by Dave French

October 4, 2019

We love to answer your horse racing questions at the Daily Punt and below you will find a collection of questions recently answered by David Massey.

OK Dave, I know when a horse is running on it needs further, but how can you tell how much further it needs? Also besides ground and trainers/jockey combo, what is your most important variable do you use?

Jules Nelson

Again, I do think going racing and looking at horses helps no end in regard to knowing how far a horse wants to go. Sometimes it's very obvious – a great big, green unit is not going to want two miles, and similarly a smaller, nippier type might well appreciate two miles and hurdles around Fakenham. On the Flat, it's a similar story – you're not always looking for the biggest horse when looking at two year olds, you're looking for the most forward.

As for pinning down exactly what trip they will want, then their pedigree is as good a clue as any, especially if they have relatives that clearly performed better at certain trips than others. It's not an exact science and like so much of training horses there's a definite element of trial and error to begin with, but after a year, you'll generally know what trip brings out an optimum performance of a horse.

As for the most important variable, in extremes of ground (soft bordering on heavy, or very firm ground) that's the first thing I use to try and filter the field down a bit. Recent form comes some way down the list in those circumstances.

In jump racing, when do you start taking the weight a horse has to carry in relation to others in the race ? ie Handicaps. I tend to ignore 10lbs or less, particularly if the going is good. Not talking about handicap mark just the importance you attach to weight in comparison with going, form etc

Steve Newton

Good question as it does sort of tie in with what I was just talking about in the last question. You're right with what you say Steve, on good ground or quicker it is a lot easier for a horse to hump a big weight about, especially over longer trips and the actual weight it carries in relation to the others becomes less of a burden. Generally speaking, these days (and especially at the Cheltenham Festival) the weights are pretty much compressed anyway, with little between top and bottom weight.

In soft/heavy going then it's a different matter, you really do have to give consideration to the weight being given away – even a few pounds can make a difference.

The trip has to be a factor as well – it's a lot easier to carry 10st over 5f (which takes a minute) than it does over 1m4f+. In fact, weight in sprint handicaps is rarely a factor for me – pace of the race (and where it's coming from), draw, track and recent form (sprinters tend to peak twice a season, although that's not always a given) all come before weight.

As an aside, I do like a handicap where the top weight is giving away a chunk of weight to the second in the weights (9lb or more) – it does suggest the top weight is better class than everything else. Look at the rest of the variables for the horse – trip, ground etc – and if they are fine, I'll often bet it.

What advice would you give to an amateur Punter like myself who likes a daily bet on the horses (apart from following your selections) any advice in how best to break down the card/race and come out with a selection.

Would you focus on previous C&D, form or class or a mixture. What would be your starting point?


I think previous C&D form counts for a lot at certain places – it's no coincidence that horses that go well around Fakenham often return there, as there's nowhere else like it, and you can say the same for the likes of Cartmel, Fontwell, the now seemingly defunct Towcester and on the Flat, Brighton and Epsom are just two that spring to mind, and when there's racing at those tracks then previous C&D form would be very near the top of my list.

A lot of attention is paid to recent form and I get why, as it shows a horse's wellbeing, but it's certainly not the start point for me. Having said that, in-form sprinters can often pay to follow when they hit form, which they tend to do a couple of times a year.

Class droppers are always worth a second look, especially if they are in good form.

Graded horses dropping down into handicaps is always a good angle, you'll get plenty of winners (often good prices) by backing those and at the other end of the scale, I often look for one dropping to Class 5 to Class 6 on the all-weather, there does seem to be a noticeable difference between two (Warrior's Valley at Southwell yesterday a good example, he simply outclassed his opponents from the front).

One of the hardest parts of betting is, I feel, how much to stake relative to your level of punting confidence and/or value?

I've tried sticking to a point system for level of confidence, but I don't feel this works very well for me but going with gut feeling doesn't feel right either (especially when I look at my betting records!)

I'm not asking you to divulge your usual bet values or anything like that, but it would be good to get an idea of how you go about making the staking decision.

For example, I follow your selections (thanks very much, by the way) and often on a Saturday you will clarify a bet's value with the “small” caveat – what sort of percentage would a “small” bet be for you compared to your average stake?


