Jon Shenton: Heading Further Leftfield

This is the second of a two part article. In the first piece, which can be found here, I highlighted a number of training operations worthy of a second glance if their horses ran well enough last time to finish in a placed position.

This follow-up will explore the other side of the equation: trying to find those trainers whose horses perform well after a moderate or disappointing run, specifically having finished unplaced last time out (LTO).

 

The Leftfielders

You may recall I named this group of trainers the “leftfielders” for what are obvious reasons, hopefully. In basic terms, these yards appear to deliver a winner seemingly irrespective of whether the horses ran well last time out or not. In the same format as that last article, the table below covers National Hunt handicap runs from 1st Jan 2012 where horses have had a starting price of 20/1 or shorter.

 

 

The data is split by trainer, showing performance by horses that placed last time out (left hand block) and horses that were unplaced LTO (right hand block). This table of leftfielders is sorted by the variance in performance between the two separate datasets. In this case it’s showing the yards who are exceeding market expectation with their runners who were unplaced in their last race.

And here is the same info represented graphically (using A/E).

 

 

I find some of this data striking. All these yards outperform market expectation with runners that had a moderate/unplaced last run. That’s certainly interesting, however, the real insight for me is the variance in comparison with their in-form runners.

Perhaps it’s labouring the point but if we take Joanne Foster’s data, the A/E of her placed LTO animals is 0.55 (based on market evaluation of 8 wins from 86 runs) and the A/E of her unplaced equivalent is 1.48 (based on 26 wins from 157).  That's a variance of 0.93 in A/E performance between the two datasets. The graph shows the scale in difference with the Keevil, Stronge, Coltherd, Dalgleish and Spearing yards all showing notable deltas between their placed & unplaced performers.

Another way of appraising the data is by analysing strike rate. The graph below illustrates the same dataset but by winning percentage across the placed/not placed variants.

 

 

Here we can see that not only do these trainers beat the market with their unplaced last time entries, but their strike rates are at least comparable with their more in-form (as measured by last day placing) charges. In other words, last time out finishing position is less relevant for these yards. Taking the Foster yard again, a horse placing LTO prevails in its next race 9.3% of the time, compared to 16.56% for those unplaced last time. Whichever way you look at it, that’s a big difference and should be ripe for punting angles.

Let’s zoom in on the Joanne Foster data as a case study. The Yorkshire-based stable is another small, focused outfit. Exactly the sort of yard that I like to follow. Having had a total of 39 winners from 407 runs in National Hunt racing (since January 2012) the ability to track the stable runners and performance closely should be attainable. Incidentally, nearly a quarter of the yard's runs have been at Sedgefield (15 wins from 97 with a ROI of 0.1% at starting price) so entries at that track from Foster should always be noted.

Returning to the placed/not placed data, there are three aspects of the Foster yard that I think can be drilled down upon to make the healthy starting point of her overall unplaced LTO data (27 wins from 156, A.E 1.48, ROI 33% to SP) potentially even more profitable.  They are starting price, going and days since last run.

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There are three data tables below showing the splits:

The reason that I’ve shown the three separately with the same data (the 27 wins from 146 runs) is that if we'd gone through sequentially it could seem like a heavily back-fitted approach. By keeping the larger data set and analysing the variables against that broader info we can be slightly more confident that the data is indicative of a general trend in performance.

The numbers outlined by the red border in the tables show moderate performance, which I’m happy enough to remove from the equation. Horses returned at an SP of 17/2 or greater have a 5-from-90 record losing 19% of funds overall; while horses running on “non-winter ground” have a 5-from-56 record, and those having had more than 45 days off the track are a wretched 1-from-32.  All of these 'chuck outs' are rational and explainable too.

Removing the red border runners gives us:

 

 

A very small micro angle – but a high strike rate (39%), A/E at 2.53 and 166% ROI. One of the reasons I’ve laid out the components is that the angle is probably strong enough for you to choose which elements or not you’re comfortable including or excluding. For me, I’m going for it, this is in my systems portfolio until further notice!

Back Joanne Foster runners at 8/1 or less, on Good to Soft or softer where the horse has run within the last 45 days

 

I could go into more detail on any of the trainers on the master table at the start of the article hunting for micro angles! After all, there are some massive names on there (Gordon Elliott, and Anthony Honeyball of this parish, to name but two). However, the key message is that all these yards have a propensity to deliver irrespective of a low-key last run by one of their charges.

When trying to unpick a handicap race we all like the comfort blanket of a nice recent run for our potential wagering proposition. But over the past year or so my mentality is changing / has changed and I take my comfort from data such as this instead.

Finding a horse from one of these yards that I like and which bombed LTO gives a ripple of excitement, after all I think I know something that the punting masses generally don’t. Naturally, it doesn’t always work and clearly an unplaced run LTO can be a symptom of a horse with limitations or being out of form rather than an off day. Nobody said it was easy!

 

Like Shelling P's

As I’ve been writing this, looking out of the window on another frosty Leicestershire morning, something else has occurred to me. As an extension of the theme I’ve been wondering if there are some of the training establishments whose horses bounce back specifically from being pulled up in their last run.

My hypothesis would be that some trainers could offer instructions to the jockey to pull up more readily than others (it could of course be the jockey too), or that they are more inclined still to run a horse when the weather conditions have gone against the horse, or, well, for any number of other reasons. Regardless of reason or theory, it’s worth a quick look.

 

 

Now isn’t that interesting?  The table shows trainers where a horse was sent off at an SP of 20/1 or less and had pulled up in its previous run. To qualify for the table an A/E of greater than 1.00 is required.

There are some National Hunt behemoths on here: Nicholls, Henderson, Tizzard and Hobbs for example. It does make sense to an extent. They generally house animals with greater talent so you’d expect them to be more capable of bouncing back after a bad run in comparison to other stables. It does appear, though, that the market might not always fully factor that in. That’s perhaps understandable; after all backing a horse with a P as its latest entry on the form-line requires a degree of bravery. However, in general terms there will be value plays where these trainers listed in the table are in the game.

The clear leader here is David Pipe so let's have a look at his data in more detail.

31 wins from 161 runs, A/E 1.75 and ROI of 62%.

We could leave it there, that’s strong!  But let’s check a bit closer anyway.

Here is the distribution by starting price.

 

A bias towards the shorter end of prices here, it appears as though we are on relatively safe territory ignoring all runners at 12/1 or greater, where a combined record of 3-from-65 and a £20 loss to a £1 level stake is persuasive enough for me. That leaves the following consistent performance over several years (notwithstanding the solitary runner in 2019 so far).

 

 

And Just like that another micro is added into my portfolio:

Back David Pipe runners sent off at 11/1 or less and which were pulled up in their previous run

Sometimes it can be that easy finding angles, other times I can sit for hours searching high and low for snippets worth exploring.  I like this one though and am looking forward to seeing how it pans out over the coming weeks, months and maybe years!

That just about wraps up this edition. A final word, though. If you have any theories or hypotheses that you think might be worthwhile looking into please drop me a line, either via the comments below or on twitter

I can’t promise I’ll investigate everything but I’m sure there is some gold worth panning for in the collective minds of geegeez.co.uk subscribers / readers.

Speak soon!

