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Horse racing form angles

On this page we intend to examine all sorts of horse racing form "angles" that are regarded as interesting by punters for all sorts of reasons. They may be beneficial to your own considerations and ideas.

Improvement suggestions may be made if it is obvious from the figures that they may be beneficial "add ons" but they are not intended as financial advice in any way at all and should not be interpreted in that way - they are merely observations on past horse racing events.

If there are horse racing form angles that interest you and you'd like them explored, drop us a line an we'll try to get around to looking at them on your behalf.

Ian asked: "You obviously have the most amazing database and I was hoping that there may have been an article on compiling your own databases."

As to databases, many years ago I came to the conclusion that as a “sole operator” I simply did not have the time to spend compiling my own data sets - oh I tried – had great aspirations as to how fabulous it would be to generate my own data but quickly realised what a terrible waste of time that would be for what extra return? If any extra!

And working by yourself, the time needed to keep data on all horses racing even in little old Tasmania where we have a maximum of two meetings a week is absolutely overwhelming. It is a full time job. So when do you get to punt?

I use BetSelector. No – I don’ have any financial interest in them at all. I just like them . But for the $55 a month I pay (<$2 a day), I’d have to have rocks on my head not to see this is a good deal.

And yes, there are the usual what if questions – what if they go out of business? – what if they put their charges up astronomically? – all that stuff. If all that stuff were to pass, so what? There will always be alternatives. And for $2 a day bring it on!

Back in the bad old days when I used to partake of the evil tobacco (15 years ago now) I used to smoke 2 packs of Longbeach cigarettes a day – I note they are now over $22 a packet – or $44 a day. $2 doesn’t seem a big deal!

Cathy asked: Ever since I became interested in racing I keep getting told 'don't back that, it's second up' .....what sort of record do horses second up after a spell really have compared to others?


Well Cathy that's a very good question. In the period 1.1.2013 to 15.9.2013 there were 7621 races in Australia that featured at least one horse that was second up from a spell. In fact there were 18481 of the pesky things. Between them they won 21.8% of the races in which they they competed but their strike rate per selection was just 9.0%. If you had had $1 on every one of them to win you would have lost $5865.30 or 31.7%. Here are the figures in detail compliments of BetSelector:

Meetings considered : 1810
Win Strike Rate/Seln. : 9.0%
Plc Strike Rate/Seln. : 26.2%
Average Win Dividend : $7.59
Average Plc Dividend : $2.83

                                 WIN       PLACE
Races Bet:             7621        7603
Races Won:          1662         3904
S.R./Race:              21.8%       51.3%
Outlay($):          18481.00    18458.00
Return :             12615.70    13726.10
$ Profit :             -5865.30     -4731.90
% P.O.T. :              -31.7%        -25.6%

Average runners per race: 2.42

So by way of comparison let's contrast that against horses having their THIRD run back from a spell. In the same period (1.1.2013 - 15.9.2013) there were 6889 races in Australia that featured at least one horse that was third up from a spell. In fact there were 13773 of them. Between them they won 21.0% of the races in which they competed but their strike rate per selection was just 10.5%. If you had had $1 on every one of them to win you would have lost $3112.60 or 22.6%. Here are the figures in detail compliments of BetSelector:

Meetings considered : 1810
Win Strike Rate/Seln. : 10.5%
Plc Strike Rate/Seln. : 29.7%
Average Win Dividend : $7.38
Average Plc Dividend : $2.67

                             WIN         PLACE
Races Bet:        6889           6873
Races Won:      1445           3458
S.R./Race:        21.0%         50.3%
Outlay($):     13773.00    13750.00
Return :        10660.40    10917.30
$ Profit :        -3112.60     -2832.70
% P.O.T. :        -22.6%        -20.6%

Average runners per race: 1.99

Conclusion: Based on this limited sample size and given the disparity between number of runners per race between 2nd uppers and 3rd uppers leading to a better p.o.t. figure for 3rd uppers, I would think most people would say the second up-stay away theory is a load of old cods wallop!

