The total forgive run

By David Duffield of

Finding value in punting invariably requires a contrarian approach because if you just use the same methods as the mainstream you will get the same results.

One good angle to consider is overlooking a last-start performance that was too bad to be true. Horses are not machines, yet there are times where the market writes off a horse after just one bad run.

It’s an approach we apply on occasion as part of our form analysis at Champion Picks so here are a few things we look out for when assessing the form:

(1) Injury – this may sound obvious but there are times when a horse suffers an injury during the race (such as being galloped on, or suffering from the ‘thumps’) that means you should just forget they went around. A recent example of this was Malavio who we really liked second up against moderate opposition. He was beaten 8.5 lengths as favourite that day but it was later reported that he had cardiac arrhythmia. Next time out we literally ignored the failure and assessed him on his other performances, yet he was basically double the price he would otherwise have been. Malavio ran a close 2nd at each-way odds before running well again and then winning a Listed Race.

(2) Distance – many horses have a peak distance range that is actually narrower than most punters appreciate. For example 1000m-1100m horses won’t necessarily run a strong 1200m. Another example is that many 1400m horses can’t perform at the same level at a mile. So if you can confidently conclude that it was the distance that caused the failure you can find good value. Serene Star this campaign posted wins at 1000m and 1100m before being beaten almost 10 lengths over 1200m. Back to 1100m she has won both starts since and been around 8/1 each time.

(3) Track condition – many punters believe that a wet track is a wet track and that there isn’t much difference between a slow and a heavy. I’d argue strongly that there is a big difference between dead and slow, or slow and heavy. There is even a significant difference between a Heavy 8 and Heavy 10 yet many would just mark both of those down as a Heavy track run.

(4) Track suitability – a recent example is Shenzhou Steeds who won impressively at Flemington over a mile before going around an even money favourite at the tighter Caulfield track. He ran 6th of 9 that day and was beaten 8 lengths. His next start was in the much stronger Ipswich Cup stepped up to 2150m where he won well, before obliterating the Caloundra Cup field. Another example is the Geelong Synthetic track that is become a real ‘horses for courses’ venue.

(5) Track bias – this can be overplayed at times, but on other occasions can help find value. If you’re reviewing the tapes together with the sectional times and horses simply didn’t make up ground all day, be prepared to forgive certain horses if conditions didn’t suit.

(6) Race pace – what happens late in a race is often a direct result of what happened early so be forgiving of horses that have to get out of their comfort zone early. A hot early pace can lead to a horse running tailed off and beaten a long way, but next time out with a more reasonable tempo these horses can surprise the market.

(7) Ridden upside down – horses have a natural racing profile, for example that may be a naturally high cruising speed that allows them to race on the pace. Or they may have a big late kick so they are typically allowed to relax early before finishing off. Changing this natural style very rarely works, so if you see a horse ridden against its normal pattern don’t be too harsh in your post-race assessments.

Those are seven scenarios to consider, but now let’s look at some profitability stats to explore this further.

Our benchmark will be the record of horses that were favourite last start and ran 1 st, 2nd or 3rd (so they performed in line with expectations). At their next start these horses lose 7% on turnover.

Now let’s look at horses that were too bad to be true by only considering runners that were favourite last start but ran unplaced and were beaten at least 5 lengths. At their next start these horses lose 6% on turnover.

So horses that were really disappointing last start were (very marginally) better betting propositions than those that ran first three. The ‘total forgive run’ can be a good opportunity to find value when the betting market over-reacts to one bad performance.

Good punting

David Duffield

Champion Picks