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RussP's Flat Handicappers


RussP
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One more for today. 4.15 Doncaster Class 3 6f handicap with 11 runners. There are 4 apparent stand out contenders but I think there are holes to be picked in each of them. Eccleston could easily trot up here after an impressive win at Haydock lto but up 3lb and I suspect that, whilst trip is the same, it may struggle to get home on this much softer ground whilst 4th place that day, Canyari, would prefer it a bit quicker. Mississippi won narrowly lto, is raised 3lb and rates a danger but that race panned out well and this looks a bit tougher. Exchequer is well fancied, especially with trainer / jockey combo but trip & ground are wrong to me. I prefer one of the outsiders. Flyman (12/1 Bet365) - You may need a bit of imagination for this, especially being the apparent stable 2nd string but there's lot to recommend it today. Firstly, last win was off 1lb higher than this 12 months ago. The thing for me is that this one is best in Class 3 (avoid Class 2), over 6f and on soft ground. Basically, the condition it gets here. Since winning under those conditions off 90, it has raced 5 times running poorly each time but definite reasons why. Last 3 runs of last year were under the wrong conditions; Class 2, marks of 98 & 96, 7f and firmish ground were all contributory factors. Moved stables to a yard that thrives with new horses and has had 2 disappointing runs on the face of it. First time up, finished midfield off 94 (5lb higher than today) but ground was unsuitably quick and it was in Class 2. Then raced on good to soft in this grade off 92 and a better run was expected but the trip on a stiff track (7f) was wrong and the race wasn't run to suit. There was no pace on, which is unlikely here, prompting the horse to take a keen hold and then looked outpaced and was badly positioned when it turned into a sprint. Additionally, the headgear comes off today which may spark a revival. Finally, I'm happy with the jockey booking. The trainer/jockey is 2 from 5 in 2015 having only ridden 3 horses for the yard. Has also finished placed with 2 of the others and the prices have ranged from 5/1 to 16/1 so it's not just a case of riding well on favourites. I'm very hopeful of it causing a surprise in a decent little race.

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Afternoon Russ, good to see you back posting and back in the winners. I've been gradually improving with the handicaps but I still can see a 20 runner sprint and run a mile. There are some bloody big priced winners to be had in these handicaps and you seem to have a knack of finding them and it seems you have a smiliar approach in finding a weak favourite to oppose or weak 2-3 at the head of a market but wondered how you narrow down your selections and if you work backwards from what can't win until you are left with half a dozen to focus on. Also wanted to ask if there are certain types you oppose, back or certain rules you follow. I usually try avoid those coming from maidens for their handicap debut (especially if they're short priced) but recently I've fancied a few with that profile and some have won well. I've pretty much stopped backing each way now and choose to back 2-3 in a race instead with a very limited amount of EW bets these days. Do you have a price in mind when you make your picks and if the horse goes under that price do you leave it, back it to win, change stakes etc? Example would be Mon Brav, I backed this Friday night, about 11pm and got 20-1, small each way bet with Bet365. Got up morning after and saw 8-1 but I wouldn't have backed at that price, what would you have done if expecting 20's but presented with 8's? I enjoy reading your reasoning as it's so much more useful than just names of selections. I saw you'd picked Donny Rover the other day and I was at York at the time. I didn't fancy it at all but thought headgear might see some improvement so was interested to read your reasoning when I got back home. (Well done with that one) :) Keep up the good work and good luck, look forward to your answers.

