How To Laser Target Winners

I’m going to be honest, the subject of today’s post is forefront in my mind because I’ve been developing a tool to make one of the strategies I use a lot easier.

I think of it as pattern finding, but patterns may not even be the right word. I’ll leave you to let me know what you think the right word is when you’ve finished reading.

There are a lot of different race conditions. In fact there are tons. I’m a big fan of being very specific in the race conditions that you want to focus your analysis on, and there’s a good reason.

Different race conditions mean that different factors are going to have different levels of importance.

When I say “factors” I mean anything that is measurable and is related to the horse’s performance. This could be speed ratings, form ratings, trainer ability, stable in form etc…

And what I mean by my earlier statement is that in a 6 runner sprint race the factors which are going to be most influential in the race are very different to the ones that are going to be most influential in a 18 runner handicap jumps race.

But if can get even more specific than that if you start taking class, course, distance ground and classifications into account as well.

By being specific you can specialise, get to know and love a small area of racing and become an expert in it.

What if you don’t have the time or interest to do that though?

Well there’s another way to use specialization to your benefit. An approach that will still require you to put in a bit of work, but will allow you to laser target the potential winners in a race.

Let’s visualise a six runner horse race…

Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 15.24.59

Each of these horses are going to have a range of factors which assess their ability. We’ll come back to that in a minute.

Let’s say that this is a 5 furlong Flat Turf race at Bath on Firm ground, Class 6 and six runners.

With this information we can be very specific about the factors that are going to make the biggest impact.

Of course, it’s possible to throw every factor you have at the race and then analyse your factors to determine the most relevant for the race.

And if you’d like to know how you can do that then leave me a comment and I’ll look at writing a post specifically about it.

But in todays post I’m going to assume that we’re going to manually choose the factors that we think are going to be most relevant to this race.

For me these are going to be primarily speed because it’s such a short race.

When choosing factors you should try and keep the number you select between six and ten. If you have more than ten the chances are you are double counting something and you should probably merge two factors together or remove some that overlap.

Let’s say we choose to use:

  1. Class measure from a speed perspective
  2. Average speed over the ground conditions
  3. Average speed in the last four races
  4. Recent form level

I’ve chosen these because we want to know the class level of the individual horses in the race, and since the race is so short it makes sense to measure the class from a speed perspective.

We want to know how the horse performs on Firm ground, not all runners like such hard ground and others will have a preference for it.

The average speed in the last four races will give an indication of whether the horse has been running quickly recently, and the form level is an indication of whether the horse is in form or not to balance out the other speed factors.

Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 15.27.28

So we now have four factors for each of our four horses above, it makes a grid shape.

That’s all well and good, but we don’t know what relevance these factors have. What level does a horse need to be considered good in it?

And this is where we can use our patterns (or whichever word you think is best for this technique!).

We’ve got our four factors so we ignore the current race. We want to dig out past races with similar conditions to the one we’re looking at.

Today this can be done most easily using a piece of formbook software, however it can also be done manually. I used to do it manually to great effect.

Once you’ve gathered some past races highlight all the contenders in those races. You can consider a contender to be a horse that came in the top three or within one and a half lengths of the winner.

Now, check out what their scores were for each of the factors you’ve listed.

Write them down.

Do this for each of the factors and you’ll have a range of scores for each factor that indicate the strongest runners in the race.

Now some of these scores will be way higher than the majority, and others will be way lower than the majority.

You want to remove these scores from your list.

They’re known as outliers in maths and are anomalies outside of the normal range.

What you now have is a guide to exactly which horses are the strongest in the race you are analysing.

Going back to your race you can now apply a score to each factor for each horse based on their scores for the factor.

Don’t spend hours pondering over it. Take the information you have about what range of scores for a factor have contributed to the most winners in the race and rate the horse for each factor based on that.

If they’re bang in that range then they’ll get a good score, the more they move out of it (either higher or lower) then the worse the score you’ll give them.

I like to give them between one and ten, ten being the best. Using a small range makes it far easier to make the decision and this isn’t one to agonise over, go with your instinct.

Following this approach you will have analysed the entire race and done it in a way that has been specific to the race conditions that the horses are running in. With practice you will find that you will be able to get the winner in your top three horses a very high percentage of the time.

Let me know how you get on by leaving me a comment.

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. I do this for all of my races, so it is second nature to me. I like to call it a program. I’ve never believed that they throw a bunch of horses into a race and hope for the best. I think every racehorse has a program and unless it wins accidentally, it won’t win until it is good and ready. In quite a lot of handicaps, there is no winner, so it makes it all so unpredictable and just a numbers game, this is where value bets come in handy in my opinion. Fascinating though isn’t it.

  2. I adopt a similar approach – and for each Horse I call it their “Total Points Score”. HOWEVER, where we differ markedly is that I rank the horses in EACH race FOR EACH “FACTOR” (your term) i.e top, second, third, etc. I then add up the “ranks” to produce a total. The LOWEST is the BEST.

  3. I like Geoff use ranking with a little weighting on them to decide my contenders

    Would love you to write a piece on factor selection as stated

  4. I haven’t tried it yet – Are you suggesting that I look at all Past 6f races at Bath ? ( Your example)

    1. I would be looking at 6 furlong flat turf races at Bath on firm ground that were class 6 and had six runners. For the runners and distance I would usually include similar, e.g. + or – 220 yards on distance and + or – 20% on number of runners.

      1. I get the idea but finding the pre-race data might be hard to research. I’ll you know if I make any progress

        Many Thanks

  5. Looks like you have taken the Four Factor Formula PDF from a few years ago from the betting system guy Turner and ripped that off..

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