Dave Renham: Top jockeys’ pace profiles

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.

 

A Frankie Snippet

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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

Dave Renham: More Thoughts on 2yo Sires

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.

Dave Renham: Some Thoughts on 2yo Sires

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

Jockey Pace Profiles

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

Pace Wins The Race: 6f All Weather Handicaps

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

Pace Wins The Race: 5f All Weather Handicaps

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

The Importance of Pace in Three Mile Handicap Chases

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

The Importance of Pace in ‘Speed’ Handicap Chases

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

The Importance of Pace in 5f Handicaps: Part 5

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

The Importance of Pace in 5f Handicaps: Part 4

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

 

 

The Importance of Pace in 5f Handicaps: Part 3

In my first two articles I looked at pace in five-furlong handicaps focusing primarily on courses, writes Dave Renham.

Part 1, which then links to Part 2, can be found here.

The data suggest that some courses offer a much stronger pace edge than others. However, all the research points to the fact that front runners in 5f handicaps have a definite edge almost regardless of where the race is being run. When I say ‘definite edge’ perhaps I should clarify that front runners win far more often than statistically one might expect.

To recap, when I talk about pace my main focus is the initial pace in a race and positions the horses take up in the opening couple of furlongs. As mentioned before the Geegeez website splits pace data into four groups - Led, Prominent, Mid Division and Held Up. These groups are assigned numerical values – led gets 4 points, prominent 3, mid division 2 and held up 1. When I used to tip ‘back in the day’, I created similar pace figures, but used values from 5 to 1, and also used the last six runs rather than the last four. I don’t think there will ever be a ‘perfect’ method for creating pace figures, but I am sure the Geegeez method is as good as any.

Horses on the Geegeez racecard pace tab (data view) have their last four UK/Ire runs highlighted, with the most recent run to the left and each horse has an individual total for their last four runs. Hence the highest last four races pace total a horse could achieve is 16 (four 4s), while the lowest is 4 (four 1s). This is assuming of course that they have had at least four career runs.

With such an advantage in 5f handicaps it makes sense to investigate ways of trying to successfully predict the front runner. One starting point would simply be to look at the horse’s combined pace figures in the race in question and choose the horse with the highest figure. Let us look at a recent example to help make this idea clearer to the reader. The race was run on the 31st May at Hamilton – it was a 5 furlong handicap with 7 runners. Pre-race the 7 runners had the following pace totals:

 

5f sprint pace tab example

5f sprint pace tab example

 

One difficulty for predicting the front runner in this particular race was that you had three horses at the top with very close figures. Also none of the runners had led a race early in more than one of their last four starts meaning that they were not ‘out and out’ front running trail-blazers. As the race panned out, the three most likely front runners took up the first three positions early on: Jabbarockie led narrowly to Jacob’s Pillow who in turn raced just ahead of Dapper Man. Hamilton’s 5f favours front runners reasonably strongly, as can be seen from the green pace ‘blobs’ in the image, and not surprisingly perhaps the winner and runner up came from these three.

As we can see, this race panned out in a very similar way to how the pace figures had predicted it would. However, correctly predicting the front runner of the top three rated was clearly not ‘a given’. This of course is one of the problems with blindly going for the highest rated pace horse. Having said that, one would expect the highest rated pace horse to lead far more often than the lowest rated pace horse! My aim is to look at this idea in more detail in the future.

For this article I am using a slightly more simplistic approach. I am focusing on the most recent race only. To begin with I looked at horses that gained a pace figure of 4 (by leading early) last time out in a 5f handicap to see what pace figure they achieved in their very next run. I was hoping of course that a decent percentage led early on next time out. Here are my findings:

Pace figure

(next run after leading over 5f LTO)

4 3 2 1
% of runners 42.5% 39.2% 8.3% 10.0%

 

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This is quite encouraging with 42.5% of runners leading on their very next start. In addition less than 20% of them raced midfield or further back in the pack early on. At this juncture, it should be noted that horses that were taken on for the lead last time out scored slightly lower in terms of leading next time (led roughly 34% of the time). These are the horses that gained comments such as ‘with leaders’, ‘disputed lead’ etc – for the record these runners still gain a 4 score for these comments.

