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Two-year-old A/W Debutants, Part 2

In my initial look at trainers to follow with juvenile debutants on the All-Weather, I suggested that anyone thinking of blindly backing such runners should be focusing this season on two yards, those of Hugo Palmer and Archie Watson, writes Chris Worrall.

As with my delve into flat trainers, I went on to mention in that piece that we may be able to eliminate some bad bets by focusing more on each trainer's runners based on a series of factors: track location, actual track, race class/distance/surface, jockeys used, time of year and sex of horse.

So, with that in mind, let's look at each of our two trainers individually to see if we can find an angle for future use, starting with...

Hugo Palmer

As a recap of Palmer's overall figures, we can see that his results with 2yo all-weather debutants from 2015-19 were as follows:

When I looked at each of those 81 runs in more detail, I discovered that they included...

  • 14/67 (20.9%) for 73.89pts (+110.3%) away from Lingfield (where he is 0 from 15)
  • 11/58 (19%) for 45pts (+77.6%) at Class 5
  • 11/56 (19.6%) for 73.99pts (+132.1%) over trips of 7 or 8 furlongs
  • 10/41 (24.4%) for 76.68pts (+187%) from male runners
  • 8/33 (24.2%) for 45.13pts (+136.8%) at Chelmsford, Newcastle & Wolverhampton
  • 8/29 (27.6%) for 42.69pts (+147.2%) during September & October
  • 6/18 (33.3%) for 37.31pts (+207.3%) on Tapeta

I would propose to initially combine the first three filters to give us just the Class 5 runners in races of 7 or 8 furlongs away from Lingfield for a combined record of...

...from which, males were 6 from 13 (46.2%) for 61.79pts (+475.3%) and those running on Tapeta won 3 of 7 (42.9%) for 37.4pts (+534.3%).

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Suggestion: back all Hugo Palmer 2yo A/W debutants over 7 or 8 furlongs in Class 5 races away from Lingfield, paying closer attention to male runners and also not being afraid of backing one "at a price" on the Tapeta.

Archie Watson

And now onto Archie Watson, whose first AW runner was saddled on 1st October 2016, his 2016-19 stats were...

From which (in order of winners)...

  • 18/61 (29.5%) for 26.7pts (+43.8%) over trips no further than a mile
  • 18/48 (37.5%) for 39.7pts (+82.7%) were sent off at SPs of 10/1 and shorter
  • 17/53 (32.1%) for 30.98pts (+58.5%) no further north than Wolverhampton (1/10 @ Newcastle)
  • 13/42 (31%) for 25.46pts (+60.6%) on Polytrack (Chelmsford, Kempton, Lingfield)
  • 13/38 (34.2%) for 14.29pts (+37.6%) at Class 5
  • 8/19 (42.1%) for 15.56pts (+81.9%) with Hollie Doyle in the saddle

and if we took the first five of those filters, that is Class 5 on Polytrack over trips up to a mile and just considered those sent off shorter than a 7/1 ISP (as the market seems to have a good handle of these runners), we'd end up with the following...

...from which, both Oisin Murphy (3 from 5) and Hollie Doyle (3 from 6) seem to be the jockeys to have most success on these runners with a combined record of...

Suggestion: back all Archie Watson 2yo A/W debutants sent off shorter than 7/1 at up to a mile in Class 5 races on polytrack, paying closer attention to those ridden by either Oisin Murphy or Hollie Doyle.

*

Rather than the blanket approach, if we just followed the runners highlighted in the above two suggestions, we'd be looking at 17 winners from 44 runners (38.64% SR) generating 83.85pts profit at Betfair SP, the equivalent of making almost £1.91 profit for every pound invested and that's before adopting the final considerations for each trainer.

Obviously we're dealing with small datasets here, so some caution is advised, but the approaches make good sense in the context of the respective trainers' modi operandi so there is cause for optimism.

Hopefully, we'll soon be able to "live trial" these angles. Fingers crossed and all that, but for now, thanks for reading and I'll be back with more soon.

 - CW

 

 

 

‘Money Without Work’ – Back to Betting Basics

Success in betting is typically approached with the primary, and sometimes exclusive, goal of selecting winners, writes Russell Clarke. Whilst undoubtedly important, such an approach rather puts the cart before the horse (pardon the pun). Understanding the betting marketplace, and some of the basic maths, is the cornerstone of any viable strategy. This can then be built upon to identify areas that should be  utilised and exploited by the knowledgeable punter.

In this weekly series, I will cover:

The Efficiency of the Marketplace: Why it is crucially important to recognise and accept The Wisdom of the Crowd, and how you can utilise it to assess the validity and accuracy of angles/edges/systems from limited data samples.

“Sharp” and “Soft” Bookmakers: Who is who? Why there is a difference and how to utilise that difference. Which are the greatest potential source of profit, and how.

Bookmaker Concessions: The Great, the Good and the Ugly. Evaluating and measuring new account opening offers along with "reload" offers and ongoing offers. Examining 'price boosts', where to find them and how to measure them. The importance of Best Odds Guaranteed and how much difference this concession makes to a successful strategy. Last, but definitely not least, a look at the vexing question of each-way betting. When is it optimal over win only betting, and are enhanced place terms better than the standard offers?

Variance and Positive Expected Value (EV+): Understanding the crucial role of variance even for “The Best System in the World” (well….possibly). How to calculate EV+.

Betting Psychology: Examining cognitive behaviours and their potential effect on betting.

The Logistics of Betting: Creating an optimal betting strategy that mathematically gives you the greatest chance of profit.

 

The purpose of this series of articles is to increase the efficiency of readers’ betting and thus impact directly upon your ‘bottom line’. There will be no reference to selection methods; instead I will concentrate on understanding the marketplace, and utilising that knowledge to create an optimal strategy. The articles should be useful for both the experienced and less experienced amongst you.

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But, before all of that, who am I, and what qualifies me to write about such things?

 

About the Author: Russell Clarke

Russell Clarke, formerly of Odds On magazine; now writing on geegeez.co.uk

Russell Clarke, formerly of Odds On magazine; now writing on geegeez.co.uk

Those of more mature years may remember me from decades long since past! For those who don’t, in the 1990’s and 2000’s I ran what was, I hope, an ethical and successful racing service, wrote articles for the much missed Odds On magazine, and, was generally known for my statistical approach to betting: a poor man’s Nick Mordin if you will! Whatever happened to him?

I moved to Dubai in 2007 and, along with a betting partner, became one of the first to pay the Betfair Premium Tax for our football betting exploits. I remain as an advisor to a Scandanavian-based football betting syndicate.

However, the story starts some time before that, as a youngster (maybe 9 or 10 years old) compiling speed figures for my uncle. He took his racing and betting seriously and subscribed to both the form book and the daily Sporting Life. I was fascinated by the theory that you could calculate the likely winner of any given race through the use of numbers or ratings, an objective approach that appealed greatly to my nascent scientific leanings.

I was also drawn to Dick Whitford’s ratings that appeared on page 2 of The Sporting Life each day. Whitford was the doyen of private handicappers in those days and, as a curiosity, his top rated horses were awarded the lowest figures. Another part of the Sporting Life that attracted my interest in those early days was The Sporting Life Naps Table. I was young and naïve, and therefore surprised that such a small number of experts (typically around 20%) managed to show a profit on their 'naps' over the season. I also noticed that each season it was a different group of tipsters that headed the table. Clearly their subjective methods were not a route to profit! Almost half a century has since passed and yet the racing correspondents still seem to rely on the same opinions and hunches that have never worked on any long-term basis. Anyway, I digress...

These early experiences encouraged me to concentrate on an objective approach to betting. In my early teens I was rating horses' performances based upon time. I also dabbled in private handicapping via collateral form and started to explore the murky world of systems and systematic betting. In those days systems were sold in the media by unscrupulous rascals (I’m looking at you Mr Dawson) and most were useless. One of the more honest purveyors of the systematic approach was a gentleman who operated under the pen name of Alan Gregory. He wrote books on systematic betting and produced a weekly newsletter in the 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s. Much of the stuff, in hindsight, was misguided, but it certainly introduced me to an alternative way to make betting profitable.

The advent of computers and their processing power was the revolution that changed the way many successful punters approached their betting. One product in particular, Racing Systems Builder (now unfortunately no longer with us), allowed you to test various factors in minutes rather than devoting weeks or months to ploughing through old newspapers. Many long-held racing truisms and beliefs were challenged and overturned using this product. Users were able to measure accurately the effect that hundreds of variables had on racehorse performance. They no longer had to guess how important, or otherwise, it was for a horse to be a distance winner, a winner on the prevailing ground, stepping up in class etc.; it could now be measured and quantified. I was like a dog with two tails!

With the information revolution underway, profitable betting came within reach of the ordinary punter. During this period, the racecourse market thrived (as it was a way of avoiding betting tax and  obtaining better prices than starting price). I went racing three or four times a week and there were a number of professionals operating on any given circuit. Off-course bookmakers began offering more generous early morning prices and this was truly a golden age for punters. Although accounts were closed, they were relatively easily re-opened and the bookmakers were far less sophisticated than they are today. Some bookmakers headed abroad to places such as Gibraltar, Alderney and Malta, to provide tax-free betting facilities. Things got better still when betting exchanges took their first steps. Flutter and Betfair led the way until the latter bought the former and became the dominant force.

During all of this change I had become more and more aware of the influence of value on profitable betting. It is now accepted that value is an intrinsic part of profitable betting, but from the 70’s to the mid 80’s, the majority were simply interested in finding a winner at any price. It was Mark Coton’s  Pricewise column that really brought the concept of value to the masses. By this time I had begun reading American racing books and their knowledge was clearly far in advance of their British counterparts.

Interestingly, despite the fact they had to bet into pools and, therefore, value becomes difficult to calculate, many of the American authors wrote extensively about measuring value and optimising staking. One overseas author that had a great influence on myself was an Australian professional punter called Don Scott. I think Don retired as a losing punter overall, but his book The Winning Way introduced me to the calculation of an odds line. An odds line, also known here as a tissue, allocates a percentage chance of winning to each horse and that is then converted into a price. The simple theory is that, to obtain value, you must bet at odds greater than the odds line indicates. This brings in the concept of backing horses that are perhaps not your first choice in a race - indeed they could be your 5th, 6th or worse, choice. That takes a change of thought process!

At this stage, I was a regular winner at early morning prices and the number of accounts closed approached a hundred. I was operating a full-time tipping service and more and more of my personal betting was via the exchanges. I had also begun to explore other sources of potential betting profit. My theory was simply that what worked in the very complex world of horse racing should also work in other sports. Football was the obvious target because it had such liquidity.

I found a talented football/computer addict as a partner and together we set about betting for profit on Premier League football. Our approach was systematic and, using a fantastic piece of software that my partner had developed, we bet into every available market on all the televised games. The software worked out a price on every market and we simply offered to lay at, or below, that price or back at a margin above that price. The software was able to operate in-play as long as it knew the current score and number of minutes until the end of the game (other relevant information such as injuries, sending-offs, etc. was factored into the price calculations).

Our profits exceeded seven figures and it was only when Betfair effectively doubled their ill-conceived Premium Charge (profits tax) to an effective 50%, did we call a halt to our betting partnership.

Personally, a good deal of my time is now spent on investments within a Hedge Fund that utilises similar statistical techniques to those utilised by myself in the sports betting arena. I was attracted to this approach to financial investments because of the huge liquidity alongside the availability of large amounts of data and advanced statistical tests/techniques that make much of what we utilise in horse racing look, quite frankly, a little amateurish by comparison.

That's more than enough about me. Matt has invited me to pass on my experience in a series of articles that I have entitled “Money Without Work”. Those of you who go racing will know this is the catchphrase of a well known Midlands bookmaker. I have used it here because the articles will hopefully provide easy to utilise advice that will improve your returns with no effort on your part in terms of changing your selection process. I hope you'll enjoy them.

- RC

p.s. Next week's article is around the wisdom of the crowds and the efficiency of the marketplace.

Monday Musings: Chapeau, Barty

Since racing in the UK ended abruptly on March 17th there have been few enough opportunities to admire the sport’s largely-hidden professionals, but the past week has provided a solo virtuoso demonstration of the commentating skills of Ian Bartlett, writes Tony Stafford. Racing in France began again last Monday with no spectators, but deep in a Paris studio, the unflappable Bartlett has been a constant and supremely accurate dissembler of all things France Galop.

Starting with Longchamp early last Monday morning he commentated with hardly a pause for breath for ten races each, first at the principal Parisian venue; thence north a shade to Compiegne and down south to Toulouse. Over the next six days his all-seeing eyes took in two more Paris tracks, Saint-Cloud and two high-class jumping cards over the past weekend at Auteuil, in midweek stretching a bit further north to Chantilly. In between, his kingdom encompassed Marseille in the south, Angers in the west and Lyon and Vichy smack bang in the middle of the country.

