Finding The Most Competitive Runners In A Race

We can’t go about deciding on how we’re going to bet in a race until we know which runners are the most competitive.

Which is why I thought I’d show you one way that you can do that. In just five minutes.

Throughout the rest of this article I’m going to use the Official Rating to help me determine this, but you can use any rating you want in exactly the same way.

I’m going to use the 18:45 race at Windsor on the day that I’m writing this. The race card looks like:

Competitive_RunnersWhat makes this suitable is that there is an Official Rating (OR) for every horse in the race.

We are going to create an average rating made up of the OR for each runners best races. The key, is in how we determine which OR’s we want to use to make up our average.

You could simply use those ratings that the horse had when it achieved a winning run. But, that doesn’t allow for the races where the runner just got unlucky and missed out the winning place.

That’s why my preference is to use a distance behind winner. The distance would be what I would deem to mean the horse has put in a competitive run. Ideally you should change this for different race conditions and distances, but a good distance to use as a base is two lengths from the winner.

Open up the form for the first horse in the race, Al Kazeem, and you get:


We make a note of the OR from whenever a horse won or came within two lengths of the winner. This gives us a list of the following OR’s for this runner.

126, 119, 117, 112, 107, 95

To get a competitive rating for this horse we take the average of these ratings which gives us an average of 113.

Pretty simple. But don’t be fooled by it’s simplicity, this approach is very powerful.

You need to repeat this process for every runner in the race which would give us the final competitive OR level for each horse as…

Horse Avg. Competitive OR
Al Kazeem 113
Bayrir No OR Available
Presburg 80
Zambucca No ratings available within 2 lengths
Gifted Girl 95
Complicit No ratings available within 2 lengths
True Story 110

We have four runners with ratings and three with no rating that we can use. The first thing we notice is that Al Kazeem and True Story have been competitive with a much higher rating than Gifted Girl and Presburg.

Next we need to compare these figures to their rating for the current day.

Horse Avg. Competitive OR Current Rating
Al Kazeem 113 123
Bayrir No OR Available 109
Presburg 80 90
Zambucca No ratings available within 2 lengths 102
Gifted Girl 95 102
Complicit No ratings available within 2 lengths 97
True Story 110 112

The average OR rating for this race is 105.

What does this tell us?

We can see that Al Kazeem is racing with an OR way above the average level he has been competitive at. As is Presburg and Gifted Girl.

True Story looks to be racing at a level that he has been competitive at before.

With an average race rating of 105, Presburg and Gifted Girl also seem to be in a race that is going to be outside of their abilities unless there is an improvement made.

That would allow us to not consider these two runners as likely to be competitive in this race.

Next we look at the two runners that have:

“No ratings available within 2 lengths”

If they don’t have any ratings that we can use within a distance that was competitive then, unless the market indicates otherwise, we can safely consider those horses as uncompetitive.

That leaves us with just one other runner, Bayrir. He doesn’t have any OR’s because he has been racing abroad and this is his first race in the UK.

Again, in this situation, we would need to use the market to determine whether he was likely to be competitive. The market has him priced at 14/1 which would indicate he is unlikely to be very competitive and so…

…that leaves us with two runners to consider.

True Story and Al Kazeem are the horses that look likely to be the most competitive. We know that True Story is running with an OR he has been competitive at before, whereas Al Kazeem is racing at a much higher OR than he has been competitive at.

And in just five minutes you’ve found the most competitive runners in the race. All that’s left is to determine how you want to bet on them!

Michael Wilding

Michael started the Race Advisor in 2009 to help bettors become long-term profitable. After writing hundreds of articles I started to build software that contained my personal ratings. The Race Advisor has more factors for UK horse racing than any other site, and we pride ourselves on creating tools and strategies that are unique, and allow you to make a long-term profit without the need for tipsters. You can also check out my personal blog or my personal Instagram account.


  1. Hi Michael,
    Great article as usual.
    Do we use the 2 length standard for national hunt races as well and how far would you go and how many ratings would you use as a max

  2. Well, yes, it’s a logical approach but in this case the logical bet would be to back the 2/1 2nd fav., but he lost to the 8/11 fav. despite apparently having a far more competetive OR. There was certainly no value in backing the fav. given his rating, although it was correct to say it was effectively a two horse race – but then the market knew that anyway.

    However, I don’t think it’s wise to always use the market as a guide to whether an unrated horse will be competitive. Often horses are priced up on connections rather than a true measure of ability. In this case, it was probably wise to ignore the Marco Botti horse as they’re a shrewd outfit, but others will slip under the radar.

    I’m not knocking the general principle you’re using here, but the real skill is to use it in handicaps and find horses that the market has under-estimated, but because such races are far more compressed in terms of form and ability than this one, it takes a lot longer than five minutes to compile a shortlist and it’s rarely going to come down to just one or two to consider as potential winners in the race.

    1. Thanks for the comment Craig. Absolutely, ideally you want to take this further and in-more depth which you are obviously already doing 🙂 This is a starting point to find contenders quickly in a systematic approach.

  3. I agree with Craig here, and I always work on all aged handicaps, and give them my own form rating along with some professional ratings including the RPR, OR and TS. But I am always ready to add another rating to my ratings if it will improve matters. But along with my ratings I give each horse what I call a Rating of Intention, ie does the trainer intend winning this race or is it just another training exercise to get it fit and give it experience. And the jockey and trainer arrangements are so revealing when it comes to this Rating of Intention, it is impossible to do without it when narrowing down the opposition.

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