The Monthly Book Review – Braddock’s Complete Guide

This is going to be a new feature at the Race Advisor. I have an arsenal of racing literature, some excellent and some not so good. There is always more to read and as you may have guessed I like to read as much as I can. If I can get even the beginning of an idea from a book then I feel that it was worth it.

There don’t seem to be many reviews around regarding sports betting books and so each month I shall now be writing a review on one of the books I have read in the past or recently. Although most of my books focus on horse racing or data analysis if this feature is popular then I will expand it to other areas and sports as well. Write in and let me know what you think and if you have read a book you want to tell everyone about then get in touch.

The book that is honoured to get the first review is Braddock’s Complete Guide To Horse Race Selection And Betting. A short title I know!

Why this book? No reason in particular other than it was one of the first general handicapping books that I read and it was the first on my shelf.

As is made pretty clear in the title, this book is about how to find horses that win and then how you should bet them. The version that I have is a hardback of 332 pages and it is very obviously a British book.

I say this because there is a great difference between British books and American books. In general British books are usually unspecific and less data focussed than their American counterparts. It is as if we have decided that racing should be more of an art form than a statistical analysis, more for pleasure than for business. Why it cannot be both I am honestly not sure. This could not be pointed out better than in the ‘Tools Of The Trade’ chapter which lists, amongst other things, the daily racing paper and weekly form books. There is a small section about electronic form books but nowhere does it mention seriously the use of modern databases, ratings and using modern technology.

Included in the book are summaries of race types, race conditions, betting types, seasons of racing, understanding the weighting process and other information, such as details about trainers and jockeys, that although general is very important to know. It does a very good job of providing a reference for this if you ever need to look something up. You must always be aware though that processes change and any book that is too old is going to be out of date for using as a reference.

The main part of the book, and the reason most would buy it, is for the selection process. It starts off with a short and general version explaining what you need to look at to handicap the race and then has a chapter on each of what Peter Braddock considers the main areas of handicapping:

  • Form
  • Fitness
  • Class
  • Conditions
  • Sundry Points

Does the book provide you with a methodical method of finding selections? No it doesn’t. It provides, in a very British way, with an explanation of how you should go about handicapping a race manually. When I talk about handicapping a race manually I mean the almost artistic process of assessing a race using developed skills without referring to statistics or any other kind of data based knowledge.

This is the style that the book is written in and while it does point you in some useful directions and point out what is good and what is bad it fails to tell you that learning this skill can take a very long time and a lot of dedication.

Having just opened the book randomly in the Form analysis section one part reads:


Form should be treated as older form after 42 days. Most horses will have run two or three times during this period, seriously questioning its value in the light of less recent and current form which has emerged

As you can see this is pretty vague. We are being told that form that is between 43 and 70 days old is older form and shouldn’t be regarded as important as more recent form. But how much less important is it? Is that the same for all races, all horses, all race types, all conditions etc….? In fact I have found that under particular circumstances older form can be much more telling than recent form. This is the problem with books written in this manner. While they give you a small foot up, it is not as useful as it could be if the information was quantified into a measurable format in some way.

Having said that, although I wouldn’t say that the book is a must read it has some very useful information and if you are new to handicapping it can show you the general process that you may like to take when looking at a race. Whether you look at a race from a manual handicapping point of view or a more statistical one there is a structure in the book that can be followed. An added bonus is that you can always use it as a reference for race types, conditions etc…. if you so wish.

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.

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