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Draw Biases at Galway and Glorious Goodwood?

It's the eve of the two concurrent midsummer 'G' Festivals, Glorious Goodwood (as was. did you notice how inglorious the weather was once the name changed to the Qatar Goodwood Festival? Surely not coincidence!) on the rolling Sussex Downs, and the opening day of Galway's marathon week-long session in the west or Ireland. To emerge victorious from festival meetings at such quintessentially quirky configurations as these requires more than a 'mere' understanding of the form. Preparation for those serious about the week will start with an awareness of the layouts of the circuits and the implications on race shape.

Draw is rarely as simple - and occasionally not as complicated - as the pundits will tell you in their one line summaries. Let's review the courses.

These are Goodwood's helter-skelter pistes:

If you're confused, you'll not be alone. There is a tight right-hand loop, and a straight of a little shy of half a mile from which point the run in is pretty much all downhill - having been largely uphill to the turn.

Goodwood is a front-runner's track for a couple of reasons. Firstly, when horses get to the turn into the straight, they tend to fan wide, giving up ground, just at the moment the pacemaking railer is stealing a length or two. Secondly, horses held up for a later run often get caught in a pocket, with the far rail of the home straight cambering away from the grandstands.

Indeed, only two horses with an actual draw (i.e. number of stalls from the rail, after accounting for non-runners) higher than 13 in a mile handicap has managed to win at Goodwood since 2009. 115 have tried. [Laa Rayb, the 2009 Totesport Mile winner, had an advertised draw of 15, but in fact broke 13 from the rail due to two non-runners inside him; it was Inside Story, from stall 16 of 16, who overcame the near impossible two months prior to Laa Rayb's more famous, but marginally less challenging, exploits].

The place to be, to a lesser or greater degree, is low and front rank, from seven furlongs to a mile. And yet... over nine furlongs, the bias shifts to high drawn horses who are waited with.

Wait. What?! How can the whole draw/pace bias be shifted on its head?

A theory, and only that, is that at this rarely raced intermediate distance - neither a mile nor a mile and a quarter - that starts with a stiff uphill climb, milers race too freely and run out of juice while ten furlong horses get outpaced before staying on late. As convoluted as it sounds, it may just be credible!

In handicaps over ten furlongs, in fields of 14+ runners (the race type and field size used for all of the above commentary), there seems little to no bias. Here they travel uphill for slightly longer, then take the outer loop - with its sharp top bend - before freewheeling down five furlongs or so of home straight. There is more time for jockeys to manouevre their horses to where they want them, and it seems a fairer track.

Most of the rain forecast has now been deposited and the going remains good, good to firm in places, so the draw data above ought to largely hold up...

**

Meanwhile, across the Irish Sea in Galway, there is a race for every racehorse. The programme covers the whole gamut from two year old maidens to exposed handicap chasers. Of course, we'll focus our attention on the flat handicaps. The layout is a little more straightforward here: a little, though not a lot...

 

Shaped like a diamond, features of the mile and a quarter Galway oval are sharp turns, undulations, and a stiff uphill quarter-mile run to the finish line. There is a shortish run from the seven furlong start to the first of two bends, both of which require wider drawn runners to either take back and wait or risk conceding ground on the turns.

Here is a snapshot of how draw and pace impacts the ability of horses to make the frame in Galway 14+ runner seven furlong handicaps.

 

Low strongly favoured over seven furlongs at Galway - handicaps, 14+ runners

And take a look at the draw and run style in combination for some real takeaways:

The first chart shows a fair linear correlation between stall position and ability to make the frame; but it is the heat map which interests more.

This is showing PRB, or percentage of rivals beaten (see PRB in the dropdown top right). As you'll see on the right hand side, horses that can get to the front outperform their rivals regardless of stall position (remember that with PRB a figure of 0.50 is 'standard'). We then have a gradation of colour from dark green (led) through amber (low mid div and middle prominent) to red (pretty much everything else).

It is worth noting the A/E (actual v expected) for horses draw high and held up (1.22(. On a good sample of 110 runners (ten wins, 20 places) these waited-with types have fared a lot better than the betting public expected. This is most likely due to a perception that their draw cannot be overcome, which inflates the available odds. And, when there is too much pace on the front end, those ridden more patiently (and having to travel less wide due to the strung out nature of fields in such a context) can skulk through to pick up the pieces, granted the necessary fortune in running.

Also noteworthy is the lamentable performance of low drawn hold up horses. Such runners are 1 from 48, six places, in 14+ runner handicaps here since 2009. Those who race mid-pack are 3 from 124, 19 places (15% place rate), and can also generally be discounted.

Meanwhile, over a mile and half a furlong, the main note regards pace and hold up horses. The slow starters tend to be too late finishers, collectively recording a lamentable four wins from 211 runs in handicap fields of 14+. As you can see, it doesn't matter where they're berthed either. Alongside the 1.89% win strike rate is a 12.79% place record, so the message is clear: look elsewhere.

Keep these specific pointers in mind and you'll have a leg up on the vast majority of punters at next week's 'G' Festivals. And if you want this kind of intel for all flat courses, distances, goings, field sizes and race types, there is only one place to get it: Geegeez Gold's Draw Analyser Tool. If you're not a Gold subscriber, you can find out more about Draw Analyser, and the rest of our form book and tool kit, here.

Good luck!

Matt

[Originally posted on July 30th 2018]

Monday Musings: The Apples of Charlie’s Eye

I finally made it to Ascot on Saturday, my first visit to a racecourse since the last day of the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, writes Tony Stafford. As I drove the last few miles the excitement was almost making me breathless and I was delighted that by waiting until there was an element of normality, my trip was just as I remembered all those wonderful big-race summer afternoons.

The best part, apart from seeing a great winner of a very good King George, was the thing that I, as a now very senior citizen, always regarded as my private, exclusive club. When you’ve been racing in a sort of professional role you get to know hundreds, probably into the thousands, of people in the same narrow environment.

When loads of them stop to ask, “How are you? Long time, no see!” and variations of those sentiments having been stuck mostly at home for 16 months, it is so energising. I always used to say, “Most people my age probably see half a dozen people a day if they are lucky. I go racing three or four days a week and see maybe an average of a hundred or more that I know.”

And Ascot on Saturday was as normal as it ever was. Bars, restaurants and boxes open and fully extended, the always beautifully attired Ascot crowds basking in the better than predicted weather and fast ground befitting the middle of summer.

One person who didn’t make it was the “You’ve been pinged!” trainer of the brilliant Adayar, Charlie Appleby, who had neglected to do what people increasingly have been doing, removing the app from their phones.

Not too many Derby winners have followed their Epsom success with victory in the same year’s King George. It was more commonplace in the first 50 years of the race’s existence after its inauguration in 1951. But in this century, until Saturday only Galileo, Adayar’s grandsire via Frankel, had managed the double.

Appleby therefore made it four mile and a half Group 1 wins since the beginning of June with his two Frankel colts, the home-bred Adayar and his stablemate Hurricane Lane, the Irish Derby and Grand Prix de Paris hero, bred by Philippa Cooper’s Normandie Stud.

Both horses won maidens in the last part of October, Hurricane Lane on debut and Adayar second time out. Both therefore were far less trumpeted at the beginning of this season when again Hurricane Run started with more precocity, indeed until he finished third to Adayar, the apparent third string at Epsom, he was unbeaten.

Adayar’s juvenile victory came in the Golden Horn Maiden at Nottingham, the race name being awarded to the great Derby winner the year after his Classic triumph. Previously it was known as the Oath Maiden Stakes in honour of the 1999 Derby hero owned by the Thoroughbred Corporation, who won the same maiden to get his career on the go the previous autumn.

I thought I would have a look at Charlie Appleby’s 2021 three-year-old complement courtesy of Horses in Training. Charlie had 70 horses of that age listed at the start of the season, 21 fillies and 49 male horses. Of the 21 fillies, eleven are by Dubawi, also the sire of 27 Appleby colts and geldings. Surprisingly, as many as 12 were already gelded at the start of the campaign and at least a couple more have subsequently experienced the unkindest cut.

Appleby had three colts by Dubawi as major candidates for the 2,000 Guineas: Meydan Classic winner Naval Crown, who beat Master Of The Seas that day; Master Of The Seas himself, who went on to win the Craven Stakes; and One Ruler, runner-up to Mac Swiney in the 2020 Vertem Futurity, also went to the Guineas. Master Of The Seas did best, losing out in a desperate thrust to the line with Poetic Flare and, while that Jim Bolger horse has gone on to run in both the Irish (close third to Mac Swiney) and French (easy winner) Guineas, and then dominated the St James’s Palace Stakes, we are yet to see Master Of The Seas again.

Another Dubawi colt to do well has been Yibir, winner of the Bahrain Trophy at Newmarket’s July meeting, while the geldings Kemari (King Edward VII) and Creative Force (Jersey Stakes) both at Royal Ascot have been to the fore.

It is noticeable that several of the gelded group have been either difficult to train or simply very late developers.

Meanwhile, the five-strong team of Frankel sons have been nothing short of spectacular. It will be of great satisfaction for the organisation that Adayar is out of a Dubawi mare and not an especially talented one.

What of the other three? One, Magical Land, has been gelded. He won the latest of his seven races for Appleby and has an 80 rating. The others have not been sighted this year. Fabrizio, placed as a juvenile, is a non-winner but Dhahabi is an interesting horse I’d love to see reappearing.

At 3.1 million guineas this half-brother to Golden Horn carried plenty of expectations. He won on debut and, last time in the autumn, was third to One Ruler in a Group 3 at Newmarket. Just the five Frankels, then, and I bet Charlie wishes he had a few more. The list of juveniles shows 48 sons and daughters of Dubawi and 11 by Frankel.

For many years the ultra-loyal and ever agreeable Saeed Bin Suroor was the only and then the principal Godolphin trainer. His stable is now increasingly the junior partner with half of the 140-odd complement listed as four years of age or older, and many of these are probably more suited to the structure of racing in Dubai over the winter. Saeed has three Dubawi three-year-old colts and one filly this year, but none by Frankel. The juveniles listed reveal one by each stallion.

How ironic that in the year of Prince Khalid Abdullah’s death in January, the all-conquering owner of Juddmonte Farms never saw the crowning of Frankel, already the greatest racehorse certainly of the past half-century, as a Derby-producing sire.

He will surely progress again from this situation and, now with Galileo also recently deceased, is in position as the obvious inheritor of his sire’s pre-eminence.

The other younger contenders will take time to earn their prestige and it can only be good for racing that a horse that went unbeaten through 14 races has made such a statement at the top end of the sport.

To win his King George, Adayar had to see off the challenge from the tough Mishriff, stepping forward from his comeback third to St Mark’s Basilica in the Eclipse Stakes. His owner, Prince Abdulrahman Abdullah Faisal, was one of the people I’ve known for half a lifetime that greeted me on Saturday. Also, Adayar had to consign Love to her first defeat for 21 months. The concession of so much weight to a younger colt by an older mare – 8lb – is never easy, but her race didn’t go as expected either.

Her pacemaker Broome missed the break and then only gradually moved into the lead. In the straight Love looked poised and then Mishriff tightened her up on the outside as Ryan Moore was beginning to move her into a challenging position. Having to change course, as the Coolmore filly did halfway up the short Ascot straight, is never the recipe for success.

It is fair to say, though, that Adayar would have won whatever. It will be interesting to see how Appleby shuffles his pack. Someone suggested the St Leger. If you wanted to make Adayar a jumps stallion, that’s what you would do. He won’t go anywhere near Town Moor in September. With due deference to the fifth Classic, he will have much bigger fish to fry.

- TS

Sky Bet Dash Preview: Lightly Raced Streamline Looks Value Play

A top day of racing on Saturday and I’m spoiled for choice with choosing which live race to cover. From a betting perspective it’s the big field handicaps that grab my attention which makes it a choice between York’s Sky Bet Dash and Ascot’s International Stakes. I’ll probably be having a stronger wager in the latter but Ascot are due thunderstorms on Saturday so it’s going to be a waiting game to see how the ground turns out. York is set to be dry according to early forecasts so previewing the Sky Bet Dash should be a bit more straight forward at this stage.

The race is due off at 2.40 and unless the weather forecast changes it is set to be run on fast ground.

All of the data used below is available through a Geegeez Gold subscription. Click here to get your first 30 days of Geegeez Gold for just £1.

Draw

A pretty good sample size here and the data suggests an edge towards those drawn lower. The win data is pretty evenly matched but the place percentages favour low heavily, followed by middle and then high. This is backed up with the PRB data, low draws having a PRB of 0.53, middle draws 0.49 and high draws 0.48.

When you watch the sprints at York the winners nearly always seem to finish in the middle of the track so it seems slightly surprising that middle draws don’t come out best. If anything more runners seem to race along the near side rail (high) than the far side rail (low) so again it’s a bit surprising low numbers seem to outperform high by so much.

Perhaps the individual stall data can shed more light on this.

Ignoring stall 21, which has only been used once, the top four individual stalls as far as PRB are concerned are 2, 6, 4 and 3 in that order. Some of the higher stalls have performed well but the worst five stalls individually using PRB as the metric are 9 or higher which certainly suggests lower is better overall.

Determining a draw advantage isn’t just about showing that some stalls perform better than others, how much better they are is the really important aspect. Looking at the PRB3 figures the majority of the lower to middle stalls are around 0.53 and the majority of the middle to higher stalls are around 0.49 so whilst it looks a bit of an advantage to be lower it’s clearly not a huge disadvantage to be amongst the higher stalls.

Pace

I’m fairly certain we’ll some some strong data here.

Anyone who bets fairly regularly on the York straight track will know it favours speed. More winners than any other run style come from the rear but they provide a much bigger sample. In terms of win percentages, a big looking 11.54% of early leaders triumph compared to 4.59% for prominent, 4.68% for mid division and 5.24% for held up. That’s a big advantage for front runners as far as winning is concerned, but is it the same for place percentages?

Once again the top place percentage is with front runners (34.62%) whilst prominent racers have a 21.62% place strike rate. It’s 18.3% for mid division and 20.27% for held up. The main difference between the data seems to be mid division is second best for win purposes but worst of all for place bets. The figures are closely matched though and it does look as though the front is the place to be where possible with prominent a bit of an advantage over the remaining run styles but perhaps not as advantaged other them as expected. I certainly thought prominent which be far more favoured than held up.

Sky Bet Handicap Pace Map

So which of these are most likely to lead early on?

There are four main pace angles in this, spread fairly nicely across the track. The low pace should come from Giogiobbo and Manigordo with central pace provided by Muscika and high pace from Flying Pursuit.

There seems to be a lack of prominent racers with Streamline, Admirality and Blind Beggar likely to track the above mentioned quartet.

The remaining runners look as though they’ll be played fairly late.

Draw and Pace Combination

I’ve mentioned before how much I value this part of the draw data in Geegeez Gold, it gives an extra layer of insight into draw and pace, especially when there are strong draw or pace biases.

A real standout advantage for those who make the running from a middle draw. That’s a big tick for Muscika who just happened to win this last year.

The worst place to be is mid division from a middle draw, that would be the area where you are most likely to find yourself surrounded by rivals with nowhere to go so that makes perfect sense.

If you are drawn low you are generally best off being close to the pace and performance tails off very slightly the further back in the field you are. Those drawn high see less fluctuations in performance based on run style.

The Runners

Here are the main contenders, in early odds order.

Mondammej

He's run in some tough handicaps this season, often well fancied, but has been beaten on his last six starts, placing in four of those. His worst performances came at Chester on good to soft and York on soft, both over 5f, and this will be a very different test over the extra furlong on much better ground.

He is running out of excuses though. The ground will have been against him several times and at Newcastle when runner up to the progressive Ejtilaab he did best of those held up and best of those in the centre of the track. Last time out seemed to be as good as he is but to be fair he was only beaten half a length and the ground might still have been a little softer than ideal. He stayed on as though another furlong will suit and we may see Significantly and/or Tis Marvellous frank that form on Friday afternoon.

He ran well here in May on good ground, with the 5f looking inadequate and overall he looks very likely to run his race and run well. This could be last chance saloon for backers though if he doesn't get his head in front.

Giogiobbo

Rated 103 when he came to England two and a half years ago but after a winless two seasons he dropped to a mark of 67. He’s taken full advantage of that this season winning all three starts (all at Doncaster) and although he’s never run here at York, his front running style will be ideally suited to this venue.

He’s still 'only' gone up 11lbs this season for his three wins which is reasonable, putting him on a mark of 78. It’s a complete stretch to suggest he’s still got the best part of 20lbs in hand given his rating two years ago as he’s an 8yo now but he could have a bit more left in the tank. This is a much tougher race than those he’s contested this season though.

Golden Apollo

Having his 14th run here on Saturday. He generally runs well here but often finishes just outside of the places. He’s run into form in his last couple of starts, a little unlucky not to grab a win in either.

