I have always been a systems man. Many don’t like the cold emotionless element to them and even more will tell you that they all lose over time. To be honest most will, so any betting system needs to be under constant review and adapted or ceased when you feel the moment is right. Nevertheless I am happy to pursue a betting system-based portfolio if I have sufficient confidence that the long-term data is robust.
What I most like about systems, as you may have guessed from my previous utterings in this column, is the statistical basis for making selections. Although I gain as much pleasure as the next person from backing or laying successfully based on my own analysis of a sporting contest I find that too often the natural desire to want to believe myself to be better than most at such analysis has led me to apply unjustified weight to specific factors in order to convince myself that my instincts are correct. This, I have learned, can only lead to one outcome in the long-term and it isn’t pretty. No – give me ten years’ worth of statistical data ahead of a copy of The Racing Post form guide and my own arrogance every time.
I do, however, try to devise my own betting systems rather than purchase them from others. I have seen freebies that have been issued as an enticement to buy the full monty but they often seem based on results which are too limited in numbers to be reliable. OK, so a particular trainer may have a 67% strike rate over the last three seasons in novice hurdles at Wincanton but if the figures are four winners from six runners then I am sorry but I am not going to be lumping on the next qualifier based upon that sample size.
In order to create my systems I use a couple of sites which allow me to build them from scratch using any number of criteria. Many readers will be aware of them already, but if you aren’t and statistically-based systems are your bag then I would recommend taking a look.
The first is Flatstats.co.uk. The pros of this site are the separate backing and laying system builders, the systems put up by other users that you can click on, investigate and tweak to your heart’s content and perhaps best of all, the fact that you can do this for free. The cons are that it only covers UK Flat and All-Weather racing and that in the free area you cannot save systems and are restricted from many site features. Should you wish to have full access then you can buy a three-day pass for a fiver, one month’s membership for £25 or three months for £65. I would recommend having a look at the free elements and seeing if it is for you before opening your wallet.
The other site I use is Horseracebase.com and to be honest I hardly know where to begin with this one. It contains almost 13 years’ worth of results covering all codes of UK and Irish racing and the level of data and tools available to the subscriber is almost unbelievable. You can sign up for a three-day free trial and if you have never checked this site out I urge you to do just that. But please make sure you have a LOT of free time over the three days in question as there is so much to explore.
I have a subscription with HRB at a fee of €12.50 per month (the site is run from Ireland). To me it is worth the 30p or so per day simply for the option of storing details of all my systems (including those I initially discovered at Flatstats which is rather cheeky but all is fair in love and betting). I can log in every morning and have my list of qualifiers on screen to refer to throughout the day. This saves me hours’ worth of checking my criteria against the day’s racing cards which is a godsend frankly. There is so much more to HRB than that but as I am focusing on betting systems I shall allow you to discover the rest for yourself. To be honest I have yet to examine most areas in detail anyway as I am such an obsessive character I could easily lose six months of my life just playing around with new ideas.
So, you have signed up for a trial, you have reached the system builder page, now what? How do you come up with a potentially profitable betting system? Well my advice is simply this: start from a basic position that preferably goes against accepted wisdom and drill down from there. Many will lead to nothing but every now and again you will strike a rich seam.
As an example, I grew up believing that horses at the top of the weights were the best bet in handicaps as they were the classiest animals. It was just one of those ‘hand-me-downs’ that you hear from men in betting shops. Well if that’s what many punters think then perhaps those horses are over bet and the value lies elsewhere. A quick check of the HRB system builder tells me that backing favourites in UK handicap chases who carry clear top weight would have given you a 31.51% winning ratio for a loss at SP of 174.58 points (ROI -10.07%). Meanwhile backing favourites who carried clear BOTTOM weight would have given you a 36.21% strike rate for an SP PROFIT of 90.1 points (ROI 11.61%).
Now how is that for a simple to understand free betting system? Back all outright favourites carrying clear bottom weight in UK handicap chases and you would show a profit over a 13-year period. Bear in mind also that I only discovered that information while typing the previous paragraph as I had no idea what would turn up when I entered the criteria. Sadly, before you get ready to steam into the next qualifier, I ought to mention that it showed a profit every year from 2003 to 2013, but lost 10 points in 2014 and is 31 points down so far this year. Ah well – maybe this is one to transfer to the ‘cease when the moment is right’ file referred to back in paragraph one. See – even when I make the column up as I go along it all links!
The point with the HRB database though is that such ideas are just the beginning. What happens if joint and co-favourites are included? What if the favourite has stepped up in class or didn’t run in a handicap chase last time? Do field sizes and going have an impact? Such questions are where the fun starts for me and partially why I don’t get enough sleep. Happy hunting!
Paul Dixon is a lifelong sports fan and author of the book Fun and Games in Fife and Gretna– a humorous look at an Englishman’s journey into Scottish football. He has been making regular profits from betting since 2012.