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Monday, 16 July 2018

How to Pick a Winner

This is the $64,000 question in the sport of horse racing. Unsurprisingly, there’s no easy answer, but the most practical method of assessing horses’ chances of winning races is by reading the form book. Available online, or in the “Racing Post” – Britain’s only daily racing newspaper – the form book contains all you need to know about the public performance of a racehorse, its pedigree, the length of time since it last ran and much more besides. Unfortunately, even with all this information at your fingertips, you’re not guaranteed to pick a winner, but at least you’ll be in a position to make an informed decision.

Reading and assessing horse racing form requires some time and effort, but there are one or two shortcuts you can take to make the process less arduous. Tom Segal, a.k.a. Pricewise in the Racing Post, apparently takes no more than 20 minutes to assess major handicaps, such as the Wokingham Stakes and the Stewards’ Cup, so try to take a leaf out of his book.

Notwithstanding Tom Segal, the fact remains that roughly two-thirds of all horse races in Britain are won by one of the first three in the betting, so it would appear to make sense to focus on that segment of the market. Horses cannot be maintained at peak fitness indefinitely; they are trained gradually to peak fitness, where they remain for a short period, before being let down again. National Hunt horses are typically more robust than their Flat counterparts in this respect but, as a rule of thumb, avoid horses that have been off the course for 42 days – or, in other words, six weeks – or more. What you’re looking for, ideally, is a horse that is seeking to achieve nothing, or only a little, more than it has achieved in the past.

Of course, the form book is just one way of comparing the performance of one racehorse with another. Others include speed ratings – that is, numerical figures, usually in Imperial pounds, which indicate the ability of a horse – such as those published. However, once you discover a method that suits you, stick with it; losers are an inevitable part of betting on horse racing, but are easier to cope with if you know your underlying philosophy is sound.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

4.10 Ayr, Monday, June 18

In the Ayr Cancer Support James Bond Ball Handicap (4.10) at the South Ayrshire course on Monday, Saint Equiano has recorded his best form with some cut in the ground, so a drop of rain wouldn’t hurt. However, Keith Dalgleish’s 4-year-old ran well enough over course and distance, on the prevailing good to firm going, two weeks ago to suggest that his turn isn’t far away. On that occasion, he finished fourth of 11, beaten 1¾ lengths, behind Luiz Vaz De Torres, with Proud Archi just a short head further behind in fifth.

The latter, who’s just 1lb higher in the weights than when winning at Beverley and Thirsk last season, looks dangerous again but, with Graham Lee taking over from apprentice Rowan Scott, Saint Equiano can confirm the form on the same terms. The Equiano gelding is, in fact, 3lb lower in the weights than when winning a similar race at Carlisle last July and, after two runs this season, should be cherry-ripe to take advantage of a favourable handicap mark.

Keith Dalgleish doesn’t make life any easier for punters by also saddling War Department, who’s absolutely thrown in on his winning form at Newcastle last June, but has shown next to nothing since. The 5-year-old has won just once on turf, though – on his debut for William Haggas three years ago – and has beaten just six of 38 rivals on his last three starts in that sphere; it’s probably safe to say that Saint Equiano is the stable pick, on form and jockey bookings and, if not, I hope the Ayr stewards have a good long chat with the South Lanarkshire trainer.

Selection: Ayr 4.10 Saint Equiano to win