This is the second article in a series looking at the performance of some of top National Hunt jockeys. Last time, I shared the records of Nico de Boinville and Harry Cobden, which you can read here. In this second piece I will be looking at Harry Skelton and Sean Bowen.
I have analysed NH data for UK racing from 1st Jan 2016 to 31st Oct 2023, and have predominantly used the Geegeez Query Tool for my data collection, but I have also sourced data from the Geegeez Profiler to help with certain sections.
All profits and losses shared have been calculated to Industry SP, but I quote Betfair SP where appropriate; and all tables include A/E indices and, when any data has been pulled from the Geegeez Profiler Tool, I have also shared PRB (Percentage of Rivals Beaten) figures.
Let’s start with Harry Skelton.
Harry Skelton Overall Record
Let me first share Skelton’s overall stats by looking at his performance on all runners during the study period:
A strike rate of better than one in five is extremely good, but overall losses stand at nearly 15 pence in the £. Having said that Harry's PRB figure is extremely high at 0.62 (higher than both de Boinville and Cobden, who were analysed in the first article). If backing to BSP you would have made a small loss of £67.62 (ROI –1.6%).
Harry Skelton: Record by Year
Yearly stats are the next port of call. Here is a breakdown by both win, and win/placed (Each Way) percentage / Strike Rate (SR%):
As the graph shows, Skelton has been consistent with six of the eight years seeing win strike rates above 20%, and all years above 19%. There seems to have been a slight dip this year which may or may not be something to keep an eye on.
Harry Skelton: Record by Betting Odds / Price (SP)
A look next at Skelton's results by splitting them into different price bands:
Patterns are unclear from this market data. Nothing really catches the eye although the 10/1 to 14/1 results are below the average for all jockeys. From a wagering perspective, it looks as though - in general - Skelton rides are slightly overbet.
Harry Skelton: Record by Distance
A look at Harry's record at different distances now. I have grouped them into four distance bands as I did last time, and am comparing the win and each way strike rates:
A remarkably consistent picture is painted in the chart above with all distance groups showing win strike rates above 20%. The 2m1f-2m2f stats are marginally the strongest for both win and each way. If we look at the PRB figures they all hit 0.60 or above with the 2m1f-2m2f edging it once more, which is highly impressive performance.
Harry Skelton: Record by Race type
It is time to see if Skelton’s record is better in chases, hurdle races or in bumpers.
The strike rates for hurdle races and chases is virtually the same, though chases have provided slightly smaller losses. Bumpers (NH Flat races) are poor in comparison with a much lower SR% and hefty losses of 34p in the £. Bumper horses to especially ignore seem to be those priced 8/1 or bigger. Of that cohort, just one win has been achieved from 116 runners.
In non-handicap chases, a tiny profit to SP of £3.56 occurred thanks to 85 winners from 296 rides (SR 28.7%). To BSP these profits stand at £30.82 (ROI +10.4%).
Harry Skelton: Record by Racecourse
I am now going to look at all courses where Skelton has had at least 80 rides. The courses are listed alphabetically:
There is quite a mixed bag here with relatively poor strike rates and records at Cheltenham, Chepstow, Haydock, Newbury, and Sandown. These five courses have strike rates ranging from 9.6% to 11%. Compare this with Uttoxeter and Wetherby hitting 33.3% and 33% respectively. The latter two courses have proved profitable to SP, Uttoxeter with stand-out returns of 29 pence for every £1 staked (44p in the £ to BSP). Having said that the most profitable period for the Skelton / Uttoxeter combination occurred between 2016 to 2020 so the cat may be out of the bag now.
Harry Skelton: Record by Trainer
92% of Skelton’s rides are for his brother Dan. The two have combined nearly 4000 times in the past eight years:
As a result, these are very similar numbers to the jockey's overall set.
Harry Skelton: Record by Class of Race
In terms of class of race I want to look first at Graded / Listed races:
Skelton’s record in Grade 1 and 2 events has shown significant betting losses. Indeed, his overall record in these better races is relatively poor. If we now split results by Class of Race, in terms of Class 1 to Class 6, we see the following when comparing win strike rates:
There appears to be a class bias going on here: specifically, it looks best to avoid Class 1 and 2 events and focus on Class 3 or lower. It should be noted that in Class 3, 4 and 5 events Skelton has made a BSP profit in all three.
Harry Skelton: Record by Run style
Onto one of my favourite areas – run style. Here is a breakdown of Harry Skelton's run style performance in terms of win strike rate across ALL races:
This breakdown shows a huge front running bias. A strike rate of 36.6% is very impressive. If you had been able to predict pre-race which of his horses would take an early lead you would have secured a small SP profit of £37.01 (ROI +6.4%). Contrast to that the returns on all hold up horses – they would have produced significant losses of £508.62 (ROI -29%).
As one would expect the A/E indices for his Run Style runners correlate with the win rates:
Any figure above 1.00 suggests value and early leaders / front runners have achieved this edge.