Kevin asked: I was wondering if you have class rating numbers similar to Don Scott’s….Open sprint 66 etc. I am interested in using your self rating program but would have difficulty without being able to work out class.


Unfortunately the DS approach has been somewhat defeated by the new benchmark classes of racing which were introduced purely to keep horses racing older and fill in fields for seven day a week racing 24 hour a day gambling to keep feeding the TABs with sucker money.

That being said, I am coming to the conclusion that, after years of experimenting and despite all the analytics of benchmarking and differences between states, the easiest assessment is the good old cold hard cash yardstick.
Try this as an idea using these race prize money levels to assess if a horse is going up or down in class:

Under 10K
10k to 12k
13k to 17k
18k to 22k
23k to 30k
31k to 45k
46k to 65k
66k to 80k
81k to 99k
100k to 130k
131k to 150k
151k to 175k
176k to 195k
196k to 250k
251k to 350k
351k to 450k
451k to 750k
Over 751k

Now that is a really rough and ready approach but you know what? I don’t reckon you’d go too far wrong over the long term and save a whole heap of “mucking around” and time. Just my ideas so don’t blame me if it’s wrong.

Frank asked: "In this day and age of greater mobility, is it any big deal that a horse has won at the track before?"


Not all that sure either Frank. Here's a few examples for you to consider.

Races / runners qualifying last 12 months
Per Race strike rate
Per Selection strike rate
Turnover profit / loss at level stakes
Moonee Valley
174 / 486
- 20.0%
150 / 508
- 35.5%
249 / 974
- 38.7%
Eagle Farm
285 / 1202
Warwick Farm
126 / 318
178 / 678
Gold Coast
273 / 972
Geelong (syn)
186 / 671
128 / 380


Nigel asked: "My old man reckoned anyone that punted horses longer than tens was mad..........what are the figures?"


Well Nigel here are the exact figures from January 1 2013 through to August 31 2013:

In that period, there were 10351 races in which horses started at $10 or greater according to the NSW TAB on which these figures are based. The win strike rate PER RACE was 21.5% but here's the "trap"/"trick" for level stakes bettors. There were a total of 63018 horses that started at these prices and the strike rate PER SELECTION was only 3.5%.

Now assuming you were to have gone completely mad and taken leave of your senses and had just $1 on every horse over tens, your net loss for the eight months was around $20000 - I'm guessing the local council would need to be very patient in getting the rates money off you! The trick then is to "narrow down" the number of horses over tens that you want to put your hard earned one dollar on - and that is a different ball game altogether.

Heath asked: "Is it true that favourites win one third of all races?"


Heath, you are almost spot on. Actually I can tell you that in the period 19.6.2012 to 21.08.13 there were 16228 TAB races in Australia and, of those, 5358, or 33% were won by favourites. Overall, favourites also collected a place getters cheque 10204 times or 63.2%. The bad news is that betting at level stakes your win betting bank would be down 12.0% from twelve months ago with the average win dividend 2.66 and average place dividend 1.45. That also means your place betting bank would also be down but only by 8.4%. (There were about 100 races where no place pool operated due to a lack of starters)

Gordon asked: "How many horses at around even money win over a space of time?"


Interesting question Gordon and an answer that may lead you to ponder more on this:

We looked at the last 12 months from August 21, 2012 to August 21, 2013 for all Australian races, all states, all distances.

The price factor we used was all winners that paid between $1.40 and $2.40 on the NSW TAB. You will of course realise that there MAY have been equal favourites or even a second favourite or two that just fell within the $2.40 price cap during the year but I don't know for sure.

During the 12 months there were 4889 races from 2641 meetings that had 4979 horses priced between these figures. 2250 of them were successful at an average price of $1.95 for win and 3667 ran a " place" at an average$1.24.

