There are few better feelings than picking a winner at the races. It’s up there with splitting the fairway with a thunderous drive or watching your arch rival footy team loose.
However, unlike when your grandma backs a horse because, “the name reminds her of her first love”, consistently picking winners requires a bit more thought.
Before you go anywhere near the race track, the first thing you should get your hands or eyes on is a form guide. There are a few things to consider before making your bet such as the length of the race, the draw of the horse and the weight they’ll be carrying among others.
Through many years and heartbreaks, the greatest pro Dubai handicapper have formulated more than a few theories and strategies. These are hardly foolproof. How could they be, when they’ve been formulated by a bunch of fools. But they’re the best we’ve got. Below are the most important things to consider:
Horses for Courses
Course & Distance: Like humans, certain horses are better suited to run different distances. Some are sprinters, while others (stayers) are bred for distance. It’s important to consider your horses previous runs and check what distance he/she likes best. You can find good value in horses that are changing distances, with particular focus on front runners that are shortening up in distance and horses who finished strong that are now running over further.
You can take it one step further and look at the horses record over Course & Distance combined. A winning percentage of over 33% and you could be on to a good thing.
Draw: The draw is the post position the horse will jump from. Generally speaking, the lower the number the better the draw as the horse will have less work to do to get onto the rail. It’s worth watching some of the earlier races to see which draws are performing well as sometimes the best running is on the outside of the track.
Racing Surface: In racing, there are three surfaces to consider – turf, Polytrack (synthetic turf) and sand. It is wise to check your horses form on the surface of the day to avoid missteps.
Weighting: One of the most important factors to consider when making your decision on which horse to back is how much weight the horse will be carrying. Take a closer look at the weight they carried in the previous run and if they’ll be carrying more or less weight. If a horse drops 2.5kgs or more from the last start, take that as a positive, dependent on the rise in class.
Class of the Race: It’s one thing to win a race against a bunch of donkey’s, but can your horse run with the big dogs, er, horses. A horse rising steeply in class may be overmatched by his/her competitors, while a horse that has tumbled down the merit ratings and has dropped in class needs to be considered. Closely linked to the weight your horse will carry, finding the perfect mix should add up to some tidy profit.
The Human Factors
Jockey: As important to a winning horse as a driver to an F1 car. A good jockey can make all the difference in a tight race. Certain jockeys fit well with certain horses, look for a horse that is ridden by a jockey who has won previously on that horse.
Another important factor to consider is whether a jockey had several possible mounts in a race and chose a particular runner. That would indicate he/she thinks the horse has the best chance of winning.
Trainer: As with most other sports, winning in horse racing can become a habit. Trainers that win, usually continue winning. Look out for stables that have come into form and ride it until they run out of steam.
Other factors to consider include the number of horses a trainer has in a particular race. When a trainer has more than one horse entered in a single race, he/she is often looking to win it. Just make sure you choose the right horse…
Beaten Favourite: Was your horse a beaten favourite in its last three starts? Horses that were fancied in the betting recently and did not win, often come back and perform well in their next few races.
Beatable Favourite: It’s always wise to have a close look at the favourite for the race. Can it be beaten? If you can find reasons why it won’t win, then it may be worthwhile to have a bet on the race.
Dark Horse: Once a dark horse, always a dark horse. Horses that win at high odds, tend to be repeat winners at high odds, so pay attention to horses that have won previously at a tidy price.
Market Movers: This is betting after all, so keeping a close eye on the markets will always do you well. Early signs of movement could be a strong indicator that word has got out of the stable and a strong run is expected. Strike quickly and watch the odds shorten. Just don’t be tempted to get involved in a horse at 2/1 that opened at 10s – that’s a sure-fire way to end up disappointed.
Here in Dubai, there are new theories being formulated daily. Here are just a couple of the ones that have stood the test of time:
Third Run after Rest: This one is a stock-standard across horse racing.
The theory goes that it takes two runs for a horse to get back to peak fitness after a break. Look for a horse that had a solid second outing after a break and is primed to pick up the W. Then load up and fire away.
Look out for Raiders: It’s always important to look where the horses in the field have been running lately. Like a player moving from the Eredivisie to the English Premier League, a change from Fairview to Kenilworth is often met with mixed results. Cape Town and Gauteng based horses are normally the strongest in South Africa so it’s worth keeping an eye on them when they run at lesser courses.
Back St John Gray in August: Certain yards peak at different times in the year. While bigger stables tend to peak around the main races in different provinces, the smaller yards don’t have the horses to sustain a year-round assault. St John Gray is one such yard, who tends to peak early in the season. Get involved and you can make some good cash.