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Punting Pointers: Where To Start

After the success of the Punting Pointers series last year, it's back with a carnival focused series this time featuring professional punter and form analyst Mark Rhoden from Champion Bets.

The six-part series will cover jockeys and trainers to watch over the Sydney autumn as well as how to approach betting at carnival time, in races with a short-priced favourite, two year old races and in feature handicaps. Make sure you keep an eye out each week.

To get us started though, Brad Gray asked Rhoden for a few general tips and tricks he is willing to share with punters wanting to take their own form to the next level.

What's your approach to form, framing a market and betting? Different punters focus more heavily on different things.

Everything I do starts with my own ratings database, which rates every horse’s run with a figure.

Beyond the rating that gives me, it’s really very similar form analysis to what all punters do. Video watching is a big part of it, to ensure you have a good understanding of the reasons behind horses’ performances. I rate jockey ability highly, so I make allowances for horses who are getting the best jockeys on.

They’re the big qualitative things, along with your own opinion of the horse itself: for example, if there’s a young improving horse which you think is on the up, your experience and knowledge of the trainer helps you to factor that into an upcoming race, which can give you an edge when you’re framing your market.

What are the most important form elements in finding winners?

It really is different for everybody and there’s many ways to skin the cat. A good example is trial form: some punters focus very heavily on that and make it the cornerstone of what they’re doing, betting on young horses first-up and second-up in their preparations. While I do look at trials for returning horses to get a sense of where they’re at, that’s not me. But it works for many people. There are different ways to have an edge on the market.

For myself, as everything I do starts with my database, that’s what’s most important for me. And the key factors in the database are basic: the times the horses run, and the weight they’re carrying. So if I had to name the most important factors for me, it’d be them. That’s what gives me a real sense of the horse’s overall ability, and then it’s up to my opinion on a lot of other factors as to how it might perform this run, such as the speed map, horse fitness and jockey changes.

What is a time-poor punter best spending their hour a week on? Are there any shortcuts they can take?

The first thing I’d say is definitely to focus on one area. This allows you to really get to know the horses, the tracks and the jockeys, and that’s knowledge that will hold you in good stead.

As for what you do with limited time, I’d actually start at the other end: reviewing races. If you can sit down for an hour after a meeting - say on a Sunday - jump on the Racing NSW website and watch the replays of every race, I think that’s the best thing you can do to build your bank of knowledge. Start a blackbook and make some notes on what you see: who’s winning and running well, which jockeys and trainers, where they’re at in their preparations, what the pattern of the track is… it’s amazing how quickly your bank of knowledge and your notes will grow and how much of that you’ll be able to deploy at upcoming meetings. And it really takes no time to review a meeting that way, watching eight or nine races, even if you watch them a couple of times.

In terms of quickly analysing races, like most punters I’m never keen on backing backmarkers. Horses on the speed simply win the majority of races. So make sure you are looking at your speed maps before you bet into a race.

And for provincial and country racing, it can be very localised in terms of who’s successful. For those meetings, make sure you get the stats on which trainers and jockeys are successful at that particularly track and ensure that’s in your arsenal. You want to be with those who knows the track well.

Any little hacks you can offer punters? Something you wish you knew 10 years ago?

Honestly, the biggest thing I would say is staking and money management. There’s actually a lot of people who can pick winners after they learn form basics, but making money is a very different story. It’s so important, because you want to keep yourself involved and be able to keep betting, hopefully indefinitely!

Firstly, it sounds obvious, but the money you’re using for betting can’t be for anything else… you have to set aside your 'punting bank' and stick to it. It doesn’t matter how much it is, that’s different for every person. From there, you have to be very wise with how much of it you’re betting into each race.

People work out their stakes a lot of different ways. Some just level stake (betting the same amount on each race). You need to bet according to what price you’re getting and how much you’ll get back if you win. And you need to stick to that throughout a meeting. Chasing your losses is the quickest way to undo your good work and lose your bank quickly. Sometimes you just have to cop a bad day – we all have them.

Equally, we can get carried away when we have a very good day and be tempted to use the winnings to load up with much higher stakes later in the day. Again, that’s a good way to undo a day’s hard work and blow it all.

I made all those mistakes years ago, before I learned better. Be smart, be disciplined, and stick to your plan.

Revisit the Punting Pointers series from January last year.

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