It's an age-old question that there's no real answer to, Darren! The first and obvious thing to say is not to bet beyond your means no matter how much you fancy one – having the house on a good thing at Lingfield only to watch it get trapped in behind a wall of horses and get out too late is no fun.

On top of which, your heart wouldn't stand it! So unless you get used to eating bread and jam every time one gets done over, keep it within your budget.

As someone that tends to bet to value – the races that interest me, I make my own tissue for – what I have on varies to how much value I think I'm getting.

If I make it a 5-1 chance and I can get 10's, I'd probably have more on than if something was 6-4 when I think it should be 5-4, for example. I know that sort of goes against the grain as the latter would appear to have more chance, but that tends to be how I play. I'm not a huge gambler by any means, by the way, but that doesn't mean I don't want to win and if I'm having a good bet then I'll make damn sure I've covered all bases.

I put the “small” “very small” caveats in my bets as it gives some indication of the level of confidence I have about them. It's up to you as to what you have on.

A small bet for me would be about 1/4 the stake of one I have full confidence in, and they don't come around very often – about a dozen times a year, the stars align and I'll have a go at one.

Have a look at your records and if you're hitting a high strike rate with your “big” selections and making a profit at it, then stick to those and maybe even increase your stake a bit.

Confidence is a weird thing, as everyone has a bad run from time to time and anyone that says it doesn't affect them is a liar. It does, it makes you question all your methodologies and look at what you are doing wrong.

By all means go back and see if you missed anything, but if you can still justify your selections to yourself then you've done nothing wrong.

Remember – when you're backing winner after winner, you're never as good as you think you are, but when you're backing loser after loser, you're not as bad as you think you are either. (Harry Findlay, that last quote. And he's right.)

Hope this helps!

Will the lack of a prep run help or hinder the chances of Native River in the gold cup? 

Jamie C

To me, it'll hinder. He's a big animal that needs a run or two every year to peak him for the Gold Cup and I think him missing out and going there fresh might be against him. His record fresh isn't dreadful by any means but at the very top level he's the sort that's best coming off the back of a run a month earlier.

Plus, it's looking more and more unlikely (and yes, I know long-range forecasts are often well wide of the mark) that we're going to be getting soft ground for this year's Festival, which I think would increase his chance. Much as I like the horse, at the moment he makes little appeal.

I just want your take on bookmakers interpretation of rule 4s and how they are bending the rules Eg horses withdrawn at 9am for a race at 4pm. Bang rule4. I lost big time last year. Dont mind rule4 when its genuine


Half the problem with the rule 4 is not so much the rule itself, but because bookmakers prices seem irretrievably linked to Betfair trackers (how often do you notice the price change on a bet just as you are placing it, only to change back a few seconds later?) that any movement on the exchanges is mirrored on their websites.

So it's not so much the firm themselves shortening the price, but the lousy software they use that does it. And then you get hit with a rule 4 on an early price.

For me, firms need to do away with the tracker for a start, that would help a lot. I know there's been cases with Paddy Power and Ladbrokes (the David Evans/Black Dave case springs to mind) where they have been accused of manipulating the prices to ensure a bigger R4 deduction and there's some cases that stink, I'll grant you that.

No-one likes a Rule 4, but you might not like what I think about it – it actually works massively in favour of the punter a lot of the time. For a start, nothing over 14-1 gets a deduction, remarkably – a 16-1 chance still has a 6% chance of winning (in a 100% book) but the punter is deducted nothing. And it can be used to great advantage at times – there's been a few cases of three or four horse races where the front two are 11-10 each of two, for example, and one gets withdrawn. (La Estrella/Stand Guard at Southwell an obvious example.)

Instead of getting 1-10 or shorter, you end up with a 45p R4 and an SP of around 2-5 on the other. 2-5 a 1-10 chance? I'd take that all day long. So it can work both ways.

With most bookmakers using best odds guaranteed, they'll always work out whether you're better off with the SP or the R4 anyway.

Quick story – when I used to run a shop for Stanley Racing and R4's were applied to early prices whether the SP was bigger or not, I used to have a cocky loudmouthed punter that came in every day, had what seemed about a thousand Lucky 15's daily and asked for early prices on every single horse. Took me ages to find all the prices. He had four winners on one at good prices one day but one of the horses he picked took a right walk in the market, and that after four withdrawals on account of the ground changing. He'd taken 4-1, it returned 7s but after I'd applied the three R4's his SP was 7-4! Cost him a few quid!

