How to Find Winners

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How To Find Winners

Finding winners is what every horse racing punter wants to do but some are better at it than others. There is no formula to finding winners but there are certain ways to find horses that do have a good chance of winning a race and other ways to find horses that are unlikely to run well and they are detailed below.

Going and Distance

The going is often described as the most important factor in horse racing and however good a horse is, if the ground conditions are against it there is a good chance the horse won’t run it’s race. The winner of a horse race is (barring bad luck) is the best horse on the day in the conditions and the going and the distance are two of the most important conditions to consider.

Important Considerations About The Going

  • Just because a horse has shown form on softer surfaces it doesn’t mean they won’t handle firmer ground and vice versa.
  • Some horses are very versatile and can run to form on any ground.
  • If a horse has run badly on all occasions they have met a certain ground type it's highly likely that ground is unsuitable.
  • Horses that have been running on unfavourable ground are worth bearing in mind for when they have their favoured ground conditions - they can often be overpriced.

Horses’ form can improve or deteriorate when stepped up or down in trip but one of the biggest mistakes that can be made in horse racing betting is assuming a horse that finishes its race well needs to be stepped up in trip. Often what happens around three or four furlongs from home (depending on the distance) is more important than what happens in the last furlong or two. Looking for the term ‘outpaced’ at this stage in a horse’s formbook can be much more important than ‘stayed on well’ in the final furlong, although those that were outpaced a few furlongs from home should stay on well also if they are going to be a threat up in trip.


Most handicap runners will have run in a handicap last time out and comparing the relative strengths and weaknesses of all the pieces of handicap form that come together in a competitive handicap can be easier to evaluate than it seems.

Although not an exact science, if a handicap runners’ last race was three or four weeks ago you can look at what the horses who finished close to that runner last time out have gone on to achieve in the next run. The better they have done the stronger that handicap form and the more likely that this horse is well handicapped. On the other hand if most the horses who finished close to the horse last time out have gone on to finish down the field in similar races since then the horse is probably not well handicapped.

If you identify a handicap that is working out well it can seriously pay to make a note or set up horse alerts or nag me services for the other horses who ran well in the race so that you can back them next time out. Early season 3yo only handicaps on the flat can often work out very well and provide plenty of profit for those who follow the first 6 or so home.


One of the best ‘regular’ 3yo handicaps from recent years was the 2.40 at Newbury on 16th April 2004. It was only a class 3 handicap but it was contested by a ridiculous amount of well handicapped horses.

  1. African Dream

    Won this race by 2 lengths and then won his next two races at Group 3 level. Was proved to be 19lbs well in for this race.

  2. Red Lancer

    Was beaten just a short head next time out in handicap company but bounced back with a win by 5 lengths at Group 3 level in his next race. At his peak he was rated 28lbs higher than when running in this contest.

  3. Gatwick

    Won his next two starts at handicap level and won another big handicap later in the year, he was retired at the end of his 3yo season rated 25lbs higher than in this race.

  4. Zonus

    Zonus was a difficult character to win with, often looking very unlucky, he finished 2nd and 3rd in hot handicaps in his next two starts and eventually won off a 7lb higher mark than in this race.

  5. Red Spell

    Won his next start at 10/1 and was a narrow 2nd when reassessed in his following race.

  6. Frank Sonata

    Won his next race at huge odds of 33/1 and took another competitive handicap that season before winning at listed level. At his peak he was rated 21 lbs higher than in this race.

  7. Freak Occurence

    Finished 3rd at 20/1 next time out.

  8. Border Music

    Finished 3rd at 16/1 next time out and filled the frame in his subsequent four starts.

  9. Jedburgh

    Finished 3rd at 25/1 next time out and ended up winning at Group 3 level.

The remainder of the runners in this race were beaten 18 lengths or more on the day so were of no interest on subsequent outings.

Just how well handicapped many of these were may be a rare occurrence but there are several handicaps each season where the first five or six horses all go on to win or run very well on their next appearance. Spotting these races early can be the key to having a successful run of bets in handicap company.

Unlucky losers

Although some ‘unlucky’ last time out losers will go on to win they rarely offer much value as everyone can spot them. The degree of misfortune can often be overestimated and the reason a horse finished so well after meeting trouble is because they saved energy whilst other horses were making their moves. As well as the fact that unlucky losers are nearly always over bet next time out when there is a chance they won’t be good enough to win the race, there is also the fact that they may be unlucky once again. Some horses always seem to find trouble in running and that is often because of the way they have to be ridden, from the rear, through weakening horses. This is a risky strategy and sticking to more straight forward horses could be the way to go. Some will win next time out but it’s certainly not the best strategy for trying to find winners and one that many punters still choose to follow.