Race winning strike rates were 46.0% for a win and 76.2% for a place.

LOSS on turnover was 11.8% if level stakes win betting and 5.7% if level stakes place betting.

As far as sequence of winners / losers was concerned, the best I noticed was 6 out of 6 at Morphettville on 20.10.12, 5 out of 5 at Toowoomba on 2.2.13, 5 out of 6 Sunshine Coast 16.12.12 and Balaklava on 5.12.12, 4 out of 4 at Sandown on 21.8.13, Rockhampton 15.6.13, Belmont 5.6.13 while the worst I saw was 1/7 on 9.6.13, at the Sunshine Coast on 23.6.13, 0 / 6 Ballarat 21.2.13 and 1 / 6 at Terang on 3.2.13 and Scone on 26.11.12.

What was interesting to note was that when one track had an "extreme" of results, the other tracks on those days seemed to "balance things out" - but rather than blame that on the gambling Gods and so called law of averages, it is probably more a case of recognising that the long term overall figures are 46% so one would expect that.

Eric wrote: "what percentage of beaten favourites win at their next start?"


The raw figures are simply these Eric: We analysed from 1.1.2012 to 25.7.2013 and the results were about what we expected.

During the 19 months there were 16516 races run where there was at least one horse that was beaten as favourite at its last start. These beaten favourites won 4913 of these races at a race strike rate of 29.7%.

The bad news that with the multiplicity of qualifying entrants per race, the strike rate per selection was a lean 17.6% at an average win dividend of $4.64.

This of course led to a loss on turnover at level stakes of -18.5%. Here are the results in full for second up runners, courtesy of BetSelector:

Meetings considered :      4236
Win Strike Rate/Seln. :     17.6%
Plc Strike Rate/Seln. :      41.8%
Average Win Dividend :     $4.64
Average Plc Dividend :      $2.00

Races Bet:         16516       16442
Races Won:         4913        9871
S.R./Race:            29.7%     60.0%
Outlay($):          27957.00    27872.00
Return :             22794.22    23378.22
$ Profit :            -5162.78     -4493.78
% P.O.T. :         -18.5%       -16.1%

James wrote: "With increasing weight scales, how many horses win carrying 61 kgs or more"


Good question. The answer is more than you probably think.

In the 12 months to July 21, 2103 there were (surprisingly to me but I guess these days there are a lot more high weight handicaps then there used to be) 1113 races up to 2600 metres in distance and there were 1748 horses in the 1113 races that were carrying more than 61 kgs. Why limit it to 2600m? So we don't get entangled with the jumping events.

The strike rate per race was a VERY pedestrian 19.2% with a level stakes LOSS on turnover of 11.6% with an average win dividend of $7.22. Place loss on turnover was a considerably worse MINUS 16.1% at level stakes.

The most successful grouping were in races worth less than $40K, in races for 2yo and 3yo horses, and last start winners - BUT definitely not for ours!

Tony wrote: "What % of horses do win first up after a spell"


Well let's split it up a bit and see. I mostly work on the principle that a fully fit 2nd grade horse will mostly beat a half fit champion and have seen plenty examples of that over the years. However, here are the raw figures for the first seven months of 2013 for you to consider.

• 900 metre races (where all horses have had at least one career start - why? Rules out most maiden and 2 year old races): 45 races, s/r 44.48%, NOTE 172 qualifiers, av win div 6.05, loss on turnover 29.7%

• 1000 metre races (where all horses have had at least one career start - why? Rules out most maiden and 2 year old races): 471 races, s/r 33.8%, NOTE 1524 qualifiers, av win div 8.39, loss on turnover 12.5%

• 1100 metre races (where all horses have had at least one career start - why? Rules out most maiden and 2 year old races): 448 races, s/r 24.1%, NOTE 1285 qualifiers, av win div 6.90, loss on turnover 42.0%

