Newmarket Racecourse: Pace, Draw and Trainers

We are back, finally, and part of the plan to kickstart racing in the UK is a disproportionately high volume of early meetings scheduled to take place at Newmarket, headquarters of flat racing in this country, writes Jon Shenton. At the current count, no less than 21 days of racing are planned in Suffolk between now and the end of August; that’s a meeting, on average, every five days or so. It’s high time, then, to give Newmarket some overdue attention in order to try and unearth some of its secrets.

Newmarket Courses

Newmarket has two distinct tracks, the Rowley Mile and the July course. They are to all intents and purposes separate entities, although they both share ground in longer distance races where they join the Cesarewitch course.

Newmarket racecourse satellite map

The maps below should give a more effective picture of the arrangement.

The Rowley Mile

The home of the 2000 and 1000 Guineas, scheduled for this weekend. It’s a gun-barrel straight track 1 mile 2 furlongs in length, where it joins the shared strip for more extended distance races. Perhaps its key characteristic is “the dip” a furlong from the winning post, where a downhill undulation develops into a stiff uphill finish, placing an emphasis on stamina. The course is exceptionally wide and is generally considered a fair test, in theory at least.

 

The July Course

Host of the July Cup, this course features the 'Bunbury Mile' straight track, again dovetailing with the shared straight adjacent to the A14 for distances greater than a mile. The course map below doesn’t do it justice, but a signature feature of the July track is the stiff uphill finish over the final furlong or so which, similarly to the Rowley Mile, often sorts the wheat from the chaff.

 

Newmarket Racecourse: Trainers to note

The first staging post in these articles is usually analysing trainer performance at the track. It often gives a way into more nuanced findings.

The below table shows the record of all stables which have had at least 100 runners on each of the Rowley and July courses at SP’s of 20/1 or shorter from the 2010 season onwards. The info is divided into a total Newmarket performance section (combined Rowley Mile and July), followed by the individual course records. The table is sorted by the Total Newmarket overall A/E.

I thought it important to illustrate the performance by individual track, essentially treating them separately. That was partly to satisfy my own curiosity, but primarily to establish if there was any discernible variance in a yard’s record between the two that might justify further examination.

Rather underwhelmingly, there isn’t much in terms of the individual course data to get stuck into. Perhaps Mark Johnston's and Richard Fahey’s strong July course records are worth a second glance. Likewise, Roger Charlton’s impressive Rowley Mile data too. Broadly, though, the performance is much of a muchness across the twin tracks.

Mick Channon

Based on the total Newmarket data, the UK No.1 for the second consecutive article is Mick Channon. There may be some related contingencies at play here, however, as in my last edition I commenced with a focus on Newmarket juvenile racing! You can read that here.

Analysing the Channon yard data in more detail, I have some interest in his three-year-old runners, enough to warrant a quick perusal anyway. Performance is a little sketchy over the last three years meaning angle/data confidence is at the lower end of the spectrum. Nonetheless, here is quite simply his record with three-year olds at the track since 2010:

 

And again, equally as simply, if runners are omitted that started at a price greater than 10/1, the following picture emerges:

His 2019 record was 0/5 and there was only a solitary winner in each of 2017 and 2018, so it’s not an approach to follow with your last pound - what is? However, a relatively short-priced Channon entry is probably a good start for a shortlist.

Charlie Appleby

Moving on, as also mentioned in the preceding article the original intention was to analyse Charlie Appleby’s course record with Juveniles. It didn’t quite happen due to some very alluring John Gosden stats! However, this time there is no shiny object to divert focus.

The linchpin of Godolphin trains at Moulton Paddocks, within Newmarket itself, and the overall record at the track of his runners is mightily impressive. Appleby has clocked up 129 victories from 525 runners and is marginally profitable to back at SP, too. Arguably, performance on the Rowley Mile is slighter stronger than the July Course, but not strong enough to solely focus on one over the other.

I'll begin with a consideration of performance by race class, an attribute that regularly provides a pathway to developing stronger angles, and it is no different here:

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The numbers clearly show that yields from elite level (Class 1) racing suffer in comparison to the lower-class events in terms of win rates, place rates, P&L and A/E measures. Whilst in angle terms we can exclude Class 1 racing from any systematic approach based on the numbers above, there is a cautionary note which requires observation; namely that the yard is steadily improving at this leading level. The graph below illustrates Appleby’s winning numbers in Class 1’s at Newmarket as well as at every UK course (including Newmarket) from 2013, when he assumed the licence from the disgraced Mahmood Al Zarooni.

2019 notwithstanding there is a clear indication of incremental improvement. With the 2000 Guineas odds-on favourite Pinatubo in the ranks, those Class 1 wins are likely to grow, at least according to the current market. So, whilst excluding Class 1 Appleby runners from a data and angle perspective is a pragmatic move based on historical records, this does not mean that Pinatubo is an unwise wager next weekend. Indeed, it makes no comment either way on the matter!

Evaluating Appleby’s Class 2 or lower runners at HQ by SP brings in further optionality as to how best to utilise the data:

Broadly speaking, all these Appleby prices are potentially worth following from a value perspective. However, I’m inclined to play this one around the 13/2 cut off or lower mark to keep things ticking over, hopefully without too long between drinks.

I’ve checked these runners for further insight and sharpening in terms of race types, ages, days since last run and a myriad of other attributes but in truth the yard delivers consistently across all variables at HQ.

It’s not rocket science, as they say, but by backing the charges of Charlie Appleby at HQ in Class 2 or lower racing, reliable returns have been garnered. Here is the record of all SP 13/2 or shorter runners from the yard. It is profitable in every year aside from a small loss in 2014.

This year may be different given its unique Covid-infused nature, but it’s a very solid angle which should continue giving up some value all things being equal.

Aidan O’Brien

I fully expected the doyen of Ballydoyle to feature heavily on the trainer list. However, surprisingly (to me anyway), he hasn’t had the century of runners on the July Course to qualify for inclusion on the overall trainer data table. I’m hopeful he’ll get over it.

However, APOB still merits microscopic focus at Newmarket, where his record is exemplary; and I think I’ve found an aspect of it which demands closer scrutiny.

The table above represents the yard's 'all in' Newmarket record from the 2010 season to present. Backing every runner from Ballydoyle at SP would have resulted in a 10% return at SP and a whopping 37% at BSP. Go figure.

As may be expected from such a powerhouse stable, there is a large focus and concentration of runners, wins and overall stellar performance in Class 1 events:

And by drilling down further into those Class 1 races into their individual Pattern status there is even more to ponder upon:

Based upon these numbers, it would strongly appear that the greater the competition, the sharper the performance of O’Brien horses. Perhaps at this elite level the increased quality of rivals ensures that some value can be attained by backing the O’Brien contingent; maybe it relates to second-, third- and even fourth-string entries possessing the requisite ability to 'pull rank' on better-fancied stablemates.

It’s not one for the wise guys but, nevertheless, blindly backing all Group 1 and 2 entrants trained by O’Brien at Newmarket since 2010 produced 41 wins from 191 runs and would have netted a roughly £85 profit to a level stake at starting price, or a 45% return on investment if you prefer. The exchange SP ROI is closer to 85%.

Duty leads me to point out that there are three winners in the sample at 25-1, which certainly puts some fizz into the numbers. All the same, to be in the black by backing arguably the premier trainer in Europe is not to be sniffed at. This probably works as an angle in its own right.

However, there is a possible downside to this approach: as mentioned, often the yard has numerous entrants in these top-class events, which would result in several wagers in the same race. Mulling these multi-runner jamborees opened a further potential way to play, at least theoretically.

How many times does a seemingly second, or third, fourth or fifth string horse from the yard deliver the goods on one of these big days? Always seemingly obvious after the event, too.

Testing a hypothesis that bounties may just be greater where the O’Brien money is split rather than focused on a solitary runner appeared to be a worthwhile exercise. Here are the numbers for O’Brien’s Group 1 and 2 entries at Newmarket by the number of Ballydoyle runners in each race.

I'm pretty interested in this. Solo representatives from the yard undoubtedly perform well, with 24% winning and 40% placing and there is limited damage on the profit and loss front. However, where there is a multi-O’Brien entry in a Group 1 or 2 race at Newmarket, there appears to be value in backing all of them. The annualised split of these mass runner Newmarket accomplishments is detailed below:

Notably, the volume of races with multiple runners is increasing in recent times. The column “Races” represents how many individual events have had more than one runner from the yard. So, for example in 2019, O’Brien had more than one horse in nine G1 or G2 races at Newmarket, with a total of 25 horses running in those nine races.

I checked the results individually of all 2018 and 2019 races from the table above and pulled together the view below:

The column key is:

“AOB run” - number of runners in a race from the O’Brien stable alone
“Tot Run” - the total number of runners in the race
“AOB best” - the best finishing position of a Ballydoyle runner
“AOB2” - the second-best placed AOB runner and so on (AOB3, 4, 5)
“BP AOB” - the SP of the best-placed AOB horse, with winning SP price in bold.

The profit and loss data is compelling with a super roll call of horses in the mix to boot. In 2019 Magna Grecia, Hermosa and Ten Sovereigns cleaned up in the G1’s for example. I’m intrigued by this. Often, I’ve thought that following O’Brien second string (or other strings) entries may be an enjoyable pursuit and, in this case, it seems to have foundation.

The Achilles heel of this premise is that it does not translate to any other track in the UK. Multiple Ballydoyle runners don’t add up at Ascot, Doncaster, Epsom, York or anywhere else for that matter. That does beg the question why it occurs at HQ alone. It could be course configuration, Newmarket being a focal point for the yard, a quirk of the numbers, or a multitude of other potential reasons.

It’s not the most secure approach to wagering, but personally I will be tracking and dipping into this angle in a small way over the coming months. At the very least it’s quite interesting and it might be fun. Of course, the 2000 Guineas will be a test, a multiple O’Brien entry competing against an odds-on Appleby hot pot in Pinatubo. Hmm.

Pace and Draw on the Rowley Mile

Sadly, there are no quick wins (in my view) when it comes to analysing the draw at Newmarket, when focusing on the Rowley Mile at any rate.

However, before addressing that, under normal circumstances utilising the Pace Analyser and Draw Analyser tools is an ideal platform to perform detailed analysis on any course. Sadly, there is more of a challenge where Newmarket is concerned given that the pace and draw data is combined for both the Rowley and July courses.

Where there is a will there is a way, however, and in this instance the Query Tool can be used to gain all the data and intel required, with a small caveat.

With only one or two exceptions, action on the Rowley Mile occurs in April, May, September, October and November. The July course is deployed in June, July (duh!) and August almost exclusively. Thus, by using the month filter in QT, draw and pace indications can be obtained for each individual course. The only cross-pollination I can see since 2011 relates to May 2014, when there were fifteen races on the July course at the end of the month. The net result is that Rowley pace and draw data is slightly 'contaminated' by July course info. It’s relatively trivial in nature, but need highlighting.

Draw and Pace over 7-furlongs on the Rowley Mile

I have evaluated most race distances on the Rowley Mile course and it’s fair to say that any leverage from stall position is hard to find. As the course is wide, and the rail and stall positions change with regularity it is difficult to build up a consistent picture. I spent some time trying to split the draw outcome based on starting stall situation on the track (far side, middle, near side), eventually concluding that I was guilty of looking for something that was not there.

Pace is a slightly different story though as we’ll see.

The below table shows the IV3 ratings, manually derived and calculated from QT data for performance by stall position and field size. I won’t explain what IV and IV3 are in this article as Matt has done a much more comprehensive and clearer version in this blog post recently.

 

The draw data in the left section, using actual stall position (accounting for non-runners), perhaps illustrate a marginal benefit to a stall berthing on the wings, certainly in larger fields. The advantage of being located on the outer could vary by stall position on the course. For example, if the stalls were situated on the far rail, then it is not inconceivable that a low draw* may be slightly favourable and vice-versa. There is nothing solid to recommend here though.

*A low draw position is on the far side of the track based on the standard TV camera angle, obviously a high draw relates to the near side (demonstrated to full effect in last years 2000 Guineas by Magna Grecia)

The section to the right of the table contains IV ratings for Pace. That section clearly illustrates that early speed is an advantage over this distance. Given the vast expanse of the course, it may have been expected that hold up runners would have performed better, given that bad luck in running should be less of an issue. However, the early pace in general holds up. It’s seemingly an uphill battle to make up ground over that stiff final furlong or so.

 

Pace over 6-furlongs and a Mile on the Rowley Course

To check that applies over other distances the same process has been applied, for pace only, to two of the other trips raced along the Rowley Mile.

 

The pattern is the same, early speed plays an important role across all field sizes and race distances form six furlongs to a mile. Identification of the pace profile of the race would appear to be of primary importance, certainly when compared to stall position.

 

July Course Pace Data by Distance

The July course pace composition is of a similar nature to that of its Rowley Mile counterpart. Being in the front rank early is pretty much always advantageous. The stiff finish again makes it tough to make up significant amounts of ground in the latter stages, hypothetically anyway. The tables are unambiguous, not just in terms of early leaders but also in the herculean task most midfield and hold up (depending on race distance) types must overcome.

Newmarket Punting Pointers Summary

There's no doubt that both the Rowley Mile and July courses are difficult to grasp in terms of the use of data to construct wagering strategies. My own main takeaways are that for once I’m not going to stress too much on the draw aspect of races. Building a picture of pace will form the starting point of race analysis on either track for me; unless, of course, there is an Appleby runner in a non-Pattern race, or a multiple AOB entry in a Group 1 or 2, in which case I’ll just back those and move on!

Enjoy the racing, it’s good to be back.

- JS

Following John Gosden Debut Winners

Feeling inspired by the quality content on this very site in relation to two-year-olds I wanted desperately to join the (virtual) party, writes Jon Shenton. I remember reading something a while ago which suggested that following juvenile races from the premier UK tracks paid dividends (I don’t remember where from, sadly).

I’ve always wanted to check this out in detail and now is the right time! Of course, with a rehashed racing calendar for 2020 the findings may be of less relevance this year, so are thus presented with even stronger caveats than usual. However, whatever happens over the next few months, I do think that the article is of the “cut-out and keep” variety and should reward in time if not straight off the bat.

Initially, I’m going to focus on two-year-old races and runners from the headquarters of British flat racing, Newmarket. It’s the logical starting point: by my calculations this course alone accounts for approximately 10% of non-handicap races for the juvenile division in the UK. Through a little bit of micro-focusing on these races I’m hopeful of finding a few tasty morsels.

Newmarket 2yo Trainers

A simple spin through trainer data is a pragmatic first port of call. As usual, a focus on those runners with an SP of 20/1 or shorter will be applied. For context, horses starting at a price above this are collectively 33/2345, a strike rate of 1.41% at the course in these races. I’m happy to leave well alone (although I did note that Martyn Meade is two-from-two at these gargantuan prices).

 

I’ve elected to only include data for currently active yards, technically 100 runners were required to qualify. However, as Mick Channon was comfortably leading in A/E terms and being so close to the century of races, he is included as an act of practicality and utility.

I had little intention to delve any further into Channon’s performance in this article, but you know what’s it’s like... Curiosity abounds, after all there is no harm in looking and, before you know it, you’re onto a nice micro-angle!

Here are the windmill-armed maestro’s runners by race class:

Collectively, the upper echelons of class 1 and 2 racing attained a solitary bullseye from 43 darts. No thank you! Class 3 and lower delivers a total of 16 wins from 53 attempts with a 121% return of £64 to a £1 SP level stake! It needs acknowledging that Channon's Newmarket juvenile runners have been sparse in volume over the past couple of years, but it’s worth keeping an eye on for future developments at the very least.

Back to the main data table and, Channon aside, there are other handlers worth further discussion. Significantly, the behemoths John Gosden and Charlie Appleby produce profit by backing blindly even at this basic data level. That’s of certain interest, as is the less than stellar performance of some other prevalent names for banana skin avoidance purposes.

John Gosden Performance

So, on to Gosden: there are always two specifics worth checking with any potential angle for this elite yard, namely, race distance and time of year (especially regarding juveniles). Generally, sprinters under-perform, and a while back this very site published data in an article regarding a late season surge in Gosden’s performance in specific circumstances, which stuck in the mind.

Here are the Wizard of Clarehaven Stables's distance data for 2yo's running at Newmarket:

 

As sure as eggs is eggs, the shorter six furlong race numbers are less appealing than the longer distances (1m 2f sample too small to draw conclusions), though the place percentages are largely comparable.

Excluding the six-furlong data and progressing onto the time of year by month looks like this:

Again, there we have it. His two-year-old brigade get rolling from August onwards, certainly in comparative terms to the earlier knockings of the season.

Ordinarily, that may well be solid enough. However, by utilising a value lens on the runners from August through to November and greater than six-furlongs in distance, there is an interesting variance based on the number of visits the horses have had to the track previously.

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The table clearly shows that win strike rate is marginally superior for those animals with prior experience. However, those making their bow pay handsomely in comparison. The 'fear factor' of backing unproven talent seemingly manifests itself in the form of attractive prices: fortune seems to favour the brave in these cases.

Whilst there is no harm in backing all Gosden juvenile runners at Newmarket, the selective punter need only focus on those untried potential future superstars.

Suggestion: Back John Gosden horses first time out at Newmarket August to November where race distance is greater than six furlongs and SP is 20/1 or shorter.

 

John Gosden: Debut Winners

Writing the words “potential future superstars” got the old cogs whirring a bit and some tangential thoughts occurred. A consequence of these reflections was to research the subsequent form of Gosden’s debut winning two-year olds.

It’s instructive to note that those Gosden inmates which prevail on their first outing go on to generally excel through their Classic campaigns. Conversely, those winning during later runs as two-year-olds generally only have so-so three-year-old seasons, in the round anyway. As Gosden isn’t a renowned producer of gold with first time up horses (although his 17% hit rate since 2010 is well above par) it could be inferred that if one of his is victorious on its maiden voyage, it is worth following. Let’s investigate further.

Gosden two-year-old debut winners

In total, I make it that to date Gosden has had 118 winners on their 2YO debut on turf tracks in the UK and Ireland (the Newmarket angle above is included within). I’ve expanded the remit to cover all Gosden FTO winners contained on horseracebase, not just those from 2010. The data goes back to as far as 2003. For clarity, there are no filters for distance, SP, or time of year applied to get the cohort of 118.

Firstly, evaluating this debut winning group in terms of the remainder of their juvenile campaigns on the turf is a sensible and hopefully useful starting point.

The table below illustrates this:

The data is segmented by Newmarket and non-Newmarket regarding where the debut win was attained. That’s mainly to perform checks and balances on the possibility that Newmarket alone could be driving the exemplary performance as inferred by the earlier article findings.

I needn't have worried: the numbers are positive regardless of debut win location. Indeed, it could very well showcase the basis for an angle which is as low risk as I can remember: a 37% winning strike rate, returning a healthy 21% at SP is not to be sniffed at.

The table below demonstrates performance by SP:

 

In truth, it’s a healthy picture all round. However, horses returning an SP of 13/2 or greater are 2/26 in terms of wins against runs. Undoubtedly, these pay handsomely as individual bets. But to a £1 level stake you’d return £5 profit from these 26 wagers, returning empty handed from the bookies on more than 90% of visits. That's fine if you can stomach losing runs but a similar rate of profit can be returned from fewer wagers. The below graph hopefully assists in terms of explanation.

The graph illustrates the cumulative rate of return attained from backing all runners at the price notated (and all shorter prices) on the x-axis, moving from left to right. I’ve noted the “three peaks”, all of which deliver a similar return on investment. It doesn’t overly matter if this is a difficult graph or concept to follow. The individual peaks are explained below which hopefully will help.

Peak One : This covers backing all horses at an SP of 6/4 or shorter, returning 27 wins from 36 runners with a 25.5% profit to SP (level stakes)

Peak Two : This covers backing all horses at an SP of 6/1 or shorter (inclusive of the peak one data), returning 45 wins from 101 runners with a 21.6% profit to level stakes at SP

Peak Three : This covers backing all horses at an SP of 20/1 or shorter (inclusive of the peak one and two data), returning 47 winners from 125 runners with a level stake SP profit of just over 23%.