Jon Shenton

Jon Shenton: From one place to another?

I’ve been meaning to check this out for ages, writes Jon Shenton. With a bit of downtime over the Christmas and New Year period (if you can have downtime with three kids) I finally got around to pulling my thoughts together to test a few theories with some lovely data.

I’ve always been curious about whether there are some trainers where we can get a better view of a horse’s likely performance based on its form in recent runs.

In fact, I have touched on it in some of my earlier pieces on this site. Using data such as the LTO Winner element of the Trainer Snippets report here on geegeez.co.uk we know that some yards are more adept at backing up a win with another victory. In this article, then, I will broaden the search a little to placed form, rather than evaluating last time out winners only.

Let’s get straight into having a look at a few numbers.

The data below shows all National Hunt Handicap runs at 20/1 or less since 1st Jan 2012 (up to 11th Jan 2019) split by whether the horse placed last time out (LTO). I’ve selected handicaps only largely to avoid the inconsistencies associated with horses on their first few runs. There may be an argument to expand this, but one has to start somewhere.

The key here is that A/E and ROI are virtually the same across both datasets. From a punting perspective you’d lose just short of 15% of your cash backing all horses that placed LTO, and a similar level of damage would be inflicted if you only backed horses that did not trouble the judge during their last venture.

The main difference is strike rate, a horse “in form” based on last run prevails 16.66% of the time as opposed to 11.44% if it was off the board that last day.

Broadly speaking, a winner that placed last time out returns a starting price of about 4/1 on average.  One that didn’t place the last day has an SP of 13/2 or thereabouts.  Considering both aspects perform consistently in A/E and ROI terms the market appears to be getting it right.

Let us now drill down somewhat, by yard, in search of trainers worth tracking in specific circumstances.

To do that I’ve pulled together a fairly large master data table showing performance with horses that placed last time, and data showing where the horse hasn’t hit the frame in their last race, and merged it together by trainer to try paint a picture. Still with me? Good!

To make sense of it all I’ve categorised things into three areas of interest and will discuss each in turn.  The categories are as follows:

  1. The Outperformers: trainers who generally are beating the market irrespective of what their charges did last time out
  2. The Rollers: these guys appear to roll when their animals place in their previous run and follow up with another good run
  3. The Leftfielders: these yards appear to deliver a winner seemingly irrespective of whether they run well last time out or not

In this article, I'll review the first two categories, starting with...

The Outperformers

The first theme or thread represents general outperformers, which is to say handicap excellence all round.

Just to explain the tables and data in more detail first.  The “block” to the left shows the trainer performance for horses that placed last time out in terms of runs, wins, actual vs, expected and return on investment.  The “block” on the right shows the performance of all runners that failed to make the frame in their last appearance.

The column on the far right (A/E var PL – NP) shows the difference in A/E performance between horses placed and unplaced last time out.

This should be an elite list, and for that reason it’s small in size. These yards have an A/E of 1.00 or greater irrespective of horses placing or not last time, with a positive ROI across the board to boot. To qualify they needed to have saddled a minimum of 50 runners for each aspect at an SP of 20/1 or less.

If we take the Kenneth Slack yard, horses which placed last time won 23 of their next starts from 86 runs. That was right on expectation against the market (A/E 1.01) whilst recording a small profit of about 7%.

His unplaced last time runners were 20 from 79 in terms of wins in the review period, but this time A/E is 1.35 and ROI is close to 50%.

A Slack runner based on these numbers is always worth a second glance.  However, it seems as though the horses’ last race performances may be irrelevant to how well they’re likely to run this time. The win strike rates are very similar, too (c.25-26%), but because the market seems to be factoring in the last run form there is more value in backing the runners who did not place on their last outing.

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All of the above five trainers are Outperformers, consistently beating the market irrespective of whether their horses’ previous run indicates they’re in form – as evidenced by a placing – or not. At the top of the tree is Tom Lacey, though the market is now catching up with his progressive stable. As things stand backing all Lacey’s runners blind is a still a rewarding enterprise… just! The bird, however, may have flown.

Interestingly, and perhaps surprisingly, Nicky Richards is outperforming expectation across nearly 800 runners. That merits further investigation another time but, for now, following this yard closely is the recommendation.

 

The Rollers

Just by way of a quick refresh, a Roller is a trainer who performs strongly where their horses hit the frame in their most recent start, in comparison to the ones that were unplaced.

The table below shows trainers with 50 or more runners in each category (placed or not last time out). Data is sorted in order of the variance in A/E performance between the placed and not placed LTO (the far right column).

Some of these variances are mighty in scale.

For those that are more visually stimulated, the graph below shows the same data as the table in terms of A/E performance by trainer. The blue blocks represent horses placed last time, the orange line representing those that did not. It shows the range of difference in performance by trainer, the size of variance getting smaller as we work left to right across the graph.

Right at the top we have James Evans (H J Evans http://www.hjamesevans.co.uk), a relatively modest (in terms of size) operation based 20 or so miles away from Cheltenham.

Modest in size maybe, but if an Evans horse placed LTO they enjoyed a 21 from 69 win rate, A/E of 1.67 and ROI of 112%

Compare this to those unplaced in their previous outing:

12/146, A/E 0.71 and ROI -24%.

That’s a stark difference potentially illustrating that this yard takes its time to get horses ready but, once firing, they look worthy of support.

Drilling a little deeper, the James Evans yard in its entirety has only ever had one winner at greater than 14/1 (UK NH racing) so we can refine slightly.

I’m happy to leave it there, this angle has been profitable every year apart from one so that will go into my systems to follow library from now on, a simple angle:

Back James Evans runners with an SP of 14/1 or less that placed LTO

 

Another trainer with a stark difference in performance based on last time out placing is Caroline Fryer (17/56 placed LTO 28% SR vs 6/78, 8% SR not placed LTO http://www.carolinefryerracing.co.uk). Hers is another team with a select number of horses running under rules. On closer inspection there is a slightly different story to tell here, however.

Of those 17 wins from last time placers, ten relate to a single horse, Riddlestown. Now a 12-year-old his last run was on Boxing Day. It may be that age is catching up with him but he’s still going into my geegeez tracker. When he’s had a competitive run (placed) in the recent past (30 days or sooner) he is 10/31 so I’ll be keeping an eye out for an uptick in performance. Riddlestown has an entry at Leicester on 22nd January, so I will be watching closely for signs of improvement with a view to potentially following him next time.

Every trainer on that list above merits further analysis, especially those who fly under the radar of the general masses (which I think is the case for most of them).

A yard I’ve followed with some success in the past is that of Iain Jardine (http://iainjardineracing.com), though admittedly more on the flat where Jardine has a strong record in staying races. That is particularly true where his horses are fit (had a recent run) and have been backed (10/1 or less). So it’s not a huge surprise to see him on this list with his NH runners.

Taking his ‘placed in previous run’ data for National Hunt (30/106) and refining I’d expect a similar pattern to his flat runners to be apparent: a recent run and relatively well supported in the market.

I’m not going to show the data table (you’ll have to trust me!) but there isn’t a winner in his dataset sent off at greater than 10/1, albeit only from 13 runs.  A similar pattern to the flat runners so I’m going to ignore those for now, though I am mindful of the small sample size.

