Tag Archives: American books

John Gibby – Well Handicapped Horses

Today we have the first part of an interview with John Gibby the author of Well Handicapped Horses

We also have details of two of John's well handicapped horses running today.

This interview was conducted by Steve Carter of the Betting School Insiders Club.


When did you first get interested in horse racing and betting?

Whilst living in Hong Kong between 1979/1980. My father and two elder brothers were regular visitors to the two racecourses (Sha Tin and Happy Valley) and I remember being impressed on the couple of occasions that they returned home and emptied some quite large amounts of money onto the dining-room table!

My first visit to a racetrack came a few years later when I was nineteen. That was when I came to believe that there was money to be made from betting on horses.

Although I lost what little money I had that day, by betting on horses that I liked the look of in the paddock, my brothers had been studying the form and they proceeded to go through the card.

The last winner (if memory serves me correctly) was a horse called Taskforce Victory which landed them a six horse accumulator and the Placepot and combined winnings of over £2000.

It was soon after that that I began to take a keen interest in the contents of the Sporting Life paper that they regularly bought and to start listening to what they had to say about form analysis!

Did your betting activities bring instant success or did it take a while to learn the ropes?

There was certainly no instant success. It took years before I began to show regular profits.

Both myself and my brothers spent years trying to develop those illusive winning systems but most of them were unceremoniously binned after the first inevitable losing run. I had a few decent successes with Lucky 15 bets which helped to recoup some of my losses but overall, although I didn’t keep records of every bet, I was certainly in deficit to the bookies.

The great majority of punters will spend years losing money whilst learning the trade and the great majority will continue to lose money because they can’t or don’t want to learn from their experience!

Were there any early influences that shaped your approach to successful betting?

Yes, without a doubt the biggest influence was Nick Mordin’s ground breaking book Betting for a Living.

Nick’s work was outstanding, primarily because it was such a huge step up on previous British racing literature. It was this book that showed me how to work out my own draw statistics and also introduced me to pace analysis. More importantly, it also helped me to discover that there were numerous excellent American books waiting to be read and works by authors such as Andy Beyer, Tom Ainslie, William Quirin and Tom Brohammer completely transformed my understanding of form.

How would you best sum up your own style of betting?

Periodic and selective. I don’t bet professionally and I am still in the same full-time occupation that I joined twenty-five years ago. For me, betting has been, and always will be, a hobby that I aim to make a few thousand pounds out of each year, whether that be by writing books or by betting. Because of my job (which involves shift work) I don’t have the time or the energy to commit to the necessary amount of form study over long periods of time.

I tend to give it maximum effort from April through to July, betting exclusively on the Flat and then I will have just an occasional dabble during the rest of the year.

I also bet selectively. I identify horses that I believe to be well-handicapped (and therefore probable future winners) and I keep a list of them to follow. Most of them are lightly raced three-year-olds which I look to back in the first half of the season (whilst they remain well-handicapped).

Most of my analysis is done when looking at the results pages published in the Weekender every Wednesday. I scour the results looking for horses that have run well despite being disadvantaged by the various biases that are present to varying degrees in each and every race. I am also looking out for horses that have clocked fast times. For a fuller explanation of the methodology, readers will have to buy my latest book!

What led you to writing your first book “Betting on Flat Handicaps?”

I used to subscribe to the weekly publication Raceform Update and I particularly enjoyed reading the letters and systems submitted by readers to the Sports Forum page. About sixteen years ago I began sending in my own letters.

They seemed to be well received in the main and because I was making good profits at the time from the methodology I was using I decided to take it a step further and write a book. I sent in a couple of chapters to Raceform with an explanation of what would be in the remainder of the book and to my surprise they said ‘yes’!

How was your own P&L affected by the disclosure of the methods described in the book?

It is difficult to know. The method I used then was built around my knowledge of draw bias, which for a good few years gave me a significant edge over the majority of other punters.

That began to diminish as more and more people became aware of the power of the draw and the odds about the well-drawn runners started to tumble. Perhaps my book contributed to that to some extent, but I think that Graham Wheldon’s books about the draw, which were published around that time, were more influential in changing people’s perceptions.

More generally, I would say that it is a truism that winning methods normally have a limited lifetime because inevitably other people will catch on to them and they eventually become over bet as a consequence.

The game keeps slowly changing and you have to keep adapting your methods in an attempt to stay one step ahead of other punters. There is of course no guarantee that you can keep successfully doing that and that is why I have always been reluctant to risk packing up the day job in favour of full-time punting.

In your opinion where does the average every day punter go wrong given that the statistics generally quote that 98% make a loss?

They bet in too many races and on the wrong type of horse. Most people would improve their chance of success if they became a lot more selective and put more money on fewer bets. Another truism in my view is that you cannot construct good bets every time you open the Racing Post, but instead you have to wait for them to come along.

I am reminded of this most years during Royal Ascot week and the Cheltenham Festival. I meet up with one of my brothers and we treat the weeks as a bit of fun and try to find the winner of every race. More often than not we fail dismally!

In part two tomorrow John talks about his current methods for finding winners.

There are two of John's well handicapped horses running today…

Today's Selections courtesy of Well Handicapped Horses

4.00pm Nottingham – Future Security

Related to five winners and cost 160,000gns as a yearling. He was a relatively late foal (April 8) and will make a better 3yo once he matures and based on his 2yo form he gave the impression that he might make into Listed class.

This season he won a class 4 3yo handicap at Bath in early August and finished down the field next time out in the very hot class 2 Melrose Stakes at York. Last time out having been close up he weakened out of it on his first run on firm going and has been dropped a couple of pounds in the handicap. The forecast going today is good to soft and he drops back to a trip more in line with his two wins to date which were over 9f and 10f. Has proven form in the conditions and the ease in class may be able to bring out a return to form for this lightly raced colt should he take his chance.