I then looked at the data for horses that had gained a 4 pace score last time out in 6f handicaps. 6f races are still considered sprints, and the front runner generally has an edge in these races too. However, this edge is less strong than it is over 5f. I was intrigued however to see how the next time out figures panned out – would last time out front runners, lead again? This is what I found:

Pace figure

(next run after leading over 6f LTO)

4 3 2 1
% of runners 31.0% 44.4% 12.5% 12.1%

 

Down to around 1 in 3 who managed to lead next time, although 75% either led or tracked the pace (which I guess can be taken as a positive). The figures for horses that were taken on for the lead last time out again scored lower (just 21% of these runners led next time).

It seems sensible given this initial data to concentrate on 5f handicaps for the remainder of this article. This does not mean we cannot gain a pace edge over other race distances too, but I feel the front running bias works best over the minimum distance of 5f.

My next port of call was to look at horses that had gained a pace score last time out in 5f handicaps of 1 – these are the horses that raced at the back of the pack LTO. I was hoping to see that they predominantly raced at the back of the pack early on in their next run, or at least did not lead early very often. This is what I found:

 

Pace figure (next run after a pace score of 1 LTO over 5f) 4 3 2 1
% of runners 7.9% 35.5% 22.1% 34.5%

 

Interestingly a pace score of 3 has been achieved the most, although a score of 1 was not far behind. Pleasingly from a research point of view only 8% of runners that were held up at the back LTO scored a 4 and led early on their next start. The stats suggest therefore that horses that gained a 4 pace score LTO in 5f handicaps are over 5 times more likely to lead next time out than horses that gained a 1 pace score.

There are of course many factors that determine how likely a horse is to lead – not just their pace score over their last four runs, or their pace score LTO – but as I have alluded to earlier the pace competitiveness of the other runners in the race. One huge factor that has to be taken into account is the draw at certain courses. If we look at Chester over 5f one can see that it is extremely difficult to lead from a wide draw. In handicaps with 8 or more runners horses from the top third of the draw have managed to take the early lead just 13% of the time. This drops to a measly 7.5% when there have been 10 or more runners. Chester is not unique in that respect either – Beverley in 5f handicaps (10 runners or more) has seen the top third of the draw lead early just 16% of the time whereas the bottom third of the draw has assumed an early advantage 52% of the time. Thus the draw must be factored in at some courses.

I looked next at whether leading in a bigger field made it more likely you would lead next time – my theory being that to lead a bigger field would need more early pace than if you were running in a smaller field. I looked at 5f handicaps with 12 runners or more, and it should be noted that if the race had split into more than one group, I chose the overall leader only. However, the figures virtually matched the overall 5f figures as the table below shows:

Pace figure (next run after leading over 5f LTO in a 12+ runner race) 4 3 2 1
% of runners 42.4% 39.8% 7.6% 10.2%

 

My next port of call was looking at horses that had won a 5f handicap LTO by making all the running – these runners earn comments such as ‘made all’, ‘made most’, ‘made virtually all’, etc. My theory was that horses in form that had led LTO were more likely to lead on their very next start. This time, the data backed up the theory:

Pace figure (next run making all or making most over 5f LTO) 4 3 2 1
% of runners 51.2% 36.8% 4.8% 7.2%

 

For the first time we exceed the 50% mark in terms of horses that lead.

Perhaps at this juncture it is worth elaborating on why being able to predict the front runner in 5f handicaps is worth the effort. It has been noted that front runners win more often than they should statistically, but the key point is that they potentially offer huge profits. Now clearly you are never going to be able to predict the front runner all the time, but the higher percentage you achieve, the greater your chances of making decent long term returns.

Finally in this article I want to offer another approach in terms of trying to predict the front runner in 5f handicaps – this is simply focusing on individual horses that traditionally have shown a desire to lead early. Now, this is likely to limit your potential bets considerably but if you were able to create a list of say 25 such horses you would have a good chance of turning the stats in your favour. Let me look at one such horse – Bosham. At the time of writing (June 1st 2018), Bosham has raced 67 times in his career and has led early in 41 of those races – this equates to 61.2% of the time. We can improve upon this by digging a bit deeper into his record: it improves to 63.8% in 5f races; in 5f races in single figure fields (9 or less runners) this improves to 71.4% (from 21 races); in 5f races running round a bend this improves to 76% (from 25 races).

