysis

The racing media and fans often make racing far more complicated than it really is. Ground and draws are often discussed to near death before a race and then forgotten about when the actual contest is run. None of us really knows the ground and the draw advantage on any given day and they can change quickly, so simply trying to identify which horse can run the fastest must always be the first port of call.

4. The importance of jockeys

It amazes me that intelligent people still massively underestimate the importance of the jockey. Of course, they can’t make a horse run faster than they are able to, but their actions can prevent a horse achieving its true level of ability very easily and do so in every race, every day.

5. Have fun!

Remember, it’s supposed to be fun – it’s only horses running around a field after all. The whole point of having a bet is to find some enjoyment and help us get through the day with a smile on our face. It’s crucial to work out what sort of betting suits your own personal temperament and not to take it too seriously.

Pricewise are a daily tipping service available online and in the Racing Post newspaper. Click here for today’s Pricewise tips.

How to read the racecard

Picking The Winner

How to read the racecard

The racecard is the most important source of information; whether you are a horse racing newbie or an expert. The racecard provides all the key details you need to know about each horse. Below are all the key components of a racecard and their importance:

Saddle Cloth Number –  The horse’s individual race number. This will be prominently displayed on the horse’s saddle.

Name – The name of the horse. The horse’s name will often be a creative combination of its parents’ names, or something completely different.

Age – The age of the horse isn’t always a way of finding a winner, but some punters look closely at the age of former winners to try to predict a trend.

Weight – The weight each horse has to carry is displayed in stone and pounds (eg 9-9). The weight is decided by the conditions of the race, whether the horse is in a handicap or must carry a penalty.

Trainer – The trainer of the horse can often be a useful guide, with some trainers having better records with younger horses, horses at different tracks and horses from a certain family. Horses from powerful trainers such as Willie Mullins or John Gosden are likely to be well supported.

Jockey – A star jockey like Frankie Dettori will always attract attention on the racecard and sometimes it pays to follow a top jockey who has travelled a long way to a meeting just for one ride. Sometimes next to a jockey’s name there is a number in brackets and this is known as a claim, which is a weight allowance given to an inexperienced jockey that is used to reduce their horse’s allotted weight. New jockeys receive a 7lb claim, but as they register more winners it drops to 5lb and then 3lb before they lose that benefit altogether.

Form figures – The form figures represent a horse’s finishing position in previous races. This can indicate whether a horse is in-form and can be used as a guide to help pick the winner.

Draw (Flat only) – Knowing what position in the stalls the horse is in is a useful tool. The layout of some tracks favours different positions in the stalls – a key example would be the Kentucky Derby, where the higher the draw number the further you are from the rail. Stall 20 of 20 is commonly known as ‘the parking lot’ and it is often much harder to win that race from a high-numbered draw.

Breeding – For many, the breeding is an integral part of the racecard as you can, in theory, work out how good a horse might be by looking at the form of its parents and siblings.

C – C stands for Course and will appear next to the name of horses who have achieved a win at the track. Some tracks are quite unusual and knowing your horse is able to handle the track is a positive sign.

D – D stands for Distance and will appear if a horse has won over the distance of the race under consideration. This is important, because if a horse has won over the trip before it could do so again and may have an advantage over opponents who lack that proven ability.

CD –  CD denotes a course-and-distance win, meaning the horse has won over both course and distance at the same time, sometimes if they have won the race in previous years.

BF – stands for Beaten Favourite. If they were favourite for their last race, the expectation might have been for them to win and it could be a sign that they have the ability to do better this time.

Number next to name –  the number next to a horse’s name shows how many days have passed since the horse’s last run. If the horse has been out for a while it could be lacking race fitness.

Comment – The comment under each horse, or beside a horse’s name, give a little reasoning behind the horse’s form and its chances. It is important to read this before betting.

Betting forecast – The betting forecast is not the odds of the horse but a prediction of what they will be. This tool is a guide to how the betting market is expected to shape up.

Picking a winner

Epsom Derby
Picking The Winner

Picking a winner

It can be a difficult task picking a winner at the races. Often racegoers will resort to making a selection based simply on the name of a horse or the colour of a jockey’s silks. However, there are many more credible strategies available, helping punters make more informed decisions on which horse to bet on.

The Paddock

You can learn a lot about a horse’s wellbeing based on seeing them in the flesh. At the racecourse a runner’s physical wellbeing, fitness and temperament can be assessed by watching them parading in the paddock before a race. If a horse is sweating or appears agitated, this is generally a bad sign. A horse who handles the preliminaries well, in a calm and composed manner, will give itself a better chance of performing to the best of its ability and a punter who is wise to that will have a greater chance of picking a winner.

Racecard Form

The form numbers on a racecard represent the finishing position of a horse in its most recent races. Numbers alone can be misleading, though, as a horse could have a ‘3’ in its form, but that third-placed finish could have come in a three-runner race. It is important to consider the context of the form.

Racecard Features

Letters on the race card are another important feature to understand when looking at a horse’s profile. The letters ‘C’ and ‘D’ represent course and distance respectively, which help identify horses who have won at that course before or over that distance. ‘CD’ joined together denotes a horse who has won over both the course and distance of the race under consideration.

Other letters on racecard form signify non-completions of horses in races. ‘F’ and ‘U’ represent a horse who has fallen and a rider who has been unseated respectively. ‘S’ means a horse has slipped up and ‘P’ means a horse has been pulled up by its rider.

All numbers and letters on a horse’s recent form figures are worthy of consideration when trying to pick a winner.

