Why don’t you identify with the ‘tipster’ label?

I do not consider myself a ‘tipster’....

Nor do I consider Against the Crowd a ‘tipping’ service....

I highlight that fact in promotional materials designed to introduce readers to my service....

I frequently repeat the point in day-to-day editorial columns....

And – when people ask (and they do) – that’s what I always tell them....

‘I am not a ‘tipster’....

  • Bewilderment and outrage....

It often surprises readers when they come across that statement....

It generates responses ranging from genuine bewilderment to unbridled outrage....

Some readers think I am making a joke of some sort....

But I can assure you – as I assure them – that I am not...

Over the years dozens of readers have responded to my insistence in similar fashion. It goes something like this....

‘You are a tipster. Against the Crowd is a tipping service. You put up horses for betting purposes. If that’s not a tipping service, then I don’t know what is....’

I see where those readers are coming from. I understand why they take the view they do. But it makes no difference to me. None whatsoever. It’s not how I define myself or the service....

Let me reiterate my stance on the matter here and now – unequivocally and categorially. Just so there is no confusion....

I am not a tipster and Against the Crowd is not a tipping service....

  • Meeting with expectation....

Against the Crowd does put up horses in big handicap races – at the weekend and at the big midweek festivals....

Of course, it does. There’s no getting away from that. I’ve been at the game for ten years and more. And the likelihood is that I will be at the same game for the next ten years to come....

I put up horses because a large proportion of my readership demands that I do so. They expect it. And I understand exactly why that is....

I spend all week talking about these big handicap races – looking forward to them, previewing them, studying them, forming a view about them....

When the weekend rolls around, readers want me to put my money where my mouth is....

They want me to stick my head above the parapet and tell them where my investigation process and all the digging has led me to....

They want me to tell them what I am backing with my own cash. And they want me to tell them why – in detail....

  • Happy to oblige....

Some readers always follow me in on my picks....

Some readers back my selections when I make a case that appeals or convinces....

Others merely factor my view in with their own and that of any other pundit whose view they respect or take into consideration....

It doesn’t matter if a reader backs my pick or not. It doesn’t matter if he ignores it. It doesn’t matter if he laughs at it. It doesn’t matter how he uses it....

The bottom line is that most readers want to know what my pick is anyway – whether they plan to bet it or not....

Most readers see the pick as a fundamental and necessary part of what the Against the Crowd service is....

They see the pick as a tying-off of the loose ends....

It is the full-stop at the end of the sentence....

And you know what they say: the customer is always right. And I am more than happy to oblige and to share my betting plans and what drives them. No problem. No worries....

  • The 80/20 split....

But, as I say – and as most long-term readers would acknowledge – the picks are just a PART of the Against the Crowd service – and a small part of the service at that....

Ahead of Friday morning there will have been three or four issues of Against the Crowd earlier in the week....

Unless there is some midweek festival to focus on, none of those columns would have been focused on producing picks or providing bets....

Those columns add up to 80% of the Against the Crowd service over the course of a year....

And that larger part of the Against the Crowd service is focused almost entirely on analysis....

....On sifting through information.... on extrapolating facts from data and stats.... on generating insights.... on studying races and horses and trainers and jockeys.... on making observations and arriving at conclusions that I hope will be of some practical use to serious handicap punters....

The hope and intention with those columns would be that over time they serve to educate, build a knowledge base and help readers become more effective players in handicap markets....

Those columns are designed to help readers develop an informed view of the top-level handicap scene on the flat and over jumps – an informed view being a genuine and distinct edge in a marketplace dominated by pin-stickers, pundit-followers, fav-backers and guessers....

  • The meat of what we do....

The analysis is the meat of the work here at Against the Crowd. Always has been. Always will be....

It is the fundamental part of the service – the biggest part of the service – the 80% of the service....

The tips are merely a smaller element added on at the end of the week because readers like to know where our own money will go when push comes to shove....

And that’s why I consider myself first and foremost a racing analyst – specializing in handicaps and the horses that run in them – rather than a ‘tipster’....

Tipping is a small part of what I do. The smallest part. The picks are a minimal component wedded to much larger working parts....

I am a racing analyst who provides picks. I am not a ‘tipster’ who throws in a bit of analysis now and again....

And that’s why I baulk at being referred to as a ‘tipster’. It’s why I won’t accept the label....

And it’s why I don’t accept Against the Crowd being categorized as just another ‘tipping service’. Because it isn’t....

  • Let me put it another way....

Go out there and look closely at the hundreds of thousands of ‘tipping services’ that cater to racing fans....

Now, see if you can find even a handful of those that provide the level of content and quality of analysis that Against the Crowd strives to produce every week of the year....

I’m not one for tooting my own horn, but I know for a fact you’d need no more than the fingers on one hand to count the genuine candidates....

Your common-garden tipping service (a description that covers about 98% of tipping services as far as I’m concerned) will do little more than provide an email or a text containing a hello and the name of some horses and the races they are set to run in....

That’s a ‘tipping service’. It’s just picks. There’s no analysis. Most such services don’t even bother to write a line on the thinking behind the horses they are putting up. If indeed there was any thinking behind the selection in the first place....