The bottom line is that all three of the annotated peaks deliver a very similar return rate on your hard-earned. Selecting peak one as a method of wagering means fewer bets and missing out on the bigger payday potential. Peak three promises dry spells (relatively speaking) but very similar returns overall.

Personally speaking, and as previous readers will be aware, I’m a volume bettor, small stakes fired at a high quantity of bets so I’m probably more inclined to go into bat at the speculative end of the spectrum. Although, writing this, it does beg the question whether playing only in those smaller priced pools with larger stakes would be a more fulfilling and sustainable long-term approach. Ultimately, it's personal choice and the graph certainly offers food for thought.

Suggestion: Back John Gosden 2yo debut winners on turf for all subsequent runs for the rest of their two-year-old campaigns. (SP appetite and approach a personal choice)

 

Gosden three-year-old debut winners

The major objective of this section is to evaluate these 118 two-year-old debut-winning turf horses as three-year-old performers.

Here are the overall numbers for the classic generation:

Backing every one of the 118 first time out two-year-old Gosden winners throughout their three-year-old campaign on turf is a rewarding exercise! A quarter of runners win and an there is a 15% return on investment based on level stakes.

However, as we've seen already, it makes sense to apply a distance filter to the runners.

There are no rea; surprises based on what we've discovered hitherto: whilst strike rates are broadly fine it doesn’t pay to follow Gosden's horses over sprint distances. It’s also a marginal call on those running between a mile and a mile and a quarter. Races of 10-furlongs plus are undoubtedly where there is most interest, particularly the specific 10-furlong distance (including 10.5f) where performance sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb.

Whether backing the protagonists at a mile or so is a worthwhile exercise is debatable but there are certainly worse ways to gamble. However, for the sake of this article I’m only going to evaluate runners at 9-furlongs or further for a final lap of analysis.

Firstly, SP pricing, I’m not going to go into detail here (for the sake of relative brevity) but I’m only going to include horses with an SP of 12/1 or shorter. Horses running with SP’s of greater than this only deliver a solitary win from 22 attempts. I’m happy to leave these benched.

There is one additional step which delivers a cherry on our Johnny G cake and that’s evaluating by race class:

 

It’s clear that the upper echelon performance is better than the rank and file output. Class 1 and 2 races garnered a combined 40 victories from 112 runners (36% strike rate) with a profit of £76 to a £1 level stake (ROI of 68%). That’ll more than do for me.

For completeness/tracker purposes, the 2019 crop of two-year-old debut winners on turf from the yard were, in chronological order:

  • Verboten (Yarmouth 17/7/2019)
  • Leafhopper (10/8/2019 Newmarket)
  • Palace Pier (Sandown 30/8/2019)
  • Enemy (Ascot 6/9/2019)
  • Cherokee Trial (Ascot 7/9/2019)
  • King Leonidas (23/10/2019 Newmarket)
  • Tuscan Glaze (1/11/2019 Newmarket)
  • Heiress (2/11/2019 Newmarket)
  • Moonlight in Paris (Nottingham 6/11/2019)

That’s nine horses to follow through this condensed 2020 season and if any of them run over 10 furlongs or further in a class 1 or 2 race they will be getting maximum focus!

Suggestion: Back John Gosden First time out 2YO turf winners over ten furlongs or further in all class one and two races in the UK where the SP is 12/1 or shorter

Final thoughts

The more I’ve researched this the more I’ve discovered, the net result being that I’ve had to exclude a reasonable amount of solid angle content. This article is long enough already, but I did want to just point towards a couple of other interesting Gosden juvenile data angles for consideration.

It appears horses with a single autumnal run in their juvenile campaign perform very well in their first run as a three-year-old, irrespective of how well they performed on their debut. With filters of race distance over a mile and a cut off regarding sensible odds (12/1 or shorter) there is definite utility to be attained. My personal angle along these lines is 32/82 with an A/E of 1.30. Although as it has been quiet in terms of qualifiers in 2018 and 2019, I excluded from this article.

Finally, all of the data in this article relates to turf runs only. I had a quick check of all Gosden All-Weather debut winners and applied similar logic / parameters to those (the only difference from turf is it appears as though runners over a mile are productive on the AW). Again, as a cohort they are worth following with a record of 40/117 from their three-year-old campaign. However, there is an interesting difference through analysing by race code.

Yes, it’s a small sample of artificial surface runners; however, it appears as though a 2YO Gosden debut winner on the all-weather is worth tracking on a similar surface during the following campaign: maybe a case of horses for courses. Cobber Kain, Tiempo Vuela, Waldkonig, Hypothetical and Desert Flyer are the AW horses winning on debut as two-year olds in 2019. If they run on the AW in 2020, they will be worth more than a second glance based on these numbers.

I didn’t get the chance to evaluate Charlie Appleby in anything like the same detail. I always find working through John Gosden-related data a fascinating exercise. Consequently, a much deeper immersion - a veritable soaking! - occurred than originally intended; I guess some tangents are just worth following.

I’m looking forward immensely to seeing how these angles pan out, even in this strange upcoming 2020 season. Seems like I’ll be having a bet in some marquee races after all!

Until next time, look after yourselves and take care.

- JS

 

Jon Shenton: Who to Layoff?

Under normal circumstances April and May is my favourite time of the year, both in personal “real-life” terms but also through the racing lens, writes Jon Shenton. Usually, as the flat season kicks into gear it is a period when I’d be at my most active in punting terms. This year there is a void, and I’ve as yet not wanted want to fill it with third tier US racing, or whatever other meagre scraps are on offer.

Before we begin, an uber-caveat: the date of the restart of the sport will go a long way to establishing whether data-driven angles have a strong role to play in this years’ flat campaign.

Sadly, it may be smart to keep certain angles in cold storage until the spring of 2021: a truncated campaign will quite likely manifest in all sorts of data anomalies for otherwise robust angles. Let me explain with a specific example.

Many of my favourite angles are early season specific. Several yards are typically fast out of the blocks and others have a more nonchalant approach to the first exchanges in the campaign, in result terms anyway. Avoiding some yards during the initial knockings of the turf season can be a prudent move. A case in point is Tim Easterby: the powerhouse yard has a colossal number of runners throughout the spring and summer months with performance notable by its variance over the course of the season as the below graph illustrates.

It’s not the most exciting data, illustrating only the yard’s win percentage. However, it clearly shows a seasonal variance: Easterby’s performance in April and May is moderate in comparison to the peak summer period. To give a feel for the scale, there are 642 total runners in April alone, so in horse racing terms the sample sizes are broader than most (the yard is also 0-from-29 in March).

Focusing on 2020, what happens now? It is pure speculation but for the sake of this article let’s assume the season starts in July. Ordinarily, this would be peak Tim territory assuming a standard racing calendar. The million dollar question is, would the yard be expected to drop straight into the usual July prolific form or will it build slowly like usual, allowing its animals to develop race fitness through visits to the track, peaking as a yard in September or later? Perhaps we will see neither and the yard will flatten their own curve.

It is very difficult to project with any confidence, especially when placed in the context of every other yard rethinking and rehashing their own usual blueprint, planning for and around a truncated season.

Arguably, all typical trainer patterns could be of limited relevance. I certainly wouldn’t back a usual Easterby July qualifier this year, at least until I had more evidence to show the yard had adapted to the revised topology.

However, we don’t give in that easily at geegeez. Yes, it is true that a data-driven gambler may have to tread carefully; but there is also such a thing as first mover advantage! By cutting through the noise more quickly than most, there may be opportunities to gain utility from the numbers as they happen. Within that, possessing a good understanding of the ‘norm’ is beneficial as it provides a head start in terms of knowing what to look for as racing awakens from its enforced hiatus.

One sensible starting point is to evaluate how trainers perform after a horse has had a long rest from racing. This year, most animals are going to be hitting the track after a sizeable hiatus when the sport re-commences. Knowing the trainers who perform well in these circumstances ought to be of use.

The table below (containing data from horseracebase) shows exactly this: it summarises trainer performance with horses returning after a break of 181 days or longer (UK flat turf races only, 2011-present, SP 20/1 or shorter). The SP cut-off is a personal choice and generally helps sort the wheat from the chaff in my opinion.

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The insight is sorted in A/E order (Actual vs. Expected, assessing performance vs. the expectation of the market, 1.00 being par, anything greater being outperformance against market expectation) and a minimum of 100 runs are required to qualify for the table. There are plenty of points to discuss but we will begin with my eye being drawn to the four yards marked in yellow.

These jump off the page, predominantly due to their impressive strike rates around one-in-four win to run ratio. They are also bona fide prime flat racing organisations where value can be hard to come by so merit closer scrutiny.

Given the profile of these yards, it is surprising that the market seems to ever-so-slightly underestimate their lay-off horses: time and again these guys fire in winners after an absence. The length of time off the track is far from detrimental to their chances; in fact, it may be a positive indicator of intent. However, we, as the general punting public still subconsciously prefer the reassurance of a recent run. In the case of the highlighted yards (and several of the others) it is a wise move trying to ignore the long elapsed time between runs.

Taking this concept further, the graph below illustrates the same trainers contained in the original data table above. The red line shows the A/E performance for the horses returning to the track after more than 180 days by trainer, whereas the blue bars shows the A/E for those who have a run during the last 180 days.

In basic terms, virtually all these trainers perform more profitably with lay-off animals than they do with more recent runners (using A/E as the measure). The only three that do not are Messrs Balding, Prescott and Ryan, but even then, the difference in results is virtually negligible.

The left-hand side of the graph indicates those where the variance between the lay-off horses and the race fit animals is most significant. Ballydoyle maestro Aidan O’Brien heads the list. There is some logic in this, at least theoretically. It is not beyond imagination to speculate that a horse travelling across the Irish Sea to the UK is ready for action and means business. Were it not it would be running closer to home, presumably.

However, to satisfy whether that is a fair assertion or not, a comparison with the yard’s Irish return-after-a-break horses should confirm if this is the case.

As can be seen, O’Brien’s travellers outperform their stay-at-home counterparts on every measure. Whilst it is probably not angle material it is certainly worth factoring into big race considerations, especially if the money is down (the record for horses 6/1 or bigger is just 2-from-45 within the UK dataset).

Another trainer highlighted in the table with a large differential between the performance of his lay-off and recent runners is Roger Varian. The Newmarket-based operation is one that, considering its scale and profile, I do not particularly follow or have many related opinions / angles.

However, in the context of his layoff runners there is an interesting edge to consider when runners are evaluated by age.

The table demonstrates that the winning performance level of Varian’s three-year-olds after a break is not as strong as his older horse returners. This could easily be a sample size issue, particularly as the place performance is very consistent. Regardless, the numbers of the four years and older brigade are highly noteworthy.

Taking those four-plus aged horses and evaluating their performance after an absence against the yard’s performance where a run has been more recent, the numbers grow in stature still further by comparison.

Effectively, the table above confirms that the absolute right time to back a Varian horse aged four or older is its first run after an absence.

I dare say that this is the tip of the iceberg and there are plenty of other interesting data-driven nuances in relation to all trainers in the table. A bit of homework for me – or you? – over the next week or two perhaps.

Again, 2020 may prove to be wholly different from recent history given these unique circumstances. Normally, much of the value in these yards horses after a break can be attributed to the likelihood that much of their competition would have had a recent outing: the beady eye of the market is often drawn to those who have provided recent evidence of their well-being rather than those who have been out of sight, out of mind.

This year, especially early in the season, most runners in each race will be racing on the back of a long break. It is conceivable that every yard and every owner will be desperate to get their charges out as early as possible to mitigate some of the economic damage received through the enforced absence.

Consequently, if the phasing of animals having their first run in a while is compressed into a short period of time as there isn’t the luxury of a long campaign, it could be easily argued that the market  will focus more towards the likes of O’Brien, Varian, Gosden and Haggas given their elevated status.

If the mooted Royal Ascot behind closed doors meeting does proceed, virtually every horse will be hitting the track after a long absence. Gosden, O’Brien et al runners could be like moths to a light for punters, even more so than usual, eroding potential value from the lay-off angle.

However, the bottom line is that these yards have proven performance after a lay-off in their locker. Plenty of others do not and those others will have to elevate their game and do something uncharacteristic to their norm to prevail.

Of course, it is conceivable that trainers who build a horse’s fitness through racing will adapt easily. Trainers are generally highly skilled practitioners and should be able to modify their approach to match the situation.

The yards listed in the table below are some of those for whom the first run is typically a sighter; whether things will be different in 2020, time will tell, but it seems prudent to be cautious until evidence to the contrary manifests itself.

It is certainly the case that the performance of runners from these yards after an absence is not meeting market expectation with unhealthy A/E numbers across the board. Again, the table is restricted to runners at 20/1 or shorter (SP), and 100 runners is required to qualify.

In broad terms, unless there is a compelling reason not to, it’s a straightforward decision to pass on entrants from these guys after a hiatus. Naturally, Easterby (Tim) is on here as intimated earlier. It is going to be fascinating to see whether these yards will still be content to play the long game once racing is back.

Personally, I’m not sure how to play things yet. The timing of the resumption will be key in shaping a strategy. With the deferral of four of the Classics it’s looking more and more likely that the resumption date will be mid-summer. Given that, my gut feel is that angle and data-driven wagering of this kind will be fraught with danger. However, where there is a market there will always be an opportunity to find an edge.

One thing is for sure: one of my starting points will be to man-mark the yards in this article when we get going again. By spotting the trainers who are ready to go, or otherwise, there should be plenty of chances to make up for lost time. Who knows, I may even be backing Tim Easterby horses after a prolonged absence. These are strange times, after all!

Stay safe.

- JS

Punting Pointers: Juvenile Hurdles

In my previous article I confidently put up several reasons why I didn’t think Goshen could prevail in the Triumph hurdle, writes Jon Shenton. I guess on a technicality I was correct as he unseated at the last when bounding clear in a freakish incident. A hollow victory, even more hollow if you consider that this left Burning Victory – a filly, more on those below – to saunter home, another horse who was consigned to the discard pile for the race, predominantly due to the trainer’s (Willie Mullins) poor Juvenile record at the festival at 0-from-41.

Despite the back to the drawing board nature of the result, research in one area can pay dividends in another. Penicillin was discovered by accident, after all! Hopefully, a poor one-off result in the Triumph can be appeased through a steady stream of winners inspired by some of the research that went into it… if we ever get any more racing here in Britain.

The juvenile hurdle programme covers racing for three-year-olds only (before January 1st) and four-year-olds from the New Year when all horses age by a year. The data in this article relates to the juvenile programme only where horses are racing against the same three or four-year-old age demographic. It excludes three- or four-year-olds running in all-age novice or open company.

Let’s first consider three general pointers to help assess a juvenile field. All data in this article has been generated through the excellent horseracebase.

Fillies underperform in Juvenile Hurdles

The first consideration relates to the gender of the horse and their relative performance.

The message in the table above is crystal clear in terms of the fairer sex paling in comparison to the males in juvenile contests. Basically, a filly is little more than half as likely to win as a colt or gelding based on Win% (Strike Rate). Amazingly, by backing all male runners you would have out turned a small profit to Betfair SP (based on 2% commission), albeit there are some very juicy prices on the machine propping those numbers up significantly.

Clearly the rough and tumble of juvenile hurdling seems to be more of a stretch early in the career of a female horse. Whether this is physiological or mental in nature I don’t know, but the statistics are unequivocal. In fact, the true picture is actually slightly worse as the data table includes all juvenile races, some of which are for fillies only (so there must be a female winner). Analysing the races where both male and female horses compete against each other the picture is even bleaker, see below.

Fillies are gifted a seven pounds weight-for-gender allowance too. These numbers suggest that is not enough to level the playing field amongst the juveniles. An A/E of 0.67, strike rate of 6.3% and a loss of over half of stakes at SP means such runners have to overcome a huge red flag in terms of general punting. However, as mentioned in my introduction, Burning Victory is a filly. One with a trainer who had a pre-festival record of 0-from-41 in juvenile races. There are general trends and pattern-busters. C’est la vie.

Headgear on Juvenile Hurdlers is sub-optimal

Another area worth looking at is the application of headgear, usually in the hope of focussing the equine mind on the matter in hand. For whatever reason, these go-faster stripes have often attracted my attention. As a result, I’ve frequently bottled a potential bet because my fancy is up against a runner in first time headgear. However, in the case of the young hurdle division I won’t be bottling it next time, not based on headgear at least.

This table shows performance by the accoutrements worn (excluding tongue-ties). Those without headgear clearly fare better than adorned rivals. Quite like playing golf in my limited experience! Cheekpieces are only a minor negative but as the more extreme headgear is applied, the lower a performance in general is delivered.

[It should be noted that the massive Betfair figure (P/L (BF)) comes from a quintet of massive-priced winners, including one that returned a Betfair SP of 1000!]

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Whilst this is interesting enough, there is some deeper info which can further help with context.

This table shows results by the number of previous runs a horse has had with the exact same headgear arrangements. It relates that if a horse is wearing headgear for the first time (Prev in Hdgr = 0), performance is moderate, with a strike rate of around 7.5%. Once headgear has been worn more than once, the numbers equate more to the unaccoutred level of performance. This makes sense: if an animal runs badly in headgear the first time it was applied, that plan is likely to be consigned to history for subsequent runs.

The bottom line is that first-time headgear is a substantial negative on a juvenile hurdler: if connections are reaching for such a solution in a juvenile campaign it suggests in broad terms that they feel there is a problem to solve. Not even Burning Victory was wearing headgear!

French-Bred horses are more mature and race ready

One thing that’s mentioned in the racing media frequently is a belief that horses bred and/or taking their formative racing steps across the other side of the channel are more mature. The argument thus goes that they perform better as juveniles than the British and Irish competition in the UK.

Here is the performance picture based on breeding origin.

As can be seen, the win rate for French-bred juveniles is notably higher than British- or Irish-bred runners in such races: chapeau to the French.

As an interesting aside, the record of fillies originating from France is relatively strong, despite the generally moderate overall performance of females, something worth bearing in mind.

 

Trainers of Juvenile Hurdlers

The below table shows the records for UK Juvenile Hurdles from 1st Jan 2010 to present day by trainer. It contains the top dozen in terms of victories over that period. The table is ranked by number of wins.

Alan King

Alan King is comfortably the winning-most trainer on the list with approximately 50% more victories than the behemoth Henderson and Nicholls operations. Despite the glittering array of winners, profitability appears to be limited, King’s runners generally very ‘well found’ in the market.

However, whilst panning for precious metal I found a potential nugget worthy of closer inspection.

The above data displays the yard’s juvenile record by the number of previous runs the horse has had over hurdles (in the UK). One line stands out, markedly so and just to be clear, it’s the top one: King juvenile debutants over hurdles have a strike rate of over 30% and are profitable to SP. Whilst performance is perfectly respectable in subsequent outings for the horses, the numbers do regress in a somewhat linear fashion from that initial watermark and are subsequently overbet, with very heathy strike rates yielding losses.

If you want to play with fire, for the first-time hurdlers there isn’t a winner at a price bigger than an SP of 10/1 from 10 attempts (with only one placed horse).  For me though, any King juvenile runner is on the radar for their first spin over jumps regardless of price; I’ll leave the 10/1 threshold to you to decide.

Gary Moore

Next, it’s appears to have been a valuable exercise picking out Gary Moore for due consideration. Exceeding market expectation with an A/E of 1.19, this yard is clearly one worth following in terms of juveniles. Notably, as with Alan King’s runners, it appears that catching Moore entries in their fledgling hurdle days is the optimal time. The table below supports the assertion.

That is quite a stark difference between the two rows of data, leaving little doubt that Team Moore have their young hurdlers ready to compete at a relatively early stage in their development.

I wonder if this is due to the many new hurdlers from the yard that go into a National Hunt career off at least a run or two on the flat given the dual-purpose nature of Moore’s operation. In fact, evaluating some of the juicier priced winners contained in this potential angle, a fair number appear to have had at least one, sometimes several, uninspiring runs previously on the level (or in National Hunt Flat races) before winning first time up over jumps.

