Clive Holt Biography
The late Clive Holt has one of the most interesting backstories of any professional horse racing bettor.
Rather than having a well-crafted plan at the track like many future successes, Holt was a total amateur with no concept of bankroll management.
Through a stroke of luck, he managed to keep winning and turn his hobby into a lucrative career.
But as much as Holt won on the tracks, he became an even bigger success as an author and betting expert.
That being said, let's discuss Holt's story further, beginning with his early life, how he became a pro gambler, his legendary Fineform system, and the various books he wrote.
Clive Holt's Early Life
Little is known about Clive Holt's early life. But before becoming a professional gambler, he worked at the Electricity Board in England.
He was introduced to gambling by his father, who used to bet on greyhounds in the 1960s. Intrigued, Holt started visiting racetracks in the early 1960s and experienced moderate success for a beginner.
Unlike more tactical gamblers like Phil Bull, Holt was looser with his bankroll management and didn't even keep track of his records. Later on, Holt would admit that he initially had no strategy and instead bet whatever was in his pocket.
Nevertheless, Holt continued winning - including sums worth as much as £1,000.
Learning Bankroll Management
While Lady Luck may have been on Holt's side in the first few years, he began developing acumen for horse racing betting.
But the same bad habits that plagued Holt in his early betting continued to surface in the 1970s. Namely, he refused to keep proper records on his betting, with his only tracking method being how much he came to and left the race course with.
After a string of mediocre results, Holt decided to start keeping better track of how he was doing.
"It probably had the greatest influence on my future success," he recalled. "As the figures and the percentages built up before me, it was clear that I was becoming more and more analytical."
Thanks to his analytics, Holt was able to determine what types of bets were most profitable for him. This allowed him to better manage his bankroll, survive losing streaks, and eventually become a long term winner.
Clive Holt Becomes a Pro Gambler
No longer coming to the track without a plan and betting whatever was in his pocket, Holt started feeling more confident in his skills.
By the mid-1970s, he experienced a strong run over several weeks that earned him more money than he could make in two years working at the Electricity Board.
This convinced Holt to quit his day job and pursue a professional gambling career. Years after first walking into Merseyside's Haydock Park as an amateur, he was now betting for a living.
"I set off for Chester on the 6th May 1975 in a new Ford Ghia Capri, in a new suit and in a new job," he recalled. "My first bet was £67 to £30 on Western Jewel with Roy Christie on the rails down to a ticket number. The horse won by two lengths and was never in any danger."
Long gone was the man who would bet everything he had at once in pursuit of big scores. In fact, even as a professional, Holt never won more than £1,000 at a time, thanks to his disciplined approach and moderate bets.
Unfortunately for Holt, he became too successful at wagering on horses, and both William Hill and Coral closed his accounts in 1978.
It wasn't uncommon for UK betting shops to close the accounts of successful bettors. But this made it harder for Holt to find action and forced him to do the majority of his betting at race tracks.
A Life of Luxury Cars and Vacations
Perhaps more than any other bettor, Holt enjoyed talking about all the material possessions that professional betting afforded him.
He claimed to have purchased luxury and classic cars like a BMW, De Tomaso Pantera, Jaguar, and Lotus.
Holt also boasted of taking his wife and four children on holidays to Africa, America, Australia, the Canaries, Caribbean, Hong Kong, Israel, Mediterranean Coast Singapore, and the United States.
He also purchased a family home in the country that featured stables, numerous acres, and quick access to a training center for his horses.
Holt was quick to state that had he still been working his job with the Electricity Board, he never would've been able to live this lifestyle. He also claimed that he could've quit betting on horses at any time if a more lucrative opportunity arose.
Considering that Holt sold books, it's unclear whether or not he boasted of his luxury cars, exotic vacations, and large house as a means of driving up sales. But given his success as an author, Holt's image of driving Jaguars and vacationing in the Caribbean didn't hurt his cause.
General Betting Advice from Holt
Holt was well known for making at least four visits to the track personally every week, usually from midweek until Saturday. This differs from some successful bettors, who send others to the track to place wagers for them.
Holt not only felt that these personal visits made it easier for him to see the horses' form, but he also enjoyed the atmosphere while betting.
