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Punting Angles Using Sires & Damsires: Part 3

Last month I started a new series of articles looking at sires and damsires, writes Dave Renham. In the first two articles I looked at sires. You can read those here and here. Sires are the fathers of horses and we have seen in those preceding pieces that they have a significant influence on their offspring. In this third part, we will look for the first time at damsires – the sires (fathers) of the dams (mothers) of the respective horses. Or, if you prefer, the grandfather on the female side – sometimes known as maternal grandsires. I have never studied damsire data before so I will be learning new things as we go along, too!

Logic dictates, I suppose, that the influence of damsires is likely to be slightly less than sires simply because they are one step further back in the pedigree chain.

The data which follows is taken from 1st January 2011 through to 31st December 2020 (ten years) and all profit/loss has been calculated to Industry Starting Price. I have used a longer time frame because certain sires who are coming to the end of their stud career will still be influential as a damsire for several more years to come. The vast majority of the data has been sourced using the Geegeez Query Tool.

Firstly let's look purely at damsire data for this 10 year period using a minimum of runs to qualify. I have ordered by strike rate – these are top 50 in terms of strike rate:

 

As with sire data from my first report, it is rare - and almost always coincidental - for individuals to make a blind profit. However, nine of the 50 damsires in the above table are in profit, with the most impressive figures having been delivered by Authorized: he has a decent strike rate of over 15% excellent returns of around 62p in the £, and a strong A/E value of 1.17.

In this next table, I will compare a horse's overall strike rate as a sire compared with his overall strike rate as a damsire. I have always assumed these percentages should correlate fairly well (in other words, be very similar). It should be noted that some strong performing sires such as Frankel have yet to produce any runners as a damsire. Hence most of the horses in this comparison will have more runners in the future as a damsire than they will as a sire:

The 'D/S Ratio' columns are the ratio of the strike rate as a dam sire compared to that as a sire.

The strike rates for most of the horses are similar, as expected – although in general they are even closer than I had personally predicted. This will be useful when sires such as Frankel start having runners as a damsire.

Indeed, both the mean and median D/S Ratios are 1.04: we should have a very good idea of how these horses are going to perform over time.

Record of damsires in 2yo races

Using pedigree as an analysis tool can be especially useful in 2yo races where there is little or no form to go on. Below, then, is a table of the top 25 damsires of 2yos in terms of strike rate between 2011 and 2020 in the UK (minimum runs 150):

 

Once again, only a handful have made a blind profit to SP, and this of course is what one would expect. However, these are the damsires with the best strike rates over time which will still help to guide when analysing individual 2yo races.

For the remainder of the article I would like to drill down into the records of some individual horses in terms of their damsire data.

 

Authorized as a Damsire

Authorized was mentioned earlier as showing excellent profits on all his runners. Digging a little deeper, it is firstly worth noting that Authorized, when he raced, was a Derby winner in 2007 and was voted the European Champion 3yo Colt in the same year. Hence it should come as no surprise that he has become a successful sire and damsire. There are a few interesting damsire stats to share, starting with a comparison of turf performance compared with the all weather as the graph below indicates:

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A difference of around eight percentage points, or nearly 90%. This is also reflected when we look at the respective A/E values, 1.32 vs 0.98:

 

Further, there is an apparently strong bias to male runners compared with female runners, colts and geldings winning 18.5% of races compared with just 8.7% for females.

Finally, there also appears to be a slight distance bias with runners who have Authorized as their damsire. The longer the distance the better, which is perhaps what should be expected of a Derby winner: once we get to 1m3f or more the win percentage increases fairly significantly (see graph below) to 20% from 14% for shorter trips.

Authorized is undoubtedly a damsire we need to keep an eye on in 2021.

 

Shamardal as a Damsire

Shamardal was a top notch performer before getting injured in 2005 after which he was retired. At that point he had raced seven times, winning six, of which four were Group 1 events. As a three-year-old he won at a mile and ten furlongs. As a juvenile, he had been voted the Champion European two-year-old.

His stud career has also been a decent one. As a sire, 62% of all his runners won at least one race in their careers – this percentage is very strong when compared with Frankel’s equivalent figure, which stands only marginally better at 64%.

As a damsire, Shamardal's record has been similar to his record as a sire. Although he died in 2020, as a damsire he will continue to have runners for many years to come. Indeed, in 2020, there were over 650 runs from horses of which he was the damsire.

After delving deeper into Shamardal’s record as a damsire, it is clear that he has been extremely consistent. One area where there may be a slight bias is when we look at the results by age of horse. He topped the 2yo figures earlier, and the graph below breaks this age data down:

 

As can be seen, juveniles of which he has sired the mother have comfortably the best record in terms of strike rate and below is a little more detail on this record, starting with 2yo data down by year:

 

Overall, Sharmadal’s damsire record in relation to two-year-olds has been highly consistent. He also boasts excellent A/E values in this context with seven of the eight years seeing a value of 1.00 or more. As a note of caution, 2019 was a poor year showing a fairly steep level stakes loss, for all that the strike rate remained around the average. Now let us split the 2yo data up to see if any patterns emerge in terms of distance:

His grandchildren have recorded slightly better strikes rate over 5f (21.5%) compared to six (19.3%) and seven (18.8%) but all three are very good; A/E values of 1.16, 1.17 and 1.08 back these up. His grand-progeny have been notably less effective at a mile or more (13.7%) – this seems to stretch the stamina of the 2yos in question.

Moving away from 2yo data and looking at his damsire data as a whole, the runners have a great record from the front. This may not come as a surprise as, when Shamardal was racing, he was a habitual front runner – of his seven career starts he made the running in ALL of them. As a damsire his runners have led in 365 races winning 98 of them – this equates to a strike rate of nearly 27% (roughly 9% above the norm). Indeed, in sprint races of 5 to 6f, the front running strike rate increases to nearly 33%.

 

Galileo as a Damsire

As a racehorse, Galileo won the Derby, the Irish Derby and the King George and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes in the same year (2001) and, overall, won six of his eight career starts. He has a similar record as a sire and a damsire, though slightly more influential in win strike rate terms as the first generation producer.

The first chart below shows performance of his grand-progeny by distance. As can be seen, the record improves as the distance increases:

His damsire record over five and six furlongs is poor with older aged runners – horses aged six or more - having won just three races from 69 over these sprint trips, equating to a loss of nearly 48p in every £1 bet. In fact age does seem a factor across the board. As a damsire his runners perform well at two and three; their strike rate dips at four and five, while aged six or older their performance really starts to drop off:

 

My last Galileo as damsire note relates to horses coming back from a long break, which have an excellent record. Horses returning off a break of six months or more have produced 68 winners from 369 runners (SR 18.48%) for a healthy profit to SP of £211.93 (ROI +57.59%).

 

Intikhab as a Damsire

The final sire I want to look at is Intikhab. On the track back in the late 1990s, Intikhab won eight of his 13 starts including the then Group 2 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot in 1998. As a sire he has been extremely successful, with Snow Fairy the ‘star’ turn: she netted just £4million in prize money from her global exploits.

As a damsire also, Intikhab has some trends worth sharing. First, let's review his annual strike rates. It is important to appreciate that yearly stats can fluctuate:

Five of the ten years have seen strike rates around the 16% mark, whereas 2018 and 2019 were more modest at 10.1% and 11.3% respectively. Overall, though, it is a fairly consistent picture.

In terms of male runners versus female runners, the males have outperformed the females:

The A/E values correlate too as the graph below shows:

 

Focusing on when his grand-offspring were near the head of the market, we can see they were worth following: horses that started in the top three in the betting over the past 10 seasons produced 138 winners from 498 runners (SR 27.71%) for a profit at SP of £95.43 (ROI +19.16%). This is an excellent profit considering they could have boosted further by early prices, BOG or by using the exchanges. Whether this is a robust angle, I'm not so sure, however.

Finally, Intikhab’s runners have performed slightly better on the all weather compared to the turf – on the sand his damsire strike rate has been 16.93% while on the turf it has been notably lower at 12.53%.

*

I have enjoyed this inaugural dig into damsire data and, hopefully, you've noted a few wagering nuggets to take forward. Plenty more research can be undertaken in this area - readers may use Query Tool's 'Damsire' parameter to perform your own analyses - and I look forward to sharing my further findings in the future.

- Dave

 

Monday Musings: Haggas a Dab Hand with Addeybb

On February 6th 1954, two years to the day after her accession to the throne, Her Majesty the Queen, on a Royal visit to Australia, was present at Randwick racecourse, Sydney, to witness the first running of the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, writes Tony Stafford.

Inaugurated by the Australian Jockey Club in 1851 in honour of Queen Victoria, it was staged as the Queens Plate throughout her reign. Later it became the AJC Plate with single-year editions in 1928 and 1934 as the King’s Plate, honouring the present Queen’s grand-father, King George V.

Early on the morning of the funeral of HRH Prince Philip, her husband of 73 years, Englishmen William Haggas (trainer) and Ton Marquand (jockey) fittingly won the 4millionAust$ 2021 Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes with the seven-year-old gelding Addeybb in the colours of Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, youngest and least publicised of the four Maktoum brothers who so transformed UK and world racing.

Like the Queen, Sheikh Ahmed has had a recent family death to endure after Sheikh Hamdan, second in terms of age of the quartet and mastermind of Shadwell Farm, passed away last month in the week leading up to the Dubai World Cup meeting at Meydan.

So, 67 years after that initial running, the QE Stakes is still going strong. In its pre-QE history it was won by many of Australia’s best horses, none more so than the legendary Phar Lap, winner of the Plate in 1930.

That was in the midst of a late-flowering career that brought a sequence of wins (career total 37/51) after a halting start. Sent to race in the US, he started with a track record before dying in agony after what was subsequently identified as a massive dose of arsenic. It is believed that his murder was at the behest of criminal elements worried that Phar Lap would be a threat to the profitability of the Mafia’s illegal bookmakers.

Tulloch, another Australian great, won 36, finished second in 12 and third in four of his 53 starts, with only one unplaced. This despite his being off the track injured for a full two years after his three-year-old campaign. He won the Randwick race in 1958, 1960 and 1961.

Tulloch was the only triple winner since 1954 until along came Winx. The great mare had won her first three races, then went the next seven with only a single victory before embarking on a 33-race unbeaten spree until the end of her career.

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Three consecutive Queen Elizabeth Stakes fell to her spell, the last at 10-1 on as a seven-year-old in 2019 after which she retired having won 37 of 43 starts and, helped by the massive prize of the Sydney race, with world-record earnings and Group 1 wins.

Winx’s retirement left a vacancy in 2020 and William Haggas, who sent down the then six-year-old Addeybb, previously best known as a mudlark, was aiming to fill the void.  Addeybb, another late bloomer, first hit the headlines when winning the Lincoln on his four-year-old reappearance and had won six races and finished second to Magical in the 2019 Champion Stakes before that first Australian jaunt.

On March 21 last year, five days after the first lockdown was announced by Boris Johnson, Tom Marquand was in Sydney to ride Addeybb in the Ranvet Stakes and in the first of four memorable clashes with the two-years-younger Verry Elleegant <what an inelegant name!> beat her by half a length.

Five weeks later – Marquand having been marooned away from partner Hollie Doyle by Covid19 restrictions – he enjoyed a more emphatic defeat of the filly in the QE II.

The relative exploits of the two developing stars between that day and last month again in the Ranvet Stakes where they renewed their rivalry, was stark, largely governed by the need for Haggas to take account of his horse’s tough time away from home base.

He fashioned a minutely-planned three-race home campaign, returning to finish an excellent runner-up to Lord North in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot. He then duly collected the Listed Land Of Burns Stakes at Ayr before winning another big pot, the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot, where he avenged defeats by both Magical and Lord North. A 9-1 shot, he also numbered the Gosdens’ future Middle East money-spinner Mishriff among his victims.

Meanwhile, Verry Elleegant was making hay at home.  After a break she won over a mile in August; was fourth in September and was victorious twice in October over a mile then a mile and a half before stretching out with a creditable seventh in the two-mile Melbourne Cup. Freshened up, the mare was third and then won, both races in February, before lining up for the Ranvet last month.

Fully conditioned, she got the better of a possibly ring-rusty Addeybb, but memorably on Saturday, the Haggas horse gained fulsome revenge. As a gelding and given the trainer’s skill with older horses, he could easily return next year aiming to match the three-time exploits of Tulloch and Winx.

I’ve been remiss in not yet collecting my always-valued copy of Horses In Training as I’ve been nowhere for more than a year and the usual sources either at Cheltenham or from Tindalls In Newmarket High Street have been unavailable.

I do see this morning that I can get it from Amazon at a discounted price of 20 quid so when I finish these words I’ll get a move on. It will be interesting to see the status of the Haggas string which numbered 199 last year. One definite change will be among the stable’s trio of assistant trainers as Harry Eustace is now training in his own right.

He has succeeded his father James, who ended a 30-year stint at the end of last season and his son is sure to have learnt plenty. I believe he (and possibly brother David) spent time in Australia learning his trade as did George Boughey who has been pulling up trees in his early training career.

I know they were house-mates in that hothouse of thrusting young training talent a few years back with George Scott, who was a little in front of his colleagues in his career. Others there included Ed Crisford, who now shares the billing with father Simon and James Ferguson, son of John, former colleague of Simon Crisford for many years in running Sheikh Mohammed’s racing affairs in the UK and Dubai in the winter.

It’s become fashionable for trainers to hand over either joint-, as in the case of John and Thady Gosden, or outright, like Eustace and also the Bethells up in Middleham. Listed as assistant trainer in last year’s HIT, Edward Bethell has taken over seamlessly from father James at the palatial Thorngill Stables just outside Middleham and threatens to take the family fortunes by storm.

He’s already up to the six-winner mark from only 28 runners and the recent victories of Briardale (twice), Grantley and Blu Boy, his by miles and a in a canter, threaten an explosion. There were 30 horses in last year’s Bethell team. I can imagine a flood of new owners wishing to take part in what looks sure to be an exciting project and sending horses to him.

Yesterday, two meetings delayed from Saturday to free up mid-afternoon for The Duke’s funeral made for exciting viewing and Al Aasy promises to be another potential Group 1 horse for the Haggas stable and in the colours of Shadwell Farm. Not a home-bred, Al Aasy easily won the Dubai Duty Free Stakes (the John Porter to you and me)  and will be following in Addeybb’s footsteps no doubt as the season progresses.

Ayr’s Scottish Grand National meeting was one of the last jumping highlights in the UK before the domestic season ends next Saturday at Sandown. Harry Skelton’s inexorable pursuit then rapid-fire passing and drawing clear of Brian Hughes has all but clinched his first title and you have to think that with brother Dan’s fire-power and a greater readiness to take nice outside rides, he could be in for a longish spell in the number one spot. Congratulations to jockey, trainer and of course father Nick whose determination to support his sons was only exceeded by the far-sighted planning to set up their operation.

I would also like to congratulate Ian Williams for a superb training achievement in sending out One More Fleurie to win the highly-competitive novice handicap chase over three miles at Ayr.

Setting off in front, the gelding jumped every one of the 19 fences like an assured veteran, easily kept ahead of his 12 rivals throughout and stretched away for a six-and-a-half-length success with Charlie Todd not having to do much more than steer.

The exhibition was one almost of an automaton so perfect were the parabolas he executed at every fence. He didn’t gain his first career win, off a mark of 105 on his third chasing start, until seven weeks ago. He won twice more, with only a concentration lapse in between at Fakenham spoiling the sequence. This was his fourth success, now off 23lb higher than the initial winning mark.

It is easy to imagine him one day coming back to Ayr for a Scottish Grand National, or with his mix of stamina – he was going away from talented rivals rather than coming back yesterday – and jumping prowess, later on winning a Grand National.

Ian Williams is one of the truly versatile trainers who can win with any type of horse, but One More Fleurie could put him and his young rider deservedly onto a different level.  I reckon he’ll be elevated to somewhere near 138 – those iniquitous handicappers are never very lenient with Ian’s winners – so that means he will probably get in the Ladbroke Handicap Chase <Hennessy> next November. Cloth Cap won it this season off 136, so go on Ian - fill your boots!

Nugget Looks Tasty In Newbury Spring Cup

One of Newbury’s live races on Sunday is their Spring Cup, a big field handicap run over a mile at 3.20pm. This looks an ideal contest to get stuck into from a betting perspective.

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Draw

Let’s take a look at the draw data for the Newbury mile.

There haven’t been a huge amount of big field races here in recent times so it’s difficult to be too confident about a potential draw bias. Looking at races on a variety of going conditions though there seems to be a disadvantage with the higher draws. Yes they have the best win % but PRB uses far more data and the PRB for high draws here is just 0.44, compared to 0.52 for low draws and 0.54 for middle draws.

Looking at individual draw data the five stalls with the best PRB figures are all positioned between stalls 6 and 12 inclusive. That suggests somewhere between low and middle is absolutely ideal. Stalls 16 and above perform worse than any others.

With relatively limited data on offer in such big fields it would be wise to not write anything off completely solely based on the draw.

Looking back at the last time this race was run, in 2019, five of the first six home were drawn in the lowest six stalls and the one high draw who ran well was subsequently proven to be 15lbs well in that day. The year before though, nine of the first ten finishers were drawn in double figure stall numbers.