So, you will understand why I take exception to Against the Crowd being lumped into the ‘tipster’ pot with that band of slinks....

Let’s have it right. Very few services go about providing a racing service the way we do here at Against the Crowd....

We do what other services are not prepared to do. We do the work – in the hope that our readers benefit. We go heavy where the others travel light – on analysis and on genuine knowledge-building....

I think that’s a fair and a true statement. And, that being the case, to accept the label of ‘tipster’ would be to severely underplay what this service sets out to do and what it’s all about....

I can’t put it any straighter than that....

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd

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Why don’t you appeal to everyone?

There are many different types of racing advisories on the market....

There are lots of different types of punters out there in search of information and advice....

Against the Crowd is a racing advisory....

As the author of this column, you might think I would want ALL punters signing up to make use of my output....

But that’s not the case.... 

  • Not all marriages are happy....

We are always looking for new readers – we go in search of them....

We always welcome new readers – with open arms....

We hope new readers will take to our specific approach to the game....

But it doesn’t always work out that way....

Not all marriages turn out to be of the happy-ever-after variety....

Certain types of readers go with ATC like custard goes with lamb. The two things just don’t belong on the same plate....

  • I have a dream....

For example, the dreamer is NOT a good fit with what we do here....

You can point out a horse to the dreamer and he won’t be able to tell you with any sense of certainty which end is which....

The dreamer has absolutely no real interest in horse racing. The sport makes no sense to him whatsoever. It never did. It never will....

The dreamer doesn’t know Lester Piggot from Leicester City. Ask him what he thinks about Stradivarius and he’ll think you’re talking about the violin....

If the racing is on the TV on Saturday afternoon, the dreamer is short odds-on to switch channels and start watching the Western on Movies for Men....

Despite all this, the dreamer has somehow managed to convince himself that there is a man out there in the world who can change his life and financial prospects by showing him which horses to bet....

Who knows how these things happen? Who knows how these peculiar ideas grow and thrive in people’s minds? Who knows how such twisted dreams take root and develop?

You might not think such nonsense and foolishness possible. But, believe me, you see them ALL when you produce a racing service such as ATC....

Every strain and breed of mankind passes through over time. The dreamer is a more common traveller than you might imagine....

  • No knowledge....

And the dreamer is the very last kind of punter you need on a service like ATC....

Why? Because his expectations are so woefully out of line with reality....

So out of line you cannot possibly hope to deliver the service he is looking for....

For a start, he knows so little about the sport of horse racing. He brings zero contextual understanding of how the game works outside of the fantasyland ideas he has created in his own mind....

And he is so betting-illiterate that he heads into the project with the cast-iron expectation that piece of information you provide will lead to a bet and that every bet should win....

Not will win. But should win....

His mindset is that of a man convinced that there are people out there who call every race run correctly....

That’s how little knowledge and experience he comes to the table with. If knowledge and experience were breadcrumbs on the bird-table, your average robin would keel over from malnutrition....

Yet the dreamer expects to be in front from the word go. And to stay in front ever after....

That’s a hard taskmaster, ladies and gents. You’re never going to please the dreamer....

  • No limits....

And the dreamer doesn’t go into this thing as a pastime that might produce a handy four-figure profit over a 12-month period – increasing the amount of walking-about money he has on the hip....

No. The dreamer tends to dream big....

Real big. Bigger than your wildest dreams....

He goes into this thing looking to retire (next month), buy houses (several), sports cars (several more), a super-yacht, an island in the sun, a Premiership football club, an airline company, a date (maybe more!) with Jennifer Lawrence....

He goes into this thing because he wants to live like the last of the international playboys. He wants to rub shoulders with the glitterati. He wants to be moving and shaking with the movers and shakers....

And he kind of expects to be able to do all this betting the horses you put up at £5 or £10 per point – £20 max....

In truth, the dreamer is a bad fit for any racing service....

Nobody really wants him. His expectations are so far off-beam that no service can hope to meet with his approval short- mid- or even long-term....

Whatever you do, however you do it and whatever the outcome, the dreamer is going to be an unhappy camper....

  • In search of winners....

But some services are a better fit for the dreamer than others....

To the dreamer it’s all about backing winners. After all, how can you make any money if you’re not backing winners?

And we understand. We have all been there. We have all stood at one time or another in the dreamer’s size 10 boots. And we all know exactly what the dreamer is failing to factor into his thinking....

We all know that he is neglecting to consider price. He is so fixated with the idea of backing as many winners as possible, he completely overlooks the price at which he is backing them....

That’s fantastic news – short- to mid-term at least – for one of the several million tipping services out there that specialize in putting up short-priced favourites....

A service of that nature might register a strike-rate of 30% to 40% from time to time. Once the dreamer realizes (as he will) that nobody picks winners 100% of the time, this service with a big wining strike rate will undoubtedly be of interest.

If the winners keep coming, he might soldier on with it – under the illusion he is winning....

It is only over time that he will come to realize with depressing finality that the prices he is taking on his bets make it impossible to get in front over the long term....

