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Jump Racing Tutorial

How do you avoid doing your money when betting on National Hunt horse racing? By definition jumps racing brings with it additional risk every time your horse leaves the ground. So to help you swerve those rushes of blood to the head you may wish to take a look at these ideas below.

Sticking to these rules may mean you miss a few winners throughout the season, and although you may not win a fortune by following them, they will probably stop you from losing one.

Traditionally the National Hunt jumps racing season would start around early November and carry on throughout the winter months. The climax of the season is still the Cheltenham Festival in March, with the Grand National in April at Aintree.

Today you will find national hunt meetings pretty much all year round, and as we are now nearing October, the National Hunt season proper will be soon underway. Let’s just hope that the weather is not too cruel over the coming months and we are not ‘flooded’ with abandoned meetings.

Here some ideas to use when betting on National Hunt horse racing.

1. If the rains do come in the deep mid-winter, and the going turns really heavy then look out for horses who have already demonstrated form in these kind of conditions. In reality, not many horses actually enjoy galloping through mud. If you can find a horse or two that relishes testing ground – even if the price suggests they are something of an outsider, you may well be sitting on a good value bet. Many punters will still be concentrating on the favourites despite the fact that they may all have only poor form on this boggy surface.

2. Previous course form is very important at some jump tracks and if a horse has run well previously then it can be said to have a good chance. Towcester is a specialist track in my view with such a stiff uphill finish it brings stamina to the fore, with many horses out in front looking set to take the prize, only for the legs to go in the last half a furlong or so.

Sandown and Cheltenham are similar in that they too have stiff uphill finishes, whereas two other tracks to look out for previous winners are Fakenham (a very tight little track suited to nippy types) and Fontwell too. Other courses have their quirks too and are worth checking out any runners with good previous form at these.

3. Let’s imagine you have narrowed down your selections in a jumps race to just two horses. One is piloted by a top-20 jumps jockey, and the other is ridden by a less-able jockey who gets to claim a weight allowance over his rivals. In this situation my advice would be to choose the professional every time. In Flat races, a weight advantage of a few pounds can make all the difference, and trainers will often make clever use of talented apprentice riders to gain a competitive edge. Over the sticks however, it will often pay to side with the proven skills of the experienced horseman, even if it means sacrificing a little weight to your rivals. After all, they are a winning jockey for a reason.

4. There is an old saying which says ‘never bet odds-on in a novice chase’. If such a short price is based solely upon a horse’s hurdling form, then in the long-run you would be wise to steer clear. When a horse is tackling fences for the first time, it is not the time to lump on with all your ‘hard-earned’ without the prospect of at least doubling your money. However, if the horse has already shown some decent ability over fences (boasting a win or perhaps finishing close up in a previous novice chase) then its chances of winning as an odds-on shot are probably no better or worse than in any other kind of race.

Many horses come to Chase races with a high reputation from hurdling and even despite losing their first one, two, or three Chases often still go off at odds on or very short indeed.

5. One of the biggest betting minefields in jumps racing is when top-flight horses are on the comeback trail after injury. This is precisely when to treat horses with caution, but all too often punters will jump right in and throw this caution, and their money, to the wind.

It is very difficult for a trainer to bring a top horse back into a high-grade contest at the same level of form as before the horse suffered an injury. Yet just because a horse is seen once again on a race-track, many punters will expect to see this kind of form repeated first time out.

Bookmakers will take advantage of this high-expectation and keep prices short – based purely upon the animal’s reputation and historic form. But the low prices are not a true reflection of the horse’s actual chance of winning on the day. Of course you can take advantage of this by getting a better price on your fancy which hopefully will be fit and proven to be in form.

6. During the course of the jumps season there are several two mile handicap hurdles with bountiful pots of prize money. Finding the winner in these races is incredibly difficult as they tend to be over-subscribed and doggedly competitive down to the money and the number of horses who can run well at this short distance.

A more fruitful avenue to take would be to concentrate upon the longer handicap hurdle or chase races run over three miles plus. These stamina-sapping contests are more likely to be won by distance specialists who have already proved they can stay the longer trip. Winning stayers have a habit of cropping up in these distance handicaps time and again.

Another good reason for betting in these longer races is that the pace is much slower in general, meaning less accidents by the not so clever jumpers, allowing less chance of the better horses being brought down or coming a cropper in some other way due to a bad jump by an outsider.

7. If you can spot the true jumping stars who bend their back and jump seemingly for fun, tackling obstacles with relish, then you will unearth a plentiful seam of winners over time. If you can watch the races on television, look out for horses that jump quickly over a fence and get back into the rhythm of the race just a fast. You see many horses jump high or slowly at a fence then lose two lengths getting set again and these are not animals you want to be backing.

It is worth noting down these quick jumpers and following just these throughout the season, I am sure it will pay dividends for you.

8. If you are looking for a bit of value when betting on the jumps, it is usually worth looking away from the very top trainers such as Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson. I am not saying that they do not have decent priced winners, they do, but very often their runners will be shorter in the betting than they possibly should be simply because they are the trainers of these horses.

Look for horses with similar or better form, running in the same class in general but for a smaller yard or trainer with a less of a reputation than the horses trained by the big guns and you will be amazed at some of the winning prices you will get.

Similarly horses ridden by Tony McCoy are often much shorter than they should really be simply because the champ is on board. Don’t get me wrong A P McCoy is one of the best there has ever been but when it comes to betting you can’t allow yourself to get too sentimental can you?

Just try and think of these when you are going through your jumping bets and hopefully your Winter season won’t finish ‘flat’.

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James Dawson

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