The Chasing Game: Back to Basics?

An in depth look at recent errors and where I need to improve… (inc a feature length film!)

Intro

This post, and video, touches on a few areas that I could improve on when it comes to all things 3m+ handicap chases, which form the backbone of the ‘free tips’. These have done well in recent years, certainly from a profit/ROI point of view, and nothing is more important than that really. (2016: +75 points ; 2017 18/185, +79.5; 2018 2/19,7p, +4) However, the truth is that I don’t feel I am ‘progressing’. The P/L has been the same for the last couple of years and I still find myself making the same mistakes. I am a better punter than this time last year, but could be better still. There are many areas I need to improve on. This post is an attempt to do just that. I’m starting from a solid foundation but I always think I can do better. I have spent some time pondering my tipping efforts over the last week or so and have tried to go ‘back to basics’. There are some common themes, as below, that I need to have front and centre of my mind. 

The video below is the longest one I have recorded to date, and deliberately so. Well, i didn’t try and make it short! (which never works anyway) It is split into two parts, with the fist 25 minutes discussing the points below the video. I expand on those points and my thinking behind them. The next 40 minutes of the video is spent looking at 4 real life examples – horses I tipped and races I tipped in. There are errors a plenty. You will always make mistakes in this game. That is why the puzzle is so hard to solve. And that is why I enjoy it so much- the challenge. In this racing bubble of ours I live for being right (tipping a winner/solving the puzzle/coming out in front over time/remaining disciplined) which is hard to do. With any luck this re-setting of my brain, and focus on the points below, will make me a better punter moving forwards. With any luck I may actually show some signs of progress! 

As always the aim is to offer you something of interest to read/watch. With any luck there will be some ideas within this post that improve your own betting or at least give you something to ponder. 

Any comments, thoughts, questions etc are always welcome and you can post them below. 

With that said, the video… put the kettle on, and remember you have a pause button- you can watch it in chunks! 🙂

(part 1 is 25 mins, part 2 the rest.. I think you need to watch it all for part 2 to make more sense) 

 

Let’s get to it… (i’m not expecting an Oscar nomination…)

 

 

Some common areas that deserve more focus when it comes to ‘the chasing game’…

 

The Chasing Game

Back to basics…

  1. PACE
    • Is there/could there be a lone front runner? Could they stay there?
    • If there are a few pace pushers on paper, could one see them off early on?
      • Others are out of form / trip change / not suited to conditions
    • Why may a horse now front run?
      • Change of headgear
      • Change of jockey
      • Distance move (esp if dropped in trip)
      • Inexperienced > want clear sight of fences
  1. Trainer Form/Stats
    • Are there any trainers in the race in red hot form, how many?
    • Look closely at these runners
    • Are there any stand out ‘stats’ to support a case/way in?
  1. Last Time Out Winners / Which horses are evidently in form?

 

  1. Are there any thoroughly unexposed horses in the race?
    • Looking for horses not proven in conditions who ‘could’ relish them and take a big step forward. Which horses have the most interesting profiles? The lurking ‘could be anything horse’ – note them/study them, esp if a decent price.

 

  1. Assess the strength of the market leaders
    • Are they still value? Should they be taken on? Should I leave the race?

**

Areas to improve on in 3m+ handicap chases (notes)

  • Assessing the top of the market
  • Not being blinkered by one horse…assume they may be rubbish and look again
  • Special attention on lightly raced ‘could be anything’ types (who may relish conditions and be ahead of the handicapper)
  • The age-old battle…between ‘been there and done it’ horses and those that haven’t- who have proved they definitely don’t handle conditions or may well relish them/improve for them. Do not get blinkered by needing a ‘been there and done it’ horse.
  • What is the horse doing differently? Could they improve for those changes?
  • Dig deeper into any trainer stats for said horse.

 

*

Happy Punting,

Josh

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Do join in the conversation below, we're a friendly bunch.. all questions welcome, and do share your selections or thoughts

19 Responses

  1. This is an outstanding piece of work/analysis from an outstanding exponent and the best there is in this particular field.

    There is no more needs to be said in that context.

    Here are some constructive thoughts.

    Less is more in some instances; a famous quote was “Too much knowledge never makes for simple decisions”

    The angle you come from I am supposing is based around using the excellent data from Geegeez Horse Race Base and Inform and that layered is; for those who prefer these methods; formidable and awesome.

    Whether you look at it as top and bottom, left and right; old and new, the angle i use is entirely different; as you know, old fashioned form analysis by horse and taking in to account many of the features you use pace; Going; Trainer form; Distance etc; but in a different more long winded way.

