There’s just one fundamental objective for punters and that is to make a consistent profit. To achieve that objective doesn’t necessarily depend on hours of form study or detailed assessment of each horse chance in the race. Most punters don’t have the time or experience to undertake such tasks.

Confusing Stats

As punters it’s important to take time out to look on how you find your selections, what variables you use and whether those variables are helping you to make a profit.

Many punters and I include myself in this, place great value on form guide statistics. In many cases punters look for horses that have the following traits:

  • Race fit, not returning from long absence.
  • Have won at the distance of the race.
  • Have won on the prevailing going.
  • Career Win Percentage.
  • Have won at the course or are C&D winners.
  • Finished in the first three on their last start.

There are of course plenty more that I could have added.

The more of the above traits a horse has the more we think that it offers as a betting proposition.

Conversely the less traits the horse has the riskier it is, thus makes it poor betting proposition. However, is this always correct, and should we be attaching such value to such statistics?

There’s plenty of logic backing horses in winning form for example, as they win most races. Horses lacking fitness normally don’t win nor do horses who can’t handle the going.

In the third part of this short series, on improving your punting. I’m looking at whether some of the popular form stats that we use may not be as reliable as we think.

Using the ever reliable as my guide here are my findings.

For the purpose of this exercise the results below cover the years from 1st May 2015 to 31st April 2019 and cover National Hunt Racing in the UK only.  I have also used an odds filter of 12/1 to concentrate on those runners the betting market considers having a genuine chance of winning their respective races.

Previous Form After an Absence

Let’s begin by looking at previous form after a 91+day absence.  Here are the results for all qualifying races run during the period of research using the 12/1 & below odds filter.

Horses on their first start after a 90+ day absence have a 17%-win strike rate.

Now you certainly can’t back them blind. If you had, you would have lost £2340.21 to a £1 level stakes.

Now there is a slight increase in number of winners for those horses having their second and third races off an absence and those on their third to fifth starts. But the returns are not significantly better for the race fit horses in a race.

If we dig a bit deeper what about those horses returning from an even longer break, of say 180+ days?

Those horses on a second start after such a layoff have produced the following set of results:

The key takeaway here is don’t get too carried away with race fitness. If you like a horse who is returning from an absence don’t be put off. 

You need to look at the horses’ record after an absence to see if it’s capable of winning or not. You can also check the trainers’ record with runners winning first time up.

For example, the Nicky Henderson trained hurdler Buveur D’Air is has an exceptional record first time up after a 91+day absence:

Compare his record with the Dan Skelton trained Value At Risk.

For example, trainers who have excellent records with their handicap runners, 12/1 & under, returning from a 90+day absence worth noting are:

Previous Distance Winners

Plenty of punters like to see their selection having a D against the horse’s name on a race card or daily newspaper. Once again proven winning form over the distance of a race can give you extra confidence in the selection.

Again, using the 12/1 & under odds filter and on this occasion handicap races only let’s have a look at the results for distance winners:

Horses with +1 win at the distance have produced:

The ability of a horse to stay the distance of race is an important factor but once again there are only marginal benefits to be a distance winner and hardly a sign of real profitable betting opportunity.

So if you like a horse and it has other compelling factors in its favour then you shouldn’t be duly concerned by a lack of distance winning from.

Previous Wins On The Going

Looking at those results what becomes clear is that a win on the same going description can, like a win over the distance, be a positive factor. Granted horses with four wins on the going have been profitable over the period under research the Chi Score isn’t high enough and suggests it’s down to luck rather than anything more meaningful. So, once again there are no clear, profitable betting opportunities to be exploited.

Before moving onto the next factor it’s worth having a look at how winning form on heavy ground may differ from the overall figures.

The figures indicate that plenty of winning form on heavy ground 3+ wins can be an important factor. A horse with one win on heavy ground does worse than a horse with no winning form on heavy and the latter provides punters with more in the way of betting value.

Horses Career Win Percentage

For many punters the best horses to back are those who have a high win percentage and the worst are those who don’t win very often compared to their number of runs. Once again, eminently a common-sense approach.

On this occasion I have only looked at horses with 10+ runs but once again kept the odds filter of 12/1 in place. Using only horses with 10+ runs means the figures can’t be skewed by lightly raced horses.

Those horses that had never won a race produced the following set of stats:

Those horses with a career win percentage between 2% & 9% are:

Horses with a career win percentage between 10% & 20% are:

Those with a 21% to 30%-win percentage are:

Those with a 31% to 50%-win percentage are:

Those with a 52% + win percentage have produced:

The research shows that the bias towards horses with high win strike rates doesn’t add much in the way of betting value. Indeed, horses that have never won win as often as those with 31% + win strike rate.

Previous Wins at The Track

Previous wins at track can be a sign of liking for that track. We all have heard the saying “Horses for Courses”. Depending on the track it could be highly significant, or it could have very little significance.

Looking at stats for all British racecourses:

Breaking it down further by track. The best performing tracks for previous course winners are:

And the lesser performing tracks for previous course winners are:

Genuine track specialists are not that common and once again looking at previous course wins in general has no impact on finding value betting opportunities. The one caveat to that is certain tracks are better for previous course winners.

In summary:

Horses with previous wins at the distance or on the going or at the track don’t offer much in the way of value than those horses without.

Those horses in handicap races with a high career win percentage don’t win as often as those horses without a career win.

As punters we are reassured when horse is a 3 from 3 at the track and has won on the going but statistically it doesn’t actually mean much without taking other form factors into consideration.

In part four of the series on improving your punting, I will be examining losing runs and how you deal with them.

Until next time, have a great months punting.


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John Burke

John Burke

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