In all Ian ran his forensic rule over 13 fixtures, 128 races and approaching 1,700 horses. Different owners’ horses often run in specific regions in a country which has a land mass more than double that of the UK, yet if there was ever a mis-identification – not that it was easily spotted – he would quickly and self-deprecatingly correct it. It is hard to imagine many of the regulars on the UK roster getting anywhere close to his accuracy of identification, pronunciation of the French names, which he conveys without any over-“Frenchiness” and indeed stamina. Ten-hour days have been the norm. I hate to think just what would have happened if one South African who often in the recent past has been let loose on the racing over there with his embarrassingly wide-of-the-mark attempts at the names, had been thrust into this extremely difficult task.

But Monsieur Bartlett has been amazing. And with a fair number of close finishes while I’ve been watching, I don’t think he’s got one of them wrong. He’s become a real jewel in the Sky Racing crown. I hope he gets a nice bonus for that first week’s magnificent endeavour. Maybe the exchanges should open a market on when he will finally end this marathon stint of clinical excellence. If the management of Sky Racing has any sense, it would block-book him for the next two weeks and then with full fanfare reveal him as the man to broadcast the first UK meeting at Newcastle on June 1 which will be on their screens.

The cast-off portion of the Racing TV deal which brought the Irish racing from the opposition onto their portfolio was looking in a sorry state with an original renewal date of no earlier than June 29th, but that happily has been brought forward by three weeks to begin a week after the resumption of UK racing.

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The earliest track to get going on the Racing TV side is Kempton on June 2 and 3, two days of midweek all weather before a spectacular four days on the turf at Newmarket, the highlights of which are the 2,000 Guineas on Saturday June 6th and the 1,000 Guineas the following day. The second afternoon features the Coronation Cup, transferred from Epsom, and other important races also have unusual temporary locations in that first week. Newcastle will stage the Group 3 Pavilion Stakes, normally at Ascot, on June 4th, the third of its four days’ action and the Brigadier Gerard Stakes (Group 3) will be on June 7th at Haydock rather than Sandown. Lingfield, Chelmsford and Kempton all feature in the initial flurry, when Lingfield’s card on June 5th will include both the Derby and Oaks Trials.

I always love going to Haydock where there’s a choice of hotels within walking distance of the track. In the same way as Newcastle, with only the odd owner, one per horse eligible, there will therefore be ample accommodation for jockeys, trainers and stable staff.

Newmarket’s four days in a row, Thursday to Sunday, within the opening seven days is obviously sensible with so many likely participants - equine and human - being locally based and with a selection of potential hotels. I don’t know about you but I’m getting highly excited about the whole thing. I know I’m very much an optimist, but I believe that when the lockdown ease enters its next phase, there will be so much will for action in every area, that the recovery will come quicker than the many pessimistic voices (mostly with political points to make) suggest. Certainly at this stage, Royal Ascot with modifications will be run in its correct dates, June 16-20 and the Derby and Oaks early in July.

The few trainers I have managed to keep in touch with during the lockdown and those I’ve seen on television, as in an interview the other day with Roger Teal, suggest that in most cases, their stable routines have generally been little affected by the virus. Country areas have been far less susceptible to its spread than urban centres like London. They have found it possible to maintain social distancing rules within training on the gallops.

There is no question that numbers will continue to be the principal element in just how quickly certain restraints will be relinquished by the government. One factor which has stealthily been given increased importance is the concept of “R”, the number which expresses the rate at which infected individuals pass on their infection to others. Early in the virulent part of the disease, in mid-March when the numbers started going up, “R” was reckoned to be around 3. By the time the daily graph started to turn downwards the “R” number was agreed to be below 1.

Then all of a sudden in the middle of last week, some “expert” announced that “R” was increasing again. Yet this is contrary to most normally-accepted yardsticks. The numbers of people remaining in hospital have been falling every week for the past month; fatalities in all areas have been falling steadily. In the week ending April 12th, 6425 people died; the next five weekly totals have been 6207, 5573, 4791, 3409 and in the latest week 2781 with a single lowest day of 170 yesterday. Apart from one aberrant jump on Saturday to 468 from 346 a week earlier, every day – Monday to Monday, Tuesday to Tuesday, and so on over the past four weeks has shown a consistent drop in the number of fatalities, apart from that single ‘sore thumb’ total. That was almost corrected by yesterday’s lowest daily number for almost nine weeks.

Even care homes are now showing long-overdue reductions. The government has persisted in keeping to its June 1st date for resuming racing and it looks as though Premier League football will also be back at around the same time. The hunger is there and obviously racing can’t get going soon enough.

One reason for disquiet does remain. Matt Bisogno, this column’s editor in his role as the owner of geegeez.co.uk was previously a member and then for a while chair of the Horseracing Bettors Forum which, in consultation with the BHA and major bookmakers, formulated a Betting Charter. One of its main thrusts was to keep over-rounds per horse in markets on individual races to a manageable figure. During the week of French racing and the action on the limited number of US tracks that have been running, “industry” prices have been the rule rather than exception.

With no spectators in the foreseeable coming weeks, starting prices will need to be arrived at by some agreed method. The almost constant figure for each French and US race in this period has been at around 30%. In the US, there is rarely more than a dozen runners per race; in France fields of between 16 and 20 have admittedly been quite common since the resumption as Ian Bartlett will testify, in which case a 30% over-round would perhaps be fair enough.

But as one good friend of mine said the other day: “No wonder the bookies like the overseas racing: with those prices, it’s like having eight zeroes on a roulette wheel!” Let’s hope the HBF have that unacceptable number in its sights.

- TS

Following John Gosden Debut Winners

Feeling inspired by the quality content on this very site in relation to two-year-olds I wanted desperately to join the (virtual) party, writes Jon Shenton. I remember reading something a while ago which suggested that following juvenile races from the premier UK tracks paid dividends (I don’t remember where from, sadly).

I’ve always wanted to check this out in detail and now is the right time! Of course, with a rehashed racing calendar for 2020 the findings may be of less relevance this year, so are thus presented with even stronger caveats than usual. However, whatever happens over the next few months, I do think that the article is of the “cut-out and keep” variety and should reward in time if not straight off the bat.

Initially, I’m going to focus on two-year-old races and runners from the headquarters of British flat racing, Newmarket. It’s the logical starting point: by my calculations this course alone accounts for approximately 10% of non-handicap races for the juvenile division in the UK. Through a little bit of micro-focusing on these races I’m hopeful of finding a few tasty morsels.

Newmarket 2yo Trainers

A simple spin through trainer data is a pragmatic first port of call. As usual, a focus on those runners with an SP of 20/1 or shorter will be applied. For context, horses starting at a price above this are collectively 33/2345, a strike rate of 1.41% at the course in these races. I’m happy to leave well alone (although I did note that Martyn Meade is two-from-two at these gargantuan prices).

 

I’ve elected to only include data for currently active yards, technically 100 runners were required to qualify. However, as Mick Channon was comfortably leading in A/E terms and being so close to the century of races, he is included as an act of practicality and utility.

I had little intention to delve any further into Channon’s performance in this article, but you know what’s it’s like... Curiosity abounds, after all there is no harm in looking and, before you know it, you’re onto a nice micro-angle!

Here are the windmill-armed maestro’s runners by race class:

Collectively, the upper echelons of class 1 and 2 racing attained a solitary bullseye from 43 darts. No thank you! Class 3 and lower delivers a total of 16 wins from 53 attempts with a 121% return of £64 to a £1 SP level stake! It needs acknowledging that Channon's Newmarket juvenile runners have been sparse in volume over the past couple of years, but it’s worth keeping an eye on for future developments at the very least.

Back to the main data table and, Channon aside, there are other handlers worth further discussion. Significantly, the behemoths John Gosden and Charlie Appleby produce profit by backing blindly even at this basic data level. That’s of certain interest, as is the less than stellar performance of some other prevalent names for banana skin avoidance purposes.

John Gosden Performance

So, on to Gosden: there are always two specifics worth checking with any potential angle for this elite yard, namely, race distance and time of year (especially regarding juveniles). Generally, sprinters under-perform, and a while back this very site published data in an article regarding a late season surge in Gosden’s performance in specific circumstances, which stuck in the mind.

Here are the Wizard of Clarehaven Stables's distance data for 2yo's running at Newmarket:

 

As sure as eggs is eggs, the shorter six furlong race numbers are less appealing than the longer distances (1m 2f sample too small to draw conclusions), though the place percentages are largely comparable.

Excluding the six-furlong data and progressing onto the time of year by month looks like this:

Again, there we have it. His two-year-old brigade get rolling from August onwards, certainly in comparative terms to the earlier knockings of the season.

Ordinarily, that may well be solid enough. However, by utilising a value lens on the runners from August through to November and greater than six-furlongs in distance, there is an interesting variance based on the number of visits the horses have had to the track previously.

The table clearly shows that win strike rate is marginally superior for those animals with prior experience. However, those making their bow pay handsomely in comparison. The 'fear factor' of backing unproven talent seemingly manifests itself in the form of attractive prices: fortune seems to favour the brave in these cases.

Whilst there is no harm in backing all Gosden juvenile runners at Newmarket, the selective punter need only focus on those untried potential future superstars.

Suggestion: Back John Gosden horses first time out at Newmarket August to November where race distance is greater than six furlongs and SP is 20/1 or shorter.

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John Gosden: Debut Winners

Writing the words “potential future superstars” got the old cogs whirring a bit and some tangential thoughts occurred. A consequence of these reflections was to research the subsequent form of Gosden’s debut winning two-year olds.

It’s instructive to note that those Gosden inmates which prevail on their first outing go on to generally excel through their Classic campaigns. Conversely, those winning during later runs as two-year-olds generally only have so-so three-year-old seasons, in the round anyway. As Gosden isn’t a renowned producer of gold with first time up horses (although his 17% hit rate since 2010 is well above par) it could be inferred that if one of his is victorious on its maiden voyage, it is worth following. Let’s investigate further.

Gosden two-year-old debut winners

In total, I make it that to date Gosden has had 118 winners on their 2YO debut on turf tracks in the UK and Ireland (the Newmarket angle above is included within). I’ve expanded the remit to cover all Gosden FTO winners contained on horseracebase, not just those from 2010. The data goes back to as far as 2003. For clarity, there are no filters for distance, SP, or time of year applied to get the cohort of 118.

Firstly, evaluating this debut winning group in terms of the remainder of their juvenile campaigns on the turf is a sensible and hopefully useful starting point.

The table below illustrates this:

The data is segmented by Newmarket and non-Newmarket regarding where the debut win was attained. That’s mainly to perform checks and balances on the possibility that Newmarket alone could be driving the exemplary performance as inferred by the earlier article findings.

I needn't have worried: the numbers are positive regardless of debut win location. Indeed, it could very well showcase the basis for an angle which is as low risk as I can remember: a 37% winning strike rate, returning a healthy 21% at SP is not to be sniffed at.

The table below demonstrates performance by SP:

 

In truth, it’s a healthy picture all round. However, horses returning an SP of 13/2 or greater are 2/26 in terms of wins against runs. Undoubtedly, these pay handsomely as individual bets. But to a £1 level stake you’d return £5 profit from these 26 wagers, returning empty handed from the bookies on more than 90% of visits. That's fine if you can stomach losing runs but a similar rate of profit can be returned from fewer wagers. The below graph hopefully assists in terms of explanation.

The graph illustrates the cumulative rate of return attained from backing all runners at the price notated (and all shorter prices) on the x-axis, moving from left to right. I’ve noted the “three peaks”, all of which deliver a similar return on investment. It doesn’t overly matter if this is a difficult graph or concept to follow. The individual peaks are explained below which hopefully will help.

Peak One : This covers backing all horses at an SP of 6/4 or shorter, returning 27 wins from 36 runners with a 25.5% profit to SP (level stakes)

Peak Two : This covers backing all horses at an SP of 6/1 or shorter (inclusive of the peak one data), returning 45 wins from 101 runners with a 21.6% profit to level stakes at SP

Peak Three : This covers backing all horses at an SP of 20/1 or shorter (inclusive of the peak one and two data), returning 47 winners from 125 runners with a level stake SP profit of just over 23%.

The bottom line is that all three of the annotated peaks deliver a very similar return rate on your hard-earned. Selecting peak one as a method of wagering means fewer bets and missing out on the bigger payday potential. Peak three promises dry spells (relatively speaking) but very similar returns overall.

Personally speaking, and as previous readers will be aware, I’m a volume bettor, small stakes fired at a high quantity of bets so I’m probably more inclined to go into bat at the speculative end of the spectrum. Although, writing this, it does beg the question whether playing only in those smaller priced pools with larger stakes would be a more fulfilling and sustainable long-term approach. Ultimately, it's personal choice and the graph certainly offers food for thought.

Suggestion: Back John Gosden 2yo debut winners on turf for all subsequent runs for the rest of their two-year-old campaigns. (SP appetite and approach a personal choice)

 

Gosden three-year-old debut winners

The major objective of this section is to evaluate these 118 two-year-old debut-winning turf horses as three-year-old performers.

Here are the overall numbers for the classic generation:

Backing every one of the 118 first time out two-year-old Gosden winners throughout their three-year-old campaign on turf is a rewarding exercise! A quarter of runners win and an there is a 15% return on investment based on level stakes.

