Our methods man looks at the mindset of many punters
Our methods man looks at the mindset of punters
In last month’s article,I made reference to something called “cognitive dissonance”. In Matthew Syed’s book Black Box Thinking he gives much insight into the phrase coined by eminent sociologist Leon Festinger in the 20th Century.
Now,I do not claim to be a great reader of such stuff but a copy of the book happened to come into my possession. I found it fascinating and noticed how the phenomenon of cognitive dissonance appears to be shared by the majority of horse racing pundits and punters alike.
So what is cognitive dissonance? Put simply, it is what happens when your beliefs are challenged by evidence. In horse racing it manifests itself when your selection loses. In my case this happens quite often,and when it does you have two choices — the first of which is to accept that your judgement was wrong.
There are some occasions,such as with the result of the Coral-Eclipse, where if you had backed Barney Roy you could reasonably claim to have been almost right. Backers of Cliffs Of Moher would also be entitled to suggest that the Aidan O’Brien horse might have won if he hadn’t been so badly hampered in the back straight, maybe. But there were no hard luck stories for any of the others.
In my online blog I had tipped Barney Roy and Ulysses, the latter was the toprated Racing Ahead Form (RAF) pick from the July edition of Racing Ahead, and with Jack Hobbs not going to post we could be forgiven for feeling somewhat smug with the result, but that is a trait that you will not find in the Larkspur DNA.
By way of example,take my picks in the Irish Derby. The top-rated RAF pick was Jessica Harrington’s Grandee who was sent off at 33/1 and duly finished last.The other horse highlighted in my blog was Wings Of Eagles who suffered a career ending injury after he finished in third place, a sad postscript to the race.
What cannot be denied is that Grandee was only a sporting bet at the long odds available as his ability to compete at Class 1 level was not proven, his finishing position only served to confirm that view. However, the result stands in the RAF selections record book as we record all our efforts come what the result may be. And that is the where the second cognitive choice comes in.
The second choice you have, if you are not going to accept you are wrong, is to enter a state of denial and ignore the truth. I was at Sandown Park on Coral-Eclipse day and the result of the photo for the big race took an absolute age.After the race I sat in the shade of the pre-parade ring and saw the photo-finish result posted by Racing Post on Twitter.
Incredibly, despite the advanced technology that showed Ulysses had prevailed by the mere width of his nostril,there were comments left that clearly showed some people couldn’t accept the result, they flatly denied the truth of the camera and claimed that Barney Roy had won while others clung on to the belief that it was a dead heat – they couldn’t admit they were wrong.They had entered a state of cognitive dissonance. In conclusion, Syed writes :“Cognitive dissonance… becomes so severe that we often reframe, spin and sometimes even edit our mistakes.”
All tipsters, writers, pundits etc. ‘spin’ their selections.We all highlight our winners and try to gloss over the losers. But I never edit or reframe a mistake.The same cannot be said of others.
What do the experts do when they get it wrong? The answer is:nothing.The Racing Post is quite happy to boast loudly when one of their many tipsters gets a winner but they do not run stats on the selection records for any of their pundits.
For a paper that claims to employ an army of experts I think this is interesting. The point being that there is a reputation to
uphold and so you cannot admit your mistakes. So why not just ignore them.Where is the table of results for Birch’s Banker, Pricewise et al?
The answer is that you won’t find them. PostData, Spotlight and Racing Post Ratings figures feature in the Naps / Press Challenge table but there is no full selection history.Which isn’t surprising really, when you consider that most of the time they are all out-smarted by the simple method of backing the race favourite.
Now, click on the At The Races website and go to the Hugh Taylor portal. If you click on his results history you will find every selection given and every month recorded. Hugh’s record is mightily impressive and every year since 2009 he has made a profit. His selections are free and his Twitter page directs you solely to the ATR website for the day’s best bets.
That is transparency at its best and in the world of Black Box Thinking it a perfect example of how you profit in the long run by learning from and admitting your mistakes. If you cannot accept that you were wrong then you promulgate the myth that your expert view cannot be challenged.