Bosham last raced on the 31st May at Chelmsford over 5f. This race was also a good example of when the Geegeez pace stats for the last four runs have worked perfectly. These were the runners in the race with their pace totals:

 

Bosham was a very likely leader on a speed-favouring track, and prevailed at 7/1

Bosham was a very likely leader on a speed-favouring track, and prevailed at 7/1

 

Bosham looked the most likely front runner having led in each of his last four starts and so it proved. Of course if you had looked at his career record this would also have pinpointed him as a likely front runner. Another positive was that he had a decent draw in 4 which meant he was close to the favoured inside rail. As it turned out, Bosham led early and went on to win relatively unchallenged at 7/1. For the record the joint-second rated pace runner, Crosse Fire, a 16/1 shot, raced in second early on before fading into fourth in the final furlong.

The data in this article cements the fact that early pace is be a highly significant factor in horseracing, and 5f handicaps in particular. Geegeez Gold offers users the insight for any race within the Pace tab, and subscribers are strongly encouraged to take some time to get to grips with it. Such time investment is quite likely to generate a robust financial return.

***Part 4 can be viewed here***

- Dave Renham

p.s. if you're not yet a Gold subscriber, you can get a taster of the pace functionality either by registering as a free user and checking the pace in our free Gold races (up to six daily), or you can take a 30 day trial for £1. Click here to start your trial.

Part 2: The Importance of Pace in 5f Handicaps

In my first article I looked at pace in 5-furlong handicaps focusing on the running style bias angle. The figures clearly showed a huge difference between the front running chances of horses depending on which 5f course he/she was running. In this second part, we will revisit the course angle and aim to offer a more complete picture.

To recap from the first article, when I talk about pace my main focus is the early pace in a race and the position horses take up early on. The Geegeez website splits pace data into four groups - Led, Prominent, Mid Division and Held Up. These groups are assigned numerical values – led gets 4 points, prominent 3, mid division 2 and held up 1. On each Geegeez racecard these figures are assigned to every horse in the race going back four UK or Irish runs.

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 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 the 5 furlong handicap C&D pace averages for all turf courses in the UK.

 

Course 5f pace average 5f Pace Rank
Lingfield (turf) 3.33 1
Chester 3.3 2
Epsom 3 3
Catterick 2.97 4
Ripon 2.97 5
Redcar 2.88 6
Chepstow 2.86 7
Hamilton 2.85 8
Nottingham 2.84 9
Thirsk 2.82 10
Windsor 2.78 11
Musselburgh 2.77 12
Newbury 2.73 13
Beverley 2.72 14
Leicester 2.72 15
Pontefract 2.69 16
Goodwood 2.64 17
Ayr 2.63 18
Newmarket 2.58 19
Haydock 2.57 20
Wetherby 2.56 21
Bath 2.54 22
Doncaster 2.51 23
Salisbury 2.5 24
Sandown 2.5 25
Brighton 2.49 26
Carlisle 2.49 27
York 2.47 28
Ffos Las 2.38 29
Yarmouth 2.24 30
Ascot 2.24 31

 

Lingfield (turf) tops the list, but in truth they have very few 5f handicaps so we perhaps out to take this figure with the proverbial pinch of salt. Chester comes next which is no surprise based on the stats from the previous article. In that article Chester had exceptional winning percentages for front runners and very poor percentages for hold up horses. A 3.3 C&D pace average is huge, so let us look at Chester 5f in more detail.

Running style

Chester 5f

Wins Runners Strike rate (%) IV
Led 31 88 35.23 3.38
Prominent 21 194 10.82 1.04
Mid Division 5 109 4.59 0.44
Held Up 4 194 2.06 0.20

 

As can be seen, 52 of 61 Chester races have been won by horses that have either led or raced prominently. Essentially these figures indicate that the winner is almost six times more likely to be racing in the front half of the pack early on, than the back half.

Epsom are third on the list but they have only had 25 races so, as with Lingfield turf, the data is limited. Let us instead look at the Catterick who lie fourth on the list. Catterick have had 145 races so a bigger sample to breakdown:

 

Running style

Catterick 5f

Wins Runners Strike rate (%) IV
Led 47 196 23.98 2.51
Prominent 65 672 9.67 1.00
Mid Division 15 175 8.57 0.93
Held Up 18 473 3.81 0.4

 

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The stats for Catterick are not in Chester’s league in terms of pace bias to front/prominent racers, but the tendency is still strong. Front runners especially have a very potent edge. Digging deeper, if we focus on races at Catterick with 12 to 14 runners the pace bias does increase significantly:

 

Running style Wins Runners Strike rate (%) IV
Led 15 66 22.73 2.88
Prominent 22 227 9.69 1.23
Mid Division 5 88 5.68 0.72
Held Up 4 201 1.99 0.25

 

37 of 46 races were won by early leaders or horses that raced prominent early. The winner is roughly four more times more likely to be racing in the front half of the pack early on, than the back half.

