Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Systematic

I’ve been quietly cultivating a teenage mate of my daughter’s in the art of proper punting. From an early age he showed promise. When our two families went to the races he steadfastly refused to bet on the basis of gaudy colours, alliteration, or some such impulsive nonsense. Even when the girls in our group were cleaning up at Newmarket because they liked the jockey named ‘Barzelona’. Mikael rode a hat trick that day. I told CB-D not to worry. It was all about the long game and shrewd punting would always win out. Eventually.

A recent blog on here noted the progress made by CB-D now he’s old enough to place his own bets (and buy his own beers) at Sandown. There was evidence of actual, proper form-based punting.

Our family trip to the Peaks the other week coincided with Royal Ascot. CB-D texted me on Day 1 to say that, in effect, he was going to have a right good go. He’d dedicated some quality time to study, weighing up all the factors and was in bullish mood. Confidence was not misplaced. CB-D landed a well worked bet on Ribchester, garnered from a freebie; and then found a place in the impossible Ascot Stakes with Endless Acres at 10/1. By Thursday the young man was experiencing the unbridled joy of smashing up the bookies with a place return on Roly Poly at 22/1 backed into 12/1. Then maturity was evident in a letter text message that read “Three days of betting on literally every race at Ascot and I am literally even and am very happy with it.” And by Friday, the crowning glory: “35 quid up today. Can’t complain.”

By comparison, I had landed Big Orange in the Gold Cup at Rascot and that was it. My other winner of the week was at distinctly non-Royal Ayr’s evening meeting. A case of the student becoming the master. But yes, I’m taking the credit.

I suspect I have further to go with my other protégés. Tom - that’s Daughter No 2’s boyfriend’s Dad - was taking advantage of a company jolly with his wife Marzia at Windsor. He asked for a couple of tips. I sent through a few thoughts on the handicaps because I’m trying out a new trends-based method. More on this later.

The last two won: Tahoo at 3/1 and C’est No Mour at 5/1. Admittedly, nothing there that was life-changing, but I was quietly pleased all the same. I didn’t hear anything from Tom for a couple of days. And then a text arrived to say he backed the first couple, which lost and he became irredeemably distracted by the free booty in his box. He was unaware of the missed the winners. An understandable mistake for, with the greatest of respect, a novice. Marzia, whilst not backing the horses, had at least noticed they won. That’s all the recognition I craved. We have agreed to go to the races together for a full scale practical session in the very near future.

Last year I talked about finding a formula for the flat season. A magic bullet.

In weaker moments, I know that I’m a sucker for a system. I’ll tell anyone who is remotely interested (and worse informed than me) that you can only make money on the horses through study, research and hard work. Yet I’m always vulnerable to an invitingly dangled short cut. When laziness takes over, I’ve capitulated with the odd website that offers tips based on various formulas and trends.

Most of them boast of massive points profits per year. Whenever I’ve subscribed to free trials - purely for information gathering purposes, of course - well, guess what, things don’t work out. Various factors come into play. Some are obviously scams looking for paid membership. Or the approach suddenly hits a flat spot miraculously coinciding with my arrival. Other times the methodology requires a massive number of bets to be placed each day in order to secure a minuscule profit.

Dabbling like this is good because it simply reinforces what I know that punting by numbers will never work.

Nevertheless, there’s something I’m keen to explore about using trends in the form of a horse to expose value. So I’m furiously punting up a system of my own. If you can’t beat ‘em, join em!

I’m deep into a trial which is focusing on horses who are running on underfoot conditions for which they have a clear preference versus their overall record. This is limited to 3yo+ flat handicaps where there is enough form to derive an opinion and the scope for horses to have dropped a few pounds.

The small sample of bets placed at the fag end of last season were encouraging. I’ve tweaked the qualifying criteria a bit for this season. So far the approach had been going well. I turned a healthy profit in the first half of the season and the Return On Investment, at least initislly, was through the roof.

Then, during Royal Ascot, I made the mistake of sharing this heady success with a mate. Now I’m running to stand still. Only three winners and a couple of disheartening losing sequences mean I’ve fallen away from the early season peak. I’ve turned into one of those bullshit tipping sites!

Well, not really. I believe the methodology has legs, though I need to work on interpreting the data. It’s a systems-based approach to identify a short list and then the application of traditional form analysis to inform the actual bet. 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.

The sample needs to be larger. The next 10 days or so feature some fantastic handicap action up and down the country in really competitive races. This gives me chance to give the rules a full road test in amongst the thick of it, rather than gaff-track, small field Class 4s.

If it holds up, I’ll post some selections on here and shake off the after-timing tag.




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