How The Trial Spy Maintains His Edge

We catch up with one of Australia's most successful punters

trial spy barrier trials

With over $10,000 profit since the start of winter and $66,000+ profit overall in 5 years, the Trial Spy may well be the most successful punter in Australia.

Now in the midst of what will hopefully be another strong Spring campaign, we caught up with Dean the Trial Spy to get some insight into his processes.

Trial Spy is into its sixth year and going as strong as ever. What do you do to keep it ahead of the market?

You need to constantly evolve as a punter. Most punters, even those who have been successful in the past, fail to adapt and eventually lose their edge, then lose their confidence, then lose their passion and enthusiasm, and eventually that usually leads to losing their betting bank. If you stay static you will be overtaken. Markets are continually getting tighter and smarter. That’s why I constantly stop and refresh, and at various times pause my tipping services in order to focus on analysing where edges have shifted, or where new opportunities have presented themselves.

When I first started Trial Spy six years ago, the bookies had no clue about trial form – they ignored it entirely, and so did most punters or database/ratings ‘gurus’ – so it was a goldmine. Once the service became popular and word spread, there was a period where trial form was over-regarded. Suddenly the top triallers were very short in early markets and often were over-bet. There was then a period where triallers were kept tight in early markets, but drifted substantially as the large punters using database ratings focused on race form and pushed the prices out. There was a period where I believe that because the bookies were keeping trial form short, those backing non trial horses in early markets were smashing the bookies.

Now we seem to have hit a sweet spot where the bookies have been forced to wind out the trial horses to better prices from 9am, so we can get excellent prices when Minimum Bet Laws kick in, but as a bonus it seems the big winners are drifting to bigger prices late in betting anyway.

For example over just the past 3 months we’ve had winners such as Cloud Cover at $101, Gold Sun at $47, Rock The House at $41, Duchy’s Revenge at $26, From Fifth at $23, Trinidad at $19 and Sweet Rockette at $19. However, on Betfair some of these have drifted to extraordinary prices. Up to $450 for Cloud Cover, up to $80 for Gold Sun, up to $70 for Duchy’s Revenge and up to $32 for Sweet Rockette.

More generally, as a successful punter can you give us an idea how you stay profitable? I imagine you find an edge, but after some time that edge on the market disappears. What then?

As mentioned above, the key is constantly refining my approach. I critically assess my own bets regularly to determine both where I am making most of my profits, but also where I am leaking profits. I constantly tighten and refine how I’m going using this methodology. At various times I then perform a detailed overhaul where I assess everything. I assess my selections for over 100 variables to determine criteria for not proceeding with a selection as a bet. Sort of like a sieve, I start with a set of selections, and then constantly filter out selections that don’t meet criteria, ensuring only the biggest and highest value selections become actual bets.

Can you give us an idea of how the Trial Spy form and selection process works? Is it just watching trials and blackbooking runners? I imagine there’s more to it.

There’s a substantial amount of work involved, and I can’t give away all secrets, but yes the first step is watching trials and jumpouts. It’s a mixture of art and science. It’s vital to obtain access to verified times, which I do from a variety of sources. The times in the papers, form guides and racing websites are simply incorrect and do not provide a reliable guide. If a horse hasn’t run good time in a trial, then you are guessing to a fair degree on its capability.

You are then watching for a multitude of factors:

  • Fluidity in the horse’s action
  • Gear worn (blinkers etc.)
  • Rider (to try and ascertain weight)
  • Track bias on the day
  • Track conditions
    the time compared to other trials on the day
  • Interference
  • Quality of the trial opposition – 
    whether the horse was ridden out or if the rider have it under tight restraint
  • Tractability (does it reef and pull or race un-generously)
  • Early speed
  • Does it miss the start when the barriers open?

All of these I take as notes. After blackbooking potential runners, the final step is once they are entered for a race – assessing the form, race suitability, and most importantly, whether it is a value investment.

How’s the situation with trials these days? We’ve seen some changes recently in Victoria with more jump outs to be broadcast. Are things a lot better than they used to be?

Trials in NSW, QLD, SA & WA are well covered. Apart from official times being wrong, everything else is much improved from when I first started.

Victoria is frustrating. They have a significant amount of jumpouts that frankly, are just trials with another name. Whilst they have improved by stating the name of horses in each jumpout and the colours, at the end of the day the results are not shown, and the information is not in form guides. Until they simply change these jumpouts to trials they are going to be behind the other states.

