Yard Gambles – Do They Exist? And Who To Follow?

Yard Gambles – Do They Exist? And Who To Follow?
The Snout
As most readers of this article will know, I have a huge interest in the psychology of betting markets, prices and gambles being either landed or going awry, and that third point on the list is where we focus today.
I hear plenty of people daily talk about supposed gambles on their horse racing selections, and a key trend of the past decade has been the rise of the so-called “overnight gambles”, where horses are priced up and subsequently slashed in price before we reach 9pm. These price contractions are always of huge discussion, particularly on social media, and one of the main excuses I see, when their horse ultimately loses, is that the horse was made to lose by connections because it’s owners couldn’t get a bet on at fancy prices (as a side note I do not believe this is ever the reason for a horse to lose, or if it is, in such rare circumstances it is not worth discussing in detail here). Another version of this, is that they see a horse be heavily backed in the run up to the race, and this horse proceeds to win showing a markable improvement in form, which of course many put down to the yard knowing the horse was going to win. This is probably actually a quite likely scenario, but the key question in all aspects of this, is can we use this to profit from our betting?
Of course by backing every horse that is every seemingly “well-backed”, would be a completely fruitless strategy as ultimately you are obtaining a price that would be shorter than previous prices, and thus losing all aspect of “value”. But, can we take aspects from it to bet more successfully?
In order to look at this, I am going to use the one thing we can rely on, and that is data. Plenty will have their own opinions about yard gambles, but this cannot be proved unless you show me it in cold hard numbers.
But to undertake this analysis it is tricky. What defines a “gamble”? Any database showing price contractions on horses does, to my knowledge, not exist. Therefore we need to take a broader approach. For this purpose, we will assume that a well backed or “fancied” horse, will be in the top third of the betting, and the “un-fancied” horses to compare against, will be from the bottom third of the betting market at SP. I would add at this point that this isn’t the best way to run this analysis, but it certainly will help us paint a picture.
Note – for this analysis I am using two data sources, the first is FlatStats (www.flatstats.co.uk) which is an excellent source of data for horse racing, some of which is available for free, and secondly the other source I am using is Proform Racing (www.proformracing.com), which is another great tool to help slice data in thousands of different ways, and this one is available at a subscription price. 
The below tables shows the top 10 – where “fancied” horses outperform their odds – and the bottom 10 yards – where “fancied” horses run poor compared to their odds. The figure we have used to analyse this is the A/E index. This essentially looks at how the horses perform in comparison to their odds. As an example, an A/E index of 0.80 means those horses win 0.8 times as much as they are expected to, thus meaning they are underperforming. An A/E index of 1.20 means those horses win 1.2 times as much as they are expected to, meaning they are over performing. An A/E index of 1 means the horses are running as they are expected to etc. We have listed these in terms of the ratio between fancied and unfancied horses. The more likely a fancied horse is to run better than an unfancied horse is shown by the Ratio column, and is the indicator in this sense how much more likely a horse is to run well when they are fancied in the market.
TOP 10
Fancied
Un-fancied
Ratio
Ed De Giles
1.23
0.34
3.65
Phillip McBride
1.08
0.39
2.78
David Lanigan
0.93
0.35
2.61
Chris Dwyer
0.88
0.35
2.52
Jamie Osborne
1.03
0.42
2.46
Sir Mark Prescott
0.98
0.41
2.42
Tracy Waggott
1.00
0.46
2.16
Jim Bradley
0.77
0.38
2.04
Conor Dore
1.07
0.53
2.02
Paul D’Arcy
0.96
0.48
2.00
BOTTOM 10
Fancied
Un-fancied
Ratio
Jane Chapple-Hyam
0.91
1.27
0.71
William Knight
0.69
0.98
0.70
Aidan O’Brien
0.90
1.28
0.70
Harry Dunlop
0.59
0.86
0.69
Ed Vaughan
0.87
1.28
0.68
Brendan Powell
0.79
1.19
0.66
Michael Wigham
0.86
1.54
0.56
John Gallagher
0.59
1.06
0.56
Scott Dixon
0.45
1.24
0.37
Mike Murphy
0.60
2.01
0.3
Some interesting results. According to this, if you spot an Ed De Giles horse that is backed and in the top 3rd of the market just before the off, they are 3.65 times more likely to run better than if they are un-fancied. Whereas if you did the same for a Mike Murphy horse, according to the data, they are much more likely to underperform when fancied. It is also no surprise to see Sir Mark Prescott within the top 10, but I am sure some of the others spring a surprise. For the bottom 10, top trainers such as William Knight and Aidan O’Brien appear in there, which is quite peculiar.
In this sense, there may be more factors at play here. Using Aidan O’Brien as an example, bookmakers are almost always going to have his horses shorter in the market than perhaps their “true” price would be. Naturally this would mean him having a lower than 1 A/E for fancied horses. But nonetheless, it does help to really hammer the point home that backing these top yards on a consistent or less-selective basis could lead to an unprofitable future betting-wise.
How shall we digest this information? Well, I would always approach things like this with caution. When you cannot analyse in a perfect-world scenario, the conclusions we are making perhaps are not quite as valid as they look on paper. But clear statistically significant trends such as these top 10 trainers here clearly show that there could well be a betting angle for certain yards when their horses are fancied.
I would also like to bring it back to my earlier point about people willing to blame “connections not being able to get their money on” and such other excuses when their horses lose.
Sure, sometimes in racing things will not go your way, but blaming external events outside of your control is not a productive way of thinking. If you pick a horse, and it loses, sit back, take a breather, and analyse where you went wrong, rather than screaming “the yard didn’t want that to win”, or “the jockey found trouble on purpose” and so on. The sooner you do this with your betting I promise you, it will improve your success rate hugely. There needs to be an aspect of taking responsibility for losing bets rather than claiming it was something else’s fault, rather than your own. You will be much more comfortable and level-headed with your betting once doing so, which trust me, will lead to a better way of betting.