The table below shows the 10/1 or shorter NH placed LTO runners by days since last run.

I’ve used coloured font illustrate some of the subjectivities when dealing with data.

The Green section is easy, it clearly shows that if a Jardine horse sent off at 10/1 or shorter was placed in a very recent run (20 days or less) it is worth following.

The other sections are less clear, the red font illustrates those horses that have been off track for more than 60 days: one winner from only 7 runners sent off at 10/1 or shorter, so inconsequential. Personally, considering the overall profile of the data I’m happy to leave a short-priced Jardine placed last time out runner alone if it’s not been since within a two-month period.

As you may have speculated already the amber section is most open to interpretation, with ten wins from 44 runners and a very small SP profit to a level stake. I think in this case I’d probably leave alone, primarily to limit the number of bets and to keep a more focussed portfolio. However, with exchanges and BOG it may be that backing these ‘three weeks to two months off’ runners will turn a healthy position.

Iain Jardine NH Handicap runners with an SP of 10/1 or less that have run in the last 20 days, placed LTO

 

This article and the data referenced within is broad brush stuff. For example, in the high-level data there is no consideration of factors such as when the horse’s last run was, which grade, distance, class, etc. Form must be more relevant when those things are positively aligned with today’s task.

Next time I’ll look at the “Leftfielders”.  There is a raft of interesting stuff to discuss with these yards.  Word count and a determination on my part to try and be a bit more succinct means I can’t do it justice today! Until next time, happy punting.

 - Jon Shenton

 

 

 

 

Newcastle Punting Pointers: The Angles of the North?

In my last article I accidentally stumbled into unpicking all-weather course form and the relative importance of it at each track in the UK, writes Jon Shenton.  It wasn’t my intention to evaluate anything in that area; however, when exploring a vast ocean of data sometimes you end up going where the wind takes you as thoughts develop around the words and numbers on paper.

If you didn’t read that article (link here), a tentative conclusion was that a previous course win was more indicative of a likely follow up victory at Newcastle than any other all-weather surface.

Until that moment I had very limited interest in the tapeta at Gosforth Park as a vehicle for punting. Aside from the odd evening “leisure” bet, almost universally doomed to failure, I’ve hitherto watched perplexed from afar.

To my untrained eye the victors seemed to be pattern-less in terms of my usual all weather starting points of pace and draw, the immaturity of the surface also meaning data regarding trainer, sire and anything else you can think of is less reliable from which to build even vague conclusions.

So, when the intel from that last article showed Newcastle in a favourable light it got me thinking: it was time to have a proper delve into the delights of the northeast venue.

There is a uniqueness regarding Newcastle compared with its AW cousins. Namely, that it has a straight mile. Apart from Newcastle’s five to eight-furlong and Southwell’s five furlong straight track all other races on AW in Britain and Ireland are contested around a bend.   This could be of potential interest for a number of reasons. As I’ve already alluded to, the usual staples of pace and draw could be less important without a turn than we see at other AW venues?

 

Why could pace and draw be less relevant at the Newcastle straight track?

To start with, on a straight track all of the horses compete over exactly the same distance.  This is not the case when racing around a bend where inside draws have a shorter distance to run.

Imagine an Olympic 200m final around a tight bend where all athletes start at the same point.  Not even a peak Usain Bolt content on fried chicken could overcome a lane 8 / car park draw unless he was running against people like me.

As well as the emphasis of draw on a turning track the AW tracks typically are tight in nature, with shortish home straights. This often leads to greater extremes of front runner bias. Thus finding a competitive front running animal with an inside draw on the AW is usually a compelling wagering proposition.

All of this points to Newcastle being a fairer test over the straight track than the other artificial surfaces racing around a turn. Fairer for the runners and riders, but trickier for punters?

Could it be that factors such as course form, pedigree or trainer angles play a more significant part in determining the outcome of a race? That’s all supposition at the moment, but let’s dive into it.

A continuation of the course form theme seems like as good a place to start as anywhere.

 

Course Form at Newcastle

A quick refresher, the graph below is from the previous article, it shows the adjusted strike rates at UK all-weather courses split by horses’ number of previous wins at the same track.  The adjusted view was to reflect/standardise the effect of different field sizes. In other words, a race at Newcastle should be harder to win as the average number of runners is 10.9 whilst at Chelmsford it’s a more meagre 9.05.

 

 

The green line to a clear degree illustrates that Newcastle previous winners have a higher probability of a future win than course winners at other AW tracks.

By adopting the same method but splitting the Newcastle races by straight/round track performance we hopefully will find something of interest. Firstly, we need to take field sizes into account.  Straight track races are popular with an average of 11.28 entrants per event, 1.11 more than the round track average field size of 10.17.

 

NEWCASTLE Avg Field Multiplier
5-8F STRAIGHT 11.28 1.16
8.5F+ ROUND 10.17 1.05
OVERALL 10.90 1.12

 

Using the same format, the graph below shows the profile of previous course winners’ strike rates by distance of race.

 

 

I think this is quite insightful.  There appears to be an indication that previous course form is more valuable in predicting a winner over the straight track of 5 to 8 furlongs, than it is over the longer trip.

Now the volume of runners is quite small, particularly on the round course where two or more previous course wins are concerned but there is definitely enough to upgrade a previous course win on the straight track in comparison.

 

Pace on the straight track

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Lesson number 1 in Geegeez.co.uk land is that pace is a game changer in punting life.  It’s certainly been a key component in my improvement in race reading and is just about the first thing I look at when trying to evaluate any equine contest.

We’ve already generated the supposition that front running pace bias may not be as important at Newcastle as it is on the other UK all-weather tracks due to the fairer nature of the straight; but do the numbers back that up?

 

Well, yes. The above chart is eye-opening. It illustrates the Actual/Expected performance by pace score for each of the all-weather tracks in the UK. The data covers all 3YO+ and 4YO+ handicaps and all races up to 8f in distance.

You can see the old adage of “pace wins the race” is pronounced across all of the tracks apart from Newcastle.

The blob annotated with “a” above shows the fate of hold up horses on the straight track at Newcastle. There is clear daylight between their performances when compared with late runners at every other track. In fact, horses that are held up actually fare well even in comparison to their front running rivals at the track. Certainly, trailblazers are not the be all and end all that they can be on some tracks, as the blob “b” illustrates.  Both front runners and hold up horses have an identical A/E performance of 0.99.

Lumping in all races from the minimum trip to the mile is potentially dangerous and clearly analysis by specific trip length may lead to slightly different and more solid conclusions.  However, in terms of proving a point that race profiles are different on the straight Newcastle track to the typical AW ones I think this does enough. The bottom line is don’t be put off by a horse stalking from the back of the pack at Gosforth Park.

 

Draw

Hopefully it’s reasonably understandable but evaluating full draw implications of a straight vs. round track is a tough ask for an article of this length given the variables in distance, race type, number of runners and the like.

That said, by way of a quick guide, below is a broad-brush summary of Newcastle draw performance.  It only considers handicap races of 10-12 runners.  It’s also important to note I’m using actual draw position (i.e. accounting for non-runners), not racecard draw number.