The Betting

Each horse in a race has a price which determines its theoretical chance of winning, but these prices (odds) can fluctuate. The price of a horse can either shorten or lengthen (drift) in the betting and these movements are based on the weight of money placed by the betting public. A shortening price suggests the support for a horse is increasing, whereas a drifting price suggests support for a horse is weakening.

Who to listen to

The Racing Post employs a host of expert race-readers who are paid to give winning tips and find value bets in races, and analysis from the Racing Post team can be found on various platforms. Simply grab a copy of the newspaper, download the app or visit the website to find the latest betting advice. The Racing Post also releases weekly podcasts such as the ‘Weekend Tipping Postcast’, in which our experts preview races and provide tips and further insight into the best betting opportunities.

What is the going?

Picking The Winner

The going is the description given about the ground at a certain racecourse. It is measured by the clerk of the course at the racetrack and is determined by the amount of moisture in the ground.

Different horses enjoy different ground conditions and therefore the going reports are vital for a horse’s trainer and owner in deciding when and where a horse should run. A number of terms are used to describe the various types of going and it is important to look back at how a horse has run before in the prevailing conditions. Some horses are specialists on a particular going. Whereas others may be adaptable to different conditions and run effectively on various going types.

The different types of going

Firm

Firm ground is often found in the summer during the Flat season when the racing surface is very dry. A dry surface means horses can run faster and often results in the quickest race times.

Good to firm

On the slower side of firm, but still a quick surface. Often if the ground is firm, racecourse staff will add water to the track, especially if there is no rain forecast.

Good

The most common type of ground and arguably the fairest for the majority of horses. It is easy to run on and tracks will often try to ensure good ground in order to suit a wide range of horses and attract bigger fields.

Good to soft

Often occurring in the winter months, good to soft ground is mostly good ground but which is also holding a fair bit of water.

Soft

Soft ground is common in the jumps season as the weather tends to be much wetter and the temperature is much lower. This surface is much harder for horses to run on and, as the ground is deeper and moister, horses run much slower. Some horses prefer this going and will run exclusively on ground that is soft.

Heavy

A real test of a racehorse’s stamina and only very few horses relish this type of ground. It is often very wet and hard to run on as the water soaks into the ground. Often described as a ‘bog’, with reference to how slow this surface rides.

Other types of going

Yielding

Unique to Irish racing, yielding is equivalent to the British good to soft.

All-Weather going

All-weather tracks have an artificial racing surface, often made of sand, among other components. All-weather tracks have different going descriptions to turf racecourses.

Fast

The racing surface is quick and dry with minimal moisture. Horses can move quicker and post significantly faster times.

Standard

The going is optimal, with neither too much nor too little moisture in the ground.

Slow

Similar to soft ground on turf, slow is used to describe a racing surface with moisture in it.

The GoingStick

The amount of moisture in the ground is assessed by a numerical reading on the ‘GoingStick’. Introduced in 2007, the GoingStick is poked into the ground and depending on how far the stick goes in, the reading will show how much moisture is in the ground. Before the advent of the GoingStick, clerks of the course measured the going using the heel of their wellies or the pointy end of a walking stick.

Betting tips from a Bookmaker

Picking The Winner

If you study and shop around, you will have an excellent chance of coming out on top

Some will say you’d be wise not to take tips from the bookies – after all, they are only interested in taking your money, aren’t they? Not so. James Knight, head of racing at Coral, shares his top tips for punters in their ongoing war with the bookmakers. It could prove wise to listen . . .

1. Specialise

Most bookmakers now price up every race the night before they are run. The advantage the punter has is they can pick and choose in which races to bet. Your best chance of winning is to get to know a certain pool of horses inside out. If you’re aware of their subtleties – for example, maybe a horse failed to get cover, was poorly positioned or had no chance from its draw on previous starts – then you’re giving yourself a real chance of beating the bookmakers.

2 Focus on quality

This might sound counter-intuitive as you would perhaps expect the best races to be the most accurately priced. That’s true to an extent, but the edge the punter enjoys here is that the televised races are where the bookmakers fight each other for market share through their pricing. The result is that collectively the firms bet close to zero overround (the mechanism that ultimately gives the bookmakers their profit) on many top races. If you do your study and shop around, you will have an excellent chance of coming out on top in these races.

3 Play ante-post when fields might cut up

Bookmakers are betting on far more races ante-post these days and it’s worth looking out for races that may cut up to fewer runners than the layers expect. For example, if you’re betting on the Cambridgeshire, bear in mind that there will be 35 runners on the day (and extra places on offer), so maybe 14-1 each-way about your fancy ante-post might not look so clever come the off. But there will be races offered, particularly during the jumps season, where if you can find a definite runner ante-post (and you can look out for trainer quotes on running plans) then you have probably found yourself a bit of value.

4 If a price looks too good to be true, tread carefully

If a price looks far bigger than you were expecting, consider when you’re playing and who you’re playing against. If you are betting early with a bookmaker before a market has settled down, then there’s a chance they have made a mistake and you’re getting big value. However, if a horse is drifting violently to a seemingly huge price just before the off, then the likelihood is that someone knows something you don’t. Of course, drifters do win, but there is no question that the late market is very accurate when the smart money is going down, so it pays to proceed with caution.

5 Use the betting market as part of your form study

Form study is traditionally associated with trawling through ratings and watching past videos, but what the betting market has said about a horse on previous starts is something that should be built into your analysis. The late market is a very accurate guide to a horse’s chance and is basically giving you a steer as to the expected form level the horse will run to that day. That information can be invaluable when assessing races down the line. For example, if a horse is punted off the boards on its debut but then runs deplorably, it’s likely to be much better than the bare form suggests.