13/2 Bet365 – win bet

8.30pm Kempton – Eraada

Related to no less than 12 winners including the 118 rated Almutawake so she has a lot to live up to. Being by Medician she is probably going to be suited by a sound surface. She won on her final start as a 2yo in a maiden at Catterick over 7f and did well from a poor draw. Hopefully she will get better with age and a rating of 73 looks manageable.

So far this season two runs have not shown much and she now runs off a mark of 69. Interestingly she is upped in trip to 11f for the first time having not into either of her starts over 7f and 8f as a 3yo and the trainer certainly knows the time of day when it comes to trip. This is her easiest assignment and given she stays then may have a lively chance.

14/1 Bet365 – each way bet

Well Handicapped Horses – II

Today we have the first part of an interview with John Gibby the author of Well Handicapped Horses

This interview was conducted by Steve Carter of the Betting School Insiders Club.

Moving on to your new book Well-Handicapped Horses, was there a need to evolve your original methods?

Yes, the odds about well-drawn runners had contracted sharply as awareness of draw bias increased and furthermore, the reliability of draw statistics was declining due to the systematic and improved watering of our tracks.

The traditional rail draw biases at many tracks either disappeared, or their impact was reduced. In fact it has become common for the jockeys to elect to stay away from the rails and take their mounts down the centre of many tracks.

After I made a slight loss in 2003 I decided that I needed to come up with something different and I turned my attention to lightly raced horses because I felt that many punters struggled to spot those that were potentially much better than they had shown themselves to be on the track, on the few occasions that they had run. It has proved to be a good choice.

I also needed a less time consuming approach to winner finding as spending hours each day studying the form was becoming unsustainable, given my family and work commitments.

How would you describe your typical punting week in terms of research and actual punting activities and what tools do you use to aid this?

These days it is quite simple. In the few months before the start of the Flat I draw up an initial list of horses that I consider to be well-handicapped. That usually contains about 70 horses to go to war with. Once the season gets under way I will look to add horses to the list each week after scrutinizing the results section in the Weekender.

Once I spot a horse that looks interesting I will then look at videos of its past races and all the comments from race readers and its connections that may be on the Racing Post website.

The horse’s sale price and its breeding are also of particular significance. On average I will add about five or so new horses each week. I use Raceform Interactive in order to have access to their ‘List Manager’ feature that automatically highlights which, if any, of the horses on the list are declared to run and that saves me a lot of time and effort when it comes to identifying if horses on the list are running each day.

If a horse is declared to run I then have to decide whether conditions are right for it and whether I think it is ready to produce its best form.

I weigh up the opposition to see whether there are other potentially well-handicapped horses in the race and then decide whether the odds available seem fair.

On many occasions there will be more than one qualifier on my list in the same race, so I also have to consider which of them to back and whether to place forecasts or tricasts. I have had some notable successes with this type of bet and they are an important part of my armoury.

So, it is quite a simplistic approach but it has the big advantage of keeping my betting focussed on, what I consider to be, the right type of horse and I am not distracted by the mass of other betting opportunities out there that may well prove damaging to my wealth!

Since the new book hit the market has there been any noticeable change in your current P&L performance?

I think it is true that more of the horses on my list of 100 horses to follow have been heavily backed than in previous years. Whether that is simply coincidence I am not sure. In most years I have hit with three or four horses which have been returned with a starting price of 25/1 or bigger and they obviously have had a big impact on my profitability.

This year very few runners have started at 25/1 or more and none have won and as a consequence I have made a smaller profit than in the last two seasons. There have, however, been some major successful plunges on several horses from odds of 16/1 down to single figures and, as always, it is important to get on at the inflated early odds! The majority of the runners come in for good support.

If you had a magic wand what changes would you make to the current set up of UK horse racing?

The one thing that I would love to see introduced is sectional times for each horse, in every race, at every racetrack.

That would be fantastic for serious form students and would provide such an insight into how each race was run and how that impacted on the performance of the contestants. I appreciate that it would be expensive and that the idiosyncratic nature of our courses would complicate matters, but I do hope that it happens.

The other thing that I believe should have been introduced a long time ago is the weighing of horses just before they run (and preferably just after as well!). Punters should know whether a horse is near its ideal weight prior to a race.

It would help punters to spot younger horses that have grown significantly and filled out and that are likely to show improved form as a consequence.

It would also be a great help at a track such as Southwell (AW) where big strong horses do particularly well on the deep stamina sapping surface. Punters would quickly be able to spot the bigger, stronger horses by looking at how much they weigh. There is no doubt that it would be a significant aid for punters.

And Finally. What advice would you give to a wannabe profitable punter who may currently not lose a great deal but can’t quite turn in regular profits?

Firstly, read as many books as you can about the subject. I learned an awful lot by reading many of the American books and then applying that knowledge to the UK racing scene. If you can’t yet look at the result of a race, whether that be in print form or on video, and understand how it unfolded and how the various biases that are always present in a race impacted on the runners’ performances then you will struggle if you are employing a form based approach.

Secondly, be selective. If you want to bet on every Saturday televised race then don’t expect to make a profit, unless you hit with an accumulator!

Thirdly, and most importantly perhaps, be prepared to tough out losing runs. Losing runs are inevitable but punters give up on potentially profitable methodologies too quickly and keep changing tack.

Do your research, keep records and then have the courage to give your method a fair chance to prove its worth. The length of likely losing runs depends on the odds of your selections, but if you can’t take a losing run of say between ten and fifteen on the chin, you shouldn’t be betting!

Todays Selection courtesy of Value Backing Extra

Ayr 4.40 Watts Up Son win bet @ 6`1 Willaim Hill BOG

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