A part from horse racing, my other passion in sport is AFL football. Born and raised in Geelong, I have been a passionate follower of the Geelong Football Club since a small child.

For those conversant with AFL and having somewhat of a grasp on its history, will be able to painfully point out to me that Geelong have not held the premiership cup aloft since 1963, thus enduring one of the longest premiership droughts in the modern era.

Now at the time of writing this piece, the Geelong Football Club is a red hot favourite to win this year’s flag and hopefully end what has been an eternity of torment and frustration for its followers.

The club, at times over the years, has offered so much yet delivered so little, to a point where I had a theory that Geelong supporters lived ten years less than the national average, such was the level of frustration and mental anguish its supporter base was put through. It was through these times that I was indeed very thankful, that football was a seasonal thing and welcomed the season closure for some respite and mental well being.

Now, there are times I’m sure when punters wished that horse racing was a seasonal thing. I wouldn’t think there would be a seasoned punter alive who hasn’t undergone a period of protracted losses.

We’ve all been there – prolonged periods of losses where we can’t take a trick, seemingly deserted by luck and questioning our own ability in regards to form analysis, wondering, if we are in fact being punished by some higher power for some past indiscretions. Horse racing, as we know, is not seasonal and punters immersed in such horror runs need an application of both discipline and strategies to work through those tough times.

If racing was or could be made a seasonal concept, then from a punting perspective, what time of the year would fit the bill?? I’m pretty sure that if I were to poll a significant cross section of the punting community, the general consensus would be to close racing down over the winter months, with the racing seasons being predominately run in both the spring and autumn times.

This it would seem, on face value, to be a pretty fair assessment. Winter racing is a time of wet tracks and an inferior stock of animal going around and is generally perceived to be a tough period for punters with more than enough of long priced winners saluting the judge. I know a number of punting colleagues who, in there own way, make racing seasonal by lightening off in the winter months by just dabbling in the exotics, then wagering substantially over the carnival periods when the good horses return.

Now I guess the general consensus seems to make pretty good sense. After all, as punters do we need to be regularly engaging an inferior quality of horse on wet tracks over the winter period?

When watching sport, the public likes to see the best in the business and in racing this eventuates over the spring and autumn carnivals. The spring carnival, in particular the major Cups, the world’s greatest weight for age event and in horse flesh terms it is when racing’s royalty steps out, providing the public with greatly anticipated and some mouth watering clashes.

But is it really a good time for the punt?? Logically you would think so; drier tracks, a better quality of horse racing, but I pose this question out of my own recent punting history, where on more carnivals than not I have been hammered on the punt. On further reflection, some of my best periods on the punt have been through the winter months.

This has led me to research these periods in a little more detail. Over the past five years I have looked at a period that would encapsulate when the better class horses return and the Melbourne spring carnival and a similar time frame that would cover the heart of winter racing.

For the spring carnival period, I have used the period from the first Saturday in September till the middle of November which would include the running of the Sandown classic, which is generally the end of the black type racing for this period.

The winter period runs from the first Saturday in June to the middle of August. It only covers Saturday metropolitan meetings with the exception of Cup week in which I have included the non-Saturday Melbourne Cup and Oaks meeting from that week.

First Saturday in September – Mid November

Year Meeting Runners Favs Fav % Av Price
2006 13 1545 36 32.4 8.2
2005 12 1426 28 25 10
2004 12 1300 36 32.4 7.2
2003 12 1401 23 20.7 8.5
2002 12 1389 22 20.1 8.9
12.2 1422
29 26.1 8.6
First Saturday in June – Mid August

Year Meeting Runners Favs Fav % Av Price
2006 11 952 30.6 30.6 6.4
2005 11 968 26.6 26.6 6.8
2004 11 970 24.7 24.7 6.9
2003 10 897 27.5 27.5 6.9
2002 11 1001 31.8 31.8 7.5
10.8 957
24.6 28.2 6.9

As you can see, somewhat surprisingly, the winter period outperforms the carnival time in terms of winning favourites and shorter priced winners.

Now I know that this is a somewhat limited data sample and certainly isn’t big enough to categorically dispel any myths or make definitive statements, but my own recollection of these periods over a much greater time frame, suggests that these statistics? won’t be too far off the mark.

What we can possibly glean from this, is that winter racing has probably been unfairly demonised by punters, and although the cream of the nation’s horseflesh is racing over the carnivals, it is a harder time on the punt.

Statistically, there is a direct correlation between smaller fields and a higher percentage of favourites winning. Referring back to the stats, there is a significant difference between the number of runners competing over the spring as opposed to the winter period. Large fields without clearly defined favourites, which are clearly prevalent over the carnivals, make the task of isolating winners very tough indeed.

I guess it’s all relevant. Punters may very well say that they prefer to wait for the carnivals and the better class of horse, but you’ve got to bear in mind that black type horse’s race against black type horses.

Class one horses are certainly inferior, but again they only have to basically compete against class one animals. The point is, irrespective of the time of the year or the class of the race, if one horse has the necessary boxes ticked and looks to have a distinct edge over its rivals, then if the odds are agreeable, it needs to be backed.

Perhaps punters need to re examine their own form at carnival times and if what I suspect is right, that most punters struggle in what is a genuine tough time on the punt and then maybe they could pay a little more credence to backing winners over the winter months.

If the statistics do hold true, then for many punters it could be anything but a winter of discontent.

By Ken Blake