Betting 360 Ep 060 – Moonee Valley under the microscope

The focus of the racing world is on Moonee Valley this weekend with the Manikato Stakes meeting Friday night followed up by the Cox Plate on Saturday. So this week on the podcast we’re focused on finding value at what is a unique track and Rick Williams explains his approach to betting at the Valley.

Punting Insights You’ll Find:

  • The best spots to be in the run
  • How the rail position affects his analysis
  • Whether experience at the track is a bonus
  • A surprising negative to look out for

This discussion is a follow-up to this week’s ‘Horses for courses’ analysis. Today’s Guest: Rick Williams

David Duffield: The focus this week is Moonee Valley, so let’s have a chat about the track itself and how you approach analysing a race and formulating your ratings there. Obviously it’s a unique track in a few different aspects but do you do anything differently when you’re betting there?

Rick Williams: Well the first thing I do is just go through the normal process and that’s highlighting and basically doing the market and working out who’s the best horse. From there obviously you can make some little adjustments or just mental notes regarding where the rail is. Generally it’s a pretty dry track at Moonee Valley. It doesn’t normally get too wet so you’re generally working on a good to dead surface. Sometimes it’s slow but generally it’s pretty well draining. Certainly the rail, wherever that is, is probably the thing that you have a look at.

David Duffield: And that gets talked about a bit. When the rail’s out, that it tends to favour on pacers and that’s not the same for every race, because sometimes there can be an over-reaction but how do you change your assessments depending on the rail position?

Rick Williams: Not enormously. I think if you’ve got a leaders track and you’ve marked the horse that’s going to lead quite short and you really like it then there’s certainly reasons to be giving that a couple more ticks. The other side, if you’ve got a slow horse and it’s going to lead it doesn’t necessarily mean because it’s a leader’s track it’s going to win. I guess good horses or stand out horses in a race can generally, most of the times overcome moderate issues. Whether it be a moderate bias or moderate block in the run or different things. If it’s a severe bias or if it has a severe check then certainly a lot of horses would struggle to overcome something severe that happens.

It’s just balancing out the ability of the horse. Looking at where it will be in the run, or whatnot and what it has to overcome to win and basically making a judgement call. Is the horse good enough to overcome this issue? Or the fact that the horse, you’ve got it rated on top and it looks really strong and it’s going to have all the favours in the run. It’s how much more do you bonus this horse?

David Duffield: And speaking of positions in the run, with the new database we can run a report and have a look at the lengths behind the leader and the average margin for those winners at Moonee Valley and also depending on where the rail is. How do you incorporate that into the work that you do?

Rick Williams: It’s just nice to know. It’s not really anything that there’s a column for in the spreadsheet or anything like that but it’s just nice to run the report and you get an idea of where the rail is and generally what happens. As the rail gets out further there’s generally not a lot of racing. We’re not dealing with huge samples but certainly there does tend to be patterns and I guess as the rail gets out further at Moonee Valley generally the closer you need to be to the leaders upon settling.

David Duffield: When the rail’s true or close to it, if a horse has raced wide, how do you bonus or otherwise assess that horse as opposed to when the rail’s been out a fair way?

Rick Williams: You just go through the runs and generally you look at the sectional. Even if they’ve ran wide, they’ll either have ran wide quickly or ran wide slow. There will be a section in there of the sectionals where the horse has ran a strong 400. It might be from the 800 to the 400 or the 600 to the 200. Somewhere in there it will either say, “Well the horse was wide and it ran quick wide,” or “It ran slow.” Generally you look for the ones that still ran quick somewhere and they’re the ones you tend to be more favourable towards. As opposed to the ones that were wide but just slow throughout anyway.

David Duffield: If you’re on a horse that’s mid-field or worse, when do you want the jockey to be making the run at Moonee Valley? How early?

Rick Williams: You really don’t want to be that early. Sort of once you come up to the bend is when you probably want to get a cart into the race. I don’t think you really want to be exposed too early because what happens is if you try to come with a run three wide around that bend the bend goes forever and by the time you get to the top of the straight you’ve probably got three or four other horses that have shifted out to look for runs. Before you know it you’re six, seven, eight wide and really no hope. Really you want to be looking for a cart into the race on the end of that bend. That obviously isn’t always possible but generally that or horses that generally can sneak a run. Not necessarily always on the fence but when they do go that wide it does tend to open up runs for horses that are even well back in the field. They just save an enormous amount of ground. That happens a bit at Moonee Valley also.

David Duffield: We’ll run through a couple of stats that I found in writing an article this week. The first thing was that the form tends to hold up pretty well and again, the shorter end of the market is the most profitable or the least unprofitable, whichever way you look at it. Is it any surprise to you that horses that start favourite and second favourite perform the best?

Rick Williams: Not really. Especially with a bias. If you can identify that it’s a bit leaderish and you’ve got a really quick horse that’s going to get on the speed, they’re pretty good betting opportunities and either of those horses are well found, so that’s not surprising.

David Duffield: One thing that’s a little bit different to a lot of the other tracks that we see was that the inside barriers actually performed better than, well the middle barriers you might say. Barriers one to four as a group actually perform very well, which wouldn’t surprise people that they win a lot of races but it might surprise people that relative to the market they are actually okay. Whereas horses in the middle or the outside in the smaller fields, barriers five, six, seven, eight, they actually under perform.