He was 2nd in this race last year off a 3lb higher mark, 4th two years ago off a 2lb higher mark and 2nd off a 6lb higher mark three years ago. Three of his four places here have come in this race, the other coming when winning the hot 3yo handicap run in June the previous year. This course and distance, at this time of year, clearly suit him. In fact 11 of his last 13 places have come in either June, July or August so he clearly just takes a little warming up each season.

Music Society

Not the easiest to win with (only one win in the past two seasons) but did get his head in front at Pontefract this season and is generally consistent. He was 7th in this last season off a 3lb lower mark but goes into the race in better form this season having been beaten just a nose in the Scottish Stewards’ Cup last time out at Hamilton. He’s possibly slightly better with an uphill finish though and he did flop here just a couple of weeks ago.

Flying Pursuit

Won this in 2017 and 2018 and was 5th in 2019, all with plenty of cut in the ground. He hasn’t even managed to place on ground that was good or better since 2017. He’s presumably been entered in the hope of thunderstorms but as things stand he looks far more likely to be scratched than to get near the places.

Gulliver

Goes well here, in fact all four of his turf wins have come on the Knavesmire. He has won over course and distance on fast ground but that was in 2019 and he seems better with cut in the ground these days – his last two wins here came on soft ground in October. He looked far too slow here in May in a similar race on good to soft off a 2lb higher mark and is likely to be making up late ground at best here. One to watch out for here in October chasing the hat trick (assuming soft ground at that meeting).

Streamline

Lightly raced 4yo who has mostly featured on the all weather but he won on debut on turf and ran to a fair level here as a 2yo in a listed race, ticking the important course form box. His only poor run came at Kempton in March and he subsequently missed three months of action but made a satisfactory return behind Mondammej and he’s now 5lbs better off for a length defeat.

Blind Beggar

The sole 3yo in the line up and ran well in the big 3yo handicap over course and distance last month, finishing a better than the bare result 6th on fast ground. His best form before that had come on softer ground and it’s entirely possible he’ll prove even better when there is a bit more dig. A reproduction of that 6th could see him go close here though. The 2nd and 7th have both won since and he was ridden with more restraint that day than is normally the case so could improve with a more prominent ride.

Only 10th last time at Newmarket but that was also on fast ground in a hot 3yo handicap and he wasn’t beaten much further than at York. Looks capable of running well but might need rain before he can win a race of this nature.

Venturous

Consistently running well but finishing just outside of the places at the moment, a strong sign that he probably isn’t well handicapped. He’s not far off his career high turf mark and is 12lbs higher than his last turf win. Most his wins are at 5f but an easy 6f is within his range. He stayed on from a poor position here in May and has run several good races here but he’ll do well to get into the places in this for all he shouldn’t run at all badly.

George Bowen

Not always the most consistent with slow starts often hampering his chances and this isn’t a course where you want to forfeit ground early. He did win a similar race to this by 6 lengths here in 2017 but he’s never gone close to matching that sort of form here again, managing no better than 5th in seven course and distance runs since. Capable on his day but not one to put too much faith in.

Muscika

Last year’s winner is ideally drawn to attack in the middle here and is only 1lb higher than when taking this twelve months ago. He’s been inconsistent this season but got within a neck of beating Ejtilaab (won next time out) at Epsom in June off a 1lb higher mark and although 7th of 8 last time out, he was only beaten 2 lengths off a 2lb higher mark.

The case for a good run possibly relies on a switch in headgear and a return to this venue. He wore blinkers when winning this year but wasn’t in as good form in the two runs either side of that in the same headgear. There is no obvious correlation between what headgear works for Muscika and it’s probably just that he’s quite an inconsistent horse. He has been more consistent here though producing form figures of 221010 on his last six runs at York.

Admirality

Difficult to win with and has struggled for much consistency this season. Fast ground suits well and he's run well here before but he’s probably better over 7f and even at his best he tends to finish as the runner up – he’s finished 2nd on six occasions since his last victory.

Manigordo

Returned to form last time out at Redcar (2nd) after a couple of lesser displays and his run style is suited to this course for all he has run poorly twice here this season in two attempts. The race he ran well in on Sunday was a much lesser event than this but he did push a potentially very well handicapped runner close.

This might be a bit too hot and his course form is a worry, for all it might just have been a couple of off days (ran just as poorly at Thirsk last month having won there in April).

Mokaatil

Surprise Epsom Dash winner and although he has run many times over 6f his best form seems to come at the minimum trip. Has seemed badly handicapped since winning at Epsom and his best chance of defying this sort of mark may come at that venue again, he’s two from three there.

Typhoon Ten

A bit unlucky to not get his head in front this year given he’s been beaten both a nose and a short head. His sole turf win came off a 2lb lower mark at Windsor and he doesn’t look to have the form to land a race this competitive.

Lahore

Won here over 5f last year off a 1lb higher mark and ran okay in the Ayr Gold Cup last season when 6th off a 4lb higher mark. His run style does leave him with plenty to do here but he has a fair course record, although not quite running up to his mark last time out in listed company here. Capable of outrunning his odds but would need to bounce back to his best to be in the shake up.

The Verdict

An amazingly difficult puzzle to figure out and it’s much easier to list the runners that I think are least likely to place than to finish in the money. For the record they are Music Society, Flying Pursuit, Gulliver, Venturous, George Bowen, Admirality, Manigordo, Mokaatil, Typhoon Ten and Lahore.

The above is based on good to firm ground. I’m not expecting the ground to soften but if it did get really testing Gulliver could be the one, whilst on good or softer I’d be far keener on Blind Beggar than on good to firm. If you can get as many as six places in this I wouldn’t at all be opposed to backing Blind Beggar each way, even on fast ground, but I think he’ll struggle to win this on good to firm so he only makes so much appeal.

I can’t rule out Giogiobbo but this is a big step up and all his form this season is at Doncaster - this could just be too tough for him.

As long as the ground stays fast, Blind Beggar is reluctantly passed over for win purposes leaving the shortlist as Mondammej, Golden Apollo, Streamline and Muscika.

Golden Apollo has a great record in this race, is in form and well handicapped. It all seems a bit too obvious doesn’t it? He’s probably at his best at this time of year and in big fields. He’s maybe drawn a little higher than absolutely ideal but looks guaranteed to run a big race. My feeling is he’ll find one or two too good again but he should be a safe each way bet once again.

Muscika would probably win this if able to reproduce Epsom form from last month but he’s just too inconsistent. He’s not really an each way proposition given that inconsistency, even at 16/1, but given his run style, draw and course record he's worth a win only saver whatever you fancy to win this.

That leaves Mondammej and Streamline. Mondammej is another that looks nailed on to run his race in what are probably pretty much ideal conditions (has raced on softer ground most of this season, and over shorter) but he’s very well found in the market and he’s drawn very wide in 15. If Flying Pursuit is pulled out because of the ground he’ll lose a pacemaker on his side and it could be another case of close but no cigar.

At around twice the price I’d rather side with STREAMLINE. He’s handicapped to beat Mondammej on their recent meeting and although most of his form is on artificial surfaces he has run to a good level on turf and has even placed in listed company here at York. He races far more prominently than Mondammej so is less of a hostage to fortune. He too is drawn a bit higher than ideal but he’ll go forward so may find it easier to get a better, more central position and is likely to be less reliant on the other pace around him to take him into the race.

A Racing “Guess Who”

When people have been around the racing game for a while, especially when they haven’t had the good fortune to crack it in the way of a Henderson or an Aidan O’Brien, a good way of teasing out their identity is to offer snippets from their lifetime, writes Tony Stafford.

We all know about Mr Frisk, the Kim Bailey-trained Grand National winner ridden by the amateur Marcus Armytage, son of trainer Roddy and brother to the first female Hennessy Gold Cup winning rider Gee, later Tony McCoy’s secretary.

Marcus was subsequently a colleague of mine at the Daily Telegraph – indeed he is still there. But our mystery man beat the youthful Old Etonian to it, winning five chases in a row, and unbeaten in six on the gelding in an invincible season as a novice, at one point telling an interviewing journalist that he and Mr Frisk would win the Grand National. Events would subsequently conspire for the combination of horse and jockey to be broken through no fault of our rider.

Next clue, born and bred in West Ham, East London, he went to the same school as did - a good few years earlier of course - Michael Tabor and the late and much-loved David Johnson, owner of all those wonderful jumpers with Martin Pipe. Our hero’s father Norman, youngest of a family of 13 after serving with distinction in the army, joined the Daily Telegraph as a printer.

In the days of hot metal linotype he and his many skilled colleagues would stand one side of the “stone”, the flat piece of the print room’s furniture along which the individual pages would be laid out and constructed. He would help the sub-editor – very often me on the racing pages – standing on the other side to fit it all in from my upside-down, back-to-front perspective. My job was assisted by having paper printers’ single long “takes” of the individual stories and racing cards which had to be cut to length – rather different nowadays with instant editing for all, not least without all the sensitivities of not crossing other unions’ demarcation lines.

Knowing what and how much to cut was the key but a good stone man on the other side made it easy and Norman knew his stuff all right. I loved those days and can still read newspapers upside down – maybe not the most helpful attribute these days, rather like knowing Latin declensions and conjugations!

A bit sketchy so far, well how about this? At 6ft 2 1/2inches he was the tallest jump jockey of his time. One season he broke his right collarbone nine times; it was only when ironically riding Bailey’s Just For The Crack at Newbury that both went in the same fall.

After retiring from race riding in the mid-1990’s he would not begin training in his own right for a few years, instead working as Norman Mason’s assistant – the assistant to the amusement machine magnate from the North-East was in effect the trainer.

Mason also had a Grand National winner, but Red Marauder’s success in 2001 when one of only four finishers happened after the mystery man’s departure having overseen his novice win. He was already setting up his own stable by then. What has defined him in the intervening two decades has been his extreme patience waiting, it seems, forever to land a touch for his owner, then carrying it off with certainty.

If you haven’t got it yet you never will so here we go - say hello to Alan Jones. From West Ham to the West Country via Northumberland has been a stretch. He still stands just as tall and with a season-best of ten a while ago and more likely four or five every term from his ten-strong string of individually and minutely prepared jumpers, he keeps the show going for his owners.

One of them enjoyed such a winning punt on his veteran horse Tiquer in the winter of 2017-18 that he decided to invest at a higher level. “He won 140 grand”, recalls Alan, “so decided to go to Goff’s in Ireland that October to look for a smart yearling. He had been using an agent but he thought his fees excessive, so he asked me to go along and find a nice filly for around 100-110k”, recalls Alan.

“We started with a dozen but boiled it down and eventually settled on a Camelot filly. To my surprise we got her for €100,000. The wind came out of my sails a bit when the owner sent her to Richard Hannon, but she was from a major Coolmore source, consigned by Timmy Hyde’s Camas Park stud, so you would have expected her to go to a big Flat yard. In any case, he is my biggest owner so you’d want to keep him happy.

“Of course, I kept my ear to the ground, listening for news on how she was doing at Hannon’s. It seemed she didn’t make the expected progress and it was as much an economy measure as anything else when I was asked to take her for the winter as a two-year-old”, said Jones. The next season as a three-year-old soundness was again an issue with her so it was back again to Mr Jones for some more rest and recuperation.

Ironically, recalls Jones, it was just when he detected the filly was starting to shape up that the owner nearly brought the project to an untimely end. “She was improving every day and then suddenly there was a potential buyer wanting to send her to stud unraced. I told the owner I thought we could still do something with her and luckily he finally agreed.”

Thus on Sunday, prepared on the same type of hill up which Martin Pipe, who in Jones’s estimation, completely changed the science of training racehorses, Lady Excalibur was finally ready to go.

The chosen target, a bumper at Stratford last Sunday, came along 1,021 days after Alan Jones signed the docket to re-invest that big chunk of his owner’s massive touch. After the event he reckoned “she’s not quick” but if you watch the video of where she is turning for home and where she is at the finish with Tom O’Brien sitting pretty you might have another opinion. The world is her oyster and whatever she does on the track she will always have a value as a potential broodmare.

As Tom told him afterwards, “You are just like my Uncle Aidan, you can perform miracles. This one certainly is”. Praise indeed, but when your stable is limited to a handful of animals, candidates for such miracles come along only rarely. In 60-year-old Alan Jones’ case 1,021 days from purchase to payoff is a bit of a sprint!

- TS

Monday Musings: The Middle Distance Ranks Are Massing

Until Wednesday evening in Paris it was all plain sailing for Aidan O’Brien, writes Tony Stafford. He could pick his Group 1 spots for the rest of the year with his team of Classic colts and more plentiful top fillies and wait to see what presumably ineffectual opposition Europe’s other major stables would be able to throw at them.

But then along came Hurricane Lane, only third to lesser-fancied stable-companion Adayar in the Derby at Epsom but subsequently a workmanlike winner in the face of a good late challenge by English-trained Lone Eagle (Martin Meade) in the Irish Derby at The Curragh.

Neither run could have prepared us for the Frankel colt’s storming performance on Bastille Day (14 July) as he ripped away the home team’s barricades <couldn’t help myself> beating the Prix du Jockey Club also-rans with possibly more ease than St Mark’s Basilica had managed a month earlier.

Die-hard traditionalists have already been put in their place in France. In the old days the Jockey Club was 2400 metres (12 furlongs) in line with Epsom and The Curragh and was reduced to its present distance of 2100 metres in 2005.

That move coincided with the moving up to a mile and a half of the great Fête Nationale celebration race on a movable feast of an evening card at Longchamp. The Grand Prix de Paris, until the arrival of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in 1920, had been the most prestigious and valuable race in France and was run over 3000 metres (15 furlongs), and even 3100 metres for a shorter intervening period.

In 1987, though, it was reduced significantly in distance to 2000 metres (1m2f) and it was at that trip that Saumarez won the 1990 race prior to his victory in the Arc that October. Previously trained to place in the Dee Stakes at Chester by Henry Cecil, Saumarez made Nicolas Clement, who had recently taken over the stable when his father Miguel died, the youngest-ever trainer to win France’s greatest race.

It works for France because, as Hurricane Lane showed so eloquently, a horse could run in and even win either or both the Epsom and Irish Derby, or indeed the Jockey Club, and there would still be time to prepare him for the Grand Prix.

That is just what Charlie Appleby did with such skill and the most notable element of it was how much he had in hand of the William Haggas colt Alenquer whose form with Adayer in the Sandown Classic Trial over ten furlongs in the spring appeared to give him a collateral edge on Hurricane Lane.

Alenquer not only beat Adayer on the Esher slopes but afterwards comfortably won the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot. But he was put in his place as Hurricane Lane stormed <that verb again!> six lengths clear of Wordsworth, first home of the O’Brien trio. It looked at first appraisal a major improvement on The Curragh but closer inspection reveals that Wordsworth had been beaten slightly further in his home Classic.

So where does that leave Adayer? Well, according to a conversation Charlie Appleby had with a friend who visited his luxurious stables in Newmarket before racing on Saturday, Adayer is fancied to run a very strong race as he faces up to last year’s O’Brien Classic superstar, Love, in Saturday’s King George.

The filly has the edge in the market after her comeback win over an inadequate ten furlongs in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot but Appleby, mindful that the weight-for-age scale favours three-year-olds, is by all accounts confident he will do so. Love concedes 8lb to the Derby hero while William Muir and Chris Grassick’s Coronation Cup hero Pyledriver gives him 11lb. Ascot is also the probable target for Lone Eagle.

Like O’Brien, Appleby is a modest man who often deflects praise to the people around him. Indeed as my friend left, Charlie said, “If you couldn’t train horses from here, where could you?”

Guesses that maybe St Mark’s Basilica might step up in distance on Saturday have been scuppered by his trainer’s single-mindedly pointing him towards the Juddmonte International. Those three days in York next month will also feature the next step towards the stars of Snowfall, following in the footprints of Love from a year ago by taking in the Yorkshire Oaks.

By the way, Jim, get my room ready! I’ll see how my first day back racing on Saturday at Ascot goes and then I might take the liberty of giving you a call. Where have I been? Too busy with all this Covid lark, mate, but I have been thinking of you!

However short a price Love was on what was to prove her last run of 2020 after the easy wins in the 1,000 Guineas and Oaks, the latter by nine lengths, 4-9 will be looking a gift if that is available about Snowfall. Could be 1-5!

Many felt the exaggerated superiority, indeed a UK Classic record-winning margin of 16 lengths, could in part be ascribed to the very testing ground at Epsom. Just as many were predicting that on faster ground in Saturday’s Irish Oaks she might go for economy.

Leading two furlongs out under Ryan Moore, delighted to be riding her for only the second time – he was on board for the shock Musidora win at York on May 12 three weeks before Epsom and that Frankie Dettori benefit – she drew away by eight-and-a-half lengths in majestic style.

