Inside the Rails – The “Value” of Inside Information

It is often assumed that being an owner means you will immediately have access to profitable information for gambling purposes, but is that really the case?

In my regular articles, I have been looking at racehorse ownership to try to provide a peak behind the scenes at what goes into getting the horses that we watch and bet on, ready to take the chance on the racecourse and this time I want to consider the value of “inside information”.

It seems to be a general assumption that owners and trainers will “know” when their horses will win, and I cannot count the number of times I have been asked “will you let me know when one of your horses is going to win, so I can have a bet”! Now don’t get me wrong, I am as aware as anyone that connections might know that their horse is well handicapped and whether it is fit enough to run a big race. As a result, from time to time a decent gamble will be landed, but in my experience, this is less common than you might think and most owners are not in the habit of regularly landing massive pay-outs from the bookies.

So why does the assumption exist? I think that a big contributor is the “news factor” – big positive market moves are often identified ahead of the race and as the horses pass the winning post, we have all heard commentators’ utter phrases like “landing a huge gamble” or “the market confidence proves justified”, but how often does the horse down the field pass the post with the words “the gamble has gone astray” or “the market confidence proved unfounded”. The fact is that the former is something that gets latched onto whilst the latter often gets swept aside while we focus on the winner. This can lead to the perception that a higher percentage of gambles succeed than is the case.

So, having ascertained that the winning owners are not always winning a fortune betting on their horse, why is this? Why do they not seem to know when their horse is going to win?

Let’s look at what the owner might “know”. The most important piece of information that will be known to the owner is the fitness of their horse. Some horses are worked harder at home than others and some trainers prefer to race to get their horses up to absolute peak fitness. Based on the work that the horse has done on the gallops, the trainer will know whether the horse is likely to improve for a run, is spot on, or perhaps even may be getting close to needing a break. Connections will also know if their horse has had any niggling injuries that may impact on their ability to do their best.

Owners and trainers will also have the best idea of what distance and ground conditions will best suit their horse, but “best idea” is far from “knowing”. We ran one of our horses, My Brother, on heavy ground earlier this season and were convinced from his previous form that he would improve for a softer surface, but the jockey reported post-race that “he had trouble walking on the ground, let alone racing on it”! Personally, I feel that I am always trying to learn and evolve my thoughts on what conditions each of our horses will find ideal.

Finally, there is the horse’s handicap mark. As an owner, you know how fit and how well suited by conditions your horse has been in previous races, whilst the official handicapper only has the actual form of the race to go on. There really should be an edge here in terms of knowing whether your horse is likely to be capable of running to a level, at, or in excess of its current mark.

So, we know our horse is 100% on terms of fitness, we are pretty sure he is fairly handicapped and we are confident that he is ideally suited by today’s race. Stick every penny on him to win and clean up, right?

Unfortunately, I could still identify four major problems that could arise:

1 – You are wrong – perhaps the horse may take more work to get fully fit than you think, may have only “stayed” a certain trip in the past by outclassing inferior opposition or may have “handled” certain ground conditions without enjoying them.

2 – Horses cannot talk – even if conditions are fine, the horse might still run below par. There may be a niggle that is not showing up whilst cantering at home, but that will prevent peak performance or a cold may be about to surface. We have all felt under the weather whilst having no obvious symptoms, but horses cannot tell you how they feel!

3 – Luck – this plays a part in many races. In flat racing, how many times have you seen a horse boxed in and unable to get racing room until too late? Over jumps there is more room, but those pesky obstacles can really halt momentum if they are not jumped well or worse if they cause an unseated rider or a fall.

4 – Other runners – for all that your horse might run a blinder, it is often the case that one or more of the other horses might be equally spot on for the race and just turn out to be better. If your horse runs to a level 7lb ahead of its handicap mark, it could still be beaten if one of the others runs to a level 10lb ahead of theirs.

So is it all doom and gloom, well of course not. Punters are always looking for an edge that can lead to profitable bets and owner information is a tool in that quest even if it is not a “silver bullet” and guarantee of success. It is just important to see it that way and not as a short cut to boosting the bank balance.

I hope you enjoyed this insight – if you would like to find out more about racehorse ownership or you would like to follow the fortunes of the BG Racing horses, then head over to my website . On the homepage, there is a link to download my free racehorse ownership guide, or you can sign up for monthly newsletters.

If you have any specific questions, I would also be happy to respond to them, just drop me a note via the website contact page.

Phil Boyle

Phil Boyle has been a racing enthusiast since his teens and bought his first share of a racehorse in the early 2000s. For the last ten years, Phil has been running BG Racing Syndicates and aims to provide fun, friendly and affordable access to racehorse ownership. Phil is always happy to talk about ownership and can be contacted via his website, Phil enjoys a bet every day and uses Race Adviser’s Racing Dossier software to help him to identify his selections.
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