There is a certain formula that guarantees a successful winter Saturday’s racing.
The perfect day has to start with a bit of a lie in. Nothing ostentatious. I’ll stagger downstairs, rubbing gummy eyes in time to pay only partial attention to The Morning Line. An ailing, safe preview vehicle these days, I’ll mostly be distracted by making some fantasy football transfers (like dropping Leroy Fer today just before he bags a brace against Palace) or following an England sub-continental collapse, ball-by-ball, on Cricinfo (having finally ditched the Sky Sports package on the basis of outrageous price hikes).
I’ll walk the dog - unless it’s raining - because I know there’s little chance of me doing so in daylight hours once the racing has started.
On return, I’ll feel like I’ve earned a toasted bagel with marmite, or maybe an English muffin topped with runny fried eggs. Dammit. Maybe both.
By the time the second coffee is washing down the late breakfast, I’ll be deep into my form tools of choice: At The Races and the Racing Post online. Maybe Geegeez.co.uk if I’m feeling indecisive. I’ll be looking for good betting races, not just the big TV races. I’ll goggle at the spread of action across three or four decent meetings and I know I’ll struggle to wrap a staking strategy around it all. What might start with discipline and focus will inevitably descend into lob and scatter as the day rolls on. But that’s OK, because it’s a winter Saturday. Indulge. That’s the point.
I might even stroll out to the bookies to catch some of the non-telly action. There’s always punt-per-view with all the online bookies, of course. But sometimes I’ll prefer to pass 15 minutes or so with the hard core Corals massive down the High Street. Since I was there for Dave’s £60-grand Lucky 15 plot, there’s always someone with whom to exchange opinions.
Then I’ll wander back for a couple of hours in the company of Lucky, Fitzy, Richie, Graham and Jim. By the time the last race completes in fading light, I’ll be left to the mercy of Final Score and some assorted rugby internationals.
These are the characteristics of a perfect winter Saturday. It can’t happen like this in summer. There are too many competing social, sporting and meteorological drivers. And the racing isn’t so cosy, personal or embracing either.
Truth is, it doesn’t really happen very much in winter. A bit like George Orwell’s essay on the perfect pub, it is often just out of reach. There’s always something else going on. So when the stars align, I like to take full value.
Of course there’s a crucial element missing from this winning formula. Winners. Everything else is just prep. Set up. Context.
I’ve been working on a winning formula, as it happens. It remains a work in progress though. I needed something to inspire me across the vast, mediocre reaches of the flat season. I’d even taken to looking at tipster websites. Some were worth a read because at least there was some substance to the selections. Others were simply scams of one sort or another. That way lays ruin. Following other people’s tips is not where my passion for racing comes from.
I dabbled with a loose system to identify winning handicappers that were returning to underfoot conditions on which they had significantly better form. I played about with other criteria, which in my embryonic system I deemed were secondary but relevant – distance and track wins. Keep it simple.
The system paid its way over the fag end of the flat season. But it hasn’t had a proper test. It’s lacking what you’d call a statistically significant sample: 20 bets, 4 wins, 1 place. Net profit +£67 to £68 stakes, ROI 98%.
I used it to help find the winner of the Portland and the Cesarewich. The returns look great at first sight, but are skewed by a Lucky 15 combi on 4 qualifiers on the same day. The profit level would have been a good bit lower without the acca element, though I haven’t worked out how much lower.
But it’s encouraging. There’s something to work on. Isolating one or two factors can never provide a perfect system. But as one of a number of tools, used selectively, it should have a value. There’s very little to compare in racing to backing a big priced winner of a massive handicap. If this approach can put up me on to a few of those every so often, I’ll be happy.
I’ve been licking my lips at the prospect of applying my new box of tricks to the jumps season. Guess what. It’s not working. At least not very well. Not yet. I need to refine the criteria around number of races completed and win ratios. I’m not finding enough horses who qualify. It makes sense that underfoot conditions are less of a significant factor than on the flat when there are additional variables to consider: fences and hurdles present an obstacle my embryonic system can’t yet grapple.
Keep tweaking. That’s the mantra. If there’s a reasonable ROI to report, after a bit more fussing, I’ll start posting records on here. If not, this discussion will never be mentioned again and the search for the ideal Saturday formula will continue.