As we know, the Coolmore boys like all the boxes ticked and the opportunities covered, but I can categorically tell you that they did not expect her to win at York. Even when she did, the beaten horses’ connections were dreaming up reasons why you could not trust the result.

After all she was rated only a modest 90 on the back of her juvenile exploits, the most memorable apart from winning a small maiden race was the mix up when she wore the wrong colour hat when well behind in the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket last autumn.

After the Epsom and Curragh regal processions there is only one place you would consider for a soft-ground loving but equally comfortable on quicker turf three-year-old filly of her status - the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. It took me a while – having discarded my European Pattern Races 2021 book with hundreds of others in advance of a hoped-for downsizing move – to work out why she had not been one of the dozen O’Brien horses entered for the Arc.

Six older male horses – Mogul, Broome, Armory, Serpentine, Japan and Inisfree (where’s he been for 20 months?) – are supplemented by Love. The five three-year-olds are the colts St Mark’s Basilica, along with domestic Classic flops Bolshoi Ballet, High Definition and hard-working Van Gogh whose dance in four Classics (the UK and Irish Guineas, when third behind Mac Swiney, and French and Irish Derby) brought that one positive result.

That left room for one filly and, considering Santa Barbara took until last week to gain Grade 1 winning honours in the New York Oaks while four of her supposedly inferior female counterparts beat her to it, the evidence is there. They did indeed think she was far and away the best.

At least that was the case until 3.15 p.m. on the afternoon of May 12. The Arc closed at France Galop’s HQ around four-and-three-quarter hours earlier.  Now they have to wait until September 27 to get her in and pay a heavy penalty to do so.

In all, 101 horses made it. I am sure that date is writ large on the Racing Office wall and, if she enjoys another exhibition round back at the Yorkshire track she first consented to tell her trainer and owners how good she is, the supplementary entry will be made. Chances to win the race do not come along very often.

For all his and his owners’ successes in big races around Europe and in the US, the Arc has proved elusive. Two victories, with four-year-olds Dylan Thomas in 2007 and the brilliant filly Found five years ago, leave him still with a blank to fill. No Ballydoyle three-year-old has won the race since the days of Vincent O’Brien, who took the first of his two Arcs with Alleged in 1977. His second win, doubling up for Lester Piggott the year after followed Ballymoss in 1958, showed once again just how tough a race it is to win.

As mentioned, two O’Brien fillies are entered, Love and Santa Barbara. The latter might continue to make up for her earlier limitations in the Nassau Stakes next week but, as we know, a trio of Classic-winning alternatives, Joan Of Arc, Mother Earth and Empress Josephine, are equally qualified to step in and possibly pick up the Goodwood fillies’ Group 1.

Meanwhile Kevin Ryan has been exploiting the early juvenile Group contests in France with Atomic Force. Beaten first time out and gelded before a win in a small race at Hamilton, Ryan took him to Longchamp last month and he won Group 3 Prix du Bois nicely.

Returning yesterday for the Group 2 Prix Robert Papin, he started 2-1 on and bolted up. He will probably return for the Prix Morny at Deauville next month. Having watched that win the Sky Sports Racing team suggested the Nunthorpe might be an option given how much weight juveniles get from their elders. This year though that could be a hot race if newcomers on the Group 1 sprinting scene like Ed Walker’s Starman and Tim Easterby’s flying filly Winter Power turn up.

- TS

Indianapolis Overpriced In Newbury Staying Handicap

Hardly a vintage weekend of racing, even with the Irish Oaks taking place at the Curragh, and personally speaking the only live heat to make any betting appeal is the 2 mile handicap at Newbury, due off at 2.25pm.

All of the data used below is available through a Geegeez Gold subscription. Click here to get your first 30 days of Geegeez Gold for just £1.

Draw

Draw advantages often diminish over longer trips, is there anything in the draw over 2 miles at Newbury though?

Only a small sample size here so the win percentages are of little to no interest. The place percentages suggest low is advantageous with a place percentage of 28.57% compared to 17.78% for middle and 23.81% for high.

The PRB data should be a bit more reliable in a small sample than place data and that again suggests low is best of all but the PRB is only 0.51 with middle next best at 0.50 and high showing up at 0.48.

There seems no real trend looking at the individual stall data so it seems safe to assume it’s a pretty level playing field as far as the draw is concerned.

Pace

It’s going to be another small sample but does the data suggest any sort of pace bias here?

The lack of depth to the data suggests we shouldn’t get carried away here but what data there is does imply that patiently ridden runners could have an advantage. That’s not a massive surprise given Newbury has a long straight which should allow most runners time to get a clear run and time to get fully wound up.

Mid division comes out best in terms of place percentages and comfortably so with this run style generating a place strike rate of 35.71%. Next best is held up at 24% which isn’t too far ahead of prominent at 20.59%. Front runners have performed worst of all at 9.09%.

All other things being equal it may well pay to support something coming from the rear half of the field in this.

Pace Map

Let’s take a look at the pace map for this contest.

There isn’t a lot of pace forecast for this race with Withhold, a previous winner of this race, likely to get a fairly comfortable time of things up front. Mildenberger and Call My Bluff seem most likely to apply pressure but both are likely to be content tracking the pace.

With a pretty steady gallop here much of the course bias pace data could go out of the window. It certainly seems that runners that appreciate a strong test of stamina could be inconvenienced with the speedier stayers perhaps the ones to concentrate on.

The Runners

Here are all thirteen runners, in early odds order.

Zeeband

Still very lightly raced and comfortable winner of the Northumberland Plate consolation race a few weeks ago. He’s gone up 8lbs for that but the step up to two miles for the first time brought about a career best and that was also his first run in a visor, which is retained here.

He clearly has the potential to rate higher but it’s worth noting that Zeeband’s best turf runs have come with a fair amount of cut in the ground and it’s likely to be on the fast side of good here. He does seem to have a nice blend of speed and stamina so if the ground is fine a bold show should be expected.

Rodrigo Diaz

Another lightly raced improver who has been better than ever this season. He was unbeaten in handicaps last season, finishing the season with a victory over 14f at Wolverhampton. All of those wins came on the all weather but he’s proved just as good on turf this season, finding only the progressive Aaddeey too good at Newmarket before winning at Doncaster. He beat the improving Duke Of Condicote that day (now 8lbs higher) with a bit to spare so should be capable of defying a 7lb higher mark.

With that in mind it was disappointing he was only 3rd off a 6lb higher mark next time out back at Kempton. He wasn’t ideally placed that day and looked as though going back up to 14f would help but it’s interesting connections have persisted with 12f races after he won at 14f, possibly suggesting they don’t see him as real a stayer. This might not be a thorough test of stamina though and he should still be on a mark he can win off.

Withhold

Won this two years ago and could get an easy lead here. His win in this came off a mark of 107 and he rated as high as 113 but some lacklustre efforts this season have seen him drop to a mark of 105.

Most of last season’s form would give him a decent shout, he got within a length of Trueshan at Salisbury and Trueshan went on to win impressively at Group 2 level. This season though he was beaten 62 lengths at Chester and 17.5 lengths in listed company at Sandown in a race he had previously won. On the form of those runs he has no chance here and he needs more than just an easy lead to bounce back. One to watch in the market as he’s been well backed before victory in the past but difficult to back him with much faith.

Margaret Dumont

Seemed to improve for a switch to artificial surfaces this season for Hugo Palmer having raced exclusively on turf last season for Mark Johnston. She looks a very thorough stayer and ran a good 2nd to Zeeband last time out at Newcastle. Her sole run this season on turf saw her beat 60 lengths though and fast turf was blamed for that defeat so that has to be a concern here.

She did run okay a couple of times on fast ground last season but even that form gives her plenty to find here off a higher mark. She’s not without a chance if transferring that all weather form to turf but on all known turf form she’s very opposable.

Scaramanga

In good form over hurdles earlier this year and a flat rating of 86 does look exploitable compared to a hurdle rating of 151. An 86 day absence isn’t necessarily a concern given he won here over hurdles in March off a 146 day break.

He’s yet to win in ten flat runs though. His form on softer ground can be thrown out as he wants fast ground and his flat form figures on fast ground or the all weather since joining current connections reads 2432. Appeals more as a place only bet if this race has been the plan for him but backing him to win this is a bit of a leap given he’s been so expensive to follow on the flat.

Call My Bluff

Progressive stayer who may be slightly better on turf than artificial surfaces. His form at this trip or further on turf reads 11211 with the one defeat coming against Main Line who was winning his eighth straight race (all codes).

He won by just a neck last time out at Chester and is 3lbs higher here, possibly suggesting the handicapper is catching up with him. He’s probably still well handicapped on soft ground but the major concern here has to be the ground. He’s been pulled out twice this season because of good or good to firm ground and his only run on fast ground to date resulted in a defeat off a 23lbs lower mark.

Just Hubert

Thorough stayer who was 7th in this last year off a 2lb lower mark before winning the 2m4f handicap at Glorious Goodwood. His two best runs in the past year have both come at Goodwood and perhaps he needs a track like that to keep him interested as he seems too slow at most other venues these days. First time cheekpieces go on in a clear attempt to perk him up and they may have the desired effect, but they could just as easily have an adverse effect.

Mildenberger

Rated higher on the all weather than turf and rightly so but is capable of some smart performances on grass. He was 2nd to Roaring Lion in the 2018 Dante Stakes and 3rd in the 2019 Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket. He perhaps hasn’t improved going up in trip on turf like he has on artificial surfaces though and he was a disappointing favourite last time out in the Esher Stakes, for all the ground might have been slightly too slow on that occasion. His turf form at distances further than 12f suggest he’ll do well to win this off 106.

Sleeping Lion

A capable stayer whose last win came off a 7lb lower mark at Kempton in April. A 7lb rise for that win seems harsh and so it proved at Royal Ascot when Sleeping Lion was well beaten, albeit poorly placed. He’s generally struggled to put two good runs together since his 3yo win here three years ago and is therefore rarely a strong betting proposition. When he’s good, he’s very good but not one to put too much faith in and this is a tough task off this mark.

Indianapolis

Without a win since 2019 but finally getting some respite from the handicapper. His form from this time last year would give him a good chance in this – he was 3rd to reliable yardstick Hochfeld over 14f and then 4th in a 17 runner handicap at York, both efforts coming off 10lb higher marks.

This season he showed very little in three runs having moved to Ian Williams in March but last time out he was much better, only 4th of 9 at Ascot but beaten just 2 lengths. Even two runs ago he was only 3.5 lengths being the favourite here Zeeband and he’s now 12lbs better off. There was money for him last time out so an improvement was clearly expected and it will be interesting to see if that money comes again here.

Mancini

Another that improved last time out on some previously lifeless runs this season. Mancini’s last two wins have come off this mark, in 2019 over 2m on fast ground and in 2020 over 14f on fast ground. Every drying moment will be music to connection’s ears. The big doubt is the field size though. All his six wins have come in single digit field sizes, in bigger fields he is 0 from 13.

Global Heat

Improved for a step up to 14f as recently as February, going down just a short head in a Meydan Group 3. He shaped as though worth a try over further that day but didn’t cut any ice behind Subjectivist in the Dubai Gold Cup at that distance. On his return to the UK he was pulled up in testing conditions in the Queen Alexandra Stakes at Royal Ascot. It’s probably not best to judge him on that latest effort and he still has scope as a stayer but he’s rated 105 here, is so far unproven at this distance and has some well being questions to answer so he’s not easy to back.

Lucky Deal

After missing 18 months of action he worked his way back to form, winning twice on the all weather either side of the new year. He continued in good form on artificial surfaces but has struggled since on turf. The handicapper hasn’t shown much leniency dropping him just 4lbs for a combined losing distance of over 63 lengths. Blinkers haven’t brought about any improvement and connections now reach for a visor. He’s becoming well handicapped and will bounce back at some point but is difficult to back on current form and needs a real test of stamina to be at his absolute best.

The Verdict

A slightly disappointing turnout for this race with many of these having questions to answer. Zeeband and Rodrigo Diaz are clearly the progressive ones in the field but the former has some ground doubts and doesn’t look worth risking at the price whilst the latter has to prove his stamina. Backing horses going up in distance can be a great angle but he doesn’t look to be crying out for two miles.

It’s probably worth taking a chance on INDIANAPOLIS each way at around 16/1 (most bookies paying 4 places). Ian Williams won this last year at a similar price and this runner is well handicapped on last season’s form, giving hints he was returning to something near his best last time out. He’s capable of racing prominently which might be an advantage with a lack of strong page in this and his form over shorter distances could be an advantage if this turns into a bit of a sprint finish.

Withhold seems unbackable on current form, Margaret Dumont is probably better on the all weather, Scaramanga has been expensive to follow and is yet to win on the flat whilst Call My Bluff would prefer softer ground. The majority of the fancied runners aren’t guaranteed to give their running so Indianapolis has an excellent chance of placing at the very least.

How to Use the Profiler Tab

The second of three articles requested by readers was on the subject of the Profiler tab, which we introduced to Geegeez Gold racecards this time last year. So, in this post, I'll show you how it works and outline some use cases, including how you can get around the inflexibility of 'today's race conditions'.

I've recorded a video for those who prefer to watch/listen, and below that is a written version of the same (or very similar content). These links will take you to any specific section you might be interested in.

 

What is Profiler? When to use Profiler Profiler: Beware! Example Use Cases

 

 

What is Profiler?

Profiler is a racecard tab that breaks a horse's (or jockey's or trainer's or sire's) form down by a range of race condition variables. In the example image below for a horse called Raha, we can see the FILTERS block at the top, common with our Full Form tab, and, beneath that, Raha's Going performance profile. All other variables are closed in the image, to highlight what is available to users.

The cyan coloured row with red edges highlights today's race condition: in this case, the going for today's race is good to soft.

 

WHEN should I use Profiler?

Profiler undoubtedly works best when there is a good amount of evidence in the form book. Its value is in compartmentalising that evidence such that patterns are easily visible. As such, it is typically more useful when researching the profiles of jockeys and, in my opinion, especially trainers and sires.

The example below shows trainer Paul Midgley's profile for going, distance and class.

Ignoring the cyan rows we can immediately see that he is almost a pure trainer of five-furlong sprinters, and his record at that trip is some way above his record over longer. We can also see that his all-weather form is not as good as his turf form; and we can see that his Class 1 and 2 record is inferior to lower class races, in win and place percent terms at least.

This is a five furlong race, so we can use the 'Distance' filter in the top block to narrow our analysis down only to that range. And I've also selected 'Hcap' as that is where the majority of Midgley's horses ply their trade. Let's see how the figures look now, for five furlong handicaps:

His record on good to soft or faster turf and, contrary to earlier perception, in higher class races is excellent. Note that the strike rate in Class 2 is much lower but the ROI is positive, just.

Things to be wary of with Profiler

As with all data sets, including Query Tool results, we need to be sensible and challenge the output rather than blindly accept it because we've been seduced by the black figures in the P/L column. In the example above, it makes sense that a relatively unfashionable trainer like Paul Midgley would be profitable in better class 5f handicaps while only maintaining a moderate strike rate in such company: as bettors, we have to be comfortable with long losing runs if we wish to play 7% hit rate trainers; it's not for the faint hearted, or those whose bankroll may be short stacked!

Outlying percentages or profit figures should always be treated with deep scepticism. Why is this singular condition so profitable? Does it make sense that, for example, Midgley 5f handicappers would show a positive ROI on good to soft ground particularly? Answer: almost certainly not, but his 5f 'cap runners' form on all turf going have a broadly aligned place percentage. That's far more reliable in the round.

Which leads me on to my next point: place percentages are more reliable than win percentages. Percentage of Rivals Beaten (PRB) is more reliable again and we'll look to add that to Profiler at some point before too long.

HOW Should I use Profiler?

So that's what Profiler is, how it works, and a couple of things we need to be careful about. But how should we use it? While you'll quite probably have your own ideas about utility, allow me to suggest a couple. These take the form of either knowing more about today's race, or creating shortlists/QT angles/tracker entries. Let's begin with the latter.

Horse Profiles

For the past two flat seasons here at geegeez.co.uk, we've undertaken a community project to unearth a collection of horse profiles. You can view the full list, along with any qualifiers, here. And if you want a route map for researching horse profiles for yourself, check out this blog post.

These profiles can only be generated when a horse has run plenty, so the list of better class all-age handicaps in the second post above is instructive; but you might also run a query in Query Tool to get a list of Class 5 all weather six-furlong handicaps, for example.

Trainer Profiles

We've already looked at this to some degree with Paul Midgley above. But what if we want to test a specific scenario not linked to today's race conditions? Let's say we wanted to examine the widely-held contention that Venetia Williams-trained runners go well in deep ground over marathon trips; but alas Venetia has no runners today. Then what?

