Winner Finding Without Thinking – A Strategy

Last week I received an email that was just asking a question but, felt more like a challenge.

The question was…

“Is it possible to find strong contenders using only a horses lifetime earnings, finish position last time out, performance in last three starts and the horses age”

You can see why I thought it was a challenge, and it was one I decided to accept.

I spent the week brainstorming and considering a bunch of different angles, but I kept coming back to one.

One that found very similar runners to a number of my other strategies.

So without further ado, let’s look at how I would tackle race analysis using just this information…

The first thing I did was to create a simple scoring system in Excel. It looks like this:

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 17.50.39

As you can see, it’s very simple but it allows me to record the information that I want. Next to each horse, in each column, I give the horses a score from -5 to 5 depending on how strong I feel they are for the information.

Although I allowed myself to go from -5 to 5, the two extremes are very seldom used. They’re there for exceptional circumstances and most ranges would stay between -4 and 4.

I started with the horses age because I very seldom use the age of a runner in my analysis, due to it generally having a very low impact on results, I wanted to find a good way to use this information and then move on.

So, I took the average age of the runners in the race and if any horse was more than two years above the average it went into negative numbers. The further it was past the two years over the average then the worse the score. The closer to the average then the better the score.

For example…

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 17.52.10

Next to check out is the Last Finish Position. But, rather than use this exactly as it sounded, I chose to interpret this as the horses exact last finish position and how far behind the winner it was.

If the horse won then depending on how much it won by would depend on how strongly it would be scored in comparison to other runners.

The scoring is done in the same you would analyse a race, based on your knowledge and experience but with one major proviso… you do it fast.

This approach is designed to be a way to find strong runners quickly.

I can assure you that you could be a great form reader. There is only one thing that is stopping you.


It’s our nature as humans to second guess everything. How many times have you analsyed a race, spent hours pouring over the form only to find that at the last minute you second guessed yourself and changed your selection only to watch your original selection come flying in!

In order to stop that we need to stop you thinking about things for too long. Doing that hinders rather than helps a lot of the time.

Using this process you should be spending no longer than 15 or 20 seconds on each horse for each of the criteria we are considering.

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 17.55.57

After the Last Finish Position we move onto the Lifetime Earnings. This works exactly the same way, the more money a horse has earned the better but…

…I also consider how long ago this money was won.

To do this manually would take a lot of time, unless you have the Racing Dossier which has a rating in it for exactly that, and in order to prevent that we do it very simply by glancing down the horses historical races to see if it’s been winning and placing recently or not.

If it has then we can assume that the horse is still earning prize money and it gets a higher score. If it hasn’t then we can assume the horses earnings are from a while ago and the score gets reduced.

I would also take into account the prize money available in the race they’re about to run in. If it’s a race with £250,000 in prize money then a runner with 0 earnings would get a worse score than in a race where there was £5000 in prize money.

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 17.58.16

Finally we come to the last three races and here I’m looking, quickly, for how far behind the winner the horse was (or how far it won by) and the conditions of the race.

The more races it’s performed well in and the more similar those races are to today’s races then the better score the horse will get.

If there is a trend of the horses performance getting worse over the last three races then the worst the score is and an improving trend will improve the score.

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 17.59.32

Once I’ve done this I put a Total column at the end and added up the score for each runner to give me the strongest horses.

Based on this analysis Grosmont looked to be the strongest by quite a way from Blhadawa and Play Nicely. Then there was another small gap to Show Boat and Hell Of A Lord.

Don’t forget this approach is designed to help you find the strongest contenders in a race very quickly and efficiently.

Let’s take a look at the results for this race.

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 18.01.06

Two out of the first three in this race were in our strongest contenders and as it happened this time our strongest contender won the race.

Although this process is simple it is very powerful and it works because you are forcing yourself to make judgements very quickly. And horse racing is, generally speaking, logical. If we allow our brain to process the information logically without getting in the way of it then it sorts the information out very effectively.

If you try to get in the way of your brain processing the information and allow yourself more than 15 or 20 seconds considering each horses criteria, then your results are almost certain to get worse because you’ll be allowing your self-doubt to creep in.

With a bit of practice each criteria for a horse should only take you 5 to 10 seconds to check. You should be speeding up not slowing down.

Try this out and if you’d like me to record a video showing you how I do this on a race then let me know by leaving a comment below.

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,
      This looks like Avery interesting statergy. I am no expert on horses and rely mostly on what tipsters and my own judgement.Not in profit but I live in hope and need to boost my pension as pension providers have not lived up to their promise.
      Would appreciate watching a video.This old chap is keen to learn




      1. Thanks Brucie, I’ll let you know as soon as the video is uploaded. Using tipsters to provide a shortlist that you can then narrow down further can be a very good way to approach a portfolio.

  1. looks a good thing to try but yes i would welcome a video on how to select what points to award each horse.

  2. Sounds like a version of the Van Der Wheil system. The have a version on Horseracebase and you can test its performance using its ratings machine. Backing to top rated VDW in every race for the last 3 years will give you a strike rate of 24% but a substantial loss at sp. The figures don’t improve if you separate the race codes.

    Hope this is helpful.

    1. Certainly similar in that we us form and earnings, and very useful. But it’s not completely the same in that we’re using our own abilities to make the judgement.

      VDW can also be calculated in a variety of ways. The VDW Form and Ability ratings in Racing Dossier (which are a custom variation on original calculations), if we take horses with a Form of 100, they only win 11.85% of the time but only make a loss of -5.08% to BSP after commission. Horses with an Ability rating above 2934 have a SR of 14.71% and a loss of -3.60% to BSP. But that’s also cross all race conditions, narrowing this down into certain niches makes it quite easy to bring them into a small profit at BSP on their own, although the edge wouldn’t be high enough for me to want to bet on them.

      Because more than one selection in a lot of races it’s also worth looking at Race Strike Rate, the profit made on all selections in a race. Using the above criteria our form VDW has a race strike rate of 21.79% and 28.41% for form and ability respectively.

  3. These are fairly all based on maths naturally and I don’t know if there’s a dyxlexia for maths but if there is I’m a sufferer
    If possible a video would definitly be a huge help
    Thank you Michael

    1. Thanks Aaron, there is definitely a dyslexia for maths. My wife has the same problem, particularly when she’s shopping with my card 😀 I’ll get the video made ASAP.

  4. Hi Michael,

    Rather interesting slant on things, as I am not very good with spreadsheets i.e. formulas, I would very much appreciate a video.

  5. Hi The system looks quite logical but I don’t think you describe how you arrive at the points plainly enough.Seems like it’s open to each persons individual reading of the race and this could bring up very different results.Regards Roy Clark

    1. Thanks for the comment Roy. It could bring up different results for each person. It is meant to use your own assessment of the race, which means that the more you do it the better you’ll get. However when making the assessment it’s important not to scrutinise over decisions, you should just be taking a quick look and making a decision based on your initial feeling rather than letting your brain try to second guess it.

  6. The system looks very complicated, hard to follow and practically unworkable.

    “…you should just be taking a quick look and making a decision based on your initial feeling…” – you what, pal?

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