Is Low Grade All Weather Racing A Touch Bent?

Horse Betting Analyst Progambler Interview Feb 2014

At the start of February, the top racing tipping service Horse Betting Analyst took the commercial decision to back away from putting up selections in low grade UK all-weather racing.

The reason, according to The Analyst, is that the lowest levels of the horseracing game are throwing up widespread discrepancies between the actual results and results that would be reasonably expected before the racing starts.

Here, talking exclusively to ProGambler.co.uk, The Analyst explains why there is no option, for him, but to give the bad stuff a wide berth.

 

 

For the benefit of readers, can you explain exactly what you have done and the reasons why you have decided to do it?

I have become increasingly unhappy about the rides given to some of the selections we’ve tipped up over the past few months. Though we have won a substantial sum in this period, I truly believe we should have won much more.

Until such a time as our confidence in what we are actually watching can be restored, I have taken a commercial decision to avoid low grade all-weather races altogether. 

Of course, every individual can make their own personal decision about which race markets they provide liquidity to; but our personal choice is to abstain from these markets at this point in time.

 

 

What racing are you specifically talking about avoiding and how can you be sure that the level of skulduggery you are describing is simply not a fact of life, something that exists at every level of racing?

 

If there is any skulduggery – as you suggest – it’s a matter solely for the body that polices the sport, the British Horse Racing Authority (BHA) to stamp out.

 

The fact that our service has taken the action you describe, after producing solid returns over a thirty four month period, is something you can draw your own conclusions from.

 

What I would say is it can’t be any coincidence that in certain circles it is now being suggested that low grade all-weather racing shouldn’t receive any funding from the levy. If we add in Bookmakers restricting all wagers to £25, as may become a betting shop reality in future, and the potential that in future no liquidity worth the name will be being provided for these markets then you would think there is a question to answer. That is: is low grade all-weather racing in danger of becoming horseracing’s version of Greyhound Flapping Racing? 

 

Racing owes its existence to the fact that it is a sport people bet on. In order to function well, all racing has to have the confidence of the betting public. To be fit for purpose those that bet must believe that they have a fair chance of winning through the application of their personal skill and judgement on every race.

 

Now, when you look at the small numbers of people who actually turn up at these all-weather meetings it would appear that very few folk really want it as a spectacle they attend as race-goers.  The major overriding factor is that our sport is a betting medium and punters need to feel they have a genuine chance of backing a winner before the gates open.

 

Maybe the “powers that be” should conduct a survey of the betting public. What exactly do consumers want? Are they interested in horseracing as a sport or is it primarily a betting vehicle? They need to know their customers in order to get a real measurement of where their priorities should lie and where they should be investing their resources to improve the product we get.

 

 

Can you give some examples?

I don’t want to get into making accusations against any individual or groups of individuals. However, when racehorses are failing to run within two stone of their current handicap marks, as well as there being alarming betting patterns, we need  to take the appropriate action – which in our case is to back away. That is just common sense for our clients and good business sense for us. 

With regard to volatile market patterns, these will occur whenever there is little data to work with for punters – for example in races featuring unraced horses. Saying that, the swings on some of these current markets is something a professor would struggle to unravel!

 

Surely, anyone reading this is just going to look at your decision as simple ‘sour grapes’ on the back of tipping up some losers in these races. However, your record kind of speaks for itself. What kinds of numbers does your service do in terms of profits?

Sour grapes – that would be an understandable thing for people to think. However, when set against our proofed results it is a statement that would be hard to fathom. Horse Betting Analyst is a service that has produced consistent profits over a substantial period of time and is currently performing at a seriously profitable level. (Horse Betting Analyst).

Again, everyone has a choice as to the markets they choose to get involved in. If it is the case that the general majority don’t want this mediocrity they can make a conscious decision to avoid it. If they do then I’d simply wish them all the best.

 

How much do you think betting in low grade races like this might have knocked off your top line profit figures?

With any service worth its salt it’s a constant battle to evolve and fine tune areas of profitability on an ongoing basis, so it’s a very difficult question to answer accurately. But I would make a conservative estimate that the figure is somewhere in excess of 45 points since September 2013. 

 

Is this a recent phenomenon or is it something that has just steadily got out of hand?

That’s a question that can only really be answered comprehensively by the BHA as I am not privy to data or information relating to races under investigation, or whatever. I wouldn’t know personally if they have seen an increase in this area or if there are specific investigations that may or may not be ongoing.

 

Why do you think this kind of corruption is happening?

 If there is corruption, as you suggest, it could be caused by a combination of many factors. 