• 1200 metre races (where all horses have had at least one career start - why? Rules out most maiden and 2 year old races): 1002 races, s/r 20.0%, NOTE 2511 qualifiers, av win div 8.61, loss on turnover 31.4%

• 1300 metre races (where all horses have had at least one career start - why? Rules out most maiden and 2 year old races): 301 races, s/r 18.3%, NOTE 686 qualifiers, av win div 10.60, loss on turnover 15.0%

• 1400 metre races (where all horses have had at least one career start - why? Rules out most maiden and 2 year old races): 510 races, s/r 11.6%, NOTE 960 qualifiers, av win div 8.67, loss on turnover 46.7%

To state the bleeding obvious: if you were lay betting, you'd certainly be focussing on 1400 metre first uppers!

Robin wrote: "What about horses that are trained at the track and have won at the track"


Some validity in this - with qualifications (as is always the case!) From the 9th of May through 9th of June 2013 there were 567 horses in this category Australia wide. 161 of those went on to win representing a strike rate of 28.4% with a level stakes loss on turnover of 21.0% if you backed all of them. However the percentages markedly improve if you restrict the analysis to non metropolitan tracks only and only in races between 1000m and 1300m for horses with a winning strike rate of at least 10%. The figures then become 82 out of 241 races with a strike rate of 34.0% and a profit on turnover of 11.1% for the same period.

Scott wrote: "My dad always used to say, when in doubt back number one. Is there any truth in that?"


Well let's have a look Scott. Firstly there are a couple of variables to identify. All number 1's are not necessarily carrying top weight and not necessarily handicapped to do so. For example, an apprentice may well be engaged to ride it or the race itself will quite often be a set weight race where there could be 10 equal top weights. From January 1 through to May 31, 2013, Australia wide, there were 5847 races that featured #1 which duly won 861 of them at a fairly constant rate of 14.7%. A one unit investment on each of them would result in a loss on turnover of 11.8% at an average dividend (NSW-tab) of 5.99.

Andrew wrote: "I always look twice at non metropolitan races where a runner started last time in the city. What are the real percentages?"


Yes there is some merit in this Andrew as basically you are taking a raw measure of the old "dropping in class" approach and class IS the key in many races. In raw figures, we looked at 30.3.13 to 30.5.13. This encompassed 997 races where this occurred and resulted in a race winning strike rate of 32.0%. Unfortunately there were 2279 qualifying horses in the category so the win betting LOSS on turnover at level stakes was -18.5%. Hardly encouraging. However, if you then limit your interest in this to races where there is just one or two qualifiers, you should find the percentages improve. Over to you!

Murray wrote: "There must be an overwhelming number of races won by horses that are less than $4.00 when they jump?"


Good observation Murray and can be used to your advantage and is often used by many who simply don't have the time to do otherwise. It is euphemistically called "letting the market do all the work". Obviously though you have a couple of disadvantages to start with. Horses tend to firm from those displayed on the outdated totes and their broadcast odds after they jump and horses then either become a "qualifier" or stop being a "qualifier" so our % returns can be really upset by this way too common occurrence. You would have to accept this anomaly right from the start or the frustration would drive you crazy. Or, use Betfair where you know the price you have accepted before they jump and remove all that frustration. Again, there will be occasions where you back horses that end up not being "qualifiers" when SP prices are confirmed by the boring old fashioned totes. Here's a quick snap shot of how this method worked out in the two months to May 24, 2013.

From April 1, 2013 to May 24, 2013 there were 1886 races where 2525 horses started at less than $4. (Obviously in about 40% of the races there were at least two horses less than $4). These horses won 825 of the 1886 races at 43.7% strike rate. If you had had $1 on each of them for a total invest of $2525 your return would have been $2229.30 or a loss of $295.70 or 11.7% LOSS on turnover. (The average dividend is $2.70)

Obviously if you can get back to just one horse in a race the outlay is reduced by nearly 700 units. A casual observation seems to bear out that there is % advantage in taking the qualifier closest to number 1 (e.g. handicapper's pick in non set weight races) but that is only a casual observation. You may perhaps like to follow through on this thought for yourself. Of course the flip side to that idea (and there's always a flip side) is that horses at the top of the list are generally over bet by "Joe Public" as compared to those at the bottom as people scan the fields top to bottom, never bottom to top.