This is the moment of true crisis. The moment the dream might finally turn sour....

  • ‘Another loser’....

But the dreamer is NOT cut out for a service like ATC....

Here at ATC, we are not primarily about tipping. And on the occasions we do put horses up (at the weekend or at the big midweek festivals) we don’t even pretend to look for winners....

Instead, we look to find the right horse at the wrong price – one that can get competitive despite being overlooked; one that the market is misreading or mis-interpreting....

And we figure that if we do that job well enough over the long-term then the winners will take care of themselves. So too the profit we hope to extract from our participation in the game....

But the dreamer never can quite tune into that idea....

We don’t blame or criticize him for it. We understand that it’s not an easy concept to get your head around. We appreciate that it takes a specific type of character and temperament to play the game the way we do....

So, we understand why JB – whose been with us just a short fortnight (no time at all) – might feel moved to write in and register his disappointment with our performance over the weekend....

‘Another loser. I expected a lot better from this.’

There is not much we can say to him to soothe his troubled mind. Some dreams and expectations are so big and so far-removed from reality that no service can hope to make them come true. Some people dream too big. Some people expect too much, too soon or too often....

Is that down to them? Or is that down to us at ATC?

I don’t know. Probably a little of both....

All I can tell you for sure is that the way we play at ATC is not a good fit for every type of punter out there. Dreamers especially find us very difficult to get on with....

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd

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Why don’t you go out later with your big-race selections?

When I put up big-race selections at the weekend or during midweek festivals, I go out early with my thoughts and betting recommendations – usually the day before the race....

Reader JW writes in with a question that others have also posed over the years....

‘Why don’t you send your selections out later? You send your bets out 24-hours and more ahead of the race? I think you send them too early.’

I do get where I think JW is coming from. But I do what I do for a reason and I won’t be changing that any time soon. Here’s my official take on the matter....

  • Two good times....

I think there are two good times to make your bets in the big handicap races we target – and one of those is right at the death in the moments before the off....

And I certainly wouldn’t criticize anybody who chooses to play the game that way....

In the moments before the off, you are betting at a time when the prices are at their most efficient....

In the moments ahead of the off, you are placing your bet when the maximum amount of available information is reflected in the market prices....

In the moments before the off, the prices are telling you just about as much as they are ever going to be able to....

Everything that is known – all the details, data, pertinent circumstances and relevant variables – will be factored into the quote about each horse....

  • Getting the fullest possible picture....

It’s at that point you’ll know as much as is possible about the state of the underfoot conditions....

You’ll have been able to watch any earlier races on the card. You can look at the race times. You can see the kick-back. You can see if horses are finishing tired. You can see if any specific type of ground specialists come to the fore in races. You might have heard comments from the jockeys describing the ground. You’ll know about prevailing headwinds or late rainfall....

You’ll know as much as it is possible to know about the way the track is riding – the parts of the track that are favoured, the parts of the draw that might be advantageous, whether it is easy for horses to make up ground and come from behind or not....

You will know all it is possible to know about non-runners. Or jockey changes. Or jockeys putting up overweight....

You will know if some trainer has suddenly come into form after a period on the cold list. Or maybe if a high-profile owner or trainer has turned up at the track unexpectedly. You might have had the opportunity to see such people interviewed on TV. You might have gained some insight into their thoughts, hopes and expectations....

And you’ll know as much as you’re going to know about market money – what it fancies, what it doesn’t, the effect the big tipsters have had and all the market ‘noise’ (much of it valueless and potentially confusing) that’s been produced by the talking heads on TV....

Prices are just a numerical reflection of information – of what people in the market know or think they know. It makes sense that a punter might want to see as much of that information as possible reflected in the prices before making his betting decision....

I wouldn’t put that punter off. I wouldn’t criticize him. That punter has a game plan. His actions show evidence of thought. I know where he is coming from. I respect his game....

It’s just not my game....

  • Getting in first....

I’m an early doors man. Early-doors is the time when you’re most likely to find me in the pub. And early-doors is the time I like to get into the betting markets....

Not many services go up with their big-race selections before me. I think one or two newspapermen beat me to it occasionally. But 99% of tipping services are a long way behind me....

That’s not me bragging or putting some other service down, by the way. It’s just a statement of fact. I go up with my picks earlier than most – right or wrong, for better or worse. That’s the way I work. And I work that way for a reason....

Everything is about getting the price for me. I want to find the right horse at what I believe to be the wrong price. And it is the very best wrong price that I want....

Not the price that would be available when other market players have had time to spot the same thing I’ve spotted – and the bookies are latching on....

Not the slightly-reduced price that might be available if I hang on a bit and wait for someone else to go up with my opinion first because I’m too callow to stick my neck out and too frightened to be seen to be wrong....

Not the much-worse price that would be available if I wait until the moments before the off and give every other market player all the time he needs to beat me to the punch....

In the betting world, first-up is best-dressed. That’s what I was taught....

I want the best price going – the best price that horse is ever going to be. And, in my experience, early-doors is the best time to go out and scoop that price up – when the layers are at their most vulnerable and their most ignorant....

