Monday, August 26, 2013

Premier Information: About Handicap Races

Handicap Horse Racing - Introduction

Horse Racing is divided into races that are Handicaps and races which are "conditions" races or Non Handicaps. The difference between a Handicap and a Non Handicap is that the weights in a Handicap Race are allotted to the different horses so as to give each horse an eaual chance of winning, regardless of ability. The necessity to do this has spurned a whole industry based on "handicapping" i.e. assessing the relative form of horses so as to calculate which horses have an above average chance at their weight of landing a win. The simple fact that a Horse has been given a very low weight does not necessarily mean it has a better chance of winning the race

In general the weight that a horse has to carry in a race has more effect the longer the distance the weight has to be carried. So in a Jumping Meeting where the race is 3 miles, extra weight may well have a big effect on the chances of a horse which is badly handicapped with lots of extra weight as compared with the other runners in the race. However on the flat over short distances e.g. in sprints of less than a mile, the weights carried can have much less of an effect. It should also be borne in mind that in flat racing over shorter distances the "draw" can have a big effect especially where there are sharp corners and big fields. For example consider the position of horses drawn in a stall furthest away from the rail, where the course has a sharp left bend near the start or just before the run-in to the finish. A horse in this situation has got to get right across to the rail as soon as possible, and in the process is running somewhat further in distance than those horses with an inside rail position.

Handicaps And The Official Handicapper

The actual weights that a horse is set to carry are decided by the team of Handicappers employed by the British Horse Racing Board or other Racing Board in which ever country the race is run. Handicapping is an art and a great deal of work and data crunching goes on to try and decide which horses should have what weights.

Handicaps - Private Handicaps

The purpose of a Private Handicap is like a second opinion from the official Handicapper. This is where private Ratings can come into their own, especially if a horse runs well after the weights have been set by the Handicapper but before the race takes place. Good ratings calculations systems can calculate a rating for each horse based on its previous runs and this can provide serious punters a distinct advantage when deciding which horses to back in the race.

Beating The Handicap: - The Trainers Art

A first class trainer will always be looking out for ways to "trick" the handicapper into giving a lower weighting for the horse than is justified given its ability. Essentially the way it works is that if a Horse does badly - or apparently does badly!! - then the weight allotted in its subsequent races with be lower. If you can make a horse do badly then you will get successively lower weights. However the trainer knows all the time what the ability of the horse is. This however is not cheating - it is simply the trainers art. Some trainers would deny that they do this, but anyone who has watched the horse racing scene for anytime can fairly easily spot where "something is going on".

All horses have ideal ground and conditions they need to perform to the best of their ability. They also need to be at the peak of their fitness to perform well. So if you run a horse on the wrong type of conditions e.g on a left handed course when the horse needs a right handed or on unsuitable ground such as good to firm when a horse likes good to soft etc then it’s likely that the horse will perform badly and as a result you will get lower weights for future races. When you are ready for the "right" race, you can simply switch the jockey, wait for the right conditions and bingo you have a win when no one else was expecting it!!

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Premier Information - British Racing’s Commitment to the Welfare of Racehorses

I do not know of anyone in horseracing who does not love horses. These horses deserve the best attention and care as they give their all for our sport. Horses love to run and with only a few exceptions enjoy racing.

The following article (courtesy of the BHA) explains the commitment of the racing industry to the care and welfare of horses.

Everyone in the sport - racecourses, trainers, owners, breeders, stable staff, jockeys, administrators, officials and veterinary professionals - is committed to, and has a role in, ensuring and enhancing horse welfare.

The British Horseracing Authority is the governing body of the sport and - through the Rules of Racing and its licensing and inspection of participants, education, training and monitoring - ensures horse welfare, including compliance with UK Animal Welfare legislation.

Some risk to horses is inherent in the sport, as it is to differing degrees in the life of a horse in any environment, but we recognise our responsibility to care for our horses and reduce unnecessary risks. Horseracing has close and constructive relationships with animal welfare organisations, such as the RSPCA, SSPCA, World Horse Welfare and Retraining of Racehorses, and works with these and other groups to understand and reduce risk.

Horseracing’s welfare initiatives focus on the following:

Care – those involved in horseracing have every incentive for horses to race to the best of their ability, so wish to see them well cared for from before they enter racing, throughout their careers in the sport and beyond. Breeders and the sales industry also have every interest in the welfare of horses.

In training, and on racecourses, the horses are in the care of experienced horsemen and women whether licensed trainers, stable staff or jockeys. Expert veterinary care is always available. Horses are reviewed before racing by one of the Authority’s Veterinary Surgeons and medication controls ensure they do not race under the effect of any drugs.

When a horse retires from racing there are many avenues open to them, and the Industry supports and monitors the work of trainers and owners, and organisations such as Retraining of Racehorses to assist with finding new homes and careers for horses.

Surface – all courses are licensed annually by the Authority and work with the Authority’s trained and experienced Inspectors of Courses and independent agronomists to provide the best and safest racing surfaces, to minimise the risk of injury, and to encourage owners and trainers to run their horses.

Courses are limited in the use of their turf, and racing on hard ground is not permitted in jump racing. Trainers also have every incentive to provide safe training grounds and all recognise their duty of care to their horses.

The Authority provides specific annual reports and statistics on ground conditions and casualties at every course, and inspects trainers’ facilities and provides advice to enable trainers to meet licensing criteria.

