Thank you very much for your contributions to this little horse profiling experiment. I've aggregated them all in a pdf report at the end of the article.
I've also created a page where the horses will be highlighted if they're running (you'll still need to check whether they satisfy the profile criteria).
This is version 1.0 and, if there are further submissions between now and the end of the week, I'll update the report to include them.
For now, though, if you've read this article already, please navigate to the bottom to download the report and find the page link.
If you've not yet read the piece, start here!
When racing resumes there will be a focus, understandably, on two-year-olds, first season sires, trainers who perform well with horses off a layoff, and of course the Classic generation. Plenty of what happens in those spaces will be less predictable than normal due to the coronavirus-enforced later start. This article eschews those staples of the current content vista in favour of another hardy perennial, a horses to follow list.
Back yon - about eight or nine years ago, I think - I worked with a great guy called David Peat, who was mad about horse profiles. He had written books on the subject, he had a subscription service dedicated to the subject, and he and I ended up co-producing a product/service around the idea.
The concept was, and still is, simple: where everyone else is looking at what's new during spring time, horse profiling requires a body of work to exist in the form book already. Its currency is exposed horses, those who have run scores of times and have shown an affinity for a specific set of circumstances.
As well as highlighting five such horses which might pay their way in 2020, I'll also attempt to show how easy it is to create these for yourself. There are scores of these horses to find and, as an extra bonus, I'll include some further races - chock full of profile types - that I've yet to research: perhaps some of the more community-spirited readers will take up my challenge to add a comment with their findings for a given horse off the list. Right, let's get to it...
Trainer: Roger Fell
Career record: 10/52
Turf Record: 9/40
Turf Handicap Record: 9/37
Highest winning OR: 80
Current OR: 82
10/10 6-12 runners
10/10 April to July
9/10 5f (all of last nine)
9/10 blinkers (other win in cheekpieces, 0/24 no headgear)
8/10 Good to Firm
Led in all of last six wins (3 of remaining 4 when racing prominently)
A great example to begin with, Dapper Man is a five furlong speedball. He likes to get out and stay out, and he's hard to catch when he does. Trainer Roger Fell has managed the gelding's form cycles brilliantly in the last two seasons: in 2018, Dapper Man won five times - beginning off a mark of 60 before achieving a high of 86 (top winning rating was 76); and in 2019, he won four times on the spin from marks between 72 and 80.
What is noteworthy is that in between those early summer winning sprees, Fell had got Dapper Man's mark back down from 86 to 72. After his final win last year, he was rated 89 and is now on 82. I suspect his trainer will want a few more pounds back before striking again, so expect to see the blinkers left off and a couple more runs on slower ground if he can. Once this lad gets back to around 75 he'll be dangerous.
Combining optimal conditions - handicaps of 12 or fewer runners, April to July, 5f, good to firm, and blinkers - Dapper Man is 7 from 10, 2 further places, and +28.41 at starting price. I'd be wary of the April to July element this term given the break in racing, but the other components look important.
Trainer: David O'Meara
Career record: 8/41
Turf Record: 7/32
Turf Handicap Record: 7/30
Highest winning OR: 96
Current OR: 97
8/8 Class 2-4
8/8 turning tracks (0/9 on straight tracks, though has run well)
7/8 1 mile
6/8 Good or Good to Firm (has also won on polytrack and heavy)
Last five wins off rating between 92 and 96
Bought from Ireland after a Dundalk maiden win in October 2016, it was a year before Waarif made his debut for David O'Meara and not until June 2018 - 13 starts later - that he got off the mark for his new trainer. It was worth the wait, however, as victory came in the Carlisle Bell, a valuable handicap at the Cumbrian track. That seemingly opened the floodgates as he won a further three of his next five starts to end 2018 with four victories and a mark of 100.
2019 began in the Lincoln off that lofty perch but it wasn't until he'd dropped to 92 that he scored again, on his fifth run of the season. That was a steadily run ten furlong contest which probably rode more like a mile, and was his only non-mile victory. Further scores from marks of 96 and 95 followed. Although it may be nothing more than coincidence, Waarif has yet to win for O'Meara prior to his fifth start of the season.