However, as we've seen already, it makes sense to apply a distance filter to the runners.

There are no rea; surprises based on what we've discovered hitherto: whilst strike rates are broadly fine it doesn’t pay to follow Gosden's horses over sprint distances. It’s also a marginal call on those running between a mile and a mile and a quarter. Races of 10-furlongs plus are undoubtedly where there is most interest, particularly the specific 10-furlong distance (including 10.5f) where performance sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb.

Whether backing the protagonists at a mile or so is a worthwhile exercise is debatable but there are certainly worse ways to gamble. However, for the sake of this article I’m only going to evaluate runners at 9-furlongs or further for a final lap of analysis.

Firstly, SP pricing, I’m not going to go into detail here (for the sake of relative brevity) but I’m only going to include horses with an SP of 12/1 or shorter. Horses running with SP’s of greater than this only deliver a solitary win from 22 attempts. I’m happy to leave these benched.

There is one additional step which delivers a cherry on our Johnny G cake and that’s evaluating by race class:

 

It’s clear that the upper echelon performance is better than the rank and file output. Class 1 and 2 races garnered a combined 40 victories from 112 runners (36% strike rate) with a profit of £76 to a £1 level stake (ROI of 68%). That’ll more than do for me.

For completeness/tracker purposes, the 2019 crop of two-year-old debut winners on turf from the yard were, in chronological order:

  • Verboten (Yarmouth 17/7/2019)
  • Leafhopper (10/8/2019 Newmarket)
  • Palace Pier (Sandown 30/8/2019)
  • Enemy (Ascot 6/9/2019)
  • Cherokee Trial (Ascot 7/9/2019)
  • King Leonidas (23/10/2019 Newmarket)
  • Tuscan Glaze (1/11/2019 Newmarket)
  • Heiress (2/11/2019 Newmarket)
  • Moonlight in Paris (Nottingham 6/11/2019)

That’s nine horses to follow through this condensed 2020 season and if any of them run over 10 furlongs or further in a class 1 or 2 race they will be getting maximum focus!

Suggestion: Back John Gosden First time out 2YO turf winners over ten furlongs or further in all class one and two races in the UK where the SP is 12/1 or shorter

Final thoughts

The more I’ve researched this the more I’ve discovered, the net result being that I’ve had to exclude a reasonable amount of solid angle content. This article is long enough already, but I did want to just point towards a couple of other interesting Gosden juvenile data angles for consideration.

It appears horses with a single autumnal run in their juvenile campaign perform very well in their first run as a three-year-old, irrespective of how well they performed on their debut. With filters of race distance over a mile and a cut off regarding sensible odds (12/1 or shorter) there is definite utility to be attained. My personal angle along these lines is 32/82 with an A/E of 1.30. Although as it has been quiet in terms of qualifiers in 2018 and 2019, I excluded from this article.

Finally, all of the data in this article relates to turf runs only. I had a quick check of all Gosden All-Weather debut winners and applied similar logic / parameters to those (the only difference from turf is it appears as though runners over a mile are productive on the AW). Again, as a cohort they are worth following with a record of 40/117 from their three-year-old campaign. However, there is an interesting difference through analysing by race code.

Yes, it’s a small sample of artificial surface runners; however, it appears as though a 2YO Gosden debut winner on the all-weather is worth tracking on a similar surface during the following campaign: maybe a case of horses for courses. Cobber Kain, Tiempo Vuela, Waldkonig, Hypothetical and Desert Flyer are the AW horses winning on debut as two-year olds in 2019. If they run on the AW in 2020, they will be worth more than a second glance based on these numbers.

I didn’t get the chance to evaluate Charlie Appleby in anything like the same detail. I always find working through John Gosden-related data a fascinating exercise. Consequently, a much deeper immersion - a veritable soaking! - occurred than originally intended; I guess some tangents are just worth following.

I’m looking forward immensely to seeing how these angles pan out, even in this strange upcoming 2020 season. Seems like I’ll be having a bet in some marquee races after all!

Until next time, look after yourselves and take care.

- JS

 

Horse Racing Metrics: A/E, IV, PRB

Throughout this site, in editorial content and on our award-winning Gold reports and racecards, there are references to various measures of performance or utility: horse racing metrics. Although some of the concepts may be new, their application – and therefore your understanding of them – is generally straightforward.

This article offers a brief run down of the metrics used, notably Impact Value (IV), Actual vs Expected (A/E) and Percentage of Rivals Beaten (PRB). In the following, I explain how the metrics are arrived at; but if you’re not a geeky type, simply make a note of the ‘what to look for’ component for each one.

Impact Value (IV)

IV helps to understand how often something happens in a specific situation by comparing it against a more general set of information for the same situation.

For example, we can get the IV of a trainer’s strike rate by comparing it with the average strike rate for all trainers.

Let’s say a trainer saddled 36 winners from 126 runners, a strike rate of 28.57%, during the National Hunt season.

And let's further say that, overall in that season, there were 3118 winners from 26441 runners. That’s an average strike rate of 11.79%.

We could simply divide the two strike rates:

28.57 / 11.79 = 2.42

Or we could do the long version, which at least helps understand the calculation. It goes like this:

('Thing' winners / All winners) / ('Thing' runners / All runners)

 

In this case,

(36 / 3118) / (126 / 26441)

= 0.011545 / 0.004765

= 2.42

 

What to look for with IV

An IV of 1 is the 'standard' for the total rate of incidence of something. A number greater than 1 relates that something happens more than standard, and a number less than 1 implies it happens less than standard.

The further above or below 1 the IV figure is, the more or less frequently than ‘standard’ something happens.

The example IV of 2.42 means our trainer won at a rate nearly two-and-a-half times the overall trainer seasonal average: 2.42 times, to be precise.

Note that very small data samples can produce misleading IV figures.

 

IV3

IV3 is a derivation of IV created by us here at geegeez.co.uk to help ‘smooth the curve’ on chart data. You can see examples of this when looking at draw data on this website.

IV3 simply adds the IV of a piece of data to the IV's of its closest neighbouring pieces of data, and divides the sum by three.

For example, the IV3 figure for stall five at a racecourse would be calculated as:

(IVs4 + IVs5 + IVs6) / 3

where IVs4 is the Impact Value of stall 4, the lower neighbour of stall 5, whose IV3 we are calculating, and IVs6 is the Impact Value of stall 6, the upper neighbour of the stall whose IV3 we are calculating.

Thus, in the below example which shows stalls 1-5, the IV3 figure for stall 2 is the average of the IV figures for stalls 1, 2 and 3:

(1.98 + 2.27 + 2.55) / 3 = 2.27

 

As with IV, the greater the value the better, with anything above 1 representing an outcome which occurs more frequently than standard.

N.B. For the lowest and highest stalls in a race, IV3 is calculated from an average of the stall and its sole neighbour (stall 2 in the case of stall 1, and stall H-1 in the case of the (H)ighest numbered stall).

 

What to look for with IV3

Used on this site mainly in charts, IV3 shows a smoother, more representative curve when looking at the impact of stall position.

Example IV Chart:

Same data plotted by IV3:

 

Actual vs Expected (A/E)

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Whereas IV tells us how frequently, relatively, something happens, as bettors we need to know what the implied profitability of that something is. In concert, they are a powerful partnership, with favourable figures denoting an event that happens more frequently than average and with a positive betting expectation.

A/E, or the ratio of Actual versus Expected, attempts to establish the value proposition (profitability in simple terms) of a statistic. The 'actual' and 'expected' are the number of winners.

The ‘actual’ number of winners is just that. In the case of the IV example above, the trainer had 36 winners from 126 runners. Actual then is 36.

But how do we calculate the 'expected' number of winners?

We use a formula based on the starting price (you could just as easily use Betfair Starting Price or even tote return if you were sufficiently minded - we've used SP), thus:

Actual number of winners / Sum of ALL [entity] runners' SP's (in percentage terms)

So far we know that to be 36 / Sum of ALL [entity] runners' SP's (in percentage terms)

 

To establish a runner's SP in percentage terms, we do the sum 1/([SP as a decimal] + 1).

For instance, 4/1 SP would be 1/(4 + 1), or 1/5, which is 0.20,

evens SP would be 1/(1 + 1), or 1/2, which is 0.5,

1-4 SP would be 1/(0.25 + 1), or 1/1.25, which is 0.8, and so on.

 

The sum of our trainer's 126 runners' starting prices, calculated in the above fashion, is 33.15.

Our A/E then is 36 / 33.15 which is 1.09.

We can then say that this trainer’s horses have a slightly positive market expectation, and in general terms her horses look worth following.

 

What to look for with A/E

As with IV, a score above 1 is good and below 1 is not good, though in this case the degree of goodness or not goodness pertains to market expectation, or what might be summed up as ‘likelihood of future profitability’.

A dataset that shows a profit but has an A/E below 1 is probably as a result of one or two big outsiders winning. Such runners have a low expectation associated with them and are far less likely to represent winners in the future.

Clearly, then, we’re looking for an A/E above 1. But we need also to be apprehensive around ostensibly exciting profit figures when the A/E doesn’t back that up. That is, when the A/E figure is below 1.

Note also that very small data samples can produce misleading A/E figures.

 

Percentage of Rivals Beaten (PRB)

One of the main problems with assessing horseracing statistics is that we’re often faced with very small amounts of information from which to try to form a conclusion.

For this reason, I personally prefer place percentages to win percentages, as there are more place positions in a small group of races than there are winners. Thus, it tends to lead to slightly more representative findings.

PRB tries to take this race hierarchy a step further and produce a sliding scale of performance for every runner in a race based on where they finished.

So, for example, in a twelve-horse race, the winner beats 100% of its rivals, and the last placed horse beats 0% of its rivals. But what about those finishing between first and last?

The calculation is:

(runners - position) / (runners - 1)

 

The 4th placed horse's PRB in a 12-runner race would be calculated as:

(12 – 4) / (12 – 1)

= 8 / 11

= 0.73 (or 73%)

 

The full table of PRB’s for a 12-horse race is below.

 

A word on non-completions

There are different interpretations of how to cater for a horse which fails to complete (refused to race, unseated rider, fell, pulled up, etc). Some exclude those runners from the calculation sample, others use a 50% of rivals beaten figure.

Whilst I can see the rationale behind both of those, the approach we have taken is more literal: we assume a non-completing horse to have beaten 0% of its rivals. This is unfair on the leader who falls at the last but nor does it upgrade a tiring faller or a horse pulling up at the back of the field.

There is not really a perfect way to represent non-completions in PRB terms; this is at least a consistent interpretation which is of little consequence in larger datasets or where non-completions are rare (for example, in flat races).

 

What to look for with PRB

PRB is helpful when attempting to establish the merit of unplaced runs; for example, a horse finishing 5th of 24 in a big field handicap has fared a good bit better than a horse finishing 5th of 6.

A PRB figure of 55% or more can be considered a positive; by the same token, a PRB figure below 45% should be taken as a negative, all other things being equal.

The problem with PRB is that it assumes, as per the rules of racing, that every horse is ridden out to achieve its best possible placing. In reality that frequently fails to happen: horses whose chances have gone are eased off and allowed to come home in their own time.

Thus, the further from the winner you get, the less reliable is the PRB figure.

PRB2

As the name suggests, this is the PRB figure, expressed as a decimal, times itself. This is also sometimes written as PRB^2, which means the same as PRB2.

So, for example, if the percentage of rivals beaten was 80%, or 0.8, the PRB2 figure would be 0.8 x 0.8 = 0.64

The reason this is useful is that it rewards those finishing nearer to first exponentially, as the table and chart for an 11-runner race below illustrates.

 

The chart lines start and end in the same place but, in between, they are divergent.

The difference in the values is greater the further down the top half of the field a horse finishes, and then gravitates back towards the PRB line in the latter half of the field (where PRB2 scores are lowest).

This is significant when looking at, for example, trainer statistics. Let’s take an example where two trainers have the following finishes from three horses, all in eleven-runner races (for ease of calculation):

Using our reference table above for eleven-runner races, we could calculate the PRB’s, using decimals rather than fractions, as follows:

Trainer A: 1.0 + 0.5 + 0.0 = 1.5

Trainer B: 0.5 + 0.5 + 0.5 = 1.5

Both have a score of 1.5 which, when divided by the three runs, gives a PRB rating of 0.5.

But Trainer A had a winner and Trainer B failed to secure a finish better than 6th, so should we afford them the same merit?

Some will argue yes, but I prefer – and PRB^2 offers – to recognise all that has happened but to reward the trainer with the ‘meaningful’ placing to a greater degree than her perma-midfield counterpart.

Here’s how PRB^2 views the same trio of performances:

Trainer A: 1.0 + 0.25 + 0.00 = 1.25             / 3 = 0.42

Trainer B: 0.25 + 0.25 + 0.25 = 0.75           / 3 = 0.25

This time we see the preference towards Trainer A, who had the same average finishing position but the more worthy finish in that one of his runners won.