 

At this juncture I decided to dig a little deeper looking to see whether the going made a difference to the overall 5f course pace averages. In the past I have heard two contrasting theories connected with front running horses which would potentially affect the course pace average on a specific type of going:

Theory 1 – horses that lead on softer ground are difficult to peg back because horses find it harder to accelerate from off the pace on such going;

Theory 2 – horses that lead on firmer ground are likely to get less tired at the front due the faster conditions and this accentuates their front running edge. (Plus on quicker ground the race is likely to be run in a shorter overall time again meaning the front runner is expending less energy).

So which one is true – or is neither true? If front runners do have a bigger edge under certain going conditions it will push up the overall course pace average.

I decided to split the results into two – races on good or firmer; and races on good to soft or softer. Here are the course pace averages for all 5f handicaps split into these going types:

 

Going Course Pace average
Good or firmer 2.72
Good to soft or softer 2.67

 

As we can see the difference is minimal and not statistically significant. I plan to look at more extremes of going when I have time – looking at soft or heavy versus good to firm or firmer. However, looking at these initial figures, I am not expecting to see a huge variance.

My final area of research in this article is concerned with ‘class’. There is an argument, which I believe is a fair one, that the higher the class, the harder it is for horses to lead from start to finish – due to the more competitive nature of the opposition. Hence, at courses that run more higher class handicaps one might expect their course pace averages to be lower as a result. How to calculate ‘class’ at a particular course is difficult – do you use class levels, prize money, average Official Ratings across all races? I have decided to use a relatively simplistic approach by creating average class levels for each course by adding the class levels for each race and dividing by how many races there were. Hence, for example, if a course had had 10 class 2 handicaps and 10 class 3 handicaps their class average would be 2.5. Here are the course class averages for 5f handicaps (lowest class averages at the top):

Course Course Race Class Average Course Class Rank
Chepstow 5.47 1
Hamilton 5.43 2
Catterick 5.32 3
Brighton 5.26 4
Ffos Las 5.12 5
Beverley 5.11 6
Yarmouth 5.08 7
Bath 5.03 8
Carlisle 5 9
Nottingham 4.96 10
Redcar 4.95 11
Lingfield (turf) 4.92 12
Musselburgh 4.85 13
Ayr 4.77 14
Leicester 4.67 15
Ripon 4.57 16
Wetherby 4.56 17
Pontefract 4.53 18
Salisbury 4.45 19
Windsor 4.44 20
Thirsk 4.09 21
Goodwood 4.04 22
Newbury 4 23
Sandown 4 24
Doncaster 3.85 25
Haydock 3.79 26
Newmarket 3.64 27
Chester 3.02 28
Epsom 2.81 29
York 2.8 30
Ascot 2.62 31

 

As you would expect, most of the Grade 1 courses are near the bottom of the table. Three of these courses - Ascot, York and Epsom - have the most competitive 5f handicaps in terms of class.

To see if there is a correlation between course pace averages and average course race class I have ranked both lists next to each other, and produced an average rank. For there to be a strong correlation you would expect the majority of the courses to be in similar positions in each column – in other words the higher course 5f pace averages should correlate with the lower course class averages; likewise the lower course pace averages should correlate with the higher course class averages.

 

Course Course Class Rank (low>high) 5f Pace Rank Class / Pace Average
Catterick 3 4 3.5
Chepstow 1 7 4
Hamilton 2 8 5
Lingfield (turf) 12 1 6.5
Redcar 11 6 8.5
Nottingham 10 9 9.5
Beverley 6 14 10
Ripon 16 5 10.5
Musselburgh 13 12 12.5
Brighton 4 26 15
Bath 8 22 15
Leicester 15 15 15
Chester 28 2 15
Windsor 20 11 15.5
Thirsk 21 10 15.5
Ayr 14 18 16
Epsom 29 3 16
Ffos Las 5 29 17
Pontefract 18 16 17
Carlisle 9 27 18
Newbury 23 13 18
Yarmouth 7 30 18.5
Wetherby 17 21 19
Goodwood 22 17 19.5
Salisbury 19 24 21.5
Haydock 26 20 23
Newmarket 27 19 23
Doncaster 25 23 24
Sandown 24 25 24.5
York 30 28 29
Ascot 31 31 31

 

At both ends of the list, sorted by Class/Pace Average, we have the most valid correlations. For instance, Catterick, Chepstow and Hamilton all strongly favour front-runners and all host a majority of low grade five-furlong handicaps.

