It’s a good question… if you are a once a week TV punter risking a fiver a week, then my honest answer is that you don’t need one, as you are punting for fun and your maximum downside is around £20 a month. However, if you are betting on average a fiver a day, even though it might feel like you’re playing you're actually risking £150 a month or £1,800 a year, so it is reasonable too, at least ask yourself the question.

But as in many things the truth lies in the numbers, and when you break it down it becomes self-evident that it is something that every punter should at the very least consider seriously in the honest context of their own betting.

Let’s assume that you have researched the tipping service ‘Winnerswinnerswinners*’ and reached the conclusion that is both a professional and trustworthy tipping service, it is priced at a standard £30 a month or a discounted £240 a year... so you join them for a year in order to:
a) lock in the best price
b) give them a reasonable time to prove their merits.

In joining them you are adding £240, or 13% to your annual racing investment of £1,800, so then the fundamental question you have asked yourself is… ‘is my investment in a team of form analysts who have proven knowledge and deep experience of the sport, who have access to specialist tools, who are effectively working full-time on my behalf… does that justify an investment of an extra 13% on my annual punting spend?’ for the average punter the answer almost certainly has to be a resounding… YES, IT DOES!

Why…? well you use a dentist when you have toothache, go to a doctor when you are not feeling well, you hire a builder if you want an extension building on your house, or go to a lawyer if you want a divorce… in short, we use specialists all the time and wouldn’t dream of doing that kind of work ourselves…we insist on using an expert, and we expect to to pay them for their services.

So why on earth do the vast majority of punters tend to look down their noses at tipping services and lump them all into the ‘dodgy’ category, and think that they can naturally do a better job themselves?

Form analysis is a highly technical and data-driven process (handicapping, ratings, time figures, collateral form), executed in the context of variable factors (current form, course characteristics, draw, stable form, the shape of the race).

It takes a lot of time and effort to do proper race analysis… time that few punters have available to them, and work that they are not equipped with either the specialist knowledge or access to the appropriate tools needed.

Many punters (sorry Uncle David!) look at a race in their daily newspaper and see -111 next to a favourite’s name. They surmise that it’s got a great chance, but if they looked a little deeper they might see that he’s won his last 3 races at Epsom over 5F on firm ground in Class 3’s from handicap marks in the 80’s… but today’s race is a class 2 at Ascot over 6F on good to soft and he’s running off 96.

So, he is up in class, up in trip, unproven on the ground and running from a handicap mark he has never won from. Now do you think he has a favourite’s chance?

Similarly, would you back a 6-4 chance that should be a 1-2 shot? Do you think it’s ‘too short’, or do you prefer an 8-1 chance (without knowing that it's actually unsuited by the going plus the stable is 0-20 in the last 30 days). It should really be more accurately priced around the 16-1 mark. Value, or the lack of it comes in many different guises!

Maybe you follow a particular jockey or trainer…

Who’s your favourite jockey? (2019 Stats to £1 level stakes)
• Ryan Moore – minus £143.39
• Franny Norton – minus £213.93
• Luke Morris – minus £300.13
• Tom Marquand – + £81.95

Who’s your favourite trainer? (12 Month Stats to £1 level stakes)
• Mark Johnston – minus £323.65
• Richard Fahey – minus £258.40
• Richard Hannon – minus £337.11
• John Holt (who?) – + £90.00

Time, knowledge, experience, an expert team view that supports informed debate, specialist tools… a professional tipping service is an invaluable asset for punters, remember that ‘Winnerswinnerswinners’ only needs to be 13% better than you to be worth it… the odds are that they are probably at least 1000% (x10) better than you.

Most punters don’t keep a record of their betting so have no idea what it is actually costing them, winners tend to stick in the mind longer than losers which further skews the perception. I would guess that an armchair punter, especially one with Racing TV who is a ‘pretty decent judge’ (sorry Perry!), with both the courage and the cash to back his judgement, will turnover at least £5,000 a year. Given those numbers, the expertise of ‘Winnerswinnerswinners’ is now adding only a measly 4% to their annual punting bill.

(*after receiving a few emails after last month’s column I need to stress that Winnerswinnerswinners are a fictitious tipping service)

The next instalment in the series will look at possibly the most important factor of using a tipping service ‘ finding one that matches my personal punting style’.

This series is now complete and in the first article, I Gotta horse we've looked at the history of horseracing tipping services, the other related articles cover the types of services that are out there and why I would use a tipping service. Then we looked at why hitching up to the wrong tipping service will cost you money and why you shouldn't let the tail wag the dog showing the obligations on both sides once you have joined one. The series finishes off giving you a "warts and all" look at a year in the life of Cleeve Racing


  1. J. Wilsher on November 5, 2019 at 11:14 am

    Well argued…

    In all walks of life when faced with difficult choices, we seek expert advice.
    Take our serious punter; Major Max Plunger. He is off for a days sport at Ascot with
    Six difficult choices ahead of him. It’s not lack of information that bothers him, there’s loads of it. The Racing Post, Timeform, The Sun, the Express, ITV racing pundits, Aunt Nellie’s pin, etc.
    Poor old Max, bombarded with tips from all directions, where’s the fun in that?

    What he needs is one good source that consistently does well.

    However, horse racing is a complex mixture of human and equine affairs. No one, not even the top operators, can get it right every time. Just ask Frankie and JohnnieG (Dettori and Gosden)
    Favourites win under fifty percent of all races so the bulk of backers also get it wrong more than they get it right.
    However, among the many sources of advice are one or two that stick to good principles;
    1. Only bet in good quality races.
    2. Always look for value. I define ‘value’ as a reasonable return for the risk involved.
    3.Budget for the inevitable losing run.
    In my view the Cleeve team do this.
    They do all the spadework so that our Major can have a jolly time at the races. He can always blame someone else if, at the end of the day, he is sipping Schweppes instead of Bollinger.

    • Nick McKenna on November 5, 2019 at 7:14 pm

      Thanks for the considered reply John.

      Information overload is indeed a curse and in this game, everyone has an opinion…

      Cleeve may not be everyone’s choice but for better or worse we have a strategy and stick to it through good and bad. And we drink more Bolly than Schweppes!