Pace

Again we have slightly limited data on offer with bigger field sizes so we’ll have to take this with a slight pinch of salt.

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The most telling data with a limited amount of races comes from the place %. Here we see 21.43% of front runners go on to place, 14.42% of prominent racers, 22.77% of the mid division and 18.75% of hold up performers. Overall that’s some very fair data and shows no significant pace bias at all.

Straight course races are often much fairer than races around a bend and any potential draw and/or pace bias could be determined more by where the pace for this individual race is drawn than anything else.

Pace Map

Here is the pace map for the 2021 Spring Mile:

There is plenty of pace on here, across both the lower and higher stalls. There seems to be a bit more pace higher than lower but we’ll probably see more runners end up in the middle of the course and there should certainly be enough pace on both sides to give more patiently ridden runners across the draw something to aim at.

Gin Palace and Bear Force One are also capable of contesting the pace so we could see even more pace from stalls 4 and 16 respectively.

Given the likely pace profile for this field it would be a slightly surprise if something doesn’t come from mid division or further back to take this.

The Runners

A look at some of the main contenders and those at bigger prices who could outrun their odds.

Troll Peninsula

Pulled clear with an odds Godolphin favourite on debut before winning his next two starts. Gave a short head beating and 5lbs to a now 82 rated rival when shedding his maiden tag and was more impressive when stepped up to a mile last time out, winning by 3.5 lengths. It’s difficult to weigh up his form to date given he’s yet to run in a handicap but the fact he has such a progressive profile for Roger Varian suggests he’s going to be operating off a mark much higher than 88 this season.

Danyah

Another lightly raced 4yo with a nice profile. He seemed well suited by softer ground last year and was 4th in the Lincoln a few weeks ago on similar ground to this, seemingly with no excuses. Nothing wrong with that form and entitled to improve again. Probably still well handicapped but would make more appeal with a bit more cut in the ground.

Matthew Flinders

An impressive winner at Doncaster last season and had previously gone close in a warm Sandown handicap. Probably found soft ground against him on his latest start over an extended 10f at York in October and gelded over the winter. First run of the season but yard has had a couple of seasonal debutants come out and win already.

Nugget

Another with a lightly raced profile and an extremely consistent one at that. He wasn’t seen after July last season beating Yes My Boy (who is now 11lbs higher) on his latest run last summer. A 5lb rise probably underestimated him and he emerged in good form last week when a slightly unlucky in running 3rd at Nottingham against two well handicapped rivals. Stable runners have generally been running to form first time out this season so not guaranteed to improve again but may not need to.

Raaeq

Finished just ahead of Matthew Flinders at Sandown last season and now 11lbs worse off at the weights. He was an impressive winner on soft ground over 7f at Ascot in October but paid for that with a 10lb rise. A smart performer but front running tactics over a straight mile might find him out here.

Imperial Command

Not quite as lightly raced as the 4yos ahead of him in the market but since joining Mark Loughnane he's won three from four, undone by a lack of pace and trouble in running on his only defeat. This is a big step up though and all his turf form is on very soft ground so he’s opposable in this.

Johan

Not obviously well handicapped having gone up to a mark of 105 courtesy of an easy victory when getting the run of the race at Chelmsford. Dominating here will be much harder and others are surely now better handicapped. Has won a decent race over course and distance though, albeit off a much lower mark.

Newbolt

Has found some consistency in recent starts and although Southwell form doesn’t appear massively relevant for this, he was beaten a head by Count Of Amazonia at Chelmsford in October and whilst Newbolt is 7lbs higher here, Count Of Amazonia has gone up 19lbs since. He’s won on turf previously and isn’t out of this at all, especially with Laura Pearson taking 5lbs off his back.

Revich

Outran his odds in the Lincoln when 6th and slightly better than the bare result. However this race perhaps has even more depth and he’s unlikely to have the requisite improvement to figure. Look out for him at Chester next month, a course where he has form figures of 1131 at distances of 7f+.

Gin Palace

Not the most consistent but did won off a 2lb lower mark last season and won on seasonal reappearance over course and distance in a race that worked out well. That took his course and distance haul to two wins from two runs. He can lead but doesn’t have to so will probably look to sit prominently here. He’s capable of outrunning his odds given his course record but this is much hotter than anything he’s previously contested.

Verdict

Given the profile of many of those at the head of the market it would be a big surprise if at least two or three of these aren’t still very well handicapped. You’ll probably need a runner that has at least 10lbs in hand of his mark to win this and that probably makes the shortlist consist of Troll Peninsula, Matthew Flinders and Nugget.

The Roger Varian trained Troll Peninsula is the one that could be anything, but the flip side of that is he could be badly handicapped. He’s probably perfectly drawn in stall 8 and this may well be the last time you get to back him off a mark of 88 but his sole turf run came on soft ground so he still has a little to prove.

Matthew Flinders will be suited by the return to better ground but a mile is probably the minimum trip for him and although he should get a nice pace to aim at, any rustiness on his first run of the season could find him out.

NUGGET seems to be the solid each way in the field. He beat a good field on Doncaster’s straight mile last June before probably not staying 10f on his next start. He then finished a narrow 2nd at Windsor off a 5lb lower mark in a race where the 3rd won two of his next three. He had several future winners in behind when winning at Newmarket and there was absolutely nothing wrong with his Nottingham reappearance where he was squeezed out with half a furlong to go when challenging two horses that would be amongst the favourites for this contest. If stall 2 isn’t a hinderance he should at least finish in the places in what looks a really hot contest that should throw up future winners.

Sun TV Trends: 18th April 2021

The normal Saturday action has been switched to Sunday because of the funeral of Prince Philip - therefore, a busy day for the ITV cameras, but something for everyone as they head to Newbury’s first flat meeting of the season, while they are also up at Ayr to cover their Scottish Grand National card.

As always, here at GeeGeez.co.uk we've got all the key trends and stats for the LIVE ITV races.

 

NEWBURY HORSE RACING TRENDS (RacingTV/ITV)


2.10 –
Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise Stakes (Registered As The John Porter Stakes) (Group 3) Cl1 1m4f5y ITV

17/17 – Aged 6 or younger
17/17 – Had won over 1m4f (or further) before
17/17 – Priced 11/1 or shorter in the betting
16/17 – Had won between 2-5 times before
15/17 – Placed in the top 5 last time out
14/17 – Having their first run of the season
13/17 – Aged 4 or 5 years-old
12/17 – Came from the top 3 in the betting
11/17 – Winning distance – 1 length or less
11/17 – Had raced at Newbury before
11/17 – Had won a Listed or better class race before
8/17 – Drawn 6 or higher
8/17 – Had won a Group race before
5/17 – Raced at Newbury last time out
4/17 – Won last time out
4/17 – Trained by Sir Michael Stoute
4/17 – Winning favourites
The average winning SP in the last 9 years is 5/1
Note: The 2016 renewal was staged at Chelmsford

 

2.45 – Dubai Duty Free Stakes (Registered As The Fred Darling Stakes) (Group 3) (Fillies) Cl1 7f ITV

15/17 – Had won over 6f or 7f before
15/17 – Finished in the top three last time out
15/17 – Had won between 1-2 times before
14/17 – Having their first run of the season
13/17 – Returned 7/1 or shorter in the betting
13/17 – Drawn 5 or higher
12/17 – Came from the top three in the betting
9/17 – Raced at Newmarket last time out
9/17 – Had won over 7f before
8/17 – Won last time out
6/17 – Had won at Newbury before
5/17 – Had won at Listed or Group class before
4/17 – Trained by Ralph Beckett
4/17 – Winning favourites
4/17 – Trained by Mick Channon
2/17 – Ridden by Jim Crowley
2/17 – Trained by the Hannon stable
The average winning SP in the last 9 runnings is 11/2
Note: The 2016 renewal was staged at Chelmsford

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3.20 – Watership Down Stud Too Darn Hot Greenham Stakes (Group 3) (Colts & Geldings) Cl1 7f ITV

16/17 – Priced 8/1 or shorter in the betting
15/17 – Had won at either 6f or 7f before
15/17 – Having their first run of the season
14/17 – Won at Listed class or better before
13/17 – Came from the top 3 in the betting
13/17 – Placed favourites
13/17 – Won between 2-4 times before
12/17 – Finished in the top two last time out
11/17 – Winning distance – 1 length or more
9/17 – Won last time out
9/17 – Had won a Group race before
8/17 – Had won over 7f before
8/17 – Had won a race at Newbury before
7/17 – Winning favourites
6/17 – Raced at Newmarket last time out
5/17 – Trained by the Richard Hannon yard
2/17 – Irish-trained
2/17 – Winners from stall 1
The average winning SP in the last 9 runnings is 7/2
Note: The 2016 renewal was staged at Chelmsford

 

3.55 – MansionBet Spring Cup (Handicap) Cl2 1m ITV

17/17 – Winning distance – 2 lengths or less
17/17 – Won no more than 4 times before (flat)
16/17 – Aged 6 or younger
14/17 – Aged 4 or 5 years-old
14/17 – Won over at least 1m before
14/17 – Won between 2-4 times before (flat)
13/17 – Rated between 85-98
13/17 – Drawn in a double-figure stall
11/17 – Unplaced last time out
10/17 – Carried 8-12 or less
9/17 – Raced within the last 4 weeks
9/17 – Unplaced favourites
8/17 – Returned a double-figure price in the betting
8/17 – Came from outside the top 3 in the betting
8/17 – Had run at Newbury before
3/17 – Trained by Richard Fahey
3/17 – Winning favourites (2 joint)
3/17 – Ridden by Frankie Dettori (2 of last 5)
2/17 – Ridden by Jamie Spencer (2 of last 6)
1/17 – Won last time out
The average winning SP in the last 9 runnings is 9/1

Note: The 2016 renewal was staged at Chelmsford

 


AYR HORSE RACING TRENDS (RacingTV/ITV)

 

1.15 – Scotty Brand Handicap Chase (Listed Race) Cl1 2m ITV

15/16 – Aged 9 or younger
15/16 – Had won over at least 2m (chase) before
14/16 – Returned 7/1 or shorter in the betting
14/16 – Had won between 2-4 times (chase) before
14/16 – Had raced within the last 5 weeks
12/16 – Rated between 127-139
11/16 – Carried 10-12 or less in weight
11/16 – Finished in the top four last time out
11/16 – Aged 8 or 9 years-old
11/16 – Came from the top 3 in the betting
10/16 – French bred
10/16 – Favourites to finish in the top 3
8/16 – Had run at Ayr before
4/16 – Ran at Aintree last time out
4/16 – Winning favourites
3/16 – Trained by Nicky Henderson (including 2 of the last 3 years)
2/16 – Won last time out
Theinval won this race in 2018
Duke Of Navan won the race in 2015
The average winning SP in the last 10 runnings is 13/2

 

1.50 – CPMS Novices’ Champion Handicap Chase Cl2 (5yo+) 3m ITV 


9/9 – Aged 9 or younger
9/9 – No more than 3 chase wins
8/9 – French (3) or Irish (5) bred
7/9 – Aged 6 or 7 years-old
7/9 – Ran in the last 6 weeks
7/9 – Finished in the top 4 last time out
6/9 – Returned 6/1 or shorter in the betting
6/9 – Carried 11-0 or more in weight
6/9 – Won over at least 3m before (fences)
3/9 – Won last time out
3/9 – Had run at the track before
2/9 – Winning favourites
The average winning SP in the last 9 runnings is 15/2

 

2.25 – Coral Scottish Champion Hurdle (A Limited Handicap) (Grade 2) Cl2 2m ITV

17/17 – Won over at least 2m (hurdles) before
15/17 – Had raced within the last 5 weeks
14/17 – Carried 10-13 or less
14/17 – Favourites that finished in the top 3
14/17 – Aged 7 or younger
13/17 – Had won between 2-4 times over hurdles before
12/17 – Returned 17/2 or shorter in the betting
12/17 – Rated 137 or higher
10/17 – Came from outside the top 3 in the betting
10/17 – Finished unplaced last time out
9/17 – Had won between 2-3 times over hurdles before
8/17 – Irish bred
5/17 – Won last time out
5/17 – Ran at Aintree last time out
4/17 – Winning favourites (joint)
3/17 – Trained by Philip Hobbs
1/17 – Irish-trained winners
4 of the last 7 winners were ridden by a claiming jockey
The average winning SP in the last 9 runnings is 10/1

 

3.00 – Jordan Electrics Ltd Future Champion Novices´ Chase Grade 2 Cl1 2m4f110y ITV

17/17 – Priced 8/1 or shorter in the betting
17/17 – Had raced within the last 6 weeks
16/17 – Aged 8 or younger
16/17 – Had won between 1-3 times over fences before
16/17 – Priced 11/2 or shorter in the betting
15/17 – Came from the top 3 in the betting
11/17 – Placed favourites
10/17 – Finished in the top 2 last time out
9/17 – Had raced within the last 2 weeks
8/17 – Aged 5 or 6 years-old
6/17 – Raced at Aintree last time out
6/17 – Raced at Cheltenham last time out
5/17 – Had raced at Ayr before
5/17 – Won last time out
5/17 – Winning favourite (1 joint)
5/17 – Trained by Paul Nicholls
2/17 – Trained by Nicky Henderson
2/17 – Trained by Nicky Richards
The average winning SP in the last 10 runnings is 7/2


3.35 – Coral Scottish Grand National Handicap Chase (Grade 3) Cl1 4m110y ITV

17/17 – Last ran 57 days or less ago
15/17 – Finished in the top 6 last time out
15/17 – Aged 8 or older
14/17 – French or Irish bred
13/17 – Carried 10-9 or less
13/17 – Returned a double-figure price in the betting
13/17 – Fallen or unseated no more than once during their careers
12/17 – Finished in the first three last time out
12/17 – Aged between 8-10 years-old
11/17 – Had won over 3m1f or further
11/17 – Last raced between 30-57 days ago
10/17 – Came from the first 7 in the betting market
7/17 – Won (fences) at Ayr before
6/17 – Won last time out
5/17 – Had won over 3m7f or further before
3/17 – Returned 15/2 in the betting
2/17 – Ran in the Grimthorpe Chase (Doncaster) last time out
2/17 – Trained by Paul Nicholls (2 of last 4 winners)
1/17 – Winning favourites
2 of the last 8 winners were won by a previous winner of the race
The average winning SP in the last 17 runnings is 21/1

Trainer Profiles: Keith Dalgleish

With the 2020/21 National Hunt winter season on its final lap, focus switches to the start of the flat turf campaign, writes Jon Shenton. It’s my favourite time of the racing calendar, I love the initially unfamiliar optics of watching flat horses on turf for the first fortnight or so of April before settling down into the drumbeat of the campaign. With the original lockdown commencing in March 2020 and the subsequent hiatus of racing I’m determined to enjoy this period more than ever!

This edition is going to focus on a trainer whose predominant efforts are on the level. He was stable jockey to the ubiquitous Mark Johnston, notching nearly 300 wins before retiring from the saddle at 21 after struggling to maintain a jockey’s weight, primarily due to being a hungry six-footer. I am of course referring to Keith Dalgleish. Based in Carluke in South Lanarkshire it’s another (accidental) focus on a yard operating in northern climes.

Dalgleish is a serious proposition under all race codes; however, to keep with the season, this article will concentrate on his flat turf runners. With c.4000 runners on the level since 2011 (the usual date used as a starting point in this series) there is plenty to get stuck into. For clarity, no data from the embryonic 2021 season is included in this piece; so that’s ten years, 2011 to 2020.

Keith Dalgleish Market Overview

We start, as has become customary, with performance by Starting Price.

 

There is a definite concentration of strong performance at the sharper end of the market, as indicated by the greener bandings. Immediately, through a quick scan of the table it appears as though horses sent off at 4/1 or shorter fare marginally better than break-even across the board.

The graph above illustrates how Dalgleish entries are outperforming their peers consistently for the price bandings up to 4/1.

This isn’t at the cost of higher priced runner performance, however. The orange line almost perfectly follows the market average (blue) data through prices up to 20/1. The orange spike in the 22/1 to 40/1 category suggests an occasional propensity for a lively outsider, too. Dalgleish is a trainer who generally outperforms the market across all prices (super short prices notwithstanding, where there are limited data). However, if the money is down his is a team about which to sit up and take notice.

This is helpful to know, not only in deciding whether to back Dalgleish entrants, but also when fancying a runner from another yard that is taking on a warm Dalgleish runner.

Briefly zooming in on the 4/1 and shorter cohort, those who have read a few of my musings over the past couple of years will know that I’m partial to differentiating potential angles by last time out performance. I especially monitor and check for trainers for where a “bad” last run bears limited indication of the likely outcome of a horses chance this time. Analysing the Dalgleish shorties in this way is a case in point.

 

The strike rates are marginally stronger for those that failed to place on their last track and, more notably, SP performance is also clearly enhanced for that same cohort: this is a demonstration of how market forces can pull a price to being a value proposition where there isn’t the comfort blanket of a good run last time.

Having highlighted the most fancied runners from the yard, for the rest of the article I’m going to use 14/1 as a price cut-off, at least initially. As yard performance is more than reasonable across the larger price bands there may also be value to be attained there.

