Hi Rory, and many thanks for joining us this month. Firstly, would you tell our readers a little about yourself together with how you came to be interested in the world of horse racing? Was there anything that specifically attracted you to the sport of kings, and as a racing correspondent for the Irish Field and journalist alongside being a racing pundit how does a normal working day pan out for you?
There was a time when I’d be up and at the race cards at 6:30 with a view to maximising the best of my time, but I’ve got two young boys to run rings around me most mornings and work proper doesn’t start until I’ve dropped them at school. I work on the Racing Consultants daily email from then until late morning before moving on to research for the following day.
I’ve got daily columns for the Irish Daily Star and Sporting Life (which I share with old friend David Massey), and if there is televised racing, I need to write a report for the Irish Field which is published every Friday. It’s still a great help to be able to pick up a phone and argue various issues with David, and the fact that we disagree on plenty helps to focus my thoughts.
I research a list of possible bets through the afternoon/evening and whittle those down with research before filing copy at around 5pm (break at 3pm to pick up kids from school). After dinner, I’m back researching wider projects, including historical and biographical issues for occasional pieces I write for the attheraces.com website.
How do you decide which races to study, do you target a race type, go through the card looking for something to jump out or follow horses from your notebook, What’s your “in” to a race?
I prefer handicaps for older horses, as I prefer to deal with established form rather than guess what improvement unexposed horses may have, and my preference is to interrogate form based on specific race conditions. Aside from that, I try to watch as much as I can and keep a list of horses in a tracker service.
I don’t go overboard with this, and rarely back such horses blind, but every time I get an email, I’ll revisit the horse in question and make sure that I’m happy with my initial assessment, and whether that horse is likely to be of interest in its upcoming engagement or it’s just worth watching again to make further assessment.
My methods include assessing speed and form ratings as well as other factors, and takes time, so I prefer to limit the number of races I look at, settling on those where I think the form should prove most reliable, or where factors like the going and draw will help narrow the fields down.
Of course, the higher class races are always easiest to assess, as so much information is out in the open, which tends not to be the case for all.
We have over the years been on many a good, priced winner from yourself that was less than obvious I’m sure readers would love any clues you can give as to how you find these overlooked big, priced winners.
Essentially this flows from the above methods.
If you limit the number of races, you look at to those you have an affinity for, then you have more time to assess all the runners. Most people confine their research to the horses towards the top of the betting and miss clues which might put them on to bigger priced winners.
It’s a bit like the old Sherlock Holmes line – “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”
Racing Consultants has been going for some time now. Is finding value today as easy as it was when you first started the service, and do you feel that the racing offers up as many opportunities as it has previously. Has COVID led to any difficulties with regards to the reading of the form of horses or conversely has it provided fresh opportunities?
One thing that COVID has changed has been the abandonment of the on-course market, and that has led to bigger prices being available about outsiders based on off-course/internet wagering. That certainly helped me in the Racing Post Naps table, and it’s a potential benefit for the service, although it’s not easy to predict which outsiders will go from 12/1 the night before to 50/1 on the shows!
It’s harder to get any sort of bet on the night before, and that’s why we decided not to put bets up overnight on the RC service even though it’s fairly easy to spot a lot of pricing errors.
I deliberately wait until just before noon to post bets, as I’m not trying to chase disappearing prices, which is frustrating for members, and I hope I’m putting up selections which may drift and waiting longer (plus taking BOG) can be beneficial with more left-field bets.
Do you see any major differences between the Irish and UK racing in the way they operate? Are there any lessons to be learned from either side of the Irish sea that the other can benefit from?
They are chalk and cheese, but it would be hugely beneficial to have a combined set of handicappers for both jurisdictions given how often Irish runners race here.
The fact that maiden hurdles and chases are effectively schooling races in Ireland will always make it extremely hard to get a true handle on the form away from the better class horses, however.
Do you regularly place a bet yourself? If so, what approach do you take to your betting? Are you a level stakes bettor or do you vary your stakes based on perceived value, confidence in each selection or your recent results?
I bet less than I did as being interrupted by children can affect your mental equilibrium!
I try to vary my stake according to confidence levels, although I probably find the biggest variance at big prices, and it’s not easy getting a bigger stake on in such circumstances.
Making a profit from betting on horse racing can be a struggle for both beginners and those more versed in the sport. If you could give one piece of advice to help a racing fan improve their profitability, what would it be and why?
Confidence is misunderstood, and people usually use the term to mean “confidence of success” with a particular selection. I think of it as confidence that the price is wrong in your favour and bet accordingly. That leads to losing runs if you’re backing 33/1 shots, but find the mentality to live with that and you will be successful.
We are sure that you have many a tale to tell from racecourses around the country. Which of your own personal racing experiences have been memorable for you?
Despite having RCA accreditation, I’ve not seen a racecourse since the Cheltenham Festival in 2020. If there is one single moment worth recalling, however, it’s when I was mistaken for the owner of Rough Quest and served champagne by Lady Lloyd Webber in the Royal Box after he won a hunter chase there about 20 years ago. I think I pulled it off.
What about the gambling industry, is there anything you like to see changed there? Many website forums are full of criticisms of the bookmakers and their treatment of their customers? Is this something you have an opinion on?
Lots of opinions, but the main one would be that I think the industry would be better for all if we moved away from the bonus/consolation structure utilised by online firms.
Punters largely just want a fair bet, without gimmicks, and if you’re giving money away to fickle punters, then that’s money that needs to be clawed back elsewhere. I’d even argue that while each-way betting has great opportunities, the model doesn’t really work and leads to firms being less open to offering better win odds and/or laying a fair bet.
What interests do you have outside of the world of horse racing?
Family, really. My boys, Felix and Charlie are 7 and 5 now, and while my work takes up lots of time, I am pretty much always at home, so get to spend a lot of time with them – and my wife too.
I like to play golf but have managed about three rounds in as many years, and I’m lucky to live in the countryside, so enjoy taking walks with my next-door neighbour, who is a retired theatre manager and full of amusing stories – usually involving walking into dressing rooms to find famous actresses in flagrante delicto.
Get Rory’s Racing Consultants selections here.