Trainer: Dianne Sayer
Career record: 8/26
Turf Record: 8/24
Turf Handicap Record: 8/23
Highest winning OR: 84
Current OR: 90
8/8 7f to a mile (6 x 7f, 2 x 1m)
7/8 Ayr or Carlisle (4 x Ayr, 3 x Carlisle)
5/8 Good to Soft (also won once each on on Good, Soft, and Good to Firm)
4/8 Cheekpieces (plus 2 further places)
It's difficult to know whether this steadily progressive handicapper needs to drop a little in the weights. The gelding ran arguably his best race when second in a decent Ayr handicap last September, his final start of 2019. That moved him to a perch six pounds north of his highest winning mark but he was competitive off 88 that day.
In any case, Redarna has won second or third time off a layoff the past three seasons so it could be that his mark will drop at least a pound for his 2020 bow.
Seven furlongs ideally, or a mile, on the soft side of good; and both Ayr and Carlisle have been happy hunting grounds. I'm not convinced that cheekpieces are necessary though he's certainly run well in them (and previously without them).
De Vegas Kid
Trainer: Tony Carroll
Career record: 8/39
Turf Record: 7/24
Turf Handicap Record: 7/19
Highest winning OR: 79
Current OR: 82
7/7 turf wins on Good or Good to Firm (also won on Wolverhampton's tapeta track)
5/7 turf wins when apprentice ridden
5/7 turf wins on left-handed tracks (also won left-handed at Wolverhampton)
4 of last 5 wins at Brighton (overall Brighton record: 4/7)
3/6 off 60+ day layoff
Racehorses are funny creatures. Take De Vegas Kid: he was 0 from 21 going into a very modest seven furlong handicap in February 2018 off a basement mark of 51. Two years and eight wins later and he's now rated in the low 80's!
That confidence-boosting victory at Wolverhampton was his only all-weather win. Since then he's won seven times on the turf, including four at Brighton. There might be something about seaside air for De Vegas Kid, as he's also won at Goodwood and Yarmouth. His hold up style seems ideally suited to apprentices, who don't need to do much until the last part of a race, and he does seem especially effective on left-handed tracks (though the Brighton factor heavily influences that angle).
Four runs on the all-weather since his last Brighton triumph have reduced his rating from 85 to 82 but he may need to drop a few more before he's primed again. Sussex in late summer may again be a happy hunting ground.
Trainer: Rebecca Bastiman
Career record: 11/77
Turf Record: 10/62
Turf Handicap Record: 10/57
Highest winning OR: 88
Current OR: 74
10/11 Good or Good to Firm ground (also won on Newcastle's tapeta)
9/11 ridden by PJ McDonald, Martin Dwyer or Danny Tudhope
6/11 Class 4
A slightly more left field entry to close, Royal Brave won none of his eleven starts last year and was only sixth of eight on his 2020 debut in early March. If that's the bad news, the good news is that he's now rated a stone below his last winning mark. Moreover, he has run almost exclusively on either all-weather (1/15 lifetime) or softer than good (0/10 lifetime) in that barren spell.
In fact, it is arguable that he only got his conditions twice last season, both at Musselburgh: in the Scottish Sprint Cup, where he was beaten six lengths off a mark of 91; and in a small field Class 3 handicap where he was doing his best work at the finish.
All of his last six wins have come from a rating higher than his current figure which makes Royal Brave dangerously well-handicapped when he gets fast ground and a bit of pace to run at over Musselburgh's five furlong piste.
And those are my five for the tracker.
How to Find Profile Horses
It's an inexact science but in general terms what I am looking for are horses with a good amount of form to dissect, and which have shown a ready preference for a certain setup. All horses have an ability ceiling and tend to run in 'form cycles' up to that ceiling, then back down the weights, then up again. Spotting these cycles isn't difficult if you're looking for them; it's impossible if you're not!
Here's how to find profile horses...
Step 1: Get a list of possibles
There are a few ways to do this. One is to use Query Tool, though caution is advised because the 'sort by horse' function is likely to crash your browser as it tries to format a table with many thousand rows in it. To get around this:
- Select 'Last 2 Years'
- Select 'UK' (or 'Ireland' but not both)
- Select 'Flat Turf' (or whichever race code you want to investigate)
- Select age '5 to 7' (i.e. a horse age range appropriate for exposed form in your chosen discipline)
- Select 'Handicap' (or whatever, handicaps are best for this type of profiling)
That has brought back 14,272 qualifiers which is probably still too many.
