Dean the Trial Spy employs a revolutionary approach to form assessment by focusing on barrier trials identify great priced winners and generate excellent long term profits.
He started the Trial Spy service with us in February 2013 and the consistent, long term success has been incredible, with over 460 units profit in just over 2 years. So we’re going to have a chat with Dean today about a variety of topics.
- Why there is still a big edge betting on barrier trials
- Some of the common mistakes most trial watchers make
- What changes he’s made over the last 2 years
- How exotics are incorporated into the service
Dean Trial Spy
David Duffield: I want to talk about the Trial Spy service. It’s one of the better known services we’ve got that’s for sure and definitely one of the most successful ones. What is your process in reviewing the trials?
Dean: I go through the trials in an intense level of detail that I would say few, if any, do. I do the form for a trial like I do for a race and do the form across all of the trials on a day, and set a picture of where I expect horses to finish within each trial, but also looking across say a set of 10 900m trials at Rosehill.
Also looking to see which trials I’m expecting to run quicker times as opposed to others, and identifying the class and speed ability and characteristics of each runner so that I know what I expect. Then it’s a case of often looking for what surprised me or wasn’t expected, the sneaky trial that others missed. Watching each trial over and over again multiple times to view each runner individually. Knowing the form of each runner and utilising sectional data that isn’t publicly available verifying across two independent sources. That enables me to do it at a level that others simply don’t bother with. You get to know the horses and their ability level, their improvement levels from preparation to preparation, and their idiosyncrasies really well. It’s then a case of taking into consideration the nuances of various trainers.
The trainers whose horses and good triallers are generally over-bet, versus those who are under-bet. The existing class of the horse, the times they ran, how much they were or weren’t exerted, and where they’re likely to head in their preparation. I then determine whether they fit the criteria of the horse that we want to follow for their preparation, which is essentially a horse whose speed or class isn’t truly reflected in their existing form.
David Duffield: Most edges gradually disappear over time but that hasn’t appeared to be the case with the Trial Spy. Why do you think there is still such a big edge doing barrier trials?
Dean: I think for a long time the performances in barrier trials were enormously undervalued. Very few people were watching them, and the ones that were probably weren’t aware of the value of what they were seeing.
These days, most of the largest pundits in Australia are data-driven. That creates a great opportunity. Speaking with these guys directly or listening to them speak, they all admit that they simply can’t find an acceptable way to incorporate trials into their figures. The horses aren’t running for prize money. They aren’t all trying. The jockeys are carrying different weights. They simply can’t find a way in their data or rigid computer-driven calculations with little to no human intervention to incorporate trial performances into their numbers. They either don’t incorporate it at all, or some databases or computer ratings try and incorporate it based on the times run without any additional input, which is clearly flawed, or they watch a trial once and try to fudge some sort of manual overlay in there, but probably they’re not putting the relevant time and effort into it.
They’re simply getting it wrong, either under-cooking or over-cooking the manual adjustment they should be placing in there. The opportunity for me sometimes gets even greater.
This creates the huge opportunity because, as all the different punters compiling ratings try to outdo each other with their own version of the same thing, their own speed rating or class rating or speed map or various methodologies, we’re able to sit back and wait for the great opportunities when the data that both the ratings guys and the bookie analysts, I suppose, that are setting the markets are using to price up a horse, simply doesn’t reflect the horse’s true ability, whether that’s going up or down, or their improvement from preparation to preparation.
Coupled with the fact that most people watching trials don’t really know what they should be looking for, or avoiding. Even if they think they do, that gives us the big edge.
David Duffield: Over the last couple years, what changed because there’s a lot more focus on barrier trials but that maybe the focus can be in the wrong places? How has that evolved, and how is that impacting dividends?
Dean: I know as a result of the webinar I did in February 2013, a couple years ago and the subsequent success of the service people definitely started to realise how important the trials were. The interesting swing I saw develop was a lot of horses who trialled well, or at least in quick time, that used to be great value but were suddenly being over-bet as others tried to jump on the bandwagon and start watching trials and were finding the obvious horses that everyone is finding and hints of being over-bet. They’re still sort of missing a real goal, which is often the hidden trial performances.
I’ve had to slightly adjust. Now there’s more of a focus on value priced winners, and profit over a strike rate, in particular in the earlier days, the service focused a lot on finding the absolute crème de la crème with trials that were young two-year olds and maiden horses that were clearly going to break through their maidens. We definitely still do that, as it’s easy money a lot of the time, but as the service has grown and developed we’ve expanded our reach and are now finding winners at outstanding prices through finding ability in those horses that everyone else has missed.
