If you study and shop around, you will have an excellent chance of coming out on top
Some will say you’d be wise not to take tips from the bookies – after all, they are only interested in taking your money, aren’t they? Not so. James Knight, head of racing at Coral, shares his top tips for punters in their ongoing war with the bookmakers. It could prove wise to listen . . .
Most bookmakers now price up every race the night before they are run. The advantage the punter has is they can pick and choose in which races to bet. Your best chance of winning is to get to know a certain pool of horses inside out. If you’re aware of their subtleties – for example, maybe a horse failed to get cover, was poorly positioned or had no chance from its draw on previous starts – then you’re giving yourself a real chance of beating the bookmakers.
2 Focus on quality
This might sound counter-intuitive as you would perhaps expect the best races to be the most accurately priced. That’s true to an extent, but the edge the punter enjoys here is that the televised races are where the bookmakers fight each other for market share through their pricing. The result is that collectively the firms bet close to zero overround (the mechanism that ultimately gives the bookmakers their profit) on many top races. If you do your study and shop around, you will have an excellent chance of coming out on top in these races.
3 Play ante-post when fields might cut up
Bookmakers are betting on far more races ante-post these days and it’s worth looking out for races that may cut up to fewer runners than the layers expect. For example, if you’re betting on the Cambridgeshire, bear in mind that there will be 35 runners on the day (and extra places on offer), so maybe 14-1 each-way about your fancy ante-post might not look so clever come the off. But there will be races offered, particularly during the jumps season, where if you can find a definite runner ante-post (and you can look out for trainer quotes on running plans) then you have probably found yourself a bit of value.
4 If a price looks too good to be true, tread carefully
If a price looks far bigger than you were expecting, consider when you’re playing and who you’re playing against. If you are betting early with a bookmaker before a market has settled down, then there’s a chance they have made a mistake and you’re getting big value. However, if a horse is drifting violently to a seemingly huge price just before the off, then the likelihood is that someone knows something you don’t. Of course, drifters do win, but there is no question that the late market is very accurate when the smart money is going down, so it pays to proceed with caution.
5 Use the betting market as part of your form study
Form study is traditionally associated with trawling through ratings and watching past videos, but what the betting market has said about a horse on previous starts is something that should be built into your analysis. The late market is a very accurate guide to a horse’s chance and is basically giving you a steer as to the expected form level the horse will run to that day. That information can be invaluable when assessing races down the line. For example, if a horse is punted off the boards on its debut but then runs deplorably, it’s likely to be much better than the bare form suggests.