Nick Aubrey is a former actuary who uses advanced mathematics, probability theory and market anomalies to find value as a punter. He’s been on the Betting 360 podcast previously to discuss his approach, quaddies and multi’s. On this episode we pose the standard questions of our form analysis and staking series. You will soon learn the most important factor in everything that he does.

Punting Insights

  • Why everything he does as a punter ultimately comes down to price
  • The winners will come along when they’re good and ready
  • The ‘sweet spot’ price bracket to include in your exotics
  • Nick’s analysis showing a 7/1 chance is just as likely to run 3rd as the 9/4 favourite

Today’s Guest: Nick Aubrey

Dave Duffield: Good to have you on Nick. We’re trying to get a cross-section of people for this series and you fit the bill as someone who doesn’t do things the same way as a lot of other people.

Nick Aubrey: Yep, everybody’s different I guess.

Dave Duffield: Of course. We’ll get stuck into it and you can explain those differences. In terms of form, are you someone that likes to sit down and do the form, per se? Or is it more about data?

Nick Aubrey: Well I must admit data tends to solidify … I guess I got into racing because of my gut feel aspect so I thought, oh this is easy. I can work what the odds and form should be but data is a very clinical way of representing horses’ performance. It’s a bit less biased than perhaps the gut feel. For instance on Saturday, that freak run – maybe it is a freak, maybe it’s not – of Winx to win the Cox Plate. That was fantastic and that’ll never leave my mind, but what is probably not considered when you think of that was there track bias on the day? What a freak run that Hughie Bowman got to go up on the inside, because … Was that a high-risk ride or low-risk? There’s a lot of factors that only the facts and figures later on will tell.

Dave Duffield: Do you specialise in certain races or do you cover many?

Nick Aubrey: Many, because I get a data feed so therefore I can do as many as I like. The idea is to bet on as many races as possible to try and spread the risk and really betting is not so much about backing winners but getting the right price about them. The winners will come when they’re good and ready. I try to do as many races and bet into as many races as possible.

Dave Duffield: I’ve heard you say that a few times, you might just want to touch on that briefly; “The winners will come when they’re good and ready.” That’s always been your approach.

Nick Aubrey: Yes. I mean, at the end of the day depending upon your circumstances if you’re a punter or a bookmaker but it’s a zero sum game and bookmakers tend to charge a margin and to win on the punt you’ve got to overcome that margin. Like for instance the Cox Plate. The margins there, you’re not going to get 20/1 about Winx because the market’s got it pretty right. Therefore, you’ve got to get the best price about Winx. People that took 6/1 about Winx the day before or whatever, they were laughing. People who just put on the TAB and took the $4.20 well, okay they got the winner but would that price if they got it all the time be sufficient to make a profit in the long term? It is, sadly, all about the price you get. Of course, you need the winners as well but the winners will come when they’re good and ready because nobody can predict what the next one is around the bend.

Dave Duffield: What about speed maps? How do they influence the way you price a race or the way you want to bet?

Nick Aubrey: Yes, well that is something that I’ve only … Well I’ve always been interested in it but I’ve been, circumstances are I’ve been looking at that in a lot more detail of late. It’s amazing that even in races where you don’t think speed is that important, like more the staying races, backing an on-pace runner in terms of typically their value and their ability to win, it’s amazing that on-pace runners all things being equal have a better chance that back markers. I guess because they miss interference? And also if it’s a good jockey onboard and he can pace the race well, then sometimes he can pinch it when in fact maybe it’s not the best horse on the day.

Dave Duffield: How do you rate jockeys? Do you place a critical importance for jockeys and also trainers?

Nick Aubrey: Trainers not so much, because they tend to rise slowly. The Chris Wallers, he’s obviously a very good trainer and he’s been training for many years, but his stock seemed to get improvement as he wins, he gets the better horses. Obviously, there was a race a few weeks ago, I think he might have had 90% of the field. That’s because he’s such a good trainer, owners want to put their charges in his control. To actually get an edge, because remember it’s all about the price, I tend to discount trainers.

Although maybe a trainer on a home track could be something that gives you a bit better price than normal. Jockeys in form however….a system that one of my mates uses, he says, “I always back the jockey that’s one the first race of the day, through the day.” The other interesting thing I’ve noticed that especially with the jockey challenge, you’ll find a jockey that’s in contention in the last race for the jockey challenge it’s amazing how well they ride on that last race. I don’t know what it is, they just have their tails up and they just go for broke. A jockey in form is a good jockey to follow.

