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20 Apr 2017

How to pick a horse on the flat

If you’re someone who doesn’t know where to begin when it comes to picking a winner on the flats, then you probably start with the favourite. You can be forgiven. After all, the bookies know best, right? If a Horse is favourite to win a race then there are likely to be good reasons as to why he has a greater chance than the others.

What you may not know is that favourites on the flat win around 32% of races. That’s not a bad figure depending on the price, but that 32% could be odds of even money and below and then you’re making a loss. Favourites are usually far more reliable when jumping, but don’t worry, here are some sure-fire tips to picking more winners on the flat.

A few basic rules to get you started…

A good way to go about assessing the field can be by removing the horses unlikely to win rather than just jumping into a big field and trying to identifying who might win. Work by the process of elimination. Here are a few things to consider when eliminating a horse from contention...

  • It can be wise to overlook a horse that has never performed on the going. There can a first time for everything, but tread cautiously.
  • If the trainer is out of form and not having many winners, it’s something to take note of.
  • And the same can go for a jockey. The jockey, after all, plays a vital role, so always consider the jockey's record on the course. Don’t be too keen to back a jockey who struggles on the track.
  • Is the horse suited to the track? If it isn’t, get out of there.

There are always going to be exceptions, but by now you will have cut a lot of the field from your consideration. If all the stars are aligning with jockey form, trainer form and the going then you’ll need to take a closer look at the horse itself. After all - it’s the beast you're betting on!

Take a close look at the following categories…

Horse Form is important. The ratings and speed ratings are devised on previous performances and also give you an indicator of who may be the fastest horse in the race. That’s obviously important. A flat race at some stage turns into a sprint you’ll need to know who has the most pace in their locker. Using ratings is now common practice with the best horse racing tipsters, you also have to weigh the expected pace of the race.

But fitness matters also. Just because a horse has the pace to get over the line first, that’s not much use over longer distance races if he’s not much of a stayer.

Overall horse form and course form is important because it goes without saying that you don’t want to back the hopeless horse that’s finished six out six in his last five races and has a history of making hard work for himself on a specific course. Although you may identify a horse with great form, it’s still worth taking a peek at the horse’s form on the course. You can check form and recent results online

The draw can be important and there is no set good stall to be drawn in. It varies from course to course and the likes of Newmarket even reposition their stalls, so it’s important to understand how much extra work the draw can create for a horse. If you’ve got a short distance race that’s going to be hell for leather from the start and you’re starting on a turn, then close to the inside rail is preferable.

Considering the class and ‘trip’, which means distance, is quite important because although a horse's form may tell you they’ve struggled to even place recently, it won’t tell you that it may have been at a different distance or class. Struggling horses often drop down from a test too far and can suddenly show their class over shorter or longer distances depending on what they’re suited too.

Weight and age are also very, very relevant because some courses or races demand experience and typically favour a certain age bracket. It’s no coincidence that race winners may come largely from a specific age range that has had previous experience at that course, for example. Weight is important to understand because it is used to determine the handicap. Better horses carry more weight, lesser horses carry little. A horse that consistently wins despite going up in weight will carry more weight next time out and at some stage performances could drop off so it’s important to understand weight. Weight and handicap is a way of levelling the playing field.

This is just the utmost basic way of sifting through a field of horses and giving yourself a higher chance of a winner with just a little bit fo research. If none of the horses matches the criteria you’re looking for then always remember: not betting at all is much better than betting and losing.