2 thoughts on “Yard Gambles – Do They Exist? And Who To Follow?

  1. A rather interesting piece.
    Im 70 and have been gambling since I was 18.
    Yes agree about the comments one hears re horses winning and losing, nothing ever to do with punters backing the wrong horse!!
    If so many stables knew about their horses being certain winners, they all be wealthy and unlikely to tell anybody else about it.
    You hear tales of “that horse that won today at 25/1 I had a tip from the stable”. Feel sure if it was thought that well of wouldnt haved statred at those odds.
    Of course there will be occassions when stables may well think there horse will win and probably back it accordingly but not as often as some people think..

    Howevr I can remember a certain stable in the 70s who if you saw significant moves for you could back and collect 3/5 which was pretty good.

    There is no doubt that some stables runners drift in the market and are certainly ones to avoid, normally due to them not being 100% for that particular race.

    Keep up the great articles

  2. Very interesting piece. I’m certainly going to look in to the analytical sites mentioned. One thing that hasn’t been mentioned here is the influence that popular tipsters have on early markets when there isn’t that much liquidity in it. If a tipster is advising a selection in the early evening (Obviously they will advise the biggest price on offer), which is then followed by 10’s or hundreds of people punting with differing stake levels, not only does it bring in the price at the selected bookie, but also across the industry a the trader look to offset their liabilities. This could give the false impression of a stable gamble as the horses price is slashed. Unfortunately, unless you follow all tipsters it’s very difficult to tell what is a genuine stable gamble as by 8-9pm the night before racing, a lot of punters money is already down.

    One thing I do look out for is the market moves pre 6pm. Rightly or wrongly I’m of the thinking that if a stable is going to get money down nowadays then they probably accept that most of the time the info will get leaked one way or another, and therefore will perhaps take the very early market shows with with best odds guaranteed. I’ve had mixed results with this, as often the gamble doesn’t happen, and I have been known to cash out in the past for only 90% of my stake, I guess that’s the chance you take…but I’m certainly well up using this theory.

    Keep up the good work guys.

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