 There is total over-saturation of mediocre racing for very low prize money and given the current financial climate there must be a massive temptation to create a smokescreen either for personal betting gain or to use winnings to fund racehorse ownership or a racing business. 

Another basic problem is that too many racecourses deliver too many low grade races. This simply serves to dilute the product. 

Added to this, perhaps, there are too many jockeys not making a reasonable living from riding.

It all comes down to money and sustainability in the end. Everything relating to horseracing is expensive and the sport has to be paid for. The current model relies on betting (both directly and indirectly) and the funding of private individuals. That makes racing ripe for exploitation.

 

The further explosion of new all-weather tracks which I’ve recently talked about on our blog (http://www.horsebettinganalyst.com/are-synthetic-surfaces-the-future) could also create further issues

This latest ‘innovation’ will inevitably lead to small field sizes due to there being not enough horses on the circuit from January through to March. Historical stats suggest this is an area that could now become open to abuse as it’s easier to manipulate races in which there are only a few runners and only a few potential winners of a race.

In countries where racing is profitable and thriving, the game is funded mainly by a Totaliser pool monopoly. They race fewer days of the week and the prize money is huge.  It’s a model which would be virtually impossible to integrate over here, but I’m afraid the lack of vision in what can only be described as a prehistoric programme book doesn’t allow certain types of horses enough chances to win a race . This is another major factor in stifling progress.

 

Is there any way racing can stamp out this kind of behaviour? How can it be combated?

It’s incredibly hard to envisage what’s coming next. Bookmakers are being constantly criticised for restricting betting accounts or closing them but that relates to a business model that is not being driven by a desire to support and promote fair, competitive betting on racing.

 One thing people need to get their heads around in this regard is that the bookmaking industry diversified a few years ago. Their long term vision is shops full of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs), with one manger and a self service system in-house. Basically the shop side of the business will become a glorified arcade. As for their Internet business they have software which will control their liabilities and make the business progressively more profitable.

Racing exists in this context purely to provide the means to keep betting shops open all day every day so that they can operate as de facto amusement arcades.

You also have to consider that due to the lack of confidence bookmakers have in producing odds for these low grade horse races, restrictions are easily applied. If the only people betting are a few clued up people then there won’t be any liquidity for these markets. Eventually it’s going to lead to connections being unable to get any volume of money on. Basically the bookmakers will have “bitten the hand that feeds them”. For the proposition to work everyone – that’s punters, owners, industry employees and bookmakers – all have to get a fair share of the cake. At the moment, things are skewed too far in favour of bookmakers to the detriment of everyone else. The fact that clever punters are increasingly targeting betting shops with multiple bets paid in cash shows just how successful bookmakers have become in managing liabilities on single bets in shops and online.

The fact is, the future of British horse racing is totally in the hands of the bodies that police it. Loopholes need to be closed and bookmakers need to have confidence that they can produce odds for markets in order for the process to work smoothly.  It should be pointed out that bookmakers also have a huge responsibility to offer a customer service. While I have no sympathy with individuals trying to relieve bookmakers of their cash with so-called “snide each way bets” in un-competitive non handicaps, it does appear to be a very odd stance to take to close any customer accounts where clients consistently take over the odds prices. A better solution would surely be to employ better compilers.

If bookmakers paid their odds compilers competitive salaries to produce aggressive market odds there could then be confidence in their opinions as odds setters. On that basis any individual horse could confidently be laid to lose a certain amount of money to any one client.  Closing accounts and driving people way from the sport seems to be a bizarre business stance when bookmakers are putting large figures into sponsorship! What is the point if no-one new to betting can realistically believe they have a chance of winning?

We could learn a lot from the Asian bookmaking model adopted by the likes of Pinnacle that actively welcomes and incorporates winning clients into their business model.

 

 

What’s next for Horse Betting Analyst now you have made this decision and what effect do you think it will have?

It’s tough to be dogmatic about the future. The decisions we have made can only be of benefit to the subscriber base – that is where our priorities lie and it is something we feel not only makes good business sense but will be beneficial for us and our subscribers in the long term.

Looking at the data and graph on our web site, the overall trend is continuously upwards, so there’s every reason to be positive. What pleases me in particular is that all the feedback about our decision from our clients has been positive. They think that we’ve made the right decision in leaving these type of races alone and that suggest we are in a good place to keep their best interests as our members at heart.

 

What Do You Think?

At ProGambler we always welcome the opportunity to debate the hot topics of the day as they relate to betting and tipsters. What do you think of The Analysts’ decision? Is it sound common sense or a hysterical response to a few results? What does it mean, if anything, for the betting decisions you might make now and in the future?

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