A valued correspondent, Patti Ladd, wrote in to ask “In Victoria we seem to have at least one third of all races with hot favourites of even money or less because of a poor grading system and so what impact will this have on wagering?”
This poses two question and answer possibilities. First, absolutely there are lots of short-priced favourites going around but rarely can they justify that rating. Few actually win because they just don’t have the form or the ability to do it. One of hundreds of examples was a dog that went out at $1.30 the other day after winning three of 17 races. Even on simple arithmetic, and regardless of its opposition, its box or its jumping ability, that price was ridiculous. It ran fifth and it has many mates.
Second, to properly analyse betting patterns is near impossible these days due to (a) small Tote pools, (b) the unknown contribution of corporate bookies, and (c) the absence of decent information from state authorities about how much cash we are receiving and who is providing it.
Remarkably, Queensland has just added it name to the NSW and Victorian lists as having big turnover growth in recent months. Just how that growth can be compared with 2019/20 is uncertain as that period involved the start of Covid problems so we can’t be sure if some punters were scared off initially or not. Of course, later in CY 2020 we know there was a huge shift to digital betting (a continuing trend, mind you) while live betting shops were closed.
Then recent years have demonstrated time and again that the average gambler could not care less about the quality of the races he is betting on. Maidens or top grade makes little difference to turnover – except for feature races. More’s the pity.
It’s not a big jump from that theme to conclude that many gamblers have little idea about form or value for money. (Note, in passing, that fewer students are taking Mathematics in any form prior to leaving High School).
Obviously, that thinking will include gamblers who are just following the leader and hoping to win something better than bank interest – using whatever spare dollars they have in their pocket. Tabcorp apparently knows this because they print tickets for the “Next Up” race regardless of location or code.
On top of all that, turnover varies widely according the day of the week and the time of day. This is fairly predictable but it does not help you to bet better. You might also note that GRV has long had a habit of shifting a premium race from its usual time slot to Saturday night. Crowds usually lift oncourse betting but, more often than not, the overall takings are down.
Now, Patti, add all these things up and try to figure out where grading might get a look in. It would be a brave observer who suggests it has any significant influence. Sure, going up or down in grade is important and it should make a betting difference, but it seldom does.
The only proviso I would add is that a small but unknown number of professional punters could well be betting in the thousands with a cooperative bookie on carefully selected races. First Four bets also seem popular with this group, usually where they can (legally) influence the shape of the market. It is also possible to create a computer program which interacts with a betting house and enables you to bet digitally at the last minute when the odds meet your requirements. However, small pools mitigate your success level there.
But that is just another mystery in the Australian betting market. I mean a mystery to the public – state authorities would know because they collect the commission on all betting, but that demands checking each state individually, each betting house (including Betfair) and you would need to access all of them to locate a reliable pattern. Sadly, customers don’t rate very highly in the officials’ books. This is best described as the “four-legged poker machine” philosophy. They will bet anyway so why bother being clever?
When A Tip Is Not A Tip
The Watchdog’s tips, heavily pushed by GRV website editors, continue to confuse. After a fine result in the Shepparton Cup, GRV then trumpeted that the Watchdog had scored “four consecutive profitable days in a row” – that is, from 17th to 20th of March.
No he didn’t. The 17th and 20th showed nice results but the 18th and 19th packages were losers.
Adding to the confusion is that the Watchdog lists $1.00 nominal bets on two of his selections but ignores betting on the third selection although he does comment extensively and offers the first four dogs in order. Here’s what happened (FO/Tote):
- 18th March: Shima Classic won nicely ($2.25/1.60) but the other two selections ran 5th and 4th.
- 19th March: Jarick Bale won well (2.70/$2.50) but the other two selections ran 5th and 5th.
On both days it was a loss if you bet on all three races. If you were quick enough to get the early Fixed Odds and bet on only the first two races you made a small profit.
I don’t criticise the Watchdog for missing out – we all do that – but for GRV to gild the lily is not acceptable.
And all those folk who follow the tips but use the Tote will lose even more because the Tote price is nearly always shorter than the early Fixed Odds price. Anyway, taking odds-on for a Place is a mug’s game – anywhere, any time.
For a start, punters can have no idea of what the end price will be, mostly due to late betting and small pools. Plus Fixed Odds “books” and conditions are always heavily framed in favour of the bookie.
As for Place betting, the last 10 Watchdog tips succeeded in only three – paying $2.30/$2.20 for Ronny Mac, $1.90/$2.20 for Rebel Riot and $1.65/$1.40 for Ferdinand Boy. That’s a total of $5.85/$5.80 for $10.00 invested. No future there.
Kiss Urgently Needed
David wrote in about Tier 3 events to say “There is room for every form of racing”, so let it run. I don’t disagree with the underlying principle but it creates a further problem in that it has the effect of allowing mediocre dogs to filter through to normal graded races. In part, that may contribute to the large number of short-priced favourites (mentioned above).
As I showed in a previous column, a sizeable proportion of T3 winners get well under GRV’s prescribed time and then move on to better things. Good for them but it is not helping much for the genuinely slow dogs battling their way around.
Aside from T3, Victoria now has eight grades plus countless numbers of “special” races (1 to 3 wins, etc). Indeed, I once noted a club which limited starters to those with 1-6 wins. That would have allowed many Group winners to enter. Then, the final clincher is the fairly frequent No Penalty race. What is their purpose other than to make a mockery of the entire grading system?
It is time to scrub the lot and create a much simpler system whereby no more than five grades plus maidens are available and where Grade 5 races can easily be divided up by either or both of age and number of wins. That would also justify much cheaper computer programs (and less staff).
We are using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.