This year, 2015 alone, from limited data we’ve had winners such as Mark and Mary, $61 recorded, well, that was $67 fixed at the time of the SMS and ended up paying $84 best tote. In his last two runs that had run last, beating 9.5 lengths and 9th beaten 6 lengths.
We found another winner at $31 had been beaten a combined 12 lengths in his first two starts. Bourgeoisie at $18, Dr Sykes at sort of $15 recorded was around $17 at the time of the SMS which was beaten 5 lengths on debut and just Sunday we had a very unlucky second, just beaten a head of $21 and another had run 7th and last of two debut runs.
These are horses you usually will never find through traditional ratings or databases or computer programs or any other tipping services usually. They’re only found through the work that I do. The interesting part is, even though watching the trials and missing the Mark and Mary, at $61 had been beaten 5 lengths running last in his recent Oxbury trial, his last trial. Dylan Rock’s , his last two trials had run 6 both times and beaten 9.5 lengths cumulatively.
We’re identifying winners at big prices that no one else is on.
David Duffield: There’s been a fair bit of change recently with TVN closing and other racing websites changing. Will that help or hinder what you do?
Dean: It’s a credit to Racing Victoria and Racing New South Wales for the addition of video form for those trials and races these days is a significant improvement to what was available in the past.
My preference is to watch them on TV all at once though, rather than online trial by trial. TVN was great. The coverage was excellent. The trial days were repeated regularly with the ability to series link and record them. I guess my main beef with Sky Channel and hopefully someone from there is listening, is a lack of the replays of the trials they have. They’ve introduced live trials with analysis which I watch on mute as the guys providing the commentary don’t really sort of know what they’re supposed to be looking at. But, it takes two hours to record that and they don’t provide any replays.
On a rare occasion they do offer replays it sort of can’t be series linked sort of then you’ve got to check every day to see if there are any recordings otherwise you’ve got to go watch it online or sort through tapes. My preference would be for them to ditch the live showing for the trials and focus on multiple replays through the trials and the ability to record them as a series, obviously, would help what I do and make sense.
I think the other element with Victoria is the trials aren’t compulsory for debutantes like they are in New South Wales. I think compulsory trialing would help stimulate larger punting dollars on those early 2 year old racers in Victoria and maidens as well. I understand sort of the Victorian history with no trials with loud owners and connections to gain an advantage and land plunges on their runners. But, the prizemoney they’re racing for is provided by the punting dollar.
I’m surprised they don’t look to compulsory trials there. The other one that I’d like to see continued is the progression of greater information with the inclusion of jump out results in form guides like they do for trials. The replays of some jump outs are available online as a sort of a listing of the horses, but it’s still sort of cloak and dagger. If they added that final step of including jump out results in the form guides I think that would aid punters and contribute positively to betting turnover which helps the whole industry as a whole.
David Duffield: Well, you’re preaching to the converted here there’s no doubt about that. You mentioned before about some recent winners we’ve had but … Over the last couple of years, a key part of service has been some of the plunges that you’ve landed.
Dean: Yeah, we’ve had some big ones. Plenty of them. I guess a couple that come to mind such as Allez Cheval they bet us as much as $21 early and it SP’d $3.20 favorite and won. Even recently, we had one just a few days ago, Legendary Luke that we sent out as a free newsletter tip in the Champion Picks newsletter and it was $9.50, or you know $10.00 when we sent it out, started around $3.50 and saluted. It’s great fun for the members landing the big plunges when the bookies get it very wrong and it obviously demonstrates the big edge we have taking advantage of bookie areas and significant mispricing that happens regularly.
David Duffield: What changes have you had to make over the last couple of years?
Dean: Yeah it’s the ever-changing sort of betting landscape. We’ve made a number of enhancements and improvements as we’ve gone along. You’ve got to keep evolving and proving what you do to stay ahead or else to get swallowed up. I’ve had to ensure we’re always sort of two steps ahead of the market. I continually perform bits of analysis on various factors impacting the horses we back and make adjustments based on what the data’s telling me.
Recently, I’ve been analysing close to 4,000 individual bets across 100 different form factors or variables which has given me great insight as to where our key strengths are and where we can improve which in turn has helped me assess where horses are being over bet and hence identify runners we can avoid in the future.