He was adamant that you know the recent form of a horse and only bet on ones who are running at their peak.
"One vital ingredient for successful punting is that you've got to be confident that your selection can win," Holt explained. "Horses with good recent form, preferably winning form, running against limited opposition within their class, when at their peak, progressing or improving - do win the majority of races, all year round."
He added, "They are a constant source of winners for anyone to exploit. Almost every winner worth backing falls into this category which is broadened even further by the four pros: proven, progressive, promising, and profitable."
Holt's Fineform Ratings System
Holt's most famous betting strategy is the Fineform Ratings system. This system was originally sold as a small book with 28 pages, this work deals in both general advice and how to effectively use the system.
The first part of the book discusses the lofty expectations that many bettors set for themselves when starting out. Later, Holt dives into how one can effectively use his system to rate horses on both flat and hurdle courses.
To begin discussing Fineform Ratings, let's start by looking at the scoring system that Holt used to rate horses:
|Last 2 Races in the Current Season|
|1st Place||5 points|
|2nd Place||3 points|
|3rd Place||2 points|
|4th Place||1 point|
|Course and Distance Success|
|Course and Distance||3 points|
All horses are assigned points based on their last two races, with the maximum possible score being 12 points. The horse that finishes with the most points is the one that you're supposed to bet on.
If two runners tie for the top spot, then you should award an extra point to a distance winner.
In the book, Holt stresses that this is a proven system that will produce winners when done right. He supports this theory with stats and results showing the importance of good form, the course, and distance.
Points to consider with the Fineform Ratings strategy is that there was no all-weather category when this strategy was published, and the flat and national Hunt seasons have off seasons.
For all weather racing, January represents the off season, meaning a horse could go a couple of months or more between races. If you see a situation like this, it's harder to use the Fineform Ratings system to predict good form.
Although considered a unique and valuable system when it was released over two decades ago, Fineform is considered an antique strategy by today's standards.
First off, it lacks the complex statistics that are made available to bettors today through databases and software programs. These days, there are much more analytical and refined betting systems for horse racing.
Another problem is that virtually anybody can use Fineform because it's such an easy method. As is the case with any betting strategy, it's hard to find a winning angle when any amateur can use the same system.
But given the age of Fineform, it's possible that many overlook it today, meaning you could revisit it and perhaps add your own twist to experience success.
Clive Holt Books
Holt wrote several books, including the following:
- Profitable Betting Strategies - Published in 1993
- Be a Successful Punter: Win with Fineform as Your Guide - Published in 1998
- Profitable Winners Always Back Value Winners - Published in 1994
- Fineform Winners Guide - Published in 1997
As you can see, Holt's author career spread out over decades. Given that he was just getting started in the early 1960s, it's unlikely that he had any profound gambling advice back then.
But Holt's later works are / were highly regarded for both their general betting advice and unique systems.
The Fineform Winners Guide would serve as his latest and most famous work. But Be a Successful Punter and Profitable Winners Always Back Value Winners were also big sellers too.
Despite Holt's books and advice being decades old, many still read and discuss his advice on forums.
Many people dream of quitting their day jobs to pursue a gambling career because it offers the ability to earn a substantial income while betting on races / games. But few ever achieve this dream because it takes considerable time and skill.
This makes Clive Holt a rare breed since he eventually made enough money to quit his day job and chase a dream.
Holt originally suffered from common beginner's mistakes, such as having no bankroll management plan and betting whatever amount he felt like in the beginning. But after becoming fed up with mediocrity, he finally decided to take things more seriously and develop a bankroll management plan.
The result was a success, as he identified what bets were most profitable and put his money towards singles wagers, rather than multi bets.
According to Holt, his betting success allowed him to live a comfortable life that also included the finer things like luxury cars and exotic vacations. But it also got him banned at prominent betting shops like Coral and William Hill.
His combination of betting success and a lavish lifestyle served him well in the publishing industry as he sold numerous books over the years.
By the time Holt died in the mid-2000s, he'd established himself as a legend whose advice was worth following. As a testament to his visionary strategies, Holt's Fineform Ratings system is still used by gamblers today.
Updated: May 2017