In last month's issue my colleague Ted Davies talked about the battle between speed ratings and weight ratings, and quoted the Melbourne expert Paul Segar's interesting views on the merits of Speed Ratings handicapping.

Somehow, I think that the average Australian punter would be better off to stick with Weight Ratings, if only for the fact that they are more easily worked out. But there's more to my reasoning than that.

Quite some years back, in my other life as a bank manager, I actually did some testing of these two forms of selection. This was at a time when I was toying around with new forms of handicapping, and when a friend was trying to cajole me into joining him in a syndicate to back Speed Rating selections (he'd been to America and picked up what he though was a winning approach as far as Speed Ratings were concerned).

I did three months of testing at the Sydney tracks, using the Daily Doubles races on Saturdays, and at the end of it the proof of the pudding was a win to Weight Ratings. Their top selections showed an 18 per cent level stakes profit, while, alas, the revolutionary US speed ratings approach recorded a 27 per cent loss.

I used Don Scott's ratings, although I confined the methodology to a somewhat simpler basis than he had advocated in his fine books on the subject. I just worked out the ratings, and made very few allowances, positive or negative.

The beauty of Weight Ratings is that they can be easily applied. Speed Ratings take much more time. I think that's the key reason why they have never caught on in Australia, and probably never will! Who's got time to spare these days?

As we have explained before in this magazine, to successfully use Weight Ratings you first have to possess the actual race ratings. In this respect, we've published Brian Blackwell's Invader lists, and then there's Scott's book Winning In The 90s, which contains a full list for all States and New Zealand.

The actual thrust of Weight Ratings is easy to understand: Each type of race has a 'rating figure'. When a horse races in a particular event his performance is measured against that class figure.

Taken into account is the weight he carried, and whether he won or was beaten. For beaten runners, the general rule-of-thumb is that ONE LENGTH equals 1.5 kilos. (The kilos can be the killers, as they say).

For instance: A horse runs in a Class 2 race at Gosford, NSW. On the Don Scott list, such a race has a 44 class figure. Let's say our horse is carrying 55 kg on a 52 kg Limit; that is, it is carrying 3 kg over the 'limit' mark.

If we assume the horse winds up being beaten 3 lengths we can work out his 'rating' very easily. The 3 lengths equals 4.5 kilos, which is deducted from the 44 rating for the race. This leaves us with 39.5, to which is added the weight the horse carried over the limit (3 kilos).

The horse's final rating, then, is 42.5. When he next races, the 42.5 figure for his last start (of course) is used and from it is deducted the weight he will be carrying over the limit mark of the current race. Let's say he has 54.5 kg on a 52 kg limit; that's 2.5 kg over the limit, so we deduct 2.5 from his last start rating of 42.5 and this gives us a rating of 40.0 for the current race.

It is, then, a simple approach. Choose a couple of races per meeting, concentrate on them carefully, and you should be able to narrow down the best chances with very little trouble.

I have mentioned here working on a horse's last start. This does not have to be the case. You can use any of a horse's previous performances as your base ratings figure. For instance, if a horse failed over 1000m last start and is now racing over 1400m, it might be wise to look back for a recent 1400m performance for your base figure, as this would probably be a more accurate reflection of the horse's chance in the current race, rather than a failure over an unsuitable 1000m.

Let's now talk about what ratings really mean. The idea itself is not new. Ratings originated in America some 70 years ago, but then they were always restricted to one or two factors. Don Scott refined this approach and added more variable factors he considered had to be taken into account.

My colleague Martin Dowling revealed other ratings methods in his excellent article Ratings Rippers in the July issue of P.P.M. Most ratings methods like the ones he outlined, show PLUS signs a horse may have going for it, and also incorporate MINUS signs.

Weight Ratings indicate how a horse measures up on class and weight. Some ratings methods concentrate more on CONSISTENCY and DISTANCE, and take into account win strike rates, ability at the distance of the race and overall consistency in form.

Both approaches will provide a percentage of winners. Critics claim they will not overcome the fact that many of the rated horses are not propositions for today's race because of weaknesses which greatly reduce, or even eradicate, the rating figure!

One professional punter I know, who has made a living by hunch betting, says scornfully: "A horse might well possess a decided weight advantage over its rival but its winning chance could be nullified if it's out of form or lacks condition, or is badly drawn at the barrier or has a bad rider.

"To my way of thinking, the best that a ratings method can do - speed or weight, or whatever - is to trim down the chances, but only on the factors which are applied. The keen form analyst has to take all this a great deal further by applying other essential factors."

My friend's argument is that Weight Ratings merely provide mechanical selections. Which is true, except that they are soundly based on key factors - class, ability and weight. This is not a bad starting point for any selection process!

What if you are never going to be a Weight Ratings man? Can you use a Points Ratings method with success, or perhaps use the Weight Ratings approach on a limited basis? Well there's one approach that's been around for some years and which I believe still maintains its winner picking power.

You consider only those horses with TAB numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4. Between them, they win about 50 per cent of all races. This means that if you backed all 4 horses, you would have a collect ratio of about 12.5 per cent. In 100 races you would bet on about 400 horses and collect on 50 of them.

Now, assuming you are pretty nifty with form and figures, you should be able to end up a good winner if you can take fullest advantage of these statistics. You won't want to back every horse; the task is to trim the four chances down, and back only the best.

Why not then use the Don Scott weight ratings on these four runners alone? Discover which of them is the best, and which is second best.

The end result could be that your collect ratio will improve dramatically. Hopefully, you will be able to eliminate the no-hopers among the top 4 runners, thus increasing the strike rate enormously.

Whatever method you choose Speed Ratings or Weight Ratings, or some combination of both - you must be willing to put in some hard work. Winners never come easily, despite what some boasters may claim. The more work you put into things, the more thought and reasoning you apply, the better your results should be.

Personally, I think that some form of weight handicapping is the way to go. You won't get every winner, but you'll certainly give yourself a sound chance of improving your betting skills - and improving your bank balance.

EASY WEIGHT RATINGS

  1. Use each horse's weight as the base figure.
  2. Deduct from the current race weight the 'equivalent margin' figure from the horse's
    last start race. That is, horse today is carrying 57kg. Last start it was beaten 4 lengths.
    Applying the formula of 1.5kg per one length, you now deduct 6 from the 57kg figure, giving
    a rating of 51.
  3. The horse with the highest weight figure at the conclusion of the workout is the no.1
    selection.
  4. If a tie or two or more contenders are closely matched, the no.1 selection becomes the
    horse with the best win strike.

By Philip Roy

PRACTICAL PUNTING -  SEPTEMBER 1994

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