Meanwhile, Ascot and York, as well as to a lesser degree Sandown, Doncaster, Newmarket and Haydock, all generally host high class sprint handicaps where the early pace holds up less well.

I hope you have enjoyed this second instalment and, as always, comments are welcomed.

***Part 3 can be viewed here***

- Dave Renham

The Importance of Pace in 5f handicaps

This is my first article for www.geegeez.co.uk and before I start I would like to share with you my racing background, writes David Renham. I have worked for the Racing Post as a Spotlight writer and the Racing and Football Outlook as a trends ‘expert’; I have also written several books, mainly on draw bias, back in the early 2000s. And I have been a tipster with some success – and some failures! In all, I have written over 700 racing articles for magazines, newspapers, and websites.

Matt asked me to write on an ‘ad hoc’ basis which suits me as I have a full-time job outside racing at present. I hope you will find my articles interesting, useful, and ultimately lead to some profitable betting opportunities. However, as we all know, making money from backing or indeed laying horses is not easy. You need a combination of many things I believe – hard work; a good understanding of what you are trying to achieve; some sort of specialism as I feel there is simply too much racing and too many horses to gain a handle on if you don’t specialise; and, last but not least, a bit of luck.

For this article I am going to discuss pace in a race. When I talk about pace my main focus is the initial pace in a race and the position the horses take up early on. One of the many useful aspects of geegeez.co.uk is the pace section and the stats I am sharing with you in this article are based on the site’s pace data (found in the Pace tab on the racecard).

The pace data on Geegeez is split into four - Led, Prominent, Mid Division and Held Up. Let me try to explain what type of horse fits what type of pace profile:

Led – essentially 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.

So after each race all the horses are assigned points in regards to what position they took up early in the race. Leaders get 4, prominent runners 3, horses that ran mid division 2, and those held up score 1. Geegeez has over 1,059,000 runners’ pace comments scored, from a total of about 1,100,000. [The others are things like unseated rider at the start, or where there is no discernible pace reference in the comment].

If you click the pace tab on the website you are presented with pace data regarding the specific course and distance of that race, and pace data for each horse covering their last four UK or Irish runs. For this article I am concentrating on the course data and creating pace figures for specific course and distances – namely handicap races run over 5 furlongs. I have always been a fan of sprint handicaps and early pace in sprint handicaps generally gives a bigger advantage to front runners than races over longer distances. In addition to this, some courses offer a bigger advantage to front runners than others as you will see.

The first set of data I wish to share with you is the overall pace stats for 5f turf handicaps (minimum number of runners in a race 6):

Pace comment Runners Wins SR%
Led 3450 637 18.5
Prominent 9987 1078 10.8
Mid Division 3187 235 7.4
Held Up 8465 567 6.7

Horses that led, or disputed the lead early, have a huge advantage in turf 5f handicaps. So, if we could predict the front runner or front runners in each race we should be ‘quids in’, and indeed would be. Unfortunately, it is not an exact science and how best to do this I will leave for a future article.

Best performing 5f handicap tracks for front runners

My aim for this article is to show you the differences in the course figures for 5f handicaps and how some courses are more suited to early leaders/front runners than others. Here are the courses with the best strike rates (minimum 40 runners):

Course Front Runners Wins SR% P/L SP IV
Chester 88 31 35.2 120 3.38
Catterick 196 47 24 177.71 2.51
Hamilton 170 39 22.9 130.29 2.04
Beverley 197 44 22.3 167.29 2.51
Epsom 50 11 22 45.5 2.96
Nottingham 219 48 21.9 224.08 2.32
Leicester 88 19 21.6 60.75 1.91
Windsor 160 34 21.3 100.31 1.9

 

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Chester has amazing stats for early leaders: the tight turning 5f clearly suits front runners and, when combined with a good draw, front runners are clearly hard to peg back. Another round 5f, Catterick lies second with excellent figures also. Keep in mind that the average strike rate is 18.5% for all courses over this minimum trip.

Worst performing 5f handicap tracks for front runners

At the other end of the scale here are the courses with the poorest stats for early leaders/front runners in 5f handicaps:

Course Front Runners Wins SR% P/L SP IV
Newmarket (July/Rowley combined) 88 12 13.6 -8.37 1.19
York 106 14 13.2 21 1.78
Haydock 146 18 12.3 -18.17 1.25
Sandown 119 13 10.9 -19.37 1.04
Yarmouth 96 10 10.4 -39.58 0.86
Ascot 98 8 8.2 -30.5 0.99
Doncaster 90 6 6.7 -32.5 0.81

 

It is interesting to see York in this list – York is often considered a decent front running track, but not according to our figures.

