Interview With Racing Consultants : Horse Racing Tipsters
1. How did you first get into sports betting?
As a lad, I'd read the racing pages every Saturday with my dad, and he'd place a bet for me – usually a £1 treble on the TV races. My first winning bet came courtesy of a smashing hurdler of Jimmy Fitzgerald's called Keelby Kavalier plus a couple of non runners. I picked up 50p in profit after tax!
2. At what point did you realise that you can make some real money from sports betting?
When at university in Edinburgh (studying Animal Science, ironically), I spent more time at Musselburgh races than at lectures; a student friend decided to bankroll me, and while he sat exams, I went to the parade ring and used my notes to bet in maiden races on his account, which proved quite lucrative.
3. How did you come to select Horse Racing as your chosen sport?
I watched the Grand National as a 5-y-o in 1977 when Red Rum won for the third time, and fell in love with the sport - it helped that my dad had a docket for me with the winner's name on. My older brother got Andy Pandy, and hasn't watched a race since!
4. Are there any particular events that you look forward to throughout the year?
From a sporting perspective, yes, but the best profits come from the least efficient markets, so the big events like the Cheltenham Festival can be pretty hard work, although the challenge still stirs the blood.
5. What was your best ever bet?
My best ever bet was a loser - I spent several months shovelling all the cash I could spare on Asian Maze for the 2006 Champion Hurdle at 100/1 and bigger (she was expected by most to run in the World Hurdle instead, and was also coming back from an injury); on he day she went off a well-backed 12/1 shot, but fell when hit by a swinging hurdle. Next time out she slammed Champion third Hardy Eustace by seventeen lengths at Aintree to suggest she'd have gone very close with a clear round. C'est la vie.
6. What kind of factors do you evaluate before making a selection?
Assessing ability is key, but as well as identifying horses who should run to their best form (or indeed improve), it's helpful to identify weakness in others, and I try to avoid betting where there are lots of unknown factors, as is often the case in races confined to maidens and/or lightly-raced horses. Ideally, I prefer to bet in races where little is hidden, and all the runners can be assessed reasonably accurately on current or past performance, and as such most of my bets come in all-aged handicaps. I then try to analyse form shown in prevailing conditions (trip, ground and track being the most important factors), with pace and draw analysis deciding whether a selection might be a bet. The final bar to get over is the odds on offer, and I need to believe that a horse is underestimated in the market before making it a bet. It's tempting to go in heavier on shorter-priced selections, but I've found over time that it's a false economy, and I enjoy my best results when going against the crowd.
7. What has been the biggest influence on your betting career?
I suppose working for consummate punter Tony Bloom was my biggest education; he makes frightening sums betting on football, but manages to do so in a tremendously methodical way, with no place for nerves or emotional upheaval. Other than that my biggest influence has been trying to learn from my mistakes along the way. The biggest barrier to success in betting, and arguably life, is to look for someone else to blame for our misfortune. Every bad decision we make is a learning opportunity, and we do better by accepting them as that and trying to learn the appropriate lesson.
8. Do you have any future plans in regards to your service?
It's important to shape your offering around your client base, and while I'd like to get back to paddock analysis and providing a live service from the course, I need to know that there is a demand for that sort of approach, as not everyone is able to access betting markets during what would be work hours. I'll let members of the service guide me as to what I can do to tailor things best for them.
9. What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your betting career?
Like most mortals, the psychological challenge is the toughest, especially when it comes to dealing with inevitable losing runs. Not everyone is an automaton, and we tend to let our level of confidence affect the way we bet, when often that confidence is just a misleading sense of optimism. It's actually a boon to have the service as the figures are there in black and white and can't be escaped, whereas it's easy to bury your head in the sand when it comes to private betting, which can lead to disaster.
10. How do you balance your betting time and family life?
That's a huge challenge for me currently as I have two young boys, Felix who is two and six-month-old Charlie, and given I work from home, it is difficult to separate work from family life, with the two spilling over easily. That means I have to plan to get work done to coincide with their sleep, which isn't an exact science. It's fair to say that I struggled badly just after Charlie was born, with the upheaval making planning ahead almost impossible. I'm getting better at balancing the two priorities, but it remains a learning curve, and while the inevitable interruptions can be a pain at the time, I'm able to spend a great deal of time with my family, which is something denied to a lot of blokes because of the demands of their work, and I consider myself very fortunate in that regard.
11. Do you have a favourite horse that you follow regularly?
It doesn't do to get too emotionally attached to individuals when you're trying to find value, but some horses manage to be thoroughly likeable and still underestimated, with Mecca's Angel an obvious example on the Flat. The revival of both Cue Card and Sprinter Sacre last year also warmed the heart as much as the wallet.
12. How do you keep calm when you hit a run of losing bets?
With difficulty, but experience and perspective both help enormously.
13. How do you organise your bank management?
It's very difficult to calculate how much of an edge you might be getting when backing horses at biggish prices, and rather than constantly tweaking staking plans to maximise the betting bank, I recommend setting aside a bank of at least 100, and ideally 200 points, with the definition of a point at the discretion of the bettor. Most of my bets are 1 or 2 points, and we've never strayed too close to the bottom of the bank. A more aggressive staking policy can achieve spectacular results, but the volatility which results is dangerous both for your bank and your state of mind.
14. What is the best reason you could give to anyone who was thinking about following your service?
You won't have your intelligence insulted. It's easy to make claims about future success, but they simply can't be guaranteed, and anyone who tells you different is selling snake-oil. What you'll get is form-based analysis and selections which don't plough an obvious furrow, and are backed up by a rationale based on verifiable information. We don't deal with whispers or racecourse rumour, only what's either in the formbook or taken from our own observations.