Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Betting on the "Orses", a beginners guide...

I was asked to write an article as a introduction to Horse Race betting and managed the below, may be of interest...

Betting on the horses, a beginners guide...
To start with, a little like wine, Horse Racing is a massive topic and one nobody will ever truly conquer from a betting point of view so if you want a hobby that means you can say "I've done that" it isn't for you. If however you enjoy a bet and love the idea of having a parallel universe to dip in and out of then I can thoroughly recommend it. The blend of different race courses, horses, owners and the betting make it a great “place“ to spend time.

Why do it?
For me personally Horse Racing followed from starting to do some spread betting on the cricket in the late 90's and finding there wasn't enough cricket on to get stuck into so I turned to greyhounds a little and then racing (which is 98% of all betting I do). Do I make money? No, I am a little down, just shy of £1500, over 12 years but love it and for a hobby that is next to no cost. Interestingly I have no interest in Casinos, never go to them and would be bored in seconds if I did. I like betting not just gambling. The complexity of the fact that any of the following, and more, can affect a result in a given race:
Going – Possibly the main key point, this is the softness or not of the ground and generally varies from Heavy, very wet and barely race-able, to Firm, as hard as it can be and still be safe. Almost all horses have a preference and it can be crucial to their chances in a race.
Trip – This is a term to describe the length of a race, like the going most horses have a preference for a certain trip or range of trips. It can be anything from 5 furlongs (a furlong is an eighth of a mile) to 4 miles 4 furlongs (the Grand National).
Trainer – Responsible for the training of the horse, and in consultation with the owners picking the jockey and the races it will race in.
Jockey – The rider of the horse. Some jockeys are “retained” or salary to ride for a certain owner or may be linked to certain stable, many are freelance. Jockeys in National Hunt (jump racing) carry more weight typically than on the flat.
Fitness/Form – Just like humans some horses are simply faster than others and some are fitter than others. Getting to know which horses need a few races before being at their best is all part of the game.
Time since last run – Some horses need a long rest between races and some, especially sprinters, can run even two days in a row and thrive on lots of racing
The track – One of the greatest elements of UK racing is the variety of the layout and undulations of the racecourses. Some are clockwise (right-handed) and some are anti-clockwise (yes, left-handed), some are flat as pancake, Newbury for example and some are very undulating, Cheltenham and Towcester to name but two. As a result the “horses for courses” saying can be a very true.
Draw – This refers to where in the stalls a horse is drawn to run, only applicable on the flat as jumps racing does not have stalls. Some tracks seem to run faster one side that another and it can be a very important component to a race especially at a very sharply turning track where an outside draw can be the kiss of death. Chester is possibly the best example of this.
Number of runners – Some horses are happier dominating in a small field and others like to be amongst a pack.

Golden Rules To maximise the fun and to avoid getting into trouble I advise looking at these!
Don't stretch yourself – remember it is meant to be fun and making a meaningful amount from betting on racing is very hard work and requires much discipline so set yourself limits you can afford.
Acknowledge your temperament and bet to it – A key point for me, some people “need” to win regularly so should look at shorter priced runners and look for a high strike rate, others are more patient and can put up with less winners but make them more rewarding, work out where on this scale you are.  
Look for "value" – there are whole books on the concept of “value”, in short you should always look to back horses where you feel they have a better chance than their odds suggest. This ties in with the temperament point above and is a crucial concept!
Keep a record – make a log of your bets, it stops you kidding yourself as to how you are doing and you can learn from it. It also stops you having flippant fun bets as you’ll have to write them in too.
Don't chase losses - There is no last race, it is always better to quit behind and come back another day.
Be wary of betting and drinking – common sense.
Losing runs just do happen – This also ties in with the temperament point but when a losing run hits have no fear of just taking a break.
Shop around for the best prices – The bookmaking world is a competitive one and especially as a new punter there are great offers and prices out there, www.oddschecker.com is a good place to start.
Stick to the better grades of racing – The best and most valuable races offer the best betting opportunities, horses tend to be more consistent, all trying and ridden by the best jockeys plus the bookmakers have to compete on price.

So with those things done let’s have a look at some practicalities. Firstly the types of bets, here I’ll keep it simple as these are the meat and drink of things. Win only is the most common and rather obvious. Each Way is essentially two bets, one to win and one to be placed in the top 2,3, 4 or even 5 places depending on the number of runners and type of race, check this before betting. £10 each way means £20 in total! Place, this is purely a bet to come in the first 2,3, 4 or even 5 places depending on the number of runners and type of race, like each way without the win element. Next is the big question of who to bet with? I would shop around and see what works for you, I personally am wary of on-line as it can just become too easy. On-course in cash with one of the bookmakers is the most fun especially when you are collecting winnings! The vast majority of my bets are over the phone as I enjoy the interaction and normally want to take a price. This is worth expanding on, if you back a horse and you think the price will get smaller (shorten) because others will back it or you just want to make sure of knowing what price you have then ask for the specific price when you bet otherwise you will get the starting price (SP) which is the general price when the race starts. You will hear people refer to the betting exchanges, this is for another time. Have a staking plan. Just putting the same on everything is not always the best way, the more “value” you feel you have the bigger your bet should be, do not make the mistake of putting more on shorter prices and less on longer ones. May be look at specialising on either Flat, core season is March to November or Jumps racing, core season is October to April. I love both but it is a lot to keep up with so may be pick one. Be very wary of tips and tipsters, inside information can be helpful but for obvious reasons most of the best tips are not passed on!

So what next? Well if any of this sounds interesting then start by buying the Racing Post or look at their website. Go to race meeting, if you are near London try Sandown or Ascot as great tracks otherwise almost all the tracks will look after you well. Watch Channel 4 racing, very good coverage and useful whatever level of knowledge you have. Happy punting!!

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