Colin wrote "In metropolitan races, what % of winners in sprint races come from the three inside barriers?"


Good question Cool - from January 1 2013 through to May 7 2013 there were 504 races between 800 metres and 1200 metres around Australian metro courses which were won on 172 occasions by horses starting from the inside three barriers - that's an overall percentage of 34.1%. A $1 win investment on all of them would have resulted in an outlay of $1512 for a return of $1347.10 (NSW TAB for simplicity) or a loss on turnover of 10.9%. A $1 place investment on all of them would have resulted in a loss on turnover of 11.0%.

If you give the flick to all horses over the age of 7, the figures become a win percentage of 34.1% but the loss on turnover drops to 8.5%

But here's a bit of a clincher - consider ONLY horses that started at a metro track last start and here's the results - from 435 qualifying races there are 844 selections, the overall percentage strike rate drops to 26.4% BUT, importantly, the profit on turnover rises to a positive 6.6%.

Now you may be heading down the correct path!

Gav wrote "Would love you to have ago at only horse in the field to finish 2nd"


Okay, well let's start with the basics: there are lots of races in the following info as you can see where there were obviously more than one horse that ran second in the field. We looked at the period 7th April to 21st April 2013. The figures are:

449 races containing at least ONE horse that ran second BUT there were 743 qualifiers so in about three quarters of cases there was more than one qualifier per race.

The winning strike rate per race was 23.6% with the individual strike rate per selection at 14.3%. Level stakes profit on turnover in betting on all last start 2nd runners was MINUS 32.2% at an average winning dividend of $4.75. So let's eliminate a few of the least successful categories. Not one horse over the age of 7 was successful, only a couple with a place career strike rate of less than 18% were successful, no horse drawn wider than barrier 13 won, and very few horses that didn't run that last start second within the last 25 days won at all either. So there are four very basic "form rules" that we can happily apply. Incidentally, the strike rate in Adelaide was truly pathetic (2 from 36) but we left them in anyway for the sake of simplicity.

The results: The winning strike rates remain about the same on a reduced number of qualifiers (556 from 374 races) but your loss on turnover (backing them all at level stakes) drops to MINUS 24.2%. Interestingly, the average dividend increases to $4.96.

Using those modified rules it ends up there are 236 qualifying races all states, all days where there is just ONE last start second placegetter that qualifies. Of these 236 runners, 30 were successful in winning returning just $115.00 - or about a 50% loss on turnover. However, betting for a place there were 109 instances where they ran 1st, 2nd or 3rd returning $214.60 at 1 unit level stakes. Note" test period was just three weeks so plus or minus discrepancy error could be large, could be small, who knows? These are NSW TAB dividends so yes, you would do better on Betfair.

The pdf workout for the above test is available for downloading by "right clicking" here


This popular "angle" makes for good research. From April 1 2012 through to March 31 2013, there were 3992 races where this circumstance arose. Of the 3992 starters, 789 of them won at a rock solid 19.8%. The average win dividend for these was $4.11, not enough to make a level stakes profit on - the year end result was -18.8% or, expressed in another way, if you'd had $1 on each of them, at the end of the 12 months your bank would be $751.06 lighter. For place betters the result was only marginally better, with a strike rate of 44.4% and a loss on turnover of 15.6% with an average place dividend of $1.90.

Some significant losing groups within the qualifiers:

There was only 1 winner (yes - in the whole year!) that had a career place strike rate of less than 14%

There was only 1 winner that was lower than TAB number 14 (handicapper?)