Rick Williams: I’m not sure exactly why that’s like that but as we said before with the way the track is a lot of the times those horses can get those runs up the inside or they might jump well and lead. As you said a lot of people may look to avoid those horses because you don’t really want to be stuck on the turn behind the leader at Moonee Valley but I guess depending on the different circumstances of the race that’s what we don’t have in the stats. How quick’s the leader going to be? Where’s it going to settle from barrier one etc? There’s a few other things but certainly the fact that they’re profitable means people may look a bit hard or a bit too much into that aspect of settling on the fence.

David Duffield: Horses higher up in the weight actually under-perform so is there anything you think about the Moonee Valley track that could point toward that? Where horses that are forced to carry a bit of weight might be a bit disappointing as a group?

Rick Williams: I guess if you have to come around that big bend and you’ve got a lot of weight it’s certainly not going to help. Again we don’t know from the stats how many of those did come wide around the bend but that could be an aspect that needs to certainly be considered. Just the other thing, I guess, there’s probably a fair bit of night racing in that and I see night racing generally on a Friday as a platform where you get your up and coming horses. Like a mid-week meeting. They come from the city, come from the provincials and they’re generally not the best exposed horses on class but have the most upside. I think that there’s probably a lot of old war horses that have been running around for a while high up in the weights and they may struggle to beat the up and comers.

David Duffield: What about jockeys? We’re not dealing with massive sample sizes here but there’s a few big names that stand out. When you’re looking at a race and putting together the rated prices, do you care about the jockey’s record at that track or is it just more about the feel that you have for whether that jockey and his style suits that horse?

Rick Williams: I guess we just look at how good the jockey is. Looking at say Victoria you’ve got your Vic jockeys so you have a bit of an understanding that they will probably ride there pretty well, more often than not. If you look at say, over the weekend coming up you’ve got Nash Rawiller back from Japan so he’s got to ride around Moonee Valley. You’ve got Damian Browne down from Queensland who’s a really good jockey but he’s not as experienced at Moonee Valley. You do take mental notes of those sorts of things. At the same time you’ve also got to look at how good the horse is.

David Duffield: There’s a few trainers there that have a reasonable record but I’m not sure if you can glean too much on its own. What about experience at the track? There really wasn’t much of a difference in terms of what the market expected and what actually happened in that if you’d never started there before you’re slightly above benchmark with only 1% and basically if you had experience at the track you’re 1% below the benchmark so really not a lot either way.

Rick Williams: There’s not a lot either way and I guess you do get some horses that really do love Moonee Valley. I guess you could certainly make a case for them which probably doesn’t show up in the stats. Some horses just love it there. There’s probably a small little group within those two measurements that would stand out but again you’ve got to do the form to get them out. If you’ve got a horse that’s running well and gets the right run and it’s having its first start at Moonee Valley there’s no reason they can’t run well also, as the stats suggest.

David Duffield: The next number is interesting but I’m not sure I’d bet anything based purely on it; in fact I’m sure I wouldn’t. It was interesting whether this will end up regressing to the mean or actually stay the way it is and what I looked at was where horses had had their last start. Other metro tracks was just fine, whether it was Sandown, Moonee Valley, Caulfield. But coming off a Moonee Valley night meeting, for some reason, they perform well below what the market expected. Can you see any reason behind why that might be the case? Last start Moonee Valley night run and then next start Moonee Valley either day or night?

Rick Williams: I’m not really sure. Unless they may have run well and the market has over bet them because they’ve had that run at Moonee Valley. If it was a Moonee Valley night meeting, I’m just thinking out loud here, and the rail was out, maybe they didn’t handle the tight turn and pulled up a bit sore. I’m not sure. I can’t really give a strong answer on that one.

David Duffield: Yeah, probably just an anomalous result but when I saw how big it was and that’s all the other tracks were slighty above benchmark and then at Moonee Valley night meeting, the last start was -10, so it was just a big differential. Anyway if people want to investigate that further they’re more than welcome to. The last one was just looking at interstate runners. We did this for a bigger group before in that we looked at all metro tracks. This is just specific to Moonee Valley but horses from north of the border, New South Wales and Queensland perform better than the market expected, while those coming across from South Australia, they’re actually well below benchmark. How do you try and line them up when they’re coming from interstate? Obviously we’ve got ratings and rankings that should transfer from state to state but how do you go about it when you’ve got an interstate runner?

Rick Williams: You sort of answered. I just run with the system we’ve created. Should have an equal measurement everywhere. You just need to look at things like if they’re coming from north well maybe a lot of people would think that they’ve got to go the Melbourne way for the first time. They might be a little bit under bet whereas I guess the Adelaide horses run the Melbourne way. I know that a lot of horses that come over are generally well backed from some good stables and there may be a patch in there where they’ve under performed. It’s interesting but I guess you just have to play it on its merits. Some Adelaide horses are good, some aren’t and some north of the border are good and some aren’t. It’s just finding the opportunities.

David Duffield: Exactly right. All right, well we’ll leave it there for now. It’s just meant as a bit of an insight into the Valley and it’s a unique track so hopefully that’s given people a bit of an idea as to how they can approach betting there considering tomorrow night’s Manikato Stakes meeting and then Cox Plate day Saturday.

Rick Williams: Yeah and it looks a good weekend coming up and plenty of racing and hopefully we can get a couple of winners and enjoy the races and not lose any money.

David Duffield: That’s the plan. All right, thanks Rick, cheers.

Rick Williams: Thank you.

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