 

Keith Dalgleish by Flat Turf Race Type

Sifting through the numerous flavours of flat racing in relation to Dalgleish offers several strong pointers for potential onward utilisation. The table below displays the groupings as per horseracebase classification.

 

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Before proceeding, ideally some of the groupings requires further explanation (for example non-handicap is a mix of Group, listed and conditions stakes) but given the data volumes I’m going to bypass.

There are two interesting immediate takeaways from this data. Firstly, performance in nursery handicaps is very obviously in the lower tier by comparison to the other race types for this yard. However, conversely, Maiden and Novice performance is excellent. A simple hypothesis is that the Dalgleish team must broadly focus on getting horses ready early in their careers, resulting in potentially penal marks for their initial forays into the handicapping ranks.

For those with longish memories, you may recall that my very first article for Geegeez was based on Mark Johnston. That was written in August 2018, where does the time go? Here it is for posterity and perhaps a few still useful pointers.

Despite a reticence to review my first baby steps into writing, I include it as there is a clear focus of MJ on the same type of races, namely maidens and novices (with a par record at best in nursery races, too). Circumstantial evidence perhaps, but evidence nonetheless that the former apprentice has learned from the master of Middleham.

Delving further into these races by analysing the number of previous career runs the horse has experienced paints a picture worth committing to memory.

 

Whilst debutants have a fair to middling record for Dalgleish, with roughly one-in-nine prevailing and a third placing, the record in relation to a horse’s next venture to the course (one previous career run) appears to be on the essential items list. These horses, certainly in data terms, appear to make a huge leap forward from their racecourse bows. That win rate improves by nearly three times, with comfortably over half hitting the frame.

Rummaging in the long grass, the record at Ayr of second time Dalgleish starters is 8-from-19. However, nothing materially bends the general assertion that a Dalgleish second time out animal is worth forensic examination irrespective of circumstance.

I thought it would be a fascinating exercise to evaluate these runners from the last couple of turf seasons a little more thoroughly, the rationale being an attempt to assess the improvement (or otherwise) of these runners between debut and second runs. Accordingly, this little beauty / monstrosity (!) below was constructed painstakingly one Sunday morning. It’s a good idea to locate your sunglasses before your eyes scroll downwards!

For the record, I’ve included all horses that started at 16/1 or shorter in terms of price within this section.

 

Essentially, this table shows every second time out runner (on turf) from the stable from the 2019 and 2020 campaigns. I hope it’s reasonably straightforward to follow but the basis of the info is a simple comparison between the RPR’s recorded for each horse’s first two visits to the track. They are recorded in columns RPR1 and RPR2. The victorious animals on their second run are marked in bright yellow, horses finishing in the top three are indicated by a rather more subdued hue of the same colour. Fourth, or worse are in plain old white.

The graph below shows the same data in terms of the variance between the first and second run in terms of RPR. The numbers along the bottom axis equate to the ‘No.’ column on the table above.

 

It is clear that in general there is a significant level of improvement between first and second run. Of course, this would be expected of most trainers as a horse will learn from its first day at big school but based on these results the implication is that Dalgleish is better than most.

Interpreting this further isn’t straightforward, and no doubt your views are equally as valid as mine but here are a couple of my own key takeaways.

  1. If a Dalgleish horse runs well on debut, it seldom regresses on its next run. Every horse that finished in the first three on debut attained at least as good a position on their next start.
  1. If a horse has a moderate (or poor) run on debut there is an incredibly good chance that there will be significant improvement next time. The bottom four in terms of debut RPR performance all upped their game (in terms of RPR, numbers 21-24 in the table/graph above) next time, with Tatsthewaytodoit and One Bite improving by over 30.

This is a good example of where data can be a trusty friend and support an ostensibly more daring approach to punting, giving confidence to sometimes overlook the market view. After all, it only requires one or two days in the sun to glean a profitable edge. Having backed some of these myself, I can attest that early prices are also significantly more attractive usually. I’d advise (especially if you’re a BOG recipient) that getting on early is a good idea. The danger of doing this is that you may end up backing genuine no-hoper material, but the upside more than accommodates that.

To solidify confidence in these data,  I thought it worthwhile to check the entire period back to 2011 in terms of evaluating how horses performed on their second run based on how far they were beaten on debut. The info is quite surprising, but reassuringly useful.

 

This attempt at an infographic (lol) illustrates how far the horses were beaten on their first run, with the info in the boxes demonstrating performance on their second outing. It doesn’t seem to matter one jot by how far the yard’s runners are seemingly outclassed, they come back brighter next time. As you might expect, the aforementioned punting boldness has been historically well rewarded, particularly where the horse dropped out of the back of the TV on debut; indeed, arguably the further the better based on this info, with an A/E of 1.97 from 59 runs, 16 winners and an ROI of 80%.

Keith Dalgleish in Nursery Handicaps

These races represent the two-year-old division of weight for ability, that age group’s initial foray into the cut and thrust of handicap racing. They are the natural next stop for most horses after two or three runs in maiden or novice company.

As previously noted, Dalgleish’s record in such races pales in comparison to his performance in other categories.

 

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that searching for potential value is a lost cause: the devil, as always, is in the detail.

 

The above table denotes clearly that there is some potential in a Dalgleish first time ‘capper within this division. If a price filter of 7/1 or shorter is applied (convenient, no doubt) then the record of the yard is 11/42 with a 61% ROI. Basically, there have been no first-time handicapping nursery winners at 15/2 or greater from 25 darts. That may not be earth-shattering intel, but it is a demonstration that writing off a yard based on a macro level data set is not always the right thing to do.

 

Keith Dalgleish: General Handicapping

Soldiering on with the progression through a typical lifecycle of a racehorse into the general ranks of handicapping, the below insight demonstrates the yard’s performance by age of animal.

 

Immediately, the eye is drawn to the record of three-year olds in comparison to the rest of the age groupings. By all measures this cohort outperform their other younger or older counterparts. In fact, historically by backing all three-year-old handicap runners from the yard a tiny profit would have been attained. That’s borderline remarkable considering it encompasses 790 runners.

Evaluating three-year-old handicap performance by race class provides further insight.

 

Evidently, the numbers for basement Class 6 racing are a fair way below the more progressive grades. I have referred to this subject previously, my view being that with the lowest class racing there is generally nowhere else to go with such moderate animals. Some yards have proportionately more of these than others and, whilst some teams have learned to farm such contests efficiently, others run in them with plenty of no-hopers as there simply are no lower grade alternatives. Whilst Dalgleish has a perfectly respectable strike rate of 13% at the Class 6 level I would not be interested from an angle point of view.

Ignoring the C6’s, there are 103 wins from 537 runners in the five higher bands, returning 15% to SP with an A/E of 1.17. That’s not too shabby at all. If I were constructing a “backing blind angle”, I’d probably advise playing only when a single figure price is available. Horses between 10/1 and 14/1 inclusive are 9/132 and result in a 10% loss.

 

Keith Dalgleish by Course

I’m not going to delve too deeply into track data as there is seemingly little to get excited about. Unsurprisingly, Team Dalgleish trains a keen focus on runners in Scotland with generally competitive numbers, the vast majority of their flat runners appearing at Ayr, Hamilton or Musselburgh.

 

A similar perspective exists for Trainer / Jockey combinations, too, and I’m going to bypass analysis of that this time, especially as the recently retired from the saddle Phil Makin claimed the lion’s share of rides.

As usual, I hope you’ve gained a better understanding of a specific yard by reading this trainer profile. I’m particularly looking forward to tracking those second time outers. More generally speaking, allow me to wish you good luck and fingers crossed for a productive summer for all of us.

Monday Musings: In Threes They Come…

They say disasters come in threes, writes Tony Stafford. The same is true where things we thought would never happen do actually occur. In four short days early in April, Prince Philip was no longer with us; a woman rode the winner of the Grand National, and a Japanese golfer became the first to win a major championship.

Having spent 73 years married to the Queen, Prince Philip was so much a fabric of our lives that it was a real shock when he did not make the century, unlike his mother-in-law Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother who died in her 102nd year on March 30 2002.

On Friday morning I was stuck in a traffic jam having undertaken a routine 30-minute round trip to buy some hard-to-find organic dog food for our delicate and elderly Yorkshire terrier. As I emerged on the south side of Blackwall TunneI, I noticed a police car blocking the northern approach.

Three hours later, having missed the first three races on the second day of the Aintree meeting, I had undertaken a near 50-mile diversion to avoid the resultant gridlock. For all that time, after switching on the car radio and hearing of Prince Philip’s passing, I learnt lots I hadn’t known about him in Radio 4’s blanket coverage. How fortunate that the future Queen as a very young girl could discern the qualities which clearly entranced her on their initial meeting at Dartmouth Naval College more than 80 years ago.

Both descendants of Queen Victoria, who also made it to her 80’s despite being a carrier of the recessive gene haemophilia – none of the existing generations is afflicted happily - their marriage has been the one constant in a world increasingly subject to the potential horrors of social media and the like. Things may never seem to be the same again.

That’s true too of life after Covid. Today, on my late father’s 101st birthday, shops can again open in the UK in the midst of a week’s mourning for the Royal family. Hopefully we can start to go racing – I resolved not to until the ravages of the disease had been beaten. It seems it almost has been and on Thursday my second helping of the Astra Zeneca will either kill (if you believe the Euro politicians) or fully protect me.

Missing Aintree didn’t prevent us celebrating the continued rise of the remarkable Rachael Blackmore. It’s not a surname you hear very often although John Blackmore was in my first primary school class. He was well enough behaved and from memory quite a jovial chap. That was unlike Johnny Robinson who was only in the reception class of Amherst Primary School for one day. He was so disruptive that halfway through the afternoon he was tied to a chair. We never saw him again, nor was anyone else in need ever of similar constraint.

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Amherst was the third Christian name of Sir Henry Cecil whose father was the younger brother of the third Baron Amherst of Hackney. It was my pleasure to know him well enough to ask him to write a foreword for one of my few “proper” books, all three of which my elder daughter presented me with (two to return) when I made a first visit to her house for more than a year recently. I was especially pleased to be reminded of Frankie Dettori’s Year In The Life, ghosted before and amended after that seven-out-of-seven at Ascot.

The Cecil-embellished volume was a second go at the earlier Little Black Racing Book, foreword by Lester Piggott. The idea for that was spawned by Collins Willow’s commissioning editor, Michael Doggart, as a racing stable-companion to the Little Red Book, a best-selling and much-admired volume by Harvey Penick, the great American golf coach.

His most celebrated student at university in Austin, Texas, was Ben Crenshaw. When Penick died in 1995 after a long illness, Crenshaw was one of the pall-bearers.

The following day he started his Masters quest, and as Ben later confessed, he was guided to success in that Major championship by Penick’s memory. His triumph will no doubt have made only a ripple in the sporting lexicon of the 1990’s in comparison with what will happen back home in Japan after Hideki Matsuyama held on by a stroke on Sunday night in Augusta.

That event came just 30 hours after what for most of our lives we’ve believed would never happen.  In 1977 Charlotte Brew, riding Barony Fort, got as far as the 27th fence before her horse was pulled up. In those days Aintree was much more fearsome and the fact she could negotiate 26 of the fences should have prepared us for a future female winner. Forty-four years on we have one.

The first of a series of Flat races in which women could ride came five years earlier than Barony Fort, at Kempton Park, when Scorched Earth ridden by Miss Meriel Tufnell won, the first of three victories in a 12-race sponsored-by-Goya series which brought her the title. Sadly she died from cancer aged 53. Charlotte Brew, who watched Rachael’s victory at home in the West Country with her three daughters, is now 65 years old and confessed to a tear or two as she watched Minella Times’ triumph.

As with momentous events happening in triplicate, Rachael Blackmore’s achievement at Aintree, coming hard on her domination and champion jockey award at the recent Cheltenham Festival, was the first of three memorable female rides within an hour on Saturday.

The third of them came in the concluding bumper at Aintree where Megan Nicholls, riding her father’s Knappers Hill, was involved in a drawn-out battle in the last furlong with jumps championship contender Harry Skelton and lost nothing in comparison with him or with Paddy Brennan on the fast-finishing second.

Indeed her strength in the finish was notable as she gained a sixth bumper win of the year for her father from only 15 rides. Considering she has ridden on the Flat in the last year at 8st 1lb, to lug the saddle with around three stone of lead back to scale with her horse carrying 11st 4lb was a feat of strength in itself!

Before turning to riding on the Flat, which at the time when she was only 16, her father described as “getting it out of her system”, she had ridden one earlier bumper winner but none more until this term. Instead she has won 96 races on the Flat, based in the north, so, far from merely getting it out of her system, she has become very accomplished. Also at the age of 23 she has shown herself to be a talented broadcaster when given the chance, usually as the expert analyst at jumps meetings close to the Nicholls stable.

The middle winner of the three had already long weighed in by the time Megan went to post. Every day I do a line for FromTheStables.com, and pass on the thoughts of a dozen or so trainers, including Micky Hammond, to the members.

Micky had four runners at Newcastle on Saturday but clearly best liked the chance of Ballycrystal in the finale. Becky Smith, one of the leading female amateurs under both Flat and NH Rules, had been starved of action during the ban on amateurs and point-to-point racing. Now the younger sister of Gemma Hogg, Hammond’s assistant trainer, is raring to go and is quickly at full flow.

After talking to Micky, I looked up Ballycrystal’s form. When trained by Brian Ellison, on Nov 23 2018 he had carried the same weight (rated 125) as the favourite and eventual winner in a 3m1f chase at Catterick. He was well beaten in fifth place but now, fancied after a decent run in a jumpers’ bumper at the track in February, was running in a handicap hurdle off a mark of 93, 32lb lower.

Fifteen minutes before the scheduled start of the Newcastle race, Cloth Cap, the horse that beat him at Catterick, was lining up as the favourite for the Grand National, 14lb well-in after winning at Kelso. If the two old rivals were to meet next weekend, Ballycrystal would be 69lb (so almost five stone) better off!

Becky expertly guided Ballycrystal (18-1 to 8’s) to a facile win in his handicap hurdle race, while Cloth Cap was pulled up after being in the first two for much of the marathon journey. I texted Micky later: “On the way they ran today, it might have been close between them at levels!” He’s looking up to see if he can find a race where he can take him on again!

Grand National 2021 Preview, Tips and Runner By Runner Guide

What race is there to cover this weekend other than the Aintree Grand National, which will be run at 5.15pm and shown on ITV.

Once again I’ll be using Geegeez Gold to highlight some of the best angles into the race. Don’t forget that you can get your first 30 days of Geegeez Gold access for just £1.

This is the race of the year for trends fans and they are a great way of narrowing down this massive field. Andy Newton has already done the hard work for you if you are after Grand National trends, click here to visit his brilliant Grand National trends blog.

Pace

Making up ground isn’t easy on this course despite the runners having more than four miles to do so. In such a big field hold up performers can not only find themselves some way off the early lead, they also run more of a risk of having their rivals fall just in front of them. Those that are closer to the pace are far less likely to have to dodge fallen horses or unseated riders.

Let’s see what the data says about this race:

Aintree Grand National Pace Bias

Historic pace bias in the Grand National

It’s important to first acknowledge we only have limited data here. This is the only race each year run here over this distance and I’ve excluded heavy ground renewals as they come with their own micro pace biases.

The place data is the most telling here as this gives us the most data for the time period and the place percentages suggest a fairly strong bias towards those who race prominently. A very decent 20.48% of prominent runners place in the Grand National and that would probably be a lot more impressive if the data included 5+ places that you often get with the bookies.

Comparably, mid division is next best with an 11.29% place ratio, followed by front runners who have a 9.09% place strike rate and then there are the hold up performers who have a shocking place percentage of just 2.74%.

We can’t always tell exactly which runners are likely to be dropped out in the rear. It doesn’t take a drastically different ride to see a hold up performer to race in mid division for example. However it’s pretty clear that those who tend to race towards the rear and/or can be outpaced early on are not the ones to be with here.

Grand National 2021 Pace Map

A huge amount of runners makes constructing a pace map difficult, unless of course you have a Geegeez Gold subscription.

Grand National 2021 Pace Map

Grand National 2021 pace map based on the last two runs of each entrant.

We should have at least three runners happy to contest the early lead, including hot favourite Cloth Cap. Over this test they aren’t going to be taking each other on for the lead though, we’ll most likely just see all three disputing the early pace at a sensible gallop.

The runners you’d be most concerned about are those bottom nine contenders who all seem most likely to be dropped in at the rear. Recent history suggests they’ll have to be very good to win from there, or even place.

Instant Expert

Instant Expert should be able to highlight the runners who are more proven in conditions than others. The flip side of this is that those who are most proven are probably going to be amongst the most exposed runners but at the very least we can highlight some each way bets with Instant Expert.

Instant Expert showing win data for the 2021 Grand National field

Instant Expert showing place data for the 2021 Grand National field

You’ll find the win and place data above, win data first. A strong Grand National trend is the requirement to have won over at least 3m and to have placed over at least 3m4f so those two distances have been used for the win Instant Expert and place Instant Expert respectively. Both tables have been sorted by distance strike rate.

