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A Review of Watching Racehorses
by Amelia Burton

Firstly, I don't class myself as an expert on Thoroughbred Handicapping. Let's be honest, I've been involved in the Horse Racing Industry for about two years, and have only been to the races less than a dozen times. So this review is from the perspective of a novice when it comes to indentifying the fitness of horses and behavioural traits.

Now, I can look at a the form for a field of horses and make a decision about which selections to back. But line these same horses up in front of me and I will only be able to tell you what colour they are. Not much use when selecting winners. The book Watching Racehorses: A guide to betting on behaviour by Geoffrey Hutson deals with the behaviour that horses exhibit on race day. From the stalls to getting on the track, all behaviour is noted and taken into consideration.

This method includes the fitness of the horse, as well as how they behave on the race day. The main difference between Fitness Handicappers and the methods outlined in this book, is that Behaviour Handicappers are not looking for winners, they are looking for losers to eliminate from race contention. This leads to the obvious problem of not picking a few selections that have a good chance of winning, but striking out horses with behaviour that has been found to prohibit winning races, and ending up trying to back a number of horses that have been behaving well.

This book contains a great deal of information about horses and their tack and equipment that I found quite interesting. The explainations and descriptions are quite thorough. This brings about the question of will I be able to make the same judgements about the 60 variables that are listed in the book? Or will I mistake a swishing tail for a stiff tail? One thing that jumped out at me straight away was how can I spend all this time watching the horses until they are out on the track and then hope to dutch bet up to 6 horses and get back to the betting ring to place my bets before the race jumps? Form Analysis allows punters to study information quite thoroughly before making decisions. How long will it take someone of my experience to effectively use Behavioural Handicapping? Six months, maybe a year at best? Time will tell if these methods can be successfully applied.

The bottom line is that a punter betting $10 "had 932 bets for 281 winners, and a strike rate .. ..of 30.2%. All in all, not too bad, and a reasonable price to pay for fun and no effort." Now, I don't want to be completely materialistic but aren't most punters in the game to make a few dollars? These figures seem to come from 4 years of records, from an average of 35 race meetings per year. I wonder how much was spent getting to the races and spending the day watching the racehorses? Doesn't that need to come into it at some stage?

I would recommend this book purely for it's informative content regarding horses, and why they do the things they do, but when it comes to making money from punting I think Geoffrey sums it up by saying "he bets on the stockmartet for serious money and on racehorses for serious fun." I like to have fun backing horses, but it isn't fun if I'm not winning. I believe Watching Racehorses would be a great addition to your form knowledge.

At the end of the day the things you learn from this book could dramatically affect your current punting methods, but I see it as being using in conjuction with other form analysis methods, and not on it's own. At $41.45 including postage and handling, it's worth a look for those that attend the races, or see themselves doing so in the future.

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