Dave Duffield: Barriers, do you place much importance there?

Nick Aubrey: It’s more to do with … It’s a combination of barriers and runners. As I mentioned earlier, Winx inside barrier and that across that distance, I remember years ago there was a horse that was the favourite but he was inside barrier but it’s the leader in the race and it was still favorite 6/4 and it had to be used up early, it had to pull right across get to the front which it did, but then dropped out in the straight. It very much depends upon what barrier’s drawn for the type of running style and the distance of the race and whether the start of the race is on the bend of … On the turn, because some of the races especially in the provincials, they can be starting at the turn. You’ve got to probably back horses that are going to be jumping fast from the inner boxes. For other races, probably not important at all. Again horses for barriers, rather than horses for courses.

Dave Duffield: Are you much of a believer in weights?

Nick Aubrey: Weights … well they say the old adage, you know “Weight can stop a train,” there’s no doubt that it’s certainly important. One angle I do look at is not so much the weight above the limit but has this horse carried this weight previously before and won a race? Maybe horses can carry a certain weight easily, doesn’t matter if you’re on 54 or 58, they’ll be be able to carry that but you put them up to 60 and they’ll struggle. It’s a bit like the last straw that break’s the camels back. It’s a bit of an unknown area; there’s no doubt that that’s the whole basis of handicapping horses is based on weights. You can also see when a horse throws his jockey as it did a couple of weeks ago … I told my mate “Watch this one rush around the outside.”

It threw its jockey in the barrier, so it was about 10, 20 lengths behind the last horse at the start and it circled the field, went right around the outside of the field, and went away and won by about 4 or 5 lengths. Because that’s a natural instinct of a horse, to run. It’s a pack animal. The fact that it was un-weighted meant it had a huge advantage. Obviously it does, but it’s a matter of what the marginal difference is. So yes I do, but I’m still struggling. The jury’s still out on how big an affect weight has from week-to-week.

Dave Duffield: Trials, they’ve become more and more exposed over the last few years. How do you assess them when you’re doing the form?

Nick Aubrey: I think trials are a good indication if the trainer thinks that this horse … If he wants to win first up. Let’s face it, even though there’s a lot of stewards and what have you looking at the performance of horses, I’ve often heard a trainer say it in fact when the horses I have owned – albeit too few – they’ve said, “Oh yeah, Nick don’t waste your hard-earned on this one. I’m just really sending it around it’s a bit more than a track gallop.” If that same horse had had two or three trials, and it was well-placed, then the trainer would say, “Yep, I’ve prepared this to win first up, so yeah get your money on.” It’s important to look at trials in that context, I think.

Dave Duffield: How heavily do you use sectional times?

Nick Aubrey: I don’t really. I’m not a great believer in sectionals, other than showing that the horse has got the acceleration to win a race. I think a lot of it does depend on the race pace. I think Winx had a track record when it won the Cox Plate last week so it’s going to have outstanding sectionals but it was very much based on the style of race on the day.

Dave Duffield: When the tracks are wet do you stop betting? Do you reduce your bets or do you approach the actual form differently?

Nick Aubrey: The form these days is very comprehensive and it in fact shows you what the horse’s performance is like on wet tracks. Although some of the horses they do tend to … A lot of them reckon it depends upon the breeding and the hoof size and what have you, how well they can trail through the mud. Then again, wet tracks … Is it holding? Is it slippery? Is it just dead? Various track conditions, it’s hard to know even though the penetrometer reading might show a high figure that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to be …

That it’s the same as another track of the same reading. It is a bit of conjecture, but I never stop betting because of the wet tracks. In fact I tend to think that on those tracks maybe the prices will be a bit better. If I want a certain price about a horse, I sometimes get it on a wet track where I might not get it on a good track. There’s no doubt that there is more volatility in the results on wet tracks so you’ve just got to factor that into your price.

Dave Duffield: Whether it’s wet tracks or firm tracks do you ever take any notice of breeding?

Nick Aubrey: Well … Actually as I mentioned breeding and wet tracks, there is a lot of historical basis for saying that breeding of a horse does effect their ability to handle wet tracks. Also if there’s little disclosed form, especially for some of those early 2 year old and 3 year old races, rather than looking at the horses form look at their breeding.

Dave Duffield: What about big versus small markets? Larger markets tend to be efficient, versus smaller, easy to beat markets but where the actual liquidity or getting a bet on might be a problem? Do you have a preference?

Nick Aubrey: No I don’t, because it’s price. I don’t care if it’s a big or small market, it’s whether or not I’ve got the right price for the horse.

