With over 400 fixtures and running 364 days a year, South African (SA) racing is now a key part of bookmakers’ offerings. In the summer when UK racing starts at 2 pm it supplements the morning BAGS meetings, and when the bad weather hits in the winter, it supplements the all-weather racing. So most days you have full coverage of SA racing in the shops, with on-line prices available from most bookmakers on SA racing from 9 am.
Very few punters know anything about SA racing however. Minimal cards are printed in the UK either hardcopy or on-line, with form summaries being restricted to comments such as “goes well here” “back after a break” or “poor run last time.” One assumes that most British punters are betting on the horse’s name or its price. That is great news for the serious gambler ready to do a bit of research. SA racing is no-doubt fair and because it is geographically isolated and relatively (to the UK) small scale, it is easy to gain familiarity in a short time.
Horseracing started in SA in 1802. It is all flat racing. The tracks are Durbanville; Fairview; Flamingo Park; Greyville; Kenilworth; Scottsville; Turffontein; and Vaal. Top races are The Summer Cup; The J&B Met, and The Vodacom July. Top horses include Wild One; Future; and Deputy Judd. Top trainers include J Snaith; M de Kock; and S Tarry. Top Jockeys include A Fortune; A Delpech; and M Yani. Australian horses do well in SA, and SA raiders are prominent in Dubai.
Tote betting is strong in SA. This means that the odds on any particular horse are determined by how much of the total of all bets placed are staked on it. Totes are generally run for the benefit of the sport (and not for the benefit of the bookmakers.) An American company runs the SA tote and delivers unparalleled real time information.
The official SA racing tote, in its encouragement of SA racing, offers a very comprehensive website. Here you can find detailed cards; form; statistics; price forecasts; even downloadable racing journalism. Also on this site you can get live tote feeds, win and place, updated every minute, and even price histories so you can instantly spot market movers.
Another factor to consider is the legal status of betting in SA. SA citizens are in a very uncertain legal position if they use SA banks and credit cards to bet on-line with foreign-based bookmakers. This mean that “in the know” money can’t go directly abroad and must end up being reflected on the tote.
So where does all of this leave us? In a strong gambling place if you are clever, or at least in a position to enjoy SA racing without betting blind on it.
Firstly you can study the form for as long as you want, giving you a real insight over other UK punters.
Secondly you can watch the prices and squeeze leverage out of the UK bookmakers.
UK bookmakers form their own markets on SA races, probably because there isn’t enough margin on the tote prices. Their “over-round” (profit margin) on SA racing is higher than on UK racing, but the shrewd punter has the advantage. The UK bookmaker issues his prices at say 9am for a meeting whose first race might start at 11.30am. When the tote prices start to become meaningful about 10 minutes before the race, you can make a comparison to what the bookmakers are offering. Look out immediately for a favourite that the bookmakers have put in a solid favourite, say at 5/4 with their second favourite at say 5/2, whilst the tote shows the reverse prices on these two horses. The UK bookmaker can’t suddenly switch his prices, he has to do it in a series of price changes over say 2 minutes which allows you to get a better price on the likely eventual favourite (and hopefully winner.) Another thing that you will often notice is that the UK bookmaker has installed a horse at around 5/1 whereas on the tote it is a total rag at 33/1, and neither price moves substantially before the off, perhaps another attempt to over-round the book and obviously a one to avoid. The final thing to look for in comparative prices is a horse that is say between a solid 10/1 to 16/1 on the tote, but which with the UK bookmakers are offering 20/1 to 33/1, where value can be had.
Finally do remember that tote prices are easily distorted by a large bet placed early on, and can change just before the off, so don’t forget to study the form as well.