Rory/David, where does your interest in horse racing come from?
Rory Delargy – When I was very young, my dad put on bets for the whole family in the 1977 Grand National. I don’t recall everyone’s bet, but I got Red Rum, and my older brother got Andy Pandy. When the latter fell at second Becher’s, he wheeled away in disgust and hasn’t watched another race since. I suppose I got lucky, and I soon started spending Saturday afternoons watching the ITV7 with my dad, which became our connection, and kick-started my love of the sport.
David Massey – Like a lot of people, I suspect, from an errant grandfather who introduced me to the delights of racing at an early age. I used to have a 10p Round Robin on three TV races on a Saturday and would get half of any winnings. I was in for a good payday the day Artifice was in front jumping the last in the 1982 Mackeson, having already had two winners at 8-1 and 10-1, only for Fifty Dollars More to pick him up in the shadow of the post. I was distraught for a week.
I later composed a computer program for the Dragon 32, just for myself, and used to tinker with the variables to try and find the best way of making it work! It found some gems, and worked particularly well in sprint handicaps!
What have been your personal highlights as a consultant within the horse racing industry?
Rory – I have to confess an absolute loathing of the term ‘Racing Consultant’! It’s one David has used in his communications and got adopted as the name of our service as a result – needs must, and all that, but it doesn’t really fit me. I don’t like the notion of us as racing insiders either, and I think a lot of experts take themselves a bit too seriously.
There’s a true story about Mike and Bernie Winters playing the Glasgow Empire sometime in the 1970s in which Mike, who went on first, is bombing terribly in front of the notoriously tough Glaswegian audience. Bernie suddenly appears at this point in an attempt to save the show, only for a despairing voice in the auditorium to shout “**** me – there’s two of them!” That’s a standing joke between the pair of us, and while we take our work very seriously, we don’t think we should be po-faced about our own importance, and each of us is happy to take the other down a peg should we get a bit precious about what we do.
David – I'm not really sure I'm a consultant – it's just a catch-all for the many and varied jobs I do within the industry – but clearly winning the William Hill Naps Table a few weeks ago ranks pretty highly! Ironically, for someone that specialises in low-grade jumps racing, all my big-priced winners came from the Flat! Not sure what that says….
I enjoy doing the previews in the restaurants at Cheltenham too – it's always good to tip a winner or two to a crowd, and get thanks for it afterwards.
From the numerous race cards on most days how do you start the process of narrowing down the races and horses of interest?
Rory – We have few hard and fast rules, but we don’t usually bet at less than 2/1 or in ordinary maiden/novice races, so that narrows things down. We then look at the handicaps on each card to see if anything grabs the attention. That process is done individually, so that we can go through the races together with an idea of what may or may not appeal. There are certain tracks we’re wary of betting at, and dubious going reports are also a red flag (in retrospect, we should have avoided the last day of Chester, but we still make the occasional error).
Once we have a list of possible races, we then try to find common ground between us, which is sometimes easy, but often ends with one of us vetoing a possible selection. We will spend most of our daily skype calls trying to find reasons why a fancy may or may not be a bet, and while we put each other off our share of winners, the process tends to be positive, and often cathartic.
David – There's many races you can't touch at various stages of the season – maidens are always tricky whatever the time of year, and 3-y-o handicaps are best left until the form settles down, but for me personally I look for 0-120 rated (and lower) handicaps, ideally over 1m4f plus on the Flat and over 2m4f plus over hurdles/fences.
With some judicious use of speed figures and form, these can usually be narrowed down pretty quickly to give you a shortlist to work from. That's half the battle, reducing races to shortlists quickly. Then you can start to unpick things.
What do you feel is the single largest problem you face when making your selections?
Rory – Time. In an ideal world, each of us would spend two hours or more analysing cards before a similar amount of time arguing over the best bets, but in reality we have to cut that down, and one or two meetings are given a perfunctory glance on busy days. It’s hugely annoying when you realise that you’ve missed something a more thorough look would have found.
David – Without a shadow of a doubt, and I'd guess most punters would agree with this, false ground reports. It's remarkable that in this day and age we are, to a fairly large extent, at the mercy of what the clerk of the course says. Half the time I wouldn't trust the going stick reports – certain tracks, and we know what they are, overwater badly too, creating false ground. It's a nightmare.
What do you enjoy most about horse racing, is there anything you would like to see changed?
