Last week, Racing Victoria announced an annual wagering turnover of $6 billion for the 2016/17 year. Whether you're a seasoned punter or only place a bet on Melbourne Cup Day, there's no denying punting has always been a fun, confusing, sometimes addictive yet very integral part of racing.
*Punting has long played a part in racing, Ascot December 1933. Image courtesy QLD State Library
My friends have learnt the hard way not to ask me for tips as I'm only an occasional punter and prefer to spend my money on things I can see - like my shoe collection! Navigating the form guide can be minefield so here's my The Guide - The Punter's Form.
Let's start with BET TYPES:
WIN - You're backing the horse to win the race.
PLACE - You're backing the horse to finish in the first three. If there are less than 8 horses in the race (but at least 5), a Place dividend is only valid for the first two finishing horses.
EACH WAY - A combination of a Win and Place bet. If your horse wins, you receive both the win and place dividend. If you horse only runs second or third, you'll be paid the place divided only.
QUINELLA - Pick the two horses to finish in first and second place. You can lock them in to finish for a definite order or box them (so any of your selections can finish in either order).
TRIFECTA - Pick the three horses to finish first, second and third. As with a Quinella, lock them into an order or box them.
FIRST FOUR - As the name suggests, pick who you think will finish in the first four placings in a race.
QUADDIE - Select the winners of the last four races at a specific venue. Select as many horses a you want in each leg (race) and the odds will be adjusted accordingly to price and your investment.
FIXED ODDS - Lock in the odds from the moment your submit your bet so the price you'll win doesn't change.
MYSTERY BETS - Feeling adventurous or can't make a decision? Pick a bet type, how much you want to spend and let fate decide the rest!
FLEXI BETTING - Flexi betting allows you to choose how much you would like to spend on the exotic bet type of your choice. You can pick as little as 2 horses for a Quinella, 3 for a Trifecta and 4 for a First Four, or as many as horses as you like in any Exotic Bet. If your bet wins, you will receive a percentage of the dividend based on the nominated amount you chose to outlay and the flexi percentage.
STAND-OUT EXOTIC - A Stand-Out Exotic means you select a set number of horses to finish 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th (eg. Pick 2 horses to win, 4 to finish 2nd, 5 to finish 3rd). When using Flexi betting, you can increase your percentage of the dividend by standing-out runners. To win, your horses much finish in the stand-out positions you select them to place.
BOXED EXOTIC - A Boxed Exotic means you select a fixed number of horses and choose the amount you wish to spend using Flexi betting. (eg. Pick 5 horses and box them in a trifecta). To win, your horses can finish in any order of the placings.
READING THE FORM GUIDE
If you're not familiar with the form guide, all the numbers and letters can look like an algebraic equation from a high school mathematics text book (the stuff of my nightmares - maybe that's why I'm not much of a punter!) So let's break it down with a line-by-line look at a typical Australian form guide:
*Image courtesy of Horseracinginfo.com.au
Line 1, Today's race details - The number 1 indicates the saddlecloth number the horse will wear in this race. Its name is Marasco and is trained by Fred Kersley at Ascot. He's drawn barrier 14 and will carry 57.5kg today.
Line 2, Horse details - The first letter is colour, the second is sex and the number is age, followed by its sire and dam (mum & dad) and its date of birth. So for above, Marasco is a black gelding who is 6 years of age, his sire is Scenic, his dam is Bluegrass Belle and he was foaled on 16/08/02.
Line 3, Colours - The description of the silks the jockey will wear and the jockey's name.
Line 4, Career Race Statistics - Marasco has had 27 career starts for 13 wins, 5 seconds and 1 third. He's earned $1,389,500 in prizemoney to date. Marasco has won 13 races from 27 starts which is a 48% win strike and he has been placed 19 times from 27 starts which is a 70% place strike.
Lines 5 & 6, Career Conditions Details - These figures show Marasco's career record over a number of areas. Marasco has had 5 first-up runs from a spell for 2 wins, while he has had 15 starts at today's track for 9 wins and one second placing. At the distance of today's race he has had 2 starts for 1 win. At this particular track over the distance of today's race he has had 1 start but not placed. Marasco has not raced on a Fast track. He has raced 25 times on a Good track for 12 wins, 5 seconds and 1 third. On a Dead track he has had 2 starts for 1 win. Marasco has not raced on a Slow or Heavy track and he has won races from 1200m to 1600m.
Lines 7-8, Previous Race Start Stats - Marasco finished 1st in a field of 10 at Belmont on Saturday 14th of June over a distance of 1400m on a Good track with a limit weight of 53kgs. The race was worth $126100 and named the Belmont Sprint, his jockey was P.J. Harvey and came out of barrier 2 and carried 60kgs. He won the race by 1.25 lengths from Oroya Gold in 2nd (carrying 53kgs) and Ripped running 3rd in a race time of 1min22.83sec. The betting starting price for Marasco was $2.45.
Lines 9-12, As above - These outline his two earlier race starts before Belmont.
Other form guides may also include common abbreviations used to denote various factors in a horse's recent form line.
1-9 = finished the race in 1st to 9th position
0 = finished the race further back than 9th
s = indicates a spell which is generally 3 months (some form guides use x)
f = fell during the running of the race
p = pulled up during the running of the race and did not complete the race
l = lost rider during the running of the race (some form guides use x)
1 - 12548 Mercury Rising (last 5 starts finished between 1st and 9th)
2 - 33150 Peter Pan (last start finished further back than 9th)
3 - 2506s Apocolypse (resuming from a spell)
Letters are also used to indicate track and distance performance as outlined below.
b = beaten favourite last start
t = won at track of today's race
d = won at distance of today's race
c = won at both course & distance of today's race
w = won in wet conditions
n = won at a night meeting
h = racing on home track
1 - 12548 Mercury Rising (bth)
2 - 33150 Peter Pan (cwnh)
3 - 2506s Apocolypse (btdw)
OK, I GET IT BUT WHAT DO I DO NOW?!
Now that you know what it all means, what do you do with all that information to pick a winner? The team at Punters.com.au have their 3-step guide:
Step 1 - establish the race distance, conditions of the race and track. Now hone that information in on individual runners.
Step 2 - Look at a horse's recent form and consider that against the information you've discovered in Step 1. The horse may be racing for the first time this preparation at an unsuitable distance or it may be up to its third race and ready to peak at what looks to be its preferred track and race distance.
Step 3 - Find something about the horse that stands out to you. It could be good previous form, an excellent record at that particular racetrack and distance, or a good performance history on the predicted track conditions.
Just Racing's form analyst Adam Campton also offered me some of his secrets to picking a winner:
As a form student, he watches replays of previous runs to judge the performance. But don't just rely on the replay of the last run - their could have been a good reason for poor performances. Obviously not everyone has time or access to watch replays but they are definitely a great supplement to the form guide.
When Adam has his bookmaker hat on, he'll try and find the horses that are over the odds and hopefully offer better value for money.
He's not a fan of backing horses that carry heavy weights but he does love horses that have drawn good barriers to suit the race.
PHEW! As you can see, there are plenty of factors and strategies when studying the form, but I hope this guide has helped make it not so daunting. Or you may be like many people I know who just back horses based on their name, colour, the trainer or jockey riding it, the way it looks in the mounting yard or their favourite number!
Whatever formula you use to have a punt, have fun but please remember to gamble responsibly. If you think you or someone you know might have an issue, call the Gambling Help Hotline 1800 858 858.