    There is not a right or wrong here, both have considerable merits and when they align they often produce excellent results but both have the simple short coming that they can ignore/detract from each other in that they may not separately complete the 360 circle.

    TIME here is the main factor as you will know Josh, to assess fully a 20 runner 3 mile Handicap Chase can take hours – probably less hours using your newer methods; more hours using the older form analysis methods. The problem with TIME is we never have enough of it.

    Of course you can produce lists of horses that “qualify” and they will and do often do very well, but your article seems to be about your perspective of your views on your own tipping based on something more detailed than just giving a list of horses that simply qualify by a set dynamic.

    I come back to “less is more”. I’ve often found the best and most successful tips “jump off the page” literally.

    Is it a case of “over analysing” on occasions, seeing the obvious and then talking yourself out of it?, we’ve all done that, to see a 20/1 win that you have never thought of is not an issue, to see a 5=6/1 one down that we have selected underlined and then discarded is the soul destroyer..

    All of the components are there in your excellent article – pace; trainer form; last time form; exposed; unexposed…

    I don’t know the answer, the fact is, you are a darned sight closer to cracking it consistently than almost anyone and probably closer than 99%, so it is a case I think of fine tuning and may be sometimes not trying as hard…if that makes sense…

    Fantastic effort WELL DONE

    1. Thanks Ian,
      Our approach to 3m+ handicap chases doesn’t differ too wildly, not in sense of what factors we consider… they are the only race types I look at ‘cold’ / from scratch, without some stats as a way in. I will go through every runner and profile them etc but certainly in handicap chases I am less concerned about handicap marks as such and in recent months have tried to focus more on the unexposed types – those that by their very nature won’t have any form in the book. These are dangerous, as we saw in Ireland today… but I can live with that winner at 4s/5s on morning prices given the inexperience…were he 8s+ for me, then a different story
      But all those factors in the post above need to be at the forefront of my mind
      Form analysis is important, I suppose the Geegeez Hot form filters help as you can see at a glance how well races have worked out and take a closer look.
      Its all in the context that I have a 10-12% win SR over time in these races.. I’d like to get it up to 20%… but even then it’s a start realisation that even with the brain working over-time I’ll be wrong 8/10 times!
      You can have too much information but most of that above should be included in analysis and lurking. Just about going through a process whereby I actively think about such things, rather than cutting corners etc. The analysis has to be enjoyable. You can’t have an approach that makes it tiresome as that won’t lead to good results.
      You can definitely over-analyse.. that’s happened twice in the last week… both Milansbar and Back to The Thatch I decided I was confident on and would just go for it…and then spent a silly amount of time talking myself out of them, leaving them completely, and going for others. You have to trust your instinct but that comes with experience.
      You can only try your best and keep chipping away. Results over recent years would suggest we do ok , a solid foundation on which to try and progress!
      Josh

    1. Thanks William… sadly it isn’t an easy game to crack consistently, and over time, so you have to keep chipping away I think, and trying to develop. Well, I enjoy the challenge!

  2. Hi Josh
    I’m a bit of a lazy bugger so prefer others (as in you) to do the analytical work / theorise about the pace, trainers form, strike rate etc
    You mention you would like to increase your strike rate but I think for the majority (you mention it yourself) that the most important criteria is the profit / ROI .
    If you can maintain a profit of around 80 points each year and an increase on capital of 40 – 50% then you have been entirely successful and I’m sure all members will be happy.
    Don’t shoot yourself about strike rate if the end result is a decent profit has been achieved.
    Enjoyed the video which helps to outline your views on selection procedure.

    regards
    Andy

    1. Thanks Andy. Yep on the profit/ROI front I am doing fine in the 3m+ chases/Festival week , so no real concerns, and I won’t sacrifice that for SR etc – with any luck being more methodical and applying/thinking about those ideas I may drive up the SR a bit more. A challenging game!
      Josh

  3. Fantastic Josh but a couple of areas which may be worth looking at is breeding and
    jumping.

    To me chasing is two different disciplines in small fields horses have plenty
    of time to see the fences and usually jump well, nervous horses can look stars
    as they don’t get crowded or blocked.

    Novice chases often have smaller fields than handicap chases so a novice with a string of good runs
    in novice events may really struggle when put into decent handicaps with big weights.