These numbers relate to Gary Moore-trained horses making their debut over hurdles where they have run in the UK previously but have not won in their career to date. It’s certainly a micro with too-good-to-be-true numbers and only a handful of qualifiers each year, and it may well be one or two years between drinks; however, ignore a flat maiden Moore debutant over hurdles at your peril.

Finally, it would be slightly remiss not to mention the Henderson and Nicholls yards, as backing both blindly in juvenile hurdles has yielded a small and surprising profit.

Nicky Henderson

For Henderson, a couple of huge priced winners (Une Artiste at 40/1 and Protek Des Flos at 25/1) add a shine to the numbers which may or may not be sustainable over time. However, using some of the themes from earlier in this article it may be a worthwhile exercise paying close attention to his first-time hurdlers that have been imported from across the English Channel.

Although it must be said that two thirds of the profit to SP has been delivered from the aforementioned Protek Des Flos, the figures still stand up fairly well excluding that skewing winner.

Another way to play Henderson juveniles might be sticking to the big races with them.

The competitive Class 1 races yield reasonable returns, with a lower, but still highly respectable, strike rate than other classes. This table perfectly illustrates the difference between backing winners and seeking long-term profit: if you want winners then backing Seven Barrows runners in lower-class races will pay out over a third of the time, but long-term profit will be tough to attain given the magnetic attraction of punters to the Henderson brand in these shallower contests.

Paul Nicholls

In terms of Ditcheat trainer Paul Nicholls, performance is solid across the board. While it’s tough to find a specific edge based on the data, it (obviously, perhaps) remains a sound approach to treat juveniles from this yard with respect. Backing Nicholls juvenile hurdlers is not a get rich quick scheme, but nor is it a get poor quick one!

Summary

The below summarises a few specific Juvenile Hurdle angles to back where desired.

  • Alan King first time juvenile hurdle runners in the UK
  • Gary Moore first or tecond time juvenile hurdle runners in the UK
  • Gary Moore first time over hurdles with no previous career victories on the flat (or National Hunt Flat races)
  • Nicky Henderson first time juvenile hurdlers originating from France
  • Nicky Henderson runners in all Class 1 juvenile hurdle races

I hope that this gives you a head start for the resumption of racing, whenever that may be. Until then, keep well.

- JS

Punting Angles: The Triumph Hurdle

Stubbornness and occasional obstinacy are two of my less desirable characteristics, writes Jon Shenton. That may explain my historically neutral view of the Cheltenham Festival. Sure, I look forward to it, enjoy the seemingly 12-month build up to the next one and attend every year for at least one day.

However, I haven’t really “got it” in the same way that others seem to. I’m sure I’ve spouted the cliché of a winner at Southwell pays the same as a winner at Prestbury Park on more than one occasion to a non-plussed audience (and perhaps in one of these articles, too!). However, that’s all starting to change, mainly through penning my latest articles on the novice hurdling programme and linking it to Cheltenham. Now it all suddenly and finally makes sense.

Invigorated by that exercise, then, this article will focus on entirely on the Triumph Hurdle, which kicks off proceedings on the final afternoon, Gold Cup Friday, of the four-day fixture.

Graded Race Form

My first port of call was to evaluate the paths that previous winners have trodden on the way to a place in the history books at the Festival. Below is a table documenting each winner dating back to 2010, containing all same season graded hurdle races with the associated finishing position and the winning horse name from the latest renewal.

The table has two clear pointers. Firstly, the market is broadly a good guide in establishing the name of the likely winner. Seven of the last ten winners have returned a single figure price (and Tiger Roll only just a double figure one at 10/1). Countrywide Flame and Pentland Hills bucked the trend with their more exotic 33/1 and 20/1 SP’s.

Secondly, as well as the market pathfinding for punters, Graded form looks to be important, with every single champ having cut their teeth at Graded level apart from the aforementioned Pentland Hills. I make it nine graded wins in total from 15 starts between the last ten Triumph winners.

The Pentland question is still important to acknowledge, with Nicky Henderson's charge either a trend-buster or a potential new trend-setter.  Last years’ champion prevailed following a single run (and win) over hurdles in a £4k Class 4 event at Plumpton after an only slightly ascendant flat career.

I’d be inclined to conclude that the Pentland way is more likely to be an irregular occurrence. Moreover, due consideration needs to be paid to the specifics regarding last year's renewal. It was a difficult affair, with the ill-fated Sir Erec going wrong in the early stages of the race. The market, vibes and form all pointed to the Joseph O’Brien starlet running a big race and his exit changed the complexion, and perhaps the result of the 2019 edition. All ifs, buts and maybes but I see very little reason to deviate from the tried and tested form and/or the market as the starting point.

In terms of specific staging posts en route to a Cheltenham coronation, it’s of little surprise that the Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown is a key pointer to the Triumph. No less than five of the ten winners listed have taken in this (sort of) Dublin race on the Festival trail. That may be a tick in the box for A Wave of the Sea, Aspire Tower and Cerberus in terms of the key market fancies.

Taking the UK angle, the Adonis is interesting. It's a race which was won by Soldatino and Zarkandar in 2010 and 2011 respectively. For both, it was their only UK run prior to their triumphs in the Triumph: exactly the same set of circumstances apply to Solo of the 2020 vintage.

Expanding on this theme, the table below shows the chief protagonists for the 2020 renewal, with their graded form to date.  It’s sorted in current ante-post market order.

 

If graded form is a key then Solo, Allmankind, Aspire Tower, A Wave of the Sea, Cerberus and Burning Victory have the potential to unlock the Triumph Hurdle door. That spells bad news for Sir Psycho, potentially Mick Pastor (6th in the Prestbury Juvenile Trial) and, most strikingly, Goshen. The Gary Moore-trained horse has a lofty reputation and is currently a general 4/1 in the market after three bloodless wins in lesser company. There is no doubt that the Triumph will be a big step up in class, one which he may well be perfectly capable of taking, but he doesn't fit the recent mould of winners of this race. Luckily there are ratings available which present tangible data on how big a leap might be required to take the spoils back down to Moore's Sussex yard.

Rating the Triumph

To ascertain if Goshen and his rivals have displayed “good enough” credentials to indicate competitiveness in the Triumph, I thought it’d be of interest to compare ratings of their past performances against the historic winners dating back to 2010. For this comparison I’ve used Racing Post Ratings (RPR), which as far as I can tell have been generated using a consistent methodology over the ten-year period (I’m happy to be corrected if otherwise).

Only races over hurdles have been included. The RPR is helpfully part of the geegeez.co.uk toolkit so obtaining this intel is relatively straightforward, albeit manual in nature.

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Prior to discussing the data, a quick explanation of the columns, in left to right order.

  • Win RPR – the Racing Post Rating given to the winner for their run in the Triumph
  • Price – Current Market Price for the 2020 Triumph contenders
  • 5LR to LR – 5th last run if applicable through to the last run (LR) RPR's
  • High – best RPR recorded over hurdles prior to the Triumph
  • Low – lowest RPR recorded over hurdles prior to the Triumph
  • Avg – the average RPR of all hurdle runs prior to the Triumph

It’s sorted by the last run (LR) column and I’ve signposted this year's crop with white rows, light blue relating to previous winners.

 

Laid out in this manner the table gives some valuable clues as to the likely shake up of the Triumph. The general shape reflects well on the class of 2020, showing that most of the main players have been pitching at a sufficient level over the course of this season to indicate that they have the potential to develop into Triumph winners.

Based on average RPR, three of the 2020 crop rank in the top five (Solo, Goshen and Aspire Tower). Although, it could easily be argued that there is a partial picture here, as it only includes winners from previous renewals, not the whole field. For example, Sir Erec ran to an RPR of 146 on his final outing prior to Cheltenham last year and, as he didn’t win, this is not included. However, even accounting for this it does indicate a high-quality renewal this year if all prospective runners make it to the starting tape.

It’s also logical to conclude that some of the longer shots (Mick Pastor, Sir Psycho, Burning Victory and Fujimoto Flyer) will have to improve significantly to prevail on Gold Cup Friday. Our old mate Pentland Hills’ Plumpton run gleaned an RPR of 128, demonstrating that a relatively low rating in a last run is not necessarily a barrier to onward success; but, PH aside, all other winners ran to at least 136 on their previous outing.

The lowest Triumph-winning RPR in the dataset is 144, and it belongs to household name Tiger Roll for his 2014 victory. This puts into context how much the animals with ratings in the 120’s or low 130’s last time out will have to improve. Notably, four of this year's field have already delivered RPR’s on or around that Tiger Roll winning rating and might be expected to improve further on the 13th March. It’s hard to see the horses at the lower end of the table improving beyond them if any of the main four take a step forward.

Solo’s 145 RPR from the Adonis is also noteworthy. The race was run just over four seconds slower than the Kingwell over the same course and distance on the same card. Perhaps the relatively high rating is a surprise, at first glance anyway. However, the RPR allocated to the winner of the Kingwell (Song for Someone) was a meaty 152 which gives a relative feel to the performance. It was visually impressive from Solo, and the RPR backs it up.

Arguably, Goshen is the most interesting in the RPR context given his lack of graded form. His RPR performance has metronomic consistency at 142 or 143 over the trio of his hurdle runs to date, having barely seen a rival in those three outings prevailing by a combined 68 lengths! Given his lack of experience at the higher level it should be of some reassurance to Goshen backers and fans that his race ratings are right on the money in these lower-class affairs. Based on ratings alone he is a very serious contender.

 

The trainers

Reviewing the trainers' record with juvenile hurdlers may offer another clue to the eventual winner. Using horseracebase the below table shows their complete records in juvenile hurdle events in the UK and Ireland.  It only includes trainers of horses that are 20/1 or shorter in the Triumph Hurdle ante-post market currently.

 

The data confirms that Gary Moore is a superb handler of juvenile hurdlers. There must be a couple of nice angles hidden within this table, perhaps for another time/edition of Punting Angles. The Nicholls operation, too, is meritorious and deserves closer inspection on another occasion.

Overall, it’s a nice insight but in terms of significant pointers for Cheltenham it doesn’t really help, so evaluating performance at the track should be an interesting and logical next step.

 

 

There are some astonishing numbers in the table above, one in particular: Willie Mullins’ 0-from-41 in juvenile hurdles at Cheltenham is the most extraordinary stat of all, although Gary Moore’s 1-from-40 is also equally startling. We’re fishing in small pools of data and the degree of relevance can be argued. That said, data are data and, consequently, a certain degree of bravery and belligerence is required to back Burning Victory or Goshen once you’ve digested these numbers.

To micro-analyse a little further, the table below shows performance only in four-year-old hurdles at the Cheltenham Festival. This includes data from the Triumph and the Fred Winter/Boodles.

 

 

All of Mullins’ 41 runners have been at 'the Fez' and include luminaries such as Footpad and Apples Jade. Moore hasn’t notched in 17 appearances, hitting the place crossbar only twice from those runs. Paul Nicholls' horses are obviously serious propositions; and Skelton, O’Brien and de Bromhead only have a handful of representatives between them, although it is worth noting that whilst Aiden O’Brien was the trainer of 2016 winner Ivanovic Gorbatov, it is widely rumoured that Joseph had a significant role to play in that victory. Overall though, trainer data points to negatives for Goshen and Burning Victory.

Race Composition – Pace to Burn

I’ve attempted to build a pace map of the chief protagonists below: it is constructed in line with the methodology and numbers deployed within geegeez pace maps.

  • 4 – led
  • 3 – Prominent
  • 2 – Mid-Division
  • 1 – Held up

 

Above is the individual race profile of each of the contenders in numerate form and below is a graphical representation of their average pace preference based on their hurdle runs thus far.

 

A lot of talk regarding this race is in relation to a likely pace burn up. The data backs that up with bells on. The top three in the market have all pretty much only ever cut out the running in their recent hurdles starts, with Cerberus and Sir Psycho preferring to race near the head of affairs, too. The addition of the other less fancied runners may further spice to the already fiery pace platter. It would be very, very surprising if this race is run at anything other than a fast and honest gallop.

Based on visual evidence, Goshen and Allmankind appear to be the ones that are most likely bolt on when the flag is dropped. There is a definite possibility of those two damaging each other by over-racing and it’ll be fascinating to see how they react to a bit of competition for the lead, although Goshen can take back as he did between the third and fifth flights last time.

Perhaps Aspire Tower gives the impression of being slightly the least headstrong of the trio which may mean he could pick up the pieces, but that equally could apply to any of the others. Despite the RPR numbers appearing to downplay the prospects of Burning Victory and Mick Pastor, maybe the race composition brings them into play a little.

 

Summary and conclusions

If you’re after a tip then you’re probably reading the wrong article! However, after evaluating each horse's path to the Triumph, their RPR performance, trainer records and the likely pace composition it’s fair to say that there are a plethora of pros and cons to evaluate, many of them ostensibly contradictory.

Of the four market leaders I favour Goshen the least: his lack of Graded form, Moore’s record at Cheltenham with juveniles, and his want-the-lead run style are all negatives in my view. Further, he has jumped markedly to the right in all three of his hurdle races, which is obviously sub-optimal in a Championship race at left-handed Cheltenham, and I do wonder how he will react under pressure as for the first time he is unlikely to get it all his own way, as the ratings and pace profile demonstrate.

Of the four I’d side with Aspire Tower, a perspective that’s driven by current prices as much as anything else. Along with Solo he has the best RPR from a previous hurdle race and I think he could be a good value play, although he is not the most likely winner and does have to bounce back from a fall in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown.

The pace composition holds the key for me: a furious gallop could easily leave the door ajar for horses at the lower end of the pace profile, and maybe not the most fancied in the field. Based on evidence to date it’s likely to be a mega burn up, but if I know that then of course all the trainers, jockeys and pundits know it too. That makes it even more intriguing and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a change in tactics attempted by at least one of the main pace pushers. Good luck holding Goshen and Allmankind back though!

If I was putting my money down today based on this analysis, I would side with Aspire Tower and maybe A Wave Of The Sea all things considered. Along with Solo they tick more of the boxes and possibly have more versatility regarding how the tactics play out. The unappealing price for Solo leads me to the other two, though it will be far from a shock should Solo win as he is the likely favourite.

It would also be no surprise to see Goshen or Allmankind break the field apart! Whatever happens, it’s a genuinely fascinating race: the more I’ve looked at it the more I can’t wait to see how things shake down. I’ll be there to watch it in the flesh, and I haven’t looked forward to a single race as much in my life.

- JS

Novice Hurdles: What’s the Form Worth? Part 2

In my last article I discussed the relative merits of graded novice hurdle races in the UK and Ireland based on how well the horses involved performed over the next calendar year, writes Jon Shenton. You can find that here: https://www.geegeez.co.uk/novice-hurdles-whats-the-form-worth/

It wasn’t planned to be a two-part double header, but sheer volume of interesting takeaways has merited it, thus a sequel was hastily commissioned and here it is.

Before commencing it’s worth noting that I won’t be going into details regarding methodology of race scores, rankings and the like. All of that can be found in the original article, linked to above.

First things first, then: let's catch up on the two races from Part 1 which were highlighted as the most accomplished based on my race rankings. Both events have been contested since publication. Of course, it will only become apparent if the usual abundance of talent was present in a few months', or perhaps years', time but we need to have a better idea before then!

2020 Chanelle Pharma Novices' Hurdle (Leopardstown)

This race was comfortably the strongest novice hurdle based on the historical average race rating of 96+. This year's renewal had a very impressive winner who appears to have a strong chance of living up to the general quality of the race. Asterion Forlonge made easy work of, well, Easywork to win by over nine lengths from the Gordon Elliott-trained 5/4 jolly, extending Willie Mullins’ stranglehold on the race by extracting his seventh victory from the last eight renewals. The full result is shown below.

Both Asterion Forlonge and Easywork disputed the lead from the get-go, giving each other little peace throughout. The eventual victor galloped relentlessly, breaking his field one by one and finishing powerfully. A credible case could be constructed to even upgrade the performance given the contested pace and the seemingly tiring nature of the track on Sunday.

The Chanelle Pharma is a proven stepping stone for Mullins charges prior to tackling Cheltenham and it will be of significant interest to see where the winner rolls up in a few short weeks. Ordinarily the Supreme would be top of the list (the route taken by Klassical Dream, Vautour and Champagne Fever). However, the Donnelly’s, owners of Asterion Forlonge, have a decision to make given that the head of the Supreme ante-post market is fronted by their own Shishkin. Add in another Donnelly novice hurdler, The Big Getaway, and possibilities abound. It would be no surprise to see the yellow and black checkerboard silks in the winner's enclosure on more than one occasion, with Al Boum Photo adding a significant further string to connections' Cheltenham bow.

2020 Classic Novices' Hurdle (Cheltenham)

The second race that was discussed in Part 1, as it was ranked 2nd overall (with an average rating of 78) was the Ballymore Classic Novices' Hurdle on Cheltenham Trials day run at the end of January. The result is below:

 

In truth, it’s hard to assess the strength of this renewal at this stage. Overall, it seems fair to assert that the Irish novices appear to have to an edge over the British crop as things stand. Harry Fry, trainer of the second placed King Roland essentially confirmed this view by questioning his charges participation at the Cheltenham Festival based on not conceivably being able to defeat Envoi Allen. Of course, trainer talk should be often taken with a good pinch of salt and whilst beating the Envoi may be a stretch based on evidence thus far, there is still a case for the King to reign in the future.

Watching the race again, the horse was virtually left standing at the start and gave the early leader, House Island, a 20-length head start. More importantly, the eventual winner, Harry Senior, had a few lengths in hand too. King Roland then breezed into contention on the home turn but didn’t see it through, finally succumbing by three lengths.

The winner barrelled up the Cheltenham hill despite coming under pressure earlier than virtually every other horse in the race. Trained by Colin Tizzard, Harry Senior gave a strong impression that the longer three-mile test of the Albert Bartlett would suit. Consequently, this 6-year-old is on the dauphinoise end of my scale for the potato race shortlist.

 ***

Next time out races to follow

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There are other races from Part 1 that are worth delving into, notably the Navan Grade 2 run in December, the Nathaniel Lacy (2m 6f) run at Leopardstown as part of the Dublin Racing Festival (both won by Latest Exhibition), and any other novice hurdle ran at Cheltenham. However, this time I want to assess the same races but in a slightly different way. Rather than following the races for a calendar year (like in Part 1), I thought that it may be of interest to appraise by only considering the horses' next time out (NTO) performances.

An important distinction is that Part 1 contained five years' worth of data, whereas the table below relates to the entire history of the race contained in horseracebase.com’s database, going as far back as the late 1990’s in some cases. I’ve used the “follow” capability from the big trends page on HRB to then manually compile this output.

The table below presents the data for next time out performances.

The columns starting with the notation “Win” show the fate of only the horses who won the race in question on their next outing. The columns beginning with “All” represent the performance of every runner that competed in each race on their next visit to a track. The data is sorted by the AllNextPL which shows the £1 level stake return if you’d backed every horse from the race next time out. The data is complete for races run up to January 16th 2020.

National Hunt Novices' Handicap Hurdle Final (Grade 3, Sandown)

Reviewing the “All” data in the first instance, perhaps surprisingly, at the top of the tree is the Grade 3 March Novice Handicap Final from Sandown.  Contested over 2m 4f, this event usually attracts a large field. In terms of measuring the subsequent overall form of the race it is on the lower end of the scale with a race rating of 46.6 (see Part 1) and isn’t generally a race to follow.

However, by checking race ranking data there are clues as to why this race might be of interest for NTO runners but not overall form. Using the same table format as part 1 here are the Sandown G3 Novice Handicap individual yearly race ratings and ranks.

Immediately, it can be seen that the ratings are relatively low due primarily to poor performance in subsequent Graded races: in total, 27 runs had followed in Graded company (GPrun), producing a solitary Grade 2 victory in 2017.  However, it is clear from the OthrW column that there is a healthy abundance of future winners exiting this race. It may be a case of quantity over quality for this event from a Graded perspective, but it remains a solid barometer.