First port of call is the search box on the racecards and, having identified the person (or horse) we wish to investigate, click the arrow by their name to see if there are any upcoming entries:

 

In this case, Venetia has an entry later in the week. So I click on that entry to go to the racecard for it:

 

Hmm, it's a shorter distance good ground novice race. Does that matter? Not necessarily. I go to the Profiler tab, RESET MY FILTERS (important!), and then select the TRAINER button and Venetia's runner:

 

 

In the above, I've also chosen handicaps only and 'All NH'.

Now, looking at win or place strike rates in the going section can be misleading for two reasons. Firstly, races on bottomless ground generally have fewer runners than races on 'terra firmer'. And secondly, as punters, we need to know what the money impact is, so that's the ROI column.

As it happens, in this case, the ROI figures align with the win/place strike rates in that they are more positive. ROI for heavy ground is NOT positive, but it is closer to break even than for the majority of other going categories. The same is true for longer distances in the main, though not extreme distances (beyond 3m4f), although samples are small.

But the fact that this race is at 2m2f and on good ground is a bit of an obstacle to what we want to achieve in looking at deep ground and longer distances. The solution? Go to the Full Form tab for Venetia and find a recent race in which she saddled a runner on heavy ground over a trip. Here's Profiler for Royale Pagaille's astonishing performance in the Peter Marsh in January:

 

Note that I've selected all NH handicaps on heavy ground. We can see that those parameters were unprofitable in the last five years (the 'Heavy' line in the Going column). But looking at longer trips, it is indeed the case that there might be a small bit of juice in Venetia's heavy ground handicappers over trips from two-and-three-quarter miles or so, and up.

Sadly, though not remotely surprisingly, changing the date range to the last two years - something you absolutely should do, compare longer-term with shorter-term time frames - reveals the edge has evaporated:

 

But I don't want to leave you without after all this, so one Miss Williams edge that remains is in small fields:

 

The above is the two-year view of Venetia Williams' heavy ground handicappers (chase and hurdles) in small fields (2-7 runners). In such races she's been consistently profitable over one, two and five years. I was curious as to why, and it looks like most of them go from the front (group 4), or close to the front (3) - thanks QT!

 

[The 'null' run is where the run style could not be deduced from the in running comment]

Sire Profiles

Sires can be profiled in the exact same way as trainers above; and, as with trainers (and jockeys and horses), we can create either tracker or QT Angle entries - with associated notes - to be alerted of our profiles.

 

Unexposed Runners

A second sire use case is when trying to understand more about a horse having its first run, or its first run under different conditions. We may not be able to know how that individual horse will perform but we can get an idea of what might happen based on all runners with at least a 50% common lineage.

Here's Our New Buddy, stepping up two furlongs to a mile and a half tonight on her second handicap start:

 

She's been beaten far enough - 12L, 11L, 9L - in her most recent three runs for many to overlook her chance. But should they be so dismissive? Let's find out:

 

In Profiler, I've selected Our New Buddy and SIRE (New Approach) and Flat/Handicap/Age (3)/Distance (1m4f).

The trip should be a positive and, at this distance, progeny of New Approach have done well in lower level handicaps (see Class 3-6). I've included field size and weight as examples, though I'd not be getting too stoked about them as supporting ballast.

More credible is the bottom row of the Trainer Snippet intel on geegeez, see image below:

 

Our New Buddy may get whacked again this evening, but there are reasons to believe she can show more for the extended range and for the second try in handicap company.

As with all horseracing data - and indeed information in any other sphere - nothing is alpha and omega: we need to get as much awareness as we can in order to make the most informed decisions we can. Profiler is one more tool in our kit bag to that end.

Good luck,

Matt

Monday Musings: Remembering a True Legend of the Turf

Reassuringly he was always there; then, half-watching Racing TV the other day, suddenly he wasn’t. People of my generation always used to ask, “Where were you when the news came through that JFK was assassinated?” For the record I was in a little street in Bow, East London, with just about my first proper girlfriend and her family, writes Tony Stafford.

Bloodstock people of all ages now will relate their whereabouts at the time of the passing of the greatest stallion of all time. Galileo, aged 23 and sire of 91 Group and Grade 1 winners at the time of his death late last week is no more. No longer is that the figure either, Bolshoi Ballet making it 92 in New York on Saturday completing an Aidan O’Brien / Ryan Moore Grade 1 double with Santa Barbara, now respectively Derby and Oaks winners after all.

Galileo’s legend though will continue to develop, with a couple more crops of those whole-hearted, ultra-genuine performers yet to grace the track, mostly from Coolmore Stud and Ballydoyle who monopolised his progeny from the time Teofilo and others showed him to be a sire for all seasons and more importantly all ages. Messrs (and Mrs) Magnier, Tabor, Smith and of course the whole Aidan O’Brien family owe him a massive debt of gratitude.

Having had him as my equine hero for a decade and a half and as the password on almost all my electronic devices such as they are, it was gratifying that on a visit for the Champions Weekend in September 2018 along with Harry Taylor and Alan Newman I got to meet him.

Minutes later we were allowed into the Coolmore museum and saw the life-size and oh so realistic embodiment of his sire Sadler’s Wells whose apparently never-to-be broken tally of records has indeed been shattered by this phenomenon.

Typically Alan gave him a cuddle and for months afterwards would show anyone within reach the pictures, asking, “Who do you think this is?” I, of course, would have been tempted to say, “Surely it’s you!” but most people are less unkind.

I remember sitting in the late George Ward’s Ascot box, along from the Royal Box – a fair way along if I’m honest – telling the heroic combative boss of Grunwick, the company that produced the Instaprint and Tripleprint photo services long before cameras did the same job instantly, about him.

George had been through an awful front-page making ordeal with the unions decades earlier but came through it and got interested in racing, becoming a major sponsor and a leading light in the Racehorse Owners Association.

I told him, “George, you have to send a mare to Galileo, he’s only €30k!” He said, “That’s too rich for me, I’ve just a few ordinary mares.” Fair enough and of course by the time the next lot of nominations were considered his fee had already increased notably.

Sadly George died soon afterwards and now the equine object of my admiration, long since designated as having a “private” fee is gone, too.

One quote I saw (and a figure too that was often bandied about) was that you needed to stump up €500k to unlock the golden gates to his magical semen. But such was the flexibility of John Magnier’s marketing skills that the way to Galileo’s heart (as far as breeders’ mares were concerned) could often be through foal shares. The mare had to be pretty good in most cases but the numbers also needed to be kept up, so “private” had to be the way to go.

I could imagine breeders sitting down around a table at Royal Ascot, Longchamp or Newmarket sales asking each other: “How much did you pay?” I bet they always erred on the high side!

A slow computer early this morning limited my intended analysis of the Coolmore stallion roster 2021 but as far as I could tell, from 24 of the 26 other sires listed to be standing as Flat stallions this year, their combined fees amounted to just about half a million Euro – equivalent to one top-priced (no deals) Galileo.

Two exceptions are the highly-promising pair Wootton Bassett, a relative newcomer, but now raised to €100,000 and No Nay Never, up to 125K after his progeny’s exploits in his first few years’ activity. Two nice Wootton Bassett winners over the past weekend will keep him in breeders’ headlights.

Their upward momentum is reminiscent of a similar hike for No Nay Never’s sire, Scat Daddy, another shrewd buy from Coolmore, running in Michael Tabor’s colours in the US towards the end of his career. He had just been promoted to a fee of $100,000 at their Ashford Stud, Kentucky, base after a brilliant start when he had an accident at the farm. His untimely death came with a stunning book of mares waiting in vain for his services.

There can be little doubt he would have been a realistic US-based counterpart to Galileo if the evidence alone of the unbeaten Triple Crown winner Justified is considered. Two other sons of Scat Daddy, plus two of No Nay Never, grace the present Coolmore Ireland roster. Caravaggio, by Scat Daddy, has made a great start with his first two-year-olds this year and Coolmore has taken the hint - he will be based at Ashford in 2022.

Also at Ashford is the other Triple Crown hero of the modern age, American Pharoah, while the horse that came nearest to a UK Triple Crown, which would have been the first since Nijinsky in 1970, Camelot stands at only €45k in Co Tipperary. He is the sire of Santa Barbara, who thus on Saturday belatedly joined the four other Group 1 winning three-year-old fillies at Ballydoyle. Needless to say Alan has pictures with both Triple Crown winners, but I didn’t make that trip.

Two of the five, Empress Josephine and Joan Of Arc, both Classic winners this year, are daughters of Galileo. As far as my haphazard researches allow, I believe seven sons of Galileo are standing at Coolmore and Churchill, the 2,000 Guineas winner of 2017, is already off to a flying start with eight individual winners in his first crop.

Apart from the Flat-race squad, Coolmore NH has a further 18 stallions between Castle Hyde, Grange Stud and The Beeches where six more sons of Galileo ply their trade, so to speak. Classic winners Capri, Soldier Of Fortune and Kew Gardens are among them along with Order of St George, a dual Gold Cup hero from Ascot.

Two non-Galileos working away there are his fellow Sadler’s Wells horse, Yeats, the four-time Gold Cup winner and the multiple Group 1 winner, Maxios (by Monsun), busiest of the lot last year with 298 mares successfully accommodated. At €7k a pop, his new increased price, that’s good business.

If there is to be a sire to step into those size 14 shoes – not really but you get the illusion! – it has to be St Mark’s Basilica (Siyouni-Cabaret/Galileo). Now I know why, straight after that epic Eclipse win at Sandown that brought a best in the world rating of 127 to eclipse (ha!) Palace Pier, one insider said, “They are hoping he might be the one to replace Galileo.” He better not lose from now on then, but I fail to see why he should.

Back in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s when Robert Sangster, Vincent O’Brien and his son-in-law John Magnier were going hard in the bloodstock business in the US having acquired Coolmore from Tim Vigors, the great Northern Dancer was commanding fees of $1 million.

Such was his allure that when Henryk De Kwiatkowski was looking for mares to send to his Horse Of The Year, Conquistador Cielo, he paid 3.8 million dollars for a mare in foal to Northern Dancer. She lost the foal – and he didn’t pay the extra for foal insurance. Conquistador Cielo, subject of a $36 million syndication proved to be pretty rubbishy as a stallion but Henryk had another horse, by Northern Dancer, who did turn out pretty good at the same time. That was Danzig and he at one stage was getting quite close to the magic million too. Pity I didn’t find a mare to send to him (for free!) when I was offered the chance.

As the Old Testament would say, Northern Dancer begat Sadler’s Wells; Sadler’s Wells begat Galileo; Galileo begat Frankel, Teofilo, Minding, Love and many more champions besides. There are legacies and legacies, but none like Galileo’s. Rest in peace, we’ll never forget you and I can’t wait to see you standing next to your dad in the Coolmore museum. I’m sure Alan will let me know when the star attraction is ready for viewing.

 

 

John Smith’s Cup 2021 Preview: Take Pride To Emerge On Top

Plenty of very competitive races to get stuck into on ‘Super Saturday’ but the main race of interest is surely the John Smith’s Cup at York (4.05pm). This is one of my favourite races of the season and it’s often won by a horse capable of mixing it at Group level.

All of the data used below is available through a Geegeez Gold subscription. Click here to get your first 30 days of Geegeez Gold for just £1.

Draw

A massive field of 22 set to go to post for this one, one of the biggest fields you’ll see go around a bend all season, so is there a draw bias?

According to the data above, there isn’t much between low, middle and high. Middle draws have produced the most winners (13) whilst there is little between low and high from a win perspective (9 and 10 respectively).

There isn't much between the place percentage data either. Middle draws once again have a very slight edge with a 20% place strike rate but low comes in at 21.94% with high draws not far behind at 20.41%.

The PRB data also backs up the suggestion that there isn’t much of a draw bias with low draws producing a PRB of 0.50, middle draws at 0.51 and high draws 0.49.

Looking at the individual stall data, there isn’t a huge amount between a lot of the stalls again. The main thing that stands out is the extremely high stalls tend to perform relatively poorly but there is very limited data for these. Stalls 17, 18 and 19 do have a decent sample size and they are amongst the poorer stalls for place percentage and PRB but stall 17 has won this twice on ground that is good or softer and stall 22 has won before on faster ground.

Given the data I’d prefer to be drawn between 3 and 16 inclusive but very high draws look a slight disadvantage rather than a reason to rule out a runner.

Pace

York tends to be a pace track over sprint distances but is it fairer over this extended 10f?

This course and distance looks pretty fair from a pace perspective on easier ground. Not many winners manage to make all, with a relatively poor win percentage of 4.17% but the place percentage doesn’t perform too badly at 18.75%, even if it is statistically the least successful run style for place purposes too.

The best win percentage belongs to prominent, followed by held up whilst the place percentages suggest mid division is very slightly favoured over prominent. The place percentage backs up the win percentage data in front runners doing least best and hold ups doing next least best but there is very little in the figures suggesting you shouldn’t be put off any run style unless the pace map shows an extreme likely pace outcome.

John Smith’s Cup Pace Map

This is the pace map for the 2021 John Smith’s Cup, based on each runner’s last two runs.

Very interesting that there is a ton of likely early pace in this contest. A huge eight of these runners led early last time out and three of them have led early on at least their last two starts. There is so much pace that you’d probably think twice about even backing anything that races prominently as they could be too close to a pace collapse.

Judging by the likely pace in this race, preference would be for runners who should be held up in mid division or in the rear.

Draw and Pace Combination

One more data view before we look at the runners.

This heat map shows the likely best run styles for each draw in this race. Historically higher drawn front runners have performed better than their lower drawn counterparts whereas the best draw for prominent racers has been low.

We are probably more interested in the best draws for mid division and held up given the likely strong pace and the data from previous races suggests a middle draw is slightly preferred for both of those run styles. There is very little between low and high draws for the more patiently ridden runners.

The Runners

Here are the main contenders for this year’s John Smith’s Cup, in early odds order.

Astro King

Progressive this season in top handicaps and was runner up in the Royal Hunt Cup on his latest start. He’s gone up 4lbs for that run but gets to run off the same mark here so is 4lbs well in. Connections have often said he’ll be better going back up in trip (raced exclusively at a mile this season but ran over 10f last year) and several of his runs back that up but the ground has to be a slight question mark here. His poorest run to date came on soft ground over this trip and any rain that falls on Saturday is likely to decrease his chances of winning. He’d have been a solid contender on fast ground but he’s opposable on good to soft or worse.

Surrey Pride

Boasts rock solid claims after a course and distance win here in May. He won pretty comfortably that day, looking to have improved since a successful 3yo campaign, and a 6lb rise surely underestimates him given how that form has worked out. The 2nd, 4th, 5th, 7th and 8th have all won since which is extremely hot form and I’m a big fan of course form when betting at York, especially when there is some cut in the ground.

One common misconception in racing is that horses that don’t want fast ground automatically want soft ground and vice versa. Surrey Pride is one of those horses that doesn’t want extremes of going. He finished 4th on his only run on good to firm, his form on soft or heavy ground reads 5557 and his form on good or good to soft reads 61111, with the only defeat coming on debut (in a maiden that worked out well). If the ground doesn’t soften beyond good to soft on Saturday (there is a bit of rain forecast) he’s the one to beat. The one question mark is being drawn in the highest stall. It’s probably a disadvantage, but not a massive one and not one that hasn’t been overcome before (Farraaj won from stall 22 in 2014).

Aaddeey

I gave this horse a good write up for the Old Newton Cup on Saturday only for the ground to soften and for him to be withdrawn. It’s unlikely the ground is going to be perfect here and the drop in trip has to be considered a pretty big negative. He did run well over 10f at Newbury on seasonal debut in what was a warm race but he’s 15lbs higher here courtesy of improving for running over 12f. A strong pace will help him but he’s probably going to get 14f this season and on ground that is softer than ideal he’s worth taking on.

Dawaam

Owen Burrows’ runner is four from five on the all weather but yet to reach the places in three efforts on turf. You couldn’t say he doesn’t go on turf as he was only beaten 5 lengths in the Wolferton at Royal Ascot last time and he’s technically 8lbs well in here. However he did fail to beat a rival home on his only run on good to soft ground and that came off a lower mark than this so he’s a bit of a punt in this and surprisingly short in the betting, the fact that he’s 8lbs well in probably largely determining that.

Ascension

Happiest when the mud is flying so his run on fast ground in the Royal Hunt Cup last time out is easily forgiven. He was a comfortable winner before that on good to soft ground at Newbury in a fair handicap but probably flattered by running on the favoured near side rail on that occasion and not necessarily the best runner in that race. This is his first run over further than a mile and he hasn’t looked to be crying out for this test to date but his sire has winners at all trips and the dam stayed 10f so there are possibilities.

Fishable

A Ripon specialist (form figures there of 1141) but does have York form too. He was runner up over course and distance last season on soft ground and then although only 8th in first time cheekpieces here behind Surrey Pride in May, he missed the break by about 5 lengths that day and was badly squeezed up when in the process of running a big race. He has gone up 3lbs since for winning again at Ripon.