Surprisingly, he stopped taking early prices after that….

Do you think that the improvement in form of the David Pipe stable is that they are taking a slightly similar approach to Martin in that they are buying cheaper to enhance winner numbers. Whereas the Charlie Longsdon yard spend plenty and generally struggle in mid-season when it matters.

Will Bowler

Will, for those of you unaware, is one of the up-and-coming young commentators on the circuit and does a tremendous job at the point-to-points. Knows how to pick a winner too and you can follow him on Twitter @willbowler2k12

To answer your question Will, I was all for writing David Pipe off completely this season and thought that, unless he improved the situation, that he might be packing it in come the summer. And whilst there's no doubt the heady days through 2015 and 2016, where he was often running at a strike rate of 20% plus in any given month are gone, things have maybe stabilised a bit.

The tipping point for me was the fact the yard couldn't get a win out of a very well handicapped Vaniteux last season, which given his mark, looked a certainty at some point. Whilst the lack of a true G1 stable star these days (since the retirement of the wonderful Dynaste, who has been hard to replace) is no doubt setting them back they are at least putting winners on the board each month and haven't drawn a blank since September 2017, something they are to be applauded for.

And yes, it does seem that they are now swapping quality for quantity (although not completely) in an effort to get the numbers back to something like where they were, but that in turn may well have a positive knock-on effect and he may get sent/pick up a G1/G2 horse again in the next 12 months.

It's clear he still knows what he's doing and can train winners when he gets the ammunition, and pinning down why he's not had as many winners as perhaps he should have done is tricky when you don't know what's happening behind the scenes. But he has a couple of wealthy backers and as long as they continue to have winners (and Professor Tisdall looks like having her best season with him, numerically at least, this year) then he'll continue to do okay.

Charlie Longsden hasn't had the worst winter ever (is that down to the ground staying on the quick side? Maybe…) but he is better known as an autumn/spring trainer and yes, he does spend a fair bit on his horses, yet finds himself in a similar bracket to Pipe numbers wise. You can argue all day long his best horse, Hammersley Lake, isn't worth his mark (which is based mainly on his summer exploits) but he's a lovely stick that tries hard and is useful when he gets his conditions. Two yards that operate in different fashions, yet find themselves in more or less the same fishtank.

Heya Dave just a quickie do you think that the Rooneys complete u-turn on running any of there's at Cheltenham has anything to do with one of their trainers telling them of a “live one ”

Aaron L

The case of the Rooney's pulling theirs from Cheltenham and then reinstating them is a weird one. I don't get why they targeted Cheltenham for a start – did they think it was the most difficult course to jump around? (It's not – for the record that's Fakenham, which has the biggest percentage of fallers to runners). If so, why not just talk their fears out with the course executive rather than take the drastic step of telling their trainers not to enter any more up?

The whole thing slightly reeked of a bit of a publicity stunt, if I'm honest. Thankfully they have seen sense, just in the nick of time for Cheltenham handicaps entries to be made. Read into that what you will.

The three handicap entries they have are all well exposed sorts – Go Conquer in the Ultima, I'm a Game Changer in the Coral Cup but the interesting one in many ways is Barney Dwan, entered up in the Grimthorpe at Doncaster tomorrow but at the Festival is in both the Ultima and Coral Cup. To me, he's never really taken to fences and the Coral Cup entry is the interesting one. He gets in 3lb lower than when second to Presenting Percy in the Pertemps a couple of years ago so is clearly on a fair mark. One more poor run over fences tomorrow and I reckon he could line up in the Coral Cup. As such, a bit at 25s NRNB makes some appeal.

I think I should close this article by saying that nobody gets any pleasure out of watching horses fall, injure themselves, or worse. But this is the game we are in. We are never going to get a fatality rate of 0% at any course unless jump racing stops, full stop. And I don't want that to happen. I love jump racing and the opportunities it offers to watch our favourites year in, year out.

David M

Disclaimer: All views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of TGH Trading Ltd or it's employees.

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Dave French

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