Should we bet on maiden or lower class races

By Todd Burmester Ever heard the lines “anything can win that!” or “you’re mad if you have a bet on those donkeys!” Often it is in relation to a poor quality race, and there seems to be a bit of a myth around that betting on poor quality races, such as midweek Maidens is a fools game. I have to say, I’m not quite convinced, and want to try and dispel the myth somewhat. Firstly, lets define what I mean by a poor quality race. I am simply referring to races at the lower end of the class scale. They are poor quality in the sense that, yes, the horses in them definitely run slower, but for mine, they are often not poor quality at all in terms of being a good betting proposition. Firstly, lets explore why many people feel you are mad to bet on these races. I think it comes down to one thing, and that is lack of familiarity. Most run of the mill punters simply haven’t heard of most of the runners that go around in these races, so it presents the fear of the unknown. Simply because you are not familiar with the runners though, does that mean you cannot apply a logical selection method and still have a good chance of coming up with a winner? Let me suggest another angle, in regards to the higher class races. This is the emotional involvement. If you go right to the top of the scale, and are betting on a Cox Plate for example, there’s a good chance a lot of people will have some form of emotional attachment to one or more of the runners. You’ve either seen and appreciated the horses previous wins, or you’ve actually made a dollar or two out of the horse previously winning. This form of emotional attachment is one of the most damaging things that can happen for a punter, it can cloud your logic as to whether the horse can win the race it is in today. If its a horse you have a soft spot for, you can look for reasons why it can win today, and miss the obvious reasons that it is actually up against it! Now lets consider a Maiden race at Hamilton – I use this example as there are some that are on later today (as I write this piece). Race 4, I’ve really not heard of many of the runners, but there’s some logic I can come up with as to what may be the best chances in the race. Runners that have previously run a place, runners that have performed over the distance, runners that have a ‘decent’ jockey on board, and runners that the market actually suggests have a chance. I’m not saying that’s the get rich quick selection method. In fact, that will probably see you backing a lot of favourites and losing in the long run. I’m simply highlighting, if you are familiar with horse racing as a sport, you can still form an objective opinion on these races, and in fact, I will go out on a limb and suggest to you that these races contain more runners that simply can’t win, barring a miracle, than do the higher class races. Let’s face it, generally, all horses in Group 1 events have their share of ability. Plenty of runners in the lower class races couldn’t run out of sight on a dark night! Sometimes they bob up and win, but hey, that’s the margin for error that occurs in every discipline in life, I’m not convinced it happens at any higher or lower frequency in low class races than it does in high class races. Essentially, what you’ve read about so far, is merely my opinion, based on my experiences betting across all kinds of races. How can any of this be quantified to give you some level of confidence you ask? I think the firmest source of evidence comes from the market itself. I took a sample of all races from August 2007 to December 2013, and considered all Group and Listed events in one category and all Maiden events in another category, and then took a look at the average win dividend. For the higher class races, the average win dividend was $9.88, for the Maiden races, the average win dividend was almost one full point shorter at $8.89, that’s a significant difference, with the lower class races having approximately a 10% difference. What does this actually mean? It means that the winners of the Maiden races were more readily found by punters, thus, on average they paid significantly less (the dividends mentioned are TAB dividends thus all markets are at a consistent percentage). This could present the obvious challenge of finding enough value to make a profit, but I think that is another topic for another day. The point I set out to prove here, was that finding winners in at the lower end of the class scale is not as hard is it is often made out to be, and the mythical “anything” doesn’t necessarily win these races at the frequency that one who hasn’t concentrated on these events may expect. Some will disagree, but I think based on the market facts I’ve supported my opinions with, its enough for me to say, “Your Honour, I rest my case”.