Obstacles – all racecourse obstacles are designed in line with the specifications of General Instructions, agreed in liaison with the Authority’s Inspectors of Courses, and both hurdles and fences are regularly renewed and reviewed.

The BHA collates statistics of fallers and casualties from each race meeting, including Point to Points, and reports to racecourses to assist them in identifying and improving any individual obstacles which may pose a problem. Racecourses invest substantially to improve horse safety.

To underpin these, and other, industry horse welfare initiatives and the Authority’s regulation, horseracing provides assistance and support for numerous research projects designed to improve racehorse welfare.

This includes commercially funded projects, and the Horserace Betting Levy Board’s veterinary programme which invests several million pounds every year in research projects to enhance horse health and welfare.

The Authority ensures personal confidentially and commercial competiveness is respected to encourage reporting from participants and shares appropriate data with participants, other racing authorities and research groups.

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Premier Information: Tote Betting

When placing a bet, many people stick to the “conventional” high street bookmakers and I often get asked about The Tote and how it differs to betting with the likes of Ladbrokes.

If you are not aware of how the The Tote works this article will give you an outline of it.

Since it was established in 1928 by the Government the Tote has grown in stature and with Betfred having bought the company in 2011 it will continue to blossom as an alternative for punters having a bet.

The Tote works on a pool basis, with every bet that is staked on a specific contest going into the pool. After the race has finished the money will be shared out to all those holding a winning ticket. A percentage is taken by the Tote and this has always been pumped back into horse racing.

Since its inception the Tote have continued to concoct new bets to attract custom and it has enhanced their reputation as one of the most diverse betting establishments in racing.

There are a number of unique Tote bets on offer for punters which can sometimes reap huge rewards for a very miniscule stake.

For example, heating engineer Steve Whiteley staked only £2 on the Tote Jackpot and having correctly selected all six winners won over £1million at Exeter racecourse in 2011.

So, it is unsurprising that punters get involved with betting on the Tote when there's a possibility they can win a life-changing sum money for such a small investment.

Even though the Tote Placepot is an easier bet to get right, at the major meetings when there are a lot of runners the return can also be very high. At meetings like the Cheltenham Festival or Royal Ascot, the races have ultra-competitive fields running in them with some races having over 20 runners.

So, usually the betting is wide open and many of the runners can finish in a place, even if they are huge odds and this will usually mean the win fund will enhance considerably as the big priced runners are placed.

Channel Four racing has been a Saturday afternoon tradition for years and they have teamed up with the Tote to offer the Scoop 6. A bet that can continually rollover until it's won has attracted a lot of interest from the punters as they look to pick the winner of six selected live races.

Like the jackpot the prize fund can creep up into the millions and for only a £2 stake can be life-changing money for punters who can pick all six winners.

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Monday, August 12, 2013

Premier Information: Paddock Picks!

Recently, the Racing Post featured an article on what to look for when viewing horses in the flesh just before a race.

It is a useful guide to anyone going racing and therefore, tipping our hat to the Racing Post, we have reproduced the guide below.

Why go to the paddock?

Unlike virtually any other sport, horseracing allows you the chance to get up close and personal with the athletes just minutes before they are due to perform.

The runners in the 100m final at the Olympics don't limber up right in front, allowing you to study their wellbeing as they do their final warm-up before the biggest race of their lives, but the runners in the Sussex Stakes do. And you don't have to be any sort of equine expert to get plenty out of it.

When is the best time?

Runners are invariably in the pre-parade ring 20 or so minutes ahead of a race and make it into the paddock ten or 15 minutes before the off. But on a cool day you might have a wait as some horses will not have their rugs taken off until the jockeys get mounted and you do want to see them in the flesh.
Where should I stand?

Even the sharpest elbows cannot always guarantee the ideal spot as hundreds surround the parade ring at a top meeting but the best viewing is done on a level patch of ground by the side of the paddock, so that you get the chance to see each horse approach head-on and study them from the side before they they turn a corner.

What should I look for?

You are looking for anything and everything that suggests you are watching an athlete primed to run for their life.

>> Imagine Usain Bolt stripped, ready for action and strutting round at the start - many of the things that make him look a likely winner are the same sort of things you are seeking to find in a racehorse. Like well-defined muscle tone, in the case of a horse, over its buttocks and behind the ribcage.

>> Just as a pot belly would put you off an Olympic sprinter, the  racehorse 'carrying condition' - ie. fat - may not be in top physical shape, though some horses are naturally more robust than others so may well carry a bit of condition even after a couple of runs.

>> And the aura of physical wellbeing that an athlete gives off is also seen in a horse - look for a sleek, shiny coat that positively shouts good health.

There are also negatives to look out for:

>> Such as horses sweating, getting edgy if not downright unruly or showing signs of 'greenness' - a two-year-old newcomer neighing in excitement at every gust of wind, for example, or seemingly startled as their jockey gets on board.

>> Or even getting 'coltish'. One of racing's more charming euphemisms, which describes the way a horse - invariably young, always male - gets 'excited' physically, often at the sight of a female rival.

What does it all mean?

Context is all. Ability and effectiveness to handle the trip and ground counts for plenty. I might be fit as a flea but I am still not worth a bet to beat an Usain Bolt who has been out of training for a month. And the green, unfit, coltish horse may still win.

But paddock inspection can give as big a clue as any as to how an animal is likely to perform.

Courtesy of the Racing Post.

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