He looks to have a major form chance but he did make all last time and trying those same tactics here would probably be a mistake. He has also been held up plenty of times though and it might just be a case of connections choosing to ride him more prominently when he goes to Ripon, tactics that are suited to that course. Stall 18 is probably slightly higher than ideal but not the end of the world.

Al Zaraqaan

Progressive on the all weather over the winter but hasn’t run to the same level on any going type since on turf. He did run better on turf at Group 2 level on fast ground than he did on soft ground in a listed race but he’s not going to get fast turf here and he’s yet to prove he’s capable of winning a big handicap off a mark of 107 on turf. He does have further progression left in him though.

Good Birthday

Won the Zetland Gold Cup at Redcar this season and it’s a race that has worked out very well. He was well placed that day though and probably not the best horse in the race and he didn’t back it up next time out at Newmarket when well beaten. The ground might have been more to blame that day than a 4lb rise and easier ground will undoubtedly suit more here. He’s been well beaten in two runs at York and isn’t always the most reliable so although he’s capable of running well if on a going day, others look better handicapped.

Nicholas T

Not many horses win the Northumberland Plate before coming here but he does have plenty of form over this trip and is on a roll having put together back to back wins. He’s taken his form to a new level this season over trips further than this and it’s likely he could struggle off a career high mark now.

Bright Start

Probably been better on all weather surfaces to date and his only win came on dirt in Meydan over the winter. He has run well on a variety of going types on turf and can’t be completely ruled out having finished a nose runner up to a progressive type last time out but his turf form does leave him needing to step up and he could be ridden too close to the pace here.

Johnny Drama

Took his form to a new level over the winter on all weather surfaces and if he translates that improvement back to turf he’s well handicapped considering his turf mark is 9lbs lower than his all weather mark. He has been runner up over course and distance off this sort of mark twice so he’s not completely ruled out even if he hasn’t improved. His turf form last season requires a step up though and he could be a bit too close to the early gallop for comfort here.

Lucander

An interesting one at the price. He won over course and distance last season on soft ground which gives him a 100% record at York from two runs. He was runner up in last season’s Cambridgeshire off a 1lb lower mark on good ground and returned in good form this season, finishing 2nd at Newmarket behind an enterprisingly ridden rival. The third in that race has won since. Only beat one home last time in the Royal Hunt Cup but a mile on fast ground wouldn’t have suited. He’s often held up in mid division which should be perfect from his middle draw and the easier ground and return to York should help him improve from a poor effort last time out.

Data Protection

Tends to run his best races at Newmarket or Epsom and was well below par when favourite on his only try at York. Likely to help set a strong pace and has work to do off a career high mark.

Cockalorum

In the form of his life at the moment although this is a big step up from the class 4 handicaps he’s been winning. He made all for both recent wins too and those tactics are unlikely to see him to best effect here.

Dark Pine

Proved his recent improvement wasn’t just down to all weather surfaces when winning at Chester before finding heavy ground over further at Royal Ascot too much. Not handicapped out of this off 4lb higher and could go well at a price but obviously needs to improve again in this company.

Hartswood

Has a bit of a reputation as a York specialist despite just the one win here, having also filled the places in several top handicaps here. Won last time out when getting the run of the race at Newcastle and still has a chance of landing a decent race at this course off his new mark. He’s only tried this distance once and didn’t seem to stay so would have made much more appeal in the mile handicap earlier in the card but it will be interesting to see how he takes to this trip here at York.

Victory Chime

Had limitations exposed last time out at listed level and has generally performed best at front runner friendly tracks. Much more competition for the lead here and probably not well enough handicapped.

Winter Reprise

Needs to step up massively on what he’s done this season and seems very reliant on leading early, which will almost certainly compromise his chance here.

Palavecino

Hasn’t quite matched his all weather form on turf despite not having a split mark and it’s a slight worry his best turf form seems to have come at Chester. Another that could be too close to the early gallop and doesn’t look well enough handicapped.

What’s The Story

Has a good record at York and runs in this for the fourth consecutive year. This trip seems to stretch him a little and his best chance of a win off this mark would be on fast ground over a mile here.

Sky Defender

Inconsistent and difficult to win with but has shown he can run well off this sort of mark and has strong course and distance form. Probably too reliant on getting an easy lead though which he won’t get here and needs to bounce back from a poor run.

Strait Of Hormuz

Still lightly raced and better than the bare result in both runs this season. He’s only 3lbs higher than when winning a decent handicap at Doncaster last season over this trip and didn’t seemingly stay further on his next two runs. He dropped back to this trip last time out at Epsom and although beaten 11.5 lengthsit was a day of exaggerated winning distances and Strait Of Hormuz met trouble in running and had to be snatched up. He does have form on softish ground but he’s probably better on good or better, which means the ground has probably gone slightly against him here. He’s worth watching out for on better ground though and should outrun his odds, especially if less rain falls on Saturday than is forecast.

The Verdict

A fair few of those near the head of the betting look worth taking on for reasons outlined above and although Strait Of Hormuz is very likely to outrun his odds, especially if the course doesn’t catch any more showers, he probably needs even faster ground to go close in a race of this nature.

I’m so much more confident betting on course form at York and Lucander, Fishable and Surrey Pride all have strong course and distance form to their names. The fact that Lucander is unbeaten in two runs here makes him really interesting and there are obvious reasons for him to bounce back here from a poor run but he would have appealed slightly more if he’d run just a bit better at Ascot last time. He’s still massively overpriced and worth covering though, especially with Laura Pearson riding and claiming 5lbs.

Fishable may not have won here but he’s unlucky to not have placed in both course and distance starts and will find conditions perfect here. If he’d got a clear run behind Surrey Pride last time he’d probably have finished 3rd or 4th and would be going into this a shorter price. He’s been in good form all season, is consistent and after just ten runs should still be improving a little. The only slight worry with him is being ridden too close to the pace but he’s been held up in all three visits to York (didn’t have much choice last time admittedly after missing the break).

Assuming Saturday's rain isn't enough to send the ground back to soft though SURREY PRIDE looks the most likely to go well. We’re yet to see how far he can go on good/good to soft ground and he’s proven over course and distance with his last race working out well. He’s been held back for this since and his run style is ideally suited to a course like this where he can make up ground on the bridle. The draw isn’t ideal but his run style should be.

When Trainers Run Two in the Same Race

A dilemma that faces punters from time to time is when a trainer saddles two or more runners in the same race, writes Dave Renham. Do you take the obvious option and back the shortest-priced runner? Or is there value in backing the outsider of the pair? Whichever approach you take, it’s likely that many of you can recall times when you backed the wrong one!

The scope of this article is restricted to looking at trainers’ performance when they have exactly two runners in the same race. The data has been taken from UK flat races (turf and all weather) from January 1st 2014 to June 28th 2021. I have restricted it to two runners purely for ease of data compilation, as well as the fact that not many trainers run three or more horses in the same race on a regular basis (Aiden O’Brien the obvious exception).

All profit and loss is calculated to Industry Starting Price. For the shorter priced horse of the pair I will call this the “first string”, the bigger priced runner will be known as the “second string”.

Let us first look at trainers that have had at two or more runners in the same race on at least 100 occasions (hence at least 200 runners overall). There have been 49 trainers that qualify against that stipulation:

 

Below are the combined results of all runners for each trainer (i.e. both first and second string):

 

Not surprisingly, just three of the 49 trainers show a profit when looking at both strings as a whole. It is hardly likely that backing both runners for every trainer in every race is going to make a profit long term. But let's see what happens when we break the data down and compare strike rates between first and second string runners. I have done this in four graphs in order to show the comparison pictorially and, hopefully, more clearly.

My approach was to add up the winners and work out which percentage of all the winners came from the trainer’s first string (shorter priced runners) and what percentage came from the second. For Charlie Appleby, for example, he has had 85 winners of which 61 were first string runners (71.8%); 24 winners came from second string runners (28.2%). The blue bar accounts for first string runners, the orange bar for second string.

 

Overall, when combining all 49 trainers, roughly 75% of the winners have come from their first string entries, thus 25% from their second string. I would guess these figures would be roughly what we might have expected.

As can be seen, however, there is a wide fluctuation when analysing the performance of individual trainers. John Bridger, for instance, has had no winners from his second string runners, whereas Scott Dixon has very even stats with 17 first string winners (56.7%) compared to 13 second string winners (43.3%).

 

Trainers to note with first string runners

Eight trainers have made a blind profit to SP with their favoured runner of the pair, while a couple have essentially broken even. The table below gives their individual stats ordered by win profit / loss.

 

Of course, we have to be careful when looking at relatively ‘raw’ data like this: two trainers have made a profit purely due to one big priced winner each - Mick Appleby's figures are skewed due to an 80/1 winner, while Gary Moore had a 50/1 winner. It is also worth noting that Dean Ivory had two winners at 50/1 which make up most of his £123 profit (though he was still profitable even allowing for that brace of bullseyes).

Let's now dig a little deeper into some individual trainers.

 

John & Thady Gosden

The Team Gosden partnership, whose stats include Gosden Senior on his own previously, have broken even with their first string runners from a very decent sample size. I thought it would be worthwhile to see if breaking the data down further may reveal a potentially profitable angle or two.

With that in mind, let's first look at race type – the bar chart below compares strike rate (in blue) and ROI% (profit/loss) in orange.

 

 

As can be seen, there were crippling returns in handicaps from a modest strike rate (relatively) of around 13%.

The Clarehaven yard enjoyed similar strike rates, at around double the handicap clip, in maidens and other non-handicaps (e.g. Group, Listed, Stakes races etc), excluding novice races; similar returns, too, with a tiny loss in maidens and a tiny profit in non-handicaps.

Far and away the best figures for Gosden’s first string runners have come in Novice races, where they've notched a strike rate of 33% with strong returns of 14p in the £ at SP.

The Novice race stats can be improved slightly if we focus on the front end of the market. Gosden’s first string runners that have started 4/1 or shorter have provided 35 winners from 97 (SR 36.1%) for a profit of £20.19 (ROI 20.8%).

 

Roger Varian

There are some interesting data to share also regarding Roger Varian. His first string runners have an excellent record when sent off at single figure odds. Under these circumstances Varian’s runners have provided 27 winners from 98 runners (SR 27.6%) for a healthy profit to SP of £36.82 (ROI +37.6%). This can be improved further if we ignore handicaps, with 23 of the 75 runners winning (SR 30.7%) for an overall profit of £38.19 (ROI +50.9%).

If we focus on horses 10/1 or bigger Varian has managed just one win from 39 attempts.

A final side note for Varian is that he has struggled at Ascot with just 1 success from 23 in this context doubly-represented context.

 

Richard Fahey

The record of Richard Fahey with his first string runners is also interesting. Overall his figures look relatively modest – 177 winners from 1305 runners (SR 13.6%) for a loss of £265.74 (ROI -20.4%). However, when we break it down we see some big differences:

 

 

Virtually all of Fahey’s losses have occurred in handicap races. In maidens and novice events he has broken even, and from a small sample of runners in low grade sellers and claimers made a tidy profit.

Breaking the maiden data down further, focusing on Fahey runners priced 8/1 or shorter has produced 29 winners from 103 runners (SR 28.2%) for a healthy profit of £46.49 (ROI +45.1%).

Worst First String Returns

Before moving onto second strings, it is worth sharing the stats of the trainers with the worst overall returns for the first strings:

 

 

I was surprised to see Sir Michael Stoute languishing in this list; he some very poor figures indeed. Clearly the first strings of the above trainers are worth avoiding in most, if not all, circumstances.

Trainers to Note with Second String Runners

To finish off let's briefly look at trainers' second string performances. As you would expect strike rates are much lower and profits are generally hard to come by. Indeed the highest strike rate in our sample of 49 trainers is just 9.9% for Charlie Appleby, with the next best a mere 7.3% for the Gosden stable.

Messrs. Burke, Dascombe, Ivory, Dixon, Hammond and Beckett were the only trainers to make a profit on their runners, and only because of a huge priced winner here or there which skews their figures.

Some high profile trainers have very poor records with their second string runners as the line graph below shows. The blue line represents their individual strike rate and the orange line shows their return on investment (ROI%). All trainers in the graph have shown losses in excess of 33p in the £; Jamie Osborne stands the worst on that front with an 85p loss for every £1 bet. Ouch!

 

 

Trainer statistics as we know come in many forms – course stats, favourite stats, horses on debut, etc. The ones I have shared with you in this article are less well advertised. Hopefully you will find them useful either pinpointing possible bets or, just as importantly, helping to avoid poor value ones.

- Dave Renham

 

Monday Musings: St Mark My Words!

The sports pages yesterday were dominated by a certain football match in Rome and, much earlier on Saturday, the 18-year-old world number 338-rated female tennis player wowing the home crowd at Wimbledon, writes Tony Stafford. At least on a par, ten miles down the A3 in Esher, St Mark’s Basilica was deservedly making his own headlines.

There is winning a Group 1 race, indeed one completed in slower time for the Sandown Park ten furlongs than the two handicaps over that trip on the card, and then there’s winning it like a potential champion.

You can list a big winner’s credentials but when it gets into the top level it is rare to find a horse running past fully tested Group 1 performers in a few strides and drawing away. That is what St Mark’s Basilica did in swamping Mishriff and Addeybb for speed once Ryan Moore unleashed him.

Afterwards there was the inevitable qualifying of the performance, commentators suggesting Addeybb, who battled back to wrest second off Mishriff, and the third horse may have both come to the race a little under-cooked.

Well here’s the rub. Both horses had already won Group 1 races this year, Addeybb continuing his Australian odyssey with another defeat of the brilliant mare Verry Elleegant in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick in April while Mishriff earned his owner Prince Abdulrahman Abdullah Faisal just about £10 million when annexing his own country’s Saudi Cup and the Dubai Sheema Classic on Dubai World Cup night.

Those wins illustrated his versatility, the former over nine furlongs on dirt and the latter a mile and a half on turf, so Sandown’s mile and a quarter will have fitted comfortably within his parameters.

When Mishriff drew alongside Addeybb in the straight on ground possibly a little less soft than ideal for the leader, he looked set to win, but St Mark’s Basilica was poised in behind in this four-horse field and, when given the signal by Ryan, he sailed serenely clear.

Sandown’s tough uphill conclusion often provides sudden changes in momentum. By the line St Mark’s Basilica was, either from loneliness or simply feeling the effects of the sudden change in velocity that took him clear, definitely if marginally coming back to the rallying Addeybb.

But William Haggas’ seven-year-old is a battle-hardened winner of 12 of 23 career starts. Mishriff, handled skilfully by the Gosdens, has won six of 11, but until Saturday his only defeat in the previous six had been in Addeybb’s Champion Stakes where he appeared not to appreciate the very testing ground.

Saturday’s success makes St Mark’s Basilica the winner of four Group 1 races in succession starting with the Dewhurst. That normally is the race that signals the champion juvenile of his year and then he went on to hoard both French Classics open to males, the Poulains and Jockey Club, where his electric burst heralded the type of performance we saw on Saturday.

In a year where four-fifths of the Aidan O’Brien Classic winners have been four different fillies and none of them Santa Barbara, the fifth has been going a long way to eradicate the overall disappointing showings – so far, and remember it is a long season – of the other colts.

A son of Siyouni – also the sire of Sottsass, the 2020 Arc winner, now standing his first-year stallion duties for €30k a pop at Coolmore Stud – his two French Classic wins made him an obvious object of admiration for French breeders as previously mentioned here.

Unfortunately, their pockets will need to have become much deeper than anticipated with each successive Group 1 victory and if the speed that has characterised all his wins remains or, as is more likely, intensifies with experience, he will easily outstrip his sire’s appeal – and stud fee.

Any thought that he will end up anywhere other than Co Tipperary is fanciful and with all those mares needing partners he will have an enviable stream of potential mates. One slight difficulty is that his dam, Cabaret, is by Galileo.

Cabaret was an unusual product of Galileo on the racetrack, atypically precocious enough to win twice including a Group 3 by mid-July of her two-year-old season but never nearer than seventh in four more races. Sold for £600k at the end of her four-year-old season – double the yearling price at which she joined Coolmore – she has been the dam not only of St Mark’s Basilica but also Aidan O’Brien’s 2,000 Guineas winner Magna Grecia, by Invincible Spirit.

Post-race quotes of 6-4 for the Juddmonte International look just about spot on in a year when you get the impression that Aidan is being more confident in narrowing down his candidates for the biggest races to the single most deserving.

Of course, there’s still Love as a possible for the Juddmonte as she won reverting to ten furlongs at Royal Ascot, but why wouldn’t O’Brien prefer to keep her in her comfort zone for a second Yorkshire Oaks at a mile and a half? Then it is the small matter in three weeks of the King George, for which in a vastly over-round market, Love and the Derby winner Adayar are vying for favouritism at around 2-1 or 9-4, with St Mark’s Basilica moving in close at 4-1 if Aidan wants to stretch him out to 12 furlongs as soon as that.