This all makes a degree of sense; after all it is the one and only handicap on our list and it is usually staged the weekend before Cheltenham. Ergo, it may be a fair assertion that “not quite top level” novices are targeted at this race as an opportunity to secure a sought-after Graded prize. It is also plausible that a greater number of horses than average are well handicapped improving types given the novice element of the contest. So, even if it is not their day at Sandown in early March, they may still be in a strong position to strike next time.

Evaluating next time out performance by the class of race competed in demonstrates that the vast majority of animals drop several rungs of the ladder to class 3 or 4 races, and by and large perform competently at this earthlier level.

The elite level G1 results notwithstanding, the rest are solid. It must be stated, however, that there is outlying SP of 50/1 (Time For Rupert who finished 10th in the Sandown race and then won a Listed race at Aintree the following month) which obviously gives a flattering edge to the overall P&L number.

I’m not sure that I’d advise backing all runners coming out of Sandown blindly but, with a strike rate of over 23% for next time outers, I will certainly be adding horses from this race into my geegeez tracker for further evaluation.

Rossington Main Novices' Hurdle (Grade 2, Haydock)

Another race worth quickly noting due its recent running and propensity to deliver next time out winners (again, despite its relatively uninspiring race ranking) is the Grade 2 Rossington Main staged at Haydock. Horses exiting this event are 26/109 with a profit of £24.79 to £1 level stakes on their next run; that’s a better than 20% rate of return. That needs caveating with the fact that pickings have been slim in the past five years with only a handful of short price next time out winners. However, in the 2020 renewal, run at the end of January, the trio of Stolen Silver, Thebannerkingrebel and Edwardstone fought out a tight finish with all three looking to be the type to keep on your side. The first two named are entered in the Betfair Hurdle this Saturday.

Cheltenham Festival Novice Hurdles

For this edition most of the focus on novice hurdlers has been on evaluating a Graded race with an eye to its future form. But, of course, at this time of year all roads lead to Cheltenham, so as a final set of analysis below is a brief appraisal of the three Championship Novice Hurdle races staged at the Festival.

By understanding the routes that the winners have taken through their novice campaigns there may be some clues as to where to start looking for this year's bounty.

Supreme Novices Hurdle – 2 miles ½ furlong

First up is the Supreme: in a few weeks' time the Festival will open with a spine-tingling roar as the Supreme protagonists take their first steps toward potential fame and glory. Given its opening berth I suspect that more time and effort is expended on predicting the winner of the curtain-raiser than any other race over the course of the week (or is that just me?!). Other (more qualified) people will commit their thoughts to paper with interesting and informative race form previews, but the below table may offer some historical pointers on where to start evaluating the contenders.

The table is fairly basic, illustrating the winners of the Supreme, their SP and a record of all graded race performances in the same season prior to the Cheltenham event.  This campaigns winner has been added to build a ready-made shortlist for further analysis!

It is not a shock to note that there isn’t a single case over the past nine years where the winner of the Supreme has not already tasted Graded success during the same season. This is of interest, particularly as the head of the ante-post market at time of writing is the Nicky Henderson-trained Shishkin.

Shishkin has yet to dip his hoof into anything above Class 4 novice waters and, with only one entry before Cheltenham (a Listed race at Huntingdon), it’s very unlikely he’s going to get that Graded experience prior to the Festival. Stats and trends of course are there to be broken, and it may be that we have a trend buster in the making here. That said, whilst taking on a Hendo hotpot is not for the meek, I think I’d much rather side at the prices with a horse with greater experience - and winning Graded form - especially after referencing the data in the table above.

The Chanelle Pharma features prominently, three times in total, with the Mullins trio of Champagne Fever, Vautour and Klassical Dream all taking the Leopardstown G1 route to subsequent Prestbury Park glory. The complexity regarding the same ownership of Shishkin and Asterion Forlonge will play out in due course, no doubt. However, if they both line up on the big day my money will be on the latter: the Chanelle Pharma / Supreme double is historically compelling.

 

Ballymore Novices Hurdle – 2 miles 5 furlongs

Graded experience is again important in the case of the Ballymore. Aside from City Island last year, all winners have finished at least in the top two in a Graded event, the lone exception having taken the scenic route via an £11k Naas novice event. City Island's trainer, Martin Brassil, had had up to that point only two previous runners at the Festival which may explain the slightly unconventional path to victory.

In terms of the remaining winners, the Chanelle Pharma is preeminent again and, along with the Leamington, two victors have prevailed from each to take the Ballymore in the past nine years.

The current 2020 ante-post favourite, Envoi Allen, is a slim 5/4 poke largely due to being a dual-Grade 1 winner already this season. The market historically looks to be there or thereabouts too. It’s not a tip but in terms of ticking the boxes the Envoi appears to be an identikit winner

 

Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle – 3 miles

Finally, the gruelling three-mile trip of the Albert Bartlett has borne witness to some Hollywood-priced winners recently. All bar two (Minella Indo and Very Wood) had already tasted Graded victory in the same season, and even both of the non-Graded winners ran second in such an event.

Two horses prominent in the Albert Bartlett betting are the Willie Mullins trained-Monkfish and Colin Tizzard-conditioned The Big Breakaway. Like Shishkin in the Supreme, both animals lack Graded miles on the clock, leading to a question on whether they can step up to the Festival plate. In fact, thus far, neither have competed in any race close to Graded level.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to find commonality in the routes to Albert Bartlett glory, with seemingly the whole array of novice races listed above. As mentioned previously, the names in the 2019/20 column are essentially a shortlist of potentially where to start more detailed analysis; although it could easily be argued that checking the market gives a similar result. Nevertheless, given the propensity for unfancied horses to win, my starting point in the spud race will be to evaluate the chances of some of the unheralded names in the table above, Redford Road perhaps being a case in point.

*

That’s it for this novice hurdle deep dive. I’ve enjoyed putting it together and it’s been highly educational in terms of attaining a greater appreciation of the novice roadmap and its leading pathfinders. Hopefully, it will result in some punting improvements too!

- JS

Novice Hurdles: What’s the form worth?

As regular readers of these Punting Angles articles will know, most of the focus is on the staple diet of UK day to day racing, writes Jon Shenton. This is at least partially deliberate. Firstly, there is lots of it and therefore more data to crunch. Secondly, it makes at least some sense that higher class racing is  watched more, tracked more closely, better understood and that it is consequently harder to find an edge from data. After all, there is wall to wall coverage of the big days and events.

Better late than never, it’s time for us to get involved in the upper echelons of the sport. For one or two editions it’s going to be less about Plumpton, Sedgefield and Southwell (with all due respect) and more about Cheltenham, Leopardstown and the like.

This article, the first of two, is solely focusing on Graded novice hurdle races, exuding the mares' programme.  I will be evaluating most of the key dates in the calendar from Chepstow in October up to the festival at Cheltenham in March, with one eye on trying to find contenders for those mega spring festivals. This means events such as the Aintree and Punchestown festivals in April are not included.

To do this, I’ve pulled together data on Graded (Grade 1, 2 and 3) novice hurdles from both sides of the Irish Sea. In all honesty, the process has been quite a long one, and painstaking at times, manually checking race data and inputting it into a spreadsheet. However, it’s been a fantastic education and ultimately a rewarding exercise.  Whilst there are no usual point and click recommendations, I hope it’s of some use in your punting: the process has certainly opened my eyes to the world of novice hurdling.

Approach and method

Don’t worry, it’s not a science paper!   However, I do think it’s important to outline the process that I’ve used as a basis for much of this article.

To the best of my knowledge every Graded novice hurdle race since autumn 2015 (run in October to March of those years) has been evaluated to establish how runners performed over the subsequent 365-day period. That intel has then been pulled into a data table.  Based on key criteria a rating has then been generated to measure the quality of that race based on the future results of participants.

It only includes data up to 16th January this year so doesn’t contain any of the races from the most recent weekend, the Rossington Main, for example.

 

An example using the Tolworth

Sandown's Grade 1 takes place in early January and was won by Fidderontheroof earlier this month.   It is  run over a 2-mile trip and the question I’m trying to answer objectively is whether the race form is worth following or not based on the recent history of the race.  The below table shows a breakdown, by renewal, of the subsequent performance of all competing horses over a 90-day and 365-day period.   Horseracebase has been used to obtain the data.

Hopefully the column names make at least a modicum of sense. But, to explain further, the columns numbered 90 and 365 relate to form for that length of time, in days, after the Tolworth was run. So for example, the 6 in the 90run column for 2019 means that there were 6 runs from horses that ran within 90 days of the Tolworth in that year, the next column (90win) illustrates the number of winners from those 6 runners, 90pl the number of places and so on. Already this table gives a flavour as to whether this may be a race to follow in general terms.

The second part of the standing data shown in the table is evaluating the quality of the future form in terms of wins and places over 365 days, the column headers have “365” titles for clarity.

It is of intrigue that by backing every Tolworth runner blind for 90 days after the race at SP you’d walk away with a profit of £26.20 to a £1 level stake, a 72% return! (The P&L numbers are marked in yellow)

Volume of wins and places is interesting, but it’s helpful and important to understand the quality of those victories. So again, evaluating the Tolworth form in terms of the breakdown of those W’s and P’s in relation to the class they have been attained in, the below table gives the split.

The table shows the number of subsequent runs in Graded races at any level (GPrun) then working across from left to right:

  • G1W – number of G1 wins
  • G2W – number of G2 wins
  • G3W – you’ve guessed it, number of G3 wins
  • OthrW – wins in all other classes (inc. Listed)
  • G1PlOnly, G2PlOnly and G3PlOnly are the number of places attained in those grades, not inclusive of any winners

Summarising, the data paints a picture that, from 2015, there have been 49 runs from horses that competed in the Tolworth who then ran in Graded company during the following 365 days.  Of those, there have been four Grade 1 wins, three at Grade 2, three at Grade 3 and the column OthrW represents 19 wins in Listed or lower classes.

For information, the G1 victories are;

  • 2018 - Summerville Boy in the Supreme Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham
  • 2017 – Finians Oscar in the Mersey Novices Hurdle at Aintree
  • 2016 – Yorkhill in the Neptune (Ballymore) Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham and the Mersey Novices Hurdle at Aintree

These three animals prevailed in the Tolworth, all progressing to festival success and rubber stamping it as a race to follow.  You’d be right in thinking that fancy data is not required to confirm that the Grade 1 Tolworth is a strong contest.  However, understanding how the race compares against other quality races in terms of future form is of potential interest.

To contemplate its relative strength against other events, finding a way to rate or score each race is required. As a result, a relatively straightforward race rating has been constructed to do the job. The race rating system is highly subjective and there is a strong suspicion that if a hundred people did it, no two individuals would do it in the same way!  The exact method isn’t too important though, as the objective is to evaluate without bias which novice races are best to follow. A relatively simple (even with flaws) rating system still should give enough detail to be a bridge to further analysis.

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Below is a breakdown of the ratings for the Tolworth, 2015 to 2020.

Here is a quick run-down of the columns and what they represent;

365%Score – this relates to the general quality of the race.  It’s calculated in the following way.

(The Win % of the race form for 365 days) + (the Place % of the race form for 365 days divided by 3)

A real example, the 2019 has 3 winners and 8 places from 19 runs (data in the first table), resulting in a winning percentage of 15.8% and the place percentage of 42.1%. Therefore the 365%Sc is calculated as below

15.8 + (42.1/3) = 29.8. All scores are rounded to the nearest number. A minimum of 10 runners in each race is required to generate a rating. 

GPWScore – this represents a rating generated from the subsequent winners over the next 365 days from each race.  The scores are comprised of;

  • Grade 1 win 10
  • Grade 2 win 6
  • Grade 3 win 3
  • Other Win 1

GPPLScore – this is the score value generated from the placed horses (excluding winners) over the following 365 days

  • Grade 1 place 3
  • Grade 2 place 2
  • Grade 3 place 1

GPScore = GPWScore + GPPLScore (i.e. a combined score from the win and place data)

RTNG  = the overall rating for the race in question, adding 365%Score + GPSccore

RaceRNK – is the overall rank of the race in terms of quality from the 163 races evaluated.   The lower the number the better.

Therefore, in the case of the Tolworth, the 2016, 17 and 18 renewals were relatively strong, with the 2016 renewal having the 7th best race rating in the dataset. 2015 and 2019 were disappointing with rankings of 122 and 97 respectively.

And that’s the process, fully transparent and easy to follow, I hope.

That’s quite a long scene set and explanation, but necessary in my view!

Onto the results...

 

Novice Hurdle Race Ratings

The below table is a consolidated summary of all of the analysed races from the years 2015 to present day and, as explained previously, only contests that have 10 or more subsequent runners are included in the data (the number of qualifying races is shown in the column titled QualR).

The table is sorted by the highest average rating of the race over the 5-year period.

 

There is unsurprisingly a large variance in quality based on subsequent 365-day form, from the Prestige, averaging a rating of 32.8, to the Chanelle Pharma, previously known as the Deloitte, averaging 96+ at the top of the pile.

It is at least mildly reassuring that the Grade 1’s feature in the higher end of the table in general. The Tolworth ranks in joint 7th confirming the view from the opening section that it’s a solid race to follow.

As someone who struggles to keep on top of the racing calendar and track the key movers and shakers, these data focus the mind. The bad news is that from here onwards there are no easy answers or instant takeaways: the only truly effective way to progress to a deeper understanding is good old-fashioned hard work and metaphorical elbow grease.

Having said that, interestingly, the 365P&L column shows in yellow where backing every subsequent runner from the events in question for 365 days post-race has been profitable to a level stake of £1 at SP. The fact there are so many is a pleasant surprise and worthy of more focus; there may be something to consider for building profitable angles, but ideally more than five years of race data would be needed to have the necessary confidence to invest.

For now, as a starter for ten, a quick dive into a couple of the prevalent races to follow seems a sensible path to follow.

Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle

This rating system shows that the Chanelle Pharma Novice hurdle (Deloitte until 2019) at Leopardstown is a clear and obvious winner with an average score of 96.2. That's higher than the second placed Cheltenham Classic Novices Hurdle by over 18 points! The Chanelle Pharma is now contested over a 2-mile trip since the newly-formed Dublin Racing Festival became reality in 2018 (it was previously run over 2m2f) and it is well known as a good pathfinder towards the Supreme and Ballymore in March.

This novice event has racked up 44 subsequent winners from 200 runs with a £1 level stake loss of £18 if you’d backed every one blind up to a year after the race.

Below is the view by renewal year, using the key columns described earlier.   Immediately the eye is drawn to the RaceRNK column, confirming that this contest had the 1st (joint), 3rd and 6th best individual races in the novice sphere since 2015.

Significantly, 19 of those 44 wins were delivered in elite Grade 1 company. That’s a whole ten more than any other race on the list and obviously worth delving into.

On closer inspection, those 19 triumphs are attributable to 11 individual horses. Nicholls Canyon with 4 of the victories (from the 2015 renewal), Sharjah with 4 (2018), Le Richebourg (2018) & Petit Mouchoir (2016) with 2 each. With sole G1 wins secured by Klassical Dream (2019), Samcro (2018), Barcardys (2017), Bellshill & Coney Island (2016), Windsor Park & Identity Thief (2015).

Perhaps surprisingly, there are only a trio of same season Cheltenham Festival winners after competing in the Chanelle Pharma for the analysed races. Klassical Dream won the Supreme last year with the two other two Prestbury Park winners coming in the Ballymore, Samcro in 2018 and Windsor Park in 2015.

It is noted that the 2019 renewal has had a relatively disappointing outturn. The law of averages perhaps would nod to a better 2020 vintage.

The Ballymore Novices Hurdle (Classic Novices Hurdle)

The second race on the list by some distance is the Ballymore Novices Hurdle (Classic) run at Cheltenham on Trials Day, which is very much on the radar for the upcoming weekend. Arguably, this race is a better one for the trackers than its Leopardstown counterpart as it’s delivered a £1 level stake profit of £57, through backing all runners each time they took to the track over the subsequent 365-day period.  That’s nearly a 36% return which seems utterly insane for 5 years-worth of renewals encompassing 159 total runners.   Perhaps it is the fact that it’s a Grade 2 which may drive some of that potential future value. Whatever the reason it’s a race about which to sit up and take notice.

I’ve added the 365P&L column to this table showing the value of backing all runners blind at SP for each renewal of the race. This event has a solid feel in terms of consistency, and whilst there have been 12 fewer G1 wins than the Leopardstown race previously discussed, the overall number of winners is only one fewer at 43, from a much smaller number of runs too: 159 compared to 200 in the Chanelle Pharma. Each Classic renewal has generated its share of future winners, with the 2016 version being the cream of the crop with a RaceRNK of 7.

Considering it’s an event which occurs on Cheltenham Trials Day, a good starting point would be to check how horses go on to perform at the big event.

It’s no silver bullet based on the last five years' data, that’s for sure. Not a single winner has been drawn from this race at the Festival in the same year, although it must be stated that five years is not a significant sample size. Also, in fairness, the crossbar has been rattled several times with Yanworth and Black Op coming close in the Ballymore, and Santini, Champers on Ice and Wholestone hitting the frame in the longer distance Albert Bartlett. Black Op and Santini did go on to enjoy Grade 1 victory at the Aintree Festival a month or so later in the Mersey and Sefton respectively. Several horses have developed into Festival winners in future years too.

On the point of future winners, whilst trawling through the results it was very easy to spot some eye-catching names finishing in eye-watering places in this contest historically. It’s best represented by this result card from the 2015 renewal.

Whatever happened to some of those also-rans failing to complete or trailing in 60 or so lengths behind the winner (whatever happened to the winner too?!)?

Whilst it’s a stretch to claim this picture is typical there are a whole raft of horses in this event who go on win on much bigger stages, often chasing ones too. In no particular order, Topofthegame, Elegant Escape, Slate House, Poetic Rhythm, Royal Vacation, William Henry and, going back further, Whisper, Coneygree and The New One have all cut their teeth in this race. That is an impressive roll call, which bodes well for Birchdale, Brewin’upastorm and Jarvey’s Plate from the mildly disappointing up to now 2019 crop.

Originally, I planned to go into more detail, but the powder will have to remain dry for a second part (this is already too long!) where I’ll cover the potentially profitable races to follow in more detail; including analysis of a horse's next run only after competing in one of these Graded novice hurdles.  I’ll also be evaluating the winners of the novice hurdles at Cheltenham to ascertain if there are any patterns linking back to the races included in this article.

- JS

p.s you can read PART TWO of this novice hurdle analysis here

Jon Shenton: Some Thoughts on Action vs Angle Bets

I’ve been penning on these pages for well over a year now, writes Jon Shenton. As a novice who has never written anything for public consumption previously, it’s been very challenging. It’s also been highly enjoyable, and I’ve learnt plenty regarding racing, and basic grammar, along the way!

For regulars, you'll know the form: a bit of data, a chunk of blurb and perhaps a few nice angles (and some occasionally less nice ones) on the journey.

But this edition is a bit different, a little more reflective and general in nature, aiming to mull some of the challenges associated with a systematic betting approach. I very much hope that it’s not too self-indulgent [it's not. Ed.] and is of some interest to the data driven bettor.

 

Angles and Demons

My name is Jon Shenton and I have 679 angles / betting systems saved in my portfolio. Many aren’t active but most are.

I’ve been building, maintaining and running angles since April 2016. Prior to that, an annual trip to Gold Cup day was my only exposure to racing and resulted in nine straight years without a hint of trouble for the bookies. However, three winners at Cheltenham on a Friday in March, using detailed but on reflection misguided study, changed everything. My success that day was without doubt 100% attributable to good fortune rather than skill, but in my mind I was up and running.

From that moment, I spent seemingly every spare second researching, analysing and listening in order to develop a deeper understanding of racing.   I began betting only pennies (paper trading is not for me!) initially, but over time those pennies have turned into a few pounds as confidence levels and results have improved.

It all sounds perfect, doesn't it? Making a small amount of pocket money on the nags is something that never seemed to be a realistic proposition; having a leisure activity, that hands out a bit of spendo is a wonderful pursuit.

However, in recent times my enjoyment levels from racing, and betting on it, have been waning a little. I haven’t given it a huge amount of thought until now. But when I was challenged to write this article it became a catalyst to think about the bigger picture and to step back from the day to day noise. It was then that I realised that I haven’t really been plugged into the sport in the same way over the past few months.

