Betting 360 Podcast - Betting From All Angles Rick Williams, our Senior Form Analyst, is back with more of his great insights for punters. This week he’s sharing his thoughts on how we can make the most of an often overlooked class of race and that is maidens. There are more maidens than any other class of racing, which allows for plenty of opportunities, but lots of room for error as well. Rick has some important tips on making them profitable.

Punting Insights You’ll Find

  • The rationale behind betting on maidens.
  • The number one consideration when looking at maidens.
  • How to assess the qualities of a race to determine if it’s worth your money.
  • When to not place so much reliance on the speed of a horse.
  • Why there can actually be a ton of value in maidens.

Today’s Guest:

  • Rick Williams

Rick’s Closing Tip:

If you’ve got a horse that’s going to be running in the city, you’ve gotta punt on those things.”


Episode 30 : Rick Williams on Betting on Maidens

David: Hi this is David Duffield and welcome to episode 30 of the Betting 360 podcast. I’ve got Rick Williams our senior form analyst back as our special guest today and he doesn’t need an introduction but what we’re going to talk about is betting on maiden races. There are more maidens than any other class of race so it’s worth exploring them in detail and seeing where the value might be. Some people think there are some poor quality runners going around but there are times when there’s some good value there, so lets have a chat with Rick. Thanks for joining us again Rick. Rick: Yeah, no worries mate.

David: Good to have a chat with you about maiden’s today. I wanted to run through a few of the reasons why we get involved and others that we might avoid. There are some people that don’t like maidens at all but obviously they’re the most common form of race in Australia so what’s our approach to betting on maidens? How would you summarize it?

Rick: I think maidens can sort of be good or bad. I’ve certainly found probably a few years ago that maidens weren’t really a type of race that I wanted to focus on a lot but since working with the Times and creating the data base and I guess having the information at hand, it really does paint a clear picture that there’s certainly a lot of good opportunities to be made through those types of races if you do have the right information. I think obviously there’s a correlation in all racing between class and speed. As you get up higher in grades, your Saturday races and group races class becomes a lot more prominent, but when you’re dealing with lightly raced horses that are finding their way, and are yet to win, I do think your class figures in that are certainly less prominent. Speed certainly is the key indicator there is the best way to highlight a horse’s ability early on. For the maidens and I really don’t pay much attention to the class figures because it’s not where the edge is. The edge is in the speed. That’s where I’m at with all that it’s heavily based towards speed the lower grade of the race.

David: With the speed figures, are you assessing I suppose the benchmark for maiden runners or is it more about relative to other horses on the day and in part times or what people would call part times in terms of the last 10, 12 years?

Rick: It’s got nothing to do with maidens as such it’s looking at all the horses that say performed at Yarra Glen over 1400 meters then looking at some different factors and coming to a conclusion as to where that sits in the pecking order. We’re not doing a maiden versus a maiden. When I’m looking at the results on the day it could be the maiden versus the rating 68 or something like that. They’re all in the bucket together as such and it’s trying to pick the right one in the right race. Also, it’s okay to have a speed number but I think it’s very important that you understand why that number was produced and how that number was produced. Could it be a bit inflated or could it possibly be a bit better than it was. It’s not straight out oh, that’s the number lets do this we do need to know the how’s and whys. When you know the how and whys it obviously helps making some decisions.

David: You mentioned the speed figures. How do you account for varying track conditions both slow and heavy tracks but also throughout the day obviously maidens are often in the first handful of races run. How do you factor both of those in?

Rick: There’re certain formulas that you can run that you can try and smooth it out. Nothing’s perfect when you’re dealing with any sample sizes. You know yourself if you want to look at historical data you’d never go off on eight samples. You want thousands but every race day you are dealing with eight. There’re eight races. When I was in a big testing phase what I really wanted was to find correlation. What that meant was I wanted to find a horse that ran today at Yarra Glen and say it rated 94 and won. Then I wanted to see what that horse did last start and it might have ran in a maiden at Mooney Valley on a Friday night and ran last, and rated 94. That sort of correlation through all of the back end work I was doing was there and that gave me great confidence that what I’m doing is right. Certainly everything’s open to improvement and we need to evolve. There are different ways you can counteract that. The other thing about a speed rating is it’s an indication because there’re a lot of different factors like you’ve mentioned. You can try and smooth it out but it is an indication of how fast a horse can run, whereas a class rating is more, this is how good the horse is rubber stamped. I don’t use the speed like that. The speed’s a little bit different but it does help us highlight who’s fast and who’s slow.

David: What about the makeup of the speed rating? What do you consider to be important in terms of the overall time that it ran? Is it closing sectionals? Is it tactical speed? How do you assess that?

Rick: It’s all of that. You need to really assess all of that and come to a conclusion. I think it’s all equally as important as each other. I don’t think any one is greater or lesser of importance. It certainly all goes into the mix with a couple of other things and it’s all measured properly through the computer, so there’s no, what you’ll think here or what you’ll think there. Everything’s digitally timed and then it goes into the database. The database tells us the results, then obviously horses, you might be blocked for a run all those different sorts of things, and that comes into it down the track, but for creating that initial rating, we’re lucky the database can handle that very quickly.

David: When do you forgive or I suppose, not place so much reliance on a speed figure? If a horse hasn’t produced a strong speed time in what circumstances would you not necessarily right that horse off as being a slow one?

