Joining us on the podcast this week is Nathan Snow, undoubtedly one of Sydney’s smartest punters.

Following a bookmaking career at a relatively young age Nathan realised he could make more money punting and has become one one the leading players on the Sydney scene.

Punting Insights:

  • His starting point for analysing a race
  • What he looks for when doing video replays
  • The relative importance of trainers and jockeys
  • Why his outlay varies in line with his confidence levels

Today’s Guest:
Nathan Snow – Ratings Analyst

David Duffield: It’s good to have a chat today and also good to have you on board, which we’ll get onto a bit later on, but I just wanted to run through a bit about your background, for people that aren’t familiar with you and your work. Just talk us through how you got involved in horse racing and betting and then onto the bookmaking career.

Nathan Snow: I sort of took a back route into racing actually. I had a pretty regulation childhood. I just had a desperate dad that took me to the TAB every Saturday and instilled a love of horses and gambling in me that way, and I did the regulation thing and went to uni and ended up landing a job as a bookie’s clerk part time while I was at uni, on a Saturday, and just absolutely loved that and ended up finishing work and got a job in the city in a finance company, was hating that and just sort of punting away whenever I could and doing form and loving that.

Eventually my dad saw how unhappy I was and I hit him up for a little loan and I said, I want to have a crack at this and God bless him, he was just behind me a 100% and said, have a crack and do your best. Yeah, I got my bookie’s license at the age of 23 and sort of went to Gosford and Wyong and Hawkesbury and made very small books out the back, just playing very small, learning my craft and learning by doing and had the time of my life. I was there for about four or five years, made it to the rails in Sydney and there was great fun, but unfortunately the crowds started disappearing from the race track and it became harder and harder to make a book and as an opinioned book, that was the worst thing because I’d do all this form and couldn’t stay out there and do what I wanted to do.
So eventually I started punting Monday to Friday and bookmaking on Saturday. After a year or so of that, it just became apparent I was wasting my time on a Saturday and made the full time switch about four or five years ago.

David Duffield: When you were bookmaking, I think one of the things you said to me in the past was, you did the analysis and you found you were laying the horses that should be laid, but just because you had a relatively cautious approach, having your father’s money involved and the like and lack of experience.

Nathan Snow: I knew I only had one crack at it and if I did my bankroll, that was the end of it and I’d have to go back to the real world and get a proper job and I definitely didn’t want to do that, so I went out there super cautious. I played very scared and looking back, it’s probably not the way you want to do a bookmaking career but, it was the best way for me to learn. After a few years of analysis, I could see I was doing a fortune in bet-backs, so I knew I was laying the right horses and I knew I was doing something right. It was just a lack of confidence and a lack of bankroll so I could start my betting bigger.

I just always, I still to this day, I bet very small compared to what I should be on my bankroll, because I’m just cautious. I want to keep doing what I love. I don’t want to get a real job.

David Duffield: When you say you bet small, you’re talking in percentage terms of your total bankroll?

Nathan Snow: Yeah, correct.

David Duffield: How were you doing the form in those days, because I know it’s evolved a lot since, but back then when you were going to rate them all from a bookmaker’s perspective, what was the process?

Nathan Snow: It was very rudimentary, it was a simple Excel spreadsheet. I was inspired after reading Don Scott’s books and I wasn’t so much inspired by numerical values and the number ratings. The idea of cataloging horses and building a profile of what a horse can do each day and what their likes and dislikes are and getting to know the horse as much as possible. I figured that would be my way of doing things, because I was never computer minded, never really understood how you could make a computer see what you can see watching tapes and horses.

Obviously there are people that do that very, very well and very successfully at it and it’s just something that was never comfortable with me, so I took a different approach of getting to know the horses as much as possible.

David Duffield: All right. You mentioned that the crowds dwindled gradually but on a sustained basis. Were you dealing with many smart punters in those days?

Nathan Snow: Oh, there are always smart punters. There are always smart punters and as a bookie, when you could deal with a lot of less smart money along with it, you’d use the information. You’d help craft your books that way.

David Duffield: Which is what so few of the corporates do these days.

Nathan Snow: Yeah, that’s the art of bookmaking that’s been lost, unfortunately in this world of modern accountants that have jobs there that, there’s still an edge there if a bookie wants to be a proper bookie.

David Duffield: Then, you said four or five years ago, you took the plunge on your own as a professional punter. How has that gone over the last five years?

Nathan Snow: Yeah, it’s been good, it’s been a great ride, it’s a much better lifestyle. I was too stressed standing up on the stand towards the end, just been sort of shot down and not in control of things and here I’m in total control of what I’m doing. I’m totally beholden to my own ability and I prefer that. I don’t know, I just, it’s a more relaxing lifestyle than being a bookie and I just love it.

I love doing the form. I love doing the mental puzzle, doing a form each day and I love being able to back your judgement and that’s what this career gets to provide every day.

