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.
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.
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.