My opinion on jumpouts at the moment is that they are accessible and easy enough to decipher and access now if you put the work in, so the bookies and punters who are doing it and thinking they are super sleuths are really not getting any value, as everyone is doing it and they are over-bet. I’m finding a lot more value and success out of trials than jumpouts at present. But of course, like everything, things can change.

Spring is underway now. How has Trial Spy fared over the Spring Carnival in the past? With so much racing over this period, is there any particular types of races you fare better in? (Class, distance etc)

Trial Spy has been more successful during the Spring Carnival than any other period each year over the course of its six year history. There’s two main reasons for this.

Firstly, the higher quality horses that are running are more reliable. Secondly, the betting pools are much larger and hence we get much better prices.

Our greatest success is in maidens, 2yo and 3yo races, however in Spring Carnival we have great success also with Futures Bets, and generally following and backing the top horses through their campaigns in winning multiple big races through the carnival.

To give you an idea, I believe my analysis from previous years showed about 2/3 of profits came during the last 5 months of the year (Aug-Dec), which is significant: 66% of profits coming in that 40% of the year.

It’s certainly racing’s showpiece period. How do you think racing in Australia is going?

People love to whinge, but there are plenty of positives. Prize money is at an all time high and the breeding industry is strong. Compare it to the UK where they race for ribbons, and Australian racing is a lot more exciting.

Innovations such as The Everest are win/win for all participants in the industry and should be applauded. Cheats are being caught whether they be trainers or jockeys, and all of that should theoretically help confidence in the industry, although the negative press doesn’t portray the reality.

In terms of gripes, the prevalence of track bias remains an issue in my opinion. Anecdotal evidence suggests those in charge of some of the most important metro tracks in Australia are frankly, not qualified or suitable for the job. They are also being yanked in too many directions by participants each with their own ulterior motives.

What people want are racetracks where every horse in the race at least has a chance of winning. If a track has a substantial leaders bias, or rails bias, it is not only dangerous for riders who have to jockey for one of the few spots in running where they can win, but it substantially reduces the spectacle and enjoyment of all participants, and impacts turnover.

As if finding the winner isn’t hard enough without establishing eventually that half the field in a given race on a certain day simply had no mathematical chance of winning, a fact that unfortunately is only ever truly proven once the meeting has been conducted and completed.

The number one goal/objective of a track manager should be to produce a fair surface where every horse can win. Eliminate the lanes as much as possible through artificial watering. The use of movable rails also needs to be assessed. Why not keep the rail where it is, and the riders and horses will move from race day to race day, spreading the wear and tear on the track evenly and resulting in the best jockeys finding the best lanes anyway?

But generally the best jockeys with the best horses find the best spots, so the winner is the best horse, which doesn’t occur if there’s a mad leaders or rails bias. The excitement of assessing 100+ variables that determine a winner is what I enjoy about the game, but I enjoy doing that before a meeting. Avoidable track bias variance is simply a factor I don’t believe benefits anyone in the game.

And what about the punt? We’ve seen some changes in the industry recently with business mergers and the POC tax being introduced. How are things for the punter?

The mergers of bookies hasn’t been a big deal I don’t believe, there are still plenty of corporate bookmaker options available. The Minimum Bet Laws have been good for punters such as myself who were banned with every bookie in Australia, however the flipside is that the market percentages are so high at 9am, often still at 125-130%, that it’s tougher to identify outstanding value early in the morning than it used to be. Betting on Betfair has never been as good as it is now, the prices available on Betfair far surpass the alternatives.

Minimum Bet Laws need a revamp in that they should apply from the moment a bookie puts up their price, not from 9am.

Deductions need a standardised approach as bookmakers appear to be a law unto themselves and when betting early, the deductions are frightening.

Top Fluc needs a review as it is based on six bookies having the top price, which is nonsense and has resulted in Top Fluc averaging a lot lower than it used to. If two or more bookies have a horse at a price in betting for longer than a minute, that should be the Top Fluc. This would help level the playing field between bookies and punters. Hopefully Sir Richard Irvine the great or Peter V’Landys are reading as they seem the only people willing and capable of enacting actual change to benefit punters!

Finally, got any long-term fancies for the big spring races you can give us?

Have a listen to the Champion Bets Webinar and I’ll give my thoughts on a couple of horses to follow in the spring features coming up.

The Trial Spy membership is now open with just 50 spots available.

If consistent profits over the long term, plenty of action and big-priced winners are appealing to you, then look no further than the Trial Spy.