 

 

What does the above tell us? In truth, not a great deal! Maybe, just maybe, there is a hint of bias towards the wings of the track, especially for races over 5, 6 and 8 furlongs. Sometimes this makes sense as races develop against a rail and perhaps that is what is at play here.  But… for no obvious reason the 7f distance contradicts other distance data by suggesting there is a hint of middle track bias. In conclusion, it’s all pretty marginal and if you find the right horse, with the right profile, the draw at this course appears to be less relevant than most in terms of stall position.

 

Sires

It’s quite early to draw meaningful conclusions on stallions to follow at Newcastle but the below table shows some potentially emerging talent.

It’s derived from geegeez.co.uk’s Query Tool and illustrates all runners at 20/1 or less; and to qualify for the table an A/E of 1.25 is required, as well as a 10% ROI.

 

The volumes are generally too thin to draw firm conclusions and build bankable, watertight angles, especially as some of the performance will be driven by individual animals repeatedly winning. Even so, it’s a good list to keep in mind to help generate a shortlist when evaluating a race, particularly when form, or course form, is at a premium.

There is merit in just pulling out a couple to discuss briefly. The most successful couple of sires on the Newcastle all weather, in terms of winner numbers, are the renowned Sea The Stars and the progressive Lope De Vega.

 

Sea The Stars

Firstly, Sea The Stars… His progeny’s 15 wins are comprised of 13 individual horses.   John Gosden’s Champion Stayer, Stradivarius, is the most illustrious, having recorded his first success (on his third run) at Newcastle, over the straight mile. That is the very same course and distance that stablemate Enable made her debut on, incidentally. Clearly, Johnny G likes to blood a top class type on the tapeta here.

In fact, it’s not uncommon for horses of real quality to get an early spin on the Gosforth Park sands. The apparent level playing field of the track is a feature which attracts some of the elite stables to test their youngsters at a formative stage of their careers.

Reverting to Sea The Stars, below shows his progeny runs by race code.

 

Not bad all round but there is a clear distinction between AW and Turf data. If we zoom in a little further and evaluate the performance by the UK’s different AW venues, we get the following.

 

Here we see that Newcastle is driving the superb AW performance. Yes, Southwell, Chelmsford and Lingfield all show promise and we should take note of the offspring of Sea The Stars when they run at those venues. But Newcastle is where it’s at.

 

Lope De Vega

Lope De Vega was campaigned exclusively in France under the tutelage of Andre Fabre and doesn’t on the face of it have a particularly strong all-weather pedigree. However, much like Sea The Stars, his progeny has performed generally better on the artificial surfaces, in win strike rate and profit/loss terms at least.

Newcastle performance is strong (see the table below), but so too are Chelmsford and Wolverhampton. The surface at the midlands track is also Tapeta so that makes some sort of sense (albeit that it was polytrack until 2014). If you delve into sire records, quite frequently a good Newcastle record can be indicative of a better than average Wolves one and vice versa. The Chelmsford one is harder to explain, though it may be simply that Lope De Vega is a top class sire all round.

 

 

If we take that trio of courses and check P&L performance over different trips, we can see below that Lope De Vega offspring are less productive over 5 and 6 furlongs than other distances.

 

 

So, I think we have a potentially nice micro here: Lope De Vega progeny, 20/1 or shorter, 7-14f at Chelmsford, Wolves or Newcastle. 27.6% strike rate, 52% ROI to level stakes with strong A/E and IV numbers. The table below shows the precise numbers.

All Lope De Vega at 20/1 or less, 7-14f at Chelmsford/Wolves/Newcastle:

 

Trainers

A final word on the trainers who have taken to Newcastle’s newish surface, the above table shows those yards who have had 25+ runs, an A/E of 1.00 or above and an ROI of 10%+.

 

Before I talk about the table a couple of mentions for trainers not on the list. As stated earlier a number of elite trainers use Newcastle as a proving ground for their potential stable stars. John Gosden has had 75 runners (at 20/1 or less) including Enable, Without Parole and Stradivarius. Sadly though, and for obvious reasons, these are all quite well found in the market. Hugo Palmer is another who is inclined to send runners north as part of their education and development, but without profitable import for punters.

To those actually in the table, where there is a mix of northern track specialists and selective southern raiders. Sir Mark Prescott and William Haggas both clearly send animals up to the north-east that have a fair chance, and it is somewhat surprising to see these practitioners showing a level stakes profit. Moreover, as their strike rates at 31% and 38%, and related Impact Value numbers of 3.02 and 3.53, demonstrate, they’ll keep you in the game more readily than most.

The more local names of Menzies, Tate, Whitaker, Bethell and so on are all worth tagging too, although with only a handful of winners I wouldn’t necessarily generate micro angles to follow until there is a greater body of evidence.

Good luck, thanks for reading, and a happy new year to you all.

 - Jon Shenton

Southwell Statistics: Horses for Courses?

There are few racing betting mediums as divisive as Southwell All-Weather, writes Jon Shenton. I know people who barely acknowledge its existence, and yet, in the other camp, are people like me: I absolutely love it with every fibre(sand) of my being!

Indeed, I love winter all weather racing, full stop. It’s probably as a result of me getting some (well earned) gardening leave from January to March 2017, when I really started to immerse myself in the world of racing. Those halcyon days of studying my new toys (Geegeez Gold being the main one) in the morning and watching the racing in the afternoon on ATR will live long in the memory.  I was drawn to Southwell because it seemed a bit easier to navigate than the complicated world of National Hunt racing.  No vagueness on ground, no fences or hurdles to consider, and a whole stack of course form to evaluate.  Perhaps some moderate, relative early success helped too.

Whilst it may not be to the taste of everyone, supporters assert that the deep, stamina sapping test provided by the track offers a unique challenge and adds to the rich tapestry of UK racing. Arguably, it serves as an outlet for horses to show their ability who aren’t ordinarily suited to other racing surfaces.

It also has the important attraction of familiar names returning year after year, which as we know isn’t then norm for the racing on the level. It may be a stretch to claim superstar status for the main protagonists, but there are legends such as La Estrella (16 wins from 21 runs at the course) and General Tufto, who has run no less than 125 times on the fibresand over the last 10 years. 125 times and still counting!

To be honest, that’s even more frequently than I’ve attempted to explain odds and probability to my poor, not really interested, long suffering and very tolerant partner. Yes, on occasion I’m surprised I have one too! Anyway, let’s crack on. What follows are a few thoughts and insights which I hope will inform your Southwell wagering hereafter.

 

USA Bred horses at Southwell

It’s relatively well documented that horses with a pedigree originating from the good ‘ole US of A are worth consideration on the fibresand.  There is certainly logic in this given the perceived proximity between the Southwell surface and the dirt tracks of America.  The table below illustrates track runners by sire origin, for all races in 2012 onwards (three major countries only included)

 

Origin of Stallion Runs Wins Win% P/L (SP) Place% ROI (SP) A/E
(GB) 7881 892 11.3 -1815.6 29.3 -23.0 0.86
(IRE) 5919 700 11.8 -1327.8 30.1 -22.4 0.85
(USA) 1248 225 18.0 155.6 38.8 12.5 1.03

Southwell (AW) runners by country of origin, 1st Jan 2012 to present

 

The picture is pretty clear: US-bred horses outperform their UK- and Irish-bred counterparts significantly, winning more often (18%), beating market expectations (1.03) and returning a profit (12.5%) at SP.