That, in my view, is a more meaningful statistic for all that it is not straightforward to know what a ‘good’ PRB^2 figure is.

What to look for with PRB^2

Anything above 0.4 on a reasonable sample size implies ‘good’ performance whereas anything below 0.3 on a reasonable sample implies ‘poor’ performance, though there is some scope for different interpretations between 0.3 and 0.4.

 

PRB3

PRB3, not to be confused with PRB^2, is used in the same way as IV3 when there is a logical and linear relationship between a data point and its closest neighbours. The example we used in IV3 was stall position and that holds equally for PRB3: it would be the average percentage of rivals beaten of a stall and its closest neighbours. Another example might be the rolling monthly percentage of rivals beaten for a trainer, although this will always be historical in its outlook (we cannot know next month's PRB).

As with IV3, its primary utility is one of smoothing the curve to make patterns in the data easier to spot.

 

Horse Racing Metrics Summary

Throughout the site, figures relating to Impact Value, Actual vs Expected, and Percentage of Rivals Beaten are referenced. There is nothing to be afraid of; rather, each metric simply provides an appropriate way of easily understanding the data (and, crucially, its utility), and comparing it within the context of the entity under investigation.

The Draw Analyser Challenge

Sadly, for those of us who love the UK and/or Irish racing, it looks like we're in limbo until at least June 1st. The good news, relatively at least, is that the odds of a restart on that date are shortening all the time. Assuming nothing untoward occurs during these next few weeks, we ought to be ready to get cracking just 20 days from now. Everything crossed, of course.

In the meantime, it's time to further tool ourselves up, and so I've come up with another challenge!

So that everyone can play I've made our absolutely awesome, best in breed, Draw Analyser tool available to all registered users; so if you have a geegeez account, free or paid, you can join in. This is for the duration of the challenge - one week - only.

Here's what I'd like you to do:

Step 1 - Visualisation

The first thing to do is to bring some logic to the party. It is all too easy to walk straight into the data without thinking about the problem at hand. That casual approach lends itself readily to back-fitting, because you're not trying to prove - or disprove - a theory. Rather, you're looking at the numbers and trying to work back from there. Whilst such an approach is not completely without merit, it is less rigorous than beginning with a notion of what you're hoping to find.

A way to do this when considering potential draw biases is to first look at the track layout. Let's use an example, York racecourse in this case.

1a. Go to our UK racecourses page and choose a course.

I've linked to it there, and you'll find it in the top menu under Courses/Fixtures.

Hint: try to avoid obvious ones like Chester; we're looking for angles that might not be over-exposed

In the top right corner of the racecourse page, you'll see a course map. Clicking on it will expand it and display the locations of the race starts.

 

1b. Scan for possible draw-affected race distances.

I'm immediately drawn to the mile (1m) and 1m1f distances because of that sharp bend at the top of the home straight that comes up fairly quickly. I wonder if, in bigger fields, that might inconvenience wide/high draws and, therefore, favour low to middle stalls.

So that's the assumption I'm going to test. (I think it's possible that in bigger-field two mile races there might be a similar bias for a similar reason given the number of left-handers the field takes, but we'll save that for another day).

Step 2 - Set up the tool

So now we need to set up the Draw Analyser. We're going to do this in a specific way so we test apples against apples, as it were.

The Draw Analyser has a series of options at the top of the page to allow us to configure things as we'd like.

 

So we're going to use a standard set of parameters, shown above and ignoring course and distance for now, as follows:

- Set 'Draw' to Actual - this will review the data based on the actual stall positions of the horses, removing any non-runners from consideration (so, for example, the horse drawn six would have an actual draw of five if one of the horses drawn inside him was declared a non-runner, and so on).

- Set 'Going' to Hard to Heavy (you could use Firm or, at most courses, Good to Firm, but we'll do this for now).

- Set 'Runners' to 10 to 16+

- Set 'Races' to Hcap (so we're only looking at handicaps)

- Set 'Dates' to 2009 to 2020

Once these are set up they will only change when we change them, as all data below the options area updates auto-magically 🙂

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Now select your course and distance combination from the dropdowns.

Step 3 - Review the data

If we've performed steps 1 and 2 correctly we should have some data in the tool which may or may not support our theory. Let's review that to see if it is starting to tell us anything.

3a. Consider the course and distance draw 'all going' data

We can see from the chart that there's a lovely linearity - a straight line - from low to high. That is a very good start and normally things will be less cut and dried at this stage. N.B. Do make sure you check the left hand scale because you might see a line like this with very few percentage points from the top of the scale to the bottom.

The table above the chart tells us a number of things:

- There have been 65 races that match our criteria (wins column, 32 + 21 + 12) so a reasonable sample

- The win percentage drops as we move from low to middle to high; so, too, does the place percentage

- The A/E and IV figures for low are both above 1.00, a strong sign

3b. Consider going subsets

At some courses the favoured sector of the draw/track can change markedly on differing ground. For example, at Epsom and Brighton, jockeys will chart a course to the polar opposite side of the home straight on soft or heavy ground due to the way the camber leans and, therefore, the way the rainwater drains (it is always softest at the bottom of a hill or incline).

So we must check for any variance of going. I divide things into two simple subsets, fast and slow. Fast is 'Good or quicker', and slow is 'good to soft or slower'. [For all-weather, I include all AW going in a single range]

N.B. When using going ranges, the faster going must go in the top box or you will get no data returned.

Let's bisect our York mile data in this way:

Fast:

Slow:

In this case there is very little of note: the slow group has only a few races in it and it appears progressively tougher for high drawn horses to prevail, but there is not really enough evidence to be categorical about that.

What we can say is that the bias is 'going agnostic', that is, it manifests largely the same regardless of the state of the ground.

3c. Retest on date range subsets

Racecourse husbandry is an extremely complex business. I, and many others who value data in their wagering decisions, have given clerks of the course a hard time on occasion for their misleading reporting, but there is little doubt that all of them operate to a high level of skill in their field (pun intended!). Advances in irrigation (watering) and drainage, as well as tactical rail movements, have reduced or eliminated many historical biases and so it is important to check our data against different periods of time.

Dave Renham, our main resident draw expert (along with Jon Shenton, who takes a broader sweep in his course analyses), has recently taken to following the Mordin approach of rolling five-year subsets (e.g. 2009-2013, 2010-2014, 2011-2015, etc) and that is a great way to go if you have the time and inclination. For now, though, we'll break the data into two groups, 2009-2014 - the oldest six years in our database - and 2015-2019, the most recent five years. Again we're looking for any material change in the bias.

Hint: Remember to reinstate the full going range

2009-2014

2015-2019

While the sample sizes are quite small, the general principle is the same: low favoured, middle less favoured, high unfavoured. So we appear to have a bias that is consistent against both time and going. These are rare birds so do not fret if you don't find such a clean and consistent relationship with your chosen course and distance combination; after all, mine was cherry-picked for example purposes!

Step 4 - Fine Tuning and Scoring

The last step, assuming there is anything of note to this point, is to fine tune and score your course/distance combination. Actually, there is value in noting that there is little or no bias over a course and distance. No knowledge is bad knowledge and knowing that draw is not a factor in certain races enables an unencumbered focus on other aspects of the puzzle.

4a. Fine tuning

The fine tuning comes first; it's not really fine tuning as such, because we are working within the fixed parameters of field size, going and date ranges to resist accusations of convenience fitting.

But... it is sometimes the case that, for instance, very wet (heavy) ground or the biggest fields accentuate a bias, and it is worth noting that alongside the 'fixed parameter' work.

For my mile handicaps at York research, I wanted to see if a bigger field would emphasise the advantage to those drawn inside and the disadvantage to those drawn highest.

This is really interesting: in the 30 qualifying races, low has readily outstripped middle and high. But looking at the constituent draw data we can see that stalls six and thirteen, on either cusp of the middle draw section, have kept that group afloat. It does appear that either the inside stalls 'get away' or the wider drawn horses sweep around the outside to prevail. Those berthed in the middle have had a tough time being neither one nor the other of those things: not getting first run, and being potentially trapped behind horses in the straight preventing them getting the late run also.

That is conjecture on my part to some degree, but it's credible enough. Of course, I welcome alternative theories!

The IV3 chart at the bottom of the image above (IV3 being the average Impact Value of a stall and its immediate neighbours) demonstrates the middle drawn hinterland as well as the low-draw safe haven for punters.The constituent draw table reveals that ten of the 30 races in the sample were won by horses drawn 1, 2 or 3: that's a third of the winners from less than a fifth of the runners.

4b. Scoring

The last part of the process is to try to score the utility of any observed bias. It may be useful from an elimination perspective - that is, avoid high draws unless their form/value case is irresistible - or, more generally, from a 'mark up' perspective: in other words, bonus points to the case for a horse optimally housed.

The score should be more than a mere number, because there is normally a qualitative element to our observations as well the quantitative component.

For example, in my York mile example, I will score the bias as a solid 7 at this stage. When I've worked through a few more course/distance combinations, I might revisit that score and nudge it up or down a bit, but 7 feels about right for now.

The fact that it's somewhat 'feel-based' - we could use percentage scoring bases, but this challenge is not intended to be too academic in its rigour - adds ballast to the need for the quantitative element: some commentary on what we've discovered.

In this example, my final comments are thus:

York, 1m - 7/10 LOW

Strong linearity from low to high, the widest-drawn runners unfavoured. Bias has been consistent over time and on all going, and is accentuated in bigger fields (8/10 in 16+ runner handicaps), where the bottom three stalls have won a third of the 30 races in review.

 

5 The Challenge

This challenge may be considered a little more in-depth than the horse profiling one from last week, but it's actually about the same once you get into a rhythm. It would be easy to go through all of the distances at a given track in 30-40 minutes, and to select and review the most likely distance(s) in 15 minutes or so.

I'd very much welcome readers of a curious bent taking up the challenge and adding a comment below in the style of my York 1m note and score. I'll add it to the comments as an example, and hope it's not a lone comment!

Good luck,

Matt

Monday Musings: Allez France

We were simply kidding ourselves, writes Tony Stafford. Friday May 15th sounded a nice date for racing in the UK to resume and, with three meetings in France today as the shining example and some of the domestic trainers suggesting they would be ready by then, we waited for Boris to offer some encouragement on Sunday night. No such luck.

The PM’s message, supplanting the old “stay home” slogan with “stay secure” while allowing extra outside time for exercising was hardly the hoped-for signal suggesting the return of professional sport in any form. Horse racing it appears, even behind closed doors, will have to wait its turn.

At least horseracing enthusiasts, starved of meaningful action for eight weeks, will have full coverage on Sky Sports Racing from all three returning reunions, Longchamp, Compiegne and Toulouse. Coverage from Longchamp starts with a bang at 9.55 with the five-furlong Prix Saint Georges, one of four Group races on the Parisian track.

Wall-to-wall action will ensue until late evening and whatever else is uncertain in these unnatural times, there will be a relief that betting on something tangible will at last be available. Bookmakers and the exchanges will be doing great business and in the way of such things, the possible resumption dates for the UK are probably most accurately signalled by Betfair Exchange’s special markets. June 1st (on or before), so two weekends on from the putative first date on Friday, at 5 a.m. today was a pessimistic 2.26 (5-4) for yes and 1.72 (8/11) for no.

Slightly less predictable was the market on Royal Ascot going ahead on the normal opening date of June 16 which was 2.84 (almost 15-8) for yes and 1.52 (1-2) for no. Racing had seemed to believe that the Royal meeting was sacrosanct, but maybe the monarch will be open to a date adjustment, or perish the thought, even accept a one-year blank. A restart of racing by July 1 was 1.2 or 5-1 on. No doubt the talks between government and the racing lobby, with the more vociferous trainers at its helm, will be continuing. For the sport to expect to be made a special case might be hard to gain much traction while so many others are still making life-changing sacrifices every day.

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So let us enjoy the French for a change. At least their sport has a tradition where spectators are almost an after-thought, so sparsely have they traditionally attended except when the Brits come en bloc to the Arc. The Pari-Mutuel monopoly over generations meant a traditional culture of the morning Tierce bet in the coffee shops and bars and non-attendance at the sports. The betting there, like everywhere else, has benefited from technological advance and it is hard to argue with a racing administration that can produce three cards that between them offer around £800,000 in overall prize money on a single day.

I think I’ve mentioned before that when Racing TV (ex Racing UK) pinched Irish Racing from At The Races (now Sky Racing), few thought that having the French stuff dumped on them as a token was anywhere near an equitable exchange. But they quickly found an excellent equivalent to Racing UK’s outgoing professional Frenchman, Claude Charlet, in Laurent Barberin, whose patient unflappable style and genuine knowledge of his subject has been highly impressive. While many of Ireland’s races on busy UK days nowadays inevitably clash and require split screens or even delayed relaying, Sky has made a big move forward. Today will be a great opportunity and for its presenters represents something of a penalty kick.