Ultimately, I think it’s because the process of systematically wagering on racing through angles is exceptionally transactional in nature. Zooming out and evaluating from a distance it can feel - and had started to feel - in large part like a glorified admin function. And, frankly, there aren’t many people in the world who relish a good bit of relaxing admin in their own spare time.

A typical weekday starts in the evening when all the following day's qualifying bets are written down from the relevant website(s) and tools. Then, at 5.15am on the day of racing, the alarm delivers its familiar but always rude awakening. A quick shower, and with a cup of tea all bets are placed for the day. Then it’s out of the door bright and early to the day job.

Working full-time as I do, it’s nigh on impossible to keep across racing during working hours (deliberately avoided for obvious reasons hopefully) and I check the results when I get home. Then it’s the treat of recording all of the results on a tracking spreadsheet and repeating the process. Every single day.

Some days are quieter than others: in 2019 thus far there have been north of 3,200 angle-generated bets that have been struck. Not sure how I feel about that in the cold light of day - perhaps I need to be more selective - but it certainly illustrates the associated admin challenge.

The graph below shows the result of these type of wagers from that start point in 2016.

Predominantly, these numbers have been delivered through win only level stake betting (more on staking later): it’s non-emotive, low engagement wagering; and there is very little in the way of subjectivity or personal thought in the process. That process is rigid: identify a qualifier, write it down, place a bet, check the result and record the outcome.

The results are strong undoubtedly, with margin ordinarily 10-15% over the course of a year. At this point it should be noted that a portion of this return is attributable to best odds guaranteed. Transacting at early prices with BOG presents an element of 'natural value' with the relatively high volume of bets that are placed. The retreat of this offer to later in the day is creating a hurdle that in time will need to be overcome to maintain my current margin. Placing bets any later than 6am is not going to be possible due to other commitments, so I’m going to need to find a way to evolve or accept a lower rate of return.

Putting these thoughts to print has helped me to recognise that it’s the research, number crunching and theory testing that keeps the fire burning. Sure, the results have a certain satisfaction associated with them, but there is no doubt that the overall process is a little cold, clinical and mechanical.  The highly structured, highly disciplined, admin heavy approach works financially but my level of engagement with the sport is lacking.

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Action Man

The alternative to stuffy system/angle betting is the good old emotional roller coaster of traditional wagering: taking stock of all the usual elements and variables of a given race and pinning your colours to the mast around one animal.

I am partial to a “normal” bet too, the general parlance used on geegeez.co.uk is “action” betting so we’ll stick with that terminology from here on in.

Angle/system betting is the rhythm section of the gambling universe, whereas action bets might be seen as the freewheeling, edgy lead guitarist.

Here is a graph illustrating the outcome of my guitar licks over the past 2-and-a-half years.

Not exactly Slash or Hendrix is it?

The graph follows a profile like a Next Big Thing that burns brightly for a time before hitting the skids and hurtling back into relative obscurity.

2019 has clearly been the year of excessive drink, substance abuse, creative differences and a spectacular fall from grace (metaphorically, of course) for my action bets. For context, there have been 645 of them in 2019 to date with 81 successes (counting an E/W collection as 0.2 of a win). Depressingly, I’m not entirely sure why this year has been so difficult, though I suspect there is an element of attempting to be too smart and punting beyond my means and capabilities. A little knowledge can be dangerous, especially when there is a natural attraction to against the crowd punting and (ostensibly) generous prices!

A result of the downturn has been an easing back on the volume of action bets. Roughly speaking, I’ve had less than half the action bets over the past three months that I would have had based on the previous two-year volume averages.

Easing off on the action seems a sensible approach. A brutal personal assessment (stats don’t lie?) is that my race reading ability is not in the same league as the cold data-driven angle approach; so why bother wasting time trying to pick winners when the angles do it better? There is certainly limited financial reason to play in action betting, based on the recent numbers, and locking money away in a cash ISA would make more sense commercially. But not even Derren Brown could convince me that a risk-free return in a tax-free saving account was more fun than poring through race cards, form, pace maps and whatever else.

Through trying to get under the skin of a race and piecing it together, it affords an opportunity to further learn and to develop a deeper understanding of the complexities involved in racing - and in betting on racing. It is sport after all, and an action bet can solidify the link to it. The spectacle and sense of occasion obviously stands on its own merit but evaluating a race closely (betting or not) creates a deeper and more vested interest in the outcome. Most importantly, it generates interest, excitement, and fun.

My life has revolved around sport since I was knee high to the proverbial green jumpy insect. However, my career has generally revolved around the use of data. Racing is perfectly positioned to straddle both. The rational side of me struggles with undue risk and losing money; the sporting and emotional side connects with the characters, animals and theatre of the event, and wants to be financially implicated.

But a recent conscious choice to withdraw from action betting had resulted in less time invested in the sport and, as a result, my previously voracious appetite to consume as much information and knowledge as possible has ebbed a little.

On introspection, then, I know that action betting must be here to stay: I just need to get better at it! It’s a wonderful sport, and to measure the enjoyment of it by financial return and transactions alone is the wrong way of looking at it. Being less uptight about action bets is key. And keeping them separate / treating them as fun, rather than angle-driven investments, is a clear and necessary way forward.

 

Action Learnings

The single biggest challenge with action betting is finding the capacity to do it properly. Finding time to study in any depth is difficult for me due to other commitments, like - you know - work and family! Undoubtedly, that’s where the toolkit on geegeez assists hugely in cutting through some of the noise.

What geegeez cannot do is support with the mental challenges associated with a ticking clock and wagering. It’s a personal thing but occasionally in the evening I’ll put on ATR or Racing TV and decide to have a quick check of the card just before the off. The intent is to evaluate the race at high level and see how that goes. Who’s going to lead? Who has course form? And so on...

However, it’s hard not to get attracted to a bet even in that very short window. Each to their own, but over the past couple of months I’ve refrained from these type of wagers as, for me, they invariably end in disappointment.

A similar limitation related to time, laziness or general apathy is that once pinpointing a “good thing” it can be devilishly difficult to walk away without a wagering commitment. It is the potential opportunity cost of reversing from a successful bet where the problem lies. A race comprises of many possible winners, certainly not just the one identified as having the course form, front-running potential, good draw or whatever edge seems to be apparent. Finding contenders isn’t the main challenge. No, my main challenge relates to understanding how the highlighted horse compares against the rest of the field and knowing when to step back rather than ploughing in regardless.

I’ve committed to at least evaluating the top four or five in the market before making an action bet now. It sounds basic and obvious, but part of the process of trying to improve is assessing why things aren’t working. My hope is that, by implementing this basic rule, there will be an upturn in action-based performance. We’ll see.

 

General angle betting thoughts

Getting back to angle betting, I have a few other observations to share.

Firstly, should all qualifiers get backed blindly or not? A lot of people use an angle as a starting point and then apply subjective judgement to that qualifier in determining whether to put the money down.

This does not work for me. I am an advocate of backing blind. Here's why: the angle works because it’s not subjective, and it can throw up contrarian winners to which the market is largely blind. By applying a judgement filter there is a danger of conforming to the market view and losing the angle's edge.

Below is a case study that burns, even today.

This race from 2017 is taken from my 'I know better' phase where I’d evaluate each qualifier and exclude some from a bet based on my opinion.

The qualifier in question is Guishan from a Mick Appleby sprint angle, number 3 on the card above.  This animal was discounted due to its sub-optimal draw in box 11 of 12.  Everyone knows a horse can’t win from that draw over a sprint trip at Chester, don’t they? Anyway, as I sat down to watch it with a nice cup of tea and a smug feeling of avoiding an inevitable loss, I was gripped by unfolding sense of horror. Guishan tacked over from a high draw, secured a reasonable position and swept by all-comers in the home straight to win with a degree of comfort. At 25/1. There are lots of other case studies with resemblance to this one but I'll spare you - and me! - the details.

Moving on, if there is a good reason to adapt an angle I will. For example, certain trainers may qualify at specific tracks or under certain conditions but they have a poor record with horses first or second time out. In such a situation, I would have no qualms adjusting or improving the angle by excluding these, because that decision would be evidence-based. But those subjective, opinion-based exclusions need to be consigned to the wheelie bin of history.

 

Staking Plan

Before closing, a line or two on staking. There are countless words available on this subject and no doubt the vast majority are better informed than what follows. However, I hope my relative inexperience can be of some reassurance to those of you who are still finding your way.

Quite frankly, in terms of staking, keeping it simple is the most important for me. I have researched and read a fair amount on optimising stakes but, in all honesty, I don’t understand a great deal of it! I certainly have no real idea how much value there is in each bet to adjust stakes accordingly, and I’d be guessing if applying something like the Kelly Criterion in the real world. I’ve tried measuring value by creating my own tissue prices but I’m a million miles away from making that work for me effectively.

Basically, the less I think about from a staking perspective the better. In general, level stakes keep it a thought free process for me. That said, there is some room for manoeuvre, depending on the category of bet and my track record with them. My current staking plan is as follows:

  • 2 points win – All-weather premium angle
  • 1.5-point win – All-weather standard angle
  • 1.5-point win – Flat turf premium angle
  • 1-point win – Flat turf standard angle
  • 1-point win – National Hunt angle
  • 1-point win / 0.5 points EW – Action bet

The only subjective part is what makes a premium or standard angle. That’s down to performance and chi score (one for another day) which is a statistical measure to indicate the likelihood of results being attributable to chance or not.

An example of a premium angle is the Derek Shaw, Chelmsford Class 4-7 at 11/1 or shorter contained within the below edition of punting angles. That is proven over a period in a live environment.

https://www.geegeez.co.uk/punting-angles-chelmsford-city-racecourse-part-1/

I think staking plans boil down to understanding ones strengths and weaknesses, and betting accordingly. If you do struggle or worry about staking, then in my experience a level stakes approach takes a lot of the noise and confusion away.

In fact, I think that’s what this article is predominantly about. Strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes. Writing it has certainly helped me to think about my betting - specifically, what I’m good at and what I have as development areas (corporate speak).

Even if the experiences I've shared in this article don’t help directly, taking a bit of time out to reflect on your betting approach, strategies and performance is a sensible and pragmatic thing to do occasionally. And no better moment than during this break.

I hope you enjoy the festivities, and here’s to an exciting, fun and profitable 2020 racing. It really is a special sport like no other.

- JS

Punting Angles: Uttoxeter

After a recent focus on some of the UK’s All-Weather courses it’s time to adjust the radar to a little bit of National Hunt racing (I’ll return to the remaining AW tracks of Wolves and Lingfield in due course), writes Jon Shenton. For this edition, I’ve chosen the Staffordshire venue of Uttoxeter to focus upon, the reason being that, based on a quick query (run in Query Tool), this course has hosted the most races in the last few years. More races equals more data, and more data sometimes equals better inferences.

Uttoxeter is probably best known for the second longest race in the UK calendar, the 4m2f Midlands National. The course offers a year-round jumping programme, with 25 scheduled meetings per annum. The summer jewel in the crown is the prestigious and valuable Listed race, the Summer Cup.

Course Map

The course is left-handed and relatively sharp in nature.  It is seemingly synonymous with punishing winter ground meaning the track has a reputation for suiting stamina-laden types. Although, given its relative sharpness, speed is possibly an undervalued commodity, especially on the typically firmer ground during the summer. A single circuit is approximately 1 mile 3 furlongs in length, with an unusual kink in the back straight.

 

Uttoxeter Trainers

We start, as usual, with a perusal of trainer performance as a way into developing betting opportunities at the track. The table below shows the record of each yard that has had 50 or more runners at the track since 2012, at a starting price of 20/1 or shorter, and with a minimum of 10 victories over that period.

 

There is some promise in these numbers, with the trio at the top of the list possessing phenomenal records at the track. The IV data confirm that runners from these stables are approximately 2.5 to 3 times more likely to prevail than the average at this venue, and all at a healthy margin, based on A/E or plain old profit and loss.

The Sue Smith, Evan Williams and Harry Fry data also would merit further investigation should time and word count permit, which it doesn’t for this edition, sadly! 

Warren Greatrex

For Warren Gretrex, things aren’t quite as rosy as they might seem from the headline figures, as will become clear below. Firstly, it is notable that his yard hasn’t had a single winner at the course at odds above 10/1. I haven’t shown workings but if you can take that on trust, of the remaining 78 runners we get the following profile by splitting the info by calendar year.

 

 

As can be seen, performance has dipped in 2018, and thus far in 2019. In fact, there was not even a solitary placed animal this year until Elleon won on the 16th November at a welcome SP of 15/2. [As was noted in this article, the Greatrex yard suffered a big dip in fortune last campaign, and will hopefully revert to type this term].

Any projected angle from this high-level data comes with a wealth warning then. Taking the overall data at face value, 24 winners from 78 runs, a strike rate of over 30% and a reasonable return all appears to be a rock-solid no-brainer. But two victories from 22 over the last couple of years removes some of the lustre of the overall picture.

Of course, it’s possibly attributable to the usual variance and randomness (as could the over-performance of earlier years be) given the acutely small sample size. It’s the beauty / challenge / pointlessness of using data such as this to base punting on depending on your viewpoint.  I’m firmly in the beauty & challenge camp if that’s not clear enough already.

Presenting the data differently gives an alternative view.  The graph below shows the cumulative return if you had put a £1 win single on every Greatrex runner with an SP of 10/1 or shorter at Uttoxeter since 2012.

It’s not a bad picture is it? In the context of the overall numbers the relative downturn in 2018/19 of 2/22 winners doesn’t look too damaging. The key question is, what is going to happen from today onwards? Clearly nobody knows for sure, but I’d be inclined to treat this data positively, at least for the time being, and especially in light of the recent winner.

However, if that’s not convincing enough, by looking a bit deeper under the surface there are opportunities to potentially improve the chances of success and lessen the risk based on historical data.

The table below shows track performance by the race code/type data for the yard at the course.

 

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Did you spot it? One of those lines is very striking indeed! Chase numbers are fine; hurdle data are competitive, but not micro material. However, the National Hunt Flat race data is exceptional and irrefutably worth tracking. Sadly, for us, the aforementioned Elleon delivered the goods recently meaning a good betting opportunity was missed. The SP of 15/2 is the largest priced winner in the dataset just to add a little bit of salt to the wound!  It does mean that for angle purposes a cap of 8/1 on SP will be used for Uttoxeter runners.

The Greatrex bumper (NHF) record at Uttoxeter is particularly strong, so it is a sensible step to check if the yard performs well in such races generally, or particularly at the Staffordshire venue. Analysing results by course suggests there is some definite further interest.  The below table offers insight:

 

 

There is no doubt that performance is strong at the top four listed tracks, arguably five if including Ffos Las. A/E’s of the quartet at the head of the table are all above or equal to 1.22, a nice benchmark.

Is it interesting or coincidence that it could be argued that the top three are all geographically close to the trainer's base (in relative terms)?  Or is it interesting that all the high-performing tracks have similarities in being left-handed sharpish constitutions? Indeed, all of the top five are left-handed circuits.

The absolute, sacrosanct rule on angle building is that every filter used to compile the angle is explainable and must make at least some degree of sense. I am aware enough to recognise entirely that the above conjecture may be stretching that point, but I have the gut feel that there is something worth noting here. Probably more based on the track layout similarities than location; after all, Lambourn to Uttoxeter is a bit of a schlep.

However, I’ll be watching Greatrex bumper entries at these tracks with great (and probably financial) interest over the coming months.

Incidentally no winners have been delivered at SP’s of greater than 15/2 in this data. While that’s risky and arguably somewhat convenient, for pure angle building I’m only going to consider those runners at 8/1 or shorter (but will personally monitor all).

 

 

The bottom line is, as always, that it is your call how - and indeed if - to play:  the numbers presented are factual, but whether they are strong enough or reasoned enough for you to part with your hard earned is your choice. Caveat emptor!

Suggestions

  • Back Warren Greatrex horses at Uttoxeter in NHF races where the SP is 8/1 or shorter
  • Take note of all other Warren Greatrex runners at 10/1 or shorter at the course
  • If you feel so inclined, track or back Warren Greatrex runners in NHF at SP’s of 8/1 or shorter in races at Warwick, Stratford and Bangor in addition to Uttoxeter

Dan Skelton

It’s hardly new news that the Stratford-based operation has a prolific and rewarding record at the not-too-distant Staffordshire track; however, it’s always worth delving to establish if any deeper insights can be attained. The first port of call in this instance is by market price (it’s usually the first item I look at), and in the case of this intel there is some enthusiasm for a deeper dive.

 

 

The data tell us that  shorter-priced animals outperform the market in terms of A/E, IV and profit (look at that 5.3 IV for animals sent off shorter than 2/1!), whilst the entrants who start at prices of 11/2 or greater just about hold their own. Shorter priced the better, then.

If a lower SP is counter-intuitively a good thing then analysing performance based on market position is a sensible step.  There may be an angle containing the favourite, rather than just short priced animals.

 

An odds rank of 1 relates to the favourite, 2 is the second favourite and so on.  It is crystal clear that a Skelton jolly at Uttoxeter is a very serious contender, with over half of them delivering, and recording an A/E of 1.29 to boot. Impressive stuff at such apparently such short prices.  It proves that there can be value when fishing at the top of the market on occasion.

Obviously, knowing whether a horse is going to start at the top of the market is a bit of guesswork if you generally back the night before or early on the day of the race, but invariably you win some, you lose some and such things even themselves out over time.

Suggestion: Back Dan Skelton horses at Uttoxeter when they are positioned as SP favourites

 

Dr Richard Newland

Third on the trainer table is Dr. Richard Newland. The former GP and Grand National-winning trainer (2014, Pineau De Re) has an impressive record at Uttoxeter. However, focusing on the time of year gives a lot of clarity regarding when the real spotlight on his runners should occur.

The graph illustrates the volume of Newland runners at Uttoxeter, as well as the number of winners.  There’s a pronounced focus on summer jumping at the track, particularly in the months of June and July.

This table shows the same data in more traditional format, with the usual supplementary info, as provided by geegeez.co.uk's Query Tool:

 

Admittedly, highlighting summer jumping prowess at this point in the year is terrible timing, but it’s worth keeping in cold storage until the warmer temperatures return to these lands. Again, Query Tool is your friend!

The summary version of all runners from May-Sep (inclusive) results in the below output.

That’s good enough but further optional sharpening could be attained as there is no runner that has won at odds of greater than 15/2 SP, albeit only from nine attempts (three of which placed).

I get a strong impression that there is more to find with this trainer. From a relatively small number of horses in training this is a yard worth tracking closely and getting to know in closer detail.

Suggestion: Back Dr Richard Newland horses at Uttoxeter over the summer months (May-September) at odds of 15/2 or shorter

*

Distance nuggets

As ever, let's have a quick hack around some of the race dynamics at the course.

Hurdle races – 2 miles

I’ve concentrated on hurdles primarily due to the volume of data; the chases are a little sparser in frequency so harder from which to draw even moderate conclusions. Initially, then, let's pick up the two-mile distance for larger field sizes (nine or greater) the following profile is generated:

The table illustrates the Impact Value (IV) performance of horses by the various underfoot conditions and by pace profile. The column “races” simply contains the number of races that relate to those going descriptions. This is included primarily to demonstrate the sample size of each data set so you can draw your own conclusions to the relevance when assessing a race.

The data clearly shows that front end pace is important and it’s better to be at the head than biding time in the relative back positions. This is a general truism for all races on all goings at all courses.

There is a suggestion that racing prominently is of greater importance as the ground becomes more testing, with the strongest two numbers in terms of IV relating to leading in Soft (1.81) and Heavy (2.55) conditions, abeit on smaller sample sizes. Making up ground from the cheap seats is tough in all conditions, especially so in the sticky stamina-sapping Staffordshire mud.

