HUTCHI'S HK RACING LIBRARY: The Tracks

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Clint Hutchison

Clint Hutchison

Hutchi's Honkers Principal Analyst

01/09/20

 

OVERVIEW:

In Hong Kong there are two racecourses, with three tracks that carry the load of the 800-odd races the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) hold there every season (during season 2019-20 there were 828 races).

These days the Hong Kong racing season starts in early September and carries through until mid-July, in accordance with Government regulations. In recent years there has been 88 meetings scheduled for the season, with approximately 50 of those meetings held at Sha Tin. All but one of the Saturday/Sunday meetings are held at Sha Tin where there are usually 10 or 11 races held per meeting. Whereas the mid-week, usually Wednesday meeting is predominantly held at Happy Valley where there are usually 8 or 9 races held per meeting.

The majority of Hong Kong races are held on turf, but the ‘all-weather’ (AWT) or dirt track is also used from time to time, with three or four race meetings held on that surface every season (three in season 2020-21), which also helps “rest” the Happy Valley turf. The turf at both Sha Tin and Happy Valley is StrathAyr sand-based that drain exceptionally well and are designed that way to deal with the heavy rainfall that can occur during the monsoon season (May-September). Last season there were 514 races Sha Tin and 306 at Happy Valley.

 

SHA TIN:

The Sha Tin turf track is 1,900m in circumference and contains a straight 1,000m course. The straight for the “course proper” is 430 metres long and a maximum of 14 runners per race can be entered. The distance range for Sha Tin races are between 1,000m and 2,400m.

The Sha Tin all-weather track (AWT) is 1,560m in circumference, with a 365m straight, with a maximum of 12 runners per field for 1,200m races and 14 runners for races over distances above that.

In HK racing there is rail movement from meeting to meeting as highlighted in the graphic from www.hkjc.com. There are certainly some patterns that arise with this rail movement and in conjunction with similar rail movements year-in-year-out, reference to specific meetings and how the track ‘played’, one might be able to observe some advantages over the market.

For example, pre-2018 a noted track pattern for the “A Course” was that it suited “swoopers”, that is, horses that made their runs four plus horse widths off the rail in the straight. Since then, that pattern on the “A Course” became far less pronounced, and in fact it wasn’t easy to make ground at all. However, the last meeting run on the “A Course” at Sha Tin at the end of season 2019-20, seemed to revert to pre-2018 “type”.

 

HAPPY VALLEY:

The information surrounding the Happy Valley track is highlighted in the graphic again available from www.hkjc.com. Because of it’s tight, turning nature, interestingly, there is a slight change in the length of the straight depending on the rail position, and this track in recent years has arguably had stronger patterns or bias compared to the turf at Sha Tin.

CONGHUA (CHINA):

The HKJC also have a track facility in Conghua, China, which currently acts as another training and trialing facility. They do not currently hold any betting races there because of Mainland China regulations.

TRACK BIAS:

Track bias exists naturally on all tracks around the globe and of course Hong Kong racing is not immune to this. Horse racing when “around a bend” by it’s very nature can advantage those horses that cover less distance than others.

Compared to most tracks around the world the bias that is evident on the turf at both Sha Tin and Happy Valley is relatively minimal and often predictable. That said, with a handicapping system (that will be discussed in a later article) that is so tightly bound, small edges in patterns are somewhat amplified. By that I mean, for example, there might not be much separating the top-six chances in a race at Happy Valley, so small patterns and their impact can have more of an adverse affect on runners and their respective finishing positions – “a game of inches”.

One of the more significant track biases in Hong Kong is clearly down the straight 1,000m course at Sha Tin, where racing hard up against the outside rail – on the grandstand side – is clearly advantaged. I believe it is due to the compaction of the turf track where trials are held, but ultimately it doesn’t matter why, it just is that way. It can be up to 4-lengths better on that patch of ground but measuring the bias is a very subjective process! The HKJC have tried to overcome the bias by installing a “false outside rail” that is up to 6-metres in from the normal position.

