The Good, The Bad and The Ugly


Regular readers of the Race Advisor will know that I spend a lot of time talking about specialisation. I’m a firm believer that if you want to see profits quickly, then you need to specialise.

Finding a profit from horse racing is like a finding a solution to a very complex puzzle.

The first thing we want to do when we start a puzzle is to make it as easy as possible. For example, when solving a puzzle you put the corners out first and then complete the outside edge so that you have a framework for the rest of the pieces.

It’s no different in racing.

We want to make the puzzle that we have to solve as easy as possible in the beginning. By specialising, we’re doing just that. We are removing the number of factors that we have to consider, and by choosing a small subset of race conditions we can focus on the factors that are important only for those races.

This makes a big difference to the complexity of the puzzle and the speed in which it can be solved.

Since January 2013 there have been 25,358 horses racing in 13,754 races in the UK and IRE. On average the first and second favourites win just over 50% of these races, and the top three win around 70%.

That means by simply betting the top three runners in every race you are going to win around 9627 races, although you would make a significant loss.

If you were to try and analyse every one of those 13,754 races over the course of the last year, even spending 10 minutes per race (which is really a very short amount of time), you would have spent 2292 hours analysing the races or an average 6 hours a day, every day!

Even attempting to do that is going to wear you down to the point where you wouldn’t be making profits due to mistakes, even if you started off profitable!

Now you can see the reason that I talk about the need to specialise so much.

To specialise we need to choose races that we are happy to remove from our analysis. Some that you may consider removing are…

  • Amateur and Lady Riders races. These races, generally speaking, have weak riding styles
  • Apprentice Flat and Conditional NH races have a lot of mistakes made in them because the jockeys are still learning their trade
  • Fun races because, well their fun races!
  • Banded Racing due to the inconsistency of the horses that take part in it
  • Novice and Maiden races, there’s not enough information on the runners to make a sound assessment
  • Selling races as they usually have a low quality of runner

Although removing those races will reduce the number, you’re still going to have quite a large choice each day.

This is how we’re going to reduce that choice!

Remove all races that have more than fourteen declared runners in it. Once you get past fourteen runners the probability of your horse getting bumped, blocked or held up unintentionally increases exponentially.

Remove any race where more than 30% of the horses haven’t run before. There is no information on how these horses may perform except stable whispers, which we don’t want to rely on.

Stick to races that are one mile or less. In these races we are more likely to get a true pace and factors generally have less weight than the horses pure ability.

If you are going to use longer races because you prefer them, then once you get over 2.5 miles you must look for specialists who have performed well over this distance or longer. These races are run at much slower pace and previous form over other distances can be thrown out. However if you focus on finding specialists at these very long distance races then you can make a good profit.

Finally you should stay away from Festival meetings.

You said WHAT?

That’s right. You want to stay away from these races. They’re great fun to watch but…

…they have very large fields of the best runners. This makes them almost impossible to predict who will win requiring multiple bets in the races.

Making a profit from Festivals is difficult and specialist. It is not a good place to start.

But there’s something that we haven’t talked about yet in your specialisation. And… it’s the most important part!

You MUST enjoy the type of racing that you’re specialising in. You’ll be spending a lot of time with it and if you don’t enjoy it then it will become more like a job and less like the fun that it’s supposed to be.

Specialising is the key to making profits from your betting in the shortest possible time. Leave me a comment to let me know what race conditions you’re going to be specialising in.

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,
    Thanks for your latest post.I assume you mean flat racing for the
    distances ie under a mile,that being the case I tend to look for races of
    8 or 9 runners to narrow down my choices,
    Regards Roger

  2. Hi Michael,

    I couldnt agree more. In the last year and a half I have focussed/specialised in 3m+ hncp Hurdle and Chase races. It makes it ‘easier’ and more fun, and you get more familiar with the runners etc and can often picture/remember their last runs before looking at past video. Also, I find it much easier to dismiss runners and focus on most likely contenders. Take the 3.50 Cat today, quickly dismiss Mr Watson, Trigger man/Everarrd (ground) and focus on the other 3. AS it happened went for Real Milan at 4/1 who at time was twice price of V.Williams fav.

    Started to have quite a bit of success with the big field sprints last flat season so may focus again on them this year. They take a while to analyse but normally lost of good EW value!

    great article as ever

  3. Another great post Michael,

    I try to stick to 8-10 runners @ mile- to a mile and Half, in class 4+


  4. I specialise in 3 mile + chases and 20 runner handicaps at big festivals, flat or national hunt. So I don’t have a hope in hell of making a profit.
    You stick to yours.
    I’ll stick to mine.

    1. Hi Karl, thank you for the comment. I’m not saying it’s impossible to make a profit under these conditions but that it’s generally harder if you’re not yet a profitable bettor. Great to hear that you’re making them work for you.

  5. Thank you Michael, there are alot of reassuring gems in this post. I am at the point of turning my paper trading into live betting and am quite nervous about junping in for the first time proper. I, like many others have made many mistakes in the past, listened to too much advice and ended up confused and unsure of what is best for me.
    I’ve learnt to shut out everyone and everything else and do what feels right for me until I have everything in place to jump in.
    Avoiding festivals, specialising and price restrictions are paramount to the way I operate, they really do work and a little more doubt has been buried thanks to your post.

  6. Hi Michael
    It sounds to be good common sense reducing the field, and it something I’ve never considered [doh]. I will be looking to the AW up to a mile. Thanks a million

  7. Races with fewer than 5 runners are also worth avoiding: jockeys watching one another to see who’s going to make the running leads to a muddled pace. Either one steals a march and never gets caught, or one who hasn’t been taking part in the fighting comes fresh from the back. Result: too much unpredictability and the form from the race is often worthless.

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