Killer Factors

Many punters believe that it is possible to play the “races” without any special effort on their behalf: on race morning or while in their local TAB agency they can pluck a few selections from the formguide, have a bet and watch the money roll in.

Their beliefs, however, are in the majority of cases far from reality with disappointment the most likely outcome. George E. Smith (Pittsburgh Phil) wrote many, many years ago, “Playing the races is one business in which men believe they can succeed without special study, special talent or special exertion … why a man, sensible in other things, holds this idea I have never been able to satisfy myself.”

Those words are as true today as they were over one hundred years ago. Have you ever given any thought as to what makes certain performances on the racetrack different from many others?

What is it that labels a horse a champion, what attributes should be considered?

Many knowledgeable people over the years have expressed their opinions on such issues; some in agreement with one another and the main stream of thinking, while others have offered a contrarian viewpoint.  That is what makes racing, in its various forms, as a gambling activity like no other, an activity that deals in what could be best described as “dodgy” mathematics.

“Dodgy” in the sense that while mathematics is of paramount importance to the good or bad fortune of those that wager on racing, the same mathematics are based on opinion unlike any other form of gambling.

There are no casino odds in wagering on horse racing and herein lies the possibility of an advantage, as the probability about a horse winning or losing is based on someone’s opinion; usually and ultimately the collective opinions of what is termed the marketplace.

But the marketplace does get it wrong and given that approximately only three out of 10 favourites win, it gets it wrong more often than it gets it right.

In an article in Practical Punting Monthly in March 1998 titled “Pick ‘Em In Pairs, regular contributor Roman Koz stated, “In the constant battle to find winners at the racetrack the punter must not take the process of  ‘doing the form’ lightly. He needs to develop a method of attack that is consistent, covers all the vital aspects of form, provides a sensible approach to determining value and, finally, is rewarding enough to be continued with confidence.”

Those words are probably the most important Roman has ever written for this magazine.

He then went on to describe his method of “pairing” two runners in a race against one another until such time as he had derived his main chances. A method that still serves him as well today as when it was first developed.

Over the next two months, I will be presenting another method, the “Killer Factors” based on what I consider to be the four most important elements in race form analysis in a similar but nevertheless different manner to that of Roman’s, where at the conclusion users should be in a better position than most in establishing an “opinion” position on the outcome of any given race.

In writing that, it would be foolish for anyone to believe that your market, my market or anyone else’s market is a genuine indication of the outcome of a race.

It ain’t so, as despite all the care and attention taken, all the calculations, things happen during a horse race that no analyst can ever take into account, horses missing the start or suffering interference, being blocked for a run, a poor ride etc.

All these things and a lot more happen on a regular basis and can best be described as the “chaos factor”. Just accept that this is ever present and move on.

Use your analysis, ratings and prices to the best of advantage and do battle with the other punters in the belief that you can get it right better than most and as such, it gives you an edge that can hopefully be turned into a profit.

Many non-punters have misconceptions about the punt. It is often stated by those that don’t really know or understand that punters can’t win consistently: that when they win, it’s luck and when they lose, they’re mugs. This may be true of the majority of punters, but not all as some do win, having been consistent winners for many years.

Of those that are winners, some do it through the use of a superior skill in mathematics, often being referred to as “overs” punters. However, the number that slot into this category has slowly reduced over the last few years, mainly due to the information explosion that has taken place.

Others that win consistently do so because they have kept ahead of the game by the use of newer form techniques like pace handicapping and race mapping.

Those two issues are outside the scope of this article, which will, as mentioned, concentrate on four “Killer Factors”: fitness, form, class and market expectation. The latter being more a “reality” check of the other three.  In determining the factors to be used, I’ve attempted to keep the process as simple as possible while making those factors meaningful.

In this regard, an analysis of over  20,000 races disclosed that the two most important factors are the beaten distance at a horse’s last start and the order of favouritism which in some measure incorporates not only the other three but all other factors as well.