 

MAINTENANCE:

The turf tracks are usually watered on the morning of the races and depending on the time of year, the moisture in the ground will obviously dry out as the day goes on. If rain is forecast on the day, then often the track manager might decide against watering a track in the morning and if there is only a light shower, then that track can really race very fast indeed.

Both turf tracks have amazing drainage, reported to be able to move 100mm of water per hour. In June 2020, Sha Tin endured 500mm of rain in the 48 hours leading up to raceday and they still held the race meeting. In 2016 Happy Valley endured over 200mm of rain in the 36 hours before a meeting, including a staggering 100mm within 3 hours of race 1, only for the track to be upgraded to Good by race 7, after there was no rain once the races began.

The turf tracks are “ripped up” and re-laid after every season and there is a lot of maintenance on the track through out any given season. There are actually two types of grass that they race on during the season; a “winter grass” and a “summer grass”. The “winter grass” is usually sewn into the turf tracks around the end of October, early-November, and this happens at a similar time every year. The “summer grass” is sewn-in at the end of March, start of April.

The all-weather track (AWT) is regularly maintained through the season, as it is the main work track. It can ride very differently through the season depending on the time of year and the weather. The effects of heat and humidity can change how the composite artificial surface, or “dirt” acts. All the “dirt” is imported and the blend of the surface can also be changed through the season to help “cope” with different weather. As is the case with dirt racing, early pace is of paramount importance and particularly those races held over the sprint distances, leading or settling close to the pace and on the rail can be a real advantage.

 

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WELCOME TO HONG KONG SEASON 2020-21!

Hong Kong season 2020-21 starts this Sunday, 6 September at Sha Tin! Photo published under licence, by Nohead Lam.

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Clint Hutchison

Clint Hutchison

Hutchi's Honkers Principal Analyst

31/08/20

 

The off-season has nearly come to an end and it’s time to wind into another Hong Kong racing term, 2020-21! It’ll be the fourth season that I’ve offered my Hong Kong racing analysis and services via www.hutchishonkers.com, but over 30 years since I first began following my father Bruce around the Sha Tin stables complex and racetrack!

In the wagering game it is vitally important to reflect back upon what has transpired, not only in terms of the form but how one has played the game. Overall, the 2019-20 season was disappointing in some respects, with the overall Best Selections and Strategy incurring a loss (unlike the previous seasons), which meant a dip in the overall profitability of that part of my service since it began.

One of the positives from last season was that the Best Bets continued to make a profit with 33 of 88 best bets winning with an albeit modest 2% POT, when compared to the previous two seasons in particular where 18% & 21% POT was returned respectively. Hong Kong is a constantly tough and competitive market!

 

Over the season I felt I was consistent with my approach to how I do my form, formulate my ratings or my strategy, but one always needs to recognise where things could’ve been better, or where things might have been wrong, so they can be improved upon or corrected for the future. The bottom line will always look a lot healthier with fewer mistakes, of course unchangeable today, but instructional for tomorrow.

It seemed that the 2019-20 season was unique on many fronts, with the trainers’ championship being fought out by two previously “well-exposed” horsemen – with Ricky Yiu gaining the title in the end – who had never come close to that feat before.

The “newly formed” winning strike-rate of their horses didn’t correlate as it normally would to their prices, which might have contributed an “overrating” of other historically more dominant figures. For example, in 2018-19, a $2.80 chance had a strike-rate of 33.3%, delivering a -9% POT, whereas in 2019-20 it was 29.2% delivering a -20.6% POT! That highlights a big shift, but betting markets being fluid and changing over time, one will hopefully be able to get back on the right side of any potential trends moving forward. That one, I might have been too slow to acknowledge.

As I mentioned prior to last season, I am happy with about 4-5% POT over the season as Hong Kong racing is a very challenging market. So while the 2018-19 results were great (10% POT), the loss in 2019-20 certainly put things back in perspective overall.

