Finding future winners from barrier trials

Last night we held an online seminar focusing on how to find above average horses purely from barrier trials. Our special guest focuses particularly on backing maidens off strong trial form and has had plenty of success.

The video replay (90 minutes) is available below and Dean explains:

      •  A simple way to determine the quality and credibility of a trial performance without even watching the trial
      •  Where to obtain all the information you need to make informed assessments of trial performances
      •  How to rate, review and analyse trials to find future winners
      •  Why his method is not being focused on by other punters and how that creates a significant edge over the marketplace
      •  The best way to stake your investments, including notoriously difficult to assess maiden races

If you prefer the written word here are some good pointers:

There are two schools of thought where I think the edge is created with trial form.

Firstly, you speak to some people and they almost completely discount trial form. You know, either the horses aren’t trying, or a horse can win a trial but it’s hard ridden and everything behind it is being held up by the rider under double wraps and so people completely ignore it. And the form guides give you no comment on the trial performance. You can get all the free form for races, often with video comments.

But for the trials it usually just tells you the position the horse ran. Might provide you with the time, and even the winner of the trial, but unless you’ve watched the trial, and compared the time to the par time for the track on the day, the information is usually meaningless. As a result of that databases don’t incorporate trial form whatsoever in their rating. So unless someone is watching all the trials and adjusting their databases and ratings for those performances, then the standard ratings being relied upon by the market are missing what I really believe is a key element.

Compare that to Hong Kong where trackwork and trials are an enormously vital element in how they do their form so it is well and truly factored into the market.

What’s interesting is the opposite occurs in Australia. Race form and speed maps are given 99% of the attention, and trials are largely ignored, or if they are factored in, they’re factored in incorrectly. Many professionals simply don’t have enough time to view all trials. Or even if they do I’m also finding that many of the professionals aren’t analysing the trials accurately, or are getting their assistants to do it, and the media aren’t analysing them correctly either, and this that creates the edge.

I think a classic example was Messene at Moonee Valley. This horse started favourite, backed into $2.50, mainly on the back of its most recent trial performance. Now in this trial the horse cruised around under little pressure, kicked away on the turn and won the trial by about 3 lengths. All the newspaper tipsters and media were saying the horse has come back great with a dominant trial win, the horse gets supported from all angles and starts a raging favourite.

But I was absolutely astounded they were backing it. The horse won its trial well but the time for 900m was 55.3 seconds. That was 2 seconds slower than the quickest trial of the day (which was won by a maiden galloper), and also was the slowest time of twelve 900m trials on the day. Now 1 second is the equivalent of around 6 lengths, so this horse was 12 lengths slower than a maiden in the trial, and around 4-12 lengths slower than every other trial. If the horse had happened to run in any other trial, it most likely would have either been beaten fairly comprehensively, or would have had to be ridden with more vigour to finish closer, neither of which would have resulted in the horse starting favourite and so short I’m sure.

It’s this factor that the average punter in your local TAB doesn’t know. But what’s great is it also appears to be a fact that firstly the media certainly don’t know, but even most professionals are obviously not analysing these trials to a sufficient degree, due to time constraints, or possibly even a lack of understanding on the importance of times and trial performances. They’re just not giving it sufficient credence and weight in their databases when formulating prices. And most importantly, the bookies are in the same boat, uninformed, and hence where the enormous edge over the market is created.

Another interesting note is that people will rely on a trial run for a horse’s first start, but then seemingly discount it after that. There are lots of recent examples including Deter, That’s A Good Idea and He’s Paying.

Key Points

    •  Times & Margins for trials are key. You can use the measure of 1 second = 6 lengths
    •  How hard was the horse pushed in the straight? Hard riding under whip? Hands and heels? No movement? Or hard held under double wraps?
    •  Treat trial form as importantly if not more importantly than race form for lightly raced maidens
    •  Different trainers trial their horses differently. Most of Gai’s lead in the trials and are ridden to the line, hence usually go as well as they can. Conversely John O’Shea and Joe Pride for example usually have their horses settled out the back, and slowly working home often hard held. Hence if they run good time without winning, they can often slide under the radar, but you know they’re going well
    •  Jockeys should also be reviewed. Who rides a horse in a trial can often give you a good pointer to their ability. For example Nash usually rides Gai’s best, whilst J Macdonald or J Cassidy ride O’Shea’s picks. You can often tell whether the stable rates a horse by the jockey they have guide the horse around the trial (so they can get a feel for the horse)


That’s A Good Idea – Wins 796m Warwick Farm Oct 26 trial in 46.6. Time equal quickest of 8 trials, better than Choice Words and Holy Moly, comparable with Queenian. Wins Canterbury maiden paying $37.80.

He’s Paying – runs 2nd beaten 4L behind Charge Account 1050m Randwick Jan 4 trial in 1.02.6. Adjusted time of 1.03.3 quickest of 9 trials, quicker than Raceway, Urban Groove and Laser Hawk. Wins Feb 17 Wyong Maiden paying $10

Brave Soul – runs 3rd beaten 1.6L in 824m Randwick Aug 13 trial in adjusted time of 48.35. Of 14 trials, her time was 2nd quickest trial. Her time was quicker than Rain Affair and Nechita. Won maiden at $1.80, but was then under rated and beaten 0.5L by Urban Groove in a Listed race, opening at 50/1 ($6 place)

Deter – runs 2nd beaten 0.2L behind Charge Account 1050m Randwick Dec 17 trial in 1.02.6. 2nd quickest of 5 trials. Time comparable with So Symbolic and quicker than Hoss Amor. Runs in Jan 23 maiden at Kembla, running 2nd beaten a head at 40/1 ($8 place)

Good Resources

Good luck
David Duffield