And we have a pretty good record here at ATC of getting those best prices. I think it is true to say – and I confess that I don’t keep records – that more of the horses we select contract than lengthen....

I think it is true to say that we get the best prices about our selections more times than not. And that’s because we go out early rather than late....

  • The downside?

The perceived downside of how I work – I don’t think it is a downside – is that I am always wholly reliant on my own analysis and my own thinking....

If I want to go out early, I must do so without information that arrives later in the process....

I can’t watch earlier races on the card for a steer. I can’t see how the money talks or what it says. I don’t get the benefit of what Sir A P McCoy has to say on ITV Racing or what Lydia Hislop’s view of a race is on Racing UK....

I must do without all that stuff – all that valuable ‘information’....

But that’s fair enough. I couldn’t care less. Most of that information isn’t worth having anyway. It does more to confuse the issue than it does to clarify anything....

In some respects, information is a bit like horse manure. A little of the right stuff can do a good job. Too much is simply that – too much and more of a problem than a benefit....

If I could have all the information on the ground and how the track was riding 12 or 18 hours ahead of everybody else, of course I would take that advantage in a heartbeat....

But that’s all. Everything else, I am more than happy to do without....

Most of the information in the market prices amounts to little more than opinion and speculation anyway (much of it overrated and ill-considered opinion from grossly overrated people)....

As a punter who doesn’t give a hoot about what anybody else thinks anyway – whoever or whatever they happen to be – such information is easy to sacrifice without much discomfort or regret....

All things taken together, going in early delivers more benefits to me than going in late. So, that’s why I go out so early with my selections....

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd

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Why don’t you look for ‘winners’?

We have plenty of grizzled old veterans on the ATC service....

Readers who have been with us for years....

Readers who have stuck with us through thick and thin – enduing the bleak times (when we can’t get one into the frame let alone past the winning post ahead of the rest) and reaping the rewards when we hit the purple patches....

Old readers – each highly-valued and greatly appreciated – know the score. And the score is this....

At ATC we are never going to hit winners every week. Or even every other week. We are always going to back more losers than winners....

Hell, we don’t even set out to find the winner of any race we target. Here at ATC, we are not looking for winners....

Old readers understand what I mean. But new readers – and we always have some fresh faces on the school bus – can get very confused when I make a statement like that....

  • ‘What kind of racing service is this?’

Some new readers will put their hand up and ask: ‘What kind of racing service is it that doesn’t want winners?’

Therein lies the confusion....

It isn’t that we don’t want winners. Of course, we do. Winners are what it is all about....

But we don’t set out to locate the winners of any race. When you look for the horse with the best case for winning, you’re probably going to land on a favourite or another short-priced horse....

The market isn’t stupid. By and large, it knows what it is doing. The short-priced horses are a short price for a good reason....

But if you back those short-priced handicap horses, you are not going to make it pay – not across the long-term....

Yes, you’ll probably clock up a better strike rate than we achieve here at ATC. But it will be to no avail. You won’t be banking a betting profit....

That’s an inescapable fact. Back short-priced horses in big handicaps and prices you’ll be betting at will be too short to get you in front or to keep you in front on the bottom line....

  • Our approach in a nutshell....

Here at ATC, we recognise that basic fact. Our whole approach is based upon it....

We never back favourites. We very rarely back a horse at a short price....

We leave that game to the punters who want to play that way. We leave that game to punters who feel the need to back regular winners and are happy to forego long-term betting profit by doing so....

At ATC, we take a different approach. We take a contrarian approach to the big handicaps....

Instead of following the money and jumping on the market bandwagon, our focus is always on one thing and one thing only – identifying the right kind of horses at the wrong price....

At ATC we are interested only in identifying and exploiting what the market has got wrong....

We are interested in the horses the market is incorrectly overlooking, under-estimating or ignoring – horses the market is incorrectly pricing....

Our over-riding objective is to identify horses that are set and primed to run big races yet trade at big prices....

In short, we are looking for value. We are looking for horses trading at prices which underplay their true chances (as judged by me) of getting competitive in the valuable big-field handicap events....

  • Not an exact science....

It’s not an exact science.  It’s not an easy assignment. Many tipping services won’t even look at the races we target. Just as reader PB outlined to us at the end of the Royal Ascot meeting in June 2019....

‘Congratulations on some great tipping at Royal Ascot this week. Many of the tipster emails I received this week were not even prepared to put up a selection in the big handicaps, advising punters to steer clear. You nailed your colours to the mast. I tip my hat to you.’

We expect to get more wrong than we get right. That’s always the way. And our expectation is built on hard-won experience....

We always get more wrong than we get right. And that trend will harden and endure as time goes on. You can take that to the bank....

We don’t concern ourselves with achieving big strike rates that we can brag about in promotional packages....

We don’t concern ourselves about losing runs. We know we are never going to be firing winners in left, right and centre, race after race, day after day and week after week...

We expect losing runs and we deal with them phlegmatically. They are part of the game – an inevitable by-product of the way we choose to approach betting the big handicap races....