The trio of fixtures reflects France Galop’s new-found flexibility where its financial muscle is shrewdly stretched throughout the day. Longchamp kicks off mid-morning, 10.55 a.m. in France, so an hour earlier here and there will be unbroken coverage throughout its ten-race card which concludes at 2.35 p.m. BST.  It would be hard to imagine a single UK meeting on a Monday afternoon offering anywhere near as much as £230,000 yet remarkably that figure is comfortably outstripped by its near-neighbour Compiegne, around 60 miles to the north, whose own ten-race card weighs in at a hefty £350k.

Compiegne is an all-jumps programme with no race worth less than £30k. It offers decent fields throughout with the top trainers and jockeys all on show. Sky again will show all ten races from the 3.05 starting time to a 7.35pm conclusion. A good proportion of the evening mixed fixture at Toulouse will also be featured. This begins at 5.20 UK time, so overlaps Compiegne. Another ten-race affair begins with a hurdle race and two chases, with the remaining seven events on the Flat. Two of these are Listed (worth £38k each in total), while two more are confined to Arabians, including a Group 2, the finale at 9.42pm.

Toulouse, in the South of France, is one of the more important provincial tracks, and offers only £10k less overall prize money tonight than the £230k available at the Group race-sprinkled principal meeting at Longchamp.

Listening to Barberin, from his home in Bordeaux yesterday, I got the impression he would be in for the long haul today. It seems as though he hopes to abandon ship after the second Listed race at Toulouse, (7.20) when he and the cameras might be taking their leave, so Arabian horse fans could be denied. But that still leaves around 25 mostly high class French races to tickle the punters’ fancy. My own fancy, I must confess, has been tickled by one name, Je Deviens Moi – I want to be (or become) me! He runs in a conditions race at 5.05 at Compiegne and, while up in class, goes for four in a row.

I would hope that, following France’s example, when UK racing does return there could be at least one attention-grabbing card rather than some routine betting-shop dross that can do little more than stifle enthusiasm. Okay, we want opportunities for all owners and trainers, but in the crucial early stages, racing should have something special to offer. The good horses have been training towards their comebacks and the possible normal path to stardom. They will need suitable targets, especially as if we do have to wait for a start into June, the season will already have been drastically truncated.

The French have successfully averted one major political threat to their return and it came from a by no means inconsiderable quarter. It seems French Ligue 1 football teams were unimpressed by having their return to action delayed until September or whenever and tried a spiteful legal block against racing’s resumption. In Nicolas Clement, the trainers have got the right man at the helm!

Now the stage – Covid-19 permitting, and the numbers of fatalities and infections in France have been going down steadily – should be set for their mile Classics being run in three weeks. Let’s all hope for a problem-free day. At least the spectators won’t be getting in the way - not that they ever do over there!

- TS

Two-year-old A/W Debutants, Part 1: Trainers

A couple of weeks ago (seems much longer, doesn't it?), I kicked off a series of research pieces with a fairly simple analysis of trainers to follow on the flat with their two-year-old debutants, writes Chris Worrall.

Now I'm going to look at whether the same approach can be taken on the All-Weather here in the UK. The way I've approached this ahead of the resumption of racing, which will hopefully be here as soon as it's deemed safe to do so, is to look back over the previous five full calendar years to get a list of trainers to potentially follow in 2020. With that in mind, I then applied the following criteria to the long list of trainers with such runners since January 1st 2015:

  • a minimum of 30 2yo debutants
  • a minimum strike rate of 10%
  • profit over the five years at Betfair SP
  • and profitable in at least three of the five years

Applying those filters reduces the list to a far more manageable five trainers:

Ralph Beckett, Hugo Palmer, Sir Michael Stoute, Roger Varian and Archie Watson.

None, admittedly, achieved five profitable years - in fact all bar Beckett scored three from five - giving us some cause for caution. Ralph Beckett did manage to make profit in four years, but his success also carries a cautionary note as his runners went 0 from 19 last year!

Archie Watson has been profitable in 2017, 2018 and 2019, after only having one runner in 2016, so he couldn't really have done any better.

Their collective figures, pulled from the excellent horseracebase.com, over the last five completed years look like this...

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A near one-in-six strike rate and an ROI at Betfair SP in excess of 45p in the pound is something about which to sit up and take notice, even allowing for earlier caveats and a relatively small sample size. The fact of the matter is that the vast majority (almost 75%) of juveniles make their debuts on turf, so we're always going to be working with smaller numbers.

The yearly breakdown since 2015 is as follows...

The first thing I noticed was that 2018 wasn't as strong as the other years and this was replicated in my study on the Flat, so there may well be something to look at regarding 2018's two-year-old crop as a whole.

And here's how the runners were broken down by trainer...

The smaller sample sizes involved make me reluctant to draw down trainer by trainer and I think I'd either cautiously follow all five in a blanket portfolio approach or I'd have to be ruthless and discard Messrs Beckett and Stoute, because their strike rate doesn't appeal. I'd also jettison Roger Varian, because a 17% ROI at Betfair SP might well be steady, but it's not exciting and it did actually reflect a loss at Industry SP, not that any of us use that, surely?

That means I'm left with Hugo Palmer & Archie Watson going forward, whose numbers read as follows...

It's not an angle that is going to keep you busy, but if you're looking for 2 yr old debutants to back on the UK All-Weather scene, then my two go-to trainers are going to be Hugo Palmer & Archie Watson this year with a near two-in-nine strike rate generating more than 55% ROI over the last five years.

I intend to back up this starter piece with a more detailed analysis of each of my five originally highlighted trainers to analyse which of their two-year-old debutants to back based on criteria such as track/track location, surface, distance, jockey, time of year and so on.

- CW

Chester Draw & Pace: Part 2

This is a follow up article to the Chester piece I wrote in April, writes Dave Renham. In that article I concentrated on sprints of between five and seven furlongs; here I am will look in detail at the extended 7f trip and the 1m 2f distance.

As I am writing this (on May 4th), I feel sad because this week would have signalled the Chester May Meeting which is one of my favourite meetings of the year. The signs are, however, that racing may be back quite soon with Germany and France hopefully set to start again in the near future. When it resumes here, racing will be behind closed doors but for everyone involved in the sport I am sure they will just be glad to get going again.

Since writing the first three articles in this draw/pace series there has been a useful addition to the Draw and Pace Analyser tools whereby you can now narrow down your query by year range. In the past it showed all years going back to 2009 and in order to look at more recent data I needed to use the Query Tool as well. This speeds my draw and pace research up especially when wanting to research time sensitive data.

 

 

What the new addition also means is that I can look at the data in a slightly different way using a method I first saw in Nick Mordin’s excellent book, ‘Winning Without Thinking’. He looked at data in five-year batches which is a good way to try and compare things more effectively. This method also potentially highlights whether patterns or biases are changing, and offers more reliable sample sizes.

Below is an example of this method based on 7f handicap data from Goodwood, which I hope illustrates his idea neatly. Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s Goodwood’s 7f trip provided me with plenty of winning bets, many of them forecasts and exactas on horses drawn closest to the rail; but the officials got wise to the bias and managed to even it out a little for some years. However, back in 2015 or so I started to notice that the low draw bias was beginning to reappear.

Here is a table using five-year batches of data with percentages for each third of the draw as well as A/E values. The full 11-year data is shown at the top of the table for long term comparison:

 

I have highlighted in green the low draw data which shows a big change from the first five years (2009-2013) in terms of the low draw bias gradually getting stronger. Having said that I know that 2018 and 2019 have both seemingly started to show a decline again in the strength of bias - this is just beginning to be shown in the 2015-2019 data. The next couple of years may well determine whether Goodwood are increasing efforts once again to level out the ‘draw playing field’. Hence I really think splitting year data in this way is a useful tool for comparisons and I will aim to use it in articles where it is appropriate. 

So time to delve back into Chester’s stats. As before I am using some of the tools available on the Geegeez website, those being the Draw Analyser, the Pace Analyser and the Query Tool. The main period of study goes back to 2009, but as before I will examine a more recent data set (2015 to 2019) in detail, too, where appropriate, as well as using the new 5-year comparison method.

I will be focusing once again on 8+ runner handicap races and, as stated in the first paragraph, looking mainly at the extended 7f trip and 1m2f. The draw will be divided into three equal sections or thirds (low, middle, high) and non-runners have been taken into account with draw positions adjusted accordingly. The pace data is split into four groups: led, prominent, mid division and held up.

Chester 7 1/2 furlongs (8+ runner handicaps)

When analysing this trip on Geegeez Draw Analyser you need to look at the 1 mile distance to get this extended 7f data. Otherwise if you key in 7 furlongs you will get the 7f data from the last article. This is because the actual distance is 7f 127 yards, which is closer to a mile than seven furlongs.

Since 2009 there have been 115 races that have qualified which is a decent sample. Here are the 11 season overall draw splits:

There appears to be a slight edge towards lower draws but, compared with the 5 – 7f data, we can see that this 7½f distance offers low draws far less of an advantage.

The A/E values are shown below for this period:

A fairly even playing field here so, despite the small low draw edge in terms of percentage wins, it looks like the bookmakers have that well factored into their prices.

It is time now to look at each draw position broken down by individual stall number:

 

Perhaps no real surprises here given the draw thirds data. There does seem to be something to be gleaned from looking at the each way placed percentages: combining the figures for horses drawn 10 or wider they have made the frame (i.e. won or placed) just 16% of the time. Their combined win A/E value is also low at 0.55. Compare this with horses drawn 1 to 9 who have placed 30% of the time with an A/E value of 0.88. It seems the long term data suggests that horses drawn 10 and above are at a fairly significant disadvantage to those drawn lower.

Onto a more recent data set looking at the past five seasons (2015-2019). Here are the draw splits for the 58 races that have occurred during this time frame.

This tells a similar tale to the ’09-’19 figures but with a slight increase in the low draw win percentage. This small increase is not statistically significant and the A/E values again indicate a relatively level playing field in terms of potential profitability as shown below:

The five-year stats for individual draw positions are below:

Again it is only the each way percentages that catch my eye, mirroring the long term data (draws 1 to 9 with 32% of placed runners; draws 10 and above with 11.4% of placed runners).

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Let us break down the draw figures using rolling five-year batches to compare the data in another way:

Looking at the table we can see that the low draw bias has been very consistent from 2011 onwards and it seems that in 2009 and 2010 for whatever reason low draws slightly under-performed.

Ultimately this is a course and distance where there is a slight low draw edge and, as indicated earlier, draws 10 and above look to be at a fairly significant disadvantage. Hence it should not come as a surprise that as the field size grows the bias towards low draws increases as does the bias AGAINST higher draws. Here are the data for fields with 12 or more runners for 2009 – 2019 (44 races in total):

In bigger fields I would be very wary of backing anything drawn high unless I felt the horse had a huge edge over the rest of the runners, or that its price more than justified the risk. The A/E values correlate neatly as we can see:

It looks therefore that we have a potentially playable draw bias when we get to 12+ runners. Indeed the bias does seem to strengthen when we increase the field size further, but of course the number of races becomes smaller and less reliable from a statistical point of view.

In the first Chester article I pointed out how exotic bets (forecasts, exactas, etc) over 5f would have proved profitable under certain circumstances. Once again I have delved into this area for this distance when the field size has been 12 or more. There are some interesting ideas that would have proved highly profitable during the period of study for these bigger field races:

a) perming the bottom four draws in 12 x £1 straight forecasts would have seen an outlay of £528 and produced returns of £627.49 meaning of profit of £99.49. The exacta paid more (potentially increasing profit by a further £130 to be precise), but exactas being pool bets are not always a good vehicle for draw-based bets: they can easily be ‘overplayed’ and the dividend suffers as a result;

b) perming the five lowest draws in 60 x £1 tricasts would have seen a significant outlay of £2640 but produced huge returns of £4845 meaning a healthy profit of £2205, and an ROI of 84%.

Of course, past profitable results are simply that – past results. However, I have made most of my profits over the years using these exotic bets on draw biased races and the profits quoted are not unusual.

Let us look at pace and running styles now. The overall figures (2009-19) are thus:

A very even playing field here, although hold up horses seem at a slight disadvantage.

I have checked ground conditions and there is nothing clear cut; however, field size does seem to make a difference as it did with the draw. If we look at 12+ runner races again we get the following pace results:

In bigger fields front runners have the best record and have an edge; meanwhile, hold up horses seem to really struggle.

Now a look at draw / pace (running style) combinations for front runners in these 7½f races. Remember this is looking at which third of the draw is responsible for the early leader of the race (in % terms):

Lower draws are more likely to take the early lead but with a run of around 1½ furlongs to the first bend horses drawn wider find it easier to contest for the lead should they wish too. What is noteworthy is that early leaders from low draws go on to win a far bigger percentage of races than those who led drawn in the middle or out wide (high). 58 horses have led from low draws with ten going onto to win the race (17.2%); 81 horses have led from middle or high draws with only six managing to go on to win (7.4%). It should also be noted that prominent runners from a low draw have a decent record, scoring more 15% of the time.

In conclusion, lower draws do have an edge but it is only when we get to bigger fields (12+) that the bias looks playable. Not only do bigger fields increase the edge for low draws, they decrease the chances of high drawn horses. Pace wise the only bias seems again to occur in bigger fields where front runners have an advantage while hold up horses find it very difficult to win.

