Previously we’ve looked at why I specialise in a certain region, the notes I like to keep on each horse, and what I look for when reviewing a race.
All of this allows me to build a profile on a horse and its ability, and get to know which circumstances suit it and which don’t.
These are what I like to call the ‘pieces of the puzzle’.
Once you’ve accumulated as many pieces as you can, there comes the time to put the jigsaw together and do the form for a race. No one punter has all the pieces: each have their own idea of what the puzzle looks like given the knowledge they have.
The first step I take when looking at a race is to watch any and all barrier trials the runners have had since their last run. Trials and the ability to read them are an integral part of being a successful punter in NSW. Knowing how stables like their horses to trial is important, but the key is the ability to be able to tell how much pressure a horse is under in a trial.
Unlike a race, where all runners are trying to their capabilities, a barrier trial is just a fitness and education tool for trainers – and thankfully, they’re able to be viewed by the public.
Recognising how much pressure a horse is under is achieved with practice and note taking. When starting out, you need to constantly review what you’re doing until you figure out a method that works. It really is the one part of racing that will always be more art than science. Times are less important than in races, but still a tool to be used when assessing the merits of how a horse trials.
I will then review this information along with all my prior notes and put them in the context of the field the horse is up against. This is just a rough first look to frame the strength of the race in my mind, and identify the class of horse that will be competitive and could win the race.
The next step is to do the speed map. As discussed earlier, this is of utmost importance to me. In a race, there is generally so little between horses in terms of ability that determining the winner often comes down to who has the most things to suit.
No map is exact in terms of precisely where each horse will settle: you’re just trying to get a feel for what is more likely to occur than not. Is the race likely to be slowly run, is there an abundance of speed, or is it somewhere in between? Which horses are likely to have to work to find their settling positions, and which will just land in a good spot without working? Are there any horses more likely to be trapped wide throughout? This will all leave you with an idea of which horses will be favoured, and which are likely to have things against them.
Once you have an idea of what’s going to happen in the race, along with the relative ability of each horse, you can then begin to price each horse. When starting out, most punters will just do the form, find the horse they like, and back it with no regard for price or value. If you intend to take your punting more seriously, then being able to price a horse is imperative.
This is because gambling is a long-term game, and to survive you must be taking a price that is over and above the actual chance you give a horse of winning.
Put simply, if you are correct in your pricing and mark 100 horses at 2.0, you are saying 50 of them will win. If you take 2.1 about all of them, you will collect $105 for every $100 you outlay in the long run. Conversely, if you take 1.90, you will only collect $95. This sounds simple in theory, but one of the hardest steps for punters is marking a horse $2 and thinking it’s the winner, and then being able to resist taking below that price when the time comes.
The most common way to price a race is to 100%. People can vary their markets from there, but 100% keeps it simple for now, as it gives the purest probability for each horse to win the race. To determine which percentage each price is you simply divide it into 1. For example, 2.0 is 1/2.0 = 0.5 = 50%, and 21 is 1/21 = 0.0476 = 4.76%.
How you go about assigning a price to each horse from here is up to you. I have found the easiest way is to start at saddlecloth 1 and work down. Given I now have an idea of what’s required to win the race, and what sort of run each horse will get, I then bring up the more detailed notes on the horse. After consideration, I ask myself what price I would take this horse winning this race, and mark that down. I repeat that process for each runner.
If I get to the end and my total percentages add up to less than 85%, or more than 115%, I go back and start afresh from the top. If the total is between 85% and 115%, I go back through each runner’s notes in detail once again, and make adjustments to their prices until they add up to 100.
Again, there are many different ways to go about this process, and this is just where I landed. Some will just adjust the prices by the appropriate factor to get it to 100 when close, while others will try to automate as much of the process as possible. I prefer the manual touch.
In my next piece, we’ll look at how to bet with those prices, the importance of bankroll management, and what it takes mentally to be a full-time gambler.
Part 1: Solving the puzzle
Part 2: Beating the big boys
Part 3: Pace gives the edge
Part 4: The importance of video analysis
Our NSW Ratings service gives you access to all of Snowy’s assessed prices, speed map comments and recommended bets, as well as a direct line to the man himself during meetings via our live page.