Ah, April. It brings a glut of top jumping action that all readers here absolutely adore, and we’ve still got Punchestown to go. But after that, and Sandown’s Finale day, the best racing in the British Isles turns to the Flat. Some of you might put the wallet away, and some may focus on the summer jumpers, but if you’re going to attack the Flat all summer, here are five pointers to make it pay.
Find your speciality
Just as there are many areas that punters will love during the jumps, there are equivalents on the Flat. You have tests of speed and stamina, and races that will inevitably suit one horse over another. A very effective way to make life easier for yourself is to find what sort of contests you find easiest to analyse and then focus on those.
Many Flat bettors will focus only on group/graded races, whilst some will also focus only the lucrative number of handicaps through the season. Just as with jump races, there are many different ratings bands – right from 0-50 to the very best Heritage Handicaps – and finding which category of handicaps can be a route to success as well.
Knowing your time of year is important. April and the early parts of may can be nightmarish for favourite backers with a whole host of reasons for top rated horses to under perform, but in strongly run races with fully fit field the cream can rise to the crop.
Know your trainers
Aidan O’Brien broke the world record for Group 1 winners trained in a calendar year in 2017, a remarkable achievement to add to so many for the Tipperary handler. However much of that success came through the summer and autumn and for many years O’Brien has used the early part of the season to get his best horses fit and use plenty of sighters before the classics. His current strike rate through the last two weeks is 14% (8 wins from 29 runners).
Charlie Appleby, meanwhile, has eight winners from his last 17 runners in the same period, including the winners of the Nell Gwyn and Craven Stakes. The Moulton handler has become very adept at starting the season well and given that many of his horses shipped to Dubai, thus escaping what was a very bad winter in Europe. Identifying trainers and their key target points – Mark Johnston at Glorious Goodwood is another – can be a very profitable source of winners through the season.
Follow the pace
The draw is a crucial part of Flat racing, but the large majority of races, especially handicaps which offer lucrative betting opportunities, will be heavily influenced by the pace of the race. Straight tracks such as Newbury, Ascot and Goodwood have many handicaps where the pace is likely to play just as big, if not more of a part, than the ground and this can also account for top level sprints too.
Use the data and tools
There has never been more data, tools and information available and much of it for free in racing. Now using it wisely is important, but data that one needed to gather painstakingly over hours of study is now available at the click of a button. A good example of this is timing, which can not only tell you how fast a race was run, but when and which horse individually was quickest.
There are several resources for clock-watchers now but don’t limit yourself to timings with ratings services such as Racing Tracker available for those who want encyclopaedic knowledge at their fingertips.
A number of tools can help you work out your potential winnings including a Lucky 15 bet calculator.
Think about distances
The trip is always a crucial factor in racing – regardless of what discipline – and even the shortest changes can make all the difference. Look particularly for non-staying millers who drop down in trip, especially amongst the three-year-old generation who now have the Commonwealth Cup as a Royal Ascot target. This applies for all sorts of races too – Derby trial form can often be turned around when horses take a step up in trip and you can find value angles for stayers as well.