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