The Van Der Wheil (VDW) ratings have a cult-like status amongst some horse racing bettors, yet very few people know how to calculate them.
This post is going to show you how to calculate both the Ability and Form ratings so that you can do it for yourself on any race, any day.
VDW Ability Rating Calculations
To calculate the ability ratings, you need to know the total prize money a horse has earned in it’s racing lifetime, and the number of races it has run in. This can be taken from the Racing Post by clicking on a horse’s name and looking at the information at the top of the page.
In the above images you can see that Pete So High has raced in 9 races and earned £6,843.
You need to take the total prize money and divide it by the number of races that it has run in…
6843 divided by 9 = 760.33
VDW actually recommended dividing the prize money by 100 to keep the numbers smaller but this is down to personal preference. If you did this it would be…
6843 divided by 100 = 68.43 divided by 9 = 7.60
As you can see, this is a quick calculation which can be done for each horse. You can also easily set this up in a spreadsheet to do the calculations even faster.
VDW Form Calculations
To do the form calculations, you need to find a horse’s last three races and add together the finish positions. Any horse that finished worse than tenth is counted as ten for the purposes of the calculation.
Note: If you use the Racing Dossier we use an improved version of these calculations that results in a much more accurate rating.
You can also find this information in the Racing Post. Here it is for Pete So High…
His last three form places are 4, 2 and 5. This means he would have a score of:
4 + 2 + 5 = 11
Don’t forget, the most recent finish position is on the right hand-side!
What To Do Once You’ve Rated A Horse
Once you’ve rated the horse’s in a race for ability and form, you can use a common approach below.
The original approach was to focus on the most valuable non-handicap race at the principle meeting of the day.
The theory behind this is that non-handicaps produce a greater percentage of winning favourites, and the most valuable race, at the principle meeting, is going to have the best runners racing in it.
With the core statistic of the method being that 50% of winners come from the first two in the betting forecast, Mr Van Der Wheil would only bet if the best selection he was left with was one of the first two in the forecast.
It’s worth mentioning, that like me, he also recommended that you use other factors of a horses ability, such as speed ratings, to confirm your betting decisions.
The above method of rating horses is used to determine which of the runners were strongest in the most valuable non-handicap race at the principle meeting of the day. If the strongest runner was in the top two in the forecast then he would place a bet.
Generally, it’s thought that this system works because you’re betting on the best horses in the race.
Those bettors who don’t like the system say it will never work because you’re not finding any value by always betting at the top end of the market.
Personally, I think slightly differently.
I believe this can be a very powerful approach to reduce the number of races you’re analysing each day, and the number of runners to consider in a race.
There are a few key principles that we need to take out of the method:
- The majority of winners comes from the first five in the betting forecast
- Form is not good enough on it’s own to assess a horses likely performance
- Consistent horses are the best winners
The above three points are very important.
It’s these that make the VDW approach worth considering. Without any doubt, the more consistent a horse is, the better their chance of winning the race.
Form is definitely not enough, on it’s own, to assess a horses chance of winning. But, form combined with ability and speed definitely is.
And… the majority of winners come from the top five in the betting.
We can, of course, take this method further…
Consistent horses are the best winners so… don’t just use the VDW ratings but find out what percentage of wins a horse has in their lifetime, take it one step further by determining what percentage of wins they have in todays race type.
Compare the two winning strike rates against each other and you’ll have a ratio of whether the horse performs above their average in the current race type or below.
That will help to tell you how consistent they are in todays race conditions.