One of the many pleasing aspects of last season was the interaction of Hutchi’s Honkers subscribers via HHLive and social media (Twitter & Facebook) and it’s clear that my service offers a large range of information, news and some entertainment, that different people take different things from. Some like to play the best bets only, others use my Rated Prices (RP’s) to help them shop the “overs” in the markets, whilst others shape Quinellas, Trifectas and Quaddies with my selections.

As an added feature this season I will be adding full markets rated to 100%, for all races and I anticipate that this will provide “the full picture” for serious players to identifying “overs” and value in the markets as they form, and therefore might not have necessarily been a part of my early strategy. My full markets will be exclusively available for Hutchi’s Honkers VIP members, with a dedicated and secured page with that information on the website, posted amongst my other analysis.

In addition, for all subscribers, I plan to enhance my service on the Sunday meeting, where I will post suggested bets (and record these) via HHLive during the meeting it self. Obviously, if there is a track pattern or trend that develops during a meeting, I want to expose and potentially exploit this observation! And simply, if a horse’s price drifts and becomes an attractive “over”, I want to be on and alert subscribers accordingly.

Given much thought and some feedback I’ve decided to significantly change the subscription process for HK Season 2020-21. You will now have the option of joining monthly at AUD $19.99 per month. Or, for VIP access, a season will cost AUD $649, which will also provide access to my full RP’s.

I believe I offer the best Hong Kong racing service available anywhere in the world, and to offer it at sustainable value for all who want to follow Hong Kong racing is a an additional goal of mine.

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Here’s to a great season ahead – Giddyup!

Hutchi


HUTCHI'S HK RACING LIBRARY: Betting Quinella, Quinella Place and now Forecast

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Clint Hutchison

Clint Hutchison

Hutchi's Honkers Principal Analyst

28/08/20

 

OVERVIEW:

The purpose of Hutchi’s Honkers is to provide quality information and strategies pertaining to Hong Kong racing and I have had many clients ask “why do you bet Quinellas and what’s a Quinella Place?”

Firstly it is worth noting that in Hong Kong, the biggest hold in any bet type on their tote is the Quinella pool. For the uninitiated that’s selecting the first and second horses past the post in any order.

The Quinella Place pool is generally marginally smaller than the Win pool in Hong Kong. In Australia the Quinella Place is called the Duet and it pays out on selecting two horses that both finish in the top-three placings past the past, in any order.

An example of the respective pool sizes (in HKD) from the final race at Happy Valley last season was as follows:

Win:                HKD     $44.09 million

Place:             HKD     $41.70 million

Quinella:        HKD     $72.30 million

QP (Duet):     HKD     $62.08 million

 

In Hong Kong, this year will be the first time in decades the Forecast, or Exacta (as known in Australia) will be added to the betting products offered by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, and it is important to note. A successful Forecast bet on a race means selecting the first and second horses past the post in the correct order.

Those outlaying from Australia via the SuperTAB will be doing so into a commingled tote with the HKJC.

A reminder that commingled pools are the Win, Place, Quinella, Quinella Place (Duet) and Tierce (Trifecta) and now the Forecast (Exacta)!

 

QUINELLA, QUINELLA PLACE (DUET) AND FORECAST (EXACTA) BETTING

On occasions throughout previous seasons, I’ve recommended playing a Quinella or Quinella Place in various races when I perceived there could be an edge to do so. I’ll discuss the rationale behind that.

Different racing jurisdictions have different bet types that seem to be popular for various “cultural” reasons, such as the Quaddie in Australia, and obviously one of the main attractions about betting in to Hong Kong markets is the large volume of liquidity through out the pools that make up their pari-mutuel system. Whilst we can concentrate on gaining advantages over the fixed markets offered in Australia, there is still some value in betting into the respective “Quinella pools” that are commingled with Hong Kong.

Without delving into detailed mathematics, basically, once I have framed a full market for a particular race, the rated price (RP) for each individual runner to Win relates to what the Quinella should pay for any pair of runners from that race. Different systems have different ways of achieving this price. In any case, the key is that there are times when, for example, my Win price for a runner might not be a straight overlay or “a bet”, but the Quinella with another runner or three, might be “a bet”. This is due to how my rated prices for these horses “match up” to how the market shapes, which can mean the is value in a Quinella bet.