Having said that it’s not ‘backing blind’ territory in my opinion, especially given the fact there are some exceptionally big priced winners in the sample. The biggest of all was a 100/1 shot, the Derek Shaw-trained Hammer Gun, who is definitely worth putting in the tracker for future Southwell entries as we will see shortly.

The Hammer bolted up in that particular race and, if you’re going for the Hail Mary play, I can think of worse places to do it than backing a US-bred runner at Southwell who is unproven on the surface.

As USA horses have a positive record at the track it would make some sense for American stallions to have similarly favourable numbers.

The below table shows sire records at Southwell for the same period.  This time I’ve only considered runners with a maximum SP of 20/1.  The usual reasons apply: I’m looking for angles which will return with a modicum of regularity.  Whilst there can be value at larger prices if you look hard and wait long enough, it’s not a game I want to play, or perhaps I can’t afford too long between drinks.  20/1 works for me, I know some of you prefer shorter. If you do, the data is there in the Geegeez Query Tool – go play!

 

Stallion Runs Wins Win% P/L (SP) Place% ROI (SP) A/E
Key Of Luck (USA) 67 15 22.4 21.8 47.8 32.5 1.39
Dubawi (IRE) 79 26 32.9 64.2 45.6 81.2 1.34
Ballet Master (USA) 53 9 17.0 1.3 43.4 2.4 1.30
Poets Voice (GB) 53 11 20.8 35.2 54.7 66.4 1.26
Refuse To Bend (IRE) 64 16 25.0 -5.2 40.6 -8.2 1.23
Speightstown (USA) 85 20 23.5 8.2 51.8 9.6 1.21
Street Cry (IRE) 129 35 27.1 40.5 50.4 31.4 1.21
Invincible Spirit (IRE) 130 32 24.6 22.0 37.7 16.9 1.20
Showcasing (GB) 55 10 18.2 24.0 45.5 43.6 1.12
Captain Gerrard (IRE) 105 21 20.0 54.3 40.0 51.7 1.10
Clodovil (IRE) 58 11 19.0 3.8 34.5 6.5 1.10

Sire performance at Southwell (AW) 1st Jan 2012-present at 20/1 SP or less

 

The table of top Southwell AW stallions has smattering of USA sires on the list, no major shock there. And, in the case of Street Cry, he was raced on dirt in America and latterly Dubai, winning the Grade 1 Stephen Foster in US and the Grade 1 Dubai World Cup in Dubai.

Ordinarily I’d now be searching through these data, trying to find a few nice angles to share and adopt over the next few months. In general, though, Southwell is a different proposition. Angles still have relevance but the number of course specialist horses can paint a different picture. I’ve already referred to the fact that one of the joys of the track is the number of repeat runners. Taking the top of the stallion charts (Key of Luck) we can see where the problem lies in angle creation.

 

This graph shows all of Key of Luck’s runners by individual animal, illustrating runs (blue) and wins (orange). The conclusion rapidly emerges: all of Key of luck’s progeny wins have been delivered by three individual horses, with 14 of the 15 coming from The Lock Master and Serenity Now! Even the most prolific stallion on the list, Street Cry, sire of the Australian darling, Winx, has a third of his victories from just two horses, namely Tatting and Fluctuation.

Based on this I don’t feel like many genuine angle opportunities exist in sire data. The samples are too small and the number of progeny involved are insignificant in many cases. No, for me, finding the right individual horses is the key. Then tracking and following them closely can be a productive method with which to approach the fibresand puzzle. Having said that, any Key of Luck or Street Cry progeny running at Southwell are still of interest and I’ll be watching them all closely and backing where conditions appear to be right.

 

Southwell trainers

Like any track across the world there are handlers who seem to know what is required for the unique Southwell test. Using the same approach as the sire table above here is the equivalent view for trainers, again sorted by A/E.

 

Trainer Runs Wins Win% P/L (SP) Place% ROI (SP) A/E
Carroll, D 101 24 23.8 37.6 41.6 37.3 1.63
Fell, Roger 55 11 20.0 33.8 38.2 61.4 1.48
Bailey, A 84 17 20.2 59.8 40.5 71.1 1.29
Furtado, Ivan 60 12 20.0 18.0 33.3 30.0 1.28
Brown, D H 67 15 22.4 -6.8 43.3 -10.2 1.25
Nicholls, D 103 22 21.4 32.9 37.9 31.9 1.25
McCabe, A J 184 34 18.5 31.1 36.4 16.9 1.19
Dwyer, C A 82 19 23.2 14.3 53.7 17.4 1.16
Shaw, D 251 44 17.5 5.5 41.8 2.2 1.15
Burke, K R 118 28 23.7 28.7 40.7 24.3 1.13
Kirby, P A 60 11 18.3 -11.6 40.0 -19.3 1.11
Butler, John 75 19 25.3 9.8 45.3 13.1 1.10
Bowring, S R 209 33 15.8 -12.4 35.9 -5.9 1.09
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Southwell (AW) runners by trainer from 1st Jan 2012 to present at 20/1 or less SP

 

As is becoming tradition it feels right to have a quick delve into the top name on the list, in this case Declan Carroll.  The Malton-based trainer sends a high proportion of runners to the Nottinghamshire track. Indeed, the only course that is frequented more by his team is Thirsk, relatively local to the outfit.

Again, like the Key of Luck data, on the face of it, it seems that backing the Carroll stable representatives blindly is a good idea. In truth, it might be: there is a healthy strike rate, fantastic A/E performance and a reasonable return on investment.  On closer inspection though, we run into a familiar theme.

 

 

This graphical representation shows Carroll horses that have had 3 or more runs on the fibresand track from 2012 onwards at an SP of 20/1 or less; we can see quite clearly that Monsieur Jimmy and Shearian with their six wins apiece (the orange line) account for over half of the trainer’s wins during the nearly six years analysed. I think this illustration reinforces the fact that successful horses generally return to the track time and time again.

In other words, there is a selection bias in these small samples. It’s a repeat of the sire analysis scenario, and again begs the same question: is it worth following specific yards on the fibresand, or is it worth following specific horses?

The answer is difficult, as are all such responses to small sample sizes skewed by individual elements. What is not in doubt specifically is that Carroll knows what it takes to nurture a successful Southwell career for a horse and, once he knows he has one with the right aptitude, he isn’t afraid to keep running them.

By way of example, let’s examine the record of Shearian at the course under the tutelage of Carroll (he was with Tracy Waggott previously).

 

 

Impressive stuff. In spite of a remarkable track record, Shearian still, however, went off at a price of 15/2 on the 12th November this year. This, despite him winning in his previous run over course and distance.  Granted, he hit the crossbar on this occasion, in a grade where he’d largely struggled, but netted the rebound three days later with a comfortable victory back in Class 6. However, considering his price shortened significantly on the 12th throughout the day the bet represented potentially great value.

That value was present due to his previous eight runs (four on tapeta, four of turf) being fairly unproductive. To Shearian followers that is absolutely of no consequence whatsoever: his lamentable record away from Southwell is 61 spins for just two wins, both as far back as 2013. The cynic in me would point towards a summer of official rating reduction in preparation for a bountiful winter campaign cruising around the Rolleston venue, his AW rating having reduced from 73 to 65 over the period in question.