David Duffield: Of course and you get the scoreboard at the end of the day to show how you’re going. What’s a normal race day for you then?

Nathan Snow: A normal race day for me, provided I’ve got all my tapes and everything up to date, I’ll start by pulling off what barrier trials I need to watch for that day, as in horses that are resuming or had a trial between runs or first starters and I’ll put little comments next to them and put them in my database and then I’ll go to the race and I’ll, first thing I’ll do is do a map, because a map’s the most important thing in racing.
I’ve got basically a database that produces the last twenty starts of the horses with all my comments next to it, little different things that I note about the race and all different little things.

Yeah, I just basically form a picture in my mind of what the race will look like and who will be suited by what situations and try to put a percentage next to each horse.

David Duffield: With that percentage chance for each horse, that’s part art, part science, how do you go about it?

Nathan Snow: Mine’s more art than science. I actually start probably the reverse to the way most people start and I’ll start with the runners I think have least chance and think to myself, well what price would I take that runner and quite a few times it’s 500/1 or 100/1 and then I’ll work backwards from there and when I get to the most favoured runners or figure out what price I want to take them, and then I’ll add up the percentages and work my way down to a hundred.

David Duffield: You mentioned that the map’s the most important thing? Again is that a database driven output or manual?

Nathan Snow: No, that’s actually just starting from my notes and what the horses do each run. I think the first 200m of the race more important than the last 200m so my notes often have a lot of things about that. About what horses do early in the races and close, etc.

David Duffield: So obviously you’re looking for horses that are either advantaged or disadvantaged, but what else are you looking for with the map? What is likely to change your rated price?

Nathan Snow: I’m looking for the barriers, like you work from the inside out in terms of your map. Who has to cross who and whether they’re quick enough to cross and increasingly it’s also the jockeys on board. Some jockeys you get to know are more positive than others, some jockey’s don’t want to give up, some jockeys are very happy to give up in certain situations. You get to know that and that sort of helps you with your formation of your maps.

David Duffield: What market percentage are you framing your prices to?

Nathan Snow: To 100%.

David Duffield: Okay, so when you’re saying like at what price would I think about this runner and that runner and working your way from worst to first, does it take quite a bit of time to go through, to get that back to one hundred percent?

Nathan Snow: Well, that’s the thing is, if I lob sort of between 95% and 105% I’m pretty happy with how the form of the race is come out and if I happen to lob at 80% or 120% I generally almost start again with the race and give it another once over sort of thing.

David Duffield: What do you value most? Obviously you’ve done the tapes and you’ve got the print out of all the runs. What else do you value highly when you’re trying to come up with your own ratings lock? Is speed and times a big part?

Nathan Snow: Not a huge part, but their finishing speed often plays a part. It’s just about getting to know the horse and what situation today’s race is going to bring and how that horse has reacted to those situations in the past or similarly, if they’re not known in that, how you think they will based on what they’ve done in the trial or one or two starts. It’s definitely more art than science. There’s no number values, there’s no, it’s just hard to put a finger on, but it’s just the way I do it.

David Duffield: It sounds in a lot of ways, similar to our harness racing fellow, Ben Krahe and he’s focused on a geographical area like yourself, covering New South Wales and knows the horses so well that’s it’s not a data driven thing, it’s gut instinct and experience.

Nathan Snow: Yeah, don’t get me wrong, there’s very, very successful operations that win a lot more money based purely on computers and wouldn’t know one horse from another.

That’s a very successful way of doing things but it’s a very costly way to start off and it’s a bit involved and that was never really an option for me. This is how I learned from someone that sort of took me under their wing when I showed up as a green 19yo on track and yeah, it’s basically how I learned and it’s just how I do it. I know, I’ve been in racing now 15 odd years, there’s so many different ways to win at this game.

Even I know that me producing my prices for people, if 50 people were to get, I know they’d probably handle it 50 different ways, because everyone’s got a different style and everyone’s got a different way they like to handle things.

David Duffield: Yeah, exactly. I was just really covering your approach rather than saying it’s the way to go. It’s more about the way it works for you.

Nathan Snow: Well, like it’s, this is just what I found works for me over the years and the way I like doing it.

David Duffield: You spend a lot of time watching video replays, you mentioned the trials before, but also the race replays. What’s your process there? What are you looking for?

Nathan Snow: Like I said before, the first 200m is very important, how much work they have to do to find their position, however long that takes and then the speed of the race that they’re coming out of, who’s best suited in choosing a good spot, all the interference that happens, how wide they are, at what point in the race they take off. All that sort of thing. Little bits and pieces that you pick up and put in your notes and that’s where it comes in handy. You just whack it all in there and see what happens.

David Duffield: You talked about jockeys. How dramatically can a good jockey or a not so good jockey change your rated price?

Nathan Snow: Yeah, it’s something that I’m weighting more heavily these days. I used to disregard them more, but the more you get involved the more that you see that the top jockeys, it’s not so much that they’re better riders. They just think more.