Let’s take a look at a race from last season as an example:

 

In this event, the strategy was to have 4.5 units Win on Winning Method, and 2 units Win on Victoriam. An investment of 6.5 units on the race returned 16 units (9.5 profit) via Best Corp and 15 units (8.5 profit) via the Tote.

 

The Quinella for this event paid $10.05 and it should have been played as well. According to my market RP’s, the Quinella rated around $5.80* (see below for guide to calculating quinella & exacta RP’s) and it paid nearly double! Even one unit on that strategy would have made a big difference to the betting bottom line and that is something to take more advantage of this season.

When my RP differs considerably from the market on a key runner (usually one of the market leaders), there still presents opportunities to take advantage in the Quinella Pools even if that key runner wins.

 

The above example highlights when there might be a short-priced favourite in a race – like Golden Sixty – which is just too short for me to back, (RP $2.20 v BC $1.75), and my second “pick” or rated-runner – Fat Turtle – develops into a decent overlay (RP $7.50 v $13.00).

Here I chose not to play into this event from a Best Selections and Strategy perspective, but on my RP prices, I should have at least been having something on Fat Turtle to win. My rated Quinella price from the RP’s of those two horses was $5.50* and the quinella ended up returning $8.40!

 The reason at the time I chose not to play into this race is that I didn’t want to back Golden Sixty at his very short quote (even though he was clearly rated “number one pick”), but I didn’t really want to bet against him either given he presented as a horse with “hidden upside”. However, my assessment of the rae, whilst not 100% correct, still yielded enough of an advantage could have been realised through the a Quinella bet.

So the opportunity to bet in to these Quinella markets (including Quinella Place and now Forecast pools) is there and value will present itself when there is a runner or two where my rated prices (RP) differ significantly from their market prices.

There is some additional skill of course in trying to predict how the pools and prices develop. One bets in to the totalisator (pari-mutual) and from that perspective there can be significant late moves that make it hard to predict final prices from those constantly updated on the HKJC website, but hopefully one will land on the right side!

For more, keep browsing through my site www.hutchishonkers.com and join me following Hong Kong horse racing.

Return to my HK Racing Library soon for more discussion about betting and Hong Kong racing!

Hutchi

 

* A “simple” guide to calculating Forecast (Exacta) & Quinella rated prices (RP’s)

Forecast – selecting horses to place 1st & 2nd in the correct order.

 

Calculating the RP’s of Forecast can be simplified by considering the acts of finishing 1st and 2nd as two different races.

So from Race 768 above:

Winning Method at a RP of $2.70 is a 37.0% chance of winning “the race for 1st” (100%).

This leaves 63% (100% – 37%) chance for “the race for 2nd”.

Victoriam at an RP of $6.00 is a 16.7% of winning the “race for 2nd” (16.7 ÷ 63 remaining) = 26.5%.

Therefore the chances of Winning Method (RP $2.70) finishing 1stand Victoriam (RP $6.00) finishing 2nd is 37% x 26.5% = 9.81%, which equates to a RP of $10.19 (100÷9.81) for the Forecast (Exacta).

 

Quinella – selecting horses to place 1st& 2nd in any order

 

A single Quinellais effectively taking two Forecasts (Exactas), so a similar methodology can be applied to calculate the RP of Quinellas from RP to Win.

Again from Race 768 above:

Taking the % chance of Winning Method finishing 1stand Victoriam finishing 2nd = 9.81% forms one half of the Quinella sum.

The other half starts with Victoriam finishing 1st at an RP of $6.00, which gives him a 16.7% chance of winning “the race for 1st”. This leaves 83.3% for “the race for 2nd”.

Winning Method at an RP of $2.70 is a 37% chance of winning “the race for 2nd” (37 ÷ 83.3 remaining) = 44.4%.

Therefore the chances of Victoriam finishing 1stand Winning Method finishing 2nd is 16.7% x 44.4% = 7.41%, which forms the other half of the Quinella equation.

Adding these two together gives the % chance of the Quinella of Winning Method and Victoriam occurring, which can be translated into a RP:

(9.81% + 7.41%) = 17.22% which equates to a RP of $5.80 (100 ÷17.22)

 

 

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HUTCHI'S HK RACING LIBRARY: A Guide to Managing a Betting Bank With Units

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Clint Hutchison

Clint Hutchison

Hutchi's Honkers Principal Analyst

26/08/19

OVERVIEW:

The purpose of Hutchi’s Honkers is to provide quality information and strategies pertaining to Hong Kong racing and I have had many clients ask about my unit strategy and what that means?

The principles of investing on the Hong Kong racing product are, ultimately, no different to anywhere else. I strive to show a profit over the long term and therefore it is a process. There are peaks and troughs and whilst it would be great to be winning every week, that just isn’t going to happen, there is going to be some variance.

There will be some tough weeks, some losing runs, but it is imperative to stick to “the process” and be there for the long haul.

Managing a betting bank and staking correctly, is an integral part of “the process”. There’s a winner in every race, and whilst it’s fine to try and “find every winner”, my overriding view is to ensure that every bet I have is on a horse whose price is ‘an over’ or ‘value’. In other words, my ‘rated price’ (rp) is shorter than the price I can get from the market, or the chance I rate a horse of winning is higher than what the market thinks. This sets me up for profiting in the long run. E.g. my rp is $2.00 versus a market price of $2.50, this represents ‘an over’ or ‘value’ and would be a good bet.

This is where a betting bank and units come in.

A unit represents a dollar (currency) amount that is an even portion of a total betting bank.

This betting bank therefore represents the total money you want to spend.

For me the allocation of units to a bet is supposed to reflect a level of confidence on a certain bet. That level of confidence is judged by the outlay of units, relative to my betting bank. Assume I begin the year a betting bank with 500 units of currency to invest on Hong Kong racing. To allow for variance (winning and losing), I will aim to invest 4% to 5% of the total bank per meeting, or approximately 20 to 25 units. This should be sufficient to allow for variance through the season.

How much you should bet in dollar terms? This depends on your budget. For example:

 

  1. $10 unit and a 500 unit bank = $5000, or $200 – $250 spent per meeting.
  2. $50 unit and a 500 unit bank = $25,000, or $1,000 – $1,250 spent per meeting.

 

For HK season 2018/19, via Hutchi’s Honkers’ Best Selections and Strategies:

Recommended total outlay:     2300 units (88 meetings)

Turnover ($10 units):                $23,000

Return:                                      +239.8 units

Profit on Turnover (POT):         $2,398 or 10%.

 

The graph clearly highlights my point about variance, and the importance of managing your funds via a bank and unit approach – this is a more sustainable long-term approach.

This is why I try to encourage people when considering whether to sign up to Hutchi’s Honkers, to strongly consider committing to a full year as opposed to dropping in and out during the season. Last year it was unusual to start like that. Historically I’ve found the most profitable periods in the Hong Kong season being between October and March – again though, season to season, this is not a given as last season showed!

Overall, this was a very good year and I’ve noted over a longer period of time my personal returns on Hong Kong racing, to operate between 4% to 5% POT.

 

As an aside, here are the stats if you isolated my Best Bets from HK season 2018/19:

 

Recommended total outlay:     663 units (88 meetings)

Turnover ($10 units):                $6,630

Return:                                      +140.40 units

Profit on Turnover (POT):         $1,404 or 21%.

 

The important thing to note is that there is likely to be far more variance if simply taking Best Bets. In the context of a whole betting strategy it is very risky to only have “one bet a meeting”.

One of the distinct advantages one has being able to bet in Australia, is taking a fixed odds position after identifying ‘value’ in the market. Locking in this ‘value’ can deliver significant results, especially when the price ‘crashes’ by the time the race jumps.

For more, keep browsing through my site www.hutchishonkers.com and join me following Hong Kong horse racing.

 

 

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Here’s to a great season ahead – Giddyup!

Hutchi