You may have seen signposts referred to before in horse racing and not been sure what they referred to. Signposts are freely available information about trainer form, jockey form, course form, which horses are going up and down in class, which horses are travelling the furthest distance and which horses were well backed last time out. This information is usually available in daily newspapers as well as racing publications but the detail of information will differ between publications.

Betting School ImageOne of the most important signposts is the trainer form, and in particular those on the ‘cold’ list which refers to out of form trainers. When trainers are very out of form there is often some sort of bug in the yard and a horse that is unwell is always going to run below form. Bigger yards that have multiple stables might still be able to produce winners even when slightly out of form but in smaller yards in particular out of form trainers should usually be avoided.

When those horses do come back into form though the trainer can often find themselves on the ‘hot’ list as their horses are usually better handicapped or able to contest lower grade races due to their poor recent form when the stable was under a cloud. Stopping backing horses when a trainer looks as though he is going out of form can save backing plenty of losers and spotting which trainers are returning to form early can flag up some big priced winners.

Course form can be another important pointer, although not necessarily a factor to solely base a bet on. Britain is home to some of the most unique and unconventional racecourses in the world so it is no surprise that certain horses take to certain courses. Courses such as Epsom, Brighton, Chester, Cheltenham and Newmarket offer some unusual characteristics and if horses have run above or below form at these courses before there is a good chance that will be repeated the next time they run there.

Following The Money

For many punters the market and the moves that take place are crucial clues as to what the result will be. Others think the market is mostly controlled by clueless bets. There is an OLBG Forum thread about Following The Money where OLBG members discuss the merits and pitfalls of paying close attention to market movers.


Examining the breeding of a course can sometimes be daunting but it can also be invaluable in certain circumstances. The breeding of a horse can not only determine its ability but also the optimum going and distance. The form book can also tell you this but on occasions it will be unknown, in newcomers being the most obvious example.

With many better class races taking place on the all weather these days it can also be useful to find out if a horse that has been running on turf is likely to run well on the all weather or vice versa. It can also be useful in jumps racing, even on more experienced horses. Certain sires have a very strong stamina influence and a good knowledge of stamina laden sires can help find the winners of the long distance chases, especially when the ground is soft or heavy.

In an OLBG Blog by Billy121only named Horse Racing Tutorial - The Process Of Finding A Good Bet he examines the pedigree of a horse amongst other factors as ways of finding winners and he points out another area in which breeding can be useful:

When 3-y-o’s go handicapping, many of them are simply slow and are stepped up in trip more in desperation than hope. However, quite often you will find a horse who has raced over say 6f and a mile stepping up to 1m2f or better still 1m 4f. If such a horse is by a sire who is an influence for stamina, say Montjeu and has stamina on the dams side, then he may start a big price after modest runs at shorter trips but the 12f handicap he contests is what he has needed all along. John hills is a trainer who can pull this off well.

Multiple Entries

In an OLBG Blog by Micko70 named Multiple Entries and Minor Meetings he explains that by looking at certain entry patterns you can find horses that are expected to run well by connections.

Golden Rules

At the beginning of 2014 OLBG member The Executioner decided to share the principles which determine his betting routine and they can be viewed in his blog 10 Golden Rules For Punters in 2014.

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Comments from the Forum

  • monkeytennis

    How do you go about finding winners in horse racing? Where did you learn this system from and how successful has it been for you?

    How To Find Winners

    Think this Betting School lesson needs anything else added to it? Disagree with anything written above? Let us know your thoughts and your insight could be included in the OLBG Betting School!
  • Bagger

    Ok. You have to start somewhere and for myself personally think about the very first day at school. Things being said like: \"At his peak he was rated 21 lbs higher than in this race. \" To a total newbie like myself what does that even mean. Another example is: \"Finished 3rd at 16/1 next time out and filled the frame in his subsequent four starts. \"...Filled the frame... What does this mean? Unless I\'m missing a section on OLBG that explains all these (technical jargon) statements. Any information would be grateful beyond words.
  • The Shark

    Thanks Bagger - some good points there :)

    We have an A-Z list in the betting school here

    But yes there are certainly lots of words, lots of terminology missing

    Maybe some members would be kind enough to post the answers to your specific questions here, then we can update the list.

    Also please please do post any others you see - would be massive help to us to grow that list.
  • Shrews

    Ok. You have to start somewhere and for myself personally think about the very first day at school. Things being said like: "At his peak he was rated 21 lbs higher than in this race. " To a total newbie like myself what does that even mean. Another example is: "Finished 3rd at 16/1 next time out and filled the frame in his subsequent four starts. "...Filled the frame... What does this mean? Unless I\'m missing a section on OLBG that explains all these (technical jargon) statements. Any information would be grateful beyond words. At his peak he was rated 21lb higher - all horses are given an 'Official Rating (OR)' by the handicapper. This rating is sometimes called 'the mark' and will be adjusted by the handicapper after each race. If it does well it goes up, if it does bad it goes down. The rating equates to pounds in weight (lbs). In your question, at his best the horse was rated 21lb more than it is today, showing that once upon a time he was capable of better. The comment is alerting you to that fact so that you can make a judgement as to whether you think the horse could improve back towards its best mark or whether it is unlikely to improve.