 

Chester 1 mile 2 1/2 furlongs (8+ runner handicaps) 

There were 94 qualifying races at this distance from 2009 to 2019. The 1m 2f 70 yards distance has been shortened by 5 yards since 2009, not that that would make any difference. Here are the draw splits:

 

Low draws definitely have had an edge over the 11 seasons, while there seems little in it between middle and higher draws. Let’s look at the A/E values to see whether this bias is appreciated by bookmakers:

 

No real edge it seems from a punting perspective with an extremely level set of A/E values. Let’s see what the individual draw positions offer:

The lowest six draws seems the natural cut off point in terms of win strike rate, and the A/E values for draws 1 2, 5 and 6 are decent. However, only draw 5 has made a ‘blind’ profit.

Look at the going data there have only been 20 races on good to firm or firmer, but my impression is that any low draw bias is less potent under such conditions. The win percentages are more even and the win and placed figures see just 2 more placed efforts for low draws compared with high. Such a small number of races means it is simply a hypothesis, however.

Onto the last five seasons now. There have been 43 qualifying races since 2015, with the draw splits as follows:

A more even set of figures in the more recent past with low draws only marginally best in win percentage terms.  And the A/E values:

Low draws have proved to be poor value over the past five seasons despite still winning more races. The individual draw figures for 2015 to 2019 look like this:

Draws 1 and 2 have a really poor record in the more recent past and checking back from 2009 to 2014 both stall positions actually made a blind profit. This illustrates how religiously backing individual draw positions can be a real roller coaster and in general too risky long term.

Let us now look at the draw figures for 1m 2f using the five-year comparison method discussed earlier:

The five year batch data seem to back up what the 2015 to 2019 figures had suggested: that the low draw bias has been gradually diminishing. I am not sure why this has been happening – it may just be down to chance and it will be interesting to see what results the next couple of seasons bring.

A look pace and running styles now. Here are the overall figures going back to 2009:

These figures show that front runners have a significant edge which, considering the distance, is unusual. In general in flat races, the longer the distance the less successful front runners are. But Chester's very tight, always on the turn, configuration does make it harder for horses to pass without travelling further and using up more fuel.

A win percentage for front runners of nearly 20% really caught my eye. To illustrate this pace bias more clearly, the average win percentage all UK courses over the 1m 2f distance (8+ runner handicaps) stands at 12.8% (A/E 1.09; IV 1.39). Only Beverley and Wetherby have a better win strike rate for front runners at this trip than Chester; and we can probably ignore Wetherby because there have been so few races (just 11) on their recently opened flat track. At the other end of the scale, front runners at this distance at both York and Epsom have won a meagre 5% of races.

As the field size gets bigger the pace bias strengthens a little: in races of 11 or more runners, front runners have won just over 25% of them (12 wins from 47 runners). Meanwhile, in terms of ground underfoot conditions, as with the extended 7f trip, it is difficult to pinpoint whether the going makes any real difference.

Now a look at draw / pace (running style) combinations for front runners in 1m 2f Chester handicaps (2009 – 2019):

It is easier for lower drawn horses to take the early lead but, in terms of these runners going onto win, strike rates are similar: low drawn front runners win 21.8% of the time; those who lead early from middle draws have won 20% of the time, high drawn front runners 19.2% of the time.

Chester longer distance races (8+ runner handicaps)

Looking very briefly at distances beyond 1m2f:

1m 4f - front runners over 1m4f do have an edge, winning around 16% of the time (A/E 1.50), but there is no draw advantage for any ‘third’ (47 races in total)

1m 5f – only 23 races at this trip and from the limited data front runners have a slight edge. There is no draw bias.

1m 7f 195yds or more – front runners have an edge even at this trip winning over 15% of the time (A/E 1.57) while hold up horses really struggle (3 wins from 125) producing an A/E of just 0.30. As the field size increases hold up horses find it even harder winning 0 races from 74 in races of 12 or more runners. In terms of the draw low draws actually seem to have a small edge which seems to increase in big fields. There have only been 30 races in total though so it is impossible to fully confident about these findings.

That concludes our investigation into draw and pace at Chester racecourse. As has been shown, there is a generally strong bias towards low draws and/or front runners, with the bias being emphasised in bigger fields.

- DR

Form Profiling: Five to Follow in 2020

STOP PRESS

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!

Matt

***

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...

Dapper Man

Age: 6
Trainer: Roger Fell
Career record: 10/52
Turf Record: 9/40
Turf Handicap Record: 9/37
Highest winning OR: 80
Current OR: 82
Win Profile:

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)

Notes

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.

*

Waarif

Age: 7
Trainer: David O'Meara
Career record: 8/41
Turf Record: 7/32
Turf Handicap Record: 7/30
Highest winning OR: 96
Current OR: 97
Win Profile:

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

Notes:

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.

*

Redarna

Age: 6
Trainer: Dianne Sayer
Career record: 8/26
Turf Record: 8/24
Turf Handicap Record: 8/23
Highest winning OR: 84
Current OR: 90
Win Profile:

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)

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4/8 Cheekpieces (plus 2 further places)

Notes:

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

Age: 6
Trainer: Tony Carroll
Career record: 8/39
Turf Record: 7/24
Turf Handicap Record: 7/19
Highest winning OR: 79
Current OR: 82
Win Profile:

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

Notes:

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.

*

Royal Brave

Age: 9
Trainer: Rebecca Bastiman
Career record: 11/77
Turf Record: 10/62
Turf Handicap Record: 10/57
Highest winning OR: 88
Current OR: 74
Win Profile:

10/11 Good or Good to Firm ground (also won on Newcastle's tapeta)

9/11 5f

9/11 ridden by PJ McDonald, Martin Dwyer or Danny Tudhope

6/11 Class 4

5/11 Musselburgh

Notes:

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.

 

**

A challenge?

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:

Date Time Course Horse Jockey Trainer Runners
11/05/2019 16:00 Ascot Remarkable Adam Kirby D O'Meara 26
26/05/2019 14:20 Curragh Teddy Boy Gavin Ryan E Lynam 26
18/06/2019 17:00 Ascot Mixboy Paul Mulrennan K Dalgleish 19
18/06/2019 17:00 Ascot Ulster Edward Greatrex A Watson 19
22/08/2019 15:00 York Crownthorpe Sean Davis R Fahey 18
24/08/2019 15:40 York Dramatic Queen Daniel Tudhope W Haggas 22
24/08/2019 15:40 York Making Miracles Jason Hart M Johnston 22
07/09/2019 15:35 Haydock Park Melting Dew Ryan Moore Sir M Stoute 16
04/05/2019 16:15 Thirsk Hayadh Lewis Edmunds R Bastiman 16
06/05/2019 17:50 Curragh Red Tea Donnacha O'Brien J O'Brien 27
11/05/2019 16:00 Ascot Cape Byron Andrea Atzeni R Varian 26
15/05/2019 13:50 York First Eleven Frankie Dettori J Gosden 18
15/05/2019 14:25 York Soldier's Minute Joe Fanning K Dalgleish 21
16/05/2019 13:50 York Copper Knight David Allan T Easterby 21
25/05/2019 15:45 York Duke Of Firenze Phil Dennis D Griffiths 19
25/05/2019 16:45 Curragh Insignia Of Rank Gary Carroll J G Murphy 18
26/05/2019 14:20 Curragh Baby Power Leigh Roche G Caldwell 26
01/06/2019 15:45 Epsom Downs Ornate Phil Dennis D Griffiths 19
15/06/2019 14:25 York Firmament James Doyle D O'Meara 20
18/06/2019 17:00 Ascot The Grand Visir Richard Kingscote I Williams 19
19/06/2019 17:00 Ascot Afaak Jim Crowley C Hills 28
21/06/2019 17:35 Ascot Baghdad Ryan Moore M Johnston 19
22/06/2019 17:00 Ascot Cape Byron Andrea Atzeni R Varian 26
27/06/2019 19:45 Curragh El Astronaute Jason Hart J J Quinn 16
29/06/2019 13:45 Curragh Buffer Zone Colin Keane G Lyons 16
29/06/2019 14:45 York Gulliver Jason Hart D O'Meara 18
29/06/2019 17:05 York Nibras Again Joshua Moore P Midgley 19
06/07/2019 15:15 Haydock Park Kelly's Dino Ben Curtis K Burke 17
12/07/2019 15:00 Newmarket King's Advice Joe Fanning M Johnston 17
13/07/2019 13:45 Ascot Tis Marvellous Adam Kirby Clive Cox 19
13/07/2019 15:30 Newmarket Vale Of Kent Frankie Dettori M Johnston 17
13/07/2019 15:50 York Pivoine Rob Hornby A Balding 21
20/07/2019 14:25 Newbury Withhold Jason Watson R Charlton 16
20/07/2019 15:25 Curragh Verhoyen Rory Cleary M Grassick 19
27/07/2019 15:00 Ascot Raising Sand Nicola Currie J Osborne 23
29/07/2019 19:40 Galway Great White Shark Miss J Townend W Mullins 20
29/07/2019 19:50 Windsor Show Stealer Silvestre De Sousa Rae Guest 16
30/07/2019 13:50 Goodwood Fayez Daniel Tudhope D O'Meara 16
30/07/2019 19:40 Galway Saltonstall Colin Keane A McGuinness 18
31/07/2019 13:50 Goodwood Timoshenko Luke Morris Sir M Prescott 19
01/08/2019 15:10 Galway Waitingfortheday Donnacha O'Brien J O'Brien 18
03/08/2019 13:50 Goodwood Poyle Vinnie James Sullivan Mrs R Carr 23
03/08/2019 17:25 Goodwood Gifts Of Gold Cieren Fallon S Bin Suroor 17
04/08/2019 15:55 Galway Laughifuwant Seamie Heffernan G Keane 16
17/08/2019 14:05 Ripon Growl Tony Hamilton R Fahey 19
17/08/2019 15:15 Ripon Dakota Gold Connor Beasley M Dods 17
21/08/2019 13:55 York Dakota Gold Connor Beasley M Dods 22
21/08/2019 16:15 York Eddystone Rock James Doyle John Best 17
22/08/2019 15:00 York What's The Story Joe Fanning K Dalgleish 18
22/08/2019 16:50 York Excellent Times Phil Dennis T Easterby 19
23/08/2019 13:55 York Tamreer Ben Curtis R G Fell 16
24/08/2019 15:40 York Mustajeer Colin Keane G Lyons 22
30/08/2019 15:40 Thirsk Bielsa Kevin Stott K A Ryan 16
30/08/2019 18:50 Curragh Jassaar Andrew Slattery D Weld 25
07/09/2019 14:45 Ascot Salute The Soldier Adam Kirby Clive Cox 16
07/09/2019 15:35 Haydock Park Time To Study Cieren Fallon I Williams 16
12/09/2019 16:20 Doncaster Saluti Georgia Cox P Midgley 16
15/09/2019 13:20 Curragh Buffer Zone Colin Keane G Lyons 24
15/09/2019 18:00 Curragh One Cool Poet Billy Lee M Smith 16
20/09/2019 15:45 Ayr Music Society Paul Mulrennan T Easterby 24
21/09/2019 14:40 Ayr Golden Apollo David Allan T Easterby 24
28/09/2019 14:35 Curragh Make A Challenge Joe Doyle D Hogan 20
02/10/2019 15:25 Nottingham Fantasy Keeper A Villiers M Appleby 17
05/10/2019 15:10 Ascot Kynren Ben Curtis T D Barron 17
12/10/2019 15:50 York Gulliver Jason Hart D O'Meara 22
12/10/2019 16:10 Newmarket Stratum Jason Watson W Mullins 30
13/10/2019 16:25 Curragh Royal Illusion J M Sheridan W Mullins 18
19/10/2019 16:40 Ascot Escobar Adam Kirby D O'Meara 20
26/10/2019 16:50 Leopardstown Melburnian N G McCullagh A Martin 17
03/11/2019 15:10 Naas Jukebox Jive Sean Davis G Cromwell 16

 

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Monday Musings: A Minor Miracle in the Numbers

Most numbers associated with the last two months of life in the UK, first under the imminent threat, and then quickly the awful reality, of the Coronavirus pandemic have been shocking, writes Tony Stafford. More than 28,000 deaths with at least 75% of them in the 75-and-above age group justifying the Government’s initial and apparently over-the-top strictures that it could be several months before those over 70 could be allowed freely to leave home except under highly-limited conditions.

But one statistic which has been little discussed is the most miraculous. The latest detailed data is up to April 22, showing that 119 NHS staff died from the virus. With more than 1.5 million people working throughout the NHS and a further 350,000, taking in temporary staff and also medical workers in the private sector, that means fewer than 1 in 15,000 have died. That said, many more will have been infected in differing degrees of severity and have recovered.

Considering the exposure to patients in hospitals suffering from the virus – Boris Johnson talked of having up to eight nurses and others attending to him during the most severe stages of his stay in ICU – those 119 deaths are truly miraculous. Approaching 200,000 people have been admitted to hospitals suffering from Covid-19. The overall death rate in the total population is closer to 1 in 2,500. In the NHS 60% of those that have died have been age 50 and above.