I recognise that you can always find examples to fit any given narrative; however, it does seem that Southwell form offers more reliability for predicting future prospects at the track.

 

Horses for Southwell

I’d love to be able to statistically assert and prove that course form is more important at Southwell than most places and I think I can do that, at least partially.

The graph below is quite simple in what it’s trying to show but not so easy to explain.  It contains data for all AW runners, by track, from January 2012 for 3YO+ and 4YO+ handicaps only.  I’m selecting these age groups due to the likelihood of more horse runs, and logically more course form to check. It’s the journeyman (or woman) type of horse that I’m interested in here.

Anyway, the graph below shows win rate by how many victories a horse has had at the track previously:

 

 

The thick blue line represents Southwell.  What it depicts is that, compared to the other all-weather tracks of the UK, a previous course win means the horse is more likely to win again at the same track. Newcastle is an interesting newcomer, and runs it close, albeit sample sizes are tiny for the three and four previous wins data points for that course.

This statistical evidence is all well and good, but it still doesn’t quite sit right. That is due to the fact that field sizes could have a bearing on the data.  If we take the black line above (Kempton) we can see that it languishes at the bottom, or close to it, across all bandings.

The only reasons that can be the case are either that Kempton has larger field sizes, i.e. more horses running equals lower strike rates, after all only one horse can win (dead heats not withstanding); or because course form doesn’t stand up as well as elsewhere.  The fact Kempton is “poor” in all categories does point to it having a higher than average number of runners per qualifying race.  The table below confirms this, to some degree at least:

 

Track Average field size Multiplier
Southwell 9.15 0.94
Chelmsford 9.02 0.93
Wolves 9.66 1.00
Lingfield 9.21 0.95
Kempton 10.52 1.09
Newcastle 10.89 1.12
Overall 9.70 1.00

Average field sizes for AW races from 1st January 2012 onwards

 

Kempton does indeed have notably larger fields than the average AW line up. Interestingly, however, so does Newcastle, a potential course specialist track in the making. So what does this mean, and for what can we use it?

In the table it confirms that a win at Newcastle is harder to get than a win at Chelmsford, and indeed anywhere else in the UK all weather landscape, based purely on field size. To prevail at Newcastle a horse has to be the best of 10.89 animals on average. At Chelmo, the cream of the crop rises above 9.02 horses, a significant 1.87 (17%) fewer.

To try and obtain a like-for-like comparison of course form, effectively taking field size out of the equation, we have to boost Newcastle and Kempton performance to take account of the higher volume of runners per race. Conversely, we’ll be downgrading Chelmsford, Lingfield and Southwell accordingly by deploying the multiplier column in the table above.

It leaves the following picture:

 

 

These data appear to show that in the pursuit of finding winners previous course form is considerably more valuable on the tapeta of Newcastle than other all-weather courses.  The new surface at Gosforth Park is still relatively new having only been in place for racing for just over two years, so the picture may change over time; but the fact that all races at up to a mile are on a straight track is a notable difference from the remainder of the all-weather scene and may contribute to it emerging as a "specialists' track".

However, even with the adjusted numbers previous course form still holds up well in comparison for Southwell.

Of course, this doesn’t necessarily directly translate to profitable angles, as course specialists are often well found in the market after all. But using data intelligently to assist in constantly improving our race reading ability has to be a good thing. If we find a course specialist with a favourable looking setup in terms of pace and draw (for another article, or check out Dave Renham’s excellent general series), we’re looking at a bet on the assumption that the price is reasonable. 

 

A Dozen Fibresand Masters

Let’s wrap things up. Much of this article has referred to course form and the longevity of horses who run at Southwell on a repeated basis. The below table shows some of the stars who thunder around the Notts oval with regularity. Each has had at least one run at Southwell during the past 12 months, and the table is sorted by A/E, with a minimum of 10 runs required to qualify.

 

Horse Runs Wins Win% P/L (SP) Place% ROI (SP) A/E
Custard The Dragon 10 6 60.0 18.8 80.0 187.5 2.75
Hammer Gun  11 6 54.6 111.6 63.6 1014.4 2.64
Piazon 13 6 46.2 20.3 61.5 155.8 1.90
Luv U Whatever 21 9 42.9 15.6 81.0 74.3 1.41
Stand Guard 14 6 42.9 -3.7 71.4 -26.6 0.88
Captain Lars  15 5 33.3 5.3 33.3 35.5 1.37
Philba 12 4 33.3 5.5 66.7 45.8 1.87
Shearian 21 7 33.3 25.6 47.6 122.1 2.28
Razin Hell 22 7 31.8 26.3 59.1 119.6 1.61
Royal Marskell 16 5 31.3 21.6 50.0 134.9 1.89
Pearl Nation  13 4 30.8 -0.1 61.5 -0.9 1.14
Samtu  13 4 30.8 29.3 46.2 225.0 1.43

 

Record breaking Stand Guard has since retired and there may be one or two others who have hung up their racing shoes, but the list should still be broadly active and, hopefully, profitable. Piazon and the aforementioned Shearian have already got their 2018 winter campaigns off the mark and I’m sure some of the others will be troubling the judge in the coming months. I’ve got a keen eye on Hammer Gun, and Samtu if reverting back to the flat, in particular. Here’s to a productive Southwell campaign for us all and a bit of Hammer Time over the festive period!

 - Jon Shenton (@jonnyshents on twitter)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Early NH Season, Part 2

A few weeks ago, my last article focused on National Hunt trainers who fly out of the gates in the autumn, writes Jon Shenton.   When compiling data and researching angles for that edition there were a few other areas of interest which I’d like to touch on today.

A key aspect that was considered for the aforementioned piece was evaluating where trainers had a runner returning to the track after an absence of more than 180 days, or about 6 months.  The thinking is that some trainers will have horses wound up and ready to go after a summer absence, while others’ animals generally come on for a run, taking a long-term view of the season ahead.

The below graph shows the total volume of runners returning to the track after a layoff of that magnitude.  Clearly, now is a good time to dive into which trainers are ready to go or otherwise.  As can be seen, we are in peak season for long absence returners.

Graph illustrating number of horses returning to the track after a break of 181+ days, since 2010, by month

 

Bargepoles and Scary data

My general approach is to always try and provide a few pointers to find a reasonable return over the medium to long term.  However, there is definite value in identifying horses through which to strike a line: data for those inclined to lay in other words.

The first stop is what I’d uncharitably term a ‘bargepole list’. The table below comprises of trainer records in terms of horses making a reappearance after more than 180 days off the track.  50 runs is the minimum level for inclusion and I have sorted in reverse A/E, accounting for all runs from the start of 2010 onwards.