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Afternoon Russ, good to see you back posting and back in the winners. I've been gradually improving with the handicaps but I still can see a 20 runner sprint and run a mile. There are some bloody big priced winners to be had in these handicaps and you seem to have a knack of finding them and it seems you have a smiliar approach in finding a weak favourite to oppose or weak 2-3 at the head of a market but wondered how you narrow down your selections and if you work backwards from what can't win until you are left with half a dozen to focus on. Also wanted to ask if there are certain types you oppose, back or certain rules you follow. I usually try avoid those coming from maidens for their handicap debut (especially if they're short priced) but recently I've fancied a few with that profile and some have won well. I've pretty much stopped backing each way now and choose to back 2-3 in a race instead with a very limited amount of EW bets these days. Do you have a price in mind when you make your picks and if the horse goes under that price do you leave it, back it to win, change stakes etc? Example would be Mon Brav, I backed this Friday night, about 11pm and got 20-1, small each way bet with Bet365. Got up morning after and saw 8-1 but I wouldn't have backed at that price, what would you have done if expecting 20's but presented with 8's? I enjoy reading your reasoning as it's so much more useful than just names of selections. I saw you'd picked Donny Rover the other day and I was at York at the time. I didn't fancy it at all but thought headgear might see some improvement so was interested to read your reasoning when I got back home. (Well done with that one) :) Keep up the good work and good luck, look forward to your answers.
Cheers Phil, much appreciated. Firstly, looking for a weak favourite is my starting point. If I can't get the fav beat, I leave the race alone. Beyond that, I'm looking for the usual stuff but start with handicap mark and class. Then I delve into recent form & look for excuses for poor(ish) form; I say poorish because, at the prices, it's more than likely there's been some poor recent form. I consider things like trip, trainer/jockey form, ground and draw. Another angle is also the shape of the race (ie. pace & whether front runners will be suited) and type of course (ie. form on stiff or easy tracks). RPR are usually a decent benchmark too. I'd say the main principles I stick to are around class and mark. I'm sure people don't realise how much difference a 2lb swing in mark can make. It's massive and there are winners to be found by focusing on that. Horses at the top of the handicap generally do better than people think; that's because many have been in poor form but are now dropping in class and dropping in mark. That's a double positive if you can find valid reasons for average form. The other thing to then look at in previous statistics; for example, do they have a class ceiling? Value & price is probably my last consideration which some may find odd. I'm looking for the winner, end of, irrespective of price. That said, if the price is too short (ie. 5/1 or shorter), I'd leave it alone. It's more a gut feel. I feel I can hit a 15%+ strike rate of winners and 35%/40% of placed runners so provided I average 7/1, I'll remain in profit. Whether Mon Brav was 12's, 10's or even 9's, I'd likely still have been on. I'm not a big fan of 3yo handicaps as they have all sorts of unexposed types and I'm crap with guesswork. Facts are my game which is why I focus on all age handicaps. So, whilst I agree with those progessing from maidens to handicaps, I'll leave that to the more expert eye. Regarding Donny Rover, headgear was one of the last things I considered. All the other factors (mark, class, form) pointed to a big run; headgear was looked at last and I agree that it might make the difference too. Appreciate your kind words, I certainly need a winner after a terrible weekend undoing much of last week's good stuff. Have a good Royal Ascot mate, I'll likely be sticking to the smaller meetings.
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25 bets in and we're in profit after another decent week. However, I'm pretty frustrated as I've had an awful weekend with 5 losers & just 1 in the money. The stats, therefore, look much worse than they could have. That said, it's a game of ups & downs so I've probably been lucky up until then. So far, I've had 5 winners; Russian Heroine @ 15/2, Gratzie @ 8/1, Lady Gibraltar @ 10/1, Warfare @ 10/1 and Donny Rover @ 10/1. P&L is as follows: 2015 Staked = 250.00pts Returned = 372.85pts Profit = +122.85pts Yield = +49.1% Bets = 25 Wins = 5 (20.0% s/r) Places (incl wins) = 8 (32.0% s/r)

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Great read Russ and Mowgli thanks. I'm relatively new to the sport and trying to learn from various very knowledgable people like yourselves on here so really enjoyed reading your reasoning. As I mentioned it's early days for me yet but I've already decided to try to steer clear of maidens and mainly been looking at handicaps. I had a decent spell just looking at horses that finished 2nd in a handicap last time out and had not been punished by the handicapper so running off the same mark. That didn't really last though and ended up backing some terrible runners which I couldn't really understand. How can something lose by a nose a week earlier, run off the same mark and get beaten a country mile?! Very frustrating but as you've pointed out there's more to consider than just the mark. Looking forward to reading your write ups this week and good luck.