Numbers have been the key to the Government’s release of details over the last two months with sensitivities in the media and how it would react to the numbers being paramount. You can only draw that conclusion when upon the figure of 20,000 deaths being reached, even though it was inevitable for some time beforehand, it brought the usual BBC and Piers Morgan blame-game hysteria.

Much has been said about the rights and wrongs of allowing Cheltenham to go ahead. For it to have been cancelled, it would have meant a decision at least a week before the March 10 starting date. At that time, the daily briefings were still two weeks off, and the first figure I have found for daily deaths is the 15 on March 15, two days after Cheltenham finished.

Since the end of March I’ve kept a table of the daily fatalities and until early last week, the highest single number was an admittedly-shocking 980 hospital deaths on April 10. Then last Tuesday, with figures clearly on a downward curve among people dying in hospital, for the first time the increasing proportion of fatalities in care homes and elsewhere was included. Now April 10 is revealed to have had an even higher overall number, 1,152, one of eight days when the total death toll exceeded 1,000.

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It’s still horrendous, but when the Government’s reaction to the situation initially instructed people to stay home, no single day had yet brought more than the 43 deaths, on Wednesday March 19, by which time I, and many in my advanced age group, was already locked away. The first three-figure “score” was the 149 on Monday March 24 but by eight days later it was 670 and soon after it reached those eight thousand-plus spikes.

As racing fans we’ve been denied so much normal action where, in my case, reading a book every two days, catching up on television and our once-a-week walk were only partial consolation; although somehow I’m almost a stone lighter! But then an hour on Racing TV yesterday brought home the frustration of our missing the scheduled Guineas meeting over last weekend.

It was great to see the last 30 years of what is probably the most significant race in the selection of stallions. Not all of them won the race, notably Dubawi, only fifth in his year to Footstepsinthesand, and both Kingman and Australia just a few years ago, stumped late on by Night of Thunder despite the winner’s across-the-course wanderings in the last 150 yards.

We saw Sea The Stars denying my 33-1 win only ante-post bet on Delegator and Camelot’s narrow defeat of formerly Ray Tooth-owned French Fifteen in two thrillers, but still pride of place goes to the extraordinary Frankel, off like a scalded cat under Tom Queally and thereafter never closer to his pursuers than his six-length winning margin over Galileo Gold. In 14 unbeaten runs, this highest-rated horse of all time gets my vote over another Guineas hero, Brigadier Gerard from the 1970’s, and Sea Bird II, a brilliant Derby winner from my youth a decade earlier. Can Frankel’s romp really have been nine years ago?

The timely reminder of the pre-eminence of that race comes with racing deriving positive vibes from recent meetings with Government. May 15 is now being suggested as a likely starting point with Lingfield close to London and Newcastle in the north providing the initial hubs for behind-closed-doors sport. Both have hotels, in the case of Lingfield, part of the grandstand, while Newcastle’s well-appointed Gosforth Park Hotel is a walk along the avenue of rhododendrons which always brightens the spring and especially the summer meetings there.

My first visit to Newcastle was in my Press Association days to cover a jumps meeting one May Bank Holiday in the early 1970’s. Arthur Stephenson dominated the card that early evening and I still remember the leisurely stroll down after lunch in the hotel and the surprising discovery that the horses had gone out of sight behind the trees down the far side. I found it difficult to find them again when they came back into view.

Racing has advantages over other sports in that you need not be there to get the impression that you are; in fact sometimes you get only a limited view of the race compared with viewers at home. A commentator’s crescendo as the horses near the line is much more vital than any crowd noise. The big races that have continued in Hong Kong and Australia without the public have given the UK authorities a blueprint of why and how it should be possible, while as I’ve said before, it must help that the Health Secretary’s East Anglian constituency includes Newmarket.

I haven’t been able to check this fact, but one friend yesterday told me that the Minister is also godfather to one of John Gosden and Rachel Hood’s children. If it is true that can’t hurt either.

The ambitious plan for two weekends of Group races in the lead up to the revised proposed Guineas meeting on the first Saturday of June means that if racing does get the go-ahead, it will start with a flourish. The bookmakers will do wonderful business and I can imagine action-starved horse racing enthusiasts jamming the phone lines and internet connections to get on.

Bookmakers do not always get the best of press coverage, but I was gladdened to hear last week that the 2019-20 Levy yield at £97 million is £2 million higher than the top estimated figure. It seems to make the BHA’s “promise” of races at reduced prize money more than niggardly. Apart from the better races, foreign owners laugh at what’s on offer here day to day. As trainers and owners will tell you, the one thing that never reduces are BHA and Weatherbys’ administration costs.

But in these times, I prefer to take a glass half-full attitude rather than the faux-combative criticism of Government. The Nightingale hospitals haven’t really been needed and within the awful figures, at least one miracle – those 119 deaths where thousands were being predicted – exists whatever the point-scoring after-timers think.

- TS

The Logic of Sports Betting: Book Review

They speak a different language in America and that applies equally to betting with their money-lines, parlays and points spreads, writes Tony Keenan.  However, it doesn’t mean bettors over there have nothing to say to punters on this side of the Atlantic. Widespread, legalised sports betting is in its infancy in the US but the country has been quick to latch onto it, aided no doubt by having a well-developed gambling culture in Nevada since the 1930s; and a relatively new book ‘The Logic of Sports Betting’ provides an insight into how things are done stateside.

Written by poker player Ed Miller and sports betting modeler Matthew Davidow, the book has three parts. The opening section deals with how the US sportsbooks operate before the second part looks at betting markets in more detail with the final segment discussing strategies for finding good bets. This article will be less a straight review of the content than a look at the application of the ideas therein to UK and Irish racing, translating the suggestions to a different type of betting.

The early part of ‘The Logic of Sports Betting’ deals with the maths (sorry, math!) of the markets and the difference between the value of points and percentage edge. American odds are expressed differently, with plus and minus figures, but the argument is the same. The authors point out that percentage edge value is more important than points value. If you back a horse at 12/1 and it goes off 7/1 (let’s assume that 7/1 is a hard 8.2 on the exchanges and thus a true price rather than a drifting 11.5) you have beaten the market by five points and 4%, a 12/1 shot being 8% of the market, a 7/1 shot being 12%.

That’s a good bet clearly but not as good as the even-money shot that goes off 8/11, again assuming true prices; you have beaten the market by less than a third of a point but with 8% of an edge, the even-money shot being 50% and the 8/11 shot 58%. This is easy to see in the American markets that are typically two-way affairs, sides in a handicap mainly or a points total, but less so for racing punters typically facing ten or more options in a race.

But it could be a reminder of the value of shorter-priced horses, be it in the win or place markets. The front end of the market is sometimes scorned by racing punters – who wants to be that most banal of bettors, the favourite backer? – but there are plenty of good bets to be had there and they are typically easier to get on than those at bigger prices.

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Much is made in the book of zero-hold markets which means a minimal overround and how bettors can achieve these by creating zero-hold synthetic markets, referring to searching out prices that reduce the overround on offer; on one level that is just basic advice to take the best price but it’s a little more complicated than that as they explain how to find bets across similar markets that are not properly correlated to each other.

This is difficult over here with so much uniformity of pricing, particularly on something like Irish racing, and the point is made that ‘if every sportsbook has the exact same price on a market, that’s bad for you as a bettor.’ I did think of another simple application of this, however, and that is finding a horse you hate in a race for whatever reason, be it ground, trip, attitude or whatever, and opposing it strongly as this in effect is taking out a chunk of the market. If not quite saying it cannot win, you are at least viewing it as under-priced and every now and then there are horses that are hard to back at any price. We don’t really have a culture of hating horses here, at least not in the media of which I am part, there being no luck for slagging someone’s prize possession; but, as punters, being negative can produce an edge and thus good bets.

On the subject of good bets, Miller and Davidow have a bit to say on how many of those a bettor should be having. We may all want to have brilliant bets all the time, where the price is wrong and the edge is huge, but for them such selectivity is overrated; we should also be having the good bets and the half-decent bets too with the smaller edges. They are also believers in the idea that the best bets have multiple components built into them; for instance, you may have a time-based case for a horse along with a niche trainer angle and a track bias argument baked in too.

‘Attack surface’ is a prominent concept in ‘The Logic of Sports Betting’ and refers to the wide array of betting opportunities that are available across the vast majority of sportsbooks these days; there are so many markets on offer that they are basically impossible to monitor correctly. The authors are believers in betting where the bookmakers are weakest and in America that means away from the main points spread, money-line and totals markets and instead playing in the derivative markets like player propositions.

Over here, that might mean ignoring the major races and main markets and instead going down the grades and into the side markets like place only or without the favourite/s. The reality is that many of the big players will not be as interested in these markets, mainly because they can’t bet in them to scale, which leaves opportunities for the smaller punter as the betting firms drive for more and more content which in turn creates more opportunity.

As to bad bets, the book argues against making anti-correlated bets where even if you win you will also lose in many scenarios. They give an example of having two bets on teasers (an American bet that allows bettors to manipulate the points spread in their favour in the multiple bet) where only a narrow window allows you to win both bets; for example when the bettor thinks one team will win but the other will keep it close; but the reality is that over time that outcome happens rarely and certainly not enough to justify two bets.

I find I often do this in racing by having too many bets in the same market in the same race: if you have four win bets, only one can actually win and it might be better to try and settle on one or two horses, allowing that multiple runners can be overpriced in a big field.

For Miller and Davidow, market resistance (i.e. when a horse is drifting) is something to be taken seriously and they do not believe in betting into it. For them, if you’ve had a bet at 7/1 and it moves to 7/2, you’re on a good bet with the only issue being that you could have had another play at 6/1 which would also be good. Striking that same bet at 7/1 on a horse that is now 16/1 is conversely a bad bet and we shouldn’t be going in again as it merely compounds the error. I go back-and-forth on this issue and drifters certainly do win in racing, the reason for the drift sometimes being significant, other times meaningless, but they do make a good point that if a bettor always tops up on a drifter they will finish up having their biggest plays on bets that are, by definition, bad.

- TK

Monday Musings: The End is Nigh?

At last some movement, writes Tony Stafford. The five-week-long stretch of mockingly-sunny days with unblemished blue skies is about to break in the South of England according to a weather forecast I took scant notice of on Saturday evening. Horse racing is about to start in Germany, on May 4th, and in France a week later.

Hints and allegations, to quote Paul Simon, swirl around the possible resumption in the UK, with mid-May being hinted and Nick Rust reportedly the target of allegations from some senior trainers according to yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph. Rust, whose six-year stint as chief executive of the BHA will end at the conclusion of a year’s notice on Dec 31, according to the paper has been urged to step aside immediately by senior trainers including Ralph Beckett and Mark Johnston.

That pair is reputedly among a group that has canvassed Annamarie Phelps, chair of the BHA, to remove Rust amid disquiet about his handling of the sport during the suspension of racing as a result of the coronavirus lockdown. They clearly believe a rapid resumption behind closed doors is vital, with no racing having been staged in the UK since March 17th, a week after the beginning of the highly controversial Cheltenham Festival.

It is likely that any hesitancy by the sport and its figurehead Nick Rust to press for an imminent return is partly based on the lingering embarrassment that some feel because Cheltenham was allowed to proceed. Matt Hancock, Health Secretary, is also the MP for Newmarket and it would be interesting to discover how he voted when the calls by other politicians to cancel the meeting were being discussed in Cabinet.

Hughie Morrison, interviewed by John Hunt on Sky Sports Racing the other night, put a very strong case for an early resumption. He said that a behind-closed-doors race meeting could easily be staged with probably a much lower chance of spreading a contagion like Covid19 than mooching round a supermarket to do the weekly shopping. People might be asked to keep their distance in shops, not that they do, so it’s hard to see how anyone with the virus will contrive to keep it to him or herself in that environment.

Morrison reckons race meetings would be relatively easy to organise: with no racegoers other than trainers, jockeys, officials and the odd owner – one per horse the norm when Ireland were racing behind their closed doors before drawing stumps last month – and in the countryside, risks Hughie says would be minimal.

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I like the potential look of a mid-to late-May restart, with the plan for both Guineas at the start of June, Royal Ascot – maybe Prince Andrew can be persuaded to come out of his Royal lockdown and tasked to present all the winners’ prizes – fan-free but in its usual slot, and the Derby and Oaks on one day at Epsom at the end of June or beginning of July. The May resumption would allow Classic trials to be staged in advance of the Guineas races.

One unkind soul, when the likelihood of crowd-free meetings extending some way into the future, suggested there might in that case be more people than is usual at some Newcastle and Southwell all-weather meetings!

But joking apart – this is no joking matter – we need racing to return. I heard second-hand from a friend of a friend, who is also a friend, that one major bookmaking company is suffering very little compared with normal activity, such has been the take-up of on-line games and the like.

There is such a hunger for something to bet on – as I hinted or alleged last week – that many bookmaker and casino-game firms are inundating the breaks between television programmes with advertising material.

