Carlisle National Hunt Pace Bias

When discussing the word pace our primary focus is the initial pace in a race and the position horses take up early on, writes Dave Renham.

The running style of the horses is another way some pundits describe it. geegeez.co.uk includes a pace section (the Pace Analyser) where you may research this angle to your heart’s content.

Pace data on the site is split into four run styles – Led (4), Prominent (3), Mid Division (2) and Held Up (1). The number in brackets is the pace score that is assigned to each section.

For this article I am again concentrating on data going back to 2009 with races of eight or more runners. My main focus when looking at pace will be handicap races, but for National Hunt racing I do also look at some non-handicap data. CARLISLE is the course under scrutiny today.

The course is a little over a mile and a half in circumference and is considered to be a stiff, galloping track. The hurdle course is shown below:

 

As you can see there are three flights in both the back straight and the home straight.

The chase course has nine fences of which two are open-ditches.

The fences are considered to be fairly easy at Carlisle.

 

Carlisle Handicap Hurdle Pace Bias

They run over three main distances in hurdles races at Carlisle namely 2m 1f, 2m 4f, and and 3m 1f.

N.B. it should be noted that on Geegeez the 3m 1f trip comes under the 3m 2f (26 furlongs) bracket for research.

 

2 miles 1 furlong – here is the handicap hurdle breakdown (8+ runners):

 

There is a definite edge toward runners that race up with or close to the pace. Below shows a graphical comparison of the A/E values, which helps illustrate the pace bias visually.

 

1 - Held Up / 2 - Midfield / 3 - Prominent / 4 - Led

 

Interestingly, of the 12 front-running winners, 11 had raced prominently or had led on their most recent start.

In non-handicaps, however, the picture is less clear cut as we can see:

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Front runners do well again while hold up horses look at a severe disadvantage. However, horses that have raced midfield fared surprisingly well. This gives us a slightly confusing picture so it seems best to concentrate only on handicap races therefore from a pace perspective over this 2m 1f trip.

 

2 miles 4 furlongs – in the past few years they have raced half a furlong either side of 2m 4f (so 2m 3 ½f and 2m 4½f) so I have lumped these similar trips together. Let’s examine the handicap hurdle breakdown (8+ runners):

 

A fairly level playing field here with no edge to any particular running style. Front runners though seem to have under-performed and it actually looks a disadvantage to lead early in such races.

Onto the non-handicap data:

 

In non-handicaps a pattern seems to emerge if we focus on the place percentages - they seem to suggest that in reality horses that race close to or up with the pace have had the advantage. The IV figures also suggest this, although the A/E values for hold up horses offers us conflicting evidence: they have won infrequently but occasionally popped up at a big price.

 

3 miles 1 furlong – at Carlisle there have been races of 3 miles ½ furlong up to 3 miles 1½ furlongs. On the Geegeez site you need to combine the 3 miles and 3 miles 2 furlong data to get all the relevant qualifying races. A look at the handicap data:

We see that hold up horses have the best record here – they have the best strike rate, too, which is rare, and by far the best A/E figure.

Below is a graphical representation comparing the A/E values for all pace scores across all distances:

 

1 - Held Up / 2 - Midfield / 3 - Prominent / 4 - Led

 

In general, we can see that in handicap hurdle races at Carlisle, as the distance increases the front running bias at the shortest distance (2m 1f) becomes a hold up bias at the longest distance (3m 1f).

The figures for hold up horses (1 / blue bar), prominent racers (3 / grey bar) and leaders/front runners (4 / yellow bar) all correlate in terms of the switching of the pace bias as the distance increases; horses that race mid division (2 / orange bar) don’t quite fit the same pattern but that is largely due to a slightly skewed performance (in my opinion) at 2m4f.

Non-handicap races over this extended 3 mile trip are rare – just nine in total going back to 2009 and only three of those had eight or more runners. Hence the data set is far too small to analyse!

 

Carlisle Handicap Chase Pace Bias

Over the bigger obstacles at Carlisle they race at 2m, 2m 4f, 2m 5f, 3m and 3m 2f. I will lump the 2m 4f and 2m 5f data together to give a bigger data set. I am also going to look exclusively at handicap data as there are very few non-handicap races at any distance where eight or more runners have taken part.

 

2 miles – 27 qualifying two mile handicap chases, so a relatively small sample:

 

Despite the smallish sample we can be fairly confident that front runners have a strong edge here. The closer you race to the pace the better and prominent racers have a decent record too. Hold up horses have struggled, shown by the poor strike rate and very low A/E and IV figures.

 

2 miles 4 furlongs to 2 miles 5 furlongs – there have been a decent number of handicap chases with eight or more runners combining these distances (55 races). Here are the stats:

 

Front runners enjoy a clear advantage over this distance, too, with figures that are very similar to the two mile data set. Horses that race midfield or at the back early again struggle, although hold up horses perform marginally better than they did at the minimum distance.

It seems that the pace bias may accentuate as the ground softens. On soft or heavy going, front runners have won over 25% of the races with an A/E value of 1.94 (IV 2.48). On good to soft or faster, this drops to under 17%.

 

3 miles – they generally race at 3 miles ½ furlong. Here are the handicap chase data (8 + runners):

 

For the third distance in a row we can see a strong front running bias. Hold up horses actually perform around par which is a clear improvement when compared with the two shorter trips.

 

3 miles 2 furlongs – the final distance to examine for handicap chases with 8 or more runners:

Again front runners have a good record, as do prominent racers. Hold up horses perform extremely poorly which surprised me considering the data from three-mile races.

Let us now look at all the handicap chase pace data graphically in terms of A/E values.

 

1 - Held Up / 2 - Midfield / 3 - Prominent / 4 - Led

 

This graph once again compares each distance pictorially, and the yellow bar (leaders) is clearly best overall, and at each individual race distance. At three of the four distances the grey bar (prominent racers) is clear second best.

Carlisle, in terms of handicap chases, seems to have a reasonably strong pace bias across the board – there is significant value in handicap chases at Carlisle in front runners and to a lesser extent prominent racers.

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Before closing, I want to share one more graph with you. This looks at the performance of prominent runners and leaders combined in terms of field size in handicap chases across all distances. I have noticed before that quite often a pace bias gets stronger as the number of runners increase. That again seems the case here. I have plotted both A/E and IV figures to illustrate this:

 

 

As can be seen there is a steady rise in performance from smaller fields (8 to 9 runners) through to bigger fields (12+ runners).

 

Carlisle National Hunt Handicap Pace Bias Summary

To conclude, handicap chases offer the pace punter the biggest edge at Carlisle. In hurdle races the picture is less cut and dried, although there is definitely a front running bias in handicap hurdles at the shortest range, while over 3m 1f hold up horses fare best in the handicap sphere.

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