While the rest of the trial watchers are falling into the trap of backing these types we are sort of benefiting by simply saving units by not backing them. Or, winning further by betting around them.
We had an example just last week of a horse who was heavily backed into odds on in a Gosford Maiden as it had trialled well, winning it’s last Warwick Farm trial in the clear cut fastest time of 14 trials on the day. But it failed a few of the key criteria I look at. We’re all on Big Bloopa who won the race.
We recorded $10 but it’s about a $12 to $13 at most of these. The analysis has been of great assistance in many ways, such as identifying false favorites. Another element, a lot of members as a result of the success of the service started getting banned by various bookies as you’d expect.
We try to reduce the early bets where possible. The majority of our bets are in New South Wales and the minimum bet regulations in New South Wales have meant that we’re now waiting until 9 am to send the bets which ensures that every single member can get set regardless of whether they’ve been banned or restricted with the bookies forced to take their bets up to the minimum levels. That’s a big positive. There’s talk that Victoria may be looking at following in their footsteps in the near future. I think that would be no-brainer and hopefully they do.
I also think, the key to success in betting is not just who to back. That’s one element but when to bet, how much to bet, and where are incredibly important also.
The majority of the services simply give you the horse. The next level might be to give you a rated price but without a recommended stake it’s really leaving you to your own devices. The next level, again, I think is offering a recommended stake and how much of your bank to bet.
But, I think providing advice on when to bet and where to bet is what really sets the service apart. With the selections that we provide, it’s not just the horse to back but how much to have on it, it’s current price, and when and where we suggest backing it immediately or monitoring and waiting and taking some best tote, Centrebest or Betfair SP.
I’m specific and I always record the price at whatever the first recommended option was. If the price gets crunched quickly then I record the price at the next fluctuation down.
To be honest, that level of clarity and transparency and fairness is, I think, sorely lacking in 99% of the services out there. I think it sets the benchmark for fairly recording prices is acting exactly on the advice given with no mystery about it. But, also recognizing that if the price goes quickly, that an adjustment is fair.
Also, we do a weekly wrap at the end of each week going over selections and how they performed. Also restricting members has been the other facet. We haven’t done a public intake for 15 months. That’s been to protect members and their dividends.
Again, I’m not aware of any other service that has genuinely restricted members in that way for their benefit.
David Duffield: One thing that probably hasn’t changed so much is it’s very difficult to get out of your blackbook if you want to call it that although it’s quite a bit more involved than that. But once you’ve identified a horse as one you want to be on from a trial, you keep backing it and quite doggedly so.
Dean: Yeah, there’s certainly some that fall out. When they’ve run out of excuses, but I continue to test the numbers around how often do we back a horse and whether continuing to push forward makes sense. A lot of people back a horse and maybe give it one run or two runs, but my analysis shows that the 3rd run is just as profitable if not more profitable than the first and second time.
It’s definitely a big benefit that we have is people, once they start dropping off a horse they might have had genuine excuses in its races, they sort of forget about the trial, whereas because I’ve done so much detailed work on the trial I know the horse’s ability there. Often, it’s just a gear change or just a different jockey or just getting up to the right distance, just different circumstances that the horse needs to display it’s true ability and so we’ve got a lot of big price winners that way, simply by sticking on when the others drop off.
David Duffield: One thing that has changed though is there’s now a live page and a pretty detailed resources section for members.
Dean: Yeah we introduced a live page recently. We aim for once a week when we’ve got a reasonably busy day which is gives a chance for members to ask any questions of me directly, whether it’s about the day’s betting or any general questions regarding the service or betting in general. It’s been really great to interact with members that way and celebrate some of the wins together. That team atmosphere that we’ve got going as a close knit group working together to smash the bookies and to hell with the education. That’s something that I’m really passionate about. We’ve got a member resources page with FAQ’s and various interviews and webinars, reviews and educational material about how to get the best dogs and avoiding getting banned by a bookie and various other pieces of information to help assist members and get the most out of their betting, not only with the trial spy service but with their own betting and any other services they may follow.
David Duffield: What about exotics? How do you incorporate those into the trial spy service?
Dean: My belief is every race is a unique challenge. I treat every race as a strategy. You know your aim is to maximize your profits in each race and minimize variance by protecting your bank as much as you can with every investment.
