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Friday 18 December 2020

How to Pick an Outsider

‘A difference of opinion is what makes horse racing and missionaries’, or so said American entertainer Will Rogers. He was right insofar as bookmakers’ odds are, after all, just an opinion of the likely outcome of a horse race. Bookmakers have an effective ‘jungle telegraph’ and are likely to be at least as well informed as the average punter but, even so, outsiders do win, and win fairly often.

In the absence of information that is not in the public domain, a.k.a. ‘inside’ information, from a jockey, owner or trainer, picking an outsider with a winning chance typically involves thinking ‘outside the box’ a little. Horses with recent winning, or placed, form, especially those that are attempting little or nothing more than they have achieved in the past, in terms of class, course, distance and going, are always likely to be at the forefront of the betting market for an upcoming race.

The other end of the market, where likely outsiders are to be found, is typically dominated by horses that have disappointed, for whatever reason, on recent starts. The trick, therefore, is to find a horse that has previously shown itself capable of winning the race under consideration and is undergoing a favourable change of circumstances. For example, a horse with winning form on good going may struggle to reproduce that form on soft, or heavy, going during the winter, but does not become devoid of ability, and may be capable of winning again under its preferred conditions.

Similar comments apply to the characteristics of the course, or courses, on which a horse has been running recently, the class in, and the distance over, which it has been competing and so on. In simple terms, look for a horse that is trying something ‘different’ from its recent races, which is likely to show it in a more favourable light. This could, say, extend to young horse making its handicap debut after showing signs of promise in ‘weight-for-age’ races. In this scenario, and others, speed ratings, such as those published under the ‘Topspeed’ banner in the Racing Post, can often provide insight into the value of previous form before it becomes obvious to the bookmakers.