What is your checklist?

Although I am not a huge reader of books I do like to venture outside the horse racing and betting bubble to learn more about what’s happening in the real world. But even when I am reading these off-topic books my mind tends to wander back to the racing game and that’s exactly what has happened this week while reading ‘The Checklist Manifesto’. The book is a very interesting collection of stories demonstrating how exceptionally complex and important problems can be solved with something as simple as a checklist. There are great examples of literally thousands of lives being saved by the implementation of checklists to be followed in hospitals, by airline pilots, on construction sites and elsewhere. So what does this have to do with finding your next winner? One thing that the very successful punters all have in common is a methodical approach. They always go through the same process in assessing each race because they believe in it wholeheartedly. In effect it’s a checklist that needs to be ticked off before they will go ahead and bet. These punters operate in a variety of different ways and look at racing from very different angles. Some are computer boffins with a stats focus, others have a heavy emphasis on sectional times and then there are the video replay and horse behaviour types. But a consistent approach to assessing each race is essential. Rick Williams, Senior Form Analyst at Champion Picks, has a set process he goes through each and every raceday: (1) Compile a speed map to see which horses are likely to be advantaged by the pace of the race considering today’s going and rail position. (2) Identify races containing horses previously blackbooked for very high Incremental Velocity Ratings and assess those first. (3) Look at the other races (those without blackbook runners) to see if there are any horses well suited today. (4) Assess the suitability of today’s race conditions such as track, distance, going and of course the depth of the race. The basis of this analysis is historic horse and race ratings as well as sectional times and video comments. While we will only back horses that look to be advantaged by the speed map, things don’t always work out that way so ideally the horse has enough of a class or form advantage to handle a less than perfect run. (5) Re-watch video replays of recent runs for at least the main chances of each possible betting race. (6) Compile rated prices (to a 100% market) derived from a combination of an objective base rating plus some manual assessments based on the work done above. (7) Compare the available bookmaker’s odds to our assessments because there’s no point backing winners unless you are getting a value price, otherwise you are treading water or worse. Pay close attention to where the market differs to our own rated prices and consider the reasons why that could be the case. (8) Re-do the previous steps to try and find holes in our earlier analysis. It’s relatively easy to make a case for the winning chances of any horse, but it’s vital to play the devil’s advocate role and look for reasons why a horse can’t win or isn’t suited. Ask yourself at what price would I be happy to lay this horse? It’s important not to fall in love with a horse. In fact you’ll need plenty of patience because sometimes you have been waiting weeks for a horse to go around again but it may not be suited in its next race. That is the process that Rick and our team go through before every race and by doing that the same way each time it is highly unlikely that anything slips through the cracks. It means we can bet with a lot of confidence which is an under-rated aspect of punting. Other professionals may operate quite differently in terms of what they consider to be the most important aspects of form, but invariably they are very methodical in the way they go about assessing every race they are considering betting into. Form analysis is a very complex challenge and a thorough checklist can be a life-saver for punters.