RAF PICKS UPDATE
The win of ULYSSES in the Coral-Eclipse meant that Sir Michael Stoute neatly book- ends our RAF selection history to date with two 8/1 winners,BALLET CONCERTO being the first in the Spring Mile Handicap back on April 1.The master of Freemason Lodge is no fool and has helped up to a healthy 170.27% ROI with six winners from 15 top-rated runners (40%) and ‘we go again’ – although, now Paul Cook is no longer manager at Pompey we’ll have to find ourselves a new strapline.
There are plenty of races for us to consider in the coming month and at the time of writing our RAF selections are shaping up as follows.
KING GEORGE VI & QUEEN ELIZABETH STAKES ASCOT (29 JULY)
Unsurprisingly, HIGHLAND REEL is the short-priced ante-post favourite for the race and is the top-rated selection on 27 points.Last year’s winner has already won the Coronation Cup at Epsom and the Prince ofWales’s Stakes at the Royal meeting in 2017 and appears to be at the top of his game. The Ballydoyle horse is a very special animal.
PERMIAN (24pts) has to be one of the toughest three-year-olds we have seen in recent years, the Dante winner didn’t put his best forward in the Derby but then turned up at Royal Ascot two weeks later and duly won the King EdwardVII Stakes. Mark Johnston’s colt has run seven times already this season and the Derby ‘flop’ was the only occasion he finished out of the frame.
Last weekend (15 July) the Middleham colt proved his durability in the Grand Prix de Paris when beaten a nose by Shakeel and might head over the pond to contest the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington instead.ENABLE (23pts) easily landed the Irish Oaks at the Curragh to add to her win in the Epsom Oaks. John Gosden has hinted that she may run at Ascot although the 14-day turnaround might count against her participation.
SUSSEX STAKES GOODWOOD (2 AUGUST)
WINTER (23pts) is entered here against the boys and she is also in the Nassau Stakes, it is a question of whether Aidan O’Brien thinks she is good enough to take on the colts or more likely to stay the extra distance of the fillies’ race.
RIBCHESTER (21pts) will fly the Godolphin flag along with BARNEY ROY (19pts). It would appear that Sheikh Mohammed holds the upper hand going into the race and Ribchester would be looking for redemption having been narrowly beaten here last season.But Barney Roy is proving to be a class act and will give him plenty to
think about. However, both WU HE ID A and ROLY POLY (not entered in the Nassau) fresh from their exertions at Newmarket’s July meeting also hold entries and the fillies each score 20 points ahead of Barney Roy. Although, if you still don’t accept the result of the photo-finish form the Coraleclipse you would give Richard Hannon’s horse 22 points and in that case he would probably go off top-rated on the day.
I think if he runs he will win but we go with our figures come what may and it’ll probably be Ribchester who gets the vote.
NASSAU STAKES GOODWOOD (3 AUGUST)
Roger Varian’s NEZWAAH (20pts) has been clocking up the air-miles and has travelled to Scotland and Ireland to land the listed Rothesay Stakes up at Ayr and the Pretty Polly Stakes over at the Curragh. The Dubawi filly is hard to catch once she gets into full flight and rates a decent chance as her RAF score is boosted by a distance win.
Next,we have Andrew Balding’s BLOND ME (19pts) whose only outing to date was in the Middleton Stakes at York in May where she beat The Black Princess who has subsequently gone on to win the Lancashire Oaks.
From her form figures it would appear that she is either very good or frustratingly bad, but she is fresh having not raced sinceYork and her trainer is as shrewd as they come.
WINTER (18pts) will be tackling the extended distance for the first time,there is no doubt that she is a very good filly and being by Galileo the extra two furlongs should not present any problem.
Postscript: My online blog for the July Cup contained an important error on my part. I lumped my whole five points on Caravaggio, having read the Commonwealth Cup race all wrong, and I neglected to offer an alternative selection i.e. Larkspur Method second rated Harry Angel who won at 9/2.
Now, I can either learn from the result, making sure I offer two selections in future previews, or delete the blog to spare my blushes and preserve my intellectual integrity. Let me think…
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