    There is a minimum weight a horse can carry, for example in jump racing this is 10st. In a handicap race, the mark will determine how much weight it carries. For example in a two runner race:

    Horse A - rated 105 - 10st
    Horse B - rated 115 - 10st 10lb

    In non-handicap races, the horses will carry the same weight, regardless of what their official rating is. Weight can be adjusted to take into account its age (Weight-For-Age) and its sex.

    Filled the frame - is horse racing jargon, which basically means he was placed in his next 4 starts. Placings go like this:

    Up to 4 runners - win only
    5-7 runners - 1st,2nd
    8-15 runners - 1st, 2nd, 3rd
    16+ runners (handicaps only) - 1st,2nd,3rd,4th
  • nors

    That is a great explanation Shrews, really helpful to members. :win:
  • justdoitnow1710

    Thats Great Shrews good info
  • deyxist

    I fall asleep reading law, when i was a beginner i would of read this with relish, has a lot of good vitamins in it.doubt whether Mcdonalds would give you the recipe but a service that takes care of all that is the way to go, just pay and get returns.
  • mc1000

    After over thirty years of punting on the horses I have found only one succesful system. (The well known but rarely used ABC system)
    A. Check to see if the Trainer and Jockey are in form have a decent record in that type of event that the going will suit your selection and that he or she has a preference for that type of circuit.
    B. The race should be a handicap or a race where there is form on all the runners and yours should be well in at the weights and be fit from a recent run.
    C. Having then covered all aspects for any eventuality and you are sure you have left no stone unturned and you are 100% confident in your selection you simply lay the bloody thing to lose. :lol:
  • love to gamble

    A bit about myself first started punting at about 8 years old on the pools as I had to fold the coupons for my dads pools round and he let me have a go on the homes pool.that was about fifty years ago.I have been employrd in the bookmaking industry ever since in all areas.I lost in my punting like everyone else for many years and what I don\'t know now about nearly any aspect of gambling is probably not worth knowing.

    There is in my expert opinion only one way to gamble.I call it the luck system and a blind man with a pin will in time win.i use the following method and it does work because each leg of the system can be on anything you want.the staking is as follows 11111 222 444 888 16 16 16 and so on.Each unit involves you having to double your money anyway you want and to then add the next uunit and do the can of course have a bet returning 5 to one your stake in one go to clear and make a can go on forever and any winner will clear your whole losses and put you in profit.the point is when do you stop?I favour stopping after about 11 to 14 goes depending on your unit stake as most peoples judgement will start to sway as stakes have to increase.

    Each leg of the system can be whatever you like for instance a single bet or a lay or a double multiple bet even a go on a fobt machine or a lottery ticket.I know this sounds weird but I have developed a range of almost impossible to beat racing systems that I use to follow this method. here is an example first bet 10 on a single loser. I am using units of ten by the way. second bet a lucky 15 return 20 profit of 10 so go to next leg 30 lay at evens and you win I have maybe not explained to well but I use a four horse per race four race lucky 15 system that takes advantage of the treble odds one winner and it is almost impossible not to at least not lose.

    the bet requires just one three to one winner aprox per line to return stake and who cant pick a three to one winner on average given four horses in a single race.most times. if anyone wants more details I am happy to oblige along with any other help you may need thanks
  • horage

    hi mate just ran a quick numbers check on your systems they do look the business although you lost me a bit

    your martindale relies on a better than evens odds but you can run it forever but i'd stop stop doubling at 32 so its potential loss is limited to 300 betting bank ;
    but excellent system variation of a martindale and stopping at 32 gives you 20
    goes at hitting a winner at better that evens on anything you chose. If you can't
    pick a fav better than evens in 20 bets ;betting is probably not for you.

    your 1st 4 in the betting lucky 15 using 4 lucky 15s paying treble the odds for
    for a single wiiner sounds interesting does it matter how you line them up;
    is fav 2nd fav 3rd fav 4th fav for each of your 15s or can you line them up anyway you like what difference does it make. but i like the idea 3/1 winner breaks even .....

    excellent post i love to gamble i look forward to reading some more of your systems on here sounds like you know what your talking about
  • Evertonfc81

    Hey love to gamble, I a bit of a newbie to all this but your system sounds good. Just want to clarify a few things so I know I'm doing it right. So first set of bets is 5x £1 bet at 3-1 or better, second bet is 3x £2 bets at 3-1 or better, third bet is 3x £4 bets at 3-1 or better and so on doubling the stake each time you win. Horage can you clarify this at all?

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