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2 bets for tomorrow. 3.30 Thirsk Class 4, 6f handicap with the 14 runners. An open race, the bookies going 6/1 the field and I'm looking to take on the market leaders. Hugie Boy is only a 3yo and is raised 8lb for a neck win lto and that in 2 grades lower than this. It will need to be a seriously progressive type to defy those negatives, whilst Kommander Kirkup and Native Falls have both been raised 3lb following a defeat lto. Signoret is another 3yo and did win lto but that was a maiden and this race is tougher. Straits Of Malacca (14/1 Betfair Sportsbook) - I can understand why people are looking to oppose this but 14/1 looks stupid. Still a 4yo having raced only 14 times so there could still be improvement to come. Has an excellent strike rate winning 4 of those starts, and 3 of its last 6. Surely the only reason for the price is that it's an all or nothing type and has bombed out lto. I can forgive that run. A few things of note; this one copes with an easy 6f or a stiff 5f, prefers fast ground and likes this track. This season's form reads 2/8, 8/9. 1/12 and 7/7. First run up was excellent finishing 2nd from a wide draw at a turning track in this grade but off 6lb lower. That's a good run especially as ground was possibly too soft. It then bombed out at Leicester on better ground but that was over 6f on a stiff track, conditions that don't suit. Was then stepped up in grade and won over C&D from a good draw off 3lb lower. Plumb last lto off this track but that was on the AW which evidently doesn't suit as only beat one home its previous try on the sand. One other thing to say was that its jockey that day has a habit of easing its mount once beaten so I won't read too much into the run. Jockey today takes 3lb off so, in theory, is down to the winning mark of 2 runs ago over C&D. Is eased in grade but doesn't have as good a draw. Assuming the track brings out the best and it runs one of its good races, 14/1 is a price I'm happy to be on at. 5.00 Ascot The only handicap on the card, a Class 2 marathon over 2m4f with 20 runners. Whilst I fancy one of the market leaders, I'm still against the front 5, namely Ray Ward, Clondaw Warrior, Fun Mac, Lycidas and Digeanta, Ray Ward has never won a handicap, Clondaw Warrior may need softer ground and there are question marks over it getting the trip whilst Fun Mac could be anything after a facile win lto & is raised a stone. Lycidas won well lto but again there are question marks over trip & ground and Digeanta has a chance off bottom weight but doesn't look that well handicapped although likely to run its race. Broxbourne (12/1 Paddy Power) - The jockey booking is the make or break here. Total marmite, brilliant or awful. If he keeps it out of trouble, doesn't get going too late, I really see this horse going very close indeed. A couple of things you need here is a horse that's a thorough and proven stayer which has won over this trip or further, irrespective of code, and those trained by traditional jumps trainers have held sway over the last 10 years. Our horse fits both comments. Add to that the ability to act on the track which is a huge positive given the stiff finish at the end of a very long flat race, everything bodes well. Hasn't run on the flat for nigh on 2 years but form over the sticks has been good including a staying on 2nd lto over 2m5f on a stiff track when, if getting going sooner, would have been much closer. The better ground here will also be a factor and with that, a likely strong pace and a severe test of stamina, there aren't many negatives, especially granted a clear run and good timing by the jockey. Won 4 of its last 7 starts on the flat, back in 2013, including a 2m5f big handicap and 2 over 2m, including one here. Last win was off 1lb lower than today. Did put in a couple of poor runs at Newmarket but I think this one likes a turning track and had had a hard season. Ultimately, it has a good mark, will love the ground an the track, has solid recent form, is trained by a top jumps handler and has proven stamina so 12/1 is a great price.