Before winding up the run style section, let me share Skelton's record when riding the favourite:
More evidence, if it was really needed, of the importance of early positioning in a race.
It is time now to switch to the record of Sean Bowen.
Sean Bowen Overall Record
Bowen’s record across all races is as follows:
Despite a strike rate of less than 20%, in terms of returns to SP Bowen has gone close to breaking even. And, to Betfair Starting Price, he has enjoyed a huge overall profit of £1129.71 (ROI +28.6%). However, before we get too excited, there was a single winner that paid over 700/1 on Betfair (was 200/1 Industry SP), so that takes out a significant chunk of the profits. That being said, Bowen has still recorded a BSP profit in six of the eight years.
As with Skelton my next port of call is looking at his yearly figures.
Sean Bowen: Record by Year
Below we see the yearly breakdown by strike rate - both win, and win/placed (Each Way):
In 2019 there was a bit of a dip, but since then the trend has been upward. The last two seasons have seen the best win strike rates and two of the top three each way ones.
Sean Bowen: Record by Betting Odds / Price (SP)
I would like to look at market factors now and, as before, have split results up by the same Starting Price bands:
The shorter priced runners (first three rows in the table) have combined to sneak into profit. Despite that 200/1 winner mentioned earlier, horses priced 16/1 or bigger look the group to avoid. Overall, this is an impressive set of results from a betting perspective, and there does still seem to be some general value in Bowen rides.
Sean Bowen: Record by Distance
A dive next into Bowen’s record at different distances. I am again looking at the win and each way strike rates:
This is the first jockey across the two articles to date who has achieved his highest win strike rate in the longer races of three miles or more. Let me now look at the Percentage of Rivals Beaten (PRB) splits:
There is a slight advantage for the two miles and shorter group with the three miles-plus group edging ‘second’.
Sean Bowen: Record by Race type
Under the microscope next comes Bowen’s record in hurdle races, chases and in bumpers:
The chase results stand out from all perspectives – strike rate, returns, A/E index. Bowen has turned an SP profit in both handicap and non-handicap chases.
His BSP profits for chases stand at +£304.50 (ROI +18.9%). The BSP figures have not been badly skewed either, and if we concentrate on chase runners that started in the top three in the betting his record reads 242 wins from 872 (SR 27.8%) for a BSP profit of £103.43 (ROI +11.9%). He has also made a profit of £35.49 (ROI +4.1%) to Industry SP.
His NH Flat (bumper) record is modest in comparison. Breaking these bumper results down, horses priced 6/1 or shorter have performed around the norm, but those priced 13/2 or bigger have fared very poorly – just 6 wins from 187 runners (SR 3.2%) for heavy losses of £109.50 (ROI -58.6%).
Sean Bowen: Record by Racecourse
It is course data next for Bowen. Once more 80 runs at a track is the cut off point for the table:
Bowen has been profitable to follow blindly at six courses, with Taunton showing the biggest returns by far; but as you might have guessed that 200/1 winner mentioned earlier in the piece occurred at the Somerset venue. The stats for Perth are strong and this is mainly because trainer Gordon Elliott has used Bowen regularly at the course in the past two years. They have combined to win 40% of races at the track.
Two courses where Bowen has seemingly struggled a little have been Ludlow and Warwick. Losses have been steep and the PRB figures at both tracks are under 0.50.
Sean Bowen: Record by Trainer
During the period of study, Bowen has 100-plus rides with several trainers, and they are shown in the table below:
These figures are very solid – you just have to look at the A/E indices which are all 0.90 or higher. To give a comparison, Bowen’s wins to runs record for all other trainers combined stands at 188 wins from 1287 rides (SR 14.6%). That compares to an overall win strike rate from the table above of 19.52%.
The Elliott figures are notably strong. a large factor in which is their potent combination at Perth.
Sean Bowen: Record by Class of Race
A look next at class of race:
The best events (Class 1) have been a struggle to this point. Indeed, Bowen has had just two successes from 53 attempts at the very highest level, Grade 1. In contrast, race classes 2 to 4 have provided some good results by all measures.
Sean Bowen: Record by Run Style
Finally, in terms of main sections, let me look at the run style splits in terms of win percentages:
We can see a familiar pattern here with front runners doing best and hold up horses doing the worst. The A/E indices correlate with the above figures as shown by the following graph:
Both front runners and prominent racers have A/E indices above 1.00, which is excellent; and both groups secured ‘blind’ SP profits if being able to predict the run style pre-race.
My final graph shows Sean Bowen’s record on favourites by run style group:
These are very similar to the ones we saw earlier for Skelton: front running favourites perform extremely well, while held up/midfield early favourites performed relatively poorly.
Here is a table of the main takeaways highlighted in the research above, and which will hopefully help you find some profitable bets going forwards:
Two for the price of one again this week, and I do hope there are some useful angles, both positive and negative, for you in the above.