I have spent the last year researching the many new horse racing ratings services that have sprung to life, each one claiming they hold the key to horse racing profits if the punter is willing to pay for them… but are they really worth the investment?
Well, it’s no surprise I am a huge fan of horse race ratings. I have developed several systems that relied on ratings extensively to narrow down the field and find decent priced winners, and I have used a good many independent ratings services in my time, so I count myself as a pretty good judge of the value of ratings and how they can be used to identify good betting opportunities based on the numbers.
Now, the problem I have with ratings services is that they are usually very ‘subjective’, and by that I mean they all basically use the same data but the assumptions and conclusions drawn from that data can vary widely. And herein lies the problem.
Unless you actually know what assumptions and weighting is being used, you are pretty much at the mercy of the provider who you hope is more knowledgeable than you are at determining how different aspects of the horse, trainer and jockey data should be determined, interpreted and reported.
I have noticed, with the increase in ratings services, that the onus for picking winners has very much been placed on the punter! It could be that this shift in sentiment is designed to eliminate the problems encountered when horse racing tipsters fly in the good times and sink rapidly when a losing run kicks in.
If the punter is passed a set of ratings, and is forced to interpret those ratings themselves, rather than have the hopeful winner spoon-fed to them, then the blame can only be placed fairly and squarely at the foot of the punter rather than the provider when the winners don’t eventuate. And from a service providers perspective that’s the ideal! But from a punters perspective that raises some serious problems.
One of the biggest problems is that a lot of rating providers report x% winners from the top 3, and from a punters perspective this can be alluring. But in reality, narrowing down the 3 to just 1 selection can oftentimes be very difficult, especially if the prices on 1 or 2 of them are very much on the short side. And then of course there is sheer number of races to contend with, you cannot bet in every race and expect to make a profit long term – but the success rate of the ratings services are often calculate as x% which covers every race!
I know of one ratings provider who makes claims about the top rated winning x% of races, and on the face of it there is merit in betting it. However, with 20+ races a day, it doesn’t take a genius to work out the size of the betting bank you would require to cover a losing run of just a few days if the percentages slipped – and invariably they do, such is the nature of the horse racing game.
So where does this leave you as a punter wanting to use ratings?
The question is rhetorical… the answer is, like all things commonsense must be applied.
First, you need to see a history of the ratings. Take the time to go through at least 6 months worth, analyse the results and determine for yourself what the best course of action is when determining which horse to bet on (if any). If a history of the ratings performance is not readily forthcoming, then consider this a ‘red flag’ and quickly find another source!
The more data provided with the ratings, the better in my mind. It provides an opportunity to look for ‘indicators’ amongst the data, things that stand out as being exceptionally strong factors – and if this indicator flags up enough winners among those in the top 3, then use it as a focus for selection until such time as the edge disappears, then look for something else.
Secondly, use an additional selection filter. For example, determine a price limit you will not go below and stick to it. Then, if the top 3 include a horse that’s above your price limit appears, you could have an interest at decent odds. By using a price limit in this way you significantly reduce the potentially high number of bets, and you lock in a price that makes the bet worthwhile in terms of potential return.
As an aside, I was disappointed to see the demise of FormBet – a ratings and data service that had real merit I thought. On the ratings side they provided 3 very useful ways to analyse the race based on the generated ratings, coupled with extensive data that allowed the punter to really dig into the numbers and discover how the assumptions and weightings were calculated. This in my mind was the ideal type of rating service for beginner and professional punters alike.
Another very good ratings service also disappeared last year. UK Race Stats was an absolute gem of a service, providing invaluable information for astute punters, with tissue prices that were some of the best I have seen.
There are many services that have taken their place, and in due course I will report on which ones I feel are in the same calibre as those mentioned.
Ratings can also take many forms – indeed one of the systems I am testing at present uses two different independent sets of ratings, combining them in such a way that finding qualifiers at decent odds is made a lot easier using strong indicators to signal a selection. This method is still in testing right now so more about this in another post.
In conclusion, I believe ratings are a good thing when not bet blindly. If you use them as the starting point for further analysis, look for indicators among the data that makes a horse worth a second look, and the odds are not prohibitive, then they can be used to find a nice stream of winners.
However, when used blindly, e.g bet only the top rated in all qualifying races, this can often lead to serious problems and without a doubt it will have a very negative effect on your betting bank.
Use ratings as a ‘tool’ in your betting arsenal. Corroborate everything against the data, and most importantly learn to form your own conclusions as to what is and isn’t a good bet at the odds.