Information is king in the world of horse racing betting and the more information you have on which to come to a decision, the more chance you have in the long run of showing a profit on your investments.
There are so many different factors to take into consideration that, when combined, produce a picture of the realistic chance of each horse of winning.
One of the most significant is the amount of money or lack of money in the betting markets for the horse, either on the day of the race, or in the period leading up to a race. This betting is known as betting ‘ante-post’.
The betting markets have always reflected both the myth and reality of reports surrounding a horse’s well-being; its latest gallop, the form of its stablemates, and many other factors. For major championship and Group 1 races the betting markets can open as much as a year in advance.
These ‘ante-post’ markets reflect the long-term aspirations of horses, trainers, and owners, as well as the opinion of the betting public who are looking to back a horse at much bigger odds in advance of the big race then they might well be on the day of the contest itself.
A sudden flurry of money in October for a horse who might be a possible runner in the Derby the following June, is often interpreted as an indication that the horse has been showing good form in training, or it can indeed reflect the actual performance of the horse in a race, a run that observers believe indicates the horse could go on to be competing at the top table the following year.
Ante-post odds are often far bigger than the odds on the day of the race, but there is a serious reason for this. An ante-post list might contain as many as 100 horses, of whom only 10 or 15 might actually run. All the bets on horses who fail to reach the starting line-up – either because they simply aren’t good enough, are injured, or have an alternative target – are losers. The money goes straight into the satchel of the betting firms.
Just as a big market move in favor of a particular horse can indicate it has shown improvement and is expected to run well, the opposite is also true. If a horse’s odds start getting bigger and bigger for no apparent reason, the chances are that there are reports or rumors indicating that something is not right; the horse may be injured, performed a poor training gallop, or moved to race aboard, for example.
Keeping an eye on the ante-post markets is very important for serious punters looking to take advantage of big odds about horses which may well start favorite on the day of the featured race. There are a number of websites that show the comparative odds of different betting companies on ante-post races, a good tool for people looking to assess the market as a whole. Sometimes odds compilers at a particular betting company ‘take an opinion’ on whether a horse is as good as others think, and offer a more or less than is the general market level.
For example, on Betway.com, the ante-post section is the right most tab on the main horse betting screen. Simply scroll down to the ante-post area and you will see a list of as many as 30 different big races, featuring odds for major Flat and Jumps events as far as a year ahead.
Understanding the Signals
With the advent of betting on the internet both punters and betting companies have become a great deal more sophisticated in recent years and market moves can often start earlier and be flagged up even the night before the race itself.
Until the internet came along odds for the day’s races were generally released to the public at 10 am on the day of the race but now, following the advent of exchange betting, markets for regular every-day races are priced up the night before and there can often be signs of which horses are fancied and unfancied from this source.
Early morning prices offered by firms like Betway tend to see the betting momentum grow for the day’s races, and the heaviest betting action invariably takes place once the on-course market for the race opens, usually about 15 minutes before the advertised off time. It’s important though to be able to read the market signals in the minutes before the ‘off’ for a particular race and the following guidelines should be borne in mind.
1. Strength of the market – The odds indicated in betting offices and online are those displayed at the racecourse and relayed to the betting industry by independent representatives of the Press Association whose job it is to convey the best odds generally available “to good money” in the on-course betting ring. Sometimes however, especially at smaller courses and particularly on the British all-weather tracks such at Southwell, Lingfield, Wolverhampton, and Kempton, there are just a handful of racegoers in attendance so odds can fluctuate dramatically if even a modest ( £100) bet is placed with on-course bookies.
This gives the impression of a major gamble when the truth is that nothing of the sort is taking place. It is therefore very important to understand the strength of the market at each track before taking market moves as a genuine indicator of significant money for a horse.
2. Moves in strong markets – Particularly at the big race meetings and on Saturdays when there are usually thousands of people attending the races, odds fluctuations and market signals are far more reliable. If the odds of a horse at a Sandown Saturday meeting or at York begin to tumble, you can be all but certain that it is genuinely as result of a major flood of support for that particular contender.
It’s the same at Royal Ascot, the Cheltenham Festival, the Galway Festival, or Glorious Goodwood, for example, when a very strong on-course market requires many thousands of pounds or euros to be wagered on a particularly horse in order to significantly change the odds being offered by the market as a whole.
3. Gambling Stables – As you become more familiar with the strategies adopted by different trainers you will begin to notice which stables are ‘gambling’ stables. Certain trainers, particularly those a little lower down the scale, are known for trying to supplement their earnings by landing a gamble with their horses.
Trainers who fit into this category include Stuart Williams, George Baker, Mick Easterby, Gary Moore, Karl Burke, Alan Bailey, Richard Guest, Michael Wigham and John Butler, so if you notice a significant market move for a horse from one of these stables it might well be worth following.
*Market Signals can be complemented with race stats to find true Value Bets, bets that not have a good chance of winning but with a higher payoff than normal.