Rory – It’s a bit trite, but racing is fundamentally about the horses, and when I was growing up, the focus of TV coverage was on that basis; there now seems to be an overwhelming urge to focus on “personality”, whatever the hell that is. The sport is, and has been for some time, completely dependent on betting for its continued existence, and yet those who bet tend to be treated like pariahs. Hopefully, the noises being made about punter representation by the new BHA board will prove to be a watershed of sorts, but we shouldn’t get too excited.
David – As someone that goes racing probably three or four times a week, seeing the horses actually in the flesh is very beneficial, and something I enjoy immensely. I do try and enjoy the social side of racing too – I sometimes forget that despite it being my living, it's something that should be fun too – and for a short while I did create a Twitter group for Uttoxeter Racecourse. We created a bit of racing history by sponsoring a race and having a hashtag in the race title for the first time – The #UttoxeterTwitterati Handicap Hurdle – won by the game Trackmaite. We'd hire a box for the day, do competitions, invite trainers and jockeys into the box to meet members, have some food and drink and then all go out for a curry after racing. We had members as far afield as Scotland and London, all of whom would come up/down for the day. Brilliant fun. I'd encourage others to do the same.
The biggest change I'd make is to make racing cheaper and more accessible to people.
£25 to get in to see poor quality racing isn't on. By the time a working man has paid for himself and his wife to get in, bought food and drink, paid for petrol to get there, bought race cards/newspapers he's already nearly £100 down. Which is ridiculous, when you think about it.
What do you consider to be a successful day?
Rory – The beauty of a points-based tipping service is that the results are carved in stone, but there’s more to a good day than producing a profit on stakes, and the write-ups we do are very important to us. We put the work in, and even if we’ve erred on the side of caution with a possible selection, we are pleased if our analysis has been justified. It’s hugely satisfying to highlight one that’s been dismissed elsewhere, as David did with Hi Bronco at Fontwell recently.
David – A winning one. Is there any other answer to this?
Thinking ahead which horses do you feel have the potential to be stand outs of the future?
Rory – We’re looking to find under bet horses as a rule, rather than superstars, but one who might make her mark at the top level is WEDDING VOW, who was beaten in a poor Oaks Trial at Lingfield last weekend, but is much better than the bare form. Her dam was an unlucky third in the Oaks itself, and she is a decent bet at 50/1 or thereabouts if she is confirmed as heading to Epsom. An unexposed one I like is Chris Wall’s CLOUD SEVEN, who looked well ahead of his mark when scoring at Kempton recently, and ought to win a big handicap if placed to advantage in the coming months.
David – Over the summer, I'd be following The Road Ahead – typical Bowen improver, very game and genuine, she'll win a good prize before autumn comes, and over the next eight weeks or so, it might pay to follow Charlie Longsden. He's had a quiet year so far, with just the 11 winners since January 1st, but six winners this month signify that he's right back for the summer period, and some of his horses will leave their previous poor form well behind.
Do you have a particular favourite race track, meeting, or race?
Rory – Cheltenham is in a league of its own – I used to work in the press room on non-race days and it’s a magnificent place when empty. The Open Meeting there is arguably even better than the Festival, as it represents the day that jump racing fully wrests centre stage from the Flat, and there’s an extra frisson as a result.
David – I never tire of going to Cheltenham. Good horses, tremendous atmosphere and a beautiful setting always make for a superb day, whatever the weather. Southwell tends to have some pretty low-grade racing but in terms of facilities it's very good. Staff always friendly and it's a well-run country course. Fakenham is a throwback to a bygone era but in a good way, unlike Worcester, which has some tired, dreadful buildings, and staff who seem to have taken customer service lessons from the Stasi. I dread going there in summer. It's not even a nice drive.
Any interests outside of horse racing?
Rory – I’m not sure if it counts as an interest, but my wife gave birth a matter of seconds after A P McCoy won the JLT on Taquin du Seuil last March, and young Felix has taken up a lot of my time since then, not that I’m complaining!
David – Music. Before working in racing I was with HMV for eight years, eight very happy years too. Music tastes are very eclectic, but indie will always be top of the list.
Pinkshinyultrablast a current favourite (I'm not making that up), and at the moment I have Portishead's “Dummy” on the car CD. A classic. Other favourites – Aphex Twin, Smiths, Johnny Cash, Public Enemy, Ibrahim Ferrer. It's all over the shop…
You can find out more about the Racing Consultants tipping service here – https://racingconsultants.co.uk
This interview was first published in Issue 7 of On Course Profits magazine in May 2015