    Size is also an area to think about a small horse may have a decent record in small fields but when faced with a big field have a very poor record

    on the flip side a big chasing type may well get outpaced in novice chases
    but in handicaps over a bit further have the power to grind on. a look at the breeding can help
    if on the dam side it has horses like Ardross,Roselier Video Rock in its pedigree
    then if has shown decent form short of 2m4f it can be a good bet that as it goes up in trip
    it could be useful

    A lot of the faster horses are bred out of Ascot Gold cup horse Yeats,Kayf Tara etc
    so if you have one of those as your sire and very strong stamina on the dam side
    you can have a prospect.

    You are very good at what you do Josh I can’t deny that and it is to your credit
    that it isn’t good enough for you.

    The problem for you as I see it is you want perfection but haven’t got enough
    resources to watch every video of the horses jumping, research every breeding angle
    note the size of every horse examine every angle

    bookies have vast resources to price up horse if they didn’t they would have no chance
    as the astute punter could just wait and wait and just pick them off

    the worlds most successful betting operations are syndicates usually based on putting
    on millions of bets using city trader computer models.

    To your credit doing it on your own you have done well
    but I believe if you want to take it to the next level you delegate
    some of the research
    ie have someone report back to you on a few aspects that you don’t take into consideration now
    so if your reporter tell you a horse is tiny and when in a field bigger than 8 cant jump
    you note it and check the horses record etc.

    if you can honestly say when you are analysing a chase that you have seen the last 10 runs on video
    of all the runners.
    Know the breeding of each one and the relevance that may have.
    know the trainers Mo with there chasers etc etc

    The trouble is time I am sure if I had 60 hours a week to watch analyse and process
    any type of race I would win but on your own that is very hard

    Chasing by nature can go wrong no matter how much work you do
    I owned a chaser in Oniz Tiptoes and it is amazing how battered they get jumping fences at speed.
    So If you so an old chaser 10+ who has lost it way old form is risky as the poor bugger may be
    a walking injury.

    young horses are the enigma sound fresh and enthusiastic but lacking in experience
    often put in to handicaps again experienced rivals and the big leap in field size can
    often see then take a few races to adjust

    if a horse goes into handicaps as a 2nd season chaser beware a string of novice chase wins
    in small fields. much better is placed form in big field races at the tracks with the biggest fences

    in Ireland the fences claim more fallers on average than in the uk so by nature
    are stiffer so form in thier big field chases is telling.

    beware any horse who has fallen at the gaff tracks in small fields
    beware any horse who has fantastic old form but is running poorly
    when well handicapped and in ideal conditions
    Beware any horse in big fields who have had more than one long break
    if a horse has had two or more breaks of extended periods that are not seasonal
    breaks it screams injury problems
    Beware any horse with tounge straps,breathing ops when the ground gets desperate unless it has won
    in the conditions with the aids
    Beware small horses in big fields
    Beware horses that pull hard and don’t settle
    Beware of horses who jump fast and low and have won a bundle of races by flying the fences
    at speed when racing on heavy ground.
    it takes a big effort jumping out of heavy ground so this type will often come a cropper
    beware any horse who checks its run or slows coming into a fences
    they don’t often fall because they are taking care of themselves but are rare winners because they are
    using more energy than they should keeping up on the level
    take a look at videos of horses who have been placed loads of times but have won
    only rarely you will often see they check at the fences and while they are not losing massive amounts of ground with horrendous mistakes
    the little check will see them having to go just a yard faster to get back upsides over 20 fences plus this
    will tell

  4. interesting that you mention Yeates Peter, I have made Josh aware of this a while back and may be now time to discuss it more openly.

    I had a share in a specific horse sired by Yeates. Trained well; looked a picture but increasingly races were poor and she was finishing distressed. The Trainer (I won’t name him, lets just say he has Trained a much missed Grand National winner of the past few years) called in a top Equine vet.

    The first comment he made was about Yeates progeny and breathing as they go older. It seems there is a growing trend that as Yeates progeny move in to NH and get older (past 4/5) their breathing needs to be dealt with, to the extent I know a few Trainers are not waiting and are having job done early.

    The proof of the pudding will be in the eating and we will have to see how our girl performs after her Op although it can take 3-4 runs for the horse to understand it can run pain free and some never forget the pain so don’t “put it in”…

  5. Thanks Ian,

    Horses are very heavy and their legs are very thin in comparison to their size
    so chasers who are 4 or 5 or 6 usually have reasonable bodies.
    after 20 or so chases they can be battered wrecks. add to the equation breathing issues
    bleeding etc etc.