 

Chester performance by number of runners in race

Looking at Chester in more detail, we can split the data by number of runners:

Runners in race Front Runners Wins SR% P/L SP IV
6 to 8 36 18 50 90.5 3.65
9 to 11 35 11 31.4 23.5 3.22
12 to 14 17 2 11.8 6 1.46

 

Here at geegeez.co.uk, data regarding number of race runners is calibrated slightly differently to my table, but you are able to change the figures on the site to suit your own personal requirements.

 

Overall performance by number of runners in race

As we can see from the Chester figures, the smaller the field size, the better it has been for front runners. The general perception of punters I believe matches the Chester data – in other words most punters believe front runners are more likely to win in smaller fields. It makes sense I guess as there are less rivals to pass the leader. However, is this really the case? Here are the data:

 

Runners in race Front Runners Wins SR%
6 to 8 1214 264 21.7
9 to 11 1205 223 18.5
12 to 14 624 106 17.0
15+ 407 44 10.8

 

The stats back up the basic theory, but a 17% win rate for early leaders/front runners in 12 to 14 runner 5f turf handicaps is a strong performance, especially when you take into account the likely prices of such runners. Hence, one could legitimately argue that the best front running value lies in the 12-14 runner range.

 

Best performing 5f handicap tracks for hold up horses

Of course, early leader/front runner stats are not the whole story when trying to build up a ‘pace’ picture of each course. We need to look at the stats at the other end of scale – those for hold up horses. Firstly a look at the 5f courses that offer hold up horses the best strike rates:

Course Hold up horses Wins SR% P/L SP IV
Yarmouth 195 27 13.8 -33.04 1.16
Bath 332 41 12.3 -9.5 1.1
Brighton 258 30 11.6 -68.97 0.89
Newbury 99 9 9.1 -31.92 0.82
Salisbury 66 6 9.1 -23.5 0.8
Leicester 178 16 9 -51.87 0.79
Carlisle 192 17 8.9 -55.25 0.82

 

Interestingly you would expect these courses to match those that have the poorest stats for early leaders/front runners (see above). However, only Yarmouth appears in both groups. Hence the importance of not just looking at the ‘led’ data in order to appreciate pace biases at particular courses.

More materially, perhaps, all courses are firmly negative at SP, and most have an impact value of less than 1, meaning such types are less likely than horses with other run styles (1 meaning the same likelihood).

Worst performing 5f handicap tracks for hold up horses

Now a look at those courses with the worst strike rates for hold up horses:

Course Hold up horses Wins SR% P/L SP IV
Chepstow 187 10 5.3 -104.42 0.5
Musselburgh 746 39 5.2 -346.17 0.5
Ripon 200 8 4 -122.42 0.38
Redcar 307 12 3.9 -200.92 0.41
Catterick 473 18 3.8 -312.17 0.4
Epsom 113 3 2.7 -98.25 0.36
Chester 194 4 2.1 -160.5 0.2

 

Chester, Catterick and Epsom appear in this table – courses that appeared in the top 5 for front runners. However, once again the correlation between good courses for front runners / poor courses for hold up horses is not as strong as one might expect.

What can be said with a degree of confidence is that these tracks are graveyards for hold up horses and such runners make abject bets in the main.

Summing Up

So how should we use the data discussed in this article? There are numerous ways to do this, some of which I will elaborate upon in a future article. Ultimately however, it is important to appreciate the differences between each course and distance in 5f handicaps, especially their configuration and favoured run styles, points which should inform your betting when you decide to use pace data as part of your betting strategy.

For example, if you feel you have found two ‘nailed on’ front runners in two different 5f handicaps, at say Chester and Yarmouth, you need to appreciate that whoever front runs in the Chester race, has, according to past data, over 3 times more chance of winning than your Yarmouth trailblazer. Of course your ‘nailed on’ front runner might not lead early but that is not really the point I am trying to make!

I hope you have found this article interesting and potentially useful from a betting perspective. If you have yet to use the pace data on geegeez.co.uk, I hope I have sown some seeds of interest and that you may start to think about how to incorporate pace handicapping into your betting armoury.

- David Renham

** You can read Part 2 of this series here **

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