We can whittle that down by choosing a distance range. Let's try 5f to 6f.
My sample is now 4,717 which is workable. So I'll be profiling sprint handicappers here, but I could have chosen seven-furlong specialists, milers, stayers or whatever.
Next I'll click the 'group by' radio button against 'Horse', and then sort by 'Wins'.
And bingo, I have a list of horses to potentially profile:
A second way is to start with a big field race you know will have been contested by numerous exposed handicappers. The Scottish Sprint Cup is a good example. (If you can't find a race, you can again use QT, by choosing e.g. 16+ runners, Class 3 or above, handicap).
Here is the result of the Scottish Sprint Cup with an instant list of 16 horses to dig into:
Step 2: Shortlist Horses to Profile
We now have a list of horses with which to work, but not all of them will have a consistent profile; and not all of them will have won enough races to demonstrate a profile. I look for at least half a dozen wins in a horse's career from which to try to discern patterns. It hopefully goes without saying that we're dealing with very small sample sizes here and all sorts of overlapping factors, so atom-splitters need not apply: this is broad brush stuff, and we will still need to apply judgement to our profile horses when they're entered in the future.
Let's have a look at Major Valentine and Highly Sprung, the top pair on our QT list.
Major Valentine has a few clear patterns, for example, 12 of his 14 career wins have been when ridden by apprentice jockeys. But he has a common problem when the most recent period has been used for search purposes: he is probably too high in the handicap. Having started 2019 off a mark of 64 he went on to win five races for jockey Kate Leahy and trainer John O'Shea. In his final 2019 start, he raced off a rating of 92. We could add Major Valentine to a tracker with his preferences appended, but the likelihood is he'll find winning difficult this year until he's dropped back down the weights.
A good way around this is to use a search period of, say, 2017 and 2018 (i.e. excluding the most recent year). That will bring back a group of multiple winners which may or may not have come down the handicap since their winning spree. From my five to follow list above, Royal Brave was found in this way.
Back to Highly Sprung, a son of Zebedee (of course) who is now seven. Looking at his Full Form page allows us to review his overall form by various subsets. The first thing to immediately stand out is that he is 0 from 12 on all-weather versus a very solid 10 from 50 on turf.
Checking the WINS filter allows us to see only the ten races Highly Sprung won, and to look for commonalities therein:
We can see he won five times for Mark Johnston before moving to Les Eyre who has also eked a quintet of victories from the horse. What else can we see?
All ten wins were over six furlongs. Eight of the ten were on good to firm ground, though not his most recent pair. Having won off as high as 83 (see the OR column) for Mark Johnston, he is now rated 81; that's a feasible mark but not a bargain: he might need to drop a few more.
Seven of his ten wins have been for either Joe Fanning or Silvestre de Sousa, and both jockeys have won on him for both of the horse's trainers. Six of his ten wins have come at Pontefract, from 15 starts at the track.
And as easily as that we now have a profile for Highly Sprung:
- 6f (he's 0/18, just three places, at other trips)
- ideally Good to Firm ground (though recent wins mean this is not a deal breaker)
- Extra point if racing at Ponte
- Extra point if ridden by Joe F or SdS
Step 3: Add to Tracker
Add your horse and all relevant notes to your Tracker. Users of Geegeez Gold tracker get an email the day before racing to alert them of the next day's runners (horses, trainers, jockeys, sires), so you should never miss a winner.
It's lockdown, there is still no racing, and we all have a bit of time on our hands. So what about a challenge? I'd like you to share your profile horses in the comments below. Add a few details like the ones above - I've put an example in the comments below for you to use as a template - for a horse you've profiled.
Wouldn't it be awesome if collectively we could pull together a list of 20 or more horses and their optimal conditions? Hint: do try a different race distance and/or code. Below are links to the results of some of the big field handicaps at various distances from last summer, which might help:
The Horse Profiles Report (Thanks to you guys)