As many of you will know, I was lucky enough to ‘serve my time’ at I.G. Sport under the guidance of Ernie (Great One) Burns and Toby Brereton. What tools I have for making a living at the game were honed there. Ernie remains one of my dearest (and shrewdest) friends and I am still able to keep in touch with Toby (The Boss) occasionally. Of all the lessons I learned from them, selecting, pricing and betting on match bets was definitely the most sophisticated. There seems to be a view among bookmakers these days that all that is required in the selection of matches is to put every horse that is the same price as another in a match and go 5/6 each of two, this couldn’t be more wrong if they tried…….
It is true that the following advice will be even more pertinent to spread-match betting than fixed odds matches, but, the spread boys are most unlikely to ever make such basic mistakes. Like most of these ‘extra’ markets, they were invented by the spreads companies and they remain much, much better at pricing them (when did you ever see the fixed odds companies put their favourites and winning distance markets up before the spread companies ? That’s right, never !!).
There are five ‘essentials’ that you have to consider in any racing match bet. I will take it as a given that everyone can spot the one to be with in chase matches where one of the players has form figures FFUF…
1. GROUND Yes, you’ve guessed it’ I’m leading-out with my old favourite ‘ground’. There is no excuse nowadays for not knowing if a horse is proven on a particular type of going or not and the simple maxim is – if you don’t know, don’t put it in a match and if offered the chance to play on one, sit it out. It really is that simple. There are enough betting opportunities these days that taking a chance on the single most important factor of your bet just shouldn’t be on your radar.
2. TRIP It’s all very well ‘taking a chance it will stay’ on a win single when you are getting nice odds against about a horse going up in trip ‘getting it’, it’s another thing altogether to take a chance at match-bet prices, especially if the other is a guaranteed stayer. Bookmakers pay out on who crossed the line first in these bets, not who was cruising at the two furlong pole. It occasionally happened that some of the kids I trained on the racing would say ”I’ve put this one in a match as I’ve bet it ‘coz I think it will stay”, my reply was always the same ”good luck, but take that chance with your own money, not the companies”……
3. RUN STYLE Probably as important as any of these factors. How many times have you seen it, two horses trading at 5.0 on Betfair, yet one is 1.8 for the place and the other is 2.1 ? As often as not this is because one is a prominent racer (especially a front runner) who is likely to drop out of contention if the pace is overly strong or doesn’t get it’s ‘own way’ in front, the other will almost certainly be the hold-up horse who may not get to the leaders if they get their ‘own way’, but is certain to be finishing his race off and unlikely to be beaten out-of-sight. In a reasonably sized field it’s almost impossible for these horses (who may well have equivalent win chances) to have equivalent chances of being in the frame. These are the archetypal matches which just shouldn’t appear. The spread boys will ALWAYS have the strong stayer as clear favourite, or they will avoid the match completely. If the fixed odds boys bet ‘each of two’ you really should be playing….
4. FITNESS It seems so obvious that it barely needs mentioning, but time and time again the fixed odds boys just throw up the front two in the market, even if one of them hasn’t had a recent run. An example of which could be seen only today. In the 3.30 at Plumpton, four major bookmakers seemed happy to put Suzy Smith’s Little Boy Boru up against Warren Greatrex’s Virtuose Du Chenet. Little Boy was having his third run of the season and had won well on similar heavy ground nine days ago, staying on strongly up the Sandown Hill, Virtuose was having his first run in the country having not run since May and changing hands for just 5k Euros soon after. Was betting the match 4/6 and 11/10, when they were 13/8 and 5/2 in the win market, really taking enough care to cover for the potential ‘blow out factor’ ? Which of those two was really least likely to run their race ? I know Warren Greatrex is in good form, but do traders really have to ‘gamble with the companies money’ when they just don’t know ? Surely it’s simpler just to put the first timer in short as a ‘careful’ in the win market and avoid the match ?
5. JOCKEY The same jockeys that you avoid in your placepots are probably the ones you are going to want to avoid in match bets. I won’t attempt to list a whole ream of names here, you probably know every bit as well as me (if not better) who they are, but there is nothing worse than being four lengths clear in a match with a furlong to go only to see your jockey drop his hands because he can’t reach the frame, whilst the jock on your opponent punches it out for 7th place to ‘do’ you on the line. Don’t forget that, no matter how much you might fancy one to win the race, they may end up fighting it out ‘down the field’. Strong jockeys with a reputation for fitness and a ‘grinding’ style will always be preferable to ‘posers’ who give up the ghost when there is no 7.5% to be had.
I hope this little list might help some who rarely play matches or perhaps struggle when they do, but, a word of warning…… The fixed odds boys continue to throw dozens of matches up every day, seemingly with little thought, but they really don’t like it when you play them often and beat them. They are a quick way to have accounts restricted online, so be careful if you play them on accounts that are ‘good’ or, you really need. If you can find a firm that lays them in their shops on the other hand…. crack away !!
Be lucky one and all.