You’ll find your run of the mill jockeys normally have no plan A and if they’ve got a plan A, they don’t have a plan B.

What separates a good one is they’ve got plan A, B and C and they’re thinking about their rides and they know where their opposition are and they know what the correct decisions are most of the time and that’s important.

David Duffield: How often do those lists of top jockeys change in your mind? How much of a part does current form play?

Nathan Snow: They’re just like any other sportsman they’re incredibly cyclical. There’s off field issues, they read their own press. There’s all sorts of things that bring people in and out of form in any walk of life.

If I could put my finger on why I sometimes have a losing streak and sometimes I have a winning streak, I wouldn’t have any losing streaks. There are things that you can’t put your finger on, but you just got to try to watch and identify when it happens.

David Duffield: All right. What about trainers?

Nathan Snow: Trainers, they’re very cyclical too, but who knows why they’re cyclical we’ll move on from that point.

David Duffield: Who knows why? Maybe a lot of people know why. Can’t really talk about it too much.

Nathan Snow: No, but trainers is another thing. Trainers are important in their style, in terms of, there are a lot of trainers that are best first and second up. There are a lot of trainers that don’t participate first and second up. A lot of trainers use the barrier trials in different ways, use jockeys in different ways, are scared by barriers in different ways. There’s all sorts of things you get to know by betting and concentrating on one region about the trainers and the jockeys and that helps you form your maps and your profile of your horses.

David Duffield: So you’ve done the form for every race on the card, which type of races normally get you excited, from a betting perspective?

Nathan Snow: Usually the ones that take the least time to do the form. The ones where you just, like when you go through it and you’re just like well, there it is, there it is, there it is and then you go back and do your second and third run through and you come up with the same option over and over. They’re usually the ones.

But in terms of your best betting races, I don’t know that until I finish doing the form and then have a look at the markets, because basically it’s just all about what the value is. I assign a chance for each horse in my mind, what prices they are and then you see what, but obviously there are different races that you are keener on than others.

David Duffield: Do you bet into every race on the card?

Nathan Snow: Not every race, but probably 80-90% of races. The key thing to my punting is the spacing between races, in terms of your low confidence level races and outlaying say 10% of what I’d outlay on a high confidence race. That’s how I like to approach the races.

David Duffield: What would be a common theme amongst your rating tips, like more towards the shorter end of the market?

Nathan Snow: It’s more value orientated. I just, I found, given what I was saying before about always having a limited bankroll and wanting to protect it and protect it that I found that I do, in my mind, when I was starting out, I did risk damage at the longer prices than I would at the shorter prices if I was wrong.
When I was starting out, I sort of focused more on that part and that became my sort of niche, I guess. Yeah, to this day, it’s more balanced now, naturally. Yeah, it’s still more focused towards say $4 and up that’s still my bread and butter range.

David Duffield: Do you do anything outside of win betting?

Nathan Snow: I’ll back something to place if I’ve got it a bit overlay and it’s sort of 20/1 or better and I can get $5 the place or so. There are some types of races where a horse is not necessarily a great win bet, but a really good place bet. That’s pretty rare.

I used to play quaddies and what not, but I don’t know, I think you’ve got to stake them a bit and I didn’t really have time to play around too much with them and that seemed like quinellas and trifectas and what not. Yeah, just basically win only and a bit of place stuff as well.

David Duffield: Well, part of our chat and I mentioned at the start, is that you’ve come on board to join us as our ratings analyst and focusing on New South Wales, so that’s really exciting to have you join us. I’m sure the members are going to be very excited when they start doing well.

I wanted to ask you though, is there anything that we haven’t already discussed that a ratings member would need to know, as far as getting the most out of the service goes?

Nathan Snow: I just think, be aware of the value. Like if it’s just, sometimes I’ll like for instance yesterday, there was a horse called Straights, I had it marked $9 and it was $11 in the morning and I was keen to have something on it and by jump time it was $3.50 and I’m laying the horse.

You’ve got to be aware of the price and a chance in each race to be a successful long term gambler, you’ve got to be flexible enough to know when a market has flipped and be able to handle that. I just think, but having said that, if you want to just take the, when the sheets come out and whatever is value at that time, I think that’ll be a long term way to succeed as well. It’s just how you want to handle things.

David Duffield: So we talk about don’t love a horse, love a price, so you’re more than happy if a horse that was initially an overlay, if it is well and truly unders you might consider overlaying it?

Nathan Snow: Yeah, that was a rare situation of $11 into $3.50, but in those situations I’m happy to do it.

David Duffield: Excellent. Well, I appreciate your time today. I’m sure members will have a few other questions, so we’ll answer those on the live page and I’m really looking forward to working together and giving the guys a boatload of winners. No pressure.

Nathan Snow: Very excited, a bit nervous, but I’ll be doing my best, that’s for sure.

David Duffield: Sounds good. All right, thanks Nathan.

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