I believe it makes sense to use all of the available betting options in a race strategy to maximize profits. I believe that it’s simply betting to win only restricts you and in some races simply makes no sense. I’m not a fan of betting 4 units to win 5. I do believe you can take slight unders and save. The Kelly criterion which is widely accepted as the best staking methodology to win long-term actually allows us to save as and betting on slight unders on the racing price in certain circumstances.
Yeah, sometimes we only back one horse to win the race and that’s it. Sometimes we might back two or three in a race to win. Sometimes we back and save. Sometimes we back one horse each way. At times, we use exactas and trifectas, either as saver bets or as additional profit opportunities.
It’s just a case of trying to apply the best strategy to each unique situation given the mixture of my own rated prices compared with the markets and the number of genuine sort of win and place chances I believe there are in a race. Certainly with maidens and two year olds you get races where there are horses that are simply panels above the rest. A number of runners in a race who can’t pick their feet up and you can eliminate easily.
My approach with exotics is to try and find races where either my either rated prices are markedly different to the market, which creates an opportunity, or, when I’m confident that there’s a few runners who are clearly above the rest of the field and will likely will strike the dividend is relatively high. My preferred strategy for the likes of the exactas and trifectas is to find those races, also where there’s a false favorite or even the first couple of betting are vulnerable. We’re also have identified some runners who are given good chance winning and knocking off favorites is far greater than the market price indicates. There can be situations that happen a lot with our selections where the favorite or favorites have a winning chance.
You might not necessarily want to bet heavily to take them on, but at the same time, it’s too expensive or doesn’t make sense to back the runners who are keen on it and save on the favorites as the outlay may be too much compared to the potential return.
It’s those sorts of situations where often my preferred strategy is to take a boxed exacta or trifecta that I’m really confident that let’s say, 5 horses in a maiden race are so far superior with everything else in the race that I’m really confident if our selections are going to run 1, 2, 3, and I believe that they are vulnerable.
Often, in that situation, the favorite does win. You might break even or make a very small loss but if the favorite get beat you can get some enormous dividends. We’ve done this successfully for over 60 units on exotics by implementing that strategy. We’ve got $3700 trifectas, $1100 trifectas, $390 exacts and a multitude of others for around $6,000 profit on exotics alone for our average members.
They can be very lucrative as is with all forms of betting, if you find an edge with which to use and they’ve been a valuable addition to the portfolio and enabled some very good profits.
David Duffield: Our guys like the exotics winners, but also backing horses early that end up at Group one level. That’s been something that’s happened on a few different occasions.
Dean: Yeah we found a number of future stars before they were famous, if you like. We identified Zoustar who we backed on debut to win at $7.50 and we went on to back him 5 times for 4 wins including winning the Golden Rose for us at $16. He won us over 30 units on his own. Horses like Mossfun who we backed 3 times for 3 wins. We backed Vancouver on debut to win. We backed Pride of Dubai in the Blue Diamond. Also, Rudy, we’ve backed since debut and in 5 of his wins for over 23 units profit.
We backed future Group One stars like Brazen Beau, Hampton Court, Alma Lad, Chatauqua and Terravista in their early days. Members really love backing these horses, mostly on debut before anyone is aware of their true ability and following them through their career as they reach the top level.
David Duffield: Excellent. Well, we’ll leave it there for now. We really appreciate you coming on for the first time and one of the reasons is obviously, we’ve got the service open for a limited time.
By limited, we definitely mean that’s the case because we can’t take many hundreds of people to sign up because that will just flood the market. We’ve restricted it to the last 16 months. There hasn’t been any opportunity to get on board but there is now.
That might last for a day or a couple of days we’re not sure but at maximum it will be 3 days in total. It’s a good chance to join the service that’s made massive profits in … well, a good period of time before going live with us and then in the almost 2 1/2 years that you’ve been with us.
It’s 460 units profit which is a massive return so it’s highly profitable, highly enjoyable for all the members and Dean is absolutely committed to helping you win so there’s a hell of a lot of information that goes out each and every week and quite a few winners to go along with that so it’s a good opportunity to get on board. You can hear from Dean’s chat today that he certainly knows what he’s talking about.
Thanks for joining us today, Dean. Was there anything else you wanted to talk about just before we wrap it up?
Dean: That’s all. Thanks for having me on and I look forward to welcoming some new members for the first time in a very long time.
David Duffield:: Excellent.
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