When comparing last start beaten distance (which obviously incorporates last start winners) as against last start finishing position, what the following tables disclose  is quite enlightening:

Table 1
Beat Dist  Races Wins   S/Rate %
<1 length 22961 10862 47.3%
<2 lengths 23534 14175 60.2%
<3 lengths 23689 16967 71.6%
<4 lengths 23700 18971 80.0%
<5 lengths 23722 20503 86.4%
<6 lengths 23724 21412 90.3%
Table 2
Posn
Last Start
Races Wins   S/Rate %
1st 20467 6651 32.5%
2nd 22773 10832 47.6%
3rd 23394 13795 59.0%
4th 23578 16093 68.3%
5th 23601 17752 75.2%
6th 23626 18907 80.0%
The statistics for order of favouritism and the average prizemoney index (API) are:

Table 3
Favourite Races Wins   S/Rate %
1st 23721 6933 29.2%
2nd 23721 11755 49.6%
3rd 23721 14886 62.8%
4th 23721 17621 74.3%
5th 23721 19487 82.2%
6th 23721 20790 87.6%
Table 4
API Rank Races Wins   S/Rate %
1st 23721 4733 20.0%
2nd 23721 8524 35.9%
3rd 23721 11627 49.0%
4th 23721 14596 61.5%
5th 23721 16781 70.7%
6th 23721 18740 79.0%
Finally, the table for days to last start:

Table 5
Days Races Wins   S/Rate %
<=7 14255 3284 23.0%
<=14 23171 13633 58.8%
<=21 23662 18235 77.1%
<=28 23617 19583 82.9%
>28 15574 4131 26.5%
Based on these statistics and for the purposes of the “Killer Factors” process the following points table will be used: refer to Table 6.

Table 6
Beat Dist  Pts Fav Pts API Rank Pts Days Pts
<1 length 10 1st 10 1st 8 <=7 10
<2 lengths 7 2nd 8 2nd 6 <=14 7
<3 lengths 5 3rd 5 3rd 4 <=21 4
<4 lengths 3 4th 3 4th 3 <=28 2
<5 lengths 2 5th 2 5th 2 >28 0
<6 lengths 1 6th 1 6th 1    
>=6 lengths 0 >6th 0 >6th 0    
A further analysis of one of my databases disclosed that in races longer than 1200m, horses that hadn’t raced within the last 28 days only had a 13.5per cent strike rate, while in races at 1200m or less, such horses had a 30.8per cent strike rate.

Therefore, it is recommended that only open age races at 1250m or longer, where all the runners have had at least five starts (preferably 10) be considered.

Disregard all two-year old, three-year old and jumps races or those below Class 6 level.

At a recent Caulfield meeting on April 24 only two races qualified, races 5 and 7. In race 5, the top five ratings were: Mr Murphy 35; Picket Fence 24; Blessum 23; Captain Clipper 21 and Bruges 19.

Blessum won paying $5.50 SP with the favourite Mr Murphy running second from Picket Fence (3rd) and Bruges (4th). The full worksheet for race 7 follows:

Table 7
Horse  BDist  Fav   API  Days  Total
Mummify 3 10 8 4 25
Cassimir 10 8 3 2 23
Our Spur 10 6 0 23
Masai 7 5 4 2 18
Beaujolais Prince  0 5 6 4 15
Better Jetsetter 5 0 0 7 12
High Czar 5 0 0 7 12
Classic Benbara 2 0 2 7 11
Umbula 5 1 1 4 11
Scrumptious 0 0 0 10 10
Lester Thunderwig  0 0 0 7 7
Imperial Brief 3 0 0 4 7
Convenor 1 0 0 0 1

The equal second-rated selection Our Spur won at odds of $7.50 SP with Umbula running second and Masai third, while the favourite Mummify ran fifth carrying the huge impost of 62kg (after a 3kg claim).

Click here to read Part 2.

By EJ Minnis

PRACTICAL PUNTING - JUNE 2006