 

Hurdle races – 2m 4furlongs

The data for the two-and-a-half-mile trip is reasonably similar to it’s shorter two-mile counterpart, namely that leaders and prominent racers are generally favoured. The green-tinged data is on the right-hand side of the table where the speed is, the redder/orange numbers relating to horses who are ridden patiently is towards the left. There isn’t the same profile in terms of front-running mudlarks getting an even better time of it, perhaps stamina becomes of greater importance than track position over the extra half-mile. Irrespective of reasons or rationale, backing a horse that is likely to be in the leading ranks seems a sensible approach when assessing a race at this distance.

 

Hurdles - 3 miles

Finally, a focus on the longer distance of the 3-mile trip. The first thing to say is that there are fewer races at this distance, but there is no doubt that based on the information available, the box seat seems to have shifted towards the prominent racers, not the horses who cut out the running.

Whilst the front runners perform perfectly well on average, it seems logical that to lead without cover for this longer distance is a more difficult proposition. The low sample sizes do not help, but there is a flavour of it becoming increasingly difficult to make all as the ground gets more testing.

Broadly speaking the optimum position is tucked in nicely behind the leaders; however, based on the overall sample sizes it is not a strong conclusion. Taking the good ground data (where there is the biggest sample, 71 races) the pace profile is relatively flat in comparison to some of the numbers we’ve seen on other tracks. However, caution is advised on likely leaders in deeper underfoot conditions.

*

I hope that is of some use to you over the winter and beyond. Forget the Derby, I’m already looking forward to Dr. Newland at Uttoxeter next summer!

- JS

Punting Angles: Kempton Park

Kempton Park is dripping in racing heritage, having staged its first event more than 140 years ago, writes Jon Shenton.  However, it is the polytrack racing that has been the most prominent fixture from 2006, and that will form the content for today’s piece. There are plenty of data to get stuck in to, hardly surprising considering the number of fixtures at the venue.

The course map reminds us that Kempton is the only right-handed all-weather track in the UK, and it also highlights the existence of two racing loops. Only the five-furlong and 1m 2f trips use the inner ring, the other distances all charting the outer course.

As a supplementary starter, if you want a real expert opinion on the track, David Probert’s blog was published on geegeez a few months ago and contains some very useful first-hand snippets from a rider’s perspective.  It certainly sets the scene nicely for this article if you have time.

https://www.geegeez.co.uk/catching-up-with-david-probert/

Kempton AW Trainers: Richard Fahey

As usual, let us first delve into the performance of trainers at the track. Before getting into the positive angles it’s worth noting a high-profile and generally prolific yard that appears to a have a few challenges at the Sunbury circuit.

The above data represent the powerhouse Richard Fahey team at Kempton from 2012 onwards. A strike rate of less than 4% is not fantastic by any measure and such runners should perhaps be given second thoughts prior to investment. That said, earlier in 2019 George Bowen was a Class 2 winner from just three runners this year.

Kempton AW Trainers: General

Moving into positive territory, below are the best performing trainers (still active) at the track since the same 2012 date.

To qualify for the table, 75 runners are required with minimum at SP’s of 20/1 or less and a bar of an A/E of over 1.10 needs to be overcome.

Frankly, the list is quite underwhelming in terms of potential angle development. All are probably worthy of further analysis, but nothing really jumps off the page.

Kempton AW Trainers: Rae Guest

However, for some reason it feels impolite to move on without at least a cursory glance at the top of the list. So, with that in mind, an evaluation of Rae Guest’s numbers is in order.

I find that a key factor to always consider when analysing all-weather data is the time of year. I’m now into my fourth annual wagering cycle and am getting a better feel for performance variation and seasonality impact within my portfolio. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles all-weather punting is my staple diet and where most of my effort is centred.

However, being brutally honest, my all-weather angles generally under-perform over the summer months. It may be usual variance but each summer I watch my bank (from AW) glide downwards to then power up over the the winter. It makes sense, the majority of AW racing occurs through the colder months with many yards gearing around the season, or potentially focussing their efforts elsewhere during the summer months.

The Rae Guest info does show some of the hallmarks of that fallow summer performance. The below table illustrates the yard results at Kempton for May to August (inclusive)

Granted, not a huge number of runners, but not the best record either. It seems logical to check this record by opening the data to the yard’s performance across all AW tracks over the same period to see if there is a general downturn or if it’s course specific.

It’s a slightly better record, but still somewhat underwhelming as a collective.  The companion data (from the other months) across the artificial tracks may be of interest and is as follows:

That’s a pretty impressive record relating to over 300 runners and indicates the Guest yard is generally one to track on the artificial surfaces.

Delving deeper, here is a view of performance by race class.

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The data above show a 1-from-18 record in Class 1 to 3. That’s most likely a representation of the materials available to the yard in terms of equine talent rather than any training limitation. It might be argued that Class 4 races are marginal from a betting perspective, too, with a strike rate of 11.6% and an A/E of 0.72 but for now, at least, they remain included.

There is also something very interesting when splitting out Guest runners by gender as the numbers below illustrate:

Taking the not specified gender (I assume missing data) out of the equation over 80% of the horses competing for Guest are female. This is quite unusual and even more interesting is that these female animals are outperforming their male counterparts, at least in market terms (A/E 1.30 vs. 0.98).  It must be noted that strike rates and IV are broadly similar.

In general terms, fillies and mares underperform on the artificial surfaces compared to colts and geldings. Strike rates for females are approx. 12.5% vs 14.2% for the male runners with A/E measuring 0.85 vs 0.88 since 2012, that’s an evaluation of 145,000 runners. Therefore, the Rae Guest yard seems to buck the trend and consequently there could be value in backing his fillies as a result. Perusing their website for horses currently in training, the majority are fillies so perhaps it is as simple as specialising in the development and training of the fairer sex. Nevertheless, it is worth noting all the same.

Suggestion: Back Female Rae Guest All Weather runners from September through to April in Class 4-7 races at an SP of 20/1 or less

 

Draw at Kempton

To search for clues in terms of which race distances to drill down into, the table below contains a summary of all distances up to a mile and a half using the Draw Analyser tool from the Gold toolkit.

Essentially the numbers demonstrate by race distance the average IV3 number (Impact Value of a stall and its nearest adjacent stalls) for each draw. It’s not perfect, but it does offer solid indications regarding where to look more closely, as well as giving a good reference table for general study. A summary of the key findings are:

  • The low draw bias looks most acute on the inner-course 5-furlong trip
  • Inside/low draws also appear to be beneficial for other distances up to 7-furlongs
  • Races at a mile and above show a slight accent to favouring more mid-range draws, with perhaps the most pronounced being for the mile and a quarter (10f) trip around the inner loop.

On the back of that it seems prudent that a detailed analysis of the two inner-course trips would be the most sensible use of word count.

Kempton 5 Furlong Draw and Pace

Firstly, a point of order: with all races at Kempton a low draw is closest to the inside rail and all data from here on relates to Standard and Standard/Slow going using actual stall position (not card number), that is taking out non-runners.

Over the minimum, at least half of the burn-up takes place around the inner course bend, so a low draw can mean travelling a shorter distance than the competition because claiming a spot close to the rail should be a simpler task.

The above table shows the numbers in more detail by specific field sizes (the column RN means number of runners). It’s in the usual format for regular readers. If you’re new to it then the left-hand section shows the IV3 number for each stall position by number of runners; the right-hand table shows performance in relation to early track position, i.e. pace, for the same field sizes.

Firstly, draw. The green colours are largely concentrated in the lower stall numbers, confirming the reasonable bias towards these positions. Interestingly, the greater the number of runners the more pronounced the bias appears to be. Incidentally, the maximum number of entrants over the five-furlong distance is twelve; however, the volume of races with a full field is very small so I’ve ignored them within this analysis.

The pace data is very interesting. In very basic terms, the horse that gets to the front early has at least twice the chance of emerging victorious: early speed is a huge advantage.

Given what we know about the five-furlong course topology, we’d expect to see that. If an animal can get to the front around the tight inner course loop it’s going to be in pole position, given the almost constant turning nature of the trip.

Early pace is undoubtedly a great asset, a low draw is also a great asset. So, combining both, surely must be a licence to print money? Well, yes and no, it’s not quite as simple as that. Why? Because it’s widely understood that a low draw is advantageous on the Kempton polytrack, so it’s probable that stall position is factored into available prices.

To establish the effect of the draw on value, the below table contains the equivalent A/E information for the race set ups covered in the IV3 table. As a quick reminder, A/E is an index of market value where 1 is neither good nor poor value, and a number above or below is good or poor respectively. The further away from 1, the better or worse things are.

The numbers do arguably ratify that the market has stall position covered in its starting prices.  The average (AVG) data confirms that A/E performance, whilst marginally better in the lower draws isn’t market busting by any means with averages for stalls 1-3 around the 1.00 mark: eking out a profit from picking low drawn runners may be a long-term challenge despite the clear higher propensity for providing winners, at least at industry SP.

If draw doesn’t necessarily give the edge that is craved, perhaps pace can. To try and get under the skin of the impact of pace by stall position, Gold’s Query Tool can assist.

The next table is using the tool data purely with the purpose of analysing only front runners by field size and starting gate. The reason for doing this is to try to understand if there is any commercial advantage in identifying these leaders by stall position.

The filters used in QT are:

Distance:            5-furlongs

Course:               Kempton

Race date:          1/1/2012 or later

Pace score:        4 (which is used to designate the early speed/lead horse)

The data is split by number of runners and again shows the A/E (performance against market expectation).

Initially, it appears that it’s a stiff ask to win from the widest draws even if the horse is an early speed merchant.  There is the most sizeable of sizeable caveats here though: the data samples are miniscule in places (so, for example, horses in stalls 9 and 10 in field sizes of 10-11 have only led in six races at this distance, with no leaders from stall 11).

These numbers confirm that front runners beat the market under all conditions apart from the aforementioned widest of the wide (the zero in stall 4, field sizes 6-7 is simply a quirk of a small data set). The numbers do, however, indicate greater value in the mid to wide gates, particularly in bigger fields. Small samples notwithstanding, this is worth due consideration.

To illustrate this point as a final check, here is the raw data from the Draw Analyser tool for races of 9-11 runners. The data contained within the blue dotted line illustrate the fate of the early pace (led) horse by draw position, split into thirds.  Win% across low/med/high is consistent at 22-25%, IV is marginally better in the lower drawn animals, emphasising they are more likely winners. But A/E is comfortably at its strongest in the higher drawn leaders at 1.81.

Looking for speed first, draw second and not self-talking myself out of a value play because of a wide stall is the main lesson I’ve taken from this info. Very similar to the last article on Chelmsford in that respect.

Suggestion: Try to identify the early leader in five-furlong races at Kempton

 

Kempton 1m2f Draw and Pace

Before wrapping up, a quick overview of the Kempton mile-and-a-quarter landscape is in order. A reminder that, if anything, there was a mid-to-high draw bias indicated in the initial numbers which piqued interest levels, and also keep in mind that this range also uses the tighter inner loop with the shorter finishing straight.

Below is the now standard format for assessing the pace and draw data.

The data seem to illustrate a reasonably fair and flat draw profile, apart from perhaps the outer stalls in large fields where it seems there may be too much to do.

The lowest gate numbers become increasingly difficult when the number of runners increases to 11 or greater. That is probably when horses are starved of room in the larger herd when forced/taken back during the early stages.

There is no doubt that a mid to “quite” high draw is no bad thing over this course and distance which is a mild surprise given the tight nature of the inner loop. However, in relative terms there is ample time from the starting position to the first bend, and up the back straight, for most horses / jockeys to find a position and avoid a wide trip.

These mid-range draws seem to offer greater flexibility in the run, giving lead animals the chance to get out in front, while hold up horses have less propensity for being trapped at the business end of the race.

Again, early pace is advantageous, as it is in most circumstances. However, the benefit isn’t quite as marked as some of the other trips or courses analysed in this series. In fact, the Hold-Up and Mid Div numbers hold up (!) relatively well considering there will likely be plenty of also-rans contained therein.

Using the draw analyser summary for the 11-14 field sizes (where low draws seem to underperform), the blue dotted box shows the challenge faced by a held-up low drawn horse.  Ridden for luck appears to be generally unlucky in this case. Any horse that is generally slowly away or repeatedly held back at the start should be treated with the utmost caution over this trip if its stall number is low.

Yet again, though, there appears to be some value to be gained from high-drawn leaders if they can be discovered (red dotted line). The prominent high-drawn animals don’t perform too badly either in market terms.

Hopefully the above ruminations will assist during the upcoming winter nights when poring over the Kempton form.

 - JS

 

Punting Angles: Chelmsford City Racecourse Part 2

In the previous article I focused on some angles for playing the polytrack at the Essex course at Chelmsford City, writes Jon Shenton. To be brutally honest, keeping the word count down to something sensible proved impossible and stumps were drawn as the light was fading late in the evening.

However, after a short break it’s time to pad up again, get back to the crease and finish building this meaningful innings. If you missed Part 1, or want to revisit it, you can do so here.

First up today, let’s look at some stallion data.

Stallion performance at Chelmsford

Using geegeez.co.uk’s Query Tool and evaluating all runs at Chelmsford with SP’s of 20/1 or shorter we get the following list of stallions with A/E values of greater than 1.00 (where they have had 100 runners or more).  The data is sorted in descending A/E order.

 

These articles have already discussed the merits of Lope De Vega progeny on all-weather surfaces, especially at Gosforth Park, Newcastle. That stallion also has a perfectly respectable Chelmsford record. Analysing “Lope” runners by race distance at Chelmsford gives the following picture:

 

There appears to be a distinct variance in performance between races of a mile or shorter and those longer than the 8-furlong trip. His progeny’s record beyond a mile is 4 wins from 33 whilst the numbers at up to a mile show a highly competent 18/72.

 

It’s not the most conclusive, or robust, angle in the portfolio but is worth tracking as it may develop into something a little more solid over time. If you have time, do re-visit Lope De Vega at Newcastle (see article link above), the stats are stronger for that course.

Top of the table is Medicean, so it would be impolite to move on without further reference to his progeny.  Again, here are the numbers based on race distance in the table below:

 

Like Lope De Vega, there is a split at around the mile distance: 6/47 at the longer trips and 20/92 over shorter.

Medicean retired from stud duties a couple of years ago so this angle has a limited shelf life, in truth it is probably reducing in relevance already. However, there are still winners to be had (Sharp Operator went in on the 24th September for example). It’s one to keep an eye on, rather than build as a cornerstone of a punting portfolio. Interesting yes, unmissable no.

 

5 furlong races

Let’s go back to the specific race distances, starting with the fast and furious five-furlong burn ups. The course map illustrates how they break near the bend at the end of the back straight.

Like some other courses I’ve evaluated in this series, the Chelmsford five has all the hallmarks of suiting a low drawn early pace speed merchant.

Evaluating in more detail using the tried and (semi) tested approach from part 1 sheds light on the hypothesis.

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For those not familiar with the layout;  the table is a combination of draw bias in the left hand box (using the draw analyser IV3 numbers) and the Pace profile (Pace Analyser with IV) consolidated on one table on the right hand side, by number of runners in a given race.

For more detail on the numbers and what they mean I noticed Matt had addressed this particular subject in his “Silly Question Friday part 2” post, which you can find here.

The tables above cover all races over five furlongs at Chelmsford on Standard or Standard/Slow surfaces (very small number of events on the latter going) and relate to the actual stall position, not the drawn stall number (this simply adjusts for non-runners). It’s quite helpful that the maximum field size at this trip is 12 meaning there is a bit less eye-bleeding data manipulation to get through (secretly enjoyed!).

First impressions are that the bias is less apparent than I was expecting. In my mind I expected to see a sea of green to the left on the draw table (good) and an expansive pit of red on the right (bad).   Whilst there is undoubtedly a tendency towards those drawn on the inside, with stall 1 looking very healthy, it’s far from a binary profile. Plenty of animals are prevailing from wider stall positions. That said, the outside two stalls marginally underperform in almost all field sizes.

Pace, however, is much more clear cut. Shifting our gaze to the table on the right, we can see early leaders are universally green in nature with IV performance of a minimum of 1.5 in all cases. To be clear for those still not au fait with Impact Value (IV), that means early leaders are at least one-and-a-half times more likely to win than horses adopting other run styles.

Prominent runners fare reasonably well but those raced more steadily through the early stages generally have it all to do at the sharp end.

The main inference from these data, in reasonably strong terms, is that pace is of greater importance than stall position at five furlongs.

The best / easiest way of performing a quick check-in to see if this holds true is to use the heat map on draw analyser. In this case below I’ve taken data for field sizes of 8 and 9 (illustrating IV). However, it is straightforward to check other field sizes using the tool. As always drop me a note in the comments or on twitter if you need any guidance.

The exact numbers are always interesting; however, the colour coding shows you really what you need to know. The map does show that a low draw is perhaps more forgiving if an early leading position is not secured, but there is no doubt overall that ‘(early) pace wins the race’.

Whilst all of this is nice and makes perfect sense there is another side to the coin: the value side.

My pre-conceived belief was that low draws would be where the action is. When I wager at Chelmsford this is ingrained in my psyche and is always the first thing I look for. Whether this has been picked up through media talk, using Geegeez, or typically what I’ve seen at other tracks I’m not sure. But if I believed it, I surely can’t be the only one?

If I’m not alone then it’s highly possible that a low draw at Chelmo is in danger of being overbet. If the claim that pace is more important than draw holds true then maybe wider drawn, pacy animals are a great betting opportunity. Yes, sure, winners are more likely to be unearthed from lower stall positions, but perhaps the value is elsewhere with the market underestimating higher gate numbers.

The most effective way to check in the toolkit is to repeat the table format, but this time using the A/E number (again, details of A/E, Actual / Expected, can be found here). As with IV, the higher the number the better, with 1.00 being par performance (in a perfect world with no over-round for the bookies).

 

Interesting? The picture is choppy for sure, mainly due to the small datasets derived by analysing each stall position based on field size (manifesting a few zeroes, for example).

However, I’m confident that there is a greener hue to the right side of the table than the left; maybe not rainforest green but certainly including tinges of Kermit in comparison to the Bert-and-Ernie-like yellowness of the left-hand side.

This table is effectively confirming that the low stalls are broadly over-bet.

Taking stall one as an individual case study, in the first table in this section this berth has an IV3 of 1.28. It’s not a perfect measure but it sufficiently makes the point that winners are quite likely to originate from the inside box when compared to the average. The A/E comparison scores for stall one are all below that level (illustrated by the blue dotted outline), in some cases significantly.

The bottom line is that by backing trap one blindly in five-furlong races winners should be plentiful but cash will probably be conceded: the market has sussed it already.

To re-enforce / labour the point, below is a cut from the draw analyser which splits the draw into low/mid/high segments in field sizes of 8+.

The image confirms the assertion, namely generic low draws have an IV of 1.04 but an A/E of only 0.73. Conversely, high stall positions struggle in relative terms with IV (0.8) but have a higher A/E at 0.88.

However, when considering run style, we can see that those which led early – especially from wider out – have been very profitable to follow. Indeed, breaking fast from a wide draw may enable a horse to cut the first corner and carry more speed into that turn.

 

What does that mean? Simply that value can be found in the wider stall positions when there is early pace thereabouts.

In conclusion, with regards to the Chelmsford five-furlong range:

  • Finding the early leader (or at least a horse that is prominent) is the key factor in establishing a likely winner of the race
  • A lower drawn horse is more likely to prevail over the distance; however, there is evidence that the market overcompensates for the low draw.
  • A horse drawn in a middle to high stall is more likely to generate a long-term profit, especially if able to show early speed.

 

6 furlong races

Moving up by a furlong to the three quarters of a mile trip, runners start well down the back straight, thus giving jockeys and horses more time and room to sort out their positions before the bend. The maximum field size over this distance is 14. However, there have only been 31 races with a combined 13 or 14 runners so I’m going to leave these on the bench for the data analysis.

 

The table shows that, arguably, the bias over six towards low stalls is stronger than that over five. Most of the stall 1 and 2 data is green in nature, indicating that winners are more likely to originate from those positions than anywhere else. This holds true particularly well where there are 9 or fewer horses taking part.