Our only ambition is to seek to get enough right frequently enough at the right kind of prices to turn a healthy profit over the long-term....

That’s the kind of service ATC is....

We go our own way. We do our own thing. We stick with it – win lose or draw. We never deviate from our contrarian approach – come what may. We put the hard yards in, we trust to our methods and we always come good in the end – whatever happens in-between times....

  • Not for everybody....

The ATC way is not right for everybody....

Some punters find they can’t cope with the way we play. They either expect to have a winner in every race – an unreasonable expectation to set out with. Or they can’t buy into big prices. Or they can’t handle it when a succession of big-priced picks fails to win....

I’m not criticising those punters. I know that how we go about playing these big handicaps can lead to some frustrating periods that are hard to deal with. Nobody knows that better than me....

But it’s a long game that we play. It doesn’t take many winners at big prices to put right a whole series of losers – and then some....

Hit a purple patch – as we frequently do – and a relatively small strike rate can put you a long way into the black....

But getting the long-term pay-off takes temperament. And patience. And mental strength. And a degree of faith. It doesn’t all happen in one weekend....

The rewards are there for those that can stick it. Just ask those readers who have stuck with us for 5-years and more. They know the score....

When we get it right and go on a jag, we really do pile the points onto the scoreboard....

  • One thing is for sure....

One thing I can tell you for certain: we won’t be changing the way we play the big handicaps here at ATC. Not a chance....

If you’ve been with us for a while, expect more of the same....

We’re looking to kick on and to bring you more winners at big prices in the most competitive and hard-to-call races on the British programme – bar none....

If you’re new to ATC, strap in and enjoy what is sure to be a rollercoaster ride consisting of tough lows, fantastic highs and periods where the metre just ticks over....

And, of course, we’re not just a tipping service. Big race selections are just one component of the ATC service....

We go out 4- or 5-days per week, and in-between the big races we look to bring you analysis, angles, observations, insights, ideas and intelligence that you won’t be reading about elsewhere....

That’s the ATC order of business. That’s how we roll....

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd

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Why don’t you tell me exactly how to bet my money?

New readers of ATC often come along with their own ideas and expectations about how the service should work....

That’s fair enough. Everybody is entitled to an opinion. And readers are often spot-on with their thoughts....

However, sometimes readers come along with a set of assumptions that I don’t share and a set of expectations that I have no intention of fulfilling....

A lot of this revolves around how I present my betting advice. Some readers expect a little more than I want to deliver or a little more than I can deliver....

Here’s some clarification on what I do, why I do what I do and why I don’t do some other things – just so we’re all on the same song sheet moving forward and everybody understands why things are as they are and will stay that way....

  • Why don’t you tell me exactly how much to bet?

The simple answer to this is that I don’t do it because it is a pointless exercise....

Every punter plays selections at his own level – a level determined by the depth of his pockets and by the grain of his temperament....

I know I have guys on the ATC service who play at £4 each-way. I also have guys who play at £20 each-way....

And there are other guys still (the real hi-rollers on this service for the common man) who play at bigger stakes still – be it singles or each-way....

If I’m a £500 per bet kind of guy (which I am not, by the way) is it appropriate for me to advise you to bet at that level? No, of course not....

And would it be appropriate for my publisher to boast that we’ve made profits of ‘£5000’ this month – simply because the figure relates to the volume of my own ‘apparent’ stakes on a single winner at 10s? Again, no, of course not....

So, instead of referring to random cash figures, I prefer to put selections up on a points basis – where 1 point represents 1 unit of the stake at which you prefer to play (be that £5, £10, £50 or £5000)....

  • Why don’t you rate bets by points?

Playing the points way leads to another issue....

Some readers want to know why I don’t reference the relative confidence behind my selections by adopting a scale....

In other words, if I think Horse A is a particularly strong bet, why don’t I make that a 5-pointer as opposed to a 1-pointer? That kind of thing....

But, I’m not a big fan of that kind of thing....

I put the same amount of work into every bet I come up with. And it is accurate to say that I never feel any more strongly about any one selection above another....

To say that this bet over here is a 3-pointer whilst this other one is a half-pointer would have me wondering why I’m putting up a half-pointer in the first place....

Why not just stick to the bets I feel most confident about and leave alone the ones I am not so sure of?

And there’s something else I don’t like about points scales. The tipsters that tend to use the device tend to abuse it....

When you put horses up, it is inevitable that you’re going to have dry spells during which you lose money. Some tipsters can’t cope with that and they find it hard to commit to taking the road back to redemption just one step at a time....

So, instead, they try and cover all the lost ground in one fell swoop – by suddenly developing an incredible confidence about a single selection and putting it up as a 10-pointer. Death or glory in other words....

Does that approach really have the punter’s best interests at heart? I don’t think so....

My take is this: if you can’t make it pay to level stakes, you aren’t going to make it pay anyway. So, I stick to 1-point level stakes. And that won’t be changing....

  • Why don’t you adopt a staking plan?

It is a similar thing with staking plans. I’m just not interested....