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Cheers Phil, much appreciated. Firstly, looking for a weak favourite is my starting point. If I can't get the fav beat, I leave the race alone. Beyond that, I'm looking for the usual stuff but start with handicap mark and class. Then I delve into recent form & look for excuses for poor(ish) form; I say poorish because, at the prices, it's more than likely there's been some poor recent form. I consider things like trip, trainer/jockey form, ground and draw. Another angle is also the shape of the race (ie. pace & whether front runners will be suited) and type of course (ie. form on stiff or easy tracks). RPR are usually a decent benchmark too. I'd say the main principles I stick to are around class and mark. I'm sure people don't realise how much difference a 2lb swing in mark can make. It's massive and there are winners to be found by focusing on that. Horses at the top of the handicap generally do better than people think; that's because many have been in poor form but are now dropping in class and dropping in mark. That's a double positive if you can find valid reasons for average form. The other thing to then look at in previous statistics; for example, do they have a class ceiling? Value & price is probably my last consideration which some may find odd. I'm looking for the winner, end of, irrespective of price. That said, if the price is too short (ie. 5/1 or shorter), I'd leave it alone. It's more a gut feel. I feel I can hit a 15%+ strike rate of winners and 35%/40% of placed runners so provided I average 7/1, I'll remain in profit. Whether Mon Brav was 12's, 10's or even 9's, I'd likely still have been on. I'm not a big fan of 3yo handicaps as they have all sorts of unexposed types and I'm crap with guesswork. Facts are my game which is why I focus on all age handicaps. So, whilst I agree with those progessing from maidens to handicaps, I'll leave that to the more expert eye. Regarding Donny Rover, headgear was one of the last things I considered. All the other factors (mark, class, form) pointed to a big run; headgear was looked at last and I agree that it might make the difference too. Appreciate your kind words, I certainly need a winner after a terrible weekend undoing much of last week's good stuff. Have a good Royal Ascot mate, I'll likely be sticking to the smaller meetings.
Thanks for the reply mate. Looking for a weak favourite is often where I start in the listed/group races and there aren't as many hiding behind a handicap mark. Some of the fav's look overrated, form hasn't worked out and there's often a viable alternative at double the odds or more. One difference is that you seem very good at picking those dropping in the handicap mark that have seemed out of form and as you mention you explore why they might have run poorly. I usually look at the opposite, the younger, improving and possibly unexposed handicappers but the price available has to reflect the potential. Some of the supposedly unexposed types can be ridiculously short and I imagine that's where some of your out of form handicappers prove to be the ones to back instead. Interesting that you mention a "class ceiling". I call this a "ceiling of ability" based on the handicap mark and there are some horses I've followed closely that I know need a mark of say 70-75 and just seem unable to win off a mark any higher. I also find that some of the older horses don't seem to have the potential to win off a mark any higher whereas say a 4 year old still looks more open to improvement. Trip and ground are very important to me and price usually decides if I'm backing to win, each way or taking 2-3 in a race (usually against the favourite). I also prefer the all age handicaps and you get more of an idea of what a horse is capable of when they've had a few years handicapping. There is a great feature in the RP paper that doesn't seem to exist on the site. It shows the future form of a race that the selection ran in, indicating winners and places from the amount of runners to come from that race. Gives an idea of how strong the form was and also if any have won at a higher level. Good luck for today and the rest of the week. I noticed you've backed Mr Spencer today, let's hope he does you proud. :hope
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In absolutely shocking form at the minute but one more bet today. 8.45 Beverley 11 left in for a Class 6 handicap over 10f. Tin Pin Alley won lto and beat Duke Of Yorkshire that day. They reoppose here and they are the ones the punters currently want to be on. However, I'm looking elsewhere as the former has been raised 6lb and not as likely to grab an easy lead here. Duke Of Yorkshire ran well that day but over 4L, it doesn't look the best handicapped in the race. At 2's and 4's respectively, they both look skinny to me. I'm looking at a bigger priced one to oppose with. Mister Uno (10/1 Skybet) - Not the best horse in the world but hails from an unfashionable yard in good form and with a very capable jockey on top. Is entered up 3 times this week which normally represents the fact the stable expects a big run and I'm certainly hoping that's the case tonight. Last won nigh on 12 months ago over 5lb lower than this but followed that up with a 2nd off 1lb higher than this. Since then, form has been patchy but soft ground has almost certainly been the issue. Better ground tonight and a better run is therefore expected. Finished 2nd towards the end of last season off 3lb higher on decent ground in a class better than this and only run since on suitable ground resulted in a 5L 6th of 11, again off a 3lb higher mark. That was actually a good run and a more suitable jockey now takes the ride. Will get the trip and likes stiff tracks so will be staying on better than most. Good ground, well handicapped, track to suit and stable in form, 10/1 looks a nice price (if you ignore my current form).

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Need to turn this rubbish form around soon. 8.05 Newmarket Class 3 7f handicap for the first day's usage of the July course, with 14 currently left in. Mr Win is another raised for not winning, whilst Super Kid is a danger as an exposed 3yo but mark doesn't look particularly lenient. Buckstay has some great form lately but again raised 1lb and not totally convinced with the change of jockey. I'm taking them on with: Pastoral Player (13/2 Bet365) - 3 years ago, this one would have hosed up here but hasn't won for ages. Now an 8yo but is running as well as ever. Stable in form, useful 7lb claimer on top and off a mark it has defied in all 3 of its handicap wins, albeit dating back some time. 3 runs this term have all win very promising. Opened up off 1lb lower than this and finished 2nd in this grade, before a really good 3rd in a hot race where the 2nd won the Hunt Cup and a few others have come out and won since. Lto was 6th but trip won and pulled hard due to the lack of pace. Looks to be drawn near the pace today so hold up tactics should be ok and if it runs anywhere near its form of 2 runs ago, it should win its first race for quite some time.

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On one of my worst ever runs and trying to crack the 2 big handicaps at Ascot. I must be stupid! 3.05 Ascot Mahsoob lines up as a very warm order after coming from near last to first in a big handicap at York, producing a devastating late turn of foot. Is put up 9lb for that run and is surely on its way into Group company. However, the long straight certainly suited as it took an absolute age to pick up and I'm not sure if the shorter straight & tighter, albeit quite stiff track will suit. I'm opposing the jolly on the basis of the track. Provenance, in my opinion, should be dismissed on the basis on its trainers dismal week so far. There definitely appears to be something amiss with the stable and a watching brief is advised. Collaboration has looked very progressive, winning all 3 races this year and going up 27lb in the process. I'm worried about the track here but perhaps the firm description in the ground is of greater concern. In this Listed handicap with 16 runners over 1m2f, I'm left with: First Flight (9/1 Betfred) - A progressive 4yo like the others I've mentioned but now in a race I think will suit perfectly. Has an inside berth so can go the shortest way run but needs to ensure it gets a run. Ran a close up 3rd to Mahsoob and is raised 4lb for that run but is 5lb better off. That day, I'd say First Flight looked the better horse until well inside the last furlong and if Mahsoob doesn't get going in time, I fancy ours to take full advantage. Ran well in the Britannia last year so I think track will be fine and the firm ground should suit too. Won last time it encountered this going and has been unlucky in defeat since. Not clear run at Newbury but still finished 2nd to a Group class horse and then hampered multiple times in a steadily run race where it struggled to settle. That run against Mahsoob was its seasonal reappearance whereas the winner has already run so, with the expected improvement and 5lb swing on a shorter straight, I fancy our horse to go very close indeed. 5.00 Ascot The annual Wokingham cavalry charge with 27 left in over 6f. There's no point even trying to write off the opposition as, in all fairness, anything can win. However, I have a strong fancy for this that does hail from one of the market leaders. A couple of things to note here is that you need a horse proven in big fields and one that has placed at least in its last 2 starts. Interestingly, the last 4 winners of this all finished 2nd lto in big fields and were also raised in mark for those runs; 2/20 raised 2lb, 2/19 raised 2lb, 2/17 raised 6lb and 2/18 raised 3lb. My selections also fits into this, albeit not the reason for the bet: Huntsman Close (12/1 William Hill) - Now a 5yo but still progressive. 3 wins and placed 7 further times in 16 runs over this trip and has also won in this grade, the Ayr Silver Cup off 11lb lower. All of its best form too has come on firmish ground. Hails from a top yard who knows how to ready a handicapper and this one has almost certainly been laid out for this. Is drawn in 17 so can go either way and I think that's a big plus too. After winning at Ayr where, in fairness, has ideal conditions and a great draw, Huntsman Close was put away for the winter. Reappeared at Newmarket over this trip on this ground off a 7lb higher mark than at Ayr and finished 2nd on the bob to a true course specialist. Had to come wide that day so that performance can be marked up a bit too so I feel its 4lb rise can be defied. The stiff finish there posed no problems so Ascot shouldn't be an issue and I expect our selection to improve markedly from its seasonal reappearance. In a competitive heat, I really fancy this one to be better than handicap company.

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