There were only a few winners out of 103 qualifiers that started at more than $21.00 (market decides the rise in class is too steep?)

There was not single winner from the qualifiers that was rising in "weight carried" by more than 6.5 kilograms

There were only a handful of winners from 63 qualifiers here the race today was worth $70k more in prize money than the last start (class)

(Some of course occurred in more than one category)

So if you added in this data to your considerations, where would that leave you? You now have 3641 races to get excited about with 769 winners at a strike rate of 21.1% with an average win dividend of $3.89 (notice how it drops once you leave out the couple of longer priced winners?) for a year's loss of -17.7% or minus $643.56. (All figures at boring old level stakes!)

So how do you drop down the number of losers from the remaining qualifiers by looking at even more sub groups?

There were just a handful of winners in races with more than 14 starters

Only one out of 20 starters over the age of 8 won and out of over 70 races, only 6 were won by horses that had had more than 57 lifetime starts (you know - the ones that run around week after week after week)

Out of the 50+ original qualifiers that had started in the previous 7 days, just a few were successful

So where does this leave you in the great scheme of things if you use those filters as well? The figures now magically become 3456 races with 748 winners as a strike rate of 21.6% with an average win dividend of $3.84 for year's loss of -16.9% or minus $584.96 at level $1 bets. So we've cut out about 500 bets in total but only "lost" 41 winners which is why the % returns are getting better - in fact, even at the last "cut" the return figures for the 2013 calendar year to date show a minus situation of about 4% - well within the reach of a sensible, disciplined progressive staking plan??

So where do you stop? Well really that's up to you and how much time you have to go down this path on a daily form analysis basis (unless of course you have an automated software programme as we do - and remember this is just ONE angle) because eventually you have to pay for your time on a reasonable cost recovery basis - like any good business - or at the end of the year, it will all look a little skinny and pointless and in fact a waste of time. One of my favourite sayings is that "only fools waste time because it is the very fabric of which life is made" - I know - all very deep and philosophical but there you go.

So make some BIG cuts just for the hell of it!! Get rid of everything showing more than $15 with a minute to go in the betting (will never be 100% accurate) and perhaps any qualifiers not ranked in the top 6 of the field by career place percentage - a pretty good guide to consistent performances, "some" say - and you about that "some", don't you?

Those dramatic cuts do make quite a difference. Your strike rate jumps up to 24.3% - remember we started at 19.8% - but your r.o.i. is still in the minuses at -12.0% for the year - mainly because this group of horses (last start winners) will always be at the pointy end of the market as far as the general public is concerned - that's just the way of it. Short prices at the end of a year will nearly always prove to be a better "chase" than the longer priced fancies - of this I have NO doubts. Interestingly the place success% has only risen to 50.5% from our original 44.4% - you may like to ask yourself why that is so? At this point the average win dividend is $3.62 (see what's happening here?) and average place dividend is $1.74. What a pity the "market" is proving to be just as clever as we are trying to be!!

Eventually of course you will end up in a year to year profit as you cut out the losing sub-groups within the sub-groups but your number of bets will decrease accordingly which NEVER suits the "traditional" pool contributors. From this point onwards you really do need a software programme to go further because the hours required / day on this just one form angle gets too large.

Here is the BetSelector read out to this stage:

Meetings considered : 2723
Win Strike Rate/Seln. : 24.3%
Plc Strike Rate/Seln. : 49.9%
Average Win Dividend : $3.62
Average Plc Dividend : $1.74

                       WIN              PLACE
Races Bet:       2759              2727
Races Won:       670              1377
S.R./Race:      24.3%           50.5%
Outlay($):      2759.00         2727.00
Return :         2427.04        2398.92
$ Profit :         -331.96         -328.08
% P.O.T. :      -12.0%            -12.0%

Please note: I have no financial interest whatsoever or arrangement with the folk at BetSelector - I just like their software - simple as that!

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