Fitting the Bill: Does Your Selection Make Sense? A Simple Way to Analyse Your Horse Racing Picks

Even a 10-runner race can take a significant amount of time to analyse. Back in November 2011, Michael wrote a brief article entitled Finding Selections – The Beginner’s Guide and pointed out that professional bettors look at a vast array of factors. He mentioned eight of them and noted that in a race with ten horses, you would have 720 comparisons! 

If I were a defeatist, I would say that analysing all factors in a race was impossible which means you shouldn’t bother. Michael went on to say that successful punters specialise in certain race types and ignore everything else. If you follow this sensible advice, you will slash the number of available races to analyse each day. 

However, even if you decide that Flat races between 5f and 7f with 1-9 runners are your best option, there is the small matter of finding great selections based on ALL the possible factors. After all, your choice has to make sense or else you’re throwing money away. For example, if a 4yo hasn’t won that specific race since 1964, why are you betting on a 4yo?

Rather than torturing yourself by trying to look at every conceivable factor in 30 races a day, why not save yourself a lot of time and stress by trimming the number of races you look at? To be clear, this STILL requires plenty of research, and you may have to invest in some software or pay for access to a horse racing database.

However, as this article points out, doing things the old-fashioned way is still a valid method because too much information leads to ‘paralysis by analysis’ and often keeps you away from genuine contenders. Rather than being too complicated in your selections, take a few moments to determine if it is a sensible one or a flight of fancy. 

Trends Can Be Useful – But Only Sometimes

During the year, some races provide the kind of test that only a small percentage of horses are capable of meeting. A simple example is the Queen Alexandra Stakes which takes place at Ascot every June. It is the longest Flat race of the year at a little over 2m 5.5f and is a genuine test of stamina. In recent years, only horses with a win over at least 2 miles (in a Flat or NH) race and an OR of 95+ tend to triumph. Therefore, if your selection doesn’t meet these basic criteria, it doesn’t make sense.

Sometimes it is a relatively simple task to determine if your selection is a good one, at least on paper. The trends for a specific race may show that winners have a certain OR, a win over a certain distance, a particular number of wins in a season, or are of a set age. Not many races are as cut and dried as this, however, and it usually requires a decent level of research. This is why specialisation is so crucial to long-term success.

Specialise, Then Analyse

On July 17, there were five UK race meetings with a total of 35 races. As I’ve already decided to focus on 5f-7f races on Flat turf with 1-9 runners, the list of potential races to analyse tumbles. Add in handicap races only, and I’m left with a total of five races once Nursery and Selling handicaps are also removed. 

The 15:00 at Beverley is a Class 6 handicap over 5f and has eight runners. It is for 3yo+ and is for horses with an OR of between 0 and 60. If you have access to a horse racing database, you’ll theoretically be able to decide on the type of horse that wins. Alas, there are flaws to this process as I’ll show below. 

For best results, I initially entered the following criteria:

  • Races since the start of 2010
  • Flat turf
  • Class 6
  • 5 furlongs
  • 1-9 runners
  • Handicap races 

There have only been 331 such races in the last eight and a half years; an average of under 40 races a year. It isn’t a huge sample which means you shouldn’t rely on trends to see if your selection makes sense.  

Even so, analysis of the data shows the following:

  • Clear favourites perform poorly as only 26.35% win this type of race for a Betfair loss of 18.21%.
  • Horses that placed in their last race fare badly with a loss of 7.99%
  • Horses that are 6+ OR points behind the top-rated horse win 41.77% of the races (there is an average of over four such horses a race) and offer a profit of almost 12%.
  • Horses with 1 or 2 wins over the distance win 45% of races for a profit of 25.76%. 

Using this data, we can see that horses with 1 or 2 previous 5f wins, that failed to place in their last race and have an OR of 6+ points below the top-rated horse is the type of horse that wins this kind of race. Only Compton River at 7/1 makes sense as a selection in that case. 

If Only It Were That Easy

There is a pretty BIG flaw with using trends on individual race types. It often neglects form for starters, and 5f races at Beverley are known to have a significant bias for horses drawn on the inside stalls. 46% of races are won at the course by horses drawn in stalls 1, 2, or 3, and Compton River has been drawn in stall 6.

As nice as it is to use sophisticated data trends, sometimes it is best to use a common-sense approach. It normally doesn’t make sense to back outsiders so we can remove the two 33/1 shots straight away. Lina’s Star had her only win over AW in 2017 while On the High Tops hasn’t won since 2012.

Of the others, Sir Domino hasn’t won in 21 races or placed in 11, so he is easy to dismiss. Although Highly Focussed is one of the favourites, he has yet to win on Turf or over 5f. Kibaar has one win in 33 races, so it makes little sense to select a horse that has also placed just once in seven Class 6 races this season. 

At this stage, there are only three possible selections that ‘make sense.’ 

Compton Place has no wins in 16 but won the last time he was involved in a 5f race at Beverley and was in stall 6 on that occasion too. However, that win came during the midst of an excellent spell in 2016 where he won three races and finished second five times in nine races. He has been off the pace ever since with a couple of place finishes amongst some ordinary runs.

Suddenly, it looks like a straight fight between Foxy Boy and Imperial Legend. While the former is the favourite, the latter seems like a selection that not only makes sense but is also genuine value for money at between 9/1 and 10/1 on the Betfair Exchange. He has also been drawn in stall #2 which is the inside stall for the race since the horse in stall #1, Funkadelic, is a non-runner. Moreover, Imperial Legend beat Foxy Boy by a neck at Hamilton in June and has a three-pound advantage today. 

In a race where only Kibaar finished in the top four in its previous race, it is an open affair which makes Imperial Legend a selection that makes sense on paper, regardless of the outcome. As it transpired, Imperial Legend was leading until the last 50 yards until he was overtaken and finished third. Highly Focussed scored his first turf victory. At around 10/1, Imperial Legend gave me a good run for my money. 

Final Thoughts

In a highly technological age, it is easy to get carried away and rely on software and sophisticated systems more than our judgement. While software is highly useful, it would be a shame if we ignored our instincts when making selections. If you fancy a particular selection, try to find reasons why you should not make the bet. Perhaps it is in bad form, has a less than stellar record on the surface or distance, or there is simply at least one horse likely to be too good. 

Experienced bettors will tell you that if a horse has a habit of finishing second or third a lot but doesn’t win, it tends to find a way to avoid victory, no matter how much better it is than the field. Likewise, it is best to discard horses such as Kibaar in the example above because it is poor betting practice to ‘hope’ that a horse suddenly finds an extra gear. 

Finally, it is worth using the benefit of hindsight. Analyse the results of races where an ‘unexpected’ winner emerged and see if you could find anything in its record to suggest it was capable of springing an upset. This research could prove invaluable in the future. 

Patrick Lynch

Patrick graduated from the National University of Ireland, Galway with an MA in Literature and Publishing but decided he would rather have the freedom of a freelance writer than be stuck in a publishing house all day. He has enjoyed this freedom since 2009 and has written thousands of articles on a variety of topics but sports betting is his passion. While his specialty is finding mismatches in obscure football leagues, he also likes to use his research skills to provide punters with detailed winning strategies in horse racing. You can check out his personal blog on or Twitter @pl1982 where he writes content to help small businesses achieve success.
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