And what of Snowfall? A 16-length Classic winner is not one to ignore wherever she runs. It’s great having a lot of good horses: the trick is knowing where to run them.

One trainer who never seems to be at a loss in choosing the right target for his equine inmates is William Haggas. With 67 wins from 266 runs, but more pertinently having won with 49 of the 106 individual horses he has run this year, the Newmarket trainer operates at a better than 25% strike rate despite many of his horses having to run in high-class handicaps.

If they sometimes are not raised as rapidly as those of his fellow trainers who might have a much less healthy strike rate, the economy with which they often win is at least a contributary factor.

But they are invariably well bet, so for Haggas to be losing under a fiver to level stakes for those 266 runners is miraculous. I saw Bernard Kantor, a patron of Haggas, again last week and we were musing as to whether his Catterick winner Sans Pretension – remember she was DROPPED 2lb for that! – would ever be reappearing.

The next day, Bernard excitedly told me, “She is in at Yarmouth on Wednesday,” about his Galileo filly. I’m sure he will have seen a later and much more high-profile entry in a fillies’ race at Ascot on Friday. I could be tempted as there’s another horse on the same card I really ought to go to see. I had planned to wait until post July 19, so possibly the King George, but maybe I will try to go this week. I bet Sans Pretension will not be too far away in whichever race the shrewd Mr Haggas decides upon.

There are some jewels that one’s eye will often pass over when looking for something in the Racing Post records. While Haggas has had nine winners from 41 runs in the past fortnight there is another area where he has plenty to prove.

Like Ryan Moore, who won a hurdle race first time on the track for his dad before ever riding on the Flat and who has not revisited that discipline since, Haggas had a go at jumping. I know he had at least one winner over jumps, Fen Terrier on October 20, 1995, at Fakenham, but possibly only one.

The 6-4 second favourite, a daughter of Emerati owned by Jolly Farmer Racing, won narrowly with the 5-4 favourite Dominion’s Dream, trained by Martin Pipe, ten lengths behind in third.

William has had a further seven runners over jumps in the intervening 9,389 days without another win. I wonder if he considers he has something to prove. Probably not!

Another of my favourite meetings will come and go without my attendance this week. Whenever I think of Newmarket July I go back to the day when Hitman broke the track record in the competitive ten-furlong three-year-old handicap for owners the Paper Boys, and Brough Scott insisted I do an interview for the telly.

My then wife was blissfully unaware of my association with the Henry Cecil colt, that was until a colleague on a day off who was interested in racing congratulated her on the win in the office the next morning. Other similar offences were digested and clearly taken into account before the eventual inevitable domestic rupture!

- TS

Coral Challenge 2021 Preview: Prominent Racers Hold The Key

The Eclipse always gets the bulk of the attention on the Sandown card but it’s very rarely a good betting race and I find the so called ‘Coral Challenge’ which is a one mile class 2 handicap, often with a decent sized field, is the race to get stuck into. This year looks no different. The race is due off at 2.25pm with a field of fifteen declared.

Just like at Haydock, it looks as though the ground will be drying out as we get closer to the off time but there are some showers forecast on the day of the race. This is Britain, during the summer, so it’s always possible they’ll get plenty more than is forecast. As it stands we’ll probably be looking for runners that don’t enjoy extremes of going.

All of the data used below is available through a Geegeez Gold subscription. Click here to get your first 30 days of Geegeez Gold for just £1.

Draw

Let’s take a look at potential draw biases for this race.

We have a fairly decent sample size here and the first thing that stands out is just 6 high drawn winners compared to 14 and 15 from low and middle respectively. The place percentages back up the win data with low and middle producing place strike rates of 23.72% and 25.15% respectively, which both compare favourably to the place percentage of 17.31% for high draws.

The PRB figures suggest that middle is the best place to be with a PRB of 0.53 compared to 0.5 for low and 0.47 for high.

With middle possibly preferred and high draw runners seemingly at a disadvantage, we need to check the individual stall data for sweet spots.

Some slightly strange data with stalls 14 and 15 producing strong PRB figures, surprising given the overall poor PRB for higher numbers. Stalls 7, 9, 10 and 11 all have poor records, which suggests that area of the draw could be at a disadvantage but the very best PRB figure belongs to stall 8 at a whopping 0.64.

With the slightly random nature of the PRB data I’m going to look into the place percentages. Stalls 9, 10, 11 and 13 all perform relatively poorly here whilst some of the best performers are stalls 6, 8, 7, 3 and 5. It looks the case that you can run into decent finishing positions from any draw but the most important finishing positions, the win and the places, are most likely to be taken by those drawn in a low to middle area. However given the slightly random nature of some of this data I wouldn’t write off anything drawn high.

Pace

Hopefully the pace data will be a bit more straight forward to interpret.

Yes it is! The win percentages and the place percentages both follow a similar pattern whereby leaders have the best record, prominent is next, mid division is third best and being held up is worst of all. A win percentage of 19.51% for front runners and a place percentage of 43.90% look extremely impressive compared to the other run styles and it seems pretty clear that any runner getting even a whiff of an easy lead will need strong consideration.

In terms of volume, the most common run styles that win or place are prominent and it definitely looks a case of the closer to the pace the better.

Early leaders are profitable to follow for win purposes (Win PL of 17.50) and even more profitable for each way bets (EW PL of 30.63).

Coral Challenge Pace Map

So are any of these runners likely to get an easy lead at a course and distance that seems to suit front runners?

Very possibly is the answer to that. Marie’s Diamond is shown as the sole pace in the pace map but Maydanny is unlikely to give her an easy time of things up front. An early crawl probably isn’t likely given those pace options but they are unlikely to go fast either.

Magical Morning tends to sit just off the pace and that will almost certainly happen here, leaving him well placed. Montatham is another that tends to track the pace so he can potentially be upgraded slightly whilst the pace map may be slightly misleading as far as Acquitted is concerned. He often tracks the leaders but was bumped early last time out, dropped in trip, and didn’t get the early position he likes. Expect him to be on the prominent side of mid division.

Other than those runners this race is full of horses that like being held up. They won’t all be able to be held up here or many of them will end up very wide but those that race in mid division or even prominently might not be seen to their best if they are usually waited with.

Given the course pace data and this pace map I’d be extremely keen to side with one of those mentioned above as likely to be fairly prominent. It’s also worth noting that the ground could be slightly dead on Saturday if they don’t get much rain and it can often be difficult to make up ground on a lifeless surface at the best of times so we could see even more of a pace bias than usual.

Draw and Pace Combination

The draw data was slightly confusing for this race but perhaps looking at it in combination with the pace data could be helpful.

We have established that early pace could be key here but early pace from a high draw is far less effective than from a low or middle draw. Maydanny and Marie’s Diamond are both drawn high, as is the prominent angle Magical Morning.

Meanwhile Montatham and Acquitted, who can both race prominently, are drawn much lower. Low and middle draw PRBs of 0.71 and 0.68 for early leaders are extremely strong, but it’s unlikely either Montatham or Acquitted will lead. Prominent runners from either draw are also seen to good effect though.

A low draw could be deemed an advantage here but low draws that are held up have a PRB of 0.44, the worst of all the draw and run style combinations. Those that race in mid division do best from a middle draw, no great surprise given if they are drawn low they could get trapped on the rail. Sandown isn’t a course where you have much time to recover if you meet trouble in running.

This data suggests low to middle and leading or prominent are the best combinations, although mid division from middle draws can be good too. With not much early pace on dead ground mid division could still end up being too far back though.

The Runners

This is the full field for the Coral Challenge, in early odds order.

Montatham

Last year’s winner is now rated 109, 9lbs higher than when winning this last year, so this would be some weight carrying performance. He’s certainly earned that mark though. The runner up from last year’s race rated 7lbs higher that season whilst the 4th and 5th came out and won shortly after. That win came on fast ground, which Montatham wouldn’t necessarily want, so he can be marked up further from that.

Despite winning this last year off 100, Montatham wasn’t done winning handicaps. He won the Clipper Logistics handicap at York’s Ebor meeting off a mark of 104, beating Sir Busker who is now rated 8lbs higher. The 3rd was Top Rank, now rated 10bs higher and the 5th and 6th both won handicaps shortly after. Montatham has a habit of winning strong handicaps off high marks so he can’t be ruled out off 5lbs higher here.

He should be well placed and the ground will be fine so there are two main question marks. He hasn’t been sighted since the opening weekend of the flat season. He was third in a listed race on that occasion but ran as though the run would do him good. Having now spent 98 days off the track it's possible he’ll need this run too.

The other question mark is the booking of Adam Farragher as jockey, claiming 5lbs. He’s had 388 rides in the UK and Ireland meaning he has plenty of experience but he brings just a 5.15% win strike rate into this. He hasn’t ridden a winner since January – that’s 69 rides without a victory. He’s ridden five times for William Haggas and has gone well on his last two but doesn’t have a winner for him.

Acquitted

He seemingly has an inconsistent profile but he has a major chance on the best of his runs. He was successful twice as a 2yo and started life in handicaps chasing home no other than Palace Pier, getting 9lbs and a 3.25 length beating. His form tailed off on his next two starts and he subsequently missed the second half of last season and was gelded.

He returned this season in the Spring Mile, the Lincoln consolation race, and that race worked out particularly well.

All of the runners who finished in the first ten places who have run since have either finished 1st or 2nd, marking that down has hot form. You could argue Acquitted hasn’t gone on from there but the ground was probably too soft when dropped in trip at Ascot next time out. Acquitted has won on heavy ground but Hugo Palmer thinks he wants good ground – and pretty much nothing else! His run at Doncaster seems to back that up. He does have a good record on the all weather so it was no surprise he ran well at Chelmsford last time out despite everything seeming to go against him. He was bumped at the start meaning he couldn’t get a good early position and then he met trouble in running before staying on very well when in the clear.

The step back up to a mile here should suit, as should a return to prominent racing tactics used on his last few runs at this distance. The negative is a 4lb rise for being beaten almost 2 lengths last time out. Yes he was unlucky but the handicapper has very much taken the view of what might have been rather than the bare form. However coming into this 5lbs higher than when beaten just a neck in that hot Doncaster race isn’t the end of the world.

Magical Morning

Still lightly raced and the Gosden team could hardly be in better form. With Frankie Dettori on board he’s sure to be popular, especially with a potential pace bias in his favour. He was a bit disappointing in the Hunt Cup, ‘only’ finishing 8th and he very much got the run of the race on his final start at Doncaster last season and still found one too good. He’s possibly only averagely handicapped, for all he’s capable of improving, and he probably wouldn’t want any more rain with fast underfoot conditions coinciding with his best form. Dead ground might not be ideal either but he can’t be completely written off for this team with this pace setup.

Pythagoras

The sole 3yo in the line up and it’s possible he could race prominently, although he was held up two starts ago. That run came in the Dante Stakes where he was around 6 lengths behind the subsequent Irish Derby winner – not bad form. He was then ridden prominently when running okay in the Golden Gates Stakes at Royal Ascot. That run came on ground he had won on before and possibly proved this horse is no better than his current rating of 99. Connections will be looking for him to improve for the drop in trip, which maybe he’ll do, but he certainly needs to find improvement.

Ransom

Beaten a similar distance in two handicaps to date but is yet to receive any respite from the handicapper. Being trained by Sir Michael Stoute and having a lightly raced profile hasn’t helped with that, nor has it helped with the prices he gets sent off at. The soft ground probably didn’t suit last time out , in which case his third was a decent effort, and that form is working out just about okay. He was one of the few to get into it from off the pace that day too so can be marked up slightly. He’s not going to find it much easier to close late here though which is the main problem and reason to oppose. He’ll be of interest in other races at other venues but he’ll need plenty of luck here.

Trais Fluors

A winner over course and distance two starts ago before not getting much of a run when running a creditable 10th in the Hunt Cup. The race he won here was well run though and his best form has come on very fast ground so given he’s likely to be held up from stall 12 on dead ground he’s opposable.

Beat Le Bon

Second home on the far side in the Hunt Cup and has been in good form in recent starts. He’s definitely capable of winning a decent race off this sort of mark this season but he’s another that is best on fast ground off a fast pace and he’s unlikely to get the race run to suit.

Plantadream

Improved for his seasonal reappearance last time out when 3rd at Epsom, staying on well when it was difficult to get into races. He’s one to look out for at Lingfield, despite being rated 6lbs higher on the all weather, and although he’s capable of winning a small race off his current turf mark he doesn’t look well enough handicapped for this, especially with the pace setup unlikely to play to his strengths.

Escobar

Generally an Ascot specialist these days who is at his best with plenty of dig in the ground. Didn’t get his underfoot conditions in the Hunt Cup and finished well beaten but had previously run very well in the Victoria Cup. He generally goes quite well at this venue too, he has been 2nd in two previous renewals of this and one of those efforts was off just a 1lb lower mark. He’s handicapped to potentially run well but he’s yet another that would prefer a good gallop.

Marie’s Diamond

Just twelve months ago he placed in the Queen Anne Stakes and now finds himself running in this handicap off a mark of 105. He’s shown versatility with regards to the ground but the main problem seems to be his consistency. He ran well enough in the Earl Of Sefton Stakes on seasonal debut but has been below that form on his last two runs. He’s well handicapped on plenty of his form and poorly handicapped on the most recent two efforts. Getting an early lead here might help but there seem to be no pattern to his form to be able to determine whether or not he’ll turn up for this.

Maydanny

Still had only the ten runs despite seemingly being around for ages. He won two races by wide margins last season but was also below par on several occasions and that sort of inconsistency has been a problem this season too, finishing runner up in the Suffolk Stakes on seasonal debut before barely beating a runner home in the Royal Hunt Cup. Should enjoy a tactical advantage here but his best form in recent times has been on more undulating tracks, on faster ground and over further.

Accidental Agent

In okay form in two runs this season, running well in a Newbury handicap off a 1lb higher mark before a creditable 7th in the Queen Anne Stakes. Doesn’t seem to have much in hand on his current rating but isn’t badly handicapped either, the main issues here seem to be the need for a decent pace and probably being better on straight tracks. He appeals for something like the Balmoral Handicap later this year.

Orbaan

Arguably a bit disappointing for current connections, beaten in seven handicaps off marks north of 100. He returned this season in good form, finishing 5th in the Lincoln, but most of the winners who have come from that race were the runners who were well beaten. He had wind surgery after than and showed up well last week at Newcastle, held up in a slowly run race, traveling best and not beaten far. He’s another who isn’t badly handicapped but is likely to be poorly positioned here when the race gets going. I’d love to see him tried over 7f in a big field.

Bedouin’s Story

Well beaten in the Buckingham Palace Stakes when fairly well fancied and although this step back up in trip will probably suit he needs to come forward massively for that race, his first since February. He seems suited to speed favouring courses and a slowly run race around here is unlikely to play to his strengths.

Fantasy Believer

Can ruin his chances with slow starts and seems to be in the grip of the handicapper now, on turf at least where he is yet to win a race in twelve attempts. A mile and a good gallop are his conditions and he’ll probably only get one of those here.

The Verdict

Pythagoras isn’t completely ruled out if he gets a good early position but he doesn’t look brilliantly handicapped and is pretty exposed now for a 3yo. Maydanny and Marie’s Diamond could be the main beneficiaries of a pace bias assuming they don’t take each other on (Maydanny might just take a lead from Marie’s Diamond) but neither are consistent enough and both are drawn wide.

Magical Memory will definitely be well placed and represents in form connections and a top jockey. If the ground was likely to be fast he’d be worthy of some support but ground conditions may be slightly against him, even if it continues to dry out it will still be no faster than good and on the dead side.

That leaves Montatham and Acquitted as two who should be close enough to the pace who also have leading form claims. The absence since March is a slight concern for last year’s winner plus I’d have reservations about backing a jockey with a less than 6% strike rate riding a favourite, even if Montatham is a relatively straight forward ride. His handicap form from last season is top notch though.

ACQUITTED is the one I am most interested in here. I’ve been waiting to back this horse at a mile on good ground since his Doncaster run in March and even though his 4lb rise for his latest effort is a little harsh, he still looks well handicapped in the grand scheme of things. He seemed to take well enough to first time tongue tie and blinkers last time out and assuming James Doyle makes the most out of stall 2 by riding him prominently like he did in the Spring Mile (first ride on the horse since then) he should be able to go very close.

Several of those likely to be held up here will be of interest in the near future, particularly Ransom and Beat Le Bon, but it would be a surprise if the patiently ridden runners get into this.

Old Newton Cup 2021 Preview: Make It Aaddeey To Remember

Saturday is one of my favourite days on the racing calendar with the cards at Sandown and Haydock generally looking excellent betting material. This preview will be looking at the Old Newton Cup, one of the best middle distance handicaps of the season. This race will be run at 3.15pm at Haydock over twelve furlongs and this is a race for 4yo+.