    Chasing is really tough on a horse, how many times in hunter chasers do you see horses rated
    really highly in the past run like dogs.

    Top trainers are quick to unload horses past their sell by date so old horses with terrific
    past form can be poor bets when trained by fred blogs in hunters.

    to me the younger a chaser is the better as they are usually still fresh and enthusiastic
    watching chases is the key for me as the evidence of the eye is important

    if you see a young horse jump accurately then it is worth noting, watch it again
    to see if still jumps well when the field size increases
    if it jumps and travels well with a light weight watch it again when it has a big burden to carry.

    The same with older horses if the horse has top form watch for it going backwards
    several races where it is all out in class races can finish the horse off
    once out of it comfort zone in a graded race in the effort to compete it can hit fences
    and those concussive injuries can be the onset of many problems
    my horse Oniz tiptoes was a brilliant jumper but hit a fence at Bangor(a minor error according to the commentator)
    and after had arthritic joints to retirement
    he still won races but never recaptured his best form

    1. Ah good stuff, I do like it when folk use my research to find winners.. hopefully that was very satisfying as any winner is when you use some info + your own skill to land on one like that! Wish I had followed my own micro haha. Well done.

  6. The problem is too many people fail to realise that’s racing, especially tipping, is not an an exact science.
    I know people who buy tips and complain when the bulk lose but they end up with a profit at the end of the year still aren’t happy. They fail to realise that if the picked there own horses they might do no worse. Greed however overcomes all I’m afraid many want to back lots of horses where really less is more.
    Agree about T/D stable same can be said about Tizzards. After all the hype that it would be challenging Nicholls and Henderson has so far come to naught. Another stable that appears to on the decline is that of Hobbs I only hope not for long and that previous times reappear.

    1. Very true Ken. I mean even with all the cogs in my brain whirring, given my approach I know I’ll never/rarely have a greater win % than 20%. Most of my tipping efforts in the 10-15% range. It is a tough game but long term profit and enjoyment is most important.
      Fully agree that less is more and you do have to leave space (mentally if nothing else, as well as time) to back your own picks I think, whether using the kind of info I provide on these pages or completely from scratch – they are the most satisfying I think. All about having a mix that helps you enjoy the game…tipsters/ stats starting points/systems/your own thoughts etc.
      Josh

  7. Excellent video Josh, you certainly like to think things through even more than before. As a long time punter there is a dnager in over thinking something and confusing the cerebral cortex. I always read your analysis even if not agreeing with it but always take it into account. I do rely on you and others on the site to get me thinking and help me out making money from horse racing. January is a very difficult month, what with the weather and the lost meetings. Discipline is crucial in taking it on the chin and waiting for better things.

    I am glad you enjoyed Cheltenham, a top track and top experience even when it rains.

    Best of luck for 2018.

  8. hi josh,i have had to cancel my membership sorry,had major surgery on shoulder and work have laid me off,but i will be back and you are one of the best good luck with everything you do,you certainly deserve it josh your a good man

  9. josh nice article i hope your brain does not frizzle with all your info when looking for that 3 mile handicap chaser winner

  10. Firstly your tipping record is gd. ROI impressive. Like myself you consider many factors.
    I consider myself a poor judge in regards to watching races and looking for future clues so my bets are form/stats based. A bit of advice is try order what factors you consider the most important and also try work out which factors will eliminate horses quicker then you can go into detail with the few runners you have left. Doing this will help you find less loosers.
    The mental side is so important in punting you mention the horses that have won and slipped through the net ( forget them that will always happen) Had you recorded the ones you had crossed off as well that had not run their race you would have a more clear picture.
    Dont share so much info always keep a bit back for yourself to keep a edge. Your record is solid especially as your running this site as well.

  11. Brilliant article,thanks so much to everyone who has made comments in reply ,my only addition in National hunt racing especially as I concentrate on chasers is never to punt in lower than class 4,concentrate on horses at front of market – first three usually ,first four at most,i look for a good run in class or higher in either ,but preferably both it’s last two runs ,check it can handle going and I always look for a horse to have won over the distance or longer, my strike rate for chasers is consistently around 35% mark

    1. Good stuff Dennis… 35%, blimey, work for me to do haha. Yes all very valid points. I think you can underestimate the importance of recent form for chasers and that is something I am trying to focus more on- horses running well on last start/last two, and trying not to make too many excuses for poor runs.
      Maybe I need a prolonged period of just trying to find the value in the front 4/5 in the market. As with everything, especially this game, it is about experience and trying to improve over time.
      Josh

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