I imagine some readers will be already be composing strongly-worded emails designed to sell me the various merits of the Kelly Criterion or the Martingale System or the Fibonacci Staking Plan and all the rest of it. Go for it. I will give you a fair reading....

And, fair enough, I concede that there might well be something in these things. Effective bank management, for example, is probably something I shouldn’t just dismiss....

And, if working with a staking plan works for you, then stick with it – that would be my advice....

But the game for me is about studying the horses, watching the races and working in the markets to isolate the right kind of bets at what I reckon are wrong prices. That’s what I do. That’s my game....

I’m not so interested in firing up the old spreadsheet and getting into the trigonometry of a staking plan. It doesn’t float my boat....

If that makes me an old-fashioned and out-of-touch fuddy-duddy, then so be it. But I stick to level stakes and that’s how it will be going forward....

How you bet the selections is your business and you won’t get any complaints about how you go about it from me. If staking plans work for you, crack on with it....

  • Why don’t you tell me when I should bet each-way?

Which brings us to the final issue for today – why don’t I tell you when to bet each-way?

On occasion, I will. But I will only do so when I’m committed to going in each way on a selection myself – and that only happens under specific circumstances....

I will bet each-way when I can get 1/4 the odds at 16s or bigger....

If the each-way terms are 1/5 the odds then I will only bet each-way at 20s or beyond....

That’s just how I play. You can argue – and if you really want to then you must – about the rightness or wrongness of my approach. But that’s how I do it – and when I do it I will be sure to let you know....

If I put a horse up at 12s, I will not be backing it each-way. Again, that’s just how I play....

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t back the horse each way if you are happy to bet each-way at 12s....

That’s your choice. It’s not for me to tell you how to bet your money or how best to play my selections....

And I could understand it if you wanted to bet all my selections each-way – whatever the price. Betting each-way can keep the old meter ticking over when the actual race-winners are proving hard to find – which is not an unusual occurrence when you play the contrarian way as I do....

So, go your own way with it when it comes to each-way betting. You don’t have to follow my every lead or rely on me to endorse every more you make. You’re in this game too and if each-way feels like the right way for you, then go that way. It will probably turn out to suit....

  • A final word….

The bottom line is that I try to present my selections and betting advice in as open-ended a manner as possible – so that no reader is excluded and so that all readers can take the selections and fit them to any betting style they might favour....

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd

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Why don’t you cover non-handicap races as part of the ATC service?

Reader LR poses a question....

‘Glad to see you’re putting your time to good use. I know that you are pretty impressive with classy handicaps and keep that up please. With your undoubted knowledge of the Sport of Kings, would you consider maybe branching out &  trying you luck at listed or group races now you have time on your hands? Just a thought!! Anyway, back to gardening.’

I’ve been asked this more than once....

I thought I’d respond in today’s column – just so everybody knows where I’m coming from (and why)....

  • Why big handicap races?

There are good reasons why I specialize in  handicaps worth £25k+ to winning connections....

They tend to produce big-fields of closely matched horses (not all the time but most of the time)....

They are valuable races that a large proportion of the field are out and genuinely trying to win...

When you get field of 16, 20, 24 or 28 runners that are all much of a muchness in terms of ability and all going for it, that’s a difficult environment in which the layers and the market can make errors – assessment errors which lead in turn to pricing errors....

The layers and individuals in the market can under-estimate horses with the ability and the mark to run competitive races....

They can overlook horses that have significant competitive advantages going for them on the day....

And they can over-price such horses as a result....

That’s why I really like big handicap races. They are tough races to call – tough for everybody – but the rewards are there to be got and I back myself to play the handicap game that bit better and that bit more effectively than the punters in the crowd....

  • Most Group races are not like handicaps....

Most Group and Listed races aren’t like the big handicap races....

For a start, most such races are contested by smaller fields....

On top of that, ability is a much more important consideration than advantage in those races (at least that’s my take)....

Frequently, the horses that contest a Group race are not so closely-matched as those that would meet in a big handicap race....

As a result, you don’t tend to find the same volume or scale of pricing errors in the big Group races as you do in the handicaps....

For me, the way I look at races, handicap races and conditions (non-handicap) races are two completely different games. Two different games that require different approaches....

I’m not saying I have no interest in the Group races. Or no idea how to play them. From to time, I will get involved....

I might play the 2000 Guineas or the Derby. At Royal Ascot I might play the King’s Stand Stakes (which often sees a big field go to post). At other times through the summer I might take an interest in a big field Group sprint at one of the big Festivals....

But I mostly stick to the game I specialize in – the big handicaps....

That’s the game I like and enjoy most. That’s the game I am dialled into on a day-to-day basis. That’s the game I most want to put most of my time and resources into....

  • Time is a limited resource....

And – let’s face facts – time is a limited resource....

None of us has any more of the stuff than the next man. We all have a 24-hour day and a 7-day week to play with – and plenty of non-racing stuff to cram in....

And the big handicap scene offers more than enough work for a single analyst – even one used to putting-in eight to ten hours per day on the game....

Why would I want to make more work for myself taking on the study of Group races and all the rest of it?

