In a recent post I discussed the use of the VDW (Van Der Wheil) ratings that are included in the Racing Dossier software.
This was a very popular approach in the 1980’s and has a cult following. It seems to be a marmite relationship, you either love the principles and use of the VDW ratings and method or you hate it
Personally I think that there is something to it but not because of the same reasons as most people. But I will come to that later.
First of all, I want to share with you exactly what the VDW method and ratings are.
Put simply it is a betting system that is designed to find the best horses in the best races each day.
It is based around the principle that form alone can be misleading and class (defined as ability) is just as important. And this makes sense…
If a horse with excellent form is racing in a race against runners that have better class or ability then it will still lose.
This means that form has to be assessed against the horses ability in comparison with the other runners in the field.
One of the key statistical elements in the VDW method is the top five in the betting forecast. At the time it was written, VDW claimed that 83% of the winners came from the top five in the betting forecast and…
…it’s not much different today!
This led him to a few principles:
- We want to find horses of the best ability which means we need to look in the best races
- We want to compare form against ability to see which runners are the strongest
- We want to focus on the top five in the betting forecast as the winner comes from there 83% of the time
With these principles in place it meant that the method of finding a selection was:
- Consider the two most valuable races on the card.
- Rate the entire field for ability
- Select the most consistent runners (based on form rating) in the top five in the betting forecast
But to do this you need to know how to make the ratings. If you don’t have a copy of the Racing Dossier where they’re calculated for you each day, then you can calculate them yourself using the following calculations.
VDW Ability Calculations
Take the total prize money a horse has earned in it’s racing lifetime and divide it by the number of races that it has run in.
VDW actually recommended dividing the prize money by 100 to keep the numbers smaller but this is down to personal preference.
VDW Form Calculations
Look for each horses last three races and add together the finish positions. Any horse that finished worse than tenth is counted as ten for the purposes of the calculation.
Note: If you use the Racing Dossier we use an improved version of these calculations that results in a much more accurate rating.
Once you’ve rated the horses for ability and form you can use the base outline of the method above, or the more commonly agreed upon approach which is below.
The focus of the commonly agreed on VDW approach is to focus on then most valuable non-handicap race at the principle meeting of the day.
The reasons for this focus is that non-handicaps produce a greater percentage of winning favourites and the most valuable race at the principle meeting of the day is likely to have the best runners.
Next VDW used the statistic that around 50% of winners come from the first two in the betting forecast and so would only bet if the selection he was left with was one of the first two in the forecast.
It should be noted that he did also advise to use another marker of the horses ability, such as speed ratings, to confirm your decisions.
The above method that we described would then be used to determine which of the runners were strongest in this most valuable non-handicap race at the principle meeting of the day, and a bet would be placed if the runner was in the top two in the forecast.
At the beginning of this post, I mentioned that I felt that there was something to this method although not what most people think.
The common belief is that either this system works because you are betting on the best horses in the race, but those against the system say it will never work because you are not finding value by always betting at the top end of the market.
I think slightly differently.
For me this process is a very powerful approach to reducing either the number of races you are analysing each day, and/or the number of runners you are analysing.
There are a few key principles that we need to take out of the method:
- The majority of winners comes from the first five in the betting forecast
- Form is not good enough on it’s own to assess a horses likely performance
- Consistent horses are the best winners
The above three points are very important.
It’s these that make the VDW approach worth considering. There’s no doubt that the more consistent a horse is in their performance then the higher their chance of winning the race.
Form is definitely not enough on it’s own to assess a horses likely chance of winning. But form combined with ability and speed definitely is. And… the majority of winners come from the top five in the betting.
Reducing the number of race by choosing the most valuable races of the day is also a quick way to find the races with the best runners in them.
But we can take this further.
If we know that the majority of winners come from the top five in the betting then this can be used as the starting point and any selection outside of these five runners is not bet on.
Consistent horses are the best winners so… don’t just use the VDW ratings but find out what percentage of wins a horse has in their lifetime and then take it one step further by determining what percentage of wins they have in todays race type.
Compare the two winning strike rates against each other and you will have a ratio of whether the horse performs above their average in the current race type or below.
That will help to tell you how consistent they are in todays race conditions.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the VDW method and approach, so leave me a comment below to let me know.