Sydneysider Tom’s racing career has literally taken in both ends of the spectrum. He’s gone from the very much hands on preparation of yearlings for sale to now being a major Betfair in-play trader. From yearling sales to finishing post, quite literally.
His experience with the animal – and he did prepare the likes of Exceed And Excel and Belle du Jour as yearlings – has not been unhelpful in his current pursuit even if they seem worlds apart. “Think I have a pretty good feel for how a horse is travelling and generally responding and hopefully I might pick something up sooner in the run than others,’ he said.
The boy from Maroubra has been involved in racing all his working life but only as a serious punter for the past seven or eight years after a few various quirks of fate altered his path.
His first job, post school, was at Blandford Park Stud (now Emirates Park) after a stint at the Orange Agricultural College where his path crossed with well-known racing figures including Joe Pride and Neil Jolly.
Later he had six months at the National Stud in Newmarket and tried his hand at pinhooking in the UK and when he returned home before taking on various positions at Segenhoe and Vinery Studs.
“A few things forced me to reassess the work that I was doing and I began to dabble with the betting side, looking for an edge. At first, I thought the jockey challenge might provide it, with the first winning jockey usually over-played heading into the second race.
‘But I was probably looking for something more sophisticated. That’s when I found Betfair but for various reasons, including familiarising myself with it, I had an account for a year before I used it,” he said.
THE BIG CHANGE
Tom was, at this time, also running a food delivery business with a friend but was incapacitated by a broken foot. “It was the year So You Think was favourite for the (Melbourne) Cup,’ he said. That was 2010.
“I just started to look at in-play betting. I had no software but after a few weeks I became obsessed with it and did all the research, reading bot blogs and trawling the Betfair forum and getting my head around the Gruss software which is commonly used for in-play trading,’ he said.
It’s a volatile portfolio which demands faith in observation and a degree of clear thinking as Tom notes: “For example a $5 backmarker settles at the tail of the field and is immediately out to, say, $11 which is illogical given it was going to be back there anyway.”
Tom concedes the champion mare Winx ‘got him’ earlier in her career but even so, he’s not that concerned about knowing the individual horse as such. “I want to know the SP chiefly after assessing run style, fitness and jockey,’ he said.
A HEAVY SCHEDULE
While Tom candidly laments, from time to time, that he’s not ‘creating anything’, nobody could question his level of application.
“Eighty races on Sky 1 on a Saturday and I’d pretty much bet on all of them. That’s about 12 an hour. The core is the physical observation,’ he says. That means minimal looking at Betfair on computer. “No, I never look at my hands. When betting it’s like hitting a note on a piano. It’s almost muscle memory,’ he said.
So what are the keys of observation? “There’s the obvious like seeing horses off the bit or others hitting flat spots.
“While you may not be able to identify the winner in the run you can, usually, distinguish early a horse who can’t win”
However, it’s not as simple as turning on the telly and the laptop. “Plenty of people can make a reasonable fist of watching and reading a race but there’s more to it than that. I love straight races, for example, with the horses coming at you and tracks with obscure camera angles as they can be more difficult to read.
“It’s pretty draining if you’re working right through to the last in Perth on a Saturday so you have to be mentally and physically prepared so I do focus on a lot of exercise plus meditation and yoga and even then, you know, you’ll still have some days when you feel better than others,’ he said.
PREPARATION AND REVIEW
Self-assessment and methodical review are also key factors. “I’ve kept a record every day for six years. I look at the break-down, day by day, hour by hour,’ he said.
Saturday’s still the day, he says, with double the volume of any other day but that doesn’t mean he sleeps Sunday. “There’s just a different volume of trade so you have to mentally reset…..but there’ll still be an opportunity,’ he said. Also internet shows like Racing Rant have helped give me new insights and ideas.
And while he maintains that in-play trading is not necessarily simple, he nevertheless maintains ‘anybody could do it’ and furthermore would welcome new players. “It’s mainly a matter of education and discipline. There’s plenty of education to be had via the Betfair site and forums and plenty of software out there that can assist,’ he said.
And the last word: ‘Betfair taught me about wagering. Everything’s about price, it’s as simple as that, and most punters are uneducated about price’ he said.