This story featured on RaceNet in the lead up to the Caulfield Cup. Daniel share’s his approach and tips to finding the winner of the big Spring Cups.
Professional punter and horse racing analyst Daniel O’Sullivan has revealed the strategies he applies to make his selections in the spring’s biggest feature handicaps.
O’Sullivan, who supplies expert analysis and commentary through Betsmart Racing Services takes into account a number of factors before making his selections in the Cups.
Form & ratings study
The first determining factor for O’Sullivan is if the horse is actually good enough to be a winning chance and he determines this through assigning a horse a numerical value based on a myriad of factors from past performances.
“Ratings are the basis of my form study, they provide a numerical way to indicate the quality of a horses form and how it lines up in this race,” O’Sullivan said.
“I’m looking to understand what figures a horse has run in the past, the context of those runs (i.e. distance, fitness, position in the field, race pace, track pattern) and how that all relates to the standard and context of this race.
“My aim is to forecast the level of performance a horse could run to and then use that to work out what is the minimum rating that will be required to win.
“Historically these big races are reasonably consistent in the rating standard that is needed to figure in the finish.
“Once I have that figure I can immediately rule out those that are not yet proven capable of running the rating required to win.
“I then split that group into those that don’t look capable of hitting the required level and are still unlikely to reach that mark even if they run to a new career peak.”
While creating a set of ratings may be outside the realms of what the ‘average punter’ is capable of, O’Sullivan also utilises some general principles which anyone can use to put the betting percentages in their favour.
The first of these principles is known as the ‘Two Rules of 20’.
“I’m generally not looking to chase significant longshots in either Cup,” O’Sullivan said.
“Stick to horses up to 20/1.”
“If we combine the history of both cups back to 2005, 85 percent of the 26 winners have started 20/1 or less and they’ve only represented 45 percent of the total runners.
“Those longer than 20/1 make up 55 percent of the fields but have only provided 15 percent of the winners. In a betting sense, if you backed every horse up to 20/1 in both cups at the best of SP and three totes then you made a small profit over the last 13 years.
“The other rule of 20 is that I like to look for horses that have had no more than 20 starts.
“When it comes to stayers, I consider that to be the point under which a horse still has good scope for improvement and the potential to run to new peaks.
“Only 30 percent of the runners in the two cups since 2005 have had up to 20 starts, but they’ve provided 65 percent of the winners.”
O’Sullivan is also adamant that close attention should be paid to who the elite jockeys partner in the spring features.
“A proven Group I jockey is essential,” O’Sullivan said.
“These races are on the biggest stage with the highest pressure possible and jockey skill and the ability to handle that pressure plays a major role in the outcomes.
“The very large majority of the Cups are won by well recognised, top-class riders with a proven record at the top level.
“I don’t get carried away with stats or their recent form, simply whether they’ve consistently proven themselves before in big Group I races.”
And finally O’Sullivan does his homework.
Using replays and sectional times he assesses the merit of each runner’s prior performances – in particular he is looking for horses with acceleration and strength.
“In looking at the past replays of horses leading into the races I’m looking for those that have shown good acceleration at the key stages of race in the past, the ability to run well in high pressure races and strength over the final stages,” he said.
“There’s a difference between a horse that can only make up ground when the leaders are stopping in a slow last 200m split (which might visually look good) compared to those that can make ground in the fastest sections of a race and still be among the stronger ones over the final stages.”
What’s not important
There are many factors O’Sullivan does take into account but then there are others which he tends not to give a seconds thought.
Distance and course statistics, weights and barriers are all insignificant to O’Sullivan when assessing a horse’s chances in the Cups, so as long as they meet the other criteria to be rated a winning chance he will not be deterred to have a bet due to one of these factors alone.
Bets that make sense!
Following some of these basic principles will hopefully help to point punters in the right direction of this year’s Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup winners, although O’Sullivan says one of the most important things he has learnt is to trust your own judgement.
“The most important thing is that I’m looking to use that assessment to find bets that make sense and feel right to me,” O’Sullivan said.
“I’m not worried about other opinions or media hype and letting that force me to divert from my own thoughts.
“I’m focused on what I like, the reasons why and then betting with the confidence that I’m getting a good value price.
“The rest is in the hands of the punting gods.”