Imagine how much more business they will be doing when racing and top-flight football return. As to the latter sport I find it totally mind-numbing the way certain newspaper web sites keep reporting on possible future transfer deals and what their tame football celebrities think on many matters, mostly about how little they deserve to have their salaries reduced.

For all the tragedy of at least 20,000 hospital deaths associated with the virus, while obviously by no means the only cause, and however many more elsewhere especially in care homes, some elements of normal life remain.

One long-term friend, a racing fan who had been struggling in the winter despite having for many years sold motor vehicles while also running a shellfish cabin in deepest Essex, told me the other day things have turned around. The fish bar was never a restaurant, so it didn’t need to close. Meanwhile he’s been furloughed from the car sales job so has been able to run the cabin full-time on the four days it opens from Thursday to Sunday, rather than just the weekend.

Now they are doing deliveries and take-outs and he says business is booming. When I’m allowed out again I’ll go down to Billericay and take up Kevin’s offer of a free surf and turf. It’s too far for their home delivery service to accommodate me in Hackney Wick, 30 odd miles away, so I’ll have to be patient.

There were two million-pound-to-the-winner races at Sha Tin in Hong Kong yesterday morning with mixed fortunes for jockey Zac Purton on the two odds-on favourites. Beauty Generation was foiled by a short-head in the Mile race, but Purton got his revenge aboard Exultant in the QEII Cup. Exultant, the champion middle-distance horse in HK is now a six-year-old; as a three-year-old for Mick Halford when called Irishcorrespondent, the son of Teolifio won his first two races and then finished third to Churchill in the Irish 2,000 Guineas.

The Irish Guineas, and all other Classic races in that country and the UK, will need to be slotted into the European programme and full marks to the French for getting their retaliation in first. One positive side-effect for racecourses is that their ground has had a much better chance to recover from the rigours suffered during the incessant rain and universally-heavy ground early in the year, while the Flat-only tracks will be looking pristine.

A happy consequence of that will be that they will last longer into the year when we resume. For instance, in Yorkshire, Ripon and Thirsk, which normally are looking to close their doors early in September, can be capable of going on much longer. I believe that Flat racing in the UK in 2020 could easily be staged on grass well beyond the normal early November finale at Doncaster. Who’s up for a New Year’s Eve spectacular at Newmarket?

 - TS

Two-year-old Flat Debutants, Part 2

In part 1 of this series, here, I suggested that if we were looking to blindly back two-year-olds on their flat debut this season, our starting point should initially be those juveniles trained by Richard Fahey, Jessica Harrington and Ger Lyons, writes Chris Worrall. As well as that standout trio, I was also interested in those trained by Paul Cole, Eve Johnson Houghton and David Simcock, notwithstanding the reservations I highlighted about those three.

I went on to highlight in that opening piece that we may be able to eliminate some bad bets by focusing more on each trainer's runners based on a series of factors: track location, actual track, race class/distance/going, jockeys used, time of year and sex of horse.

Richard Fahey

So, if we start with our three headline acts, we can see that Richard Fahey's results with 2yo flat debutants from 2016-19 were as follows:

Closer inspection of those 381 runners showed no real bias towards either gender or for any particular reported ground conditions, but of the other five tested variables, I found (in sample size order) that those numbers included:

  • 55/363 (15.15%) for 135.66pts (+37.37%) over trips of 5 to 7 furlongs
  • 53/359 (14.76%) for 125.13pts (+34.85%) during April to September
  • 51/339 (15.04%) for 122.82pts (+36.24%) in Yorkshire, NW & Central England
  • 47/314 (14.97%) for 132.07pts (+42.06%) at Classes 4 & 5
  • 38/236 (16.10%) for 92.88pts (+39.36%) ridden by Tony Hamilton or Paul Hanagan

(all profit quoted is to Betfair Starting Price, BSP)

And when combine all those filters, we are left with...

Suggestion: back all Richard Fahey 2yo Flat debutants ridden by Tony Hamilton or Paul Hanagan at up to 7 furlongs in Class 4 or 5 races in Yorkshire, the North West or Central England during April to September.

Jessica Harrington

And now onto Jessica Harrington, whose 2016-19 stats were...

From which (in order of winners)...

  • 18/114 (15.79%) for 81.5pts (+71.49%) over trips of 5 to 7 furlongs
  • 15/122 (12.3%) for 23.28pts (+19.08%) in Leinster
  • 15/104 (14.42%) for 56.85pts (+54.67%) on ground declared as Good to Yielding or firmer
  • 15/80 (18.75%) for 80.7pts (+100.88%) during May to July
  • 13/95 (13.68%) for 26.94pts (+28.35%) with female runners

And combining trip, track location, going and time of year gives us...

             

of which the gender spilt is as follows....

The females win more often, but the males generate more profit, so I'm not really convinced we should narrow it down either way.

Suggestion: back Jessica Harrington's 2 year olds on debut in Leinster (Bellewstown, Curragh, Fairyhouse, Gowran Park, Leopardstown, Naas, Navan) during May to July at trips up to 7 furlongs and on ground described as Good to Yielding or firmer.

Ger Lyons

The final member of our top trio is Ger Lyons, who qualified on his record over the last three seasons of...

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Once again, we'll subject those runners to the filtering system, where it can be noted:

  • 30/130 (23.08%) for 90.71pts (+69.78%) over trips of 6f to 1m
  • 30/125 (24%) for 95.71pts (+76.57%) during April to September
  • 29/137 (21.17%) for 76.78pts (+56.05%) on ground deemed Soft or better
  • 29/136 (21.32%) for 79.30pts (+58.31%) in Leinster and Munster
  • 28/116 (24.14%) for 79.07pts (+68.16%) when ridden by Colin Keane

and when we combine those five sets of data, we end up with a fantastic set of numbers reading...

Once again both sexes fare well as follows...

...so we'll not differentiate between the two.

Suggestion: back all Ger Lyons' 2 yo debutants ridden by Colin Keane over trips of 6f to a mile in Leinster (see above for tracks) and Munster (Cork, Killarney, Limerick, Listowel, Thurles, Tipperary) on Soft ground or better from April to September.

*

Those were the three main protagonists from part 1 of this series; combining their two-year-old flat debutants under the specified conditions brings us to 66 winners from 293 runners (22.53% SR) and 266.74pts of profit at an excellent ROI of some 91.04%.

Clearly it will be difficult to fully repeat those numbers but if they only do half as well in the next three or four years we'll still be looking at 130+ points.

*

So what of our 'second string' trio of Paul Cole, Eve Johnson Houghton and David Simcock? Are there conditions under which we might follow their juvenile debutants?

The easiest way to find out is to dive into the data, starting with...

Paul Cole

Cole's base figures with 2yo first-time starters are:

That's a small sample size so caution is advised, but they do include of note...

  • 6/35 (17.14%) for 68.1pts (+194.57%) in Classes 4 and 5
  • 6/30 (20%) for 73.1pts (+243.67%) over trips of 5 or 6 furlongs
  • 6/29 (20.69%) for 74.1pts (+255.52%) during April to July
  • 6/14 (42.86%) for 89.1pts (+636.43%) at Brighton, Leicester & Newbury
  • 5/28 (17.86%) for 31.35pts (+111.96%) in SE England
  • 3/10 (30%) for 60.92pts (+609.2%) with Raul Da Silva in the saddle

You probably don't need me to point out how Paul got all of his six original winners, but combining those first four filters gives...

Suggestion: keep an eye out for Paul Cole 2yo firsters in Class 4 or 5 races over 5 or 6 furlongs at Brighton, Leicester or Newbury from April to July, especially if Raul da Silva's on board, even if it's a big price.

Eve Johnson Houghton

Next up is Eve Johnson Houghton, whose own record during the last four seasons was...

...which, like Paul Cole previously, was a smaller than ideal sample size, but did include...

  • 8/52 (15.38%) for 141.35pts (+271.82%) excluding April and July
  • 7/62 (11.29%) for 98.02pts (+158.10%) in Classes 4 and 5
  • 7/46 (15.22%) for 106.94pts (+232.48%) over 6 or 7 furlongs
  • 6/47 (12.77%) for 120.04pts (+255.41%) in SE England
  • 6/41 (14.63%) for 88.22pts (+215.16%) ridden by Charles Bishop
  • 6/37 (16.22%) for 142.18pts (+384.26%) from female runners
  • and 5/21 (23.81%) for 42.74pts (+203.52%) on Good to Soft or Soft ground

Combining class, month, distance and going gives us...

...and despite this dozen qualifiers include 4 from 7 (57.1%) for 48.5pts (+392.7%) for Charles Bishop, 3 from 6 (50%) for 43.6pts (+726.2%) for females and 3 from 6 (50%) for 31.4pts (+524%) in the South East, there is an uneasy feel to the exclusion of April and July - I can't come up with a logical reason why the horses would fail to fire in that month. Instead, I've taken a more straightforward view...

Suggestion: Look out for Eve Johnson Houghton's Class 4 and 5 runners over 6 or 7 furlongs on Good to Soft or Soft ground. Add a bonus point if you see Charles Bishop down to ride.

David Simcock

And finally for this look at trainers who perform well with juvenile first time starters, we'll put David Simcock under the microscope, despite his sobering record last season (0 from 20). Even with that abject campaign, his four year score is...

and again we've only a small number of runners to consider, but they do include...

  • 6/31 (19.4%) for 18.65pts (+60.17%) when ridden by Jamie Spencer
  • 4/20 (20%) for 49.15pts (+245.76%) over a mile
  • 4/15 (26.7%) for 27.4pts (+182.66%) at Yarmouth
  • 3/14 (21.4%) for 23.6pts (+168.6%) for Jamie Spencer over a mile
  • 3/9 (33.3%) for 28.6pts (+317.8%) for Jamie Spencer at Yarmouth
  • 3/7 (42.9%) for 30.6pts (+437.1%) over a mile at Yarmouth
  • and 3/6 (50%) for 32.69pts Jamie Spencer over a mile at Yarmouth

Obviously the Jamie Spencer angle is interesting, especially over a mile at Yarmouth, but I feel that particular stat lends more to the excellent record the jockey and trainer have together at that venue (a story for another day, perhaps?), but as for this piece...

Suggestion: Note, but don't necessarily back, David Simcock two-year-old flat debutants.

*

All of which second team deliberation leaves us with just the Paul Cole and Eve Johnson Houghton runners, whose suggested angles combine for 11 winners from 22 runners (50% SR) and 144.84 pts (+658.6% ROI) as a juicy-looking - but less reliable based on sample size - supplement to our top trio's 66 winners from 293 runners (22.53% SR, +266.74 BSP, ROI of 91.04%).

Hopefully, we'll soon be able to "live trial" these angles. Fingers crossed and all that, but for now, thanks for reading and I'll be back with more soon.

 - CW

Update on geegeez.co.uk

Dear geegeez.co.uk reader/subscriber,

I wanted to share a quick update with you on where we are in terms of the site seeing out the current hiatus. The summary is that things are looking better than first feared, and all bar an Armageddon scenario should see our ongoing function.

Here's what's been happening:

I've reduced running costs by cutting back to a minimum: staff have kindly paused or reduced their capacity until such time as we're racing again.

I still need help with editorial content and we're still doing some development (so things will look even better, and have still more features, when we return), so there remain some non-essential expenses.

Those have been covered, give or take, by the loyalty of subscribers during this lockdown; and as a result of that we are in much better shape than I expected.

Indeed, assuming a resumption of at least two meetings a day from June, we will be absolutely fine: bloodied, but well able to continue.

At this point nobody knows when things will be back but there is some guarded optimism from BHA that racing could return somewhere between mid- and late May.

 

The rough timeline of concern here at geegeez.co.uk is as follows:

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May resumption - all good

June resumption - all OK

July resumption - all OK

August resumption - just about OK

September resumption - concerning

October resumption - in trouble

 

The reality is that if we're not racing by June, some racecourses may go under as well as, quite possibly, a fair number of trainers. There is, then, a strong desire both inside racing and in the corridors of Parliament to see the industry (along with hundreds of other industries of course) sustain the least damage possible whilst contributing appropriately to the national and international efforts to combat the pandemic.

That's a verbose way of saying that others - some of them sizeable entities - will be in trouble long before geegeez.co.uk as things stand. For information, the betting on which month will see UK racing resume looks like this:

 

 

Although the overround on this - granted, novelty - market is a crippling 23.75%, there is still an implied 75% chance of racing returning before June is out (after normalising the overround to make a 100% book).

We remain in the realms of art more than science in trying to establish what next, but there are plenty of grounds to be cautiously hopeful for a late May/early June restart, perhaps earlier – though that would be best case.

If you've been wondering about geegeez.co.uk (thank you), or about racing's return more generally (me too!), I hope the above adds some colour to the situation.

In all bar a disaster scenario - the ramifications of which would render the loss of a little racing website trivial in the extreme - we'll be back better than ever before the longest day of the year.

Thank you again for your loyalty and ongoing support during what is a trying time for just about all of us.

Until next time, wishing you good health,

Matt