 

Trainer performance for all runners from 2010 where the horse last ran 181+ days previously

Trainer Runs Wins Win% P/L(SP) Place% ROI(SP) A/E
Jewell, Mrs L C 51 0 0.0 -51.0 5.9 -100.0 0
Menzies, Rebecca 52 0 0.0 -52.0 11.5 -100.0 0
Young, Mrs L J 62 0 0.0 -62.0 11.3 -100.0 0
Carroll, A W 81 1 1.2 -72.0 11.1 -88.9 0.17
Stephens, Robert 56 1 1.8 -39.0 17.9 -69.6 0.24
Newton-Smith, A M 51 1 2.0 -40.0 11.8 -78.4 0.25
Dennis, David 73 2 2.7 -61.8 12.3 -84.7 0.3
Wintle, A 57 1 1.8 -48.0 10.5 -84.2 0.31
Brennan, F J 55 1 1.8 -26.0 10.9 -47.3 0.34
Henderson, P 79 2 2.5 -63.0 12.7 -79.8 0.37
Dyson, Miss C 99 2 2.0 -71.0 9.1 -71.7 0.37
Easterby, T D 62 3 4.8 -36.3 22.6 -58.5 0.37
Thompson, V 53 1 1.9 -44.0 11.3 -83.0 0.38
Davison, Miss Z C 57 1 1.8 -36.0 10.5 -63.2 0.41
Normile, Mrs L B 67 1 1.5 -54.0 9.0 -80.6 0.43
Goldie, J S 68 3 4.4 -42.0 19.1 -61.8 0.44
Candlish, Jennie 129 5 3.9 -90.5 22.5 -70.2 0.47
Frost, J D 76 2 2.6 -37.0 7.9 -48.7 0.47
Bewley, G T 62 3 4.8 -42.8 27.4 -69.0 0.49

 

That’s a combined 30 wins from 1290 attempts with a A/E performance on average of 0.30.  Ordinarily I’d like to keep table data to a top 10 or so, but in this case, it felt a bit like a civic duty to share it all!

It goes without saying that if you’re backing a runner from these stables under these conditions that you need a very compelling reason to argue against the data. Obviously, it doesn’t mean that they can’t win – and horse can win any race – and, as ever, sample sizes are sub-optimal. Treating all of these stable runners with caution under these circumstances is advised.

The yards contained on the bargepole list are generally of the small/mid-range in terms of size.  Of greater interest may be to evaluate some of the household names of the game with the same conditions applied.  The table below contains larger outfits (100+ runs and not included in the first list above).  All have A/E rates of 0.8 or lower for horses where they are absent from competitive racing beyond the 180 days limit.

 

Trainer performance for all runners since 2010 where the horse last ran over 180 days previously (min. 100 runs at A/E less than 0.8)

Trainer Runs Wins Win% P/L(SP) Place% ROI(SP) A/E
Gordon, C 110 5 4.6 -48.1 18.2 -43.8 0.51
Webber, P R 188 8 4.3 -104.5 17.6 -55.6 0.51
Keighley, M 145 9 6.2 -61.6 22.1 -42.5 0.51
Dobbin, Mrs R 127 7 5.5 -83.0 21.3 -65.4 0.58
Williams, Ian 180 13 7.2 -72.5 25.0 -40.3 0.59
Hammond, Micky 110 5 4.6 -75.2 14.6 -68.3 0.59
Smith, Mrs S J 308 24 7.8 -104.2 26.3 -33.8 0.65
Russell, Lucinda V 332 27 8.1 -147.5 27.4 -44.4 0.66
Richards, N G 220 24 10.9 -68.5 35.0 -31.2 0.67
Hill, Lawney 120 10 8.3 -41.1 24.2 -34.3 0.67
Down, C J 106 4 3.8 3.5 17.9 3.3 0.67
Case, B I 102 6 5.9 -34.2 22.6 -33.5 0.7
Phillips, R T 115 5 4.4 -53.0 19.1 -46.1 0.71
Wade, J 166 10 6.0 -76.3 22.9 -45.9 0.72
Alexander, N W 169 12 7.1 -84.1 20.1 -49.7 0.73
Greatrex, W J 250 40 16.0 -106.7 37.2 -42.7 0.73
Wadham, Mrs L 118 13 11.0 -6.3 31.4 -5.3 0.74
Jefferson, J M* 163 20 12.3 -63.5 33.7 -39.0 0.75
Mullins, J W 175 11 6.3 -70.5 19.4 -40.3 0.76
Bailey, Caroline 100 7 7.0 -34.8 22.0 -34.8 0.77
Moore, G L 317 32 10.1 -144.1 24.6 -45.5 0.79
Dickin, R 116 7 6.0 -41.3 17.2 -35.6 0.79

*J M Jefferson yard now overseen by daughter, Ruth. It remains to be seen whether she adopts the same patient approach

 

A lot of these are undoubtedly considered elite level exponents of the training game.  They all will have short priced horses making their seasonal reappearance right about now.   Across the board the win strike rate is a moderate 8%.

On a personal level, awareness of this data has resulted in a modification of my betting habits over the last few weeks.  Sure, sometimes using intel such as this will leave you kicking yourself as you leave a winner out but it’s all about getting a few more right than wrong in the long-term.

 

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Winter Sunshine

Enough with the negativity. Let’s find a few rays of winter sunshine. Using the same 180 days off the track criteria with the addition of only considering runners at an SP of 20/1 or less (to prevent one or two big winners skewing the data) I’ve curated the following, more optimistic, data set.  This time I’ve sorted by ROI: bottom line profit is the ultimate goal after all. To qualify for the winter sunshine list at least 50 runs are required, a minimum of a 10% ROI at SP and a minimum of a 10%-win rate.

 

Trainer performance for all runners since 2010, 180+ days layoff, SP 20/1 or shorter

Trainers Runs Wins Win% P/L(SP) Place% ROI(SP) A/E
Bridgwater, D G 98 21 21.4 53.7 41.8 54.8 1.47
Easterby, M W 51 11 21.6 24.9 35.3 48.8 1.65
Hales, A M 74 12 16.2 34.0 35.1 46.0 1.42
Pauling, Ben 100 25 25.0 37.6 45.0 37.6 1.24
Honeyball, A J 119 26 21.9 41.2 43.7 34.6 1.14
Walford, Robert 59 10 17.0 18.9 30.5 32.0 1.33
Scott, J 118 20 17.0 30.4 39.8 25.8 1.23
Symonds, Tom 64 10 15.6 13.6 43.8 21.2 1.09
Williams, Evan 339 60 17.7 64.0 39.2 18.9 1.07
Scudamore, M J 74 11 14.9 13.3 35.1 17.9 1.27
Leech, Mrs S 74 10 13.5 12.8 27.0 17.2 1.14
OBrien, Fergal 189 38 20.1 29.7 42.3 15.7 1.12
Dartnall, V R A 119 19 16.0 15.8 40.3 13.2 1.09

 

A much more interesting set of results for backers, all pretty positive and all worth further investigation.  As usual it’d be remiss not to have a quick dive into the most profitable on the list, in this case the Cotswolds-based trainer, David Bridgwater.