Where there are ten or more participants the picture is less clear. It may be related to sample size (22 races with 12 runners compared to say 60 with 8 entrants), or it may be related to greater scope for congestion; but there isn’t anything too obvious – in my mind at least – to explain why the larger field sizes shape differently.

One thing that is not open to question is the effect of pace on the outcome of six-furlong races: yet again, being at the front end early pays handsomely.

Based on both the draw and pace details you’d expect a low drawn trailblazer to be of primary interest and, whilst that is true, as with the minimum trip pace seems to be the kingmaker. The heat map below shows IV performance for field sizes of 8-10, and is unambiguous in terms of how most winners race.

 

In this case the low drawn early speed combination appears to be almost unbeatable, but the enduring message is that if a runner is held up, dropped in or generally in the hustle and bustle of midfield it’s a big ask to pass the speed horses.

The same assertion made for five furlongs about lower draws being overbet could hold true over this course and distance too. I did repeat the full table treatment but for the sake of brevity here is the same broad-brush view covering all field sizes that have been analysed.

It’s the same story again, low draw equals higher overall probability of winning (IV 1.18) but the A/E doesn’t match it at 0.81.  But overlaying pace onto the equation is the route to profit, especially away from the ‘obvious’ inside berths.

A footnote on Pace

This may or not be of interest to some of you but it’s worthy of inclusion in my view.  When I started working with pace there was something gnawing away that didn’t sit right with me.

It comes down to the fact that any given race there is only one horse that is tagged as led/leader and there can be several tagged as held up, mid-division or prominent.

It is logical horses that also-rans are far more likely to be contained within the held up (or mid-division) classification. They start near the back and stay near the back! Could it be, then, that these no-hopers skew the data for the off-the-pace categories and in fact a quality hold up horse has the same chance of winning as a quality front-running animal?

To scratch this itch, analysing the performance of favourites by how they are ridden is a logical method. And what better way to do it than by evaluating the five- and six-furlong races at Chelmsford contained in this article?

The below table shows the performance of favourites in sprint races by early run style:

The pace aspect holds up! Leader favourites outperform the market with an A/E of 1.27 and a whopping IV of 3.89! Those market toppers which are dropped in have an A/E of just 0.62, which equates to a negative 40% ROI. Ouch. These data satisfactorily allayed my own curiosity and fears, anyway!

That about wraps up this Chelmsford two-parter covering as it has trainers, sires, and delving into races over 5, 6, 7 and 8 furlongs in fine detail. I hope you’ve found at least of something of use.

The regularity of racing at the all-weather tracks means data are more readily available than their turf counterparts and I’d fully recommend the geeky/curious amongst you to get stuck in to analysing racing on the artificial surfaces as a starting point.

  • JS

Punting Angles: Chelmsford City Racecourse Part 1

After a short summer break recharging the batteries (in theory) it’s time to get back to work and begin preparations for the onset of winter, writes Jon Shenton. That doesn’t mean National Hunt yet, I’m afraid. Rather, we’re going to get stuck into the polytrack of Chelmsford, hopefully stealing a march by doing some early research before the real all-weather schedule starts to kick in.

Chelmsford Overview

‘Chelmo’ has been a fixture of the racing calendar from 2015, ignoring its brief prior incarnation as Great Leighs in 2008, and is widely known for offering impressive prize money. In 2018 £5.2m was shared across 63 fixtures according to the official website. That, as well as the track’s proximity to the Newmarket training centre, has arguably led to a better quality of racing on this artificial surface than any of the others.

The track constitution is illustrated in the course map below. It is just about a mile in circumference and the turns are relatively broad and sweeping in nature, sufficiently so to develop a turf track to sit inside the current AW oval. There are chutes for the seven- and eight-furlong starts, more of which later.

 

Chelmsford Top Trainers

Before checking out specific race distances, we’ll adopt our usual tactic of scanning the trainer ranks for potential profit.

Usually in this series of articles data relates from 2012 to present day. However, as Chelmsford has only been up and running for four years, there are obviously less data to go on in terms of overall duration. However, that is more than compensated for by the fact that in its brief existence there have been over 17,000 runners at the track. To put that into perspective there have been fewer than 7,000 runners at Epsom from 2009 to date. All data in this article covers racing up to Friday 30th August 2019.

 

Trainer Performance

Using geegeez.co.uk’s Query Tool, the below table shows all trainers with an A/E performance of greater than 1.00, concentrating only on runners sent off at 20/1 or shorter; and there needs to be a minimum of 100 runners for a trainer to qualify.

 

 

The top pair of Charlie Wallis and Derek Shaw are certainly of interest, perhaps David Simcock too.  Aside from that at this helicopter level, there isn’t too much to get excited about.

 

Charlie Wallis

Wallis’s stable is based in Essex so the relatively high volume of runners at his local track makes sense. It’s noteworthy that the yard has a real all-weather specialism, with over 70% of their total runners appearing on artificial surfaces. Being a relatively new team (training since 2015), this may change as the operation develops and progresses. Until then, runners from the team are well worth monitoring here.

Analysing Wallis animals by the distance at which they have competed results in the following splits:

 

Sprinting is obviously a key focus. A large proportion of runs, wins and returns have been sourced over the 5- and 6-furlong ranges. For angle building I’m only interested in these short distances although you could easily argue that the sample sizes over further are insignificant and, in time, they may show similar performance to the sprints. That might be the case but I’m happy to stick with the larger samples up to three-quarters of a mile.

Wallis over 5&6 at Chelmsford puts up some nice numbers without too many more filters. If I were being a perfectionist, it’s preferable that one of his has had a recent run. Using horseracebase.com to drill down further, the yard has never had a winner (on any course) when a horse has been off the track for more than 90 days and, ideally, a run in the last 45 days would be optimal for this angle.

 

SUGGESTION: Back Charlie Wallis runners at 20/1 or shorter over 5 and 6 furlongs at Chelmsford, [Optional, exclude horses that have not run in the last 45 days.]

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Derek Shaw

Moving on, Derek Shaw is another cornerstone of UK all-weather racing and, much like Wallis, a similar proportion (70% or thereabouts) of the yard’s activity is focused on the ‘sand’.

Checking the performance of his 248 runners by SP provides something on which to chew. The data below are for horses running at Chelmsford with an SP of 12/1 or bigger.

 

With only five winners from 81 bets and a strike rate of a smidgen over 6% in my view it’s marginal whether it would be worth fishing in that pool long term. However, taking all Shaw Chelmsford runners at 11/1 or shorter we build a potentially compelling picture when further analysing by race class:

 

It’s crystal clear that there is a division between performance in classes 2 and 3, and in classes 4-7. I think it’s not unreasonable to assert that the Shaw string wouldn’t contain the best raw materials in terms of racing talent with which to work. Perhaps some of the better class races are just a notch too high for the animals at Shaw’s disposal.

 

SUGGESTION: As always, simplicity is best and that’ll do for me, back Derek Shaw at Chelmsford in Class 4-7 races where the SP is 11/1 or shorter.

 

Without too much delving, those are two straightforward angles to file away in your QT Angles for use over the main all-weather season and beyond.

 

Ian Williams

One other worth bringing to your attention, though just bubbling under the 100-runner level (with 96), is Ian Williams. I don’t propose to go into detail here, but his numbers are worth keeping in mind (and perhaps researching yourself if you have the time).

 

Short Priced / Fancied Runners at Chelmsford

As you may have noted from previous columns, I’ve started to get a bit of a taste for angles focusing on shorter price runners. The table below simply illustrates the record of trainers where runners have an SP of 5/1 or shorter (50 runs minimum).

 

Obviously, there is some duplication with the trainer data presented earlier; Wallis and Shaw predictably are prominent (Williams too). Of the others, at first glance Messrs. Dwyer, Tate and Easterby appear to be potentially worthy of shortlisting when the cash is down. No doubt that some of these could stand alone as angles. However, before piling in it would be highly advisable to check consistency of performance. Based on samples of this relatively small magnitude it is perfectly plausible that the inclusion on this table is attributable to a golden year or two.

 

Specific Chelmsford Race Distance Analyses

One mile races

One advantage of the all-weather is that we can almost take one of the key variables in racing out of the equation. Changes in underfoot conditions are less prevalent, though weather variance can affect the surface more than the official going relates; so, coupled with the abundance of meetings on the AW tracks, there is nearly always a rich source of data regarding pace and draw to delve into.  Virtually all races at Chelmsford are on Standard, however, there are a handful of Standard/Slow contests included in the analysis from this point onwards.

Our first zoom into the profile of a specific trip is over the mile. If we refresh our memories from the course map, the start is located in a chute and there is approximately a furlong and a half of racing prior to the first left hand bend, where the runners join the main track. That does not give much time to secure a good early position, and being trapped deep on that first bend is a realistic danger.  In other words, there is a whiff of low draw bias about the set up here, especially in bigger fields.

I’ve compiled the draw and pace data and attempted to consolidate it in a single table. At first glance it may appear complicated, but hopefully with a small bit of explaining will be quite simple.

 

The table is basically a mash-up of draw bias (using the draw analyser IV3 numbers) and the pace profile (Pace Analyser with IV) consolidated on one table by number of runners.

A quick refresher of what IV3 means: it is simply the average Impact Value of a stall and its nearest neighbours. For instance, the IV3 of stall six would be the average IV of stalls 5, 6 and 7

The numbers are one thing, and the colours are another, but what does it mean and how can the insight be used to optimise our chances in finding potential winners?

Broadly speaking, the greenish tinged numbers represent good performance with the red ones conversely not so good (as Sven might say).

Without doubt, there are more green shades in the lower box numbers, indicating the expected low draw bias. This appears to hold true for all field sizes too: an inside draw is a positive when assessing the merits of an individual horse.

Moving across to the pace box to the right, the green numbers are concentrated around the leading and prominent runners.  At first glance it looks like an early-to-the-lead horse is the most desirable.  On closer inspection, however, we see that a prominent runner is arguably as valuable in terms of winning potential for most field sizes. The deep green relating to leaders in 13/14 runner races fields (data based on small samples of 24 and 20 respectively) gives a possible visual skew to the data.  What is in no doubt is that being up with the speed is highly desirable and, related, hold up horses generally have it to do.

Low daws are good, and early speed is good, but what happens when they are combined? That’s where our old friend the draw/pace heatmap (found at the bottom of the DRAW tab on flat race cards) can offer some valuable insight.

Evaluating races where the number of runners is between 7 and 10 inclusive over a mile (chosen as they are the most common field sizes so sample size is larger) and consolidating in the heat map (IV) we get the following composition.

Heat Map of mile races at Chelmsford with 7-10 runners inclusive using IV

 

The heat map paints a very clear picture:

  • Low draws are desirable irrespective of run style
  • For those drawn in the middle, a prominent or leading style is preferable
  • For those drawn high, a front running style is the only favoured approach 

 

7 Furlong races

Before wrapping up, from reviewing the course map I thought it may be interesting to use the same approach over the seven-furlong trip. The hypothesis is that a low draw may be of less relevance as horses and riders have a full three furlongs to get a position before the first turn. Thus, it ought to be possible to negate the risk of being trapped out wide and, therefore, potentially ease the sort of draw bias seen at the mile distance.

 

Alas, the hypothesis doesn’t hold true as the data indicate that there is still a form of bias towards lower stalls when viewing through the prism of IV3. That said, the draw doesn’t appear to have too much effect until field sizes of nine or more are experienced. In the broadest terms stalls 1-6 seem to be better off than stalls 7 and above in almost any circumstances.

For larger fields of 13 and 14 runners there appears to be a strong bias to the lower numbers although, again, sample sizes are smaller. Usually that can be attributed to getting out of the gates and securing good track position early on, ordinarily up with the speed and avoiding hazards in running brought about by a congested field.

Again, a quick check of the heat map can help:

Heat Map of 7f races at Chelmsford with 13-14 runners inclusive (IV)

 

This view is only comprised of 41 races but it’s clear that a horse in a low stall has a stronger hand to play than its wider-drawn competitors in the biggest field sizes. If that same low drawn horse leads it has an IV of 3.81 which means, it’s nearly 4 times as likely to prevail as the average!

In the second part of this Chelmsford epic, I’ll cover sires, jockeys, the fate of favourites, as well as the impact of draw and pace on 5- and 6-furlong races.

Until then, thanks for reading.

- Jon S

Punting Angles: Haydock Racecourse

For this edition of Punting Angles, I’m going to concentrate on the enigmatic Haydock Park, writes Jon Shenton. Whilst the course is home to both National Hunt and Flat racing, it is the latter that I’ll be evaluating in this edition given the time of year. For whatever reason, it’s one of those tracks that seems difficult to read, racing developing on both rails and atop a seemingly unique range of underfoot conditions, "Haydock Soft and Heavy" almost becoming an official going description in its own right. The track is synonymous with horses slogging through bottomless ground in pursuit of glory.

 

Haydock Going

Although there isn’t too much of punting value in it, I still felt it would be of interest to benchmark how Haydock shaped compared to the rest of the UK in terms of the official going for races over the last five years.

The below graph illustrates the ground conditions for UK flat races.

 

Immediately, the orange bars relate that Haydock proportionately has much more racing on the easier side of good: it’s nearly four times as likely to race on heavy than the UK flat average too.

Knowing that may not directly help in the pursuit of profit; however, searching for mud-larks or horses whose sires loved sploshing around in the deep ground may be a pragmatic activity in preparation for a wet Haydock meeting.

 

Haydock Course Constitution

What about the course itself? The map below illustrates a tight loop with a straight up-to-6-furlong run. Based entirely on the map alone, curiosity is piqued with regards the draw for the 7-furlong trip. The journey from the stalls to the first bend appears to be an exceptionally short one implying that a wide berth could be a problem.

 

 

Haydock Trainer Angles

However, before checking that out and getting into individual race specifics, let’s first take our usual glance into the world of trainer performance. Using Query Tool, I'm evaluating all runners from 2012 with an SP of 20/1 or shorter. A minimum of 50 runs is required at an A/E of greater than 1 to secure a position in the top trainer table below.

 

 

There is much upon which to mull here.

Despite the relatively small number of runners, Hugo Palmer's figures offer something to satisfy even the most voracious appetites in angle finding.

Keeping it simple by analysing the yard's runners by market strength, the following split in performance is observed.

 

There is a very clear dichotomy here in terms of a Palmer runner which has been supported versus one that has not. Notably, with a place record of 70% on those runners sent off at 11/2 or shorter it has been even more profitable to back each way, albeit to double the stake.

Of course, on a sample size like this, it only takes a single 20/1 winner on the next day to create a profitable “unfancied” segment. The cliché of fine margins applies without doubt and there is a chance (probably a 20/1 one) that I'll endure an element of regret as a Palmer animal bolts up at a big price here in the near future. However, with my cool data-driven mind I’d rather sup regularly in moderation than binge excessively once in a blue moon. Albeit there is a place for both, I’m sure!

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Suggestion: back Hugo Palmer runners at Haydock where they’re supported in to 11/2 or shorter

 

Second stop on the trainer list is the seemingly ubiquitous Tom Dascombe who has a prolific volume of runners at the track.  It’s impressive in terms of pure scale but to beat the market with an A/E of 1.15 over so many runners is quite a rare feat.

Looking a little more closely, there is a noteworthy split along race class lines.

 

The competitive stuff of class 1 and 2 racing is obviously more of a challenge and it is likely that these races attract more top yards and animals thus making it tougher for the Dascombe runners to prevail even with home advantage. Whilst the performance of his charges is perfectly respectable in those upper echelons, I’m happy to pass them over in punting angle terms.

There is also a clear distinction between relative performance in handicap / non-handicap races in the Class 3 to 5 races, as can be seen below:

 

The table is unambiguous: handicap racing is where it’s at for Tom Dascombe's Haydock horses.

Suggestion: back Tom Dascombe Handicap runners at 20/1 or shorter in Class 3, 4 and 5 races

 

[As a footnote, it’s not unheard of that the yard fires in the odd big-priced scorer at the track. If you’re inclined to play with fire, there are worse places to go than a Haydock Dascombe runner to satisfy those punting pyromaniac tendencies. In C3-C5 races he has had 6 winners from 65 at SP odds of 20/1 or greater across all race types, which is somewhere between great and probably unsustainable!]

 

Ordinarily sticking with a deep dive in to the record of two trainers from the top table would be enough, but seeing John Gosden playing a prominent role means it would be negligent to let him pass by without further evaluation.

A good starting point with Gosden, Stoute, Charlie Appleby and the like is always to check performance by distance given their predominate modus operandi is to dominate the middle-distance division. Checking Gosden entrants at Haydock by race length gives the below breakdown:

 

Sure enough, sprint race performance is less compelling. Plenty of winners, yes, strong IV, definitely; but finding winners doesn’t always mean value.  Despite a strike rate of over 20% the return over 5, 6 and 7 furlongs is not a positive one. To eke out profit it appears as though an even healthier strike rate of over 30% is required. Happily, this has been apparent at distances of a mile or greater: 31 winners from 93 runs, a nice round third. A 68% ROI is not to be sniffed at either.

Suggestion: back John Gosden runners ay Haydock at 20/1 or shorter from races of 1 mile or greater in distance

Haydock by race distance

Moving on from the trio of trainers, let us now evaluate the shape of races at the track.

7 furlong races

As you will recall, I was particularly interested in the 7-furlong trip based on the course map. The left-hand bend which is seemingly close to the start could result in some interesting pace and draw snippets, with an expectation that low draws close to the rail should have the best of it.

Using the Draw Analyser Tool and combining the heat maps for draw position and field size for Impact Value (how likely a horse will win from that position with 1.00 being par) we get the below data to evaluate relating to the whole spectrum of ground conditions.

 

 

Conclusions are probably less obvious in the data above than they have been in previous articles. However, there are still some noteworthy and useful outputs to consider.

Firstly, evaluating hold up runners, there is a big stripe of red (Red Stripe?) confirming that it’s a tough gig for a horse that’s held up to win from a high draw. This also applies to middle stall positions in larger sized fields (see the top of the dotted black box).

In general terms it is spoken often that a high stall position is less relevant for animals who race by stalking from the rear as they can drop in and wait. However, these data show that adopting the waiting tactic from wide over seven at Haydock is not generally a good plan. This is surprising, or at least mildly counter-intuitive, as the home straight is over half a mile in length, giving hold-up horses plenty of time to wind up and make their move. It is hard to argue with the facts, though.

The data also appear to indicate that it’s not a productive strategy to try and secure an early leading or prominent position from a wider draw in middle- to large-sized fields (the red coloured zeroes on the table). Through watching race replays this starts to make sense. Horses sharply away from wider stalls have only a small run to get across to the rail / near the front prior to the the bend; if they fail to get a front berth quickly enough, they face the issue of being trapped wide and covering significant additional ground.

Even if they get out apace, given the proximity of the bend, all it takes is for one or two from inside stalls to be away well and it’s difficult for the wider drawn speedster. As the turn develops, our wide trailblazer has the choice of burning through more juice to get to the front or travelling further: both potentially terminal to the chances of him or her winning the race.

When investigating this, I expected a variance based on ground conditions. Surprisingly though, and broadly speaking, the conclusions work in all racing circumstances. If anything, high draws have it even tougher as the going deteriorates though data is quite sparse from which to draw anything more than lukewarm conclusions.

Low drawn and/or early pacers look to be generally the best bet on a consistent basis (the blue dotted boxes), as expected. Although, like a lot of other courses, it appears as though early speed is of more importance than draw, unless the horse has a starting position in the proverbial car park in a big field, as already mentioned.

 

Haydock Straight Track races

As noted previously the straight track at Haydock stretches for trips up to six furlongs in length.  Evaluating the draw using the analyser tool again for all ground conditions and number of runners for the straight track paints the following picture:

The data displayed relates to the IV3 calculation. I’ve picked this to try and smooth out variance and noise to help illustrate a general pattern. A definition of IV3 is simply an average Impact Value of a stall and its nearest neighbours. For instance, the IV3 of stall six would be the average IV of stalls 5, 6 and 7.

There is an indication that, irrespective of the number of runners, there is a definite bias to horses with higher stall numbers. The red and amber colours represent draw positions which are less likely to house the victorious horses. Green is good and it would be anticipated that based on historical performance horses that prevail are more likely to start from these stalls.