Dave Duffield: Okay. We’ll move onto the betting and the staking side of things. Do you ever bet level stakes? Or is it always more proportionately?

Nick Aubrey: Yes, I like to bet in proportion to the risk. Level stakes, well depending upon how much money you’ve got left in your kit I suppose. You might have to be level. Typically, I’ll bet in proportion to the risk and so therefore proportional betting. I don’t know if you mean by proportional also progressive?

Dave Duffield: No. Nick Aubrey: You’re not talking about progressive? No. To me that’s a big no no, of increasing your bets based on the past performers because as everybody knows, probability has no memory.

Dave Duffield: Yes, I’ve heard you say that before. I never have, never will recommend the progressive side. Some people I speak to have different staking levels depending on their confidence in the race. Do you do that? Or is it what you mentioned before, just in accordance with risk?

Nick Aubrey: Well, if I do have a high level of confidence it’s because probably the price is better than I considered then yeah … I learned from ages ago when I used to be working with Mark Read that he always bet according to his prices, and therefore he had a lot more on a horse when his price was a bit over compared to what the market was. That’s what the Kelly Criterion is all about; trying to stake your bets in proportion to what you see as their overlay. Obviously, if you’re a losing punter then what Kelly Criterion is saying is don’t bet.

Dave Duffield: A lot of people wouldn’t listen to that advice though!

Nick Aubrey: That’s right.

Dave Duffield: Market intelligence? Whether this is your win betting or the software that you developed with the TAB, when do you use Market Intelligence in your staking?

Nick Aubrey: I don’t really. It’s based on what my price is. If you listen to the market, then you’ll probably end up like the market which as a zero sum game typically the average punter loses. It’s in some ways sad that you hear on the radio, “Oh, this is really short and it’s the corporate bookie’s market mover,” but the trouble is the people who get on then, get on at the wrong price not the right price. If you follow the market and say right I’ll back that horse, you’ll probably back more winners than you might back, but you won’t just by following that strategy, you’re not going to make a profit in the long term, sadly.

Dave Duffield: Is your preference to bet early in the day or even early in the week? Or is it late in betting?

Nick Aubrey: Yes, well … Based on again your prices, if the right price is early in the day you bet early in the day. If that price doesn’t appear until late in the day, then you’ll only bet once you get your price. There’s no doubt that the pro-punters they make their money out of the early market because they’ve done the form better than the bookmakers or whoever is offering the odds. Because they’re the market makers, they’ll take an early price, people who took 6/1 about Winx …

They did their form and said, “Right well we see 6/1 about Winx is a great odds.” Later in the day, it came into what it was probably around a $4.50 shot in that race, and that’s where the early betting bares dividends. There’s another pro-punter I know that what he does is if the early market is bad he will actually place his money on the tote because he expects those horses will end up going out in the betting and not coming in, because they’re over inflated at the start. He sort of modifies his strategy based on his perception of the market, and what the market is offering at a particular point in time.

Dave Duffield: Do you ever bet long range futures, pre-post bets?

Nick Aubrey: Again, if the price is there, yes-

Dave Duffield: Seems to be a recurring theme here.

Nick Aubrey: Price? Yes. It’s all about the odds.

Dave Duffield: Fair enough. When will you … I’m anticipating the answer here … When would you bet each way or place only?

Nick Aubrey: Based on the price, although the interesting thing though and a lot of people don’t realise it, that a bet for a place is completely different bet than for the win. A lot of people bet place as sort of insurance in case their horse does badly. For instance, not many people realize that all things being equal, a 7/1 chance has got the same chance as a 9/4, $2.25 shot of running 3rd in a race. Go figure on that. Depending upon the horse you want to back, and its style of running … I mean if you think it’s going to run a place but you don’t think it’s got much chance of winning then you go and find out what you see as the true place price and then back it if you can get that price.

Dave Duffield: Just to explain on that then, you’re saying from the research you’ve done (and this is for 3rd, not 1st or 2nd) but the chances of a horse running 3rd are no different between a 9/4 chance and 7/1?

Nick Aubrey: On the average, yeah. It’s empirical evidence. If people who want to sit down and get thousands of races and look at them … And it’s probably based on a bookmaker’s market not a normalised market, but nevertheless. That’s the strike rate of those horses and there’s a lot of factors that will come into play there, because typically … If you go to the other end, a 100/1 shot versus an odds-on shot to run a place, you’ll often find an odds-on shot won’t run a place if it loses.

If it doesn’t win, it may not even run a place. I guess that depends upon maybe the jockey, the trainer, the owner’s will say, “Come on Nick, you’ve got to make sure you win on this,” so the jockey is trying to win the race. He’s not trying to run 2nd or 3rd. Whereas the jockey to 100/1 shot says, “Gee the owners are going to be so happy if I just run into the first 6 and get a bit of prize money today.” There’s a bit of psychology there that isn’t reflected in just like if you’re drawing balls from a barrel where the odds are you know of coming out of fixed, it’s not the same for horse racing, there’s a lot more emotion and a lot more other factors that come into play in price setting and price assessment for the various forms of bets.

Dave Duffield: I think quite a few people will be doing some research on that around about now. Thanks for the prompts. With exotics I’ve been asking people whether they bet proportionately, as in the more fancied runners have more combinations and obviously if you talking trifectas more of the spots for 1st as opposed to outside of 2nd and 3rd and the like. A few other people want to box them. You’re different because of the software you’ve developed so it’s probably a chance to quickly explain that?

Nick Aubrey: Yeah, in most exotics … And the more exotic the bet type the greater the disharmony in the market if you like. I’m talking more just in general terms the rule of thumb is low odds are over bet and for high odds there’s often not a big enough pool to compensate for the risk. If you’re betting in the middle range, it’s typically the sweet range, it’s the range where you’ve got less of a disadvantage. The trouble is that exotics, the margin that the book or the tote takes out, 25% on the big 6 and the first 4’s versus only 14% on wins. You’ve got to make up that margin somehow.

If you’re just betting blind, boxing horses in a trifecta, sadly that’s probably the worst bet type that you can have. Unless of course the horses that you take are all about the same price which means that there is no inherent disadvantage in doing what you’re doing. Probably the worst bet type is people throwing in the short price favorite to run in a trifecta thinking, “Oh well, it’s got to run somewhere,” and again, because of that favorites typically are over bet in exotics, especially when they don’t win. If you’re taking the favorites for 2nd and 3rd, or just combining them because they’re over bet, some of the dividends they can be pretty woeful compared to the actual probability of that combination’s landing.

Dave Duffield: For your actual betting bank, do you have a static approach where you’re not adjusting it whether you’re on a long-term winning or losing run? Or is it dynamic where you’re updating it more regularly?

Nick Aubrey: My betting style is dynamic where it’s the reverse of proportional staking; you work out your bets based on a percentage of your starting bank and your starting bank is the amount that you’re prepared to lose in total. So only bet according to your means. There is then a way of determining your bet size based on your past betting profile, of what sort of bets do you have? Do you have short price? Do you have more in the $4-$10 range or are they outsiders? From that you can actually determine what percentage of your bank and what percentage of the bet, it should be on each runner, so that all things being equal, your draw down for your bank will be no more than say 50%.

All things happening according to how your bank will never be more than half what it was ever staked at. If you bank goes from $10,000 to $20,000 then the drop down from 20 back to 10 is probably the worst it will get. Therefore, you can continually increase your bets up to whatever level you feel comfortable with, and if you’re a winning punter then it’s automatic adjustment of bet size. You’ll have exponential winnings gradually over time versus if you stick to a static bank where you’re always betting a certain percentage, then you will just be winning that same percentage long term, or winning the same percentage. I don’t know if I’ve sort of over-complicated it?

Dave Duffield: It sounds like if you’ve got the maths right, then you’ve got the insurance you’re not going to wipe out but at the same time you can take advantage of compounding.

Nick Aubrey: That’s right, exactly. That’s what punting is about. Trying to get the most you can out of your punting dollar.

Dave Duffield: All right, final two questions. The first one is do you care more about profit on turnover as a percentage, so I suppose your margin? Or is it just bottom line, just profit only?

Nick Aubrey: Well, the old adage is that you can’t eat POT. You can smoke it but you can’t eat it. You’ve probably heard that one before. Profit is the name of the game but to each his own. A smaller punter, they may be happy with small returns as long as they’re getting a good profit on turnover. In the long term, we’re all about profit, aren’t we?

Dave Duffield: Of course. Is winning percentage important?

Nick Aubrey: No, price. Price is the most important.

Dave Duffield: I think that’s the main thing people will pick up from the conversation, you’ve certainly got your point across there.

Nick Aubrey: Okay.

Dave Duffield: Excellent. That’s the list of questions we’ve been asking everyone. Really appreciate you coming on the show, Nick

Nick Aubrey: Great, thanks David. Thanks for having me on.

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