Finding first uppers

Very few races are won by unfit horses, so fitness is one of the main form factors that punters look at when doing their assessments. But the key to successful punting is finding value, so the question punters have to ask is ‘how does the market treat first up horses’? Is the importance of having raced recently over-emphasised by the punting public? The following chart shows the profit on turnover for every first up horse (grouped by market rank) at TAB meetings in 2009-2011 inclusive. I have excluded first starters from the analysis as they are a unique group and I wanted to focus solely on horses resuming from a previous campaign.
First up horses by market rank
As well as noting that horses racing first up and starting favourite have a good record, you can also see from the poor record of longer priced horses that yet again the favourite/longshot bias is alive and well. You may be surprised to learn that for each of the first five positions in the market (ie. favourite, 2nd favourite and so on) horses that were first up were better betting propositions than non-first uppers. What that means is the betting public actually over-estimates the importance of having raced recently, so as a general pointer you shouldn’t be put off by backing a horse that’s resuming today. For the remainder of our analysis on first uppers let’s narrow it down to just those that are in the market and specifically we will look at the first 5 favourites. Overall this group of horses that were first up today and first five in the market lost 4.4% on turnover, which is a reasonable result. But let’s look at some specific situations to see if we can find an edge. Previous first up winner Does it matter whether the horse has won first up before? The answer to that is a definitive no. In fact the punting public actually gets too excited by horses with a first up win to their name. Horses resuming but without a first up win to their name lose just 2.2% on turnover, whereas the proven first upper is exactly four times worse at -8.8% POT. Track condition Thinking about rain-effected tracks, a fair hypothesis would be that the wetter the track, the fitter you need your horse to be.
Those numbers strongly indicate that you don’t want to be backing horses resuming from a spell on a wet track, but they perform particularly well on a good track.Days since last run
The next aspect of a resuming runner is to consider the number of days since their last run. Does it matter whether they are coming off a relatively short break, or whether they haven’t raced for 6 or 12 months? Well the following chart shows that the length of the spell had very little effect on their results from a punting perspective. There was nothing conclusive to say that you’d prefer to back horses off a short break compared to a long spell.
Next week I’ll look at race distance, horse age and sex and the most successful and least successful first up trainers.