It’s worth noting that fifteen of these (including reserves) have so far never won on good or good to soft ground. Those runners include the well fancied Kimberlite Candy. Farclas and Cloth Cap are amongst the most consistent placers on this sort of ground, with Burrows Saint also up there but from only one try.

Nine runners that are guaranteed to make the final field have never won over 3m or further so it may be best to put a line through those. Burrows Saint, who is amongst the favourites, has the best win strike rate (67%) at 3m+. Eleven runners have a 33% win strike rate or better at 3m+ and that figure will drop to nine if the reserves don’t get in.

A whopping twenty seven of these, including the reserves, have never placed over 3m4f before which could be a convenient way of ruling out over half of the field. Yala Enki stands out as a runner that is consistently good over marathon trips with eight places from nine attempts over 3m4f+. Lord Du Mesnil and Potters Corner also bring a good place strike rate at marathon trips into this from more than one run so you’d fancy them to stay the trip at the very least.

With such a big field here form in 16+ runner races could be even more important than usual. Twenty eight of these, including reserves, have never won in a 16+ runner race before. Potters Corner is the only one to have both a 50%+ win strike rate and more than one win in these big fields. Twenty runners have at least a 50% place strike rate in big fields including the majority of the fancied runners.

If you wanted to build a shortlist of the most solid contenders from a win perspective using Instant Expert who have very few negatives you’d probably be looking at the following runners:

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Burrows Saint (good but limited data)
Secret Reprieve (good but limited data, 2nd reserve)
Takingrisks (lots of proven form)
Potters Corner (solid but ground a concern)
Cloth Cap (likeable profile)
Minellacelebration (some decent stats in his favour but has to prove stamina)

Grand National 2021 Runners

Here is the complete Grand National 2021 field in order of odds, most fancied to least fancied.

Cloth Cap

Pretty much everything to like about this one except the price. He’s a stone well in, ran a good 3rd in the Scottish equivalent two years ago, since cheekpieces were fitted he’s won easily on both occasions and enjoys this kind of ground. He’ll be out of the way of any incidents behind. He wouldn’t want to race as enthusiastically as he often does in this and there will definitely be better 4/1 shots on the day in other races but he looks the most likely winner.

Burrows Saint

Won the Irish equivalent in 2019 (aged just 6) which goes a long way to proving his stamina. That victory came on good to yielding and although most of his runs have come on softer, his three career victories came on either good to yielding or good. He’s raced over hurdles more than fences since the Irish National win, clearly protecting his handicap mark, and he put up a more than respectable effort in a Grade 3 chase last time out on ground softer than ideal.

Minella Times

A good jumper with form on a range of going types. He’s never gone further than 3m and has been beaten on both attempts at that distance. He shapes as if he will stay a little further but my preference is for something with far more proven stamina, especially at this sort of price.

Any Second Now

Enjoyed a step up to 3m2f to win the 2019 Kim Muir at Cheltenham before falling in the Irish Grand National behind Burrows Saint. He’s been campaigned with this in mind since but with his last two wins coming over 2m he’s potentially got a little too much speed for this and the fact that he’s falled or unseated on three occasions doesn’t bode too well, for all the fences aren’t what they once were.

Kimberlite Candy

A wide margin winner of Warwick’s Classic Handicap Chase in 2020, a race that worked out particularly well. That win suggests his new handicap mark shouldn’t stop him from winning and two 2nd places in the Becher Chase give plenty of hope that he’ll complete the course once again. This season’s 2nd in the Becher was his only run this season with leaves him with a longer than is often ideal break heading into this, although he does go well fresh. His best form is with plenty of cut in the ground and he was disappointing in the 2019 Midlands Grand National on good to soft which is a concern.

Secret Reprieve

Second reserve. On the upgrade in testing conditions at Chepstow the last twice. He’s lacking the usual experience of a Grand National and the likelihood of missing the cut here may do him a favour in the long run. He’ll be of interest next year, especially if the ground came up testing.

Discorama

No stamina concerns having placed in the 2019 National Hunt Chase on soft ground. Given a wind op since disappointing last time out so well being has to be taken slightly on trust but he’s run well after a wind op and an absence in the past, when 3rd at last year’s Cheltenham Festival behind The Conditional in the Ultima. His run style isn’t likely to do him any favours around here and most of his form is on softer.

Magic Of Light

Runner up in this in 2019 behind Tiger Roll so few question marks about the suitability of this test. As a 10yo she’s entitled to have a better crack at it this year but she’s 5lbs higher and it’s extremely difficult to win a National having run so well in defeat in the race previously. Poor run last time out but over a much shorter distance so that’s not a major concern. Much more appealing for place purposes than win purposes.

Farclas

Recent Cheltenham form behind The Shunter somewhat franked on Thursday but he’s been largely campaigned over 2m and although he ran well enough on his only attempt at 3m this is a massive step up again. Interesting from a handicapping perspective but has to be one of the least likely stayers in the field.

Potters Corner

Stays all day and loves testing conditions. He hasn’t been in the best of form on his last two starts and whilst he would have still made plenty of appeal on soft or heavy ground here, he might still find things happening too quickly in this. Perhaps the first time blinkers will help with that but there are certainly some risks involved for all it would be no shock if he won this.

Bristol De Mai

High class stayer whose best form has come at Haydock. He does have form on better ground but there is plenty to prove stamina wise and his best chance of defying top weight would have been if the race was moved to Haydock. Not difficult to oppose.

Anibale Fly

Finished 4th in this in 2018 on heavy ground and 5th in 2019 on better ground. Now 4lbs and 9lbs lower than those efforts respectively. He’s placed in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2018 and 2019 too so is clearly a high class contender. He hasn’t shown much since the 2019 renewal and would have only appealed as a winner on soft ground anyway so whilst he could place if bouncing back, a win at a third attempt is a tall order.

Milan Native

Has won over as far as 3m2f when taking the 2020 Kim Muir but failed to shine when pulled up over 3m5f in November. He’s been largely out of form on his last three runs and didn’t jump well on reappearance at Cheltenham after wind surgery. Opposable based on current form, jumping and stamina.

Mister Malarky

Not the most consistent but his run style should serve him well around here and the ground should be fine. He ran well after wind surgery in February so perhaps that will sort out his consistency but he still has stamina to prove. Definite chance if stamina holds out.

Some Neck

First reserve. Run well twice over 3m6f in cross country races at Cheltenham and finishing 3rd behind two runners rated 20lbs+ behind him no disgrace even if well enough beaten. Jumping hasn’t always been the best and needs to improve for this test to figure if getting a run.

Takingrisks

Won the 2019 Scottish Grand National, beating Cloth Cap in the process. Versatile with regards to ground having won that race on good whilst gaining his most recent win, last time out, on soft. He’s got a good strike rate for a pretty exposed runner and although he’s now 12, it’s hard to argue his win last time out wasn’t a career best. He may improve again for this step back up in trip and although he’s fallen a couple of times, he’s gone eighteen runs without doing so. Certainly one of the more interesting contenders at a price.

Acapela Bourgeois

Gave Burrows Saint 6lbs and a beating last time out in a small field Grade 3 and now gets 1lb from that rival so interesting at the weights. He wouldn’t beat that rival on their meeting in the Irish National a couple of years ago though when Acapela Bourgeois was 3rd behind his stablemate. Should stay this far and jumps okay but he tends to need to dominate to win and those tactics will be a bit harder to pull off in this big field.

Lord Du Mesnil

A strong enough stayer who won a decent race last time out but he loves Haydock and very testing conditions. He’s fallen or unseated five times in his career including his French form and that’s a concern over these fences.

Yala Enki

Extremely consistent in staying chases but he was a faller here at the first in the Becher and eight of his eleven wins have come on either soft or heavy ground. The higher he’s gone in the handicap, the more he has relied on smaller fields to get his head in front so he’ll have to put in some weight carrying performance to win this. Likely to be well placed but whatever happens should find at least a few too good.

Canelo

Didn’t look to be crying out for further last time out over 3m2f and has arguably been nailed by the handicapper now. His run style might not be ideal here either and it would be a surprise if he was good enough, for all there are relatively few miles on the clock.

Definitely Red

A staying on 4th in 2019 Becher and was sent off 10/1 for the 2017 Grand National before he was pulled up having been badly hampered. Took well to cheekpieces when they were applied in a 15 length win at Kelso just over a year ago but he’s struggled for form since then. Might bounce back but it’s possible age has caught up with him.

Give Me A Copper

Very lightly raced for an 11yo and he’s largely run well on better ground. A solid 4th in the bet365 Gold Cup in 2019 but he’s not always the best jumper. Not without a hope in this at a price but even if his jumping holds up he’ll need to improve for the step up in trip.

Lake View Lad

Pulled up in the 2019 Grand National with connections stating they would have liked a softer surface. He beat Santini here in December but has been out of form since and hopes of a revival are pinned on a wind op and first time cheekpieces. Something to prove on this ground too.

Shattered Love

She’s been in fair form this year but most wins have come in small fields on testing ground over much shorter trips. Far too many question marks to consider.

Blaklion

Finished 4th in the 2017 Grand National before winning the Becher in the same year by a wide margin. Hasn’t really threatened to win a race since then though so all hopes pinned on the return to this venue.

Chris’s Dream

Ran in the Ryanair last time out but was pulled up after jumping errors. Has several wins at 3m but hasn’t looked like staying beyond that trip and this is a lot of weight to carry when stamina is in serious doubt.

Class Conti

Nothing particularly wrong with his handicap mark but it certainly seems he needs to improve for the step up in trip rather than simply stay the extra distance. He lacks a win at 3m+ though and the ground may be livelier than ideal.

Vieux Lion Rouge

Well suited by these fences having completed in every single one of his nine runs over them and was a wide margin winner of the Becher Chase this season, defeating Kimberlite Candy by 24 lengths. Yet to get within 27 lengths of the winner of this in four attempts and has looked a non stayer each time. Great bet to complete the course, poor bet to win.

Alpha Des Obeaux

Fell in the 2018 Grand National but was a good 3rd in the 2019 Becher. Hasn’t got within 13 lengths of winning since then but ran a decent 4th in the Cross Country Chase last month, just behind Some Neck. Ground and trip are probably okay but run style leaves him needing plenty of luck here. Better chance than odds suggest though.

Fagan

Fourth reserve. Comfortable heavy ground winner last time out and had looked in need of further at Ludlow previously over an extended 3m1f. Pulled up previously in the 2018 Scottish Grand National but beaten before stamina really came into play that day. Been hit hard by the handicapper for latest win and unlikely to get a run anyway.

Hogan’s Height

An impressive winner over these fences in the Grand Sefton in 2019 but not shown much since then, pulled up on penultimate start and beaten 124 lengths last time out in the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham. Has form on a range of going types but couldn’t be arriving in much worse form.

Jett

Hasn’t run well in over a year and was beaten over 100 lengths in this season’s Becher. Stays at least 3m1f but form as much of a worry as anything.

Ok Corral

Found to be lame after he was pulled up following a 416 day break when running in the Ultima at the Cheltenham Festival. He’s only run four times on good or good to soft ground and he’s won three of those which is a possible angle but a lot has to be taken on trust.

Sub Lieutenant

Stayed on nicely to finish 2nd in the 2019 Topham Chase and tends to run well on better ground. Not disgraced in two runs for the current trainer and jockey Tabitha Worsley has already won over these fences in the past in the Foxhunters’ Chase. Questionable stayer but better chance than the price suggests.

Talkischeap

Impressive winner of the 2019 bet365 Gold Cup (Give Me A Copper in behind) but only real sign of life since then came in a national hunt flat race at Lingfield in February. He reverted to type though when well beaten at Kempton on his next start. Enjoys fast ground (60% strike rate on good or better) but this might not be quite quick enough and needs to bounce back regardless.

The Long Mile

Stayed on well behind Acapela Bourgeois and Burrows Saint last time out but was very much ridden to get the trip that day. Similar tactics here would leave him a hostage to fortune and given the bulk of his form he’d still be a doubtful stayer.

Balko Des Flos

Barely run well for two years now and has to prove stamina and well-being amongst other things.

Ballyoptic

Has fallen in two out of three attempts at these fences and was well beaten in the other. He was actually in the process of running a decent race in the 2019 renewal when hitting the deck. He’s had no real respite from the handicapper though and hasn’t been in the best form recently so a win would be a shock.

Cabarat Queen

Best form has generally come when leading early but was always in rear last time out when eventually pulled up. Has form on a variety of going but something to prove at present and stamina far from assured.

Double Shuffle

He's been in decent form at Kempton on his last three starts and this course will suit his run style. Versatile when it comes to the ground but he didn’t seem to enjoy this test when trying it in 2017 and doesn’t look to stay further than 3m

Minellacelebration

Three time winner at Aintree but has yet to shine in two attempts over these fences. Won well in October here but hasn’t been in the same form since and has had a wind op since his last run. Wasn’t stopping when victorious over 3m2f at Uttoxeter last July and would be a major player if able to transfer his Mildmay course form to these fences. Very risky but more upside than most at these odds.

Ami Desbois

Runner up on his last three completed starts, behind fellow outsider Double Shuffle on his penultimate start. Tends to perform better in smaller fields which is no surprise given his run style and he’s going to struggle to dominate in this. May show up well for a while but stamina likely to give way later on.

Kauto Riko

Third reserve. Ran well in the Paddy Power Gold Cup in November but not seen since. He was seen to good effect that day but still only managed 4th and on ground that is likely to be faster than ideal over a trip that looks much further than ideal it’s unlikely we’ll see him figure in the unlikely event he gets a run.

Tout Est Permis

Hasn’t been in the best of form this year and he didn’t look a strong stayer when a well beaten 8th behind Burrows Saint in the 2019 Irish Grand National. Ground no issue but recent form and distance are likely to cause problems.

Verdict

Not as many with outstanding claims in this as you might think. As usual there are a few in with a great form chance but with some serious stamina question marks and I definitely prefer some proven stamina on my side in this.

Cloth Cap is the obvious one. He’s a crazy price though, especially if some of his recent improvement has been down to the aggressive riding tactics. He should run well but you can’t back him at that price.

BURROWS SAINT hasn’t been able to advertise his claims as much as he’d like as Willie Mullins has clearly been protecting his handicap mark with this race the aim since last year. He seems to have the perfect mix of speed and stamina for this and should be ideally placed just off the lead.

There are a few at very big prices that can interest the each way punters. The least risky of those could well be Magic Of Light and Takingrisks. The former arguably finds herself in a weaker race than when she was 2nd in the last running of this whilst the latter is still unexposed at extreme trips, despite being proven at them, and ran a career best last time out. Man Of Light is the more likely to place and Takingrisks the more likely to win of that pair.

Of those at the more extreme prices Give Me A Copper, Sub Lieutenant and Minellacelebration make a little bit of appeal but I wouldn’t consider more than the tiniest of each way bets on those, if anything.

Four against the field:

1. Cloth Cap
2. Burrows Saint
3. Takingrisks
4. Magic Of Light

Form Profiling 2021: Community Project

Last May, when there was no racing and the flat season had yet to begin, I wrote a post about form profiling which you can read here. In it, I shared five horses which had displayed a specific pattern of conditions to most of their wins: a profile if you will.

I then outlined how to undertake this profiling activity using the tools on geegeez.co.uk at that time, Full Form and Query Tool. Since then, we've added the brilliant Profiler which, as the name suggests, is perfectly positioned to support an activity like this.

So, how did that first stab go? Remarkably, to me at least, the squad of 40+ horses we collectively identified made a profit by blind backing them at SP from the resumption on June 1st to the end of 2020.

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Buoyed by that performance, which was to some degree predicated on a 40/1 winner (caveat emptor, as ever) - and which could have been significantly improved upon with either BOG or exchange prices - and prompted by a reminder from a reader who especially enjoyed following 'our' team last year (thanks Graham!), I thought we should do it all over again.

Horse Profiles 2021

STOP PRESS 6th April 2021: Horse Profiles 2021 is now complete and available from this link >>>

So here's what I have in mind:

  1. Have a quick (re-)read of the form profiling article from last year, here >
  2. Watch the short video below where I show you how to use Profiler and QT in concert (requires a Gold sub, though some profiling can be done in "races of the day" for free subscribers)
  3. Choose a horse (ideally not the winner) from the table of big race results below, and/or identify horses of your own choosing
  4. Submit your horse profile(s) in the form at this link >>
  5. That's it!

I'm really excited to see what you/we come up with this season.

To that end, I'll look to produce the report around the 6th April, so all submissions need to be made before then, please, for inclusion. [Of course, anyone can do this at any time for their own enjoyment/advantage, and/or can share additional profiles in the comments below]

 

Here is a list of all Class 2 and 3 handicaps (18+ runners) from 2020 in UK and Ireland. Click on the Date or Time column to open up the race result, and then start playing!

Date Time Course Horse Jockey Trainer Runners
16/06/2020 16:40 Ascot Coeur De Lion Thore Hammer Hansen A King 19
16/06/2020 13:15 Ascot Motakhayyel Jim Crowley R Hannon 23
17/06/2020 13:15 Ascot Sir Busker Oisin Murphy W Knight 22
17/06/2020 15:35 Ascot Dark Vision William Buick M Johnston 23
18/06/2020 16:10 Ascot Khaloosy Jim Crowley R Varian 22
19/06/2020 13:15 Ascot Art Power Silvestre De Sousa T Easterby 21
20/06/2020 12:40 Ascot Chiefofchiefs William Buick C Fellowes 19
20/06/2020 16:10 Ascot Hey Jonesy Kevin Stott K A Ryan 22
27/06/2020 18:15 Curragh Big Baby Bull J M Sheridan D Hogan 18
28/06/2020 17:15 Curragh Njord Shane Foley Mrs J Harrington 18
28/06/2020 17:45 Curragh Dalton Highway Andrew Slattery D Weld 18
11/07/2020 15:50 Ascot Jawwaal Callum Rodriguez M Dods 18
18/07/2020 14:30 York Sinjaari Stevie Donohoe W Haggas 22
18/07/2020 16:10 York Tukhoom Jack Mitchell D O'Meara 18
19/07/2020 16:10 York Documenting Cieren Fallon K Frost 19
25/07/2020 14:25 Ascot Blue Mist Ryan Moore R Charlton 19
27/07/2020 18:45 Galway Princess Zoe Mr Finian Maguire A Mullins 20
28/07/2020 18:45 Galway Saltonstall Gavin Ryan A McGuinness 18
28/07/2020 13:45 Goodwood Maydanny Silvestre De Sousa M Johnston 18
01/08/2020 15:35 Goodwood Summerghand Daniel Tudhope D O'Meara 27
16/08/2020 15:15 Ripon Staxton Duran Fentiman T Easterby 19
19/08/2020 13:45 York Acclaim The Nation Jason Hart E Alston 21
22/08/2020 15:40 York Fujaira Prince Andrea Atzeni R Varian 21
28/08/2020 15:40 Curragh Laughifuwant Colin Keane G Keane 20
06/09/2020 13:30 York Mr Carpenter David Allan T Easterby 19
12/09/2020 14:25 Doncaster Stone Of Destiny Silvestre De Sousa A Balding 21
12/09/2020 14:35 Leopardstown Halimi Kevin Manning J Bolger 18
12/09/2020 17:50 Leopardstown Could Be King Billy Lee K Condon 18
13/09/2020 17:50 Curragh Sonnyboyliston Billy Lee J Murtagh 22
13/09/2020 14:00 Curragh Mr Lupton Colin Keane R Fahey 22
18/09/2020 15:55 Ayr Roundhay Park Faye McManoman N Tinkler 23
19/09/2020 14:30 Ayr Magical Spirit Kevin Stott K A Ryan 24
19/09/2020 15:40 Ayr Nahaarr Tom Marquand W Haggas 24
26/09/2020 15:35 Newmarket Majestic Dawn Paul Hanagan P&O Cole 27
09/10/2020 14:05 York Ouzo Kieran O'Neill R Hannon 20
09/10/2020 15:45 York Muscika Angus Villiers D O'Meara 20
10/10/2020 15:35 Newmarket Great White Shark Jason Watson W Mullins 34
10/10/2020 15:10 York Gulliver Martin Harley D O'Meara 21
11/10/2020 15:40 Curragh Cape Gentleman Ronan Whelan E Mullins 21
17/10/2020 16:15 Ascot Njord Tom Marquand Mrs J Harrington 18
07/11/2020 15:15 Doncaster On To Victory James Doyle A King 23
07/11/2020 15:45 Doncaster Zip Miss J Cooley R Fahey 19
21/03/2021 16:10 Curragh Layfayette Chris Hayes N Meade 24

Any questions, let me know!

Matt

p.s. I'll add three to five profiles myself but the joy of this project is that it is about your contributions. So get to it! 🙂

 

Monday Musings: My Three Aintree Contenders

So we will be seeing Tiger Roll at Aintree after all, writes Tony Stafford. Not of course in Saturday’s Randox Health Grand National but in the Betfair Bowl on the first of the three days of the meeting. Judged on the way he won the Cross-Country race to give him a fifth Cheltenham Festival success, the dual Grand National winner could easily beat Clan Des Obeaux and Native River.

Clan Des Obeaux missed Cheltenham to wait for this premier level-weights chase at the Aintree fixture. Not so Native River, who put in a valiant attempt to add a second Gold Cup when finishing fourth to Minella Indo. Sadly, his regular jockey Richard Johnson will not be riding this week, the 43-year-old having announced his retirement after fulfilling his duties for the last time at Newton Abbot on Saturday.

I will leave the Johnson eulogy to others save to say that his 3,726 winners in the UK over 28 seasons, was second only to A P McCoy’s 4,204. He achieved four titles in succession and 24 consecutive centuries. The first failure to be champion since the retirement of A P McCoy came last season when Brian Hughes took advantage of his rival’s prolonged injury absence. His final season brought 73 wins from 521 mounts and Native River was given full assistance by his never-give-up partner all the way to the line.

So we come to the Grand National and it will be interesting to see how many media people, owners, administrators and in-crowd will be able to make their way to Aintree this week to join the more vital trainers and stable staff. I’m guessing somewhere north of 1,500, or is that just sour grapes?

With the Covid19 numbers of deaths for the past two days at ten for both Saturday and Sunday, the situation in the UK now looks more promising, never mind the ever-vocal critics of the government’s handling of the year-long crisis. I’m due my second jab next week and hopefully then I can go racing again.

Quite the most intriguing prospect is to try to calculate the possible number of finishers in the great race. I suspect there could again be around half the 40-strong line-up getting round this year. Whether the authorities deny it or not, in recent seasons, Aintree has become rather more toothless compared to its predecessor. Of course, horse welfare is paramount in these sensitive times and a few more years without fatalities is something to be very much wished for.

Tiger Roll’s two winning years have brought a total of nine casualties that were officially declared as fallers, six in 2018 and only three the following year. Another five unseated in 2018 and two the next time round. Thirteen and 14 respectively were the pulled-up totals, so 12 finishers in 2018 and 19 the last time the race was staged.

The latest barometer of the course’s teeth was the early December fixture which features two races over the Grand National fences. First up is the 3m2f Becher Chase and that 14-runner race had eight finishers with three fallers (including unusually Yala Enki) and three unseated riders, so was tolerably attritional.

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Then the Grand Sefton over half a mile shorter had a field of 18, and 13 finishers.  Only two fell and three pulled up in this.

The Becher Chase was won by the big outsider Vieux Lion Rouge for the David Pipe stable. That was his second win, along with one second place, in five straight tries at that race and he would have matched it with consecutive appearances in the big race itself last April had it not been called off.

He’ll be back on Saturday as a 12-year-old for his tenth go-round having successfully negotiated 223 of the unique Aintree obstacles (one fence in the Nationals of 2018 and 2019 had to be omitted on safety grounds). He has been seventh, sixth, ninth and 15th without ever looking either like winning or that he would fail to complete.

Tom Scudamore was usually his partner in the past but he has bigger fish to fry on Saturday, continuing his spectacular association with the Jonjo O’Neill-trained Cloth Cap. An all-the-way winner of the Ladbroke (ex-Hennessy) Handicap Chase at Newbury in late November, O’Neill resisted temptation until Kelso last month when his gelding was again dominant, making all to beat Aso, Two For Gold and Definitly Red without ever letting them close in a level-weights race.

If the handicapper had the option of re-assessing Cloth Cap he would have added 14lb and it is rare for such a situation to occur in a Grand National. Added to that ingredient, he is the most fluent and accurate of jumpers and one that enjoys making the running. It is easy to imagine his delivering an exciting all-the-way success with nothing ever getting near him.

It almost suggests a similar race to the first of the Red Rum trio of wins almost half a century ago. For all but the last 25 yards, top-weight and two-mile champion Crisp made the running at a fast pace under 12st top-weight, nothing ever looking like challenging. Then, coming back on the course with an apparently unassailable lead, his stamina ran out while Rummy barreled relentlessly on.

At the end of that decade, Alverton, winner two weeks previously of the Cheltenham Gold Cup under Jonjo O’Neill, was 6-1 favourite. He fell and was killed at Becher’s second time round. That fence is probably one of the few “traps” of nowadays and not until the field has rounded the bend soon after it has been negotiated will trainers and owners start to relax, replacing trepidation with optimism.

Jonjo had to wait 31 years to enjoy full consolation for that awful Alverton moment, when Don’t Push It under A P McCoy won the 2010 race for J P McManus. Victory for Cloth Cap and his owner, Grand National specialist Trevor Hemmings who has won the race three times, would rank even higher I would imagine.

Despite the recent paucity of authentic fallers there is always the propensity at Aintree for horses being taken out of the race through no fault of their own. The first fence is an obvious focal point with the possibility of a too-fast start, although the shorter run-up to the initial obstacle has taken some of the steam out of that.

The first big ditch at three and Becher’s first time (six) are then crucial, but after the next hairpin at Valentine’s (eighth) apart from another ditch halfway down the back, the horses can get into a rhythm and their jockeys start to plan a race.

It’s possible to come from a long way back at that point as long as the horse takes to the fences. We always think of the once-jumped Chair, the biggest fence in the field at number 15 and just in front of the usually packed enclosures, as terrifying. Quite often it seems the field can safely jump it, possibly because by then the horses have their eye in and fatigue is not yet an issue. Luckily, that fence is jumped only once, along with the water that follows virtually level with the winning line.

Anyway, by now we should be starting to hope that our fancy – or more realistically around the country the short-list most once-a-year punters like to start with – may still be in contention. All that remains is another two miles and the first 14 fences all over again, but at least the field will have thinned out somewhat by the time of second Becher’s.

I’ve not yet mentioned any other than Cloth Cap, who could win, and Vieux Lion Rouge who almost certainly cannot, but I think I may have come up with two slightly funny ones and a third for good measure away from the main contenders.

Firstly, I have a feeling that Anibale Fly could have been a long-term plot for this race by arch-planner Tony Martin. The 2019 Gold Cup runner-up to Al Boum Photo, he was strongly supported for that National and did very well, finishing fifth, around 16 lengths behind Tiger Roll in his second win, conceding 5lb and carrying top-weight.

He didn’t beat another horse in three chases when returning to action last season, only getting in the frame on his last appearance when third in a hurdle race. The Martin/ McManus 11-year-old was off the track for a year until his reappearance in a Grade 3 at Fairyhouse in late February where he trailed around in a five-runner field. You can bet if he turns up on Saturday he’ll be fully primed and he’s come down a fair bit in the weights.

Much lower down, I think I might have landed on what in retrospect might prove the cleverest plot of all. When Blaklion was bought for £300,000 in 2019 as a potential future Grand National winner for owner Darren Yates, he was sent originally to Philip Kirby.

Blaklion, who was bred by Mary, wife of Hughie Morrison, had tried twice already at the big race for his original trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies. In 2017 he went clear three fences out but tired into fourth up the run-in. The following year, conceding 11lb to Tiger Roll, he was again one of the main fancies but was brought down at the first fence. In between, the gelding had won the Becher Chase of 2017 from a big field in a hack canter.

Now he is with Dan Skelton who gave the 12-year-old plenty of time to recover from an autumn setback, bringing him back for two conditioning runs over recent weeks. His chance this year is probably most accurately reflected by his 50-1 odds, but in a year which could end up as a title-winning one for Harry Skelton, why should not Blaklion replicate his contemporary Vieux Lion Rouge’s love of Aintree?

Blaklion has the feather-weight of 10st 2lb to carry on Saturday. A chip on him, another on Anibale Fly, and a last one to make it a veterans’ trio with Nicky Richards’ Takingrisks. His last win at Doncaster was something of a shock (40-1!) but featured the same runner up (Aye Right) as Cloth Cap at Kelso.

I think I’ll mix the three of them with the favourite in multiples and back all three each-way singly. Good luck and I bet, like me, you wish you could be there! Still, fingers crossed it won’t be long before we all can. See you at Royal Ascot, maybe?

Geegeez Upgrade: Known Issues

This morning, we upgraded our racing form software to make some important changes for mobile device (smartphones, tablets) users.

Firstly, thank you for your patience while we made those changes. We rarely go fully 'off grid' but occasionally it's necessary.

Secondly, we're aware of a few glitches and issues, as per the below list. We are aiming to have all of these resolved by the middle of next week, so please bear with us in the mean time.

The desktop site should work exactly as it previously did (though it may be marginally wider, depending on how big your screen is).

Mobile users may notice the following issues. Before I outline those, a fix for most of them is to use the 'request desktop site' option on Chrome (other browsers have a similar option). This is found from the 'three dots' menu top right on most devices.

 

The known issues at this stage are:
1. Class Move Report wonky fixed
2. Non Runners report wonky fixed
3. Report Angles (and Report Angles Settings) are a bit of a mess. Need tidying up. fixed
4. Tracker 'check all on/off' buttons truncated
5. Clicking to other tabs in search box does not work on DESKTOP (it does work on mobile).
6. Tracker: Sire option in Your Selection's Runs needs to display a 'Sire' column.
7. Popout Full Form is displaying weirdly
8. Some of the main reports not horizontal scrolling on mobile/tablet.

There is a good chance other things will come to light in the next few days. If you spot anything, please do let us know and we'll add to the 'fix list'.

Most of all, I hope that if you're a mobile user, you find the new format a big improvement on what preceded it. There is always a familiarisation curve, but stick with it and, in a day or three, you'll wonder how you ever got things done the old way!

Any questions, let me know.

Thanks again, and have a great weekend.
Matt

All Weather Championships Finals Day 2021 Preview: Analysis And Tips For Every Race At Lingfield

This is normally a one race column but with it being All Weather Finals day at Lingfield where there are going to be many shared course biases I’m going to look at every race on the card. I won’t be going into quite so much depth as usual on each race but hopefully covering every race makes things a little more interesting with some excellent Good Friday racing in store.

As usual, I’ll be using plenty of tools, data and racecard features from Geegeez Gold. Click here to get your first 30 days of Geegeez Gold for just £1.

2.00 – All Weather Marathon Championships – 2m

Pace

Just the 7 runners involved here over the longest distance Lingfield race over on the all weather.

In this sort of small field scenario it seems the longer distance cancels out any inherent front runner advantage with those coming from mid division performing best across all recorded metrics above. Those that are held up or race prominently have very similar stats and neither run style seems a disadvantage. The same can’t be said about front runners who perform worst of all across a decent sized sample. Early leaders win less often and place less often than their more patiently ridden rivals.

The data above doesn’t denote a strong advantage though so we certainly shouldn’t rule out front runner per se, however it certainly seems as though being taken on for the lead would potentially make life difficult for any front runners here.

Draw

With such a small field and long distance it’s unlikely there is much draw advantage, but let’s check to make sure.

Much of the data seems to suggest a low draw is a negative here with middle and high closely matched and seemingly more advantageous.

Individual stall data fluctuates a fair bit from stall to stall, there is no really strong trend other than stalls 2 and 3 not performing brilliantly. With this race being for the slower horses it’s possible those that are drawn low could be running into more trouble in running than those drawn higher and they maybe lack the gears to recover from that.

A low draw seems nothing to worry about but perhaps being drawn slightly higher is preferable.

Pace Map

A possible contested speed here with Australis and Ranch Hand both capable of getting on with things. Lucky Deal and Island Brave are likely to be patiently ridden with the other trio fitting between.

Analysis

In this race we’re probably going to be after a relatively patiently ridden runner with a decent turn of foot for a stayer as Lingfield doesn’t really suit those slow grinders.

The last four winners of this have been rated between 103 and 105 so Rainbow Dreamer sets a high standard with his 110 rating. He boasts 6 wins from 10 all weather starts but has yet to race at Lingfield which is a slight concern. He is unbeaten in four starts on Kempton’s polytrack surface though. He’s tactically versatile, very capable in small fields and beat a decent yard stick on his last run a month ago.

Ranch Hand is his main rival on form. He won a three runner handicap at Chelmsford last time out, ideally placed, taking his record at this trip on the flat to two from two. The other win came at listed level. He’s also three from three on all weather surfaces but he too has never run here at Lingfield.

Amtiyaz has plenty to find on ratings but is lightly raced enough to prove ahead of his official mark still. He has been beaten in handicaps off marks in the 80s on two of his last three runs. Lucky Deal gave him plenty of weight and a beating in January at Kempton. That rival likes a well run race at this trip but is another who hasn’t yet run at Lingfield.

Rock Eagle was narrowly beaten by Ranch Hand last time out in receipt of 3lbs so has a little bit to find whilst all weather specialist Australis needs to continue improving to figure. There isn’t a lot between him and outsider Island Brave based on a fast track qualifier in December at Newcastle.

I’m a fan of Ranch Hand and he’s unexposed on artificial surfaces and at 2m. He’s led on his last three runs on all codes though and that might not be the best tactic here. There is a distinct lack of course form here which is the only negative that can be levelled at RAINBOW DREAMER (9/4). He may be the favourite but he’s a fair price given his earned his rating time and time again. His absence of 55 days is a very slight concern given he’s not always best fresh but he should be able to win this.

2.35 – All Weather Fillies’ And Mares’ Championships – 7f

Pace

The first of the 7f contests here and another small field with just the six entries.

Smaller fields can often mean less front runners and less pace but it also means the field is likely to be more closely packed and those that are patiently ridden have less ground to make up than they would do in a bigger field.

This is potentially why we aren’t seeing a strong bias above. Front runners and prominent racers do have better win and place percentages than those nearer the rear of the field and place percentages do steadily fall the further back you are placed early on in the race but the 0.8 IV for hold up performers isn’t a massive worry and hold up performers do generate the second most amount of wins so it’s not like it makes life impossible for them.

Draw

Win percentages point to a potentially strong bias here with just 10% of low drawn runners winning and 20% of high drawn runners winning. However we have limited data here and the place percentages give us more data and PRB gives us even more data again. Those metrics point to a much fairer draw over this trip in this field size. Those metrics do favour the middle draw ever so slightly but not enough to make any individual draw a concern here.

Something to note is that high drawn front runners produce a PRB of 0.63, the best PRB for any draw/pace combination. Conversely low drawn hold up performers have a PRB of just 0.38. Smaller fields produce less reliable PRB data than bigger fields so take it with a pinch of salt but it is a trend we often notice at Lingfield so it’s not a freak result either.

Pace Map

Despite the small field we should get a fair pace in this race with Fizzy Feet and Nirodha likely to be close up. Pholas and Shimmering Dawn are likely to be ridden cold. There don’t really seem to be any prominent runners so if the leading duo don’t battle for the lead that pair could be tactically advantaged as everything else will probably be happier near the rear than near the pace.

Analysis

This should be a relatively fair contest where everything has it’s chance.

Indie Angel isn’t the clear pick on ratings that her odds suggest but she does set the standard on her listed course win last time out. She’s probably better over a mile though and could be vulnerable if this gets tactical.

Shimmering Dawn has shown her limitations over the winter, even when winning, but she has won small field races over course and distance. Below par last time out at Wolverhampton but that race didn’t suit those patiently ridden.

Fizzy Feet has won four times here and has countless other placed efforts at what has to be her favourite course. She could be close to the pace but will be having her first crack at 7f here so may be ridden a little more patiently than usual. Form is fine but suspect stayer.

The remaining trio have more than a stone to find on official ratings. Arafi had looked well ahead of her mark on recent starts and it was probably the mile that beat her last time rather than the handicap mark. She still has plenty more opportunities to prove much better than this rating and isn’t without a chance. Nirodha hasn’t been the most consistent and was well beaten on her last try here, further at Wolverhampton probably suits. Meanwhile Pholas is probably well handicapped still but he’s rated just 78 and has looked much better at a mile than this 7f.

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This race might not take much winning and Indie Angel is unlikely to have to live up to her rating to take this. She’s no guarantee to even run to a mark in the 90s in this setup though and with Shimmering dawn perhaps a little flattered by her rating and Fizzy Feet probably better over shorter ARAFI (8/1) might not have as much to find as it seems. She should yet prove a 90s horse at least over 7f on artificial surfaces and she’s looks the value bet in a questionable field.

3.10 – All Weather Sprint Championships – 6f

Pace

The first of our speed tests here and a bigger field with twelve runners set to go to post (a maximum field).

A much more pronounced pace bias over this shorter trip in a bigger field. Remarkably both front runners and prominent racers have been profitable to follow to level stakes for both win and each way purposes.

Pretty much all metrics point to a fairly strong front runner bias here with a successful outcome being less and less likely the further from the pace you are ridden. A win percentage of less than 6% would be a big worry for backers of any runners likely to be held up here.

Draw

A PRB of 0.54 for low drawn runners and 0.46 for high drawn runners suggests there is definitely a draw advantage in bigger fields at this trip. Not all low draws are created equal though, stalls 3 and 4 are statistically amongst the best looking at PRB but 2 and 1 are less successful. Stall 5, which counts as a ‘middle’ draw, has the second best PRB of 0.55. A draw from 3 to 5 looks absolutely ideal here. These three stalls are winning almost 40% of races in these conditions between them despite making up just 25% of the runners - a clear over performance.

Pace Map

There are three potential front runners in this and they are all drawn in the three lowest stalls which will make it an interesting battle for the early lead. It would be no surprise to see some fast fractions for the first furlong.

The prominent runners are drawn wider here but it’s possible Brian The Snail manages to slot in behind the trio of leaders from stall 6. Exalted Angel was ridden a bit more forward than usual last time and he too could be well positioned from stall 5 if the same tactics are used here.

Gulliver’s running style and draw means he’ll probably have to be completely dropped out and that’s unlikely to benefit him here, even if they do go a good pace early.

Analysis

You generally want to be as close to the pace as possible here but with three front runners likely to take each other on we could see the next group of runners become the beneficiaries here. A low to middle draw is ideal and anything that could be prominent from stalls 3 to 5 would be of interest.

There is very little between many of these and it’s going to come down to which runner is best suited by conditions and gets the required luck in running.

Harry’s Bar has won both starts here, albeit in handicap company. He’s had an unusual prep for this going to Saudi Arabia and then running over a mile and he’s short enough from stall 12. Summerghand is well fancied but this isn’t the ideal track for him, although he won in first time cheekpieces last season so perhaps the first time visor will help him win here.

Two against the field though are Exalted Angel and Lampang. Exalted Angel has done most of his racing over 5f on the all weather and has an extremely consistent profile on artificial surfaces, albeit at a slightly lower level than this. On his only run over this trip, that also came at this venue, he was a winner at listed level, albeit a slightly weaker listed race than you’d often see here. He had Summerghand and Aberama Gold behind that day. He’s no superstar by any means but he’s well drawn for a horse that will hopefully sit prominently if breaking alertly (has been slow at the start in the past).

Lampang has managed just the seven career starts and he has a stand out piece of form from November where over course and distance he finished not far behind Good Effort who would have been a good thing for this and a head ahead of 108 rated On The Warpath. He was below par in December back over 5f but back to form at Southwell a month ago when everything went wrong for him. The draw could have been kinder though and that’s just about enough of a put off in this case, leaving EXALTED ANGEL (13/2) as the sole each way selection.

3.45 – 3 Year Old All Weather Championships – 6f

Pace

The only race for the classic generation and a nice sized field for another 6f contest.

A strong bias towards front runners here with an IV of 1.75. A 44.27% place strike rate and 111.59 win PL suggest pace is key here. There is a fairly steep drop in performance when you look to the prominent runners, although they still perform well, whilst the performance of those from mid division and held up are much less impressive.

Draw

It's easy to assume that when low draws are favoured and high draws are not favoured that the middle draw data will be close to half way between the two. However this is a good example of that not being the case as low draws are only very slightly favoured over middle draws with both massively favoured over higher draws.

Stall 7 doesn’t perform badly at all but stalls 8, 9 and 10 definitely should be avoided for betting purposes unless housing a runner who would ordinarily be expected to win comfortably.

Pace Map

A decent sized field here but Mighty Gurkha is likely to get an uncontested lead in this from a relatively wide stall. The lower draws and prominent racing styles of Zamaani and Diligent Harry should ensure they track the pace.

Yazaman could be the worst positioned from a wider draw.

Analysis

Front runners with an easy lead are likely to be dangerous here if they have form chances. The highest three stalls could be disadvantaged against their lower drawn counterparts.

An unexposed field here so ratings are largely irrelevant. It’s early days for Diligent Harry but it’s slightly disappointing he was beaten in handicap company last time out His tactics last time out were probably dictated more by an awkward start than by design and if reverting to front running here he’d be quite interesting, but she’s short enough.

If Diligent Harry doesn’t try to lead that’s great news for the more exposed Might Gurkha. He scorched the earth here when winning a maiden last June and followed that up with a Group 3 win at Kempton. He had to give 7lbs to Victory Heights when going down by just a short head in December at Wolverhampton and Victory Heights is one of the leading fancies here off level weights. Mighty Gurkha then gave 5lbs and a beating to Zamaani (who is also one of the leading fancies here) next time out. He’s drawn fairly high but stall 7 still performs well enough and he showed a likeable attitude to battle back last time out. He should be ideally placed and it will take a good one to beat him.

Victory Heights and Zamaani both have to improve to beat him whilst Apollo One is interesting but his form here last time out can’t be taken literally given the pace that race was run at. He is capable though.

Plenty of others may run well but MIGHTY GURKHA (7/2) is three from four on the all weather and his only defeat was by the narrowest margin when conceding weight. He’s capable of blowing this lot away if allowed his own way in front.

4.15 – Easter Classic All Weather Middle Distance Championships – 1m2f

Pace

The only race over this trip on the card and a relatively small field with just the 6 runners.

Possibly the fairest race we could see all day in terms of potential pace bias. A small field over ten furlongs gives all runners a fair chance assuming an even pace with less than 2% difference between any of the win percentages and the place percentages pretty closely matched too. It’s probably slightly advantageous to be nearer the pace than further from it but not by much and a lot will depend on the individual setup of the race.

Draw

The figures here probably suggest a bigger draw advantage than is actually in existence. A middle draw seems to do very well but in such small fields there is no reason why both low and high would be disadvantaged compared to the middle. The fact that stalls 4 and 6 have a much better PRB than stall 5 is another anomaly and there is no real reason why most of this field won’t be able to get their preferred early position from their draws.

Pace Map

Sky Defender is more of a natural front runner than Bangkok so we could see Sky Defender cross over from the widest draw with Bangkok happy to take a lead and settle behind him. Assimilation might find himself at the back of the field by default with no out and out hold up performers seemingly to be found in this field.

Analysis

There is no reason why this should be a fair contest tactically. Slight preference would be for something nearer the pace but the best horse should be able to win this.

A disappointing turnout for the feature race of the day. Favourite Bangkok swerved the Winter Derby here in favour of an unsuccessful trip to Saudi Arabia. His absence was Forest Of Dean’s gain in the Winter Derby but he rather stole the race that day and had previously been beaten twice by Bangkok fair and square so Bangkok will likely have to underperform for Forest Of Dean to win this.

Assimilation is a likable sort but it would be disappointing if long time handicapper was capable of winning this, for all he’s been in decent form over the winter winning three of his last five. Palavecino always runs his race on artificial surfaces but he’s looked a little short of this level on his two course and distance runs in recent months.

Sky Defender has little to find with all but the favourite here and he’ll presumably be allowed to stride out in front here. He’s been disappointing on his last two starts but could easily finish 2nd or 3rd if returning to form. Byford is lightly raced and probably still ahead of his mark, but he’ll need to be well ahead of it to win this. His last handicap win, over course and distance, worked out pretty well and he wasn’t disgraced over further last time out but it’s a slight stretch to think he’ll win this.

Based on previous form BANGKOK (5/4) should be winning this from Forest Of Dean by a length or so. Assuming the travel hasn’t done him any harm he’d be a relatively confident selection to take this, but not exactly a value play at the price.

4.45 – All Weather Mile Championships – 1m

Pace

A ten runner field for the sole mile race on the card.

Positive tactics can be a big advantage over a mile in bigger fields here with all metrics clearly favouring front runners. One again we are seeing that there isn’t much between prominent and mid division so it’s worth remembering that whilst front runners can be marked up, prominent runners don’t necessarily enjoy an advantage over those slightly more patiently ridden.

There isn’t even a massive drop off in stats when it comes to hold up performers. Yes they perform less well than those ridden further forward but ruling anything out here just because it’s a closer would be a dangerous game. Upgrade front runners but respect the rest still.

Draw

Despite the bigger field here there is surprisingly little draw advantage on offer. The PRB data is very even, as is much of the other data on offer. The fact that stalls 1 and 10 are both in the top three individual PRB performers backs up the idea that there is no draw advantage. Stall 4 performs very well across all metrics but there is no real reason why that should be much more advantageous over stalls 3 or 5 so it’s probably just an anomaly.

Pace Map

Both Khuzaam and Canagat are happy bowling along in front but neither completely rely on leading. Khuzaam may end up getting the lead simply through being drawn five stalls lower.

Silver Quartz often tracks the pace but isn’t ideally drawn to get the best position possible, he could end up a little wider than ideal. Mum’s Tipple was ridden prominently last time but he’s up in trip but so might ridden a little more patiently with that in mind so Fox Duty Free is likely to get a decent position near the rail just off the leaders.

Intuitive is normally held up but was given more of a forward ride in a four runner field last time out. Expect him to be a little further back than the pace map suggests, although his good draw should ensure one or two end up behind him early on.

Analysis

A lone front runner can be difficult to peg back here whilst those coming from the rear can struggle. The mile trip can favour speedier hold up performers with a nice turn of foot though, especially if there is a good early gallop.

This should be a really interesting race. Khuzaam is the obvious starting point. He should be well placed and has finished either 1st and 2nd on all starts at a mile or shorter and he’s gone very close in a couple of mile listed races at Kempton. He tends to idle close home though and he’s not really one to be taking short prices on. He’ll almost certainly be in the first two home but yet another 2nd could be the more likely of the two positions.

Mum’s Tipple is difficult to weigh up at a mile. He ran well enough over 6f on his first start after a break in February and then won a listed race over 7f easily next time out. He was very well positioned in that race and isn’t guaranteed to run to the same level up to a mile but Lingfield is hardly the toughest track.

I gave Intuitive a good write up on here when he won over course and distance in January, beating Mission Boy (been in good form and reopposes here) comfortably. He wasn’t seen to best effect last time out in a very small field but that run was certainly no disgrace off a mark of 106 in a handicap and any improvement on that effort, which is likely, gives him a good chance here.

Fox Duty Free has won three from three here over the winter and still looks to be progressing. He got a stone from Via Serendipity last time out over course and distance and although value for more than the 1.5 lengths between them, Via Serendipity could be deemed better value at a bigger price of level weights here.

Documenting and Silver Quartz were both poor in this two years ago so best of the rest is probably the aforementioned Via Serendipity who wasn’t at his best last time at Kempton but is generally pretty reliable on the all weather.

Any of the first four in the betting could win this but INTUITIVE (15/2) each way could be the best play. He’s seen to best effect when held up and although that isn’t normally ideal here, he has twice run very well with those tactics at this venue. It might be worth including Khuzaam in a forecast.

5.15 – All Weather Championships Apprentice Handicap

Pace

We drop into handicap company for the final race on the card and we have a maximum field of fourteen for the second race over 7f on the card and we could see some strong biases in this one.

The win PL for mid division here has probably been influenced by a very big priced winner or two as most other metrics point towards a pace bias towards the front of the pack over 7f once again. Front runners perform best in terms of win percentage and place percentage as well as EW PL and IV. A place strike rate of more than 40% certainly suggests good front runners should command plenty of respect, especially if getting an easy lead.

Prominent and mid division are fairly closely matched again and they aren’t too far off front runners, especially for win percentages. Hold ups perform relatively poorly though as they are clearly left with too much ground to make up more often than not in this big field.

Draw

The middle of the draw seems to be the ideal place to be here with a PRB of 0.54 and superior win and place percentages. A lower draw isn’t too far off but it certainly seems as though you want to avoid the high draws if possible with the PRB falling to 0.46.

We must remember that not all low, middle or high draws are created equally, especially in big fields. The individual stall data suggests stalls 3 to 9 are maybe ideal, although 1 and 2 certainly aren’t bad and stall 10 isn’t dreadful either with a PRB of 0.49. The highest two or three stalls are certainly ones to be wary of though, anything above stall 11 is going to struggle to win unless very well handicapped on the day.

Pace Map

Harrison Point would ordinarily be capable of challenging the early pace but his draw in stall 13 is going to make that much more difficult than usual. It is possible to get a good position from a wide draw but there are seemingly a lot of lower drawn prominent racers here and very few that will receive a pull of the reigns early which could lead to a bit of early congestion whilst they sort themselves out. The speedy Lord Of The Lodge should lead though from stall 7.

Oh This Is Us and Lethal Lunch would probably end up in the last two places early whatever the draw so the low draws are likely to be wasted on that pair.

Analysis

Front runners clearly have to be respected whilst those that are at the back early or in the very highest stalls are likely to be disadvantaged, although not completely ruled out.

Ayr Harbour is going to be popular here under claiming sensation Benoit De La Sayette. The horse has a very likeable all weather profile and his form is undeniably really solid. The fly in the ointment is stall 14. I’d love to say he can’t win from there but Goring won this from the same draw two years ago. It’s still a disadvantage though and he’s too short at around 4/1 from there.

Much has also been made of Laura Pearson’s worth for her claim and she’s an interesting booking for Amber Island who looks as though he needs to step up to win this. Count Otto has been in good form recently but is very much exposed and doesn’t look well handicapped anymore.

Lord Of The Lodge is the most likely leader here and Mum’s Tipple winning the previous race would be a form boost. He did comfortably best of the pace horses at Newcastle two starts ago in a good race and despite being rated 103 here, he’s still relatively lightly raced and was 2nd in a Group 2 as a 2yo so he could still prove well handicapped. All his all weather runs have come on tapeta but he’s also run well on turf so polytrack should be no issue.

Gabrial The Devil is weighted to beat Count Otto on a recent meeting and although not obviously well handicapped, he’s been extremely consistent recently and could place again. Total Commitment is closely matched with that pair and absolutely loves it here. A more solid pace than last time should suit him and it would be no surprise to see him place again.

Magical Wish has won over course and distance after a break before, isn’t badly handicapped and should be well placed from a decent draw. He’s more interesting than Revolutionise who seemed to find Lingfield a bit quick on his last try here. An honourable mention goes to Oh This Is Us who goes well here and is fairly handicapped but he’s surely better at a mile at this course.

Ayr Harbour is the obvious and interesting one and the jockey booking may be enough to cancel out the poor draw. In a competitive handicap like this he’s too risky at the price though. Total Commitment, Gabrial The Devil and to a certain extent Magical Wish have decent place claims at prices but LORD OF THE LODGE (13/2) could be just as interesting as anything else. He probably won’t get an easy lead but he’s much better drawn than the rest of the pace which will help. He’s been gradually coming to the boil having disappointed back on turf last summer and time will probably tell he faced an impossible task last time when still defeating a 108 rated rival by 1.75 lengths who seemingly ran his race.

Pierre-Louis Jamin is fair value for his claim and he’s just one of five jockeys in this who have previously ridden their mount. The other runners who have jockeys who have previously ridden them are Magical Wish, Revolutionise, Total Commitment and Oh This Is Us.

Punting Angles Using Sires & Damsires: Part 2

Last month I started a new series of articles looking at sires and damsires, writes Dave Renham. To recap, sires are the fathers of the respective horses and can have a significant influence on their offspring; damsires are the maternal grandfathers and can also bestow certain characteristics on their daughter's progeny.

In the first article, we saw that certain sires had strong traits; for example Casamento’s runners are better suited to longer distances with his offspring twice as likely to win at 11 furlongs or further than at sprint trips of five to six furlongs.

In this second article my focus will continue to be sires and I will be sharing some additional insights looking for positive or negative angles. I will also be concentrating on two-year-old races where sire stats can be extremely useful as we have limited, or often no, horse form to go on.

This piece is not completely ‘time sensitive’ because there are some sires who have had runners in ten or more seasons and I want to analyse individuals in more detail if I can.

Record of sires in 2yo races

Below is a table of the top 20 sires of 2yos, in terms of strike rate, between 2016 and 2020 in the UK (minimum 200 runs):

Sharmadal is the only sire in profit and, sadly, he passed away last year. He should have a crop of 2yos for the 2021 season and possibly a small one for 2022. However, the first sire I wish to look at in more depth is Kodiac.

Kodiac

Kodiac, a son of Danehill, was a decent handicapper as a racehorse and went to stud in 2007 with his first runners hitting the racecourse in 2010. He holds the record for the most 2yo wins in one season and his progeny include Campanelle, Best Solution and Hello Youmzain.

I want to share Kodiac's record with juveniles in the UK going back to his first crop in 2010, firstly breaking it down by individual years:

Looking at the yearly strike rates, Kodiac has been relatively consistent with rates ranging from 10% to just over 16%. Losses overall are around 14p in the £ but, using best odds guaranteed or the exchanges would get this loss down to probably about 2-3p in the £. I now want to break the data down by level of experience (2010-2020):

Kodiac’s strike rate with his runners on debut is solid at nearly 13%. The average strike rate (SR%) on debut for all sires stands at just 7.74%, hence Kodiac progeny seem fairly well primed and ready for their first outing on a racecourse.

Horses normally improve considerably between that first career run (debut) and their second start. Kodiac’s runners are no exception, and have won over 17% of races on their second starts as a 2yo and actually made a blind profit, which is unusual. Comparing again with all sires it should be noted that backing all sires blind on their second start would lose you around 26p in the £.

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My next port of call was to look at trainer records and compare their 2yo performances with Kodiac-bred runners. I have only included trainers who have had 45 or more runs:

There is a real mix here, ranging from John Gosden's 29.17% to Tim Easterby at just 2.04%. However, Clive Cox is the most interesting one for me – his overall strike rate of 1 win in 4 (25%) is impressive and he has had 16 different 2yos sired by Kodiac, 12 of which won at least once as a 2yo. That equates to 75% of these horses winning a 2yo race. Compare this to Charles Hills who has had 23 different 2yos sired by Kodiac, but only six of those proved successful in their first season (26%). To give you more context, 44.26% of Kodiac 2yos have won at least one race as a 2yo, well above the Hills figure of 26% but well below the 75% Cox figure.

We noted when looking at the yearly breakdowns that Kodiac juveniles are consistent. Indeed this consistency can be seen to best effect when examining performance on different underfoot conditions. The graph below shows the strike rate on specific goings:

The percentages range from 13% to 14.89%. So if you are backing a Kodiac two-year-old, it seems you do not need to worry about whether it will be effective on the going.

 

Kingman

I now want to move onto a new sire on the block, Kingman. Kingman was a four-time Group 1 winner when racing, winning seven of his eight career races. His only defeat came in the 2014 2000 Guineas when he finished second. It perhaps comes as no surprise, then, that as a sire he has started with a bit of bang. His stud fee in 2015 was £55,000 and, six years later, that fee has nearly tripled to £150,000.

He tops the 2016 to 2020 2yo strike rates (see first table above) and I want to examine his juvenile progeny data in more detail. While it is still relatively early days, and he does not have the large data set of a Kodiac, there are still some trends that seem to have emerged already.

Let us look first at distance. Kingman 2yos have so far displayed a distance bias to 7f more as the graph shows:

There also seems a bias in terms of male runners outperforming female runners at this early stage: we are working with quite a small data set (164 runs for males and 150 runs for females) which is why I have included each way (win and placed) stats, too, in the graph below.

 

The win figures correlate extremely well with the each way stats – at least so far.

One area where the male dominance can be seen is when we compare the record of male horses making their 2yo debut compared to females. Males seem much more mature and ready to run from the ‘get go’. There have been 72 colts or geldings sired by Kingman making their debut at two thus far, of which 20 have won (SR 27.78%) showing a profit to SP of £54.94 (ROI +76.31%). In contrast the 65 fillies making their racecourse debut as two-year-olds recorded just six wins (SR 9.23%) for a hefty SP loss of £43.33 (ROI -66.66%). The each way SR%s correlate once again with males winning/placing 64% of the time whereas the percentage for females winning/placing is under 25%.

I now want to move away from individual sires back to general observations.

Comparing 2yo debut run to 2yo second career start

When looking at Kodiac earlier in the piece, I broke his progeny performance data down by career start number. Now I am going to expand this review to all sires that appeared in the initial table by comparing strike rates with their progeny on debuts against their second runs (as a juvenile). For this I have looked at data going back to 2010:

In the final column I have divided the 2nd run strike rate by the debut run strike rate to give us a type of Impact Value. It is not a ‘true’ IV so I’ll call it a Comparison Strike Rate (CSR). The higher this figure the more improvement the runners show on their second run compared to their debut.

As we can see by looking at that final column there is quite a difference in the CSR figures in some of the sires. Frankel’s runners for example have a CSR figure of just 1.10 – of course this is partly due to his exceptional strike rate of over 21% on debut.

The sires of most interest in this table are probably those with CSR figures above 2.00, namely Acclamation, Clodovil, Due Diligence, Gutaifan, Mehmas, Muhaarar, Requinto and Toronado. You can really expect their runners to improve considerably from their juvenile debut run to their next start as a 2yo, an angle which should help in establishing value and potentially throwing up some decent betting opportunities.

 

Comparing 2yo turf runs with 2yo all weather runs

In the next table I wanted to compare turf strike rate with all weather strike rate. Again I have produced a C.S.R. figure by dividing the turf SR% by the all weather SR%.

A CSR figure of 1.00 indicates the sire is equally effective on both surfaces. Figures well above 1.00 give the edge to turf performance; figures below 1.00 suggest progeny of those sires are more effective on all weather surfaces, purely in terms of juvenile win strike rate.

Looking at either end of the spectrum will isolate differences which are significant enough to be potentially interested in. For example, Frankel’s progeny at two are clearly far better on turf than on the all weather, scoring nearly twice as often on the former. There is a logic here in that such expensive acquisitions will rarely be tried on artificial footing until they have suggested that they fare poorly on grass. Likewise, New Approach seems to be a strong influence for turf over sand. But the reverse is true when we look to the bottom of the table, at Toronado and Sea The Stars: their juvenile offspring are currently showing a clear preference to all weather surfaces.

Finally I wanted to look at some sires you might wish to consider avoiding in terms of 2yos, generally at least. Below is a list of those sires whose strike rate in the last 5 years (2016-2020) has been below 8%. Clearly it is as important to be aware of negative angles as it is of potentially positive ones.

As the first two articles in this series have hopefully shown, sire research can unearth some very useful stats and angles. Geegeez will assist any curious subscriber via both the Profiler and Query Tool.

Good luck!

- DR

Watch This! Geegeez Mobile Coming This Week

I'm excited to share that, later this week, we'll be introducing the new mobile version of the Geegeez Gold racecards and form tools. There will be little to no change to the desktop cards and tools, but users on tablet and mobile will see a quite distinctive new style. In the video below, I walk through how things will be in the new 'better mobile' world.

NOTE: This is change. Humans don't like change. Some things will require a little getting used to. Stick with it, please. I have, and I can tell you I now find the new mobile cards miles better than they were (and miles better than any others out there 😉  ). But, of course, I would say that, wouldn't I?!

Here's the vid...

Monday Musings: Hope for the future, and Cope from the past

Five a.m. on the second day of BST and I was still uncertain what to write about. It was tempting to go along with the thought that John Gosden, 70, on his own was never as potent a trainer as he has become with the addition of son Thady, 25, as joint-licence-holder, writes Tony Stafford.

Five Saturday wins on the second day of their newly-shared role at Clarehaven Stables followed a first-day victory with Coronet’s sister Regent at Lingfield on Friday. But not just any old wins. Two in the first two races at Kempton for Rab Havlin; Haqeeqy at Doncaster in the Unibet Lincoln on the opening day of the 2021 turf Flat season; oh, and £4 million quid’s worth with two easy wins on World Cup day at Meydan.

Races like the Cambridgeshire over the past few years have become almost cannon-fodder for Gosden and the way he is able to go into major handicaps with horses still in the embryonic stage sets him apart.

Lord North, one of the father-and-son team’s two Meydan winners, had been rated 98 when winning the 2019 Cambridgeshire but he has long since graduated to Group races and before Saturday was 25lb higher. Even that figure looks likely to get another hike tomorrow after a cantering win coming from last to first under Frankie Dettori on Saturday in the Dubai Turf over nine furlongs.

The Italian had to share Dubai’s riding riches with David Egan, who won on Mishriff in the Dubai Sheema Classic. The horse, winner of the lavishly-endowed Saudi Cup last month, brought his career earnings beyond £10million when holding on from two Japanese five-year-old mares.

Egan is clearly a young rider with a big future, though 7lb claimer Benoit de la Sayette could have the ultimate career, not that it’s ever easy to predict on such scant evidence. But for a rider having his first ever ride on turf to come through and win the Lincoln so easily and cheekily on Haqeeqy, with a late swoop after Brunch appeared to have pinched it, was unusual to say the least.

“Benny And The Jets”, as I have to call him – it’s the only way to remember the name – has already won nine races from 30-odd rides adding to one from one last year. I can’t remember another claiming apprentice of such promise being attached to the Gosden yard. [Gosden has not had an apprentice for 30 years, so no failing memory. Ed.]

Haqeeqy’s win was poignant for John Gosden as he is owned by Sheikha Hissa, daughter of Hamdan Al Maktoum, the colossus of the turf, as owner and especially breeder, who died last week aged 75. His death must have left a pall over Dubai World Cup night when sadly his colours, now racing as the Shadwell Estate Co, did not enjoy much luck.

Godolphin did win two, including the World Cup in which the Michael Stidham-trained Mystic Guide justified favouritism with another easy win for American stables in this valuable dirt race. Earlier, the same colours had a last-to-first win with the gelding Rebel’s Romance, who gave Charlie Appleby a first UAE Derby success. He is set to challenge for the Kentucky Derby, a race Sheikh Mohammed has long coveted.

Xxxx

Anyway, here I am, having not wanted to major writing about Saturday because I’ve been waiting for a couple of weeks for a suitable time to talk about a most remarkable – for me anyway – little publication that George Hill sent me as an antidote to lockdown.

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It’s the 1950 version of Cope’s Racegoer’s Encyclopædia – with the “a” and “e” on the cover properly diphthonged – and it’s a remarkable insight into how racing was conducted in those days. The book was published from the immediate post-war years to the early 1960’s.

Alfred Cope, one of the major bookmakers at the time, pens two of many interesting articles. The first is why he goes racing, the second how his off-course mainly postal and telephone business was conducted. That was more than half a century before the Internet came to enrich or diminish our lives, depending on your viewpoint.

Cope talks about regular racegoers coming to the end of each season with energies spent, yet by the time that Lincoln’s Carholme racecourse – long lost to the sport, but written about on these pages back yon - rolled around for the start of the Flat season, “people were looking up train times and booking hotels with renewed energy”.

Of course that was a quarter-century before the advent of all-weather racing, so Flat horses that didn’t get on the track by November, had an almost five-month wait.  It wasn’t easy for the tracks either, for example Chester and Goodwood, now both racing throughout the Flat-racing year were each restricted to a single four-day fixture, Chester in May and Goodwood in July.

During 1949 racecourses had to survive under the iniquity of Entertainment Tax. Epsom’s Managing Director at the time, Mr C J L Langlands, wrote in a letter to a newspaper that of every £1,000 taken at the gate, £458 (at 45.8%) was paid in Entertainment Tax, £403 in rates and after lesser amounts for Profits and Income Tax, £69 was retained by the Epsom Grand Stand Association Ltd.

Admission costs have always been high in the UK compared with say France or the US but even £50 or even more for some of the bigger meetings today represents a bargain compared with the post-war years.

In 1950, the average weekly wage was around £2. Cope writes about the normal cost to go in Tattersalls enclosures was 30 bob - £1.50! When I was a kid in the 50’s we always went in the Silver Ring.

Two articles that most attracted my attention were one discussing the likely apprentices to watch out for as the 1950 season approached, along with another assessing the potential Classic horses of that year. Palestine, beaten in the 1949 Middle Park Stakes, had been the overwhelming favourite until then. The following spring, as a 4-1 shot, he did indeed win for the Aga Khan, grandfather of the present Aga, narrowly from Prince Simon, who then was beaten in another close finish to the Derby.

Also there was an intriguing re-printing of the memoirs of the great trainer from the previous Century, John Porter. He minutely chronicles the life of the great Ormonde, easily the best horse of his – and most other – times and unbeaten winner of 15 races including the Triple Crown in 1886.

Porter retells not just his races, but the gallops on the way including his work opponents and the weights carried as he approached his first race in the late summer of 1885. He relates that, as a young horse, Ormonde developed splints under both fore-knees which prevented him flexing them properly. “The growths were however dispersed by applications of Ossidine, a preparation I have always found to be the best remedy for bony excrescences.” So now you know.

Everything about his three years on the track and the gallops was related in atomic detail, including the awful day leading up to the St Leger when he first gave signs on the Kingsclere gallops of the wind infirmity which was eventually to curtail his racing career and blight his disappointing time at stud.

By the end of his three-race four-year-old season Porter was dealing with a “roarer”, who was so badly afflicted that “On foggy mornings you could hear him half a mile away before you could ever see him”. He did sire a Derby winner in Orme from a small initial crop but was bought soon after to stand in Argentina. For several years, with fertility declining almost to nothing, he moved back and forth to England and had a number of ownership changes.

At last in May 1904, Ormonde’s last owner, the American William Macdonough, thought it humane to have him put to sleep and this happened with the help of chloroform. He was buried at Menlo Park but as any schoolboy or schoolgirl that has visited the National History Museum in London would tell you, his carcass was exhumed and his skeleton re-constructed to stand proudly in Kensington.

The article about apprentices was most interesting. Written by Ainslie Hanson of the Sporting Life, and entitled “Looking for another Gordon <Richards, winner of 26 Flat-race titles> among Apprentices”, it says “Raymond Reader and Billy Snaith show exceptional ability.”

Snaith, who died two years ago, aged 91, did indeed do well, riding many winners for the Queen. He will always be remembered by Willie Snaith Road in his adopted home town (he was Gateshead-born) which is one of the main arteries in Newmarket.

The next talented young man mentioned was Emmanuel Mercer, elder brother to Joe, and already coming to the end of his apprenticeship which in those days was a strictly-tied seven-year process. Manny Mercer, father of Caroline (wife of Pat) Eddery, was to die in a fall before a race at Ascot a few years later having been kicked in the head at the start when one of the leading jockeys of his time.

Nine apprentices are mentioned as having the potential of possibly becoming a champion jockey, but Reader is the one the writer has no hesitation in naming his apprentice of the year.

Then later he describes among the nine, one schoolboy who “still weighs less than five stone, but who rode a couple of outstanding races towards the end of that season”. In one, riding an outsider he beat Doug Smith, the regular runner-up to Richards in the title race, in a thrilling finish.

It was only in the August of the previous year that this son of Keith, a successful Flat and jumps jockey turned trainer, and grandson of Ernie, a dual Grand National-winning jockey, had his first winner, The Chase at Haydock Park.  He is of course Lester Piggott and at the time of that first win he was just 12 years old.

The two wins referred to in this article also came before his 14th birthday and by the time he was 18, he had already ridden Never Say Die to win the first of his nine Derbys. I can still hardly believe that he asked me to travel with him on both his first two days riding after his release from prison.

Beaten a short head at Leicester in the first race on Monday October 15, 1990, he also rode future Cheltenham Festival winner Balasani for my friend Mark Smith. They were unplaced and Balasani was to move to Martin Pipe soon after from John Jenkins.

I was tasked to bring the car round for a quick getaway after his last ride but, naturally struggling to move back the seat after 7st wet-through Bryn Crossley had driven up, and then failing to hear the Mercedes’ very quiet engine, I missed the appointment by enough time for Lester to be besieged by the media!

Then on the Tuesday, flying down to Badminton and from there by taxi to Chepstow, the great comeback was put in motion when Nicholas, trained by wife Susan for Danzig’s owner Henryk De Kwiatkowski, won a small race. This first win came aged 54, and was an event we celebrated that night in a first-person piece in the Daily Telegraph.

The following month Lester rode Vincent O’Brien’s Royal Academy to an amazing late-finishing triumph in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, a week short of his 55th birthday and exhibiting all the strength shown over more than 40 years. Lester happily is still around, and that little brown-covered and rather shabby book has many more secrets for me to unfold as we hopefully get back to normal after this awful twelve months.

If you fancy getting hold of a copy, I noticed one for that year, and most others, available on eBay, George’s full-time job these days.

Doncaster Spring Mile Preview: Two Big Prices Against The Field

The Lincoln is the most obvious race to cover this week with Saturday signalling the return of flat racing. However there is lots of filler in that race and it looks a case of pick the ‘group horse in a handicap’ from the first few in the betting – all of whom look short enough. A few of those fancied runners could also be withdrawn if the heavens don’t open so the short prices on the remaining runners of interest would get even shorter.

I’ll therefore look at the consolation for the Lincoln here, the Spring Mile Handicap. This race looks much more competitive and one in which we can hopefully find an each way edge, using the amazing suite of tools and data on offer with Geegeez Gold of course. Don’t forget that you can get your first 30 days with Geegeez Gold for just £1 by clicking here.

Plenty of the draw and pace data in this article should still be relevant for the Lincoln itself as an added bonus.

A note on the ground before we get stuck into this. This tweet circulated earlier in the week highlighting some very firm looking ground at Doncaster. At the time of writing on Friday the ground is officially described as good, good to firm in places with maybe a couple of millimetres of rain forecast on Friday. A few of the trainers were quoted during the week that it could easily end up good to soft but that might just be wishful thinking on their part.  We probably won’t know the exact going until the jockeys give their opinions after the first race. I wouldn’t be surprised if they suggest it’s on the good to firm side but for the purpose of this preview, I’m going to assume very fair, good ground.

Draw

It wouldn’t be the start of the flat season without a discussion on the draw. Unlike many courses where there can be a clear draw advantage, Doncaster is one of those courses where the draw can be much discussed and debated. Let’s take a look at the data:

Only ten big field races have been run over this course and distance on good ground since 2009 which is a relatively small sample size. The limited data suggests high draws have been preferable with low draws earning a PRB of 0.47, middle draws having a PRB of 0.51 and high draws having the best PRB of 0.53.

If we include good to firm ground as well as good ground we see a very slight shift further towards high draws with the PRB moving from 0.53 to 0.54.

If we include good to soft ground as well as good ground, we see a slightly different set of results:

This time there is very little difference between the draws with low and middle draws generating a PRB of 0.50 and high draws having a PRB of 0.51.

So potential advantages can definitely switch depending on the ground here. Going back to the good ground data, we see 3 wins apiece for low and high draws and 4 wins for middle draws. This suggests you can win from anywhere. For place purposes though low draws are much less favoured with a place percentage of 13.85%. That doesn’t compare favourably with 23.61% for middle draws and 21.54% for high draws.

Looking back at replays of the Lincoln and the Spring Mile renewals from recent years, they have often come up the middle of the track which explains the above data. The horses on the wings of the field, from very high or very low draws don’t seem to perform quite a well as those in the middle, from a place percentage perspective at the very least. But for win purposes all draws have a chance if they don’t favour one side and come up the middle and that is what the data confirms.

The above data is grouping 7 or 8 stalls into ‘low’, ‘middle’ or ‘high’ and we should get further insight from looking at the individual stall data, which of course we can do through Geegeez Gold.

This data is sorted by PRB3, which takes into account the immediately adjacent stalls to each individual stall, making it less prone to data anomalies.

The first trend that stands out is the lowest five stalls are all amongst the worst performing eight draws. However, they’ve generated 30% of the wins so whilst they can be a disadvantage more often than not, they clearly can’t be used to rule horses out.

Now whilst the lowest five stalls have some of the worst PRB3 figures, stalls 6 to 10 produce five of the top seven results. This is historically the best performing area of the entire draw.

The line graph included with the above data is extremely useful in that it shows the areas of the draw that may be most favoured. It seems that you ideally want to be drawn in the area where low draws and middle draws meet. If you can’t be drawn there you probably want to be where the middle draws meet the high draws. If they come up the middle this makes perfect sense. Those on the flanks might see too much daylight. Those in the very centre of the draw are probably more likely to meet traffic problems. The runners that are either side of the centre probably get the best of both worlds.

Overall though we can’t be 100% sure where they’ll go and we can’t rule anything completely in or out based on the draw. Either side of the middle does seem favourable though.

Pace

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A nice straight mile course and a big field, often a perfect recipe for getting the best out of hold up performers. Is that the case here though?

I’ve included all races on ground ranging from good to firm down to good to soft here. The going can affect the pace bias just like it can affect the draw bias but these aren’t extremes of going and the data appears to be pretty uniform across the different going types.

We see a massive underperformance from front runners here. With bigger fields likely to contain more front runners and a nice fair straight to run over this isn’t a huge surprise but just how badly front runners have performed from a place percentage point of view is interesting with just 9.09% of pace horses even holding on for a place.

According to the data the further back you are in the field early, the more likely you are to win. We get more data from the place percentages than the win percentages though and they suggest mid division is slightly favoured over being held up, but with figures of 23.44% and 22.31% respectively for these run styles there is very little in it. A place percentage of 18.80% is a fair enough performance, you couldn’t really argue they are favoured but it’s clearly a much better position to be in than front rank.

The fact that mid division and held up are both profitable to level stakes for each way bets, with prominent and front runners both unprofitable definitely suggests we ideally want to be on the more patiently ridden runners.

Pace and Draw Combination

I have already speculated some reasons on why the central draws and very wide draws might be slightly underperforming when the runners come up the middle. The pace and draw combination heat map could potentially shed more light on this.

The fact that there is such a huge drop in hold up runner performance for central drawn runners compared to their lower and higher drawn counterparts strong suggests these runners are meeting trouble in running.

There is no obvious reason why high drawn prominent racers perform much better than the lower drawn prominent racers or why low drawn mid division seems so much better than higher drawn mid division but that data is still worth bearing in mind given it’s based on PRB which takes into account much more data than win or place percentages.

Spring Mile Pace Map

As usual, the individual pace make up of the race will be very important, especially in this cavalry charge.

There should be a good pace on here and the fact that the majority of it seems to be amongst the middle draws again suggests that they’ll come up the centre of the course.

A strong pace here, combined with the historic pace bias towards those held up, strongly suggests that the winner, and possibly the majority of the placed horses, will come from the rear half of the field.

The likes of Ledham, Badenscoth and Queen’s Sargent will need luck on their side as they are the most centrally drawn hold up performers and they seem more likely than most to encounter traffic problems. Home Before Dusk may be another who gets trapped in the middle.

Profile

You always get a mix of horses returning from breaks against horses that are fit from all weather campaigns in this. This year exactly half the field have already had a run in 2021. Some of those have had a very active winter and others have had a quite obvious prep run ahead of the return of the flat season.

It’s very much worth noting that seven of the last ten winners of this had not run at all since the previous flat turf season. Of the three winners who had a previous run, one had run on the all weather in late November so could be considered yet another winner returning from a break. Of the other two winners one had been running over hurdles over the winter and the other had a single all weather prep run for this. Horses that have been busy on the all weather over the winter do not have a good record in this at all.

It’s also worth noting that eight of the last ten winners of this were 4yos. That age group will generally be the least exposed in this so it makes sense they do best of all. Ten of this field are 4yos, seven of which make up the first eight in the betting at the time of writing.

The Runners

I’ll run through the main contenders for this, in early odds order, and a few interesting ones at bigger prices.

Acquitted

An unexposed 4yo who had just three runs last year. The piece of form that stands out was his 2nd to Palace Pier in a Newcastle handicap. He was beaten over 3 lengths on that occasion, getting 9lbs, which is no disgrace at all but Palace Pier won more comfortably than the winning margin suggests and the fact that he turned up in a Newcastle handicap strongly suggests he was going to improve significantly on the run. So whilst Acquitted remains with potential, I wouldn’t take that run remotely literally and the form wasn’t franked in the rest of the field.

Acquitted didn’t beat a rival home on his next two starts and hasn’t been seen since July. He’s been gelded since and he could suddenly improve for a good trainer but his only turf win was on heavy and he has a lot of questions to answer given his price but strong market support may be significant.

Arctic Vega

Another unexposed 4yo representing powerful connections. He ran poorly in December on his first start for 167 days but came on for that run and won next time out, on his first run at this distance, at Newcastle in January. The 2nd and 3rd have failed to place in five runs combined since then which is a worry, as is the fact that both his wins have come on artificial surfaces. He has run just about okay on good ground previously though.

The fact that he hasn’t run in two months could be a slight concern. It’s entirely possible he was put away for this after that but if they think he’s really well handicapped why not try and win another race to get into the Lincoln which has twice as much prize money on offer?

Artistic Rifles

Two wins from three starts at Doncaster and ran well enough last time out on his first start for 161 days. The form of that run has been let down a little though, all his wins have come in much smaller fields and he’s often close to the pace which is likely to be a negative here. Add to that he’s fairly exposed now and is drawn very high which might not be ideal.

Mascat

A consistent contender, his form figures outside of Group company at 10f or shorter read 213323. He was 2nd to Palace Pier as a 2yo but his only win came in maiden company and he does turn out to be the bridesmaid too often.

He’s interesting on his mile form, which is probably his best distance, especially if he improves for better ground having had his last two runs on heavy. He’s been gelded since those runs and must have an excellent chance of placing in this, for all he’s perhaps slightly vulnerable for win purposes. It's also possible he’ll be a bit too close to a strong pace. A good run here would be a boost for Brentford Hope in the Lincoln later on.

Poet’s Lady

Another of the lightly raced 4yos. She’s never run a bad race in five starts and is proven over this trip on ground ranging from soft to good. She’s fairly handicapped on what she has done to date, especially her 2nd in maiden company last June. She was beaten 6 lengths on handicap debut but she was only receiving 5lbs from a subsequent listed winner that day so that was certainly no disgrace.

She did look as though she was ready to go a little further last time though and she probably won’t be far off the pace here which might not help her chances but she’s handicapped to be competitive and has a nice draw in stall 8.

Amaysmont

Consistent performer and the shortest priced of those that have been kept busy over the winter. He’s gone up 6lbs over the winter and had previously failed to win in six handicap starts off lower marks than this. He handles any ground and given he is fit from his all weather campaign he’s capable of giving his running plus he’s unexposed at this trip on turf but he doesn’t look well enough handicapped to win this. Richard Fahey has won this twice in the past ten runnings (and has won the Lincoln twice in the same period) and this is his only runner in either race today. Very low drawn.

Dubai Souq

A well beaten last of four runners when last seen in July running over a mile and a half. He’s been gelded and off the track since. His best performance came when a wide margin winner on soft ground over ten furlongs as a juvenile and his only run since was that poor run last time out. He should handle the ground but we don’t know if he’s trained on since his 2yo days, how he’ll handle the drop in trip or how fit he is here.

We’d have to guess at the first two issues but it’s worth noting that Saeed bin Suroor has a 19.12% win strike rate and 33.82% place strike rate with 4yos in handicaps over the past two years with his UK runners and those figures drop to 4.55% and 18.18% respectively when returning from breaks of 60+ days so there is every chance that he won’t be anywhere near cherry ripe here even if he has trained on.

Global Esteem

His form tailed off last season after a good couple of runs in the summer but he changed moved from Gaye Kelleway to Chris Dwyer over the winter and put up a fairly encouraging reappearance over just 6f earlier this month in what looks a clear prep run for this.

He made a highly encouraging reappearance last season when runner up in a race where the winner, 4th and 6th all won on their next starts. That run came over 7f and he finished well looking ready for a step up in trip and he was the only runner to finish in the first five in that race to have been held up. He followed that up with a win on his first start at a mile next time out, winning easily by 2 lengths (the runner up went close against a progressive rival two starts later) and a 5lb rise seemed fair for that. He was well beaten on his next start (possibly ridden too prominently) and then ran very poorly on his final two starts of the season.

He was only 5th at Wolverhampton last time out in a class 4 handicap but he was surprisingly dropped to 6f for that and he ran well considering he was trapped wide the whole way round. He’ll be seen to best effect if he can settle in the rear off a strong gallop here but he’s possibly drawn a bit wider than ideal in 18.

Home Before Dusk

A multiple winner on artificial surfaces but yet to win on turf and has only run once on grass since the summer of 2019. This sort of pace set up suits him ideally and he has finished runner up on ground ranging from good to soft and good to firm but he definitely seems a better horse on the all weather. He’s 10lbs lower than when beaten 11 lengths in the Royal Hunt Cup consolation last season so still needs to improve on that form.

Mostawaa

One of the likely pace angles, he won last time out at Kempton in December but has been freshened up since then. He showed some decent turf form last year on a range of going descriptions but he’s on a career high mark and faces plenty of competition for the lead, even from the nearest couple of stalls.

Queen’s Sargent

Reached a career high mark last season and versatile these day ground wise but all his winning has been done over shorter and he may struggle to fully get home off the back of a good gallop here. He’s generally ready to go early in the season (1st, 3rd, 3rd on his last three season debuts) and is likely to be seen travelling well a few furlongs from home but vulnerable to the less exposed mile specialists.

Spiorad

Ran consistently well in three all weather efforts this winter following wind surgery but was below par last time out at Newcastle a month ago. He’s fairly lightly raced for a 6yo but he’s required wind surgery a couple of times and hasn’t always been the most consistent so he’s not necessarily the type to bounce back instantly from a poor run. He’s also 6lbs above his highest winning mark.

Into Faith

An interesting, lightly raced contender at a price. Five of his nine starts have come in France, including a 2yo win on very soft ground at Longchamp. He’s 4lbs higher than when last seen in the UK courtesy of a couple of 2nd places from four attempts across the Channel. Both of those runners up efforts were behind horses that won next time out at listed level and it’s worth noting the first of those saw him finish just half a length behind Ziegfeld who was 2nd to subsequent QEII Stakes winner The Revenant in a Group 2 two starts later.

He put in two solid, staying on efforts on these shores last summer, admittedly well enough beaten in both. He was only beaten 4.5 lengths at the July meeting though in a hot mile handicap. The winner has since won in Hong Kong, the runner up is one of the favourites for the Lincoln and the 4th and 7th both won on their next starts. Into Faith actually did 2nd best of those held up in the rear in that race.

As an added bonus, his trainer David Menuisier has a better strike rate in handicaps in the past five years with runners returning from a 60+ day break than he does with all of his runners in handicaps. It’s probably fair to say Into Faith has improved for a run both seasons he has been in training but we at least know Menuisier can get them fit if need be.

Ledham

Not the most reliable betting proposition having finished last on his only start since leaving Sir Michael Stoute but he certainly doesn’t deserve to be the price he is for this. He’d be one of the favourites for this based on his form for his previous handler and although a lot has to be taken on trust with just one run in just under two years, his stable debut a week ago was better than it seemed. It was his first run in 693 days and he was dropping back to 6f for the first time in his career. He ran as though still retaining some ability over a trip that was clearly too short and wasn’t given a hard race. Such a quick turn around after that layoff is a major concern and he’s certainly very risky but there are worse 66/1 chances running this weekend.

The Verdict

Arctic Vega is probably most interesting of the favourites but it would have been preferable for some of those behind him last time out to advertise that form since. It’s not his fault he won a poor race though and he’s definitely interesting.

Mascat is capable of running well but he’s probably a place proposition once again. Meanwhile Poet’s Lady is one we haven’t seen the best of but she might end up outpaced in this.

All these shorter priced runners come with plenty of risks attached though so the value is surely found at bigger odds. Two against the field are GLOBAL ESTEEM and INTO FAITH at around 14/1 and 25/1 respectively.

The former seemed back to form last time out over too short a trip and his strong run at Sandown last year came on fast ground whilst his win came on soft ground so he has plenty going for him. His form is in a lower grade but a repeat of that Sandown effort would put him in the mix.

Into Faith is higher in the handicap now than he was last summer which is slightly frustrating given he was well beaten twice but the Newmarket race in which he ran creditably was a better contest than this and he earned his extra weight in France. He also has the handy 5lb claim from Rhys Clutterbuck.

Both are perhaps drawn a little wider than ideal but they should be ridden to best effect given how this is likely to be run.

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