I’d have to get to grips with a wider pool of horses and I’d have to plug into a whole new labyrinth of contextual issues....

The bottom line is that doing that would reduce the amount of time I have available to study the handicap races I am most interested in; the horses that run in those races; and all the contextual issues that surround those events and participants....

You can spread the butter too thin onto the bread. And I am loath to do that....

I want my  ATC service to the very best handicap-dedicated service that it can be. I want to do the best possible job for my readers. I consider myself your hired hand – hired to bring you information, analysis and insight that helps you become a better handicap punter....

Diverting focus and resources into other areas (like Group races) – for whatever reason – doesn’t help with those objectives....

  • Why give up one of very few advantages?

The bookies don’t have a choice which races they can in. They have to play in them all. They have to put prices up for every race. They can’t pick and choose....

The punter can. It’s one of very few advantages the punter has over the bookmaker. The punter can select what races he plays in. What he doesn’t like, he can leave alone....

It makes sense for the punter – or the analyst – to make full use of that advantage and to take steps to know more about smaller and specific areas of the game than the bookie and his egg-suckers on the trading desk ever can....

What’s the point in trying to play in every division of racing – betting in races framed for every possible type of horse?

There’s so  much racing these days that nobody can possibly keep on top of it all – least of all a single punter. And I am very suspicious of punters or pundits who say they can. I wonder if they are fools, knaves or both....

The BHA has a team of dedicated handicappers all covering different types of horses – ranging from 2yos to hunter chasers....

The bookmaker plays a similar way. Multiple traders work on the racing desk – each with a responsibility for keeping tabs on specific groups of horses....

How foolish would a punter have to be (to find out go down your local bookies and assess  the mental health of the punters placing bets on every horse race that comes along) to think he can do what they cannot and keep tabs on ALL racing, MOST of the racing or even a GOOD PROPORTION of it?

  • Identify your niche and mine it very deep....

The best thing you can do as a one-man band – and that is what I am – is to identify your racing niche and then mine it very deep....

That means focusing almost exclusively on your area of specialization, studying and learning as much about that area as you can – including the horses and people who are involved in it....

That’s your only hope of acquiring a knowledge edge over the opposition you bet against in the market. You have to know more than them. You have to be better-informed. You have to have a deeper awareness of the contextual issues that impact on the area and effect outcomes....

That takes hard work, time and dedication. There are no short cuts. And there is very little time for the luxury of drifting off into other areas of the game that require study of another large body of work....

I specialize in handicaps worth £25k+ to winning connections. That’s where my interest lies. That’s where I allocate my time. That’s where I choose to invest my resources....

I don’t drift off into other areas. To do that would be to do this service – and its readers – a disservice....

I know what I am and I know what I am all about. I stick to that. I chase just the one rabbit – not two. The man who tries to catch two rabbits generally ends up with neither one stewing in the pot....

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd

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Why don’t you keep a meticulous record of your bets like all the experts say you should?

Reader SK writes in with a query – a good one that demands a considered response....

‘There is one thing which has struck me as slightly odd. I have only been a member for around a month but I'm sure I read somewhere that you do not keep exact profit/loss figures. Considering the meticulous mathematical detail you release in your daily messages, I am quite surprised that you do not have precise profit/loss stats for the ATC service. I treat my gambling quite seriously (almost as a nice added bonus to my regular income) and one thing I have always been told is to keep very exact figures - which is what I do with a monthly review of all my investments. This means I can then make adjustments to my portfolio of bets every six months or so. Do you operate in the same way or do your publishers perhaps keep statistical records?’

  • The details....

Let me start by saying that my publisher does keep details of how my contrarian selections in the big handicaps perform....

He keeps a young lad in a cage at the office for that very purpose. We thrash the lad every second Friday with a stick. It keeps him on his toes. You’ll find the results he logs here....

The last consolidated figures I have are from the end of 2019. My selections (from beginning of 2016) showed a 258.46-point profit to level stakes – an ROI of 15.29%....

I’ll update those figures when the boot room boys return to the office....

Am I happy with the numbers? Probably not. But a 250-point profit beats a 250-point loss....

And I wouldn’t be happy even with a 500-point profit. I am never happy. I always want more. I always want to do better....

And the intention going forward will be to do just that. It’s always the intention to improve my game....

  • I am not a beast of burden....

But reader SK is not mistaken....

I don’t personally record my selections and results in meticulous detail – or any detail at all when it comes down to it....

I keep no records. I don’t look back. I don’t waste precious time agonizing over numbers and hieroglyphics in some ancient and dusty ledger I’ve been slavishly maintaining with a quill since 1749....

If that’s what you want to do with your time, crack on with it. You’ll get no complaints from this citizen. But leave me out of it....

I don’t give a damn how I did in 2014. Even less 2009....

It doesn’t help me this weekend to know that my strike rate over the last 8.46 months is lower than a snake’s belly....

Knowing how the last 862 turf flat bets panned out, won’t help me one iota with the next one....

I know what works for me and carrying around the accumulated weight of the past on my back like some beast of burden isn’t one of those things....