 

David Bridgwater runners after a break of 180+ days, SP 20/1 or shorter by year

Year Runs Wins Win% P/L(SP) Place% ROI(SP) A/E
ALL 98 21 21.4 53.7 41.8 54.8 1.47
2018 7 2 28.6 19.0 71.4 271.4 2.41
2017 3 1 33.3 2.0 66.7 66.7 1.18
2016 13 1 7.7 -7.0 23.1 -53.9 0.71
2015 25 8 32.0 15.0 44.0 59.9 1.65
2014 15 2 13.3 0.5 40.0 3.3 1
2013 20 3 15.0 20.0 35.0 100.0 1.4
2012 6 1 16.7 -2.0 16.7 -33.3 1.23
2011 6 2 33.3 5.8 66.7 95.8 2.27
2010 3 1 33.3 0.5 66.7 16.7 1.89

 

Judged on this criterion, “Bridgie” has clearly peaked between 2013-2015 in terms of volume. However, he still appears to get his horses primed after a layoff these days, just in lower numbers.   Perhaps the increased activity during the peak years were as a result of his stable star The Giant Bolster finishing 2nd, 4th and 3rd in consecutive Gold Cup’s at Prestbury Park, thus raising the profile of the operation.  Delving slightly deeper into the data the performance is strong in the rank and file classes of NH racing (4 and 5), with 19 winners from 70 runs, ROI of 106% at SP. That’s probably an angle to keep in the back of your mind I suspect, rather than to follow blindly.

Picking another yard in a semi-random way (as I have an affinity for them) let’s check the Ben Pauling outfit. Willoughby Court signalled a change in fortunes with regard to my woeful Cheltenham Festival record back in 2017 and I’ve been following them ever since that momentous occasion.  The expanding yard is coming off the back of its most successful season and is clearly going in the right direction.

The beauty (or one of them) of evaluating data such as this is that it can act as a gateway into a deeper understanding of a trainer, generating a different angle or view to what was initially expected.  Let me illustrate:

Pauling’s 25 wins from 100 with a 37% ROI looks overwhelmingly positive (and it is), however, here is the breakdown by month 

Ben Pauling runners with 180+ off the track at SP of 20/1 or shorter by month

Month Runs Wins Win% P/L(SP) Place% ROI(SP) A/E
January 4 1 25.0 9.0 50.0 225.0 2.08
February 4 0 0.0 -4.0 0.0 -100.0 0
May 5 2 40.0 -1.0 40.0 -20.0 1.3
June 3 0 0.0 -3.0 66.7 -100.0 0
July 1 0 0.0 -1.0 0.0 -100.0 0
October 20 1 5.0 -14.0 35.0 -70.0 0.27
November 46 13 28.3 11.2 50.0 24.4 1.31
December 17 8 47.1 40.4 52.9 237.5 2.31

 

Look at October in relation to November and December.  They are pretty powerful numbers (small sample small-print applies).  In fact, they’re so powerful I have the strong inclination to check all of Pauling’s runners, irrespective of whether they’ve had over 180 days rest or not.  The graph below shows the split of profit and loss by month for all of the stable’s runners at 20/1 or shorter.

 

Ben Pauling P&L performance by month for all NH runners at 20/1 or shorter from 2010 onwards

 

The first thing to say is that the trend from the 180+ data is very much a representation of the whole yard’s performance.  Backing every Pauling entry during November and December appears to be a very promising area in which to potentially invest the kid’s university funds.  The whole stable appears to go into overdrive as we get towards the dying embers of the calendar year.

As a final and potentially arbitrary step, the Pauling record in Nov/Dec with fillies and mares is very poor with just one win from 28 runs.   Checking the overall year-round performance with the fairer sex there have been a skinny 5 wins from 68 runs, losing over 70% of funds invested.  As a result, I’ll happily exclude fillies and mares from the angle: training these has unique and different challenges, so exclusion can, I feel, be justified. That leaves the overall angle performance as per the table below.

 

Ben Pauling November/December male runners by year with, SP of 20/1 or shorter

Year Runs Wins Win% P/L (SP) Place% ROI(SP) A/E
ALL 205 56 27.3 104.7 46.8 51.1 1.35
2018 5 1 20.0 0.0 40.0 0.0 1.75
2017 72 18 25.0 14.2 47.2 19.7 1.17
2016 56 13 23.2 2.1 41.1 3.8 1.17
2015 36 15 41.7 54.3 52.8 150.8 1.72
2014 31 8 25.8 35.1 51.6 113.3 1.57
2013 5 1 20.0 -1.0 40.0 -20.0 1.56

 

In summary, backing Pauling male runners in November and December at 20/1 or shorter returns 51% to SP with a healthy strike rate of over 27%.  Maybe the market is catching up and pickings have certainly been slimmer over the past year or two.   Having said that, the yard is definitely still one to keep close to your thoughts as soon as we move into November.

Another trainer from the Winter Sunshine list, this time entirely based on volume, is Evan Williams.  The Vale of Glamorgan handler has delivered 50+ National Hunt winners every year since 2010 and is on track to do so again in 2018.

There is little doubt that this is an operation that gear themselves to getting horses out fresh and ready in October and November.   Using the P&L graph again, below is the distribution.

Evan Williams P&L performance by month for all runners 180+ days off the track, 20/1 or shorter, since 2010

 

A nice profit has been gleaned in the focus months; unlike Pauling, however, there are other potential periods of interest. Also, whilst the Pauling yard is historically flying with all runners in months 10 and 11 there is a clear distinction in Williams’ stable between fresh and already active animals.

 

Evan Williams Oct & Nov runners by month from 2010 by days since last run, SP 20/1 or shorter

Days since LR Runs Wins Win% P/L(SP) ROI
180 days or less 456 78 17.1% -84.0 -18.4
181 days or more 190 45 23.7% 84.4 44.4

 

As a result, we only want to consider the fresh horses from the yard, even though performance for the other horses is far from terrible.

If we want to sharpen up further, the trainer hasn’t had a victorious horse at odds of greater than 16/1 from 11 runs in this dataset.  There might be a big one out there though, as always, it’s personal choice in terms of appetite for risk and reward.

In summary, backing all Williams charges with over 180 days off the track in Oct/Nov at 16/1 or less would yield 53% at SP, delivering £95 profit from a £1 level stake.

I’m fully aware that October is in the rear-view mirror in 2018.  However, this year the stable was exceptionally quiet during the month in terms of qualifiers, finishing with a record of 0/5.  My guess would be that the exceptionally dry summer and autumn may be pushing this (and other) yard’s general routines back a few weeks, patiently waiting for winter ground.  If that is the case, then Team Williams may burst into life as the squad start hitting the course over the next few weeks.

Obviously, it doesn’t always work like that, it’s just part of the evolving punting puzzle that we all know and love.

Good luck!

 - Jon Shenton

NH Season Fast Starters

As I’ve alluded to in previous articles I would consider myself more of a flat game specialist, writes Jon Shenton.  However, with the onset of winter and the monumental battle of wills around when to put the heating on, perhaps you could argue that my timing is less than impeccable in terms of becoming a contributor to Geegeez.

Data are data, though – and in some ways the fact that I’m not invested so much in the history, the characters and the equine stars of the show arguably means I can be more objective about what I’m looking at.  In other words, the data can speak for themselves.  Every day is a school day and I’m hopeful that I can build some profitable and interesting angles to keep things ticking over during the cold, dark months when I’m wrapped in a blanket because I’m too tight to fire up the boiler!

In this article, I will try to unearth a bit of early season value with regard to the winter game.  That said, and as a starter concession, I still can’t work out officially when the National Hunt season starts.

As ever a reminder that analysing past performance is no guarantee of future spoils; but, as a minimum, it should help in generating ideas and approaches for evolve our