Off-Track Betting: Picking A Horse

Betting on a horse race can be a profitable venture. It can also be frustrating, as they are unpredictable. There is no sure win in horse racing. With a good analysis of the information provided to you, it is possible to drastically improve your odds.

Luckily, much of the information you need to make a good racehorse analysis is provided to you. Each race will have a form guide. This form guide can be confusing to understand at first, but after you understand what it all means you will have a seriously helpful betting tool.

If you don’t know how to use this tool, refer to my article on how to read a form guide. I will be referring to it several times throughout this guide on how to analyze the data. It will give you the basic information needed for an educated wager.

In addition to telling you how to analyze the data found on a form guide, I will also be telling you how to take your research a bit further. A few extra steps can give you a better picture of the horse you want to bet on.

Analyzing Your Form Guide Data

As stated earlier, you will be able to get a good idea of the horse you feel has a good chance of winning from the information provided in the form guide. A seasoned off-track bettor will look at much more than this but will use it as their starting point.

Stall/Gate Position

Though some races will not begin from stalls, many do. This is important as some positions can have an impact on certain races. As a general rule, remember that a sprint race will favor an outside stall position. On the contrary, longer route races will favor an inside stall position.

Finishing Place from Previous Races

This is referred to as the “form” of the horse. This is a key piece of information but needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Many factors can influence the place a horse finishes in a race. That’s exactly why there is a need to analyze the information. Remember this before putting too much stake on a previous finish place. The circumstances could have been much different.

With that said, it is a crucial piece of information. You want to look for patterns here. If a horse consistently places well twice in a row, it’s a good bet to try after one good finish. You can also look for horses on a winning streak and play those.

The best way to use this information is to dig a little deeper. Look at the previous races a horse did well in. What kind of distance and track condition did the horse have in those races? Is this similar to the race you’re betting now?

Many horses will perform better based on the track surface. Track material such as dirt, turn and synthetics vary from race to race. You might be betting on a horse that doesn’t perform well on the track surface its racing on that day.

Days Since Last Race

You’re looking for a well-rested, but not too well-rested horse here. The sweet spot for time off is considered to be between 30-60 days. If other factors are working in the horse’s favor, a little wiggle room on this timeline is acceptable.

A horse that has been off for a long period of time will usually need one or two races to get back into its peak fitness level. On the other side of the spectrum, a horse that is raced too often might be exhausted. Both scenarios rarely produce a winning horse.

You can take this a step further and research how many races the horse has started in the past 2 years. You want to look for an average of one every 45-60 days overall. If a horse has started in about 14 races over the 2-year period, that’s a favorable factor.

Look for Previous Distance and Course Wins

On the form guide, you can see if a horse has won previously at the distance being raced today. It will also tell you if a horse has won at the course being raced that day. These are noted with letters listed by the name of each horse.

A course win is noted with a “C”. A distance win is noted with a “D”. If they have won both at the same distance and course, it will be noted with a “CD”. If a horse has these letters symbolizing a similar win, it is fairly safe to assume they will perform well in that area again.

Jockey and Trainer Data

I personally don’t feel this information holds as much value as the previously covered points. It is, however, a good idea to do a quick check on them. Some trainers and jockeys have a proven history at certain distances and tracks.

It is good to know if that is the case with the horse you are wanting to bet on. Personally, I will usually only take this into consideration if I’m trying to break a tie between horses I can’t pick between.

Official Ranking

The official ranking is how each horse is ranked according to experts. Some people will even choose to only use this factor in their betting decision. A higher number equals a higher ranking.

This is hugely important! You will want to know if you are betting on a race with enforced handicaps. Many races enforce handicaps in an effort to level the playing field. This is done by weighting down horses that are highly ranked.

Don’t skip your research here. How much weight a horse is carrying has a dramatic effect on the race results. While weight is a sign of a good horse, carrying too much weight also makes it more difficult to win.

Other Considerations

Look at Your Horse

This one seems obvious, but it’s important so we will talk about it anyway. You need to look at how your horse is acting before the race. Do they look tired or agitated? Do they look healthy and strong?

Data can tell you about the history of your horse and conditions of that course. Remember that a horse is a living creature with moods, sicknesses, etc. I can tell you with certainty that no one should be betting on me to be quick if I woke up on the wrong side of the bed that morning. Same principals apply to the horse. Does your horse seem like he’s happy and ready to go? Looking at your horse is going to give you an idea of how that horse is feeling that day.

Finding a Value Bet

You can see how some of the information on the form guide can point to a horse with a good chance of winning the race. To find a value bet, you will want to look at which horse is paying high odds, compared to what you have concluded is their chance of winning.

Once again, you are looking for the best value for your money. This basically means a bet that is paying at a higher rate than it should be based on the information you have gained from your research.

Conclusion

Most people have different preferences on which data is most important to them. As I stated earlier, I don’t put much value on the trainer and jockey of a horse. For others, this is their most important factor.

Play around with your betting after you’ve done your research. Find out where your analysis is strongest and bet with that information. Always look for a value bet to get the most bang for your buck.

Lastly, remember that off-track betting is still gambling. There is no formula to guarantee a win. Make informed choices and have fun with it.