I leave all that baggage by the side of the road and walk on....

  • I travel light....

I take betting one day and one bet at a time. I only bet the big handicaps. Every race is a fresh page....

I don’t carry the past on my back. The past can be a heavy load in this game. And your best game comes from travelling light. That’s my experience. That’s how I do it....

I am Mr Zen. I can’t change what has gone – be it good, bad or ugly. I do learn from my experiences. You can’t help but learn in this game. But I don’t hold on to the detail. I let it go....

Yes, I know that in not keeping records I’m breaking the cardinal rule that all the ‘experts’ bang on about because they’re good little betting robots who know the script (I wonder how many of this saintly creed actually practice what they preach)....

But I don’t care. I’ve already broken most of the Ten Commandments. And I’ve got no problem whatsoever in openly breaking this betting-focused one. Because it works for me....

There is probably 20+ reasons why I think and do as I do – but I’ll stick to the major one for now....

  • I am not a tipster....

Some people think I am a tipster. Some people enjoy presenting me that way....

But they can think and do what they want. Third parties don’t define me or this service. There is no key in my back....

This is not a tipping service. That’s the bottom line. In my passport – under occupation – it says ‘journalist’ not ‘tipster’....

ATC is an information service – a service that focuses on providing hard-core racing research and analysis; intelligence; data; pointers; angles; and insights that readers can put to effective use in the betting markets for the big handicaps we focus on....

ATC is about building a knowledge base in our area of specialization. We work on the principal that knowledge always beats ignorance in the markets over time....

It’s about digging out information and figuring out angles, insights and observations that mainstream punters (our opposition in the markets) are not aware of. We dig deep. Deeper than the opposition. And we get down to the truth....

It’s about building an informed opinion – which is a real cutting edge when it comes to the racing markets because most of the punters you will be betting against don’t have one....

It’s about information that positions us against the crowd – with a view to getting ahead of the crowd on the bottom line over time....

It’s about finding ways and means of always betting the right kind of horses (those that enjoy competitive advantage) at the wrong prices (value prices that underestimate the horse and its true chances of winning). If we get that right often enough over time – the winners and the profits will take care of themselves....

That’s what I do. That’s what I’m all about. That’s what the ATC service is all about....

And I think I take the game seriously. More than most. If I don’t, then I’m wasting my whole working life on a jape....

  • Selections are just a small part of it....

Yes, I share the details of the contrarian selections I intend to back in the big handicaps....

Some readers want this. Others demand it. And not necessarily because they want to bet my selections....

Most readers don’t – from what I can make out. I understand that – proper racing fans like to find their own answer to the riddle....

But how I reach my betting conclusions is another form of information and intelligence – that some punters set out to learn what they can from. And good luck to them. That’s exactly how I learned some of what I think I know about the game....

Some readers want access to the thought processes and methodologies behind my selections....

They like to see how I come at a race; how I think; what I’m specifically looking out for in horses or the contextual background; and how I reach my conclusions....

They like to know what  I consider important in my deliberations; what I’m happy to dismiss – and why; how I assess value; what reservations I might have about my thinking; what I view as a negative – and why; and all the rest of it....

I’m happy to share all this – in plain and honest detail. Why wouldn’t I? Readers are as important to me as family and friends....

If you want to know what I’m betting and why, I’ll give you the full lowdown. I’m not one of those guys who holds back for fear of giving you some information or angle that might help you improve as a punter in your own right....

That’s my job. That’s why you’re here. I’ll gladly give you what I’ve got – whatever that amounts to....

  • You can’t not have an opinion in racing....

I have no problem putting my head above the parapet – putting my money where my mouth is....

But selections never amount to more than 20% of what I do here at ATC....

Whatever your involvement in racing, you can’t get away from having an opinion. The game runs on opinions. Sharing your opinion is expected. And I do that....

But my opinion is only a fraction of what ATC is all about.... 

The other 80% of my time is spent on research, assessment, analysis – and on reporting my findings to you via this Monday to Friday column (which is a man-killer of a job, by the way)....

Though I say it myself, to diminish ATC by reducing it to the status of a mere tip-sheet is to entirely miss the point of what the ATC service is all about....

Yes, I provide details of my contrarian selections for the big handicaps. If that’s what you’re here for, no problem. I’ll keep on trying to find winners for you....

But it is the information and intelligence that the ATC service provides throughout the week that represents my primary commitment....

That’s the area where invest most of my weekly resources....

That’s the area in which my meticulousness is applied to best effect....

That’s the area I am of most use and benefit to you across the long-term....

  • The final word….

To sum up: my publisher and his team keep track of my contrarian selections and how they perform....

I kind of know how I’m doing without needing to consult some detailed record....

That’s how it is when you do this kind of thing for a living. You know better than anybody how you’re doing....

For example, I never need anybody to write in and tell me when I’m in desperate need of a winner....

I might not have the strike rate or the bottom-line figure down to an exact percentage or six decimal points....

But I certainly don’t need a massive excel spreadsheet to tell me that I do okay over the long-term or that I can certainly do better still when we get back to the racing....

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd