The draw and potential draw biases is where my interest in horse racing began, writes Dave Renham. Back in the late 1990's I remember reading some excellent draw articles by Russell Clarke in a magazine called Odds On and I was hooked. Within days I was doing my own research using my Superform Annuals and pen and paper. This progressed to putting data into computers using excel.

I dread to think how much time I spent collating data. My main memory is working on my computer from 10pm to 2am on a regular basis. However, in those days the hard work was worth it because it was still a very under-researched area and draw biases were quite strong at certain courses. In addition to that, it was at a time before racing computer programs were commercially available.

It is over 20 years since I wrote my first book on draw bias and how things have changed since those ‘good old days’. At this juncture, it needs to be pointed out that many of the draw biases that were around 15 or 20 years ago are either not as strong as they were, or have disappeared completely. For many years draw biases provided punters with money spinning opportunities, me included. Virtually all my decent winning bets from around 1997 to 2006 were influenced by the draw in some way.

However, as with most things, when a good source of highlighting winners is found, within a few years the edge starts to disappear. This is very much a horse racing trait - good ideas gain an initial edge because the majority of people do not use that winner finding approach. As time goes on however, the betting public and the bookmakers catch up, and as a result the prices tend to contract and the value begins to disappear. This has happened with the draw, and to confound the problem course officials started using other means of negating potential draw bias. Running rails are now moved in order to keep horses off the fastest strip of ground, and better watering and drainage systems mean that most straight courses are far more even than they were back then.

The draw has had massive exposure in the past, and with people realising the edge is disappearing, the subject is beginning to assume less importance. However, before we begin to write off the draw completely, I still believe there is an edge for the educated draw punter. I maintain that at certain tracks a poor draw can still all but wipe out the chance of a horse, while a good draw increases one’s chances considerably. The trick perhaps is to find biases that may be more subtle, or at least which most punters are less aware of.

During this period of racing inactivity I plan to look at a few individual courses in depth, focusing primarily on draw bias but looking at pace aspects as well. The first course that will be put under the microscope is Pontefract.

 

Pontefract is located in West Yorkshire and is a left-handed track that is undulating with a stiff uphill finish in the home straight. Indeed the lowest point on the track is around the six-furlong start while the finishing post is the highest point, meaning both the five- and six-furlong sprints are testing.

The course is around two miles in length and, something I didn’t realise, is that originally it was around four furlongs shorter. Being left-handed one would assume that lower draws may have the advantage over high drawn horses at some distances, but the proof of the pudding, as always, will be in the eating!

For this article I am using key tools on Geegeez: namely the Draw Analyser, Pace Analyser and Query Tool. The period of study is a long one – going back to 2009, but I will examine more recent data in detail too.

My draw research has always focused on handicap races only. My belief is that handicap races give a better and fairer data set as such races are generally competitive affairs. When analysing each handicap race, I divide the draw into thirds - those drawn in the bottom third (low), those drawn in the middle third, and those drawn in the top third.

It should also be noted that I also adjust the draw positions when there are non runners – for example if the horse drawn 3 is a non runner, then the horse drawn 4 becomes drawn 3, draw 5 becomes 4 and so on. On a completely fair course the winning percentages for each "third" of the draw should be around 33% each. The differences in the percentages will help to determine the strength of the bias. The good news is that the Draw Analyser on Geegeez makes exactly the same splits, and is also capable of calculating draw by the advertised stall in your racecard and the actual stall, accounting for non-runners.

In my experience, I consider there to be two types of draw bias. Firstly, clear bias towards one specific section of the draw; this is the strongest possible bias. Secondly, one can get a bias against one specific section of the draw.

Another key factor to take into account is field size: for potential draw bias to exist I maintain there needs to be a reasonable number of runners in the race, and eight or more runners is the figure I have chosen. Draw bias is far more likely to be prevalent in larger fields as horses will either be forced to run wide (hence having further to travel), or be forced to run on a part of the track where the ground may be slightly slower. If the data set is big enough I will look at bigger field data where I feel it is appropriate.

OK time to crunch some numbers.

 

Pontefract 5 furlongs (8+ runner handicaps)

There have been 89 qualifying races - five-furlong handicaps with eight or more runners - during the period of study. Here are the overall draw splits:

Despite the track being left handed and the 5f distance having a bend to run round, low drawn horses do not dominate. The A/E values below suggest that the low drawn horses are overbet and are essentially poor value:

For the record, if you had bet every horse from the bottom third of the draw at £1 per bet you would have lost £136.34; backing all middle draws would have lost just £9.62 at starting price.

In the following table individual draw positions have been broken down for 5f 8+ runner handicaps at Ponte:

A few individual stalls made a profit but clearly there is no pattern to this so I would not be advocating backing certain draws in the future.

Field size seems to make no difference in the draw figures, but I was keen to look at whether the going made a difference. Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s when the going got testing in sprint races at Pontefract, horses tended to head towards the near rail in the straight giving higher draws an edge. Unfortunately for the minimum distance we only have 15 handicap races that have occurred on soft or heavy going; but, interestingly, lower draws have won 9 of the 15 (66.66%). That's far too small a sample from which to make any concrete conclusions; however, the 6f stats may give us more data to work with and may hopefully will show correlation.

Regarding 5f soft or heavy ground runners, you would make a very small profit backing lower drawn horses each way (£3.03 to £1 level stakes).

Let us look at pace and running style now. Here are the overall figures:

An notable edge for front runners can be observed. Moreover, better than 52% of horses that took the early lead went on to finish in the first three. This implies a strong front running bias.

On good ground or firmer the front running bias gets even stronger – early leaders win 20.48% of these races with an IV of 2.15. On good to soft or softer, conversely, front runners have failed to win any of the 22 races. It will be interesting to see if a similar pattern emerges over 6f.

Lastly for the five-furlong range, a look at draw / pace (running style) combinations for front runners in these 5f races:

Due to the left handed nature of the course/distance one might have expected more leaders to have come from the lowest draws. Interestingly, though, those horses that led from the bottom third of the draw (low) only managed to win three races from 39 attempts (SR 7.69%); A/E 0.51.

Horses that led early from middle draws went on to win over 25% of the time giving a positive A/E of 2.66. One additional stat is worth sharing: horses drawn in the bottom third of the draw (low) that were held up early have a dreadful record, winning just 2 races from 98 with an A/E of just 0.17.

Pontefract 5f Handicaps (8+ runners) Summary

The draw seems to be fair with no bias, while from a pace perspective front runners do have an edge.

Early pace is generally far more material than stall position.

Horses held up from a low draw have a terrible record.

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Pontefract 6 furlongs (8+ runner handicaps)

 There have been 153 qualifying races over six furlongs during the period of study. Here are the overall draw splits:

There seems to be a small advantage for lower draws here. It may not be hugely significant but is worth further investigation. The A/E values correlate to a certain extent as shown below:

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A look again at individual draw positions and how they have fared over time:

Stalls 1 to 3 have decent individual A/E values and stall 2 has secured a long term profit. However, backing this draw blind in the future looks a less than robust way to produce a profit. I would be encouraged, however, if a horse I fancied was drawn in the bottom three stalls – this would be an extra tick in the box as it were.

This graph, which shows IV3 (the average Impact Value of a stall and its closest neighbours, e.g. 456), helps to visualise the table above from a 'likelihood of winning' perspective:

Looking at field size, low draws have the strongest edge in smaller fields (races of 8 or 9 runners). There have been a decent number of these races – 62 in total. The draw split for winners as follows:

The A/E value for low drawn horses edges up to 1.06 here. It seems therefore that a lower draw is more preferable in smaller fields. It is nothing to go ‘crazy’ about but a lower draw under these circumstances does look preferable.

What about the impact of the going in Ponte handicaps over six furlongs? It was noted above that, on soft or heavy ground in 5f handicaps, low draws seemed to have an edge albeit from limited data. In handicaps over a furlong further, the soft or heavy draw stats look as follows:

Again this data set is quite small (21 races), but a look at the win and placed data - table below - strongly suggests a lower draw is preferable:

For the record, backing all low-drawn horses EACH WAY on soft or heavy ground would have secured a profit of £19.57 to £1 level stakes.

Next follows a table illustrating the effect of pace and running style:

An edge for front runners again, while hold up horses have a relatively moderate record. When looking at 5f races earlier it was noted that front runners did better on firmer going and had struggled in testing ground. Unfortunately, from a statistical point of view at least, the complete reverse is the case here with front runners having performed far better on testing ground: indeed from the limited sample they have won over three times more than would be expected statistically. So one potential theory goes out of the window!

Again, we'll close out the distance review with a look at draw / pace (running style) combinations specifically for front runners in 6f handicaps:

As with the 5f range, horses which are drawn high are less likely to get to the early lead - in this case approximately half as likely as those drawn middle or low. There is little to choose between low and middle drawn horses in terms of getting to the early lead.

However, it should be noted that higher drawn horses that got to the lead have managed to go on to win almost 20% of the time.

Pontefract 6f Handicaps (8+ runners) Summary

To conclude, the 6f trip seems to offer low drawn horses an advantage which appears to increase in smaller fields.

The bias towards lower draws has been stronger on softer ground where, conversely, higher draws have struggled more.

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Pontefract 1 mile (8+ runner handicaps)

Most people focus their draw attentions at sprint distances, but a mile for me has always been the key distance at Pontefract in terms of the draw. From my previous research, lower draws traditionally had a decent edge over a mile so let’s look at the current data. There have been 142 qualifying races which gives us a really good chunk of information:

As expected the low draw bias is strong, with the A/E values not surprisingly following a similar pattern:

And here is the performance of each individual draw since 2009:

Draw 2, as it did over 5f and 6f, shows a blind profit. The A/E values for draws 1 to 3 are good as one would expect. This table does show quite neatly the draw bias in operation – several columns show this such as the win% column, the ew % column and the A/E column.

Once more, the IV3 chart brings the point home:

As this mile trip indicates a strong bias it is worthwhile checking a more recent subset of the data to confirm the long-term perspective. Focusing on the last four seasons (2016 to 2019), during which time span there were 54 races, gives the following splits:

These are similar results albeit a slightly lower win percentage for the bottom third of the draw. However, it ratifies the bias which has been around for years remains alive and kicking.

A  solid footnote is that in the past four seasons 23 of the 54 mile handicap races with eight or more runners were won by horses drawn 1 or 2 (SR 42.6%). Compare this with just eight wins achieved by the two highest drawn horses.

In addition, for those who like ‘exotic’ bets, you would have made a small profit if you had permed the lowest two drawn horses in every race in £1 reverse exactas: £14 profit from a £108 outlay. Of course an exacta is a pool bet so it is difficult to exploit potential draw biases in this way as such ideas, if overbet, would contract the returns. Having said that I have personally had much success in the past perming certain draws at certain tracks.

Back to the complete data set (going back to 2009) and a look at mile handicaps by number of runners - specifically looking at fields of 8 or 9 runners - there have been 53 races with the following draw splits:

A stronger bias it seems for lower drawn horses in small fields. The A/E values back this up as is shown below:

There also is a strengthening of the bias in bigger fields albeit from a relatively small sample. In races of 14 runners or more, 19 of the 30 races (SR 63.3%) have been won by the bottom (low) third of the draw.

Turning attention to the state of the turf, the win percentages for low drawn runners are extremely uniform and I have found nothing of note there.

However, with regard to pace and running styles, there are some factors to keep in mind. Here are the overall stats:

In racing in general, as the race distance increase so front running biases start to diminish. However, at Pontefract there is a stronger front running bias over a mile than at 6 furlongs. I found nothing of interest when delving into going considerations and field size, so nothing extra to report there.

Finally over this mile trip this is how the draw / pace (running style) combinations look for front runners in 1 mile handicaps:

These stats demonstrate that it is much easier - or at least more common - for a horse to lead from a low draw over a mile at Pontefract. Having said that, high drawn early leaders have gone on to win slightly more often in percentage terms. Horses that race mid division or are held up when drawn in the top third of the draw (high) have won just 7 races from 285 runners.

Geegeez Draw Analyser has a heat map to help visualise this, here displaying IV:

Pontefract 1 Mile Handicaps (8+ runners) Summary

The mile trip at Pontefract shows a significant draw bias to lower drawn horses. It is one of the strongest mile biases in the UK, if not the strongest.

From a pace angle, it is preferable for a horse to lead or track the pace.

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Pontefract 1 mile 2 furlongs (8+ runner handicaps)

The final distance to be examined in this article is a mile and a quarter. The configuration of the track means that there is an extra bend at this distance as compared to the mile trip and hence one would expect low draws to again have a decent edge. There have been 107 qualifying races from which to find angles:

On first view this looks a very strong bias with lower draws dominating and higher draws seemingly at even more of a disadvantage than they were at a mile. The A/E values back up the raw win percentages as a measure of profitability:

Indeed backing every horse drawn in the lowest third over ten furlongs at Pontefract (8+ runner handicaps) would have returned £39.90 to a £1 level stake.

Individual draw data next, and can stall 2 make a blind profit yet again??!!

Yes! Stall 2 has made a blind profit again - meaning it has been profitable at every individual distance up to 1m2f - as have stalls 3 and 4. Again, this table helps one visualise the strength of the low draw bias. Would I consider backing draws 1 to 4 ‘blind’ in the future? No, but it is clear that these draws must be the primary focus when analysing these races. Here is the IV3 chart to bring that home:

Time to check out more recent data to see whether the bias has been as strong over the past four seasons (2016-2019). There have been 33 qualifying races during that time, giving these stats:

Whilst it is not quite as strong, that could simply be down to the smaller - less reliable - sample size. It still indicates that low draws have a substantial advantage over higher ones.

Moving back to the complete data set (2009-2019) the low draw bias seems to strengthen considerably as the field size grows. This makes sense as the extra bend potentially helps lower drawn runners and impedes higher drawn runners who have to race wider. In races of 12 runners or more, 20 of the 31 races (SR 64.52%) have been won by the bottom third of the draw (low). The A/E value stands at a very healthy 1.25.

Indeed moving the goalposts up further - to 13+ runners - low draws have totally dominated, winning a huge 17 of the 22 races (SR 77.27%). The A/E value for low drawn runners is an uber-impressive 1.53.

Looking at going data there is something which stands out albeit from a limited sample. Races on soft or heavy seems to increase the strength of the low draw bias. From 21 races 15 were won by a horse in the lowest drawn third of the field. That equates to over 70% and an A/E of 1.55. Of course with limited data one cannot be too dogmatic, but these figures are still highly promising.

A look at the pace / running styles figures next:

Front runners have a stronger edge than I had expected, winning twice as often as most other run styles: maybe that extra bend near the start helps.

And finally, the draw / pace (running style) combinations for front runners in 1m2f handicaps:

Lower drawn horses as expected lead more often and roughly four in seven of them go on to finish in the first three. High drawn horses tend to struggle when racing mid division or when held up. This was also the case over 1 mile as we saw; over 1m2f such runners have won only five races from 207 runners.

 

Pontefract 1m2f Handicaps (8+ runners) Summary

The 1 mile 2 furlong distance shows a similarly strong low draw bias to that at a mile, and it seems that bigger fields may accentuate this.

Soft or heavy going may also strengthen the bias but that notion is based on limited data and so a watching brief is recommended.

*

Fingers crossed, in the near future we will see race meetings start again at Pontefract and, when they do, I hope these stats will help point you in the right direction in the ‘fight’ against the bookmakers.

- DR

In my last article I examined draw and running style combinations in five-furlong handicaps on the all-weather, with the main focus on front runners (those horses that take the early lead).

That article showed that on turning AW courses over the minimum trip (8+ runners), it was much easier to lead early from a lower draw compared to a higher one. That much is simple geometry: horses drawn low are closest to the rail and hence have less distance to travel to the first corner than their wider-drawn counterparts. It is worth noting that the positioning of the first bend can make a difference, as can the tightness of the turn.

However, the most surprising finding from the first article was that higher drawn horses that take the early lead actually go on to win more often than early leaders drawn low. I still cannot quite get my head round why this may be the case. As stated in that previous piece, I have always assumed that it is likely to have been quite an effort to pass so many horses to get to the lead from a wide draw. In addition to this, these runners probably would have had to run slightly further to achieve this.

Since writing the article I have tried to come up with a logical explanation for why higher-drawn horses have been able to win more often when leading early. Perhaps once these wide drawn runners get to the lead, the jockey on board tries to slow the pace down slightly in order to give his horse a breather, knowing that it would expended more energy than is ideal over that first half furlong or so.

More likely, though, is the impact of physics. As can be seen from the crude mock up below, a horse drawn inside has the best chance to get to the turn in front because it has the least distance to travel; but, once it gets to the turn the horse may need to decelerate in order to navigate around. Conversely, although a wider drawn runner has less chance to reach the turn in front - due to the potential of other horses inside to show early speed - on the occasions that a wide-drawn horse faces no pace contention, that horse can negotiate more of the turn at greater speed due to the angle at which it approaches the bend.

This of course depends on the location of the bend in relation to the start of the race. There is also a rule about jockeys staying in lanes for 100 yards, which might be described as 'loosely observed'. Regardless, hopefully it is clear how the less frequent wide drawn leader might win more often.

The impact of stall position on speed into the first turn

The impact of stall position on speed into the first turn

 

This is simply conjecture but in certain cases this could be what is happening. It might another day be worth looking at the new sectional timing data on Geegeez and matching it to those races where wide drawn runners had led early and gone onto win.

In this article I am going to look at six- and seven-furlong handicaps to see if similar patterns emerge in terms of draw / front runner combinations. Newcastle will be ignored as these distances are raced on a straight track there, but I will include Southwell this time as the six and seven furlong trips are raced around a bend there. Thus, we have six courses to look at: Chelmsford, Dundalk, Kempton, Lingfield, Southwell and Wolverhampton.

All-weather 6f handicaps (8 + runners)

Let's start by looking at draw / front runner combinations over six furlongs in handicaps. I only ever use handicap races for this type of research as non-handicap data is far less reliable. As mentioned in the first piece, the draw is split equally in three – low, middle and high - and hence one would expect, given a level playing field, that the ‘led early’ percentages would hit around 33.3% respectively from each section.

wdt_ID Course & Distance Low drawn led% Middle draw led% High draw led%
1 Chelmsford 6f 40.23 33.20 26.56
2 Dundalk 6f 53.13 28.13 18.75
3 Kempton 6f 40.32 32.66 27.02
4 Lingfield 6f 41.16 32.43 26.40
5 Southwell 6f 42.30 36.39 21.31
6 Wolverhampton 6f 34.53 30.55 34.92

For five of the six courses we see that once again the early leader is more likely to come from the lowest third of the draw – those drawn closest to the inside rail. Only Wolverhampton bucks the trend and this is probably because the first bend is more than a quarter mile from the start. That presents less of a positional advantage to the inside stalls and, essentially, the quickest horse from the gates should lead regardless of draw position. Dundalk seems to favour lower drawn horses the most with the bottom third of the draw producing more than half of all early leaders under these conditions.

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The following table is another way of illustrating how much more likely low drawn horses are to lead than high drawn ones – I used this approach in the previous article and have replicated it for this range. It has been calculated by dividing the "low draw led%" by the "high draw led%".

wdt_ID Course & Distance Low% / High%
1 Chelmsford 6f 1.51
2 Dundalk 6f 2.83
3 Kempton 6f 1.49
4 Lingfield 6f 1.56
5 Southwell 6f 1.98
6 Wolverhampton 6f 0.99

Compared to the five furlong data these figures are not as high, but nevertheless if you are keen to predict the front runner, which we know is potentially a profitable angle, then horses from lower stalls do lead early significantly more often than higher drawn ones.

If we take Wolverhampton out of the equation and focus on the other five courses at six furlongs, when we increase to 12 or more runners the front running bias to lower draws does increase:

wdt_ID Low drawn led% Middle draw led% High draw led%
1 45.80 34 20.20

Under these circumstances the lowest third of draw is around 2.3 times more likely to produce the early leader of the race. This stronger bias mirrors the data we saw when analysing five-furlong handicaps. With higher draws starting further away from the inside rail in bigger fields, it is even harder for such horses to get to the early lead.

For the record here are the figures for Wolverhampton, where there have been over 300 qualifying races:

wdt_ID Low drawn led% Middle draw led% High draw led%
1 33.79 34.47 31.74

A very even split – with that long run to the first bend it seems that bigger fields do not make it more difficult for high drawn horses to lead early.

Moving on, let us now look at win percentages for the early leaders from each third of the draw at the six courses. Here is the six-furlong handicap data for eight or more runners:

wdt_ID Course & Distance Low drawn leaders race win% Middle draw leaders race win% High draw leaders race win%
1 Chelmsford 6f 20.39 17.65 20.59
2 Dundalk 6f 17.65 12.96 16.67
3 Kempton 6f 13.50 16.67 15.67
4 Lingfield 6f 16.67 17.95 25.20
5 Southwell 6f 18.60 18.92 23.08
6 Wolverhampton 6f 10.39 13.97 12.78

I mentioned at the beginning of this article that in five-furlong handicaps (at Chelmsford, Dundalk, Kempton, Lingfield and Wolverhampton), wider/higher drawn horses that take the early lead rather surprisingly go onto win more often than horses leading early from low draws. Over this extra furlong we can see that the courses give us a more even profile in terms of eventual win percentage. Having said that higher drawn horses that lead early still win on average slightly more often than lower drawn leaders. At Lingfield and Southwell, for example, higher drawn horses that take the early lead go onto win roughly one race in every four.

This even looking playing field is replicated when we combine all the 12+ runner data. Merging all courses together we get these win percentages:

wdt_ID Low drawn leaders race win% Middle draw leaders race win% High draw leaders race win%
1 13.26 14.64 12.92

As I have already alluded to, before researching and writing the five-furlong article I had expected that five- to seven-furlong races run around a bend would give horses that led early from a low draw much more chance of winning than those from a high draw. I had expected this bias against higher drawn horses to get even stronger the further the horses had to travel. It seems that for this theory I was right at least – it is harder over six furlongs than five furlongs for higher drawn early leaders to win. However, I had not expected higher drawn horses to still be more successful, in 8+ runner races at least, than lower drawn ones.

 

All weather 7f handicaps (8 + runners)

Now let's look at draw / front runner combinations in seven-furlong all-weather handicaps:

wdt_ID Course & Distance Low drawn led% Middle draw led% High draw led%
1 Chelmsford 7f 40.97 26.87 32.16
2 Dundalk 7f 55.43 25.72 18.84
3 Kempton 7f 42.18 34.73 23.09
4 Lingfield 7f 41.18 28.88 29.95
5 Southwell 7f 48.01 31.13 20.86
6 Wolverhampton 7f 49.74 27.37 22.88

All six courses this time show that the early leader is more likely to come from the lowest third of the draw. Dundalk once again provides the strongest bias, while at Southwell and Wolverhampton it is significant too. To perhaps illustrate this more clearly I have once again created a table showing the figure that is calculated by taking the low draw led% and dividing it by the high draw led%:

wdt_ID Course & Distance Low% / High%
1 Chelmsford 7f 1.27
2 Dundalk 7f 2.94
3 Kempton 7f 1.83
4 Lingfield 7f 1.38
5 Southwell 7f 2.30
6 Wolverhampton 7f 2.17

Interestingly it seems that in general lower drawn horses find it easier to lead over seven furlongs than at six. Again, on some tracks, notably Wolverhampton where the seven furlong start is in a chute on the brow of a bend, geometry plays its part.

Increasing field size to twelve or more runners enhances the front-running bias of lower drawn horses (as it does, too, over five- and six-furlongs).

wdt_ID Low drawn led% Middle draw led% High draw led%
1 49.31 29.29 21.40

Once again bigger fields give lower drawn horses a better chance of leading early.

The below shows the win percentage of early leaders from each third of the draw at the six courses over seven furlongs (8+ runner handicaps).

wdt_ID Course & Distance Low drawn leaders race win% Middle draw leaders race win% High draw leaders race win%
1 Chelmsford 7f 19.35 16.39 10.96
2 Dundalk 7f 12.42 12.68 11.54
3 Kempton 7f 14.48 10.44 10.74
4 Lingfield 7f 12.55 17.90 17.26
5 Southwell 7f 15.86 18.09 14.29
6 Wolverhampton 7f 11.50 13.81 11.16

This is quite an even set of figures when looking at the courses as a whole. Nevertheless, we still see that higher drawn horses which lead early are not at any real disadvantage. Those general themes are still true when we combine all the 12+ runner data from seven-furlong all-weather handicaps. Grouping the six turning courses we get these win percentages:

wdt_ID Low drawn leaders race win% Middle draw leaders race win% High draw leaders race win%
1 13.22 11.60 13.30

 

Summary

The above contains some interesting insights which may be combined with what we learned about five furlong handicaps on the all weather last time.

Like with races at the minimum, it may be easier to get to the lead from a lower draw over six and seven furlongs, but don’t be put off by a potential front runner drawn high. If your wide-drawn horse does lead, it has just as much chance of going onto win as a front runner drawn low.

Although these are not quite the startling statistics from the five-furlong article, to my eyes some of the findings are still surprising.

Personally, I am still shaking my head not quite believing what I have discovered over the past two articles. I just wonder how many bets I have ignored over the years due to a potential front runner being drawn high. Far too many!

- DR

I have discussed pace angles in numerous Geegeez articles – see this list – and once again I would like to revisit this key area, this time in conjunction with draw, writes Dave Renham.

I have noted before that if you were able to predict the front runner in certain types of races it would amount to a license to print money. For example, going back to 2011, if you managed to correctly predict the front runner in every all-weather UK 5f handicap race with 8 or more runners, you would have profited by over 60p for every £1 staked!

Indeed at Kempton Park the profit would have been £1.04 for every £1 staked. For the record, in 6f handicaps on the sand you would have also profited from front runners to the tune of 33p for every £1 staked, while in 7f handicaps you still would have made 17p per £1 staked.

Naturally, and unfortunately, predicting who will lead in all-weather sprint handicaps is not as easy as all that.

In the past I have looked at different ideas to help increase the chances of predicting the front runner. For example, looking for horses that had led LTO, or looking for horses that have the highest pace score average over the past four races. I have also studied going conditions, the effect of field size etc.

One area though that I have yet to look at in real depth is the position of horses in terms of the draw. For this piece I have collated some all-weather handicap stats from the draw analyser on Geegeez, which also contains draw / run style data.

The draw can have a significant effect at some courses in both a positive and negative way. Races where the first bend is close to the start should offer lower drawn horses some advantage as they are berthed closest to the inside. At the tight turning course of Chester for example, this low draw bias is well known and documented.

Just as there can be a potential draw bias due to being drawn closest to the inside rail, one would assume that these horses have a greater chance of leading early. This is simply due to the fact that they have less distance to travel to the rail at the first corner than horses drawn wider. Of course, not all horses will try to lead early, but I felt it was time to crunch the numbers as I believed the data would back up my theory.

For the record, I have included Irish course Dundalk along with the six UK all weather tracks.

All weather 5f handicaps (8 + runners)

Let us begin by looking at draw / run style combinations over 5f. The draw is split equally in three – low, middle and high - and hence one would expect, given a level playing field, that the ‘led early’ percentages would hit around 33.3% respectively from each section.

It should also be noted that 5 of the 7 course and distances are run round a bend with only Newcastle and Southwell run on a straight course. A look at Newcastle and Southwell first:

wdt_ID Course & Distance Low drawn led% Middle draw led% High draw led%
1 Newcastle aw 5f 41.67 39.81 18.52
2 Southwell aw 5f 29.55 38.64 31.82

The Southwell figures are relatively even which is what I would have expected. However, the Newcastle stats are interesting with higher drawn horses far less likely to lead than those drawn low to middle. I cannot give a reason why this is the case, but it will be interesting to see if this pattern continues in the coming years.

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Onto the other five courses and for the remainder of this article I will just focus on these as all distances are on a turning strip:

 

wdt_ID Course & Distance Low drawn led% Middle draw led% High draw led%
1 Chelmsford 5f 43.65 37.30 19.05
2 Dundalk 5f 45.74 37.98 16.28
3 Kempton 5f 41.45 35.53 23.03
4 Lingfield 5f 46.12 33.47 20.41
5 Wolverhampton 5f 44.14 35.67 20.20

 

This table shows that at all five courses the early leader is more likely to come from the lowest third of the draw – those drawn closest to the inside rail. I am pleased the stats seem to back up my original theory. In addition, horses from the middle stalls lead more often than those drawn high, suggesting there is a correlation between draw position and likelihood of leading.

The following table gives another way of illustrating how much more likely low drawn horses are to lead than high drawn ones – this has been very simply calculated by dividing the low draw led% by the high draw led%:

wdt_ID Course & Distance Low% / High%
1 Chelmsford 5f 2.29
2 Dundalk 5f 2.81
3 Kempton 5f 1.80
4 Lingfield 5f 2.26
5 Wolverhampton 5f 2.19

This table illustrates the bias to lower drawn front runners quite neatly with four of the five featured tracks’ minimum distance handicaps seeing lower drawn horses more than twice as likely to lead early as higher drawn ones. Dundalk seems to have the strongest low drawn front running bias and it is also worth sharing that horses drawn 1 and 2 at the Irish venue have provided the early leader 31% of the time.

Combining the data for all round-course 5f handicaps on the all-weather, and increasing the field size to 12 or more runners, there is an even stronger bias to low draws leading early. There are over 170 qualifying races which is a decent enough sample:

 

wdt_ID Low drawn led% Middle draw led% High draw led%
1 49.13 36.99 13.87

 

Under these circumstances the lowest third of draw are around 3.5 times more likely to produce the early leader of the race. This stronger bias makes sense as higher draws start even further away from the inside rail in bigger fields.

Another assumption I wanted to validate was that when higher drawn horses lead early they are less likely to go onto win: the reasoning behind this is that I perceived it to have generally been quite an effort to pass so many horses to get to the lead from a wide draw, as well as the fact that such runners would probably have had to travel slightly further to achieve this. Combining these factors, it would be logical to deduce that the horse might tire late on due to its earlier exertions in getting to the lead.

However, the stats do not back this up. Below are the win percentages for early leaders from each third of the draw at the five round-course all-weather tracks, firstly focusing on 8+ runner handicap data:

 

wdt_ID Course & Distance Low drawn leaders race win% Middle draw leaders race win% High draw leaders race win%
1 Chelmsford 5f 18.18 25.53 37.50
2 Dundalk 5f 15.25 12.24 28.57
3 Kempton 5f 28.57 22.22 28.57
4 Lingfield 5f 24.78 24.39 16.00
5 Wolverhampton 5f 18.08 15.53 18.55

 

Horses that lead from high draws at Chelmsford manage to go on to win three races in eight; those at Dundalk and Kempton prevail better than one in four. Only at Lingfield does it seem a negative to lead early from a high draw.

A similar pattern emerges when we look at the 12+ runner handicap data. Combining the courses we get these win percentages:

 

wdt_ID Low drawn leaders race win% Middle draw leaders race win% High draw leaders race win%
1 12.94 12.50 20.83

 

I concede these stats have really surprised me. However, in many respects this is good news if you like backing front runners. In the past I may have been put off by a potential front runner drawn wide as I would have assumed if they did manage to lead they were less likely to win. This is not the case –over 5 furlongs at these courses anyway!

Conclusions

This article has shown that in all-weather 5f handicaps contested on a round course, it is easier to lead from a lower draw than a higher one, BUT… in terms of winning the race you may prefer your potential front runner to be drawn high!

Food for thought I hope, and if you have enjoyed this piece you will perhaps be pleased to know that I plan to look at 6f handicaps in a follow-up article.

  • DR

p.s. if you want to understand the impact of draw and pace in combination, Geegeez Gold's new Heat Map underlay within the pace tab does just that, for the specific course/distance/field size/race type combination in question - example below. Click here to join Geegeez Gold >

In my last article I examined pace in general in National Hunt racing, writes Dave Renham. I looked at some overview stats for all race types before focusing on chases, as the figures suggest these races offer the strongest front running edge. In this article I am going to focus on jockeys to see if there are any noteworthy patterns or trends from which we may be able to take advantage.

For new readers, when looking at pace I’m looking at the initial pace in a race and the position that horses take up early on. In National Hunt races I am generally focusing on the time between the start and the completion of the first obstacle, though it may be a slightly longer section than that sometimes. The pace section on geegeez.co.uk is the basis for my number crunching, and that can be found within any racecard in the PACE tab, as well as in its own tool, the Pace Analyser. The data is split into four run styles – Led (4), Prominent (3), Mid Division (2) and Held Up (1). The number in brackets is the pace score that is assigned to each run style. Hence the higher the score the nearer to the front a horse has been in the early stages of a race. I think it is important to note that these early positions tend to remain fairly similar for the first half of the race at least.

The data set I am going to use is the same as I used in my last article – I am looking at all National Hunt races in the UK from 1/1/16 to 31/8/19.

In terms of the position a horse takes up early in the race one could argue that the most influential factor is the jockey. In National Hunt races there are no starting stalls and hence it is up to the jockey how near to the front he/she is when the flag falls and the race starts. They also have a key influence in the first furlong, in terms of how quickly they want their horse to run and what position they want to be in the field. Now of course the trainer may have given the jockey instructions as to how they want the horse to be ridden so this can be a factor as well. Also, we need to appreciate that certain horses do have a preferred running style, and this will be taken into account by both trainer and jockey.

My starting point in terms of data is a look at the figures for all runners during the period of study (these are the same figures that were used at the start of the previous article). They give us base figures from which to work:

The advantage of racing up with or close to the pace is clear to see. However, I believe that this front running bias is still not fully recognised or appreciated by many trainers and jockeys.

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Baseline established, I now want to look at jockey performance in more detail. As a starting point let us see which jockeys took the early lead the most (in % terms). I have included only jockeys who had at least 200 rides (all running styles) during the time frame specified. (For comparison purposes the average percentage figure for all jockeys is just under 16%.)

Matt Griffiths heads the list – he has ridden most for trainer Jeremy Scott and, when they team up together, he takes an early lead just over 30% of the time. Now these percentages are interesting and useful for betting / trading purposes, but it is also important to appreciate how successful a jockey is when going to the front early. It is no good taking your horse to the front a significant proportion of the time, if you rarely go on to win the race.

Going back to Griffiths riding for Scott, of these front runners, 25% have gone on to win. Compare this to a 7% success rate on horses that are held up for this jockey/trainer combination. Hence it makes sense to look at the jockeys who have secured the highest win percentages on their respective front runners:

Harry Skelton has an exceptional 36.5% success rate on front runners. His win strike rate on front runners is similar across chases (37%), hurdles (36.1%) and bumpers (36.8%). In lower class races his strike rate increases further – in races of class 4 or 5 Skelton has produced a front running win percentage of 43.6%. For the record, Skelton rides primarily for his brother Dan and it seems this combination really appreciate the potential advantage front runners have.

Moving back to jockeys and how often they take the early lead, let us look at the jockeys who have led early less than 10% of the time (well below the average).

Top jockey Barry Geraghty, retained by leading owner JP McManus in Britain, has remarkably low figures – he has led early in just 11 races from a total of 533. I find that staggering. Of those 11 he won on 4 of them (36.4%). He does have an excellent strike rate on prominent runners (34.9%) and perhaps he just prefers tracking the pace rather than setting it. For the record, his win strike rate on horses that race mid pack is 14.2% and on hold up horses is 18.7%.

And finally for this article, I have created average pace figures for jockeys. Essentially, I have added up the pace scores of each jockey and then divided by the number of races they have ridden in. The higher the average score the more likely a jockey is to ride up with or close to the pace. The table below shows the top 40 jockeys in terms of average pace figure:

Danny Cook tops the list and is a jockey that I think is worth keeping an eye on if riding a horse that is likely to front run. He has a decent win record on front runners, and has even won from the front on 33/1 and 50/1 outsiders.

Of course, this type of article can only scratch the surface, but the Geegeez platform really allows you to go into much greater detail should you wish to. If you are keen to dig further, using Query Tool, expect it to really help your long term betting success; and it would be great if readers were happy to share their findings with other members on the forum or even in the comments below.

- Dave Renham

With the National Hunt season soon to spring fully into action, I thought I would look further to see if there were any pace angles we could take advantage of, writes Dave Renham.

In the past I have written two articles for Geegeez on this topic focusing on handicap chases over 2m 1½f or less and from 2m 6f – 3m 2f. This article looks more generally at pace in National Hunt races to begin with before focusing on all chases at all distances.

I know many of you reading this would have read some or all of my previous articles, but for new readers it is important to explain what pace in a race means here, and how we measure it. When I look at pace my main focus is the initial pace in a race and position the horses take up early on. www.geegeez.co.uk has a really useful pace tool and the stats I am sharing with you in this article are based on the site’s pace section data. The pace data on Geegeez is split into four – Led (4), Prominent (3), Mid Division (2) and Held Up (1). The number in brackets are the pace scores that are assigned to each section.

The first set of data I’d like to share with you shows overall pace stats for all National Hunt races in the UK from 1/1/16 to 31/8/19, just over three and a half years’ worth:

 

Across all races there is a front running bias – an A/E index of 1.06 for front runners is positive, as (more so) is an Impact Value of 1.66.

Also if we simply compare strike rates we can see that the figures correlate with early leaders out performing prominent runners who in turn out perform those who run mid pack, while horses held up at the back have the poorest strike rate. (Plenty of horses with no chance at all spend the majority of their race at the back of the field, something which is worth keeping in mind whilst not detracting markedly from the general point about early race position and its impact on finishing position).

Of course it is important to remember that the number of runners in each pace group varies – there are far more runners in the prominent and hold up categories. Hence more important than the raw strike rates are the Impact Values (IV) and the A/E index (Actual winners/Expected winners).

See this post for more on what A/E and IV mean.

Impact of Run Style in NH Races, by Field Size

Let us break these data down by number of runners in a race. Here are the breakdowns:

2 to 5 runners

6 to 8 runners

9 to 11 runners

12+ runners

 

You should notice that the strike rates correlate once again across all groups, while the strongest front running bias seems to be in races with 12 or more runners (highest A/E index and IV figure), notwithstanding that the overall strike rate is the lowest – simply because there are more horses in these races.

On that face of it this is counterintuitive as one would assume that with more runners, there would be more challengers to eventually pass the front runner(s). From a betting perspective if you had magically been able to predict the early leader (front runner) in races of 12 or more runners you would have made a profit of £231.62 to £1 level stakes. This is based on SP returns, using Betfair SP this figure would be considerably bigger.

Sadly, such a magic predictor is not yet available; however, Geegeez Gold pace tabs provide a closer approximation than I’ve seen anywhere else.

Impact of Run Style in NH Races, by Race Code

Now it is time to split the races into codes: chases, hurdles and NH flat races.

Steeplechases

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Chase races are where front runners have the greatest edge in terms of National Hunt races. They have the highest A/E index and IV figures. Again if your crystal ball could predict the early leader in each such race you would have been over £1100 better off to £1 level stakes to SP.

 

Hurdle races

 

Leaders have the edge in hurdle races too, but the edge is less strong. In addition you would not have made a profit backing all front runners even if you could predict them unfailingly!

NH Flat races

 

Again early leaders have the edge, but the bias is not quite strong enough to give us, as punters, a strong edge. Moreover, nearly all horses in such races have little or no form on which to base early pace assessments.

 

Cherry Picking

Now if we combine chases with decent size fields (12+ runners) the front running figures look very strong:

 

Being able to correctly predict the front runner in these races is probably the place to focus attention as if we had been able to accurately back every front runner, we would have returned a profit of 55p in the £ to SP. Handicap chases with bigger fields do have more of a front running edge than non-handicaps, but in general there are very few non handicap chases with such big fields.

Focusing on Chases

Chases clearly offer punters a front running edge so for the rest of this piece I am going to concentrate on all chases (all field sizes), starting with a review by course.

Front Running Bias in NH Chases, by UK Racecourse

Below is the record of horses that led early in chases at UK racecourses, ordered by market value (A/E). Any score over 1.00 is generally deemed to be positive, and the higher the score the better:

 

Only 8 courses have A/E indices under 1.00. The courses highlighted in red are the courses I would personally focus on as it seems the front running bias is at its strongest. Having said that it is worth checking a similar data set from say 2012 to 2015 to see if the course data correlates. This is a similar method that systems guru Nick Mordin used to employ when analysing time specific data.

This research is easily done using the Query Tool on Geegeez and I would recommend readers doing this to increase confidence and familiarity with the data. I have checked the 2012 to 2015 data and 14 of the 20 courses highlighted in red are in the top 20 in terms of A/E index in that time period too. In addition two other courses are positioned in 21st and 22nd spot.

Front Running Bias in NH Chases, by Going

A look now to see if the going makes a difference for front runners in chases:

 

Data for good to firm or firmer is limited so best not to read too much into those figures; it does seem that front runners on heavy ground have an increased edge, although personally I would have preferred to see stronger figures in the soft ground data to corroborate the heavy numbers. Again, as stated above, it is always worth checking another data set, and the 2012 to 2015 figures show heavy ground front runners have the same sort of edge (A/E 1.27; IV 1.74).

Front Running Bias in NH Chases, by (Selected) Trainer

Time to look at trainers now and their performance with front runners in chases. I have included all trainers that have sent at least 50 runners to the front – again the list is ordered by A/E index:

 

Readers will have their favourite trainers or at least a group of preferred ones. This table does indicate that certain trainers outperform others when it comes to horses that front run.

Staying with trainer data, here are the trainers who send out the highest percentage of front runners compared with all their runners:

Trainer Neil King is definitely a man to note – his is a huge percentage of horses which are sent to the lead early; in addition if you look at the previous table he has a decent performance record with them. Charlie Longsdon is another trainer to keep an eye on.

Selected NH Trainer Pace Tendencies

Finally on trainers, and finally for this article, I want to try and give an overall pace tendency for each trainer. To do this I have created trainer pace averages as I have done in some of my previous pace articles. I create trainer pace averages by adding up the Geegeez pace scores of all the runners for a particular trainer and dividing it by the total number of races run. The higher the average score, the more biased the trainer is to sending out horses that lead early or race close to the pace.

Here are the trainer pace averages for chases:

 

I hope this post will prove useful as the season moves forward, and I recommend you use the Geegeez pace tool to do your own research. Front running bias in racing is still an area where one can profit, as long as you put in a little research. Geegeez has the tools to make that both easy and fun.

Next time I will begin to focus on jockeys culminating in a final article on trainer / jockey combinations (similar to this flat article I wrote earlier this year).

 - Dave

In this article I will revisit my love of pace in horse racing, focusing again on jockeys – more specifically the top 10 jockeys in terms of strike rate, writes Dave Renham. My first article on jockeys focused mainly on how they had performed on front runners – this article is a broader piece looking at all running styles. The data presented herein were produced from the excellent Query Tool, a part of Geegeez Gold.

 

Recap

To recap, on the Geegeez website the pace data is split into four categories - Led, Prominent, Mid Division and Held Up. Here is a breakdown on what they essentially mean:

Led – horses that lead early, usually within the first furlong or so; or horses that dispute or fight for the early lead;

Prominent – horses that lay up close to the pace just behind the leader(s);

Mid Division – horses that race mid pack;

Held up – horses that are held up at, or near the back of the field.

On Geegeez these running/pace styles have a number assigned to them – led (4), prominent (3), mid division (2) and held up (1). This helps number crunchers like me when it comes to research.

 

Overview

For this article I have looked at a large period of data (1/1/14 to 6/7/19) including both turf and all weather racing (UK only). I have initially looked at all races and all distances (handicaps and non-handicaps).

The jockeys in focus are shown in the table below alongside their overall record in all races and with all running styles combined. They are listed in alphabetical order:

Top 10 UK Jockeys, Overall Performance 1st Jan 2014 - 6th July 2019

Top 10 UK Jockeys, Overall Performance 1st Jan 2014 - 6th July 2019

 

Below are are some base figures from which to work and to use as a comparison when breaking the jockey data down. In this table are the aggregate figures for all jockeys in terms of their record with different pace/running styles*:

*NB The difference between the 36,467 runs in the first (jockey) table and the 35,792 runs in the second (pace) table is accounted for by runs which are deemed not possible to score from the in-running comment. Geegeez Gold's database currently has around 96% coverage of pace scores overall, whereas in these samples the coverage is a little over 98%.

Aggregate performance of top ten jockeys, by run style, all scored flat runners 1/1/14-6/7/19

Aggregate performance of top ten jockeys, by run style, all scored flat runners 1/1/14-6/7/19

 

Those who have read previous articles on pace will know both that more races are won from the front than any other position, and that it is much easier to win from the front over shorter distances. The pace results for all jockeys clearly indicate that the nearer to the front they ride the more likely they are to win. It is much harder in general to win from the back half of the field, a point worth taking away from this piece if it was not already ingrained in your betting thoughts.

 

Front Runners

Let us now look at how these jockeys fared individually when they took the early lead:

Top 10 Flat Jockeys, performance when leading, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Top 10 Flat Jockeys, performance when leading, 1/1/14-6/7/19

 

Very good records for all riders as one might expect, but the higher A/E values for Atzeni, Buick, de Sousa and Tudhope catch the eye. In addition their strike rates and returns on investment are all above the average figure for the ten jockey superset. Let us break down their front running figures by distance. Firstly Andrea Atzeni:

Andrea Atzeni, Front Runners 1/1/14-6/7/19

Andrea Atzeni, performance on front runners, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Andrea Atzeni, performance on front runners, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Atzeni has stronger figures over sprint trips, as would be expected from what we know from previous pace articles on this site, but he is very solid at any distance (limited data over staying trips) - a good and successful jockey from the front, and a candidate to 'mark up' when riding a probably pace setter you like.

William Buick, Front Runners 1/1/14-6/7/19

Now William Buick:

William Buick, performance on front runners, 1/1/14-6/7/19

William Buick, performance on front runners, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Very strong figures from 5f up to 9f, more especially at sprint distances; but rock solid over any range.

 

Silvestre de Sousa, Front Runners 1/1/14-6/7/19

Onto de Sousa:

Silvestre de Sousa, performance on front runners, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Silvestre de Sousa, performance on front runners, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Personally I’m a big fan of de Sousa – I think he is a great rider from the front and to me he is an excellent judge of pace. His figures support that: very consistent across all distances and impressive A/E.

 

Danny Tudhope, Front Runners 1/1/14-6/7/19

Finally onto Danny Tudhope:

Danny Tudhope, performance on front runners, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Danny Tudhope, performance on front runners, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Tudhope’s figures are much better at shorter distances (9f or less), although the data for 10f+ is fairly limited.

 

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Before moving on from front running data there is one more stat to share and that concerns Frankie Dettori. He seems a particularly good judge of pace in small fields when leading early.

In races of 6 or less runners, when Dettori has taken the early lead he has won just under 50% of the time (33 wins from 67 rides; A/E 1.28). Compare that with the overall figures for all top ten jockeys whose combined strike rate is 35% with an A/E index of 1.

 

Prominent Runners

Let us next review prominent runner data. Firstly for all ten jockeys side-by-side:

Top 10 Flat Jockeys, performance when racing prominently, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Top 10 Flat Jockeys, performance when racing prominently, 1/1/14-6/7/19

 

Frankie Dettori, Prominent Runners 1/1/14-6/7/19

Again, that man Frankie Dettori’s figures are extremely solid when it comes to racing prominently. Solid but not profitable from a punting perspective. However, one area where Dettori seems to excel, when he races close to the pace, is in better class races, as the table below clearly shows:

Frankie Dettori, prominent runners by race class, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Frankie Dettori, prominent runners by race class, 1/1/14-6/7/19

 

I suspect Frankie's strong record in Group and Listed races is due to the fact that he knows the horses he is riding at this higher level extremely well. Hence he is able to judge when to challenge from his pace tracking position. Noting these figures, it should also come as no surprise that Dettori has a much better record in non handicaps compared to handicaps as shown:

Frankie Dettori, prominent runners by handicap or non-hcap, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Frankie Dettori, prominent runners by handicap or non-hcap, 1/1/14-6/7/19

 

Jim Crowley, Prominent Runners 1/1/14-6/7/19

Jim Crowley has the best A/E index as well as strong stats all round when he races his mounts prominently. Crowley seems to do best at middle to longer distances in this context: focusing  on races between 10 and 14 furlongs his record reads an impressive 103 wins from 419  rides (SR 24.6%) with an A/E index of 1.28. It is also worth mentioning that Crowley has a remarkable record when racing prominently at Nottingham, scoring 46% of the time (24 wins from 52 rides). Limited data yes, but interesting to note nonetheless.

 

Midfield Runners

Time to switch to the mid-division data for our top jockeys:

Top 10 Flat Jockeys, performance when racing midfield, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Top 10 Flat Jockeys, performance when racing midfield, 1/1/14-6/7/19

 

As would be expected from our understanding of pace position and its impact on win prospects, there is significant drop for all riders; but Dettori, Moore and Tudhope retain reasonable records. Dettori remarkably scores over 24% of the time in races of 10f or more (23 wins from 94 rides; A/E 1.12); meanwhile Ryan Moore has done well when riding for Aidan O’Brien - shock, horror - with 19 wins and 18 places from 66 runners.

 

Held Up Runners

And so to the top ten jockey records when their horses have been held up off the pace. Here are the base figures:

Top 10 Flat Jockeys, performance on hold up horses, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Top 10 Flat Jockeys, performance on hold up horses, 1/1/14-6/7/19

 

As with the midfield data these figures are relatively moderate. Rather than calling out our top riders, this highlights the difficulties jockeys face when riding waiting races. Not only have they got ground to make up on the front rank, but often they have to negotiate traffic problems when trying to do so. It should also be said that, within the 'hold up' dataset are horses who may be green/unfancied in their early starts or for whom it is a case of 'not today'.

It is interesting when looking at bigger field data for these jockeys with all running/pace styles considered. In races of 16 or more they still win 18.1% of the time on front runners, but on hold up horses this drops to just 6.7%. William Buick has a particularly poor record in these big field races on hold up horses scoring just 3 times in 77 attempts (SR 3.9%).

 

TJ Combo by Run Style

Finally in this piece I have looked at trainer / jockey combinations – reviewing the relationships with specific trainers for which each jockey has ridden the most. I have two columns which show the breakdown by pace/running style and the relevant pace percentages for each pace/running style. For example if a jockey had ridden 200 times for the trainer and led in 46 of the races this would equate to 23%.

 

Andrea Atzeni / Roger Varian 

Atzeni/Varian Combination, by run style, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Atzeni/Varian Combination, by run style, 1/1/14-6/7/19

 

It may be interesting to note that the Atzeni / Varian combination do not seem great fans of sending horses out into an early lead, with little more than 10% of their partnership being asked to dictate. They seem to be much happier tracking the pace.

 

William Buick / Charlie Appleby 

Buick / Appleby Combination, by run style, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Buick / Appleby Combination, by run style, 1/1/14-6/7/19

 

The Buick / Appleby pairing has an excellent record when sending out their runners to the front early on – over 40% have gone onto win. It comes as no surprise therefore that they have taken an early lead in just under 1 in every 5 races, almost twice as often as Atzeni/Varian by contrast.

 

Jim Crowley / Charles Hills 

Crowley / Hills Combination, by run style, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Crowley / Hills Combination, by run style, 1/1/14-6/7/19

 

I wonder if the data connected with hold up horses for this combination is known to either Crowley or Hills. Surely if they saw these stats they would NOT hold up 33.3% of their runners! Having said that, there's a strong possibility that many of these are immature types running for experience: an A/E of 0.53, while pretty mediocre, suggests that not a huge amount more of these are expected by connections to win. Nevertheless, it's a big red light for such runners.

 

Frankie Dettori / John Gosden 

Dettori / Gosden Combination, by run style, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Dettori / Gosden Combination, by run style, 1/1/14-6/7/19

 

Check out these two masters of their respective crafts: strong stats throughout as one might expect. Johnny G front runners with Frankie on board will keep the wolf from the door!

 

James Doyle / Charlie Appleby

Doyle / Appleby Combination, by run style, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Doyle / Appleby Combination, by run style, 1/1/14-6/7/19

 

As with the Buick / Appleby combination we see a decent percentage of runners that take an early lead (20.56%). In addition, a very high percentage race prominently for this combination (44.24%). However, the profit/loss figures are less impressive, making them avoidable if not necessarily opposable. 

 

Adam Kirby / Clive Cox

Kirby / Cox Combination, by run style, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Kirby / Cox Combination, by run style, 1/1/14-6/7/19

 

A first mention for Adam Kirby, who has demonstrated strong ability aboard front runners, particularly for Clive Cox with whom a high A/E index of 1.39 is bankable. Kirby is a hard man to pass on the front end!

 

Ryan Moore / Sir Michael Stoute

Moore / Stoute Combination, by run style, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Moore / Stoute Combination, by run style, 1/1/14-6/7/19

 

A good strike rate for hold up horses, but this is probably more down to the fact that Sir Michael has numerous top quality horses that could win regardless of running style (as well as Ryan Moore being a superlative jockey). Only 1 in 9 horses are sent  into an early lead, despite the impressive 35.9% strike rate from this approach.

 

Oisin Murphy / Andrew Balding

Murphy / Balding Combination, by run style, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Murphy / Balding Combination, by run style, 1/1/14-6/7/19

 

The Murphy / Balding combo have done very well when taking the early lead or racing prominently. When backing a horse from this pairing I would want to be fairly sure that the horse was likely to race up with or close to the pace. 

 

Silvestre de Sousa / Mark Johnston

de Sousa / Johnston Combination, by run style, 1/1/14-6/7/19

de Sousa / Johnston Combination, by run style, 1/1/14-6/7/19

 

Anyone familiar with the Mark Johnston modus operandi will not be surprised to see the high percentage of front runners – just under 1 in 3 have been sent to the front early. This is far more than any of the other nine 'top pair' combinations in the sample. He is a trainer who understands the importance of racing up with the pace and, with his fit horses and a top pace judge in de Sousa, they are a front end dream team.

 

Danny Tudhope / David O’Meara

Tudhope / OMeara Combination, by run style, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Tudhope / OMeara Combination, by run style, 1/1/14-6/7/19

 

Excellent front running stats once again here, with supportive A/E and IV figures. Horses expected to adopt any other run style will not be marked up on the basis of pace, though they do still consistently more than might be expected (see IV column).

 

Summary

I hope some of the data / thoughts shared in this article will prove useful in your punting. My personal betting revolves around pace more than any other factor; be it for straight betting or in-running plays.

I firmly believe pace offers an edge that is difficult to find anywhere else these days, and readers are encouraged to acquire as many pace angles to support their betting as is practical. The Geegeez Query Tool (QT) is ideal for this, and angles such as the above can be saved within the QT and flagged both in a daily report and within the racecard.

[Editor's note: when using QT for pace, it is - of course - not possible to know which run style a horse will deploy before the race has been run. As such, angles should be set up with a note in the title, e.g. 'when leading', and the pace maps consulted for such potential qualifiers]

- DR

In my last article I examined some data pertaining to sires in 2yo races, writes Dave Renham. In this article I'd like to share more sire stats with you with a view to identifying both positive and negative angles from which we can potentially take advantage. The data once again cover the last six seasons including the first few weeks of the current flat season.

As with the first article in this series, I am comparing sire strike rates under different circumstances; in the first article I compared turf SR% with all weather SR%; debut run SR% with 2nd start SR% and I also compared colts with fillies. I called this the Comparison Strike Rate (CSR), the idea being that the CSR would help to show any significant differences in performance (according to the relative strike rates). Once again I will be using the CSR concept at points during this article.

Before I start in earnest, I stated in my first article that when ’drilling down’ in an attempt to pinpoint positive (or negative) angles it can sometimes feel a bit 'convenience fitted'. This needs to be flagged again as there are some stats below that one could argue fit into that category. It is for the reader to decide which, if any, of the information presented is of utility.

2yo Sire Performance by Race Distance

To begin with let us compare sire performance in terms of race distance. I am going compare performance in juvenile sprint races (5-6f) with longer distance contests (7f+). I have looked at sires that have had at least 70 runs in each category and the first table, below, highlights sires who have better records over sprint distances:

 

It is perhaps no surprise to see considerably more runs in the 5-6f range as compared to 7f+ for most of those in the list. Trainers do know a little bit about breeding (!) and hence they are more likely to enter runners by ‘speedier’ sires over shorter distances.

Showcasing is a sire that I would like to expand on a little. Backing ‘blind’ all of his 2yo runners over 5 & 6f (637 in total) would have yielded a small profit at SP and a 30%+ profit at Betfair SP. I would not advocate backing future runners ‘blind’ but it was something worth pointing out considering the decent sample size. Showcasing’s A/E index stands at 1.00 and over 5f it is slightly higher at 1.06; over 6f the A/E index is 0.96. Showcasing's 5f SR is 18.1% compared to 12.5% over 6f.

Camacho, Equiano and Dandy Man are others sires who have a higher SR% over 5f as compared to 6f. Camacho’s 5f figure stands at 14.3% as compared to 8.9% over 6f; Equiano has a 5f SR% of 13.3% while his 6f figure drops to 8.7%; Dandy Man is 13.9% v 8.7%.

Now a look in reverse at the sires of 2yos that perform significantly better over 7f+ as compared to 5-6f:

 

The data is quite limited for some of these sires and that is important to appreciate. There is no ‘ideal’ sample size but clearly the more runs to compare the better. Unfortunately when dealing with sire stats, sample sizes are sometimes less than ideal. For the record, Sir Prancealot has an A/E index over 7f+ of 1.29 which I believe is also worth noting.

 

2yo Sire Performance by Going

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Let us move on to look at how the turf going affects the SR%'s of sires. The following table is in a slightly different format to the others – it looks at the relative strike rates across four types of turf going: Good to firm or firmer; Good; Good to soft; Soft or heavy. For the record, if the sample run size is less than 50 runs on the particular type of going I have highlighted the SR% in red (I will continue to highlight smaller samples in red for the rest of the article). These figures additional caution due to the small sample size.

From this initial table I will delve deeper into the more interesting findings:

Horses with similar strike rates across the board are clearly versatile in terms of ground conditions, and hence when the progeny of these sires run you can be fairly optimistic that the going will not be a hindering factor in their performance. There are others, however, who do seem to display a going preference.

Let us first consider sires who seem to prefer firmer conditions, at least according to their win SR%s. There are seven that catch my eye – Captain Gerrard, Compton Place, Dutch Art, Equiano, Havana Gold, Makfi and Sir Percy. I have pulled up the relevant stats from the original table. It should be noted that I have added a column using a Comparison Strike Rate (CSR) in relation to good to firm or firmer going SR% versus all runs SR%:

 

Let us now look at the A/E indices of these sires in terms of good to firm or firmer going:

 

Makfi’s good to firm data are limited, but the other six sires have very positive good to firm /firm stats.

Soft/heavy data are limited for some sires so this needs to be taken into account. The following table looks at the sires whose softer ground stats look positive even if some of the sample sizes are relatively small. Again I have pulled these stats from the original table and added the CSR figure for soft/heavy SR% versus all runs SR%:

 

Let us now look at the A/E indices of these sires in terms of soft/heavy going in 2yo races. The figures in red again are from samples of less than 50 runs:

 

The majority of A/E indices are above 1.00 which can be taken again as a positive, but it is important to dig a bit deeper especially if the sire one is interested has limited data with which to work. Looking at the soft/heavy ground performances with 3yo runners and above may be a sensible starting point.

2yo Sire Performance by Race Class

For the final part of this article I am going to share some sire SR%s and A/E indices connected with race class. I have ignored the lowest class of race (6) and elected to focus on class 1 to 5 contests. The first table examines class 1 to 3 races; the second table classes 4 and 5. The sires in the following tables are all sires that have had over 600 runners in total in all 2yo races during the period of study. I have highlighted potentially positive A/E indices in green and as earlier, those smaller samples of less than 50 qualifying runs are coloured in red (highlighted in relevant SR% column):

 

The progeny of Dutch Art have struggled in class 1 events with just 1 win in 42 starts. Only 4 others placed and with exactly half of the runners starting 12/1 or shorter I would be wary of backing Dutch Art runners at this level, despite it clearly being a small sample. The progeny of Kodiac on the other hand are worth a second glance. They have provided 27 winners in total from 240 runners and the A/E index of 0.98 is decent enough. What is interesting is Kodiac’s performance improves as the distances increases. At 5f his SR% in class 1 races stands at 6.6% (6 wins from 91 starts); when we combine his 7-8f figures we get 8 wins from 35 (SR 22.9%). Small sample? Yes. Worth being wary? Yes. But it should also be noted that a further ten runners were placed meaning over 50% of his runners won or placed.

Onto class 4 and 5 races now. The data set is very decent for these runners – all sires have had at least 185 runners in class 4 races, in class 5 races this increases to 250+ for all.

 

Dandy Man, Equiano, Exceed And Excel, Kodiac, Kyllachy and Poets Voice have positive A/E indices in class 4 events and all are worth closer scrutiny. Dandy Man’s progeny should be noted over the minimum trip of 5f in Class 4 events – SR% is just under 20% with an A/E index of 1.33. Likewise, Exceed And Excel has an excellent record in 5f Class 4 events – an even more impressive SR% of 25.8%; A/E 1.20. Kodiac has notable figures on easy ground: in Class 4 races on good to soft or softer his progeny have won 28 races from 134 (SR 20.9%); A/E 1.29.

I hope you have found both articles interesting and potentially useful. Sire stats are undervalued still and although the data is by no means ‘perfect’, it does offer punters some extra stats to potentially use to their advantage.

In this article I have moved away from pace research and will instead be focusing, for the first time on the virtual pages of geegeez.co.uk, on 2yo races, writes Dave Renham.

2yo races are contests where horse form is extremely limited and many punters shy away from them for that reason. Indeed, 50% of all 2yo runners are either making their debut or just having their second career run (see prior runs table below). Thus, we need to look at additional information if we are going to bet on such contests. One avenue is to look at sire data.

Number of prior 2yo starts, January 1st 2013 to April 14th 2019

 

Sires are the fathers of the respective horses and many sires have a strong influence on their offspring. Why certain racehorses cost more money than others before they have even raced is almost exclusively down to their breeding and the sire is the strongest influence in that genetic makeup.

Taking a human example may help explain why some punters feel sire stats are important. Picture a mythical 100m sprint race between the offspring of Usain Bolt and the offspring of someone else of the same age living in the same town as Usain. Without having seen either child run before, where would you put your pound at even money? Most likely you would asses that Usain Bolt’s son had the stronger sire stat, and that is where your money would be likely to go. That would be especially the case if the two fathers had had children a year earlier, and the son of Bolt had won against the son of A N Other.

This article will look for positive and negative angles using sire stats from UK 2yo races. The data have been taken from 1st January 2013 to 14th April 2019 and all profits/losses have been calculated to Industry Starting Price.

 

2yo sires by strike rate

Firstly let us look at the sires with the highest strike rates in all 2yo races during the period of study (minimum 100 runs):

 

As one can see backing sires blind is the proverbial quick way to the poorhouse. Of course these figures could be improved by using Betfair SP, but as we know with Betfair SP, the occasional huge-priced winner can skew the stats. The key stat to look at in the table is the A/E index: the higher the A/E index the better things may be from a backing perspective; any figure above 1 suggests a positive scenario. Archipenko stands out with not only an A/E of 1.31 but, with over 300 runs, this is a decent sample size too. Interesting, Archipenko roughly breaks even if backing all runners ‘blind’.

 

Now a look at the sires with the lowest strike rates:

 

Not surprisingly these results produce dreadful returns for backers and in general also have very low A/E indices.

These raw stats indicate a huge discrepancy across the spectrum of sires. Having an appreciation of sire data should help inform our betting considerably in 2yo races so let's dig a bit deeper.

 

Top Turf 2yo Sires (compared to AW performance)

Firstly let us look at turf versus all weather and a look at sires of 2yos that perform significantly better on the turf compared to the all weather. The table below compares the turf strike rate (SR%) with the all weather SR%. In the final column I have divided the turf SR% by the all weather SR% 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 stronger the sire’s liking for turf over the sand.

 

 

The two sires at the top, Piccolo and Gregorian, have not had one winner on the all weather in the UK in the study period; however their turf strike rates are both also low and that should be taken into account. Sixties Icon and Dream Ahead are the two sires that initially catch my eye; mainly due to decent sample sizes. Those two, along with Dutch Art, are sires worth further exploration. If we look at the respective A/E indices for turf 2yo races there are some sires in the list that achieve a score of 1 or more:

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It is promising to see Dutch Art and Sixties Icon in this table; for the record Dream Ahead’s A/E stands at 0.86. Delegator has an impressive figure and also looks worthy of closer scrutiny.

 

Top AW 2yo Sires (compared to Turf performance)

Now a look in reverse at the sires of 2yos that perform significantly better on the all weather compared to the turf.

 

Once again there are some eye catching figures in the table. Dragon Pulse has an impressive record on the sand albeit from a relatively modest sample of 73 runs. However, if we focus on his runners that had previously run at least three times his record reads an impressive 13 wins from 46 (SR 28.3%) for an SP profit of £44.26 (ROI +96.2%); A/E index 1.62. Lethal Force is another interesting sire on the sand especially when you compare his male runners to female runners – male runners have won 22.9% of their races (11 wins from 48), while female runners have won just 6.9% (4 wins from 58).

A look at the A/E index for these runners on the all weather makes for positive reading:

 

Just Lethal Force slips below the 1.00 figure, and even then only just. It is clear that these sires are a group to keep an eye on in 2yo all weather races.

 

2yo 1st vs 2nd start

Let us move on to look at the difference between horses making their debut compared to those having their second career start. It will come as no surprise to see a big improvement in strike rates from first to second career start. Looking at all 2yo runners the debut SR% is 7.07% and the 2nd start SR% is 11.81%. Dividing the second percentage by the first we get a CSR. of 1.67. This is our baseline CSR for comparing the figures in the table below.

I have used a minimum of 50 debut runs to give us enough data to work with and the sires in this list have the highest CSR. figures:

 

 

These sires clearly improve markedly between first and second career starts. There is also some more positive news when we examine the A/E index of their second career starts. There are several sires who have achieved a score 1.00 or more:

 

Approve (0.99), Iffraaj (0.98), Rip Van Winkle (0.97), Medicean (0.96) and Sir Percy (0.95) were all close to the 1.00 figure. Only Galileo has a poor A/E (0.70), primarily because he's such a very well known 'mega stallion' which filters into the betting markets.

 

There are a handful of sires that buck the trend in terms of 2nd run improvement and have a higher SR% on debut compared to next time out. Such sires are few and far between but the five in the table below are worth sharing with you:

 

The A/E indices for these five sires with runners on debut are shown below:

 

Australian bred Epaulette is potentially a sire to note on debut it seems, as is the other Aussie sire in the sample, Helmet. Interestingly, perhaps, when priced 10/1 or shorter Epaulette’s offspring have provided 7 wins from 20 for a profit of £27.38 (ROI +136.9%).

 

2yo Sires: Male vs Female runners

For my last comparison in this piece let us look at male runners versus female runners. Taking all 2yo races into account male runners slightly outperform their female counterparts (12.2% to 10.1%; S.I 1.19). If we ignore geldings then the colts (males) have a slightly stronger edge over the fillies (females) – 13.2% to 10.1%; CSR. 1.31.

Let us look at those sires whose males have a particularly strong record according to their CSR. figure:

 

If we now look at the A/E indices we see that 6 of the sires have achieved scores in excess of 1.00. Delegator has a very high figure at 1.93:

 

Delegator is a relatively new sire (2019 will be his fourth full season), hence data is in fairly limited supply. Having said that, if you ignore debut runs his 2yo colts record to date has been 10 wins from 45 (SR 22.2%). Focusing on those starting 14/1 or shorter this improves to 10 wins from 25 (SR 40.0%); A/E 2.63. This feels a bit 'convenience fitted' but it may be worth keeping an eye on going forwards.

 

Now a look at the sires where their mares outperform the colts – a smaller list:

 

The top three in the list - Hellvelyn, Power and Siyouni - have extremely high Comparative Strike Rates although Siyouni has only had 30 runs for fillies so these figures may level out over time.

 

Conclusions

Using sires to help unravel 2yo races is a ‘must’ in my opinion, though with generally limited data to work with we are forced into forming loose opinions which may later prove unfounded. Such is the nature of equine competition forecasting!

Of course there are other factors to consider, trainers being the most obviously important one. However, in order to get an edge on our fellow bettors, we must never ignore sire data when wagering in unexposed juvenile races.

- Dave Renham

In this article I am once again looking into the subject of pace or running styles, which regular readers will know is an area of research in which I have a great interest, writes Dave Renham. As I have mentioned before, knowing how a race is likely to pan out in terms of a potential pace angle can be extremely useful for us as punters. It might help us highlight a value bet or, just as importantly, help us swerve a losing bet that we might have backed had we not realised there was a negative in terms of pace. I have used the pace angle more and more in my personal betting be it pre-race or ‘in running’ and although I am not a millionaire yet, it is the one betting angle where I consistently get an edge.

My pace articles to date on Geegeez have focused on specific distances with course biases being a key part of my research. For this article however, I will focus on jockeys. The reason I have decided to look at jockeys is that I believe that a jockey can make a difference in any race, especially when it comes to pace or running styles. How many times have you cursed a jockey for leaving it too late to make his final surge? How many times have watched a jockey set a clever pace up in front and manage to hang on for a pillar-to-post victory? Hopefully this article will identify some jockey ‘nuggets’ which will go on to help us with betting decisions we make on a daily basis.

For this article I have looked at five years of data (1/1/14 to 31/12/18) including both turf and all-weather racing, in the UK only. I have looked at all races (handicaps and non-handicaps) with six or more runners up to and including 10f (a mile and a quarter).

 

Keen To Lead

As a starting point let us see which jockeys took the early lead most often, in percentage terms. I have included jockeys who had at least 300 rides over this five-year period:

For comparison purposes the average for all jockeys in terms of taking or sharing the early lead is 13.7%. Hence Richard Kingscote takes the lead early nearly twice as often as the average.

Let us look at how successful Kingscote has been when he has taken the lead early in races at up to a mile and a quarter. I have broken the data down by race distance:

These figures are quite promising as Kingscote’s success on front runners is also above the average: his overall front running win rate was 19.9% in the study period, compared with an average win rate for all front running winners of 18%. So not only does Kingscote like ‘taking it on’ from the front, he is evidently pretty good at it too. I should point out that his record is particularly good at 8f to 10f, so take note when he is riding a potential front runner around that distance.

Joe Fanning lies third on the list in terms of percentage of front running rides. This should come as no surprise perhaps as over 40% of his total rides have been for trainer Mark Johnston. Johnston is a trainer who is no stranger to allowing his horses to front run. Indeed, when Fanning rides for Johnston he has taken an early lead over 33% of the time (494 rides from 1487). Let us now look at how successful in terms of win percentage Fanning has been when taking the lead early:

His overall win rate on front runners is actually better than Kingscote’s at 20.8% (when riding for Mark Johnston this increases to 23.5%); and he has recorded good figures across the board apart from the mile distance, which is probably an anomaly.

 

Reluctant Leaders

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Now let us look at the jockeys that took the early lead the least (in percentage terms). As before I have included jockeys that have had at least 300 rides over this five-year period:

 

These jockeys appear reluctant to take their mounts to the front early, or perhaps ride a lot of horses who are simply not quick enough to get to the front. If I was planning to back a potential front runner, or indeed be planning to trade it, I would have serious second thoughts if one of the jockeys in the table above was on board.

Jockeys who get their runners to front run more often than most are definitely worth noting, but the jockey win percentages when on front runners are just as important if not more so. For example, if a jockey had taken the lead in 20% of races but won only 5% of them then this is far from ideal from a betting perspective; though from a ‘trading in running angle’, it is not so much of a concern. A jockey that has led in 12% of races but won 25% of the time when taking the early lead is potentially one to note from a betting perspective.

Therefore, let us now look at the top performing jockeys in terms of win rate when on a front runner (70 front running rides minimum):

 

For comparison purposes the average win rate for all jockeys riding front runners in the review period was 18%.

William Buick tops the list with a highly impressive strike rate of over 30% of front running rides. He has been consistent across all distances, but especially in sprints, as the following table illustrates:

 

Silvestre de Sousa is a jockey I have long thought rides well from the front and his figures seem to back that up. His performance in small fields is particularly noteworthy: in six runner races when SdS has led early, he has gone onto win 35 times from 82 rides (SR 42.7%); in seven runner races his front running figures read 38 wins from 97 (SR 39.2%). To illustrate how good these stats are, we can compare de Sousa’s stats to the front running average win rate for all jockeys - this stands at 23.8% in 6 runner races and 21.9% in 7 runner races.

 

At the other end of the scale we have the jockeys with the lowest win % when on a front runner. Once again only jockeys with at least 70 front running rides qualify for the list:

 

These jockeys seem unable to take advantage of the general bias to front runners, though of course a number of them will generally be riding horses where market expectation is not high. If I was backing a potential front runner, I would prefer that none of these jockeys were on board! If planning to trade in running on a potential front runner however, I would still consider them.

 

Jockey Pace Averages

In order to give us a more complete picture I have produced jockey pace averages – in exactly the same way that I have created course pace averages in the past. I simply add up the Geegeez pace points for a particular jockey and divide it by the number of rides. The higher the average the more prominent the jockey tends to race. Here are the jockey pace averages (click the image to open in a new tab/window) :

 

For comparison purposes, the average pace figure for jockeys stands at 2.25.

Note the correlation between the highest averages here and the percentage of front running rides data shared earlier. Kingscote, Fanning and Norton are in the top three of both groups.

Many readers will also not be surprised to see Jamie Spencer at the bottom – he is a jockey renowned for holding his mounts up and his 1.86 average illustrates this perfectly.

How one uses the information in this article to aid their personal betting is of course down to the individual, but for me, someone who is often looking to predict the front runner in a race, this jockey pace data is very useful. Previous articles have noted that huge profits would be made at certain distances if you could consistently predict the horse that is going to take the early lead and front run. Hence, I have added these jockey data to other factors such as the recent pace profile of each horse, a longer-term horse pace profile as well, the draw and the trainer. It is all about building up the best pace profile of a race that you can.

  • Dave Renham

In my most recent article, we looked at pace bias in 5f handicaps on the all weather, and as promised here is a follow-up looking at the 6f trip, writes Dave Renham.

For regular readers I appreciate the next few lines in some form or other seem to appear in all my pace articles, but for the benefit of new readers I need to clarify the following: when discussing pace the main focus is the initial pace in a race and the position horses take up early on. At www.geegeez.co.uk there is a pace tab within the racecards for each race, and the stats in this article are based on the site’s pace data. These pace data on Geegeez are split into four sections each of which are assigned points – Led (4), Prominent (3), Mid Division (2) and Held Up (1). For all my articles I concentrate on the numerical values to create a plethora of hopefully useful stats.

The minimum distance of five furlongs gives the strongest pace bias on the flat as previous articles have illustrated. However, there is still a bias to pace horses/front runners over an extra furlong, which I will demonstrate in what follows.

The first set of data I wish to share with you is the overall pace perspective for 6f all weather handicaps with six or more runners (the data for this article has been taken from the last 5 years 2014 to 2018):

Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 325 1812 17.9 1.75
Prominent (3) 523 4448 11.8 1.15
Mid Division (2) 155 2003 7.7 0.79
Held Up (1) 357 4886 7.3 0.72

 

These stats give front runners a solid edge – it is not as strong as over 5f but it is still significant. Just for comparison purposes let us look at the strike rates (SR%) and Impact Values (IVs) for 6f and for 5f:

 

Pace comment 6f 5f   6f 5f
  SR% SR%   IV IV
Led (4) 17.9 22.3   1.75 2.04
Prominent (3) 11.8 12.5   1.15 1.15
Mid Division (2) 7.7 6.5   0.79 0.62
Held Up (1) 7.3 6.7   0.72 0.61

 

Over 6f front runners are still winning 1.75 times more often than average so we still have a decent starting point.

The main data for this article covers all-weather six-furlong handicaps with 6 or more runners. I then split the data into different field sizes – 6 to 8 runners; 9 – 10 runners; 11 or more runners. I did this ‘runner split’ for the 5f all-weather data in the previous article, and over that trip bigger fields produced the strongest front-running bias. As it turns out, this is replicated over 6f too:

6 to 8 runners

Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 536 104 19.4 1.41
Prominent (3) 1093 167 15.28 1.11
Mid Division (2) 304 27 8.88 0.66
Held Up (1) 988 107 10.83 0.79

 

9 to 10 runners

Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 548 100 18.25 1.73
Prominent (3) 1351 163 12.07 1.15
Mid Division (2) 549 43 7.83 0.74
Held Up (1) 1477 113 7.65 0.73

 

11 or more runners

Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 728 121 16.62 1.98
Prominent (3) 2004 193 9.63 1.14
Mid Division (2) 1150 85 7.39 0.88
Held Up (1) 2421 137 5.66 0.67

 

The IV for front runners increases as the number of runners increases. This is somewhat counter-intuitive and is therefore worth bearing in mind.

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The article that discussed 5f all weather sprints looked at each course and distance individually. Once again this is the plan here, as different courses have different layouts, and also there are differences between certain track surfaces too. Let's start with Chelmsford and work through alphabetically.

Chelmsford

Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 58 278 20.9 1.97
Prominent (3) 71 562 12.6 1.19
Mid Division (2) 31 422 7.3 0.71
Held Up (1) 44 671 6.6 0.62

 

Just over a fifth of the 6f handicap races (SR 20.9%) at Chelmsford have seen the early leader going on to win. This compares with a strike rate of 26.3% over 5f: not quite as strong but with an IV close to 2 the front-running bias is still clear.

It has already been noted that in bigger fields at all of the all-weather courses the front-running bias seems to be more evident. This is certainly the case here: in races of 11 runners or more at Chelmsford, the front runner has prevailed an impressive 21 times from 87 giving a strike rate of 24.1% and an Impact Value of 2.93.

The draw seems to be material here, too, with those horses drawn nearest to the inside rail performing best when taking the early lead (all 6+ runner races). That makes sense as they will be taking advantage of the shortest route. Horses that have led early from one of the three lowest draws in these big field Chelmsford 6f handicaps have won 25% of their races with an Impact Value of 2.28.

 

Kempton

Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 72 388 18.6 1.85
Prominent (3) 107 938 11.4 1.14
Mid Division (2) 41 542 7.6 0.78
Held Up (1) 84 1123 7.5 0.75

 

The 6f trip at Kempton has a decent number of races each year giving punters plenty of opportunities to get involved. Front runners have a clear edge here and, as with Chelmsford, field size accentuates this.

In 6f handicaps of 11 or 12 runners (12 is the maximum at Kempton), front runners have secured 39 wins from 176 runners (SR 22.2%) with a very high Impact Value of 2.53. However, the draw data suggest there is no clear advantage to front runners drawn near to the inside rail (low).

 

Lingfield

Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 68 297 22.9 2.07
Prominent (3) 76 590 12.9 1.16
Mid Division (2) 32 380 8.4 0.79
Held Up (1) 50 745 6.7 0.61

 

The statistics for Lingfield seem to suggest front runners there have the biggest edge compared with the other five UK all-weather courses. Any front runner here that is well fancied has done extremely well: horses that were either favourite or second favourite and led early over 6f here went on to win 39 times out of 80 runners equating to a win rate of nearly 50%.

 

Newcastle

Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 23 143 16.1 1.74
Prominent (3) 34 394 8.6 0.94
Mid Division (2) 17 197 8.6 0.97
Held Up (1) 40 485 8.2 0.89

 

Coincidentally, the front running IV over 5f at Newcastle is also 1.74. Front runners do have an edge here but it is not a course I personally get heavily involved with, as the straight track for all distances up to a mile makes it a unique test of an all-weather horse in Britain. That greater emphasis on stamina produces the reverse to Kempton and Chelmsford, with front runners struggling in bigger fields.

 

Southwell

Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 33 166 19.9 1.85
Prominent (3) 102 690 14.8 1.38
Mid Division (2) 7 124 5.6 0.57
Held Up (1) 17 491 3.5 0.32

 

A reasonable IV of 1.85 for front runners, but it is also worth noting that horses which come from midfield or off the pace really struggle here just like they do over 5f. One other area worth sharing with you is when a front runner also happens to be in the top 5 of the Geegeez speed ratings, it has won on 22 of 79 occasions (SR 27.9%) producing an IV of 2.50.

 

Wolverhampton

Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 71 540 13.1 1.33
Prominent (3) 133 1274 10.4 1.06
Mid Division (2) 27 338 8.0 0.87
Held Up (1) 122 1371 8.9 0.9

 

Comfortably the poorest stats for front runners are at Wolverhampton, where there is a very small edge only and little to write home about. Indeed, pace seems to be far more balanced across the run styles at Wolves than at any of the other tracks.

*

Before I finish, in other articles I have used the various figures to create course and distance pace averages. I do this by adding up the pace scores of all the winners at each course and dividing it by the total number of races. The higher the average score, the more ‘biased’ the course and distance is to horses that lead early or race close to the pace.

Here are the 6 furlong handicap C&D pace averages for the six aw courses:

 

Taking all the data into account, six furlong handicaps on the all weather do offer ‘pace’ punters a potential edge. It is, unsurprisingly perhaps, not as strong as over five furlongs, but still strong enough to give clued in bettors a good leg up on the opposition. All we need now is to find a fail-safe method to predict the front runner...

- Dave Renham

We still have several weeks of the all-weather season left so I have decided to look to see how strong the pace bias is on the sand, writes Dave Renham. I have not previously looked in detail at all weather pace bias in my Geegeez articles so now seemed as good a time as any.

Just in case you have not read my previous articles on pace I will briefly summarise a few things. Firstly when I discuss pace my main focus is the initial pace in a race and specifically the position horses take up early on. Most of you will be aware that on geegeez.co.uk racecards there is a pace section, and the stats in this article are based on the site’s pace data.

This info is split into four groups - Led, Prominent, Mid Division and Held Up, and after each race all the horses are assigned points in regards to which position they took up early in the race. Leaders get 4, prominent runners 3, horses that ran midfield 2, and those held up score 1. Just over 96% of all UK and Irish runs since 2009 have been scored, the other 4% unable to rated from the comment. For clarity, at the time of writing, 1,169,760 of 1,218,499 comments have been scored.

In previous articles, I have highlighted certain distances / race types that generally favour front runners both on the flat and over the jumps. My first five articles looked at 5f handicaps where pace bias is arguably at its strongest, but I did not look in detail at any course data for the six UK all weather tracks – my main focus was turf handicaps. Hence, a touch belatedly perhaps, it is time to address that now!

The first set of data I wish to share with you is the overall pace stats for 5f all weather handicaps with 6 or more runners (the data for this article has been taken from the last 5 complete years, 2014 to 2018):

 

Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 254 1137 22.3 2.04
Prominent (3) 360 2874 12.5 1.15
Mid Division (2) 67 1026 6.5 0.62
Held Up (1) 183 2735 6.7 0.61

 

These figures clearly illustrate the advantage to horses which have led, or disputed the lead, in 5f all-weather handicaps. In fact, the Impact Values - a measure of how much  more likely than normal something is to happen, 1 being 'normal' - suggest that 5f handicap pace bias is slightly stronger on the all weather than it is on the turf.

The main data cover all handicaps with six or more runners; I have next looked at splitting these data into groups – 6 to 8 runners; 9 – 10 runners; 11 or more runners. Here are my findings:

 

6 to 8 runners

Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 119 459 25.9 1.86
Prominent (3) 138 956 14.4 1.04
Mid Division (2) 22 249 8.8 0.64
Held Up (1) 65 757 8.6 0.62

 

9 to 10 runners

Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 85 446 19.1 1.81
Prominent (3) 146 1083 13.5 1.28
Mid Division (2) 30 435 6.9 0.66
Held Up (1) 68 1125 6.0 0.57

 

11 or more runners

Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 50 232 21.6 2.60
Prominent (3) 76 835 9.1 1.10
Mid Division (2) 15 342 4.4 0.53
Held Up (1) 50 853 5.9 0.71

 

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It seems therefore the front running bias is as its strongest when there are more runners. An IV of 2.6 for front runners is extremely high for races of 11 or more runners.

Of course, each all weather course has its own unique confirmation and, consequently, its own set of stats. Here is a view on the courses individually, presented in alphabetical order:

Chelmsford

Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 51 194 26.3 2.26
Prominent (3) 40 346 11.6 1.00
Mid Division (2) 22 252 8.7 0.78
Held Up (1) 30 410 7.3 0.63

 

Just over a quarter of the 5f handicap races at Chelmsford have seen the early leader going on to win. This is a very high percentage and worth noting. It is also worth pointing out that in races of 11 or more runners 9 of the 27 races (SR 33.3%) have been won by the front runner (IV 3.84). Not only that, another ten have been placed. Hence just over 70% of all front runners in these bigger field races have finished in the first three.

 

Kempton

Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 23 84 27.4 2.36
Prominent (3) 24 170 14.1 1.22
Mid Division (2) 4 72 5.6 0.49
Held Up (1) 8 177 4.5 0.39

 

It is a shame that Kempton seem to have so few 5f handicaps these days as the front running bias is at its strongest here. There is a decent inside draw bias here also and it should come as no surprise that front runners from the lowest three stalls have secured 11 wins from 33 (SR 33.3%). The IV is 2.88 for those well drawn pace setters. Hold up horses have a dreadful record also which is worth mentioning too.

 

Lingfield

Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 54 208 26.0 2.13
Prominent (3) 57 377 15.1 1.24
Mid Division (2) 16 227 7.0 0.59
Held Up (1) 31 436 7.1 0.58

 

Lingfield is another of the all weather courses to demonstrate a strong front-running bias over 5 furlongs. Additional insights are hard to find, although early leaders who were drawn 1 (the lowest draw) have produced 14 wins from 36 (SR 38.9%).

 

Newcastle

Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 22 137 16.1 1.74
Prominent (3) 37 393 9.4 1.03
Mid Division (2) 11 183 6.0 0.67
Held Up (1) 40 473 8.5 0.92

 

Newcastle has the weakest front-running stats of the six all weather courses, almost certainly linked (like Southwell) to it being a straight five as opposed to running around a turn, but an Impact Value of 1.74 still indicates front-runners do have an edge. Hold up horses perform quite well here so it is not a course and distance I personally get too involved with.   

 

Southwell

Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 27 142 19.0 1.81
Prominent (3) 94 730 12.9 1.23
Mid Division (2) 4 102 3.9 0.41
Held Up (1) 14 342 4.1 0.40

 

The second lowest IV (1.81) for front runners, and again the straight nature of the track is likely a factor at a course where pace setters do well at other distances. Note that horses which try to come from midfield or off the pace really struggle over the five at Southwell. I have found no major additional angles to profit from, but ultimately steer clear of horses that regularly are held up.

 

Wolverhampton

Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 77 372 20.7 1.90
Prominent (3) 108 858 12.6 1.16
Mid Division (2) 10 190 5.3 0.52
Held Up (1) 60 897 6.7 0.61

 

Decent front running stats for Wolverhampton, too. Front runners when drawn close to the inside rail, (draws 1 to 3), have scored 32 times from 132 races (SR 24.2%) with an IV of 2.14.

*

Before I finish, we can use these numerical figures to create course and distance pace averages. I have done this by adding up the pace scores of all the winners at each course and dividing it by the total number of races. The higher the average score, the more ‘biased’ the course and distance is to horses which lead early or race close to the pace. This hopefully gives us the final piece of the jigsaw. Here are the 5 furlong handicap pace averages for the six aw courses:

Hopefully this article has demonstrated how strong the front running bias is on the all weather over the minimum trip of 5f in handicap races. The four turning courses offer a huge edge in my opinion. My next article is going to look at 6f handicaps on the all weather so watch this space!

- Dave Renham

After a break of a few months I am back to look at some more pace angles in an attempt to find potentially profitable avenues, writes Dave Renham. My last pace article looked at handicap chases at up to 2m 1½f; this time, I will focus on longer distance (2m 7f to 3m 3f) handicap chases.

The data I have researched is from the past five years (2014 to 2018) for UK racing, using the Geegeez Gold Query tool.

When I talk about pace I mean the initial pace in a race, and specifically the position horses take up early on. The pace data on Geegeez is split into four – Led (4), Prominent (3), Mid Division (2) and Held Up (1). The number in brackets is the pace score that is assigned to each section.

The first set of data to share contains overall pace statistics for handicap chases of 2m 7f to 3m 3f for the period of study (a minimum number of six runners in a race).

[N.B. It should be noted that when using the Geegeez Query tool you currently need to enter the parameters 3m to 3m 2f. The Query tool uses increments of 2 furlongs and when you put in 3m - 3m2f it actually covers races from 2m 7f to 3m 3f]

 

Pace comment Runners Wins SR% IV
Led (4) 2282 430 18.84 1.68
Prominent (3) 4894 626 12.79 1.14
Mid Division (2) 2076 160 7.71 0.75
Held Up (1) 5086 406 7.98 0.71

 

 

Despite the fact we are looking at long distance handicap chases, we can clearly see that horses which led or disputed the lead early have a definite edge. Prominent racers have a fairly decent record too, while horses more patiently ridden early tend to underperform.

 

Best performing tracks for front runners (2m7f - 3m3f handicap chases)

As when I looked at 2m – 2m 1½f pace data, there are significant differences in the course figures for these contests, with some courses being much more suited to early leaders and front runners than others. Here are the courses with the best strike rates in terms of front runners at the circa three mile range (minimum 25 front runners to qualify):

 

Course Front Runners Wins SR%
Carlisle 54 15 27.8
Sedgefield 26 7 26.9
Taunton 67 18 26.9
Kelso 62 16 25.8
Newton Abbot 69 17 24.6
Wincanton 79 19 24.1
Hexham 84 19 22.6
Plumpton 62 14 22.6
Lingfield Park 32 7 21.9
Ascot 48 10 20.8
Newcastle 45 9 20.0

 

For record the strike rate for Fakenham for front runners was 28.6%, but there were only 21 races so it has not been included in the table due to too small a sample.

Looking at the courses with the best impact values (IV) offers a potentially more accurate measure of front running bias. [For more information on Impact Value, click here]

 

Course Impact value for Front runners
Carlisle 2.46
Taunton 2.28
Kelso 2.20
Ascot 2.14
Hexham 2.14
Wincanton 2.09
Sedgefield 2.06
Newton Abbot 2.00
Cheltenham 1.95
Hereford 1.89
Uttoxeter 1.88
Lingfield Park 1.85

 

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As can be seen, the strike rate and IV lists are very similar, with Carlisle, Taunton, Kelso, Ascot, Hexham, Wincanton, Sedgefield, Newton Abbot and Lingfield Park appearing on both.

 

Poorest performing tracks for front runners (2m7f - 3m3f handicap chases)

At the other end of the scale below are the courses with the poorest stats for early leaders/front runners in handicap chases of 2m 7f – 3m 3f:

 

Course Front Runners Wins SR%
Fontwell Park 52 7 13.5
Cheltenham 67 9 13.4
Huntingdon 56 7 12.5
Aintree 33 4 12.1
Bangor-on-Dee 66 8 12.1
Wetherby 57 6 10.5
Sandown Park 39 4 10.3

 

Sandown and Wetherby have not been favourable for front runners it seems, but again let us delve into the Impact Values to help to substantiate the picture. The table below shows courses that have an IV of less than 1.20 for front runners/early leaders.

 

Course Impact value for Front runners
Fontwell Park 1.03
Bangor-on-Dee 1.01
Huntingdon 1.01
Sandown Park 0.95
Wetherby 0.92

 

 

Just five courses with moderate IVs and, essentially, these figures suggest that front runners at these courses win roughly as often as they should given a fair playing field (an IV of 1.00 is ‘standard’). Hence, according to the Impact Values the remaining 36 courses all have an edge for front runners varying from a small edge to a considerable one.

 

Course Pace Averages (CPA)

So far, I have focused solely on front runners, but now I want to try and give a more rounded course and distance profile for each course. To do this I have once again created course pace averages.

These are complied by adding up the Geegeez pace scores of all the winners at a particular course and dividing it by the total number of races. The higher the average score, the more biased the course and distance is to horses that lead early or race close to the pace. Here are all the courses listed, in course pace average (CPA) order:

 

Course CPA Course CPA
Fakenham 3.14 Sandown Park 2.65
Sedgefield 3.06 Uttoxeter 2.64
Hereford 3.00 Chepstow 2.64
Taunton 2.93 Hexham 2.61
Ascot 2.89 Musselburgh 2.61
Doncaster 2.89 Exeter 2.60
Wincanton 2.88 Kempton Park 2.60
Lingfield Park 2.88 Newbury 2.57
Market Rasen 2.88 Towcester 2.56
Plumpton 2.87 Fontwell Park 2.53
Cartmel 2.83 Catterick 2.52
Warwick 2.82 Huntingdon 2.50
Stratford 2.80 Leicester 2.50
Perth 2.76 Ffos Las 2.49
Newcastle 2.75 Cheltenham 2.49
Kelso 2.74 Wetherby 2.46
Southwell 2.73 Bangor-on-Dee 2.43
Carlisle 2.73 Aintree 2.42
Newton Abbot 2.71 Worcester 2.41
Haydock Park 2.69 Ayr 2.23
Ludlow 2.69

 

These averages arguably give a more overall pace ‘feel’ to each course – as noted earlier, Fakenham (which tops the list) has had few races in reality.

It is interesting to note that Carlisle is only joint 17th on this list having been top in terms of front runner stats. This is because 20 of the 46 races have been won by horses that gained a pace figure of either 1 or 2. The fact that there have been 15 wins for front runners has been negated somewhat by this, aided notably by the moderate performance of prominent runners (just 6 wins from 46 races).

Taking all the information at hand, I would suggest that the following four courses offer the strongest pace bias – Sedgefield, Ascot, Taunton and Wincanton.

 

Ascot’s overall figures are worth sharing as an example:

Pace comment Runners Wins SR% IV
Led (4) 48 10 20.83 2.14
Prominent (3) 78 10 12.82 1.33
Mid Division (2) 51 1 1.96 0.22
Held Up (1) 108 6 5.56 0.57

 

Having all the Ascot stats at our fingertips helps to illustrate how strong a bias there has been in recent years with 20 of 27 races won by horses that led early or raced prominently – this equates to 74%.

 

2m7f - 3m3f handicap chase pace data, by field size

Before I close, I want to share some different ‘splits’ in terms of number of runners. The data I have looked at for this article has come from races with 6 or more runners, so is quite a wide range. In the following three tables I have split the 2m 7f – 3m 3f handicap chase pace results into races of 6 to 8 runners, 9 to 11, and 12 runners or more.

6 to 8 runners

Pace comment Runners Wins SR% IV
Led (4) 1233 267 21.7 1.51
Prominent (3) 2296 347 15.1 1.05
Mid Division (2) 548 63 11.5 0.82
Held Up (1) 1967 202 10.3 0.72

 

9 to 11 runners

Pace comment Runners Wins SR% IV
Led (4) 703 111 15.8 1.55
Prominent (3) 1643 188 12.4 1.12
Mid Division (2) 746 60 8.0 0.80
Held Up (1) 1867 147 7.9 0.77

 

12+ runners

Pace comment Runners Wins SR% IV
Led (4) 346 52 15.0 2.12
Prominent (3) 955 91 9.5 1.35
Mid Division (2) 782 37 4.7 0.67
Held Up (1) 1252 57 4.5 0.64

 

Interestingly, the 12 or more runner group has comfortably the highest Impact Value for front runners, notwithstanding the understandably lower strike rate. Therefore, these data suggest that the front running bias increases as field size increases. I wonder who would have thought that?

  • Dave Renham

After writing five articles on 5f turf handicaps it seemed sensible, as we were heading into Autumn, that I would start looking at pace in National Hunt racing, writes Dave Renham.

For readers who have not read my pace articles before I will precis what pace in a race means.  When I talk about pace my main focus is the initial pace in a race, and the position horses take early on. geegeez.co.uk has a pace tab for every race and the stats I am sharing with you in this article are based on the site’s pace section data.

The pace data on Geegeez is split into four – Led (4), Prominent (3), Mid Division (2) and Held Up (1). The number in brackets are the pace scores that are assigned to each section.

For this article I am concentrating on course data and creating pace figures for specific course and distance combinations – my focus for this piece is handicap chases of 2m 1½f or shorter. In some research 7 or 8 years ago, I noted a bias to front runners in these races – not as strong as some flat race front- running biases, but a bias nonetheless.

The first set of data I wish to share is the overall pace stats for handicap chases of 2m 1½f or shorter (minimum number of runners in a race 6):

Pace comment Runners Wins SR%
Led 1936 362 18.7
Prominent 4145 608 14.7
Mid Division 1423 144 10.1
Held Up 4459 388 8.7

 

We can see that horses which led or disputed the lead early have a notably higher strike rate in these handicap chases. Prominent racers have a good looking record too, while hold up horses tend to struggle.

Another way to illustrate the data is through Impact Values – the best explanation of an impact value or (IV) is one I read many years ago in a book by Dr William Quirin, called Winning at the Races. He stated that impact values “are calculated by dividing the percentage of winners with a given characteristic by the percentage of starters with that characteristic. An IV of 1.00 means that horses with a specific characteristic have won no more and no less than their fair share of races”.

To help explain IVs further let us use the ‘led’ stats in this article to illustrate the idea. As can be seen in the table above horses that have led early have won 18.7% of these races.

Summing all of the pace data, there were 1502 winners with a pace score* from a total of 11963 runners with a pace score which gives an overall win percentage of 12.56%.

If we divide 18.7 by 12.56, then, we get the impact value for leaders – this gives us an impact value of 1.49.

*Pace scores are derived from in-running comments. In about 5% of cases it is impossible to discern the early position of a horse from its in-running comment

Here are the impact values for each pace category:

Pace comment Impact Value
Led 1.49
Prominent 1.17
Mid Division 0.81
Held Up 0.69
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Using either win percentages or the slightly more sophisticated Impact Values give us the same overall picture: in handicap chases of 2m 1½f or shorter there is a clear advantage to a more prominent running style – the closer to the lead early, the better.

As when I looked at 5f flat handicap pace data, there are significant differences in the course figures for these contests too with some courses being more suited to early leaders/front runners than others. Here are the courses with the best strike rates (25 front runners minimum):

 

Course Front Runners Wins SR%
Hexham 68 24 35.3
Taunton 39 13 33.3
Huntingdon 42 13 31.0
Lingfield 32 9 28.1
Wincanton 40 10 25.0
Plumpton 45 11 24.4
Sandown 46 11 23.9
Ludlow 82 19 23.2

 

For the record, Haydock’s strike rate for front runners was 38.9%, but there were only a handful of races (14). Now let us look at the courses with the best impact values which should give a more accurate measure of front running bias:

 

Course IV for Front runners
Hexham 2.96
Taunton 2.42
Huntingdon 2.31
Cheltenham 2.29
Lingfield 2.05
Hereford 1.93
Ludlow 1.81
Wincanton 1.80
Carlisle 1.80
Catterick 1.70
Sandown 1.68

 

The order is similar, but Cheltenham appears in 4th place in this list compared with a lowly 23rd placing on the SR% list. The simple reason for this is that chases of this type at Cheltenham have many more runners on average compared to all other racecourses. This perfectly demonstrates why Impact Values are so important and statistically meaningful.

Hexham’s front running bias is very strong – indeed it should be noted that hold up horses have a dreadful record there winning just 6 of the 56 races from a total of 174 runners (IV 0.29).

At the other end of the scale here are the courses with the poorest stats for early leaders/front runners in handicap chases of 2m 1½f or shorter:

 

Course Front Runners Wins SR%
Newcastle 44 6 13.6
Bangor 38 5 13.2
Ayr 55 7 12.7
Musselburgh 25 3 12.0
Southwell 94 11 11.7
Wetherby 50 5 10
Aintree 43 4 9.3
Newbury 40 3 7.5
Ascot 48 2 4.2

 

Very poor figures on the face of it for Ascot, Aintree and Newbury. Again, though, the impact values will provide a more complete picture. The table below shows courses that have a front runner IV of less than 1.00.

 

Course IV for Front runners
Newcastle 0.98
Musselburgh 0.96
Ayr 0.91
Southwell 0.91
Aintree 0.90
Wetherby 0.72
Newbury 0.58
Ascot 0.36

 

It provides further evidence that the Ascot figures for early leaders are indeed very poor, but interestingly hold up horses have not dominated at this course. The impact value for hold up horses at Ascot has been 0.91 – it is prominent runners (horses that track the pace) with an IV of 1.62 that have had most success in such races at Ascot.

This article to date has focused on front runners. Now I want to try and give a more rounded profile for each course. To do this I have created course pace averages as I did in my second article on 5f flat handicaps. I create course pace averages by adding up the Geegeez pace scores of all the winners at a particular course and dividing it by the total number of races. The higher the average score, the more biased the course and distance is to horses that lead or race close to the pace early. Here are the data:

 

Course Total Races Course Average
Hexham 56 3.18
Taunton 32 3.03
Ludlow 67 3.01
Sandown 32 2.97
Wincanton 30 2.97
Carlisle 36 2.92
Newton Abbot 69 2.86
Huntingdon 32 2.84
Lingfield 24 2.83
Haydock 14 2.79
Hereford 26 2.69
Plumpton 37 2.68
Southwell 64 2.64
Exeter 22 2.64
Leicester 40 2.63
Towcester 47 2.62
Kelso 72 2.60
Perth 32 2.59
Uttoxeter 54 2.59
Sedgefield 80 2.59
Worcester 99 2.59
Ffos Las 18 2.56
Chepstow 45 2.56
Catterick 35 2.54
Stratford 53 2.51
Doncaster 21 2.48
Newcastle 37 2.46
Bangor 30 2.43
Warwick 23 2.39
Cheltenham 35 2.37
Ascot 32 2.34
Wetherby 35 2.34
Market Rasen 12 2.33
Ayr 43 2.33
Aintree 31 2.32
Newbury 31 2.32
Musselburgh 20 2.30
Cartmel 36 2.17

 

It can be argued that these pace averages give a greater overall pace ‘feel’ to each course – it remains clear though that Hexham and Taunton are two courses where there is a very strong pace bias, early leaders there being more than three times as likely to prevail.

Being able to predict the front runner in handicaps chases of 2m 1½f or shorter at these two courses and, to a lesser degree, at Sandown, Wincanton and Carlisle – should provide a number of value betting opportunities this season. There are other courses that offer a strong edge too, of course, but these stand out particularly.

I hope this article has been of interest and as with most things in life, the more you ‘put in’, the more you tend to ‘get out’. I will personally continue to work hard researching pace angles because it has the potential to really pay dividends.

- Dave Renham

This is the fifth instalment in a series of articles looking at pace bias in 5f handicaps, writes Dave Renham. In previous articles (the first of which is at this link, subsequent ones linked to from there) I have looked at a variety of angles including examining courses, as some offer a stronger front running bias than others; I have looked at the Geegeez pace ratings and how top rated pace horses have performed in terms of win percentages and profit/losses; I have also looked at predicting pace.

The Actual Front Runner

In this article I am going to focus solely on the actual early leader (front runner) of each race to see whether there are any patterns or decent angles that can be gleaned from the data. I have looked at 200 races once again focusing on handicap races with 6 or more runners. I have not used races where it was unclear who led early (this happens roughly 3 times in every 100 races). At this juncture, it is important for me to note that I term the front runner or early leader to be the horse that takes the lead within the first furlong. If a horse has led for 50yds and then is overtaken I assume the front runner to be the horse that took the lead after 50yds, not the horse that led just for 50yds. For the record in most sprint handicaps the horse that takes the lead in the opening strides is still leading after 1 furlong.

My first idea was to look at the leaders and what their position had been in the Geegeez pace ratings. To recap, horses on the Geegeez pace-card have their last four runs highlighted with the most recent run to the left and each horse has an individual total for their last four runs. 16 is the maximum score and 4 the minimum (this is assuming they have had at least 4 career runs).

To begin with I decided to split the runners into “thirds” like I have done in the past for draw bias. Hence in a 12-runner race, pace rated 1 to 4 would lie in the top “third” of the pace ratings, those rated 5 to 8 in the middle “third”, and those rated 9 to 12 in the bottom “third”. It should also be noted that I also adjust the pace positions when there are non-runners – for example in a 10 runner race if the 3rd highest pace rated horse is a non-runner, then the horse rated 4th becomes 3rd, 5th rated becomes 4th rated, etc. Here then are the figures where the leaders/front runners came from in the pace ratings broken into ‘thirds’:

Top third of pace ratings Middle third of pace ratings Bottom third of pace ratings
69.5% 24% 6.5%

 

As you can see the early leader came from the top ‘third’ of the pace ratings roughly 7 races in 10; in addition horses from the bottom third of the pace ratings took the early lead just once in every 15 races on average. This is a positive result – perhaps the result we might expect, but it is good to see that the Geegeez pace ratings clearly help in terms of pinpointing the area where we are most likely to find the actual front runner. It is also interesting to note that in races of 12 or more runners the early leader came from the top third of the pace ratings just under 75% of the time; in races of 8 runners or less this figure dropped to 64%. This suggests, albeit with relatively limited data that using the pace ratings to try and find the front runner works best in bigger fields.

To add some more ‘meat to the bones’ I have split the pace ratings into halves rather than thirds and the table below shows the breakdown:

Top half of pace ratings Bottom half of pace ratings
85.5% 14.5%

 

Hence, when you are trying to predict the front runner in a 5f handicap, the Geegeez pace ratings look the best starting point. If you can essentially narrow the potential front running candidates down to 50% of the field or less, you are giving yourself a much better chance of predicting the early leader.

As I have mentioned in previous articles, front runners in sprints over this minimum trip do have a huge edge – in this sample 22.5% of all races were won by the early leader and 51.5% of front runners made the first three. Hence the more often we can successfully predict the front runner the better.

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In terms of the 200 early leaders in this sample, I next looked at their last two races and combining these last two pace figures (maximum of 8). Here are the findings:

Pace total (last two runs) Number of races ‘led’
8 47
7 44
6 50
5 37
4 16
3 2
2 4

 

Thus, 70.5% of all leaders had scored 6, 7 or 8 points in total when combining their last two pace scores. This data has a similar pattern to the top ‘third’ data for the last four races, as one would expect.

Just imagine if you were able to predict the front runner in every race - you would make a huge profit. Indeed if you could achieve this correct prediction around 70% of the time I would estimate you would still make very healthy profit; remembering even if the horse you picked as the front runner does not actually lead, it can still win!

In my fourth pace article I noted that just under 40% of top pace rated horses did actually lead; I did not though look at horses that were 2nd or 3rd pace rated. This time I have, and in 146 of the 200 races (73%) the early leader had been in the top three of the Geegeez pace ratings.

As I hope you can see, the Geegeez pace ratings do give an excellent indication of pace set up in a race. Whether you use the top third method; the last two runs method, or the top 3 in the ratings method.

 

In Play Options

There are of course other punting options in terms of front running ideas. One such idea is to trade the front runner ‘in play’. The argument for this approach is logical – front runners lose around 3 and a half times more often than they win so why not trade? Horses that lead in 5f handicaps generally contract in price so why not try to make the most of this fact? Now you could trade to achieve a free bet – eg back the horse at 11.0 pre-race and lay in play at 6.0. If the horses loses you get your stake back; if it wins you have a winning bet at 5/1.

Another option for traders is ‘dobbing’ - dobbing is a term I came across a few years back – I am not sure where it originates from, but basically ‘DOB’ means ‘double or bust’. Essentially if our bet/trade is successful, we double our original stake, if it is not successful we ‘bust’ or lose our stake. It may be easier to explain by giving you an example:

Let us imagine you back a horse pre-race at 8.0 for £10; in order to create a potential DOB you try and lay at half the odds for double the stake – so a lay at 4.0 for £20. If the horse hits 4.0 or lower in running, your lay bet will be matched and regardless of the result you will win £10 (less commission). Here is the simple maths behind the two potential winning outcomes - if the horse goes onto win the race you get £70 returned from the ‘back’ part of the bet; you lose £60 on the ‘lay’ part of the bet giving you that £10 profit; if the horse does not go onto win, you lose your £10 stake from the ‘back’ bet, but gain £20 from the lay stake – again giving you a £10 profit. Naturally, if the lay part of the bet is not matched you will lose your £10.

There are other ‘in play’ trading methods/options/ideas when it comes to front runners, but I don’t want to get bogged down looking at too many of these. Suffice to say, front runners tend to contract in price; some see their price drop dramatically.

In relation to this, one thing I wanted to look at was at what point was the early front runner overtaken? The longer a leader leads over 5f, in general the shorter the price will become ‘in play’. Here are my findings:

 

At what point was the front runner overtaken? % of leaders
Not overtaken (led all the way) 22.5
Overtaken in final half furlong (within 110 yds of the finish) 14
Overtaken between the furlong pole and half a furlong from the finish 19
Overtaken 1.5f from the finish to the furlong pole 23
Overtaken between the 2 furlong pole and 1 and half a furlongs from the finish 13
Overtaken before the 2 furlong pole 8.5

 

This should make pleasing reading for would be ‘in play traders’ – over 55% of front runners are still leading at the furlong pole; nearly 80% are leading 1.5 furlongs from the finish. There will be many of you reading this who have seen your horse lead at the furlong pole only to get swallowed up or beaten close home; perhaps now you have a trading option/idea which could potentially take away some of that pain in the future!

 

Actual front runners by odds

Finally, I looked at the prices of the horses that led early. Here is a breakdown:

  • There were 61 leaders that started 5/1 or less;
  • There were 52 leaders that started between 11/2 and 9/1;
  • There were 51 leaders that started between 10/1 and 16/1;
  • There were 36 leaders that started 18/1 or bigger.

So a relatively even split. Again this is almost certainly good news for ‘in play’ traders as there is excellent scope for trading front runners that start big prices. Indeed of those bigger priced runners (18/1 or bigger) 17 of the 36 were still leading at the furlong pole (a handful of these went onto win).

I hope you have found this article interesting and given you further food for thought. Maybe there should be a Geegeez competition next flat season to see who can pick pre-race the highest percentage of front runners in 5f handicaps. In fact it doesn’t have to be restricted to 5f races – maybe 5 to 7f races. Anyway, one for Matt to think about perhaps!

- Dave Renham

After hours, actually weeks of number crunching, I am able to share my most recent findings regarding pace in 5f handicaps, writes Dave Renham.

In this fourth article I have started to look in more detail at the Geegeez pace data focusing for the most part on the last four runs of each horse. Links to the first three articles are here:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Horses on the Geegeez racecard have pace figures assigned to their last four runs, with the most recent run to the left. To recap the pace figures are split into four groups - Led, Prominent, Mid Division and Held Up. Pace points are given to each group - led gets 4 points, prominent 3, mid division 2 and held up 1. Therefore totals can range between 4 and 16.

My focus for this piece has been 5f handicaps (turf and all weather) with at least 6 runners from 2017. There were 465 such races in total and at present I have manually collated data for 200 of these, from which I will share my initial findings. The plan next month is to complete the research and report back on the results for all the races. Handicaps are generally the best medium for this type of research because one is usually dealing with seasoned campaigners who have raced many times in their careers.

I have noted before that front runners have a significant edge in these short sprints and this is clearly seen from the pace figures of these 200 winners:

 

Pace figure of winner

4

3

2

1

Win % 25% 43.5% 8%

23.5%

 

As we can see 25% of all races have been won by the horse that took the early lead. Considering front runners made up around 13% of runners in the sample, we can say that front runners have won nearly twice as often as they should (25% versus 13%); this is assuming all horses have an equal chance in each race. Of course, that may not necessarily be the case, but the 13% figure is not going to be too far away from the true chance. For the record, prominent racers provided 40% of all horses so this pace bracket also win slightly more often than ‘one would expect’; horses that raced mid-division provided around 13% of all runners so have under-performed statistically, as have hold up horses who provided around 34% of all the runners.

As I have mentioned in previous articles, with such an advantage in 5f handicaps it makes sense to investigate ways of trying to predict the front runner. In the third article I looked at the most recent race only and the pace figure gained from it. This time I am going to look at the performance of the top-rated pace runners using the last four races.

In each of the 200 races I collated the pace figures for each horse by putting them in order of pace points, then looking to see from which pace position the winner came. I was hoping of course to see a bias towards the top-rated pace horses in terms of number of wins.

Here are the findings:

 

Pace rank

Wins

Races

SR%

1 26 200 13.0
2 21 200 10.5
3 26 200 13.0
4 31 200 15.5
5 23 200 11.5
6 17 200 8.5
7 21 179 11.7
8 10 153 6.5
9 10 127 7.9
10 4 96 4.2
11 7 68 10.3
12 2 48 4.2
13 1 32 3.1
14 1 22 4.5

15+

0 9

0.0

 

Hence the top-rated pace horse (the one with the most pace points) won 26 of the 200 races (13%). On the face of it this does look a little disappointing. It should also be stressed at this point that there may have been 200 races, but due to several of these having joint top-rated pace horses, there were in fact 266 horses that were top- or joint-top ranked.

That brings the win strike rate down to under 10%. Before you reach for the Kleenex, I do have some positive news. If you had backed these top-rated pace horses to level stakes, your 266 selections would have yielded a small profit to SP. Even better returns would have accrued if you had backed them at Betfair SP – at £10 per bet the profit after commission would have been just under £530. This equates to a return of about 20p in the £. Very satisfactory returns for what is essentially a simplistic method.

With a notable difference between the number of winning front-runners and the number of winners with the highest pace rank coming into the race, what these findings indicate once more is that predicting the front runner is far from an exact science. It is clearly not just a case of picking the horse in the race with the most pace points from their last four runs. What that table does seem to indicate though is that the more points you have the more chance you have of winning.

The top-rated pace horse did lead in nearly 40% of the races; the table below shows the run style of the top-rated pace horse in the reviewed races:

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Pace Figure

Races

% of horses

4 – Led 105 39.5
3 – Prominent 106 39.8
2 – Midfield 23 8.6
1 – Held up 32 12.0

 

So those top-rated pace horses coming into a race have generally led or raced up with the pace, which is clearly what one would expect. However, when I started this series of articles I was hoping to find a method that would predict the front runner at least 50% of the time, if not 60%. Not around 40%! It is interesting to note that in the third article I found that horses that had led in a 5f handicap last time out, went on to lead in their next race 42.5% of the time. So perhaps the most recent race is more important than combining the last four when looking at pace figures, though in truth the difference in terms of the sample size is negligible.

My next port of call was to look at the actual pace figure gained by the top rated or joint top-rated pace horse. 16 (four pace figures of 4) is the highest pace figure a horse can achieve.

Here are the findings:

 

4 race pace total (top rated horses only)

Wins

Runs

SR%

16 2 31 6.5
15 8 78 10.3
14 7 87 8.0
13 5 32 15.6
12 2 32 6.3
11 2 5 40.0
10 0 1 0.0

 

These figures suggest nothing particularly clear cut at this stage – however, when I have looked at all 465 races hopefully a pattern may start to emerge.

Before moving on I would like to discuss a theory. There is a perception that if there are two or more potential front runners in a race, then that race will be set up for a ‘closer’. The theory is that there will be a strong battle for the lead where the leaders essentially ‘cut each other’s throats’ – allowing a horse to come from off the pace and win.

I wanted to try and test this theory as best I could. I decided therefore in each race to work out the pace average of the top four rated pace horses. If the theory held any validity, then I expected the record of the top rated pace horse would be poor when the four horse pace average was higher. Here are the findings:

 

Top four rated pace average

Top rated pace runners

Wins

SR%

BSP profit to £10 stakes

ROI%

14 and above 48 3 6.3 – £220 – 45.8
13 to 13.75 77 5 6.5 – £193 – 25.1
12 to 12.75 69 5 7.2 – £232 – 33.6
11 to 11.75 51 7 13.7 + £363 + 71.2
9 to 10.75 21 6 28.6 + £320 + 152.4

 

It seems that this theory does hold water, although I appreciate that not all top-rated pace horses lead. Having said that most top-rated pace horses race up with the pace and thus are not coming from ‘off the pace’ to win. The races where the top four horses averaged 14 or above produced the lowest strike rate and the worst returns. Conversely the races with relatively low averages produced extremely positive returns.

I have also looked at the combined win and placed strike rates to see if they correlate with the win strike rates:

 

Top four rated pace average

Top rated pace runners

Wins / places

Win/placed SR%

14 and above 48 10 20.8
13 to 13.75 77 19 24.7
12 to 12.75 69 22 31.9
11 to 11.75 51 19 37.3
9 to 10.75 21 12 57.1

 

It is pleasing to see the win and place strike rates increase as the four horse pace average decreases – just like the win data showed.

This takes me onto the second theory where there is a perception that if there is just one ‘genuine’ front runner in the race, that runner has a good chance of getting a ‘soft’ lead and this increases their prospects of leading all the way. The table above seems to suggest when there is less ‘pace’ in the race, potential front runners have a better chance of winning. However, we cannot be sure that a race with, say, a top four rated pace average of 11 has a sole front runner. Consider the following two scenarios:

 

Scenario 1: Pace average of top four pace horses = 11

Horse A – 15

Horse B – 10

Horse C – 10

Horse D – 9

 

Scenario 2: Pace average of top four pace horses = 11

Horse A – 12

Horse B – 12

Horse C – 11

Horse D –  9

 

One way to perhaps test this ‘soft’ lead theory is to look at the gap between the top rated pace horse and the second top rated pace horse. Here are these findings looking at the performance of the top rated pace horses in each case:

 

Gap between top and 2nd rated

Top rated pace runners

Wins

SR%

BSP profit to £10 stakes

ROI%

0 126 10 7.9 – £364 –28.9
1 75 4 5.3 – £495 –66.0
2 44 7 15.9 + £323 +73.4
3 15 4 26.7 + £525 +350.0
4 5 0 0.0 – £50 –100.0
5 1 1 100.0 + £85 +850.0

 

This once again is not a perfect test because the top rated pace runner does not always lead! However, what it does seem to suggest is that the top rated pace horse has done extremely well when there has been a gap of at least 2 points between them and the second rated. I appreciate the data set is relatively small, but nonetheless the signs are good. I did look at the win and placed data here and the correlation was less strong – the problem perhaps is the data set for a gap of 3 or more is so small. I will revisit this after looking at all the races and share that data. [Alternative theory for lack of place correlation is that trail blazers are often binary types, who either win or drop out completely – Ed.]

For the final part of this article I want to look at the profile of the 200 winners in terms of pace. I initially looked at their four race pace totals and noted that 128 winners (SR 64%) had a total of 10-16 while 72 winners (SR 36%) had a total of 4-9. It seems therefore at first glance that the horses with higher pace ratings have outperformed those with lower ones. However, we can all manipulate data and hence we need to know how many runners were in each of the two pace brackets. Fortunately we have a relatively even split as the table shows:

 

4 race totals for all runners

Win SR%

% of actual runners in all races

Between 4 and 9 36% 48.5%
Between 10 and 16 64% 51.5%

 

To clarify this means that horses with a pace total of 10 or higher (from their last four runs) have won 64% of all races from 51.5% of the total runners. Hence, as we would have hoped, horses with higher pace ratings do perform better in 5f handicaps than lower pace rated horses. In reality if ‘pace’ made no difference whatsoever then these horses should be winning 51.5% of races not 64% - in reality, they are roughly 1.25 times more likely to win than statistically they ought.

So, it’s time now to start looking at the other 265 races to see whether the statistical patterns noted in this article are replicated over a bigger sample. At present we can make the following observations:

 

  1. Front runners have a huge edge in 5f handicaps
  2. Top pace rated runners (using the last four races) have a relatively low strike rate but have shown a 20% profit to BSP
  3. Top pace rated runners have taken the early lead around 40% of the time (led or raced prominently in just under 80% of races)
  4. Top pace rated runners have a much better strike rate in races where the top four pace rated runners produce an average of less than 12
  5. Top pace rated runners have a much better strike rate in races where they have a 2 point or bigger gap to the second pace rated horse
  6. Horses pace rated 10 win almost twice as often as those rated 9 or lower

*The fifth and final part in this series can be found here*

- Dave Renham