Standing on the Shoulders of Giants (part 2)

Wizard Daily Report and Research - Tuesday, 5 December 2023.

  • Standing on the Shoulders of Giants (part 2)

Standing on the shoulders of Giants (Part 2)

Phil Bull

In England the pre-eminent form analyst and punter of the 20th century would have to be Phil Bull.

Phil was world famous for both his successful wagering and for starting his highly regarded Timeform publication.

Born in 1910 to working class parents, Phil had no privileged upbringing, but he was a capable student and progressed his education to university level, majoring in mathematics and earning a degree at Leeds University.

Influenced by his fathers interest in horse racing, Phil developed his own interest in the sport, and given his aptitude with figures and possessing an analytical and enquiring mind, even at an early age he evaluated a horses form in a relatively sophisticated manner. This approach developed over time, and by 1938 he was supplementing his teachers salary with his racecourse earnings and a private racing subscription service known variously as the Temple Racetime Analysis and Temple Time Test.

In 1942 Phil published The Mathematics of Betting, a seminal work in the history of book publishing on horse race betting. Long out of print, and never republished in its original form, it was incorporated in a 1993 Timeform publication, Betting the Timeform Way. If you are interested, you might find a copy of the 1993 publication for sale on the internet. (Note: Though Phil Bull is credited with the creation of the Timeform methodology, the actual inventor of the universal rating was his collaborator, Dick Whitford.)

For decades Phil was a major figure in the world of British horse racing, often controversial in his views, and always forthright in his exposition of them.

But it his insights into horse race betting and selecting that really interest us, so lets focus on some of his fundamental beliefs in this regard.

  • You cant construct good bets; you wait for them to come along. A good bet means you must have the right horse, at the right time, in the right race.
  • You need to apply a degree of skill and logic to your form analysis. (Note: Phil would spend up to 4 hours studying the runners before deciding on his potential bets. And this might be for only one meeting on that day.)
  • Bet only when you have value; when the odds available are greater than what you assess their fair odds to be.
  • Bet only when there is value and you wont fall into the temptation of betting in every race.
  • Bet size should be related to the size of the betting bank and more should be bet on the best rated chances. (To users of his Timeform service he recommended level stakes betting, but that was not the practice he followed himself and he increased his wagers on runners he rated highly and bet less on more marginal chances.)
  • The odds of the outsiders in a field are those whose odds are most likely to be unders - 15/1 chances that should be 50/1.
  • Key factors: Condition (fitness), merit of the horse, horses racing characteristics, distance ability, jockey, barrier, state of track, time.
  • Seven furlongs (1400 metres) is primarily still a test of speed.
  • A peak in a horse's form is a peak; it is not a plateau.
  • Finding the right horse to back is more important than worrying about how to bet them.
  • Bet doubles to make two shorter-priced runners one longer priced wager.
  • Losing runs are inevitable. Everyone has them. No one can predict when a winning or losing run will commence or stop. All you can do is to continue to select with care.

Words of commonsense, and betting-and-selecting wisdom, from a legend in his own lifetime, Phil Bull.

A video worth watching:


Warren - Wiz-Ed

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