I believe that All-Weather (AW) horse racing offers one of the best opportunities to create a winning system. When you know what to look for, it has the potential to be the most profitable of all types of horse racing on offer. Those who hate AW racing say it is too unpredictable but the opposite is actually the case. Then there is the small matter of receiving better value.
AW courses have three different types of surface:
- Polytrack: The surface is like rubberised sand and is a bit like fast turf. It is used in almost all AW tracks barring Southwell and Wolverhampton.
- Tapeta: Has been used at Wolverhampton since August 2014. It is similar to Polytrack in terms of basic construction but its surface is made up of a number of different blended fibres , PVC waxes and sand. It is like racing on fast/good turf.
- Fibresand: This is heavier than Polytrack or Tapeta and is like racing on heavy turf.
5 Reasons Why AW Racing Can Be Profitable
- There are only 5 courses in the United Kingdom (Lingfield, Kempton, Wolverhampton, Chelmsford City and Southwell) and 1 in Ireland (Dundalk). This means fewer courses to focus on which leads to more time for detailed research.
- AW Racing happens almost every week of the year so there are plenty of opportunities.
- The fields seldom contain more than 10 horses.
- Most horses run to standard time more often than not despite the different surfaces.
- The races are generally run over short distances.
Your Guide To Making Good AW Selections
Without further ado, here are 10 things to consider in order to narrow down AW fields and make profitable selections.
1 – Only Look At AW Form
AW racing is an entirely different beast to everything else so you should generally disregard turf form as it simply doesn’t transfer. It is also important to note that form doesn’t necessarily transfer from Polytrack to Tapeta to Fibresand but at least you get more truly run races at a good pace.
There are a couple of exceptions to this rule such as Epsom Downs because the rock beneath the surface is formed of sandstone. This means the soil has a high sand content so you can take good form at Epsom Downs into account on AW tracks. Brighton and Yarmouth also have sandy soil.
2 – Jockeys & Trainers
Next, you should look at the best trainers and jockeys at each course. For example, Ronald Harris is the best trainer at Kempton AW as you would get an ROI of +80.96% if you bet a level £1 stake on every horse he has trained at the AW course in the last 5 seasons.
Likewise, it is a good idea to look at any horses at Lingfield AW that have Jim Crowley as the jockey because a £1 level stake on every horse he has ridden there in the last 5 seasons would provide you with an ROI of +79.96. If you find a combination of jockey and trainer with success on any AW track, all the better.
3 – Look At Course Specialists At Southwell
The surface at Southwell is unique in the United Kingdom which means course specialists do exceptionally well at these meetings. The best known example is that of American Bay Gelding La Estrella who won an incredible 13 straight races at Southwell.
4 – Look For Prominent Runners
From what I have uncovered with regards to racing at Kempton, front runners are usually in contention. Most of the winners are in the first four runners at the final turn so look for horses known to have a tendency to lead in the early going. This is also useful when it comes to in-race betting.
At Southwell, the fibresand surface causes ‘kickback’; this is the term used to describe the fact that front running horses kick sand into the faces of the horses and jockeys behind them. As you can imagine, this can have a negative effect on slow starters.
5 – Focus On ‘Stayers’
On other surfaces, there is a tendency for horses to hang back and save their energy for a frenetic finish. On turf, it makes sense to back horses known for fast finishes.
AW surfaces are very different so even in relatively short races, you should only ever look for horses with the ability to keep running at close to the same pace for the whole race.
The pace is always quick at the start as horses jostle for position; this usually means the winner of the race isn’t the horse with an ability to accelerate, it’s the horse that slows down the least.
6 – Lay the Favourites
In terms of ROI, favourites at all four UK AW tracks have pretty poor records over the last 5 seasons. Indeed, the best course for non-handicap favourites is Southwell where you still would have an ROI of -21.89% overall with £1 stakes. The best course for handicap favourites is Lingfield and you still end up with an ROI of -90.18% over the last 5 years with £1 stakes.
7 – Except In Claiming Races
Over the last 6 years, the top three horses in claiming race betting have made up almost 75% of the winners. Indeed, favourites win AW claimers 35% of the time and if you blindly backed every single favourite in each race, you would only endure a -4% loss.
8 – Draw Bias
This isn’t something to consider at Kempton which is deemed to be a ‘fair’ track but draw bias does come into play at the other racecourses:
- Southwell: Focus on the draw for 5 furlong races as horses drawn in the lower numbered stalls on the rail side of the stands have a massive 58% win rate.
- Lingfield: When the track was originally opened, the equitrack surface gave low draw horses a distinct advantage. The surface was changed in 2001 and eliminated this particular bias but in 2012, the surface was once again re-laid. The result is a bias for horses in stalls 1-4 over 6 furlong races; these horses have enjoyed a 50% increase in wins since the new surface was laid.
- Wolverhampton: The nature of the track at Wolverhampton means low drawn horses have an advantage in 5 furlong and 7 furlong races while horses drawn out wide have an advantage in 6 furlong races.
- Chelmsford City: There are some misconceptions regarding this particular course. For example, it is assumed that there is a bias towards low drawn numbers in 5f and 6f races but this really doesn’t seem to be the case at all. This is probably because the course is wide with deep bends.
The issue with draw biases is that they can literally change overnight. For example, heavy rain makes artificial surfaces firm and at Southwell, the staff can influence things simply by using ploughs and harrows to alter the surface.
9 – Gender Bias
Even though gender bias is real in horse racing, particularly on AW tracks, punters tend to either overlook it or ignore it altogether. Yet female horses have notoriously poor records on AW surfaces against male horses. As a result, you should consider laying fillies facing colts in AW races.
This is something which appears to have been going on for a very long time. For example, statistics in 2006 showed that the ratio of male to female wins on AW surfaces was 1.53:1 compared to 1.17:1 on turf.
Fast forward to 2012 and we see that colts had a 14% win ratio compared to the 7% win ratio of fillies and 6% win ratio of mares.
In 2014, another batch of statistics showed that in AW races with a 50/50 split of male and female horses, male horses won almost 63% of the races.
10 – For First Timers, Look At The AW Sire Statistics
If you are looking at a horse running in an AW race for the first time, sire AW performance is actually a very good way to make a selection; it is especially useful in maiden races.
For example, you may see a horse that has won some races on turf and is being hyped up. However, by referring to the sire stats, you can see if this form is likely to transfer to AW surfaces or if it will deteriorate. If it’s the latter, you could have a very nice ‘lay’ bet on your hands.
This table from Flat Stats is a useful tool.
From the above information you should begin the process of finding good value AW selections by:
- Focusing on AW form only.
- Finding the right trainer/jockey combo.
- Look for course specialists (at Southwell).
- Pick front runners.
- Choose horses likely to ‘stay’ to the finish.
- Ignore or lay favourites in most races.
- Look for good value favourites in claim races.
- Pay attention to the stall the horse has been drawn in.
- Eliminate female horses from your selection in races with at least 50% male horses.
- When no AW form exists, research sire AW statistics.
If you do all of the above, you should be able to quickly narrow down the field and come up with some nice selections. Let me know the results but remember, be sensible with the stakes or even do a ‘dummy’ run with no money risked first.