There is a line displaying the straightforward mean average (AVG) for each stall position which reminds me of the pH chart from my gruelling chemistry lessons in times gone by (even though it’s the wrong colour). Anyway, progressing from low to high the hue gravitates from an angry dark orange to a lovely tree-hugging green, showing that, on balance, low stalls are not the place to be drawn.

With that intel in the bank we can add a bit of spice by applying some complementary pace data.

Taking the minimum trip alone in the first instance.

 

The data is split by field sizes, and the information shown represents the IV data for each run style by underfoot conditions. The column entitled "races" simply represents the number of races that are included in each line of data. You can then draw your own conclusions based on sample size.

The field size 12-16+ (data on the left) has a limited sample size contained therein so firm conclusions are not sensible. Having said that, on a sounder surface it appears to be a challenge to win from the very rear; instead front runners boss proceedings. Whilst on the sludge of a Haydock soft or heavyTM surface, hold up (and mid division) run styles seem to be the way to go.

Is there something in that? Maybe, but I’m not sure as we only have eight races to go on for those relatively deep ground conditions. Sectional timing may help us understand these things one day as it may be that too fast a pace has collapsed setting things up for the closers on these small samples.  As things stand, it’s a bit of a leap of faith to assume it’s a true representation. Nonetheless, it is interesting.

The smaller field size data contradicts it, sadly. Broadly speaking, it pays to be on the pace over the five furlong range, where the prospect of less pace contention and, therefore, an ability to rate energy more efficiently is manifest.

Moving onto 6-furlong races, we get the following:

 

There is a little more data to go at over this distance. For all field sizes, horses that lead or are prominent early are most likely to win across all surface conditions. In larger fields there is an absolute bias to the lead horse.

 

Closing thoughts

In conclusion, when evaluating a Haydock race on the straight track the first item to look for is early speed, the second item should be a high-ish stall number. If both those boxes are ticked then it could be a good play, depending on the animal, of course.

A Dascombe or fancied Palmer runner on the straight track with early speed and a high draw would be a very exciting prospect, until it misses the kick anyway!

 - JS

Punting Angles: Beverley Racecourse

Now the 2019 Royal Ascot carnival is confined to history, my attention once again turns to finding some interesting insights on some of the UK’s less glitzy racecourses (which, in their defence, is all of them!), writes Jon Shenton.

Ascot may well be a full bodied, world-class (and expensive) Michelin star racing experience, but sometimes a hearty pub meal and a couple of pints hit the spot like nothing else.

So, clumsy metaphor out of the way, for this edition of punting angles, I’ll be focusing on the picturesque Yorkshire track of Beverley.

I enjoy this particular northern circuit. Fast and furious large field sprints spring to mind, as well as a large cast list of trainers, jockeys and owners which should lead to some reasonable angles and opportunities.

Let’s first take a look at the course map:

 

The diagram illustrates a couple of seemingly devilishly tight turns.  There is also a stiff uphill finish, the little red triangle pointing upwards indicating the highest point on the course is shortly after the finishing post, the lowest point being diagonally opposite. Thus, the final two and a half furlongs are a gradual climb, testing stamina as well as speed over shorter distances. Horses competing at the 5-furlong trip face an uphill task literally almost every step of the way.

 

Beverley trainers

Before analysing specifics regarding race distance profiles, a customary evaluation of trainer performance is in order. My starting filter is that all races from 2012 are included, but only where the runner SP is 20/1 or shorter.  50 runners are required to qualify in the table.

 

To be perfectly honest there doesn’t appear to be too much on here to get overly excited about.  The duo at the top of the table, plus potentially David O’Meara are probably the ones to focus on, if any.

Taking Richard Guest as an example, there is a definite point of interest from a punting perspective.  The Wetherby based operation has had only one solitary winner where there has been a SP of between 11/1 and 20/1 as the numbers below display:

 

The 10/1 or shorter row is a clear indication that market support for a Guest representative is a significant factor in assessing the likely performance of a stable runner.

Not much more to say on that, in truth.

However, whilst I was evaluating runners at the skinny end of the market, I noticed something that I think is worth bringing to your attention. Step forward, Mrs Ann Duffield. Hers is a yard I haven’t really taken a great deal of notice of previously from a data perspective: despite being a regular on the circuit I’ve never established anything robust in stats terms relating to runners from this stable.

 

The table above displays Duffield runners at the track, segmenting them between fancied and less well fancied runners. The delta between the two is noteworthy: just two winners from 127 runners at 6/1 or greater with a painful A/E of 0.25, IV 0.26 and a bankrupting ROI of -61%. Compare this to a strike rate of 35%, 54% ROI and IV of 3.05 for the shorter-priced entries and it’s looks like it’s potential party time when Duffield horses are towards the top of the market.

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We can go slightly further:

 

This table shows the 11/2 or shorter SP data by odds rank, i.e. the position of the horse in the market, 1 being favourite. It may be an arbitrary point, but it certainly appears as though there is a differential between the horses residing in the top two of the market and ones further down the pecking order.

 

I’ve earmarked an alert in my portfolio to track any Duffield shorty that is at the top 2 of the market at Beverley and is less than 11/2 in price.

 

I’m learning that this game is all about constant evolution, by nature I generally search for horses at the more speculative end of the market. However, the more data I crunch the more I’m learning to appreciate these sorts of shorter priced opportunities. They offer balance and, in a world of risk and reward, such angles can keep the wheels turning when the more ambitious plays are stuck in their inevitable ruts. At least in theory, anyway.

There are other trainers (Brian Ellison, Michael Bell to name but two) where market support appears to be of significance. The table below is for your reference and contains the Beverley A/E performance for each trainer for each odds bracket. To qualify, a minimum of 25 runners in the 6/1 or less category are required. These data hopefully show how I stumbled onto the Duffield angle.    This approach will, I think, become a staple of how I evaluate trainer and market support in the future.

 

That’s enough about trainers, maybe a bit too much in fact! Turning the focus, now, to a couple of the specific race distances that the course hosts during the summer months.

  

Beverley Five Furlongs

Over the minimum trip of five furlongs, races start from a chute beyond the home turn at the bottom of the home straight. It is not around a bend as such, but there is a pronounced dogleg to the right at about halfway and a general curvature in that same direction for much of the trip. This ordinarily would point to a low draw bias, as the low stall numbers are situated towards the far rail, therefore offering the shortest route to the finishing post.

As a result, it would make sense that low draw numbers generally prevail in 5f contests at Beverley given that topology of the trip. The numbers confirm the theory.

Draw bias (IV) at Beverley for races at 5f by field size on Good to Firm, Good and Good to soft ground

 

Using IV for races with ground conditions of good to firm, good and good to soft, the above table certainly points towards a low draw as being the place to be; or perhaps more accurately a high draw is the place to avoid.

There seems to be an indication of a low draw becoming more advantageous as the number of runners increases. This certainly makes some sense, any advantage from the general curvature of the track from a low draw should increase as the physical distance in starting position becomes greater between the low and high wings.

There is always (or should be) a companion piece when analysing the draw, namely pace. We already know that early speed in a general advantage in these sharp sprint races from Dave Renham’s excellent series on early speed.

Again, Impact Value (IV, or how often something happens in relation to its peer group, where 1 is ‘normal’ and the further away from 1 is better or worse) is my weapon of choice. The visual below is an attempt at recreating the heat map within the draw analyser but for multiple field sizes in the same table. Its content again covers the more rank and file ground conditions from good to firm through to good to soft. [When the ground is soft or heavy, the draw bias at Beverley can reverse with runners often making a beeline for the near side running rail].

 

To my eye, early speed is important almost irrespective of stall position. It does reaffirm that the larger the volume of competitors the more challenging it is to prevail form a high draw. The big fat zero for Led, High Draw and a field size of 14+ relates to 10 runners, 0 wins and only 2 places.   Not big numbers but a nil is a nil. More importantly, logic supports the notion that these runners are significantly inconvenienced by race conditions.

Prominent runners do remain competitive throughout, perhaps with a notable bias to the lower side of the draw in the medium and large fields. Horses with mid-division and held up run styles face both a literal and metaphorical uphill battle and a lot to overcome.

Of course, nothing is impossible, and any horse can win any race, as our editor is always reminding us! Even the red ‘danger zones’ in the table are generally populated with numbers above zero, meaning at least some winners are found even in these relatively hostile environments. It’s about playing the percentages, however, and hopefully by using data such as these, small incremental improvements can be attained to improve long term results.

 

Beverley 7.5-furlong races

I’m acutely aware that there is a danger of sounding like a broken record here.  However, the adage of pace wins the race is seldom more apt than in relation to events over the 7.5-furlong distance at Beverley.  The actual official distance is 7f and 96 yards so do bear that in mind as it can be advertised as a plain old seven. Those extra 90-something yards can be of critical importance, especially with the stiff uphill finish coming into play.

To get a feel for the track I find it’s a sensible idea to sit back, perhaps with a cold Peroni (or other suitable equally enjoyable beverage) and take in a few race replays. The course map shows those tight turns but by perusing visual evidence it’s much easier to comprehend and, ultimately, to bring data to life.

Even without the support of stats this trip has all the hallmarks of being a front runner’s playground.   Happily, this can be checked using Query Tool to confirm the hypothesis or disprove it.

I’ve used QT in this case (as opposed to the pace analyser) as I want to compare our subject matter course with other tracks in the UK.

 

The table above contains data relating to the fate of front-running animals at a 7f trip (to the nearest furlong). The query filters are simply, all races from the 2014 season up to 7th June 2019, Distance 7f and a Pace Score of 4 for the runner to denote front running status; and I’ve sorted by win percent.

In the UK, only Chester has a bias towards pace greater than Beverley at this distance.  It’s a great benchmark as we all know the benefit of early speed at the Roodee. For Beverley to be in the same ballpark is a pleasant and potentially useful surprise. The trailblazers have a very strong record with close to 30% maintaining their advantage at the line, 56% hitting the frame, a very high A/E of 1.61 and a super high IV of 2.68. That’s a rock-solid foundation to build upon.

Expanding on this a little, the numbers in the green and red table below represent the overall pace profile of the 7f trips of the courses in question.

 

 

It’s very interesting to note that not only does Beverley have a confirmed and pronounced front running bias, a prominent running style also scores well in comparison to the other tracks.

In simple terms, it’s more important at Beverley to pick a horse with a prominent or pace-setting profile than virtually everywhere else (at this distance). Even if a horse doesn’t lead, the closer it is to the front of the pack the better.

The corollary of this is that hold up horses have a very moderate record over the course and distance (A/E 0.45), the poorest of all the listed tracks.

Field size is worth consideration when analysing front runners. It’s logical to assume (and an obvious point to make) that it’s easier to get a lead in a field of 4 than of 14 for example. The graph below shows the A/E performance of leaders at Beverley over the 7.5 furlongs range based on the number of competing horses.

 

I’ve excluded a handful of data in the graph related to races with 4, 15 and 16 runners across a total of 7 events, as it’s not helpful given sample sizes are extremely small.

The performance line tracks upwards, demonstrating that A/E improves as the number of runners increases. This works from a sense point of view as horses racing off the pace have a huge challenge to overcome, and simply, there is more of them in bigger fields. An abundant volume of runners means less racing room, so picking up and sweeping by the field is a big ask with a relatively short straight of only 2-and-a-half furlongs: advantage front runners. Importantly, with A/E being a measure of implied profitability, these data show that if you can consistently predict the front runner(s) in larger fields at this course and distance there will be due reward.

That’s all for this edition of Punting Angles. Hopefully there’s plenty to put to work in your own Beverley betting, and don’t forget that the tools here on geegeez.co.uk – especially Draw, Pace, and Query Tool – can give you this sort of leg up at any track you care to look into.

Please feel free to drop me a line with your suggestions, questions or comments. I’d love to hear from you.

  • JS

 

Punting Angles: Goodwood Racecourse

With the Goodwood May festival upon us it seems as good a time as any to apply a little focus to the Sussex track, writes Jon Shenton. The hope is we'll discover a few snippets of info along the way to boost our chances of a profit at the course over the rest of the summer and beyond.

Racing has been an integral part of Goodwood history since 1802. The track is synonymous with the Glorious Goodwood festival with its three Group 1 races taking a prominent position in the racing calendar. There’s much more to racing at the course than that shiny centrepiece, however, and there are plenty of other meetings and notable races to enjoy throughout the flat season.

As usual, let’s start with the training performances at the track.

Goodwood trainers

The table below shows the trainers who have high-quality records at Goodwood. The data within relate to runners with a maximum SP of 20/1, and are sorted by descending A/E and include all races from 2012 onwards. To qualify the yard must have had a minimum of 50 runners during the period.

 

For those of you who have been following these articles over the recent past, you may remember the Mark Johnston editions. I don’t want to trample over old ground but suffice to say Johnston handicappers who have had a recent run (last 25 days) are a serious proposition. Whilst this angle wasn’t as lucrative in 2018 as previous years the performance has been consistently impressive over time. Those are horses to keep on your side. A link to that article is here.

The other notable name to take from the trainer table is William Haggas. It’s the Impact Value of 2.52 which immediately draws the eye, especially on what is a healthy relative volume of runners. As you might expect with stats such as these there is a general all-round excellence contained within.  The only significant and justifiable enhancement I could establish is associated to the age restrictions of races.

The data show, amongst other things, that his record with 2yo's and in 4yo+ races is perfectly respectable. It isn’t, however, quite as sharp as the races containing horses aged 3. It’s low volume stuff though, with the place performance consistent across all  groupings indicating that I might be looking for something that is not there. As a result, I’m not convinced that there is an angle beyond keeping Haggas horses firmly in your cross-hairs at Goodwood.

Moving on, those yards which currently have less than desirable records at the track we get the following picture:

I was very surprised that Saeed bin Suroor is top (or bottom) of the pile with an A/E of just 0.52. Messrs Fahey, Varian, Hannon and Balding are all on the list too with Fahey’s runners returning a strike rate of a meagre 6.6%. Perhaps these yards are too proficient to stay on this cold list indefinitely and the cream will rise to the top in due course. Here and now, though, the numbers demand we proceed with caution.

To complete the trainer view, the table below contains the best trainers (in terms of A/E) for Goodwood during the month of May, perhaps offering a couple of clues for the next few days. Not that I’d advise anyone to back runners from these yards blindly but there are some impressive numbers in here, Roger Charlton most notably.  That said, there is a danger of the data reverting towards the mean based on such small volumes.

 

 

Jockeys

In terms of the pilots, the data below show all active riders with an A/E of greater than 1.00. William Buick probably has the stand-out record. Again, all round excellence means dedicated deeper focus angles are difficult to find.

The deadly duo of Norton and Fanning have a very close association to the Goodwood-friendly Johnston yard. Therefore, it would be reasonably logical to assume that their records could be attributable to the trainer connection. The intel below shows that whilst that is undoubtedly true, when they are jocked up on rides for other trainer, performance remains largely in line.

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Whilst this may be of limited interest in isolation, I think it may lead towards a question of pace. In general, Fanning and Norton are considered to be enterprising riders at the front of a race. Perhaps they prosper at the track irrespective of who is employing them because of their propensity to effectively judge pace from the front? More on that shortly.

 

Straight track pointers

As the course map below illustrates, Goodwood has a complex array of starting points, routes and undulations.  The least confusing element is perhaps the confirmation on the map that there is a straight track for races up to 6 furlongs in distance.

 

Before searching for clues on how best to tackle the straight course, it must be noted that analysing the factors of pace and draw (like I’m going to here) in a broad way is a challenge. There are several variables that need due consideration, field size and ground conditions being the primary drivers of variance in determining how the race unfolds from a pace and draw perspective.

Fields here can range from 2 to 20-something, and underfoot conditions obviously can vary meaning that many multiple permutations can exist. All the same, there is merit in attempting to decode the data.

 

Draw

First let's look at the draw.

Using the draw analyser tool in Geegeez Gold the table below shows the performance of horses, by draw segment and based on the number of runners in the race, using Impact Value. I’ve only analysed races with six or more runners and I've used the actual drawn position (i.e. accounting for the effect of non-runners) rather than the race card drawn number.

 

The data covers all race ground from Firm through to Soft.  As noted in the above paragraph going conditions can have a significant impact on draw stats. However, in the case of Goodwood it’s fair to assert that the numbers on display are reasonably representative of the whole spectrum of ground challenges faced by the animals.

Here is a graphical representation of the very same data.

 

I include this as I think it illustrates a clear picture: horses that are drawn in lower or middle stalls are far more likely to prevail than horses drawn in high stall numbers on average. This applies to all nearly all field sizes (apart from arguably in 8-10 runner fields where the delta appears marginal) and to both 5- and 6-furlong distances.

The red line (representing those animals with a high draw) deteriorates the larger the field in general terms, especially if the race comprises of 11 or more participants.

The highest drawn are stationed on the stand side rail, nearest the cameras, the numbers thus progressively moving lower towards the centre and beyond to the far side. Racing usually develops between the middle and that stand side rail as a few horses generally tack across in that direction.

A rail is often an asset to have nearby but for this track it appears to be far from the case. Let’s complement this with a sprinkling of pace data using the Pace Analyser tool in Geegeez Gold.

The table below is based on the same conditions as the draw data above:

 

It is perhaps unsurprising that being on the speed early is an advantage over the sprint distances.

Putting both pace and draw together you’d expect a low/middle draw with a prominent or front running run style to be optimal. We can validate this by checking the draw/pace heat map (in Geegeez' Draw Analyser).

This picture covers  5- and 6-furlong races, on Firm through to Soft where there is a field size of 9 through to 12.

Interestingly, it appears as though a high draw is acceptable if the horse can zip out of the gates and secure an early lead. It could be claimed, using this data, that pace is of more importance than draw. High drawn horses who get to the front are 1.43 times more likely to win than the average in spite of the ostensibly challenging stall position.

That makes sense: racing room can be at a premium at Goodwood and it’s very feasible that horses get boxed in, especially in a big field. Those high drawn animals can have nowhere to go if horses congregate and the race develops on or around that rail or side of the track. The jockeys starting their journey from the low and middle numbered stalls should have more options to avoid trouble in running; unless of course the field sizes are so large that the low numbered stalls are situated on the far side rail as in, for example, the Stewards' Cup.

A heat map taking account of field sizes of 14 or more confirms the thinking:

 

In large fields even prominent racers struggle to get the run of the race from a high stall position, probably due to the relative lack of options in running. Horses drawn low retain a degree of flexibility in how they approach the race and can win from off the pace. Now all that remains is to find the right horse that this might apply to on race day!

 

Round course and longer distances

The 7-furlong trip has just shy of a quarter of a mile from the stalls to a tight right-hand bend into the straight. Most races develop on the far rail, the opposite to the straight track races.

Again, early speed holds sway. Attaining good track position at the bend is clearly of primary importance. Evaluating the draw for the trip over seven using the graphical format (below) shows the significance of stall position.

Whilst it’s reasonable to say that low draws generally have an advantage it only appears to become a concerted one in double digit field sizes. In these larger fields low drawn speed merchants around the bend are very much of primary interest!

In smaller fields pace is still an advantage but, naturally enough, draw appears to be less relevant. Like the straight course, high draws are perfectly fine if you think your horse can get to the front early and control the fractions. In basic terms, if you can pick the leader early in the race consistently over seven furlongs at Goodwood you will have a strong hand to play over time. The same principles apply over the mile too.

 

Distances greater than a mile

The races between nine furlongs and two miles are represented from a pace angle in the data presented below. There is perhaps a marginal preference for front running speed in general apart from the shorter relative distances (9 & 10f) where early speed is a significant advantage.

It’s repeating the same message: the major takeaway from the data is the reinforced view that it is  difficult for hold up horses to win in larger fields.  That makes perfect sense given the tight and undulating nature of a track where hard luck stories seem commonplace. Let’s hope that you’re not on  one that falls out of the stalls!

 

That’s it for another edition, I hope you find things of interest in the above and I’ll certainly be watching Goodwood races with a keener eye than usual over the next few days and months. Good luck!

- Jon Shenton