Rick: If the overall time or rating, speed rating’s soft, I’ll go back and have a look at what the race is like, how hard have they gone early, or how soft did they go early, how fast or slow did they run home late. If I’ve got a race where they’ve gone out and haven’t really done a lot early, and they haven’t really done a lot late, and the markets got that pretty hard, I’ve got absolutely no problems taking that horse on because as far as I’m concerned the horse has had every possible opportunity, and it’s slow. I find that more often than not those horses fail to perform. The reason they’re so hard in the market is they might have raced in a 62 or they might have been held up, and had a bit of bad luck at their last run or they’ve ran on from the back but really the sectionals were slow. You can see in the market the influence at time that the video watchers and your class ratings has, and you sit back and go well, that’s not really that good or, that’s this or that’s that.

That overall time wasn’t really great but they didn’t go hard early and the last 600 was really strong. We need to respect that. Some races I can flick through, and when I say flick I don’t mean literally flick, but you can go through the form and it’s pretty stock standard, and you can make a decision to bet. Other races there is some horses you do need to pay a bit more attention to, and they’re not the ones we’re betting, they’re the ones we’re going up against. We really need to make sure that we’ve covered our bases as well as we can, going in to that. Sometimes you get in wrong and the horses weren’t right or the gear change works or it was ridden back but they go forward. There’re still all those different things that can beat you, but by being on the fastest horse it is a big advantage.

David: Once a horse has put in an above par or above benchmark performance, do you normally follow them for a number of runs or is it their next start?

Rick: It depends. I guess certainly their next start is the one of real interest especially when you’ve got a race … you know, the market’s big on subsequent form so if you’ve got a race and the horse ran fifth beaten a length and a half, and second, third, and fourth have all come out and won or ran second, the market likes that. If you can bet really confidently on one of those horses before anything happens that’s really good. We’re certainly looking at their next run and certainly their other runs also.

A lot of trainers will progress their horses up in distance when they probably should be left around a distance range. That sort of makes it a bit hard. I do find a lot of these races are between a thousand and twelve hundred meters. One of the other good things about highlighting these horses that should have pretty good careers is the margin for error in a maiden is a lot bigger than it is in an open handicap on a Saturday. If you’ve got a horse in a maiden that debuted over a thousand meters, and ran a really fast time and it’s stepping up to say, eleven hundred, you can still pretty confidently back that horse. If that horse had won over a thousand meters at Caulfield and you weren’t quite sure if it would get eleven hundred, it was a bit soft late, you couldn’t back that horse, or I couldn’t anyway because the competition’s so great at eleven hundred meters and the horse mightn’t get the trip and quite often they don’t. They can’t handle that pressure.

In the maidens you find a horse can get that little bit further than it probably normally would down the track, or the horse can race three wide and overcome that. You can overcome those little things. It’s really tracking the horses and the first thing I’ll look at when they come up is what distance did they produce. Why are they in the black book and at what distance did they make the black book and what are they being set today? What are they being asked to do? Certainly the distance comes into it. Mapping comes into it a little bit, not quite as much again. It depends on the opposition and the fact that when you’re dealing with lightly raced horses you really don’t know what’s going to happen sometimes. A horse might have dropped out it could lead. There are a few more variables that we do need to track but as I said if you got a horse you think is probably going to be running in the city down the track, you sort of take the punt on those little things.

David: What you mentioned there about the class differential is true and that’s why there’s some money to be made in maidens. There’s no other class of race where the gap in talent is so large and that’s why there’s some decent value at times.

Rick: Yeah. Even sometimes we might back a horse at $1.80 or $1.90 and they don’t always win but some do and they win by a mile and they probably should be $1.20 or something. Although some of the prices aren’t big, they are still value. It’s finding that talented horse and hoping there aren’t any more talented horses.

David: To finish up then with a chat about pricing and staking. If you identified a horse that’s put in the above average performance and it looks like a suitable race but maybe the exposed form of the other runners isn’t great, there’s a few unknowns, talk us through the market staking approach.

Rick: You get out your databases and you run your market by pricing or SP rank and you know yourself from all your articles that you do that’s a pretty good guide and it’s generally pretty accurate. You can’t make money off it but as far as a pecking order goes where they’re ranked and the pricing it all does fall into a certain line from top to bottom. I think the market does generally get it right and the holes we’re talking about they’re not big.

It’s not like we’re not backing horses at $10 that start $5. We’re not talking about that much of a margin but there is a little bit of a margin, and as long as there’s enough, that’s how we’re going to win long term. What happens is you get a race and there’s a race today, I think it’s race 4 at Yarra Glen or race two, anyway one of those races, there’s horses we like and there’s other horses and they’ve had one or two starts, or they’re on debut, there are some unknowns. I want to get involved and bet in these types of races. Some people don’t because of those unknowns. They’re not prepared to risk it, which I can understand if that’s how they want to bet because to price up a horse.

To know what a good price is or any of that can be a little bit tricky when half the field hasn’t had a run or a horse pulled up lame after one run or got galloped on. There’s a host of variables. The way I like to bet on these particular races, is to wait until the last five or ten minutes and find out what the market’s doing and then bet accordingly there. By that stage I think any debut horse that might be really good, the money will start coming by then. We’ll get a better picture and I’m still happy to bet against that horse, but my stake will be proportionate to the market, which I think gives us our best opportunity long term to profit off these particular runners. It keeps everything in line. It’s a rigid and disciplined process we’re having enough on the horses and hopefully they can keep running well.

David: Yep and at the end of the day it’s working so the proof’s in the pudding. We’ll leave it there for now. I was going to bring up trials but I’ll save that for another time either with your self or with Dean the trial spire. So, thanks for running us through some of the reasons why you might want to get involved betting on maidens.

Rick: No worries thank you.

Thanks for tuning in to Betting 360. Get more in depth analysis, tips and that betting edge by heading over to where you’ll find a full transcript of this episode. If you liked the show, share us with a fellow punter or drop by iTunes to leave us your thoughts. Betting 360, punting from all angles.

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