The ground looks like it will be drying at Haydock, possibly leaving us on the fast side of good by the off time, although there are some showers forecast during the day. At the time of writing they are expected to remain light.

All of the data used below is available through a Geegeez Gold subscription. Click here to get your first 30 days of Geegeez Gold for just £1.

Draw

A maximum field of seventeen are set to go to post here, with two reserves on standby if there are any early non runners. Is there a draw bias over this trip in big fields at Haydock?

Big fields aren’t the norm over this distance at Haydock so even if we include races with as few as 13 runners we still have a fairly limited sample size. We therefore shouldn’t get too carried away with the data unless seeing some very concrete results.

The overall draw data seems even, looking at the win data, but in small samples this can be misleading. The place percentage data has low and then high favoured over middle but with a smaller sample size we probably want to be concentrating on PRB as each runner is contributing to the data set, not just three or four runners.

The PRB figures for low, middle and high are 0.55, 0.49 and 0.46 which points towards the lower the better, with higher draws definitely having more work to do to get involved.

With a potentially strong draw advantage here, but also a small sample size, we’ll want to check how the individual stall data plays out. Firstly we want to see where a good draw starts to become a bad draw and secondly we need to check how legitimate the data looks in this smaller sample size.

Before we go any further, let’s establish how trustworthy this data is. The top five PRB figures for individual stalls are all 8 or lower, five of the worst six PRB figures belong to stalls 9 or above. This doesn’t look particularly random. If we sort all of this data by PRB3 the best performing nine stalls are the nine lowest drawn, the worst performing eight draws are all those in double figures. This definitely doesn’t look random.

It's not as though higher draws can’t win though. Stalls 15 and 16 have the second and third highest win percentages. Double figured stalls have won seven of the nineteen races examined. Also looking at the place percentages, stalls 16 and 14 have the best scores. A higher draw looks more like a penalty of a few pounds rather than a reason to completely oppose a horse.

Pace

Looking at a similar data sample, hopefully we can identify any possible pace bias for this race.

The win percentage data implies not much difference between front running, racing prominently or racing in mid division, with only being held up a disadvantage. There is some merit to the win data, it’s easier to run into the places against a pace bias than it is to win against a pace bias. However in this sample size the place percentage data is going to prove more reliable.

The place percentages tell us that leading can be most advantageous. Front runners have a place percentage of 28.57%, racing prominently is next best with a place percentage of 23.17% and although it drops again to mid division (19.48%) the runners that are held up perform almost as well as those who race prominently 22.43%. That suggests there isn’t a strong pace bias – yes any horse getting an easy lead is likely to outperform their odds but that goes for any race at any course.

In this particular race the pace setup of the race seems much more likely to cause a pace bias (either way) than the course does.

Old Newton Cup Pace Map

So here is the pace map for this race, compiled nicely for us by Geegeez Gold.

A potentially strong pace here which could compromise the chances of those ridden aggressively and improve the claims of the more patiently ridden runners.

The main pace angles are potentially Grand Bazaar, Lost Eden and Zabeel Champion who have led early on two of their last three runs. Brilliant Light can sit just off the pace but has also led in one of his most recent runs.

The likes of My Frankel and The Trader tend to race prominently and should keep the front runners honest throughout.

Draw and Pace Combination

This part of the draw tab is always worth checking in bigger fields.

Low draws seem to perform well regardless of their run style. There could be a concern about those in mid division from low draws but given those held up perform well from low draws, this could just be a quirk of slightly limited data.

For the horses drawn in the middle stalls it seems a front running ride can be a big advantage. The majority of the early pace in this race is drawn towards the middle so if they don’t go off to fast they are well drawn for that run style.

As for the higher drawn runners, those that race nearer the pace perform much better than those that race nearer the rear. Presumably being held up from a high draw results in them being dropped out and forfeiting too much ground early in the race to recover later in the race.

The Runners

These are the runners for the 2021 Old Newton Cup, in early odds order.

Longsider

A handicap debutant for Sir Mark Prescott. He was pencilled in to have his first run since February in last week’s Northumberland Plate over half a mile further but wasn’t deemed ready for that, connections deciding to get an extra week of work into him before going for this race. A potential early warning sign that he won’t be at his fittest.

His form does stand up though. He beat a nothing field over just an extended mile in January 2020 in easy fashion and improved for the step up to this trip last time out at Lingfield in a novice stakes, after just over a year off on stable debut, having previously raced for David Lanigan. He beat the now 89 rated Raymond by 2.5 lengths that day, giving him 5lbs. You could argue that he ran near a mark of 100+ that day the way he beat Raymond but if you watch the race back, Raymond was better than the bare result and has probably improved since for tackling longer distances. Either way a mark of 92 almost certainly underestimates Longsider.

There are negatives too though. He’s going to be breaking from the widest stall, he’s yet to run on turf (that shouldn’t be a problem though, his sire has a better handicap place strike rate on faster turf than all weather surfaces) and there is that doubt about how fit he is for this as he’s clearly been very difficult to train.

Grand Bazaar

A non runner at Royal Ascot due to soft ground and conditions will be more suitable here. He was steadily progressive last season on better ground and can certainly be forgiven a flop on his last start of 2020 which came over 14f on soft ground. He returned in good form at Newmarket when third, but only beaten a short head and a neck. The two that finished ahead of him both went on to place at Royal Ascot in competitive handicaps and it’s surprising that the handicapper left his mark unchanged after that effort.

He’s drawn okay in stall 8 but the question mark has to be field size. His wins last season were in field sizes of 6, 5 and 4 and his good run this season was in a 5 runner field. He hasn’t had many chances in bigger fields but was beaten in field sizes of 9, 10 and 11 last year and given his running style it stands to reason that he could be better in smaller fields. There is nothing wrong with his handicap mark or his form but whether he can run to that level here is open to question.

Aaddeey

A consistent runner who has had just the six starts. His form on good ground is 2121 whereas his worst two performances have come on soft and heavy. He was an okay 5th at Royal Ascot last time out and if not for the ground being an excuse you could easily argue that the handicapper has him pegged after a 13lb rise for a wide margin win at Newmarket on his previous start. On closer inspection though he could, and should, still be well handicapped.

On seasonal debut at Newbury, he was slowly away and strong at the finish over what now looks an inadequate 10f. He finished runner up in what has turned out to be a very strong handicap. The winner, who was less than a length ahead, is now running off a 13lb higher mark. Next time out Aaddeey won a small field Newmarket handicap by an easy 4.5 lengths so a 13lb rise seems fair, especially when you consider that the runner up won comfortably on his next start. The 3rd home, beaten 9.5 lengths, has finished runner up on both starts since so if anything a 13lb rise for that run looks quite lenient.

Given the ground went against him at Ascot, 5th in a strong race was a decent effort. He looks ready for even further already so a strong pace would help him (he’ll surely be a contender for the Ebor next month) and the only real negative is the draw. Stall 13 isn’t the end of the world but it isn’t ideal either, especially for one that is normally patiently ridden.

Valyrian Steel

A winner on his last two all weather runs at this distance, making his all weather form figures 111. In comparison his turf form figures now read 145. His turf win came against a now 66 rated maiden and he’s been well enough beaten in both turf handicap runs, weak at the finish on both occasions. His turf mark has gone up for winning on the all weather and even his all weather form doesn’t particularly stand up to much scrutiny, the 2nd, 3rd and 4th from his most recent (narrow) win have all been beaten since. Opposable.

Zabeel Champion

Trained by Mark Johnston, who has won three of the last eight renewals of this. Resumed progress this season and has now won five of his last nine starts. He was third last time out at Ascot, ahead of Aaddeey, but with conditions more in his favour. He’s consistent so being nudged up 1lb for his recent place isn’t a concern, it’s just a question of how much improvement does he have left in him after twelve starts? He doesn’t have to lead but will surely be very close to the early gallop and the inclusion of several other front runners in this field could compromise his chance in this, although there is no reason why he can’t run well again.

Midnights Legacy

Took advantage of a race rather falling apart on his most recent run, although he was handicapped to win a race of that nature. He’s four from eight on turf on the flat and has won two out of three here at Haydock, seeming not to stay on his only defeat here when tackling 14f. He’s the sort to continue running well but the winning distance of his last race, which hasn’t worked out, means he’s gone up 8lbs and others now look better handicapped in this.

My Frankel

Unbeaten in two all weather starts but only one from four on turf. He does have some good turf form to his name though. He beat the subsequently 87 rated Naswaary by 1.5 lengths in a Leicester maiden off a long absence and even ran okay in Palace Pier’s Sandown maiden over a trip that would have been far too short.

The key to My Frankel seems to be a fast surface and he hasn’t had that on his last two turf runs which have resulted in distances beaten of 36 lengths and 28 lengths. The ground is unlikely to be rattling quick here so you’d have to have some reservations but he’s capable of running well if transferring his all weather or fast turf form to this contest, for all stall 15 is a concern.

Dark Jedi

Improved by a stone last season after transferring from Charles Hills to Tim Easterby. His wins came at 9f and 10f but he was runner up to Euchen Glen in the Old Borough Cup here on soft ground so there are no question marks at all over stamina. That winner has since rated a stone higher whereas Dark Jedi is only rated 2lbs here so it’s difficult to make a case for him being badly handicapped, especially as he’s completely unexposed at 12f+.

He didn’t make his seasonal debut until a week ago and would need to improve on that run but it’s entirely possible that will have brought him on, with this potentially the plan all season. Even if he has come on for that he appeals more as a place bet than a win bet.

Pablo Escobarr

Highly tried throughout his career and successful at both listed and Group 3 level. He’s only rated 3lbs lower than his highest official rating which probably doesn’t leave him well handicapped, although he did place in a Meydan handicap off a 1lb higher mark on good ground over this distance, but was sent off favourite for that race so still ran slightly below expectations. Hasn’t been at his best on his two runs this season, finding only a little improvement in a first time visor last time out. That headgear is retained and a more truly run race here might suit him better but this requires a career best when he’s not running within a good few pounds of his best form this season.

Win O Clock

Disappointing at Ascot last time out given the ground had seemingly come in his favour, dropping away in the straight. He’s only been dropped 1lb for that run and whilst he is fairly handicapped when there is plenty of juice in the ground, he is almost certainly badly handicapped on fast ground. He’ll probably be well placed in this from stall 4 but that’s the biggest positive and unless they receive lots of rain on Saturday he’s very opposable.

Soto Sizzler

Runner up to Midnights Legacy last time out at Epsom, a course where he tends to run his best races. This looks a much stronger race and although the return to slightly better ground should suit, he’d only appeal against this field if the race was being run at Epsom. On this more traditional course he looks to have place prospects at best.

Brilliant Light

Still relatively lightly raced and has the run style to overcome stall 14. He’s run at trips between 10f and 14f this year, probably best suited by this distance on the balance of his form. He’s dropped 5lbs from his last two runs which still leaves him 6lbs above the rating of 93, off which he was 3rd in Meydan in February. That run was the last time he raced without headgear, which is left off here, and Marco Ghiani’s soon to be dispensed with 3lbs claim is very useful. The odds of around 18/1 probably underestimate his chances but his most recent runs have been disappointing.

Pirate King

Big improver on the all weather over the winter, winning four of his seven races. Hasn’t run since January but was due to run at Royal Ascot until the ground turned soft so shouldn’t be short of work. On his latest run he beat Midnights Legacy who reopposes here on 7lb worse terms so he’s well handicapped and overpriced on that form.

He has only raced on artificial surfaces in ten runs for Charlie Fellowes so it’s difficult to figure out if his improvement has been due to joining that stable or switching to the all weather. He didn’t look well handicapped on turf for Harry Dunlop off much lower marks but didn’t immediately improve when switched to the all weather for Fellowes. In fact his Kempton form doesn’t give him much hope here, all his improvement came at Lingfield. That has to be a concern here off a career high mark.

Scarlet Dragon

Made his move and hit the front far too early when looking for a repeat win of the Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes at Royal Ascot, ending up well beaten in the end. He’s now 3lbs higher than his 2020 Ascot success but he took advantage of some below par performances that day and given his best performances have generally come with plenty of cut in the ground under Hollie Doyle he has work to do here.

Alounak

Formerly smart but has not matched any of his old form since joining Andrew Balding at the start of last season. In fact he’s struggled to beat any runners home in the majority of his races but he has run well on soft ground at the last two Royal meetings at Ascot. He was runner up in the Hardwicke last season and wasn’t beaten too far in the Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes this year. This isn’t soft ground or Ascot though and he’s only dropped 2lbs which gives him ground to make up on the likes of Zabeel Champion and Aaddeey.

The Trader

Not the most consistent but capable on his day. He was well beaten last time out behind Midnights Legacy at Epsom and seemed in the grip of the handicapper on his previous run. Decent ground here will suit but even if he bounces back to his absolute best this is much deeper than anything he’s been competitive in before.

Lost Eden

He's been potentially overlooked slightly in the market here given he was disputing favouritism in the early betting for the handicap won by Midnights Legacy at Epsom. He was withdrawn from that race because the ground turned soft and that was also the reason he became a non runner at Ascot. Better ground here should therefore suit but he doesn’t look particularly well handicapped on what he's shown to date. He won a weak all weather novice in April by 9 lengths which gave the handicapper the unenviable task of giving him a rating. The runner up in that race was a now 66 rated maiden and Lost Eden, although remaining with scope to improve, has done little to suggest he can win this off 96.

The Verdict

There aren’t many at big prices here that make much appeal. Lost Eden is probably overpriced based on the ‘could be anything’ factor but his form doesn’t really back up his mark. Brilliant Light could run well at a price but he’s very risky based on his Royal Ascot reappearance. Dark Jedi could improve on his seasonal reappearance but the bookies have taken no chances with his price given he’s much more likely to run into a place than win.

Longsider is the one with loads of potential. Just a week ago though he was deemed to not be ready enough for the Northumberland Plate and he’s clearly been difficult to train so he is opposable at the price, especially from his car park draw.

Grand Bazaar has good enough form to win this but still has to prove himself in bigger fields and he shouldn’t get an easy lead here.

The best bet in this contest comes down to how much significance you put into the draw data. Zabeel Champion is a pretty safe bet from stall 7. If they don’t go a crazy pace he should be well enough placed, the pace data suggests the lead is the best place here and prominent racers have often done well in this particular race. He ran a rock solid race at Ascot, proving he is as good as ever if not miles ahead of his mark anymore. He's very closely matched with Grand Bazaar on their Newmarket form but Grand Bazaar may be too reliant on small fields.

At a similar sort of price to Zabeel Champion, AADDEEY seems the one capable of rating much higher. He’s still very lightly raced and has only been given one chance at this distance on decent ground and he beat a subsequent winner with limitless ease on that occasion. He’s much higher in the weights here but ran well on the wrong ground last time in a good race. It seems the only things that can probably keep him out of the frame here are a draw bias and a pace bias. He can race in mid division and there should be a good early gallop so the pace bias isn’t too much of a concern, it’s just the draw. With a lower draw he’d rate a confident bet but stall 13 isn’t so terrible that it can rule him out here. Mark Crehan even takes off a useful 3lbs, he’s two from four for the stable when riding single figure priced runners.

Sectional Timing, and How To Use It

Much has been made of sectional timing in the past 18 months or so, including by me, and it can indeed offer great insight into how races were run. But the challenge for publishers, including here at geegeez.co.uk, is to successfully answer the question, "How do I use sectional timing to inform my betting?". That will be the main focus of this article, but before that a spot of revision.

What Are Sectionals? And why should we care?

I recorded this video a little over a year ago and it is actually very good (I wouldn't normally say that about one of my recordings!) in terms of breaking things down. So, if you prefer to watch/listen rather than read, this is for you. If you prefer to read, scroll beneath the video box...

[Hint: if I speak too slowly for you, click the cog icon bottom right and change the playback speed to something more suitable]

 

 

I've written previously in some of my Clock Watcher posts about various terms and concepts related to sectionals, and those can be accessed from here.

The following blog posts are also useful if you want to really understand sectional timing concepts (and I would encourage you to block out a bit of time and work through them). They're here:

Why Sectionals Matter - by Tony Keenan

What Is The Point of Sectional Timing in Horse Racing - by me

An Introduction to Sectional Timing - by Simon Rowlands

Tony's piece is quite high level and a good flavour of the subject; mine is a little lower to the ground but still overview stuff; while Simon's excellent paper is chapter and verse on both the mechanics and some practical applications of sectional data.

**

Understanding Sectional Data Terminology

Let's quickly whizz through some of the key terms and concepts applied to sectional content. First up, what even is a section?

Section

A section is simply a part of a race. A race is a 'section', though given that it is the start-to-finish section it doesn't tell us much about the sub-plots within the narrative. Sections are not quite arbitrary and they can be of varying lengths depending on who/where the intel is coming from.

Here at geegeez.co.uk, we have three different section types: by furlong, call points and OMC.

By furlong, as the name suggests, has a variable number of sections depending on how many furlongs there are in the race; 'call points' breaks a race into five roughly equal chunks; and OMC breaks a race into Opening, Middle and Closing chunks.

Sectionals

Within each section, we can establish the amount of time taken, distance travelled, and position in the race (and lengths behind the leader, or in front), as well as things like stride length and cadence (which are very much for another day).

Once we have, for instance, the sectional time, we can make comparisons: with the same horse in other race sections, with other horses in the race within the same section, and with historical data for races run over the same track and trip.

Sectional percentage

Rather than raw times, e.g. a 12 second furlong, we tend to convert those times into percentages of the overall race time, e.g. the horse completed the five furlong race in 60 seconds and recorded a 12 second furlong in the middle of the race, therefore that sectional percentage was 100% (see image). Do not get unduly hung up on the 'how'!

Finishing speed percentage

Finishing speed percentage is a sectional percentage where the 'to' of the section is the finish. For example, the section might be two furlongs out to the finish. We calculate finishing speed percentage in the same way as we do other sections, and this specific number tells us whether horses were finishing faster or slower than 100%. More pertinently, when compared with 'par', it tells us about the performance against historical standards.

This is important because some courses have, for instance, uphill finishes where the closing section will be slower than it is for level or downhill sections of the same track. Runners in all other races over that course and distance (and indeed other distances at the same course) will have encountered the same topology, allowing for comparisons. [Hopefully that makes sense]

Par

Par in the sectional context is an attempt at defining how much energy (in percentage terms) 'should' be expended in each part of a race based on our understanding of prior truly run races over the same course and distance. What is a truly run race? Good question. It is one where it can reasonably be considered that the leader at each section went close to optimally in terms of efficient use of its energy.

We calculate par not by averages but by a logarithmic scale of race rank percentiles. [Again, these are mechanics, you don't need to know this: I merely share for the more curious!]

In layman's terms, the par percentile in a five-furlong race (where most are truly run, but a fair number are overly fast) will be greater than the par percentile in a mile and a half race, where many more contests are tactical. Specifically, we use the 38th percentile to establish par for five-furlong races at a given track, and the 20th percentile for twelve furlong races.

Par is a line in the sand against which to compare performances in a race.

Enough with the terminology, how do we actually use this stuff?

**

Using Sectionals to Understand the Past, and the Future

As with all form study, sectionals provide historical performance context for today's race: they help us understand what a horse is capable of - and, importantly, what it might have to offer under a slightly more favourable setup/ride. This video outlines some scenarios to mine for and, if you prefer blog posts, beneath the video is a 'words and pictures' version of the same.

 

 

Upgrade figures (UP)

Let's look at some examples, starting with a very obvious one originally flagged in this post.

Punchbowl Flyer came into the Wokingham unbeaten in his previous two races and exited that race having finished no better than eighth of 21. But he was first home on his side of the draw and, crucially for this article, had a solid upgrade figure - see the right hand UP column in the image below.

 

 

The UP column contains sectional upgrade figures calculated based on finishing speed performance against par. A figure greater than five or so implies a horse may have been compromised by the run of the race and may have more to offer next time.

As we can see (in the middle of the image below), Punchbowl Flyer returned to winning ways just a few days later.

 

 

The coloured blobs show how PF raced in the Wokingham based on his time spent in each section: fast (orange), even to fast (yellow), even (green), slow (blue), slower (bluer)! Like many others, though to a greater degree, he went too hard too soon.

The line above the coloured blobs show his 'Future Form': a win at 11/4 in a £10k handicap.

Making a list of upgrade horses is a simple way of highlighting runners who might be ready to win soon.

Here's an example of a little novice sprint at Wolverhampton the other day, where a contested lead meant two horses completely blew each others' prospects:

 

 

Both Beauzon and Sidcot Swallet might be worth another chance if looking like getting an easy lead.

 

Beware the well beaten outsider with a big upgrade figure

Sometimes you'll see a big upgrade against a no-hoper beaten half the track. Remember, the figure is calculating inefficiency, and you'll find a few horses who were ridden inefficiently but who likely would not have been competitive even under an ultra-efficient ride. Here's an example:

 

 

Juriste, a 66/1 shot, was beaten 26 lengths in this 1m6f contest. He might be capable of a lot better but the balance of probabilities is that he's flattered by his upgrade figure of 12. As with all form reading, we still have to make subjective judgements along the way, though most are fairly clear-cut.

 

Big Upgrades in Slowly Run Races

Upgrade figures are NOT speed figures. They are 'inefficiency calculations'. When I was first playing with our UP numbers I tried applying them to a pure speed rating (Topspeed, though that's academic). They didn't really tell me anything, which wasn't a surprise as the two scales (UP and TS) are totally unrelated. But what I did discover, again far from a shock, was that bigger upgrades often occurred when the race was slow early.

That doesn't mean the upgrade figure has less merit; far from it. It is very useful to know, objectively, which horses are capable of producing a notable gear change off a steady gallop if today's race looks like being steadily run.

 

Fast Finishers

A second 'use case' for sectional data, and kind of a subset of the first one in a way, is identifying horses whose finishing effort was a good deal quicker than the race finishing speed as a whole. We call these fast finishers and they can be easily spotted in a couple of ways, one prescriptive and the other user-definable. Let's start with the easy way...

Easy Fast Finishers

We recently introduced a Fast Finishers report, which flags all of today's (and tomorrow's) runners that produced a finishing speed percentage which bettered the race finishing speed percentage by 2.5% or more. It looks a lot like this:

 

 

In this extremely convenient example from yesterday, the top two - based on 'sectional upgrade' (the right hand column, Sec Upg) - were tidy winners, at 3/1 and 5/1 respectively. Coincidentally, they also recorded the two largest finishing speed percentage differentials (FS% Diff). This is not usually the case.

As a side note, FS% Diff is calculated thus: ((Horse FS% / Race FS%) x 100) - 100

Taking the top one: ((105.14 / 98.52) x 100) - 100 =

(1.06719 x 100) - 100 = 106.719 - 100 = 6.719, rounded to 6.72

That's a verbose way of saying it is not Horse FS% - Race FS%!

 

Bespoke Fast Finishers

But what if you want to find your own performances of merit? Maybe you don't like our arbitrary '2.5% greater than race FS%' cut off. Fair enough. Here's what to do.

Open up the first result for a meeting, then select the 'OMC' and 'Sectionals' options. I also tend to have the 'Comments' open, and usually 'Running Lines' as well:

 

 

Remember to turn sectionals ON on your My Geegeez page in the 'Racecard Options' section. Default display option is 'None'.

 

 

OK, with things set up (you only have to do it once), work through the results comparing the race FS% with the runners' FS%'s. Once you find an interesting one, scout the in-running comment (and perhaps the Running Lines as well) to corroborate the numbers. Here's an example from that same Wolverhampton card where a number of beaten horses were compromised by the run of the race:

 

 

We're looking specifically at the percentage figure in the closing sectional block. Here, the race closing sectional/finishing speed percentage (3-0) is 103.3%. See the highlighted block top right.

The UP column reveals both fast and slow finishers: Punchbowl Flyer was an example of a slow finisher (did too much too soon) further up this post; and here we can see that all of Parikarma, Risaalaat, Reclaim Victory and, to a lesser degree, Castle Quarter, had too much to do.

Parikarma, whose FS% here was 106.5%, ran over a flat mile at Leicester a couple of days later and finished in similar fashion. She may win soon, perhaps over a slightly longer trip. Those others are all worth noting in their next couple of starts, assuming their general form credentials also stack up. [That is worth re-stating, though it may be quite obvious to some: a horse must have shown it is capable of competing against today's race conditions - or at least not shown it is incapable of competing - in order for any sectional insight to be useful].

**

Sectional timing is a very useful means of understanding what happened in a race. As bettors, we need to be alive to horses capable of stepping forward in finishing position terms after races where they were to some degree compromised. Here at geegeez, we've tried to make the information as usable as possible via both our Fast Finishers report and our Upgrade figures, and I hope in the above you've been inspired to experiment with this data for yourself. If you're not currently a Gold subscriber, you can join us here.

Good luck,

Matt

 

Monday Musings: Classic Connections

The weekend in Ireland produced another extremely disappointing performance from an Aiden O’Brien Derby favourite, writes Tony Stafford. If anything, High Definition’s sluggish display in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby was in merit terms inferior even to Bolshoi Ballet’s comprehensive defeat at Epsom.

The discovery of a cut to a hind leg immediately after that race gave connections a straw to cling to with Bolshoi Ballet, while on Saturday a stumble through clipping heels after two furlongs apparently unbalanced High Definition with jockey Ryan Moore apparently never able to get him back on an even keel thereafter.

The common denominator in a period when Irish horses have otherwise been wiping the floor with their English-trained counterparts over jumps and on the Flat has been the two Derby wins for Godolphin on horses trained by Charlie Appleby.  Adam Kirby was the unexpected hero in the Cazoo Derby at Epsom but William Buick, only third that day on first string Hurricane Lane, was again in the saddle as that horse put things right at The Curragh.

From the time when his father Walter used to bring him over from Norway, where he was born, while Scots-born Buick senior was the eight times champion jockey in Scandinavia, William always had the mark of a future top jockey.

He used to come along to Newbury racecourse, a tiny lad, and visit the press room where his proud dad brought him and, later on, his two younger brothers, Martin and Andrew. Even years later when he started riding aged 16 as a 7lb claiming apprentice from Andrew Balding’s stable he weighed just about 5st wet through.

Walter took on the job of trying to get him started and initially it proved difficult. Then one day he rode his first winner for Paul D’Arcy, a friend of Walter’s from their riding days before Walter moved to Scandinavia.

That made little difference to the flow of rides and one day Walter asked me whether I could talk to any trainers. William had been enrolled in the Newmarket Jockey School and apparently had made something of an enemy of one of the coaches who found him rather too ready to express his opinions, a tendency that years later cost him a doubling of a suspension when he accused French stewards of being corrupt, a comment he later wisely withdrew.

At the time I was very friendly with Vince Smith and we’d recently arranged for a couple of Raymond Tooth horses to go to him, with excellent results. Vince is no longer a trainer and after surgery for gender transformation, is now known as Victoria Smith.

Vince gave the boy his chance and in the last two months of 2006 he rode the three-year-old handicapper Vacation six times to two wins, two seconds and two thirds, the impetus of which helped get him going. By the end of the year he had clocked up ten wins. Vince continued training for only two more seasons and William rode seven winners from 40 mounts for him with another 13 finishing second or third.

But what I believe was a big step in the making of William was when, as a result of a recommendation by Michael Tabor, William spent the early part of 2007 in the US in the Florida winter base of top US trainer Todd Pletcher. That, rather than run through his claim in egg-and-spoon races on the all-weather, Buick senior agreed, was a better idea and more beneficial for his future.

On that trip, with his dad as chaperone, he was taken under his wing by the great Angel Cordero in his daily track work and returned to the UK a better rider and a much more rounded young man.

While voted the Apprentice of the Year in the Derby awards in both 2017 and 2018 by UK journalists, Buick was actually beaten as champion apprentice the first year by Greg Fairley who had been supported with all the ammunition available from the country’s now winning-most trainer Mark Johnston. Sadly within four years of having maintained a similar level, Fairley found the struggle to deal with maintaining an unnatural weight beyond him.

In 2008 Buick did gain his coveted Champion Apprentice title, although he had to share it with another Andrew Balding rider, geegeez-sponsored David Probert. Within a couple of years he was head-hunted by John Gosden and for four years, during which time he won a first Irish Derby on Jack Hobbs, the pair had spectacular success together.

But the final step on his graduation into the top sphere was being recruited in 2014 by Godolphin with all the winter benefit of winning such races as the Dubai World Cup and its extravagant rewards. That has projected Buick into the same elite jockey grouping as Frankie Dettori and Ryan Moore.

Moore has been the Coolmore number one throughout the same period, succeeding Joseph O’Brien, while Dettori, previously the long-term Godolphin number one, switched back to Gosden on Buick’s departure and duly extended his astonishing longevity with the UK’s top stable, most notably with his association with Enable.

William won the 2018 Derby for Godolphin on Masar and, while he could finish only third behind Adam Kirby, who rode lesser-fancied stablemate Adayar, on Hurricane Lane in the Blue Riband earlier this month, he remained loyal to his mount and was rewarded three weeks later with what was a second victory in the Irish Derby.

It required a top-class ride on Saturday as, going into the final furlong, Dettori, riding the Martin Meade-trained Lone Eagle, had poached a clear lead. With none of the home team looking up to making a challenge the two UK colts had the finish to themselves.

Between the Godolphin pair at Epsom was the Richard Hannon-trained and Amo Racing-owned Mojo Star, still a maiden but he was now strongly fancied to correct that status in this Classic. Unfortunately for connections, when Buick first launched his run down the outside of the field he instigated a touch of general bunching to his inside.

Mojo Star was the worst affected in the scrimmage so, while having no time to recover fully, he did well to finish fifth, just ahead of Irish 2,000 hero, Mac Swiney. Wordsworth, in third, was the best of the Ballydoyle runners but a full five lengths adrift of the first two.

So, with a Classic win, there was a little respite for the town of Newmarket, still shocked by the sudden resignation earlier that day of Matt Hancock from his post as Health Secretary and therefore the most constant face of the Government’s during the Covid-19 crisis of the past 15 months. Hancock is the Member of Parliament for the West Suffolk constituency which includes Newmarket.

The former minister was the subject of a leaked picture, probably taken from a phone camera, showing him snogging a woman that turned out to be his future live-in partner, an action contrary to Covid-19 regulations and a few other considerations too, I would imagine. The break-up of his marriage had been announced just before the departure.

I touch on this simply because he was, or rather is, a fan of horse racing and while the financial situation for owners remains as dire as it has been for many years because of the inadequate prize money levels, the sport certainly needs friends in high places. I don’t suppose he’ll be too much use from the back benches.

I digress. Whereas Adayar was a home-bred, Hurricane Lane, a son of Frankel, was bred by Philippa and Nicholas Cooper’s Normandie Stud in Sussex. I first met the Coopers in the spring of 1998 after Hitman, a decent horse I bought as a yearling and had in training with Henry Cecil along with Peter Mines and a few of his pals under the name of the Paper Boys, was beaten a neck by their horse I’m Proposin at Leicester.

We were all shocked, but Henry, despite Hitman’s having starting the 4-9 favourite after some exceptional homework, was not surprised. “A better horse still needs to be fit to win and Hitman needed the race. When it came to the crucial stage, I’m Proposin <an 8-1 shot that day and winner of his next two races for John Dunlop> was fit, so he won.” A lesson learned from the words of the master! Mainly jumping owners at the time, the Coopers graduated to the Flat before becoming highly-successful commercial breeders.

They reluctantly decided to sell their West Sussex farm in 2017 but continue breeding basing their mares at Coolmore and Newsells Park, the latter of which has changed hands in the past few weeks.  Gale Force, a daughter of Shirocco and, rarely for Philippa, not a home-bred, was sold in a partial dispersal of Normandie’s stock in December 2019 for 300,000gns. That was two months after her son, to be known as Hurricane Lane, went through the same Park Paddocks sale ring for 200,000gns.

Part of the reason for the Coopers’ sale was the tendency for all their retired racehorses to come back to the farm and then live to a great age. Now they are kept at Angmering Park, near Arundel, the home of the late Lady Anne Herries and former training base of William Knight, who moved to Newmarket early last year.

The Classic Year 2021 has thrown a few unexpected barbs at Coolmore with Santa Barbara’s defeats in the 1,000 Guineas and Oaks even though they still won both races. Mother Earth’s victory in the Newmarket race and more emphatically Snowfall’s record-breaking romp at Epsom obviously lessened the blow each time.

Yesterday Santa Barbara, with Aidan O’Brien splitting the difference in the ten-furlong Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes, feature race on the final day of the Derby meeting, went a long way towards restoring her reputation. Initially looking at best booked for third or fourth, she produced a flying finish between horses in the last half furlong under a left-hand drive by Moore and only narrowly failed to catch the more experienced four-year-old, Thundering Nights.

That filly, sent to Belmont Park for her previous run and an excellent second there in a mares’ Grade 2 for Joseph O’Brien, looked likely to win comfortably but Santa Barbara reduced the margin to a neck.

With four three-year-old fillies at Ballydoyle already Classic winners this year, the in-fighting for a place in the Nassau Stakes line-up will be intense but at least Santa Barbara must now be a contender. As Peeping Fawn showed back in 2007, there’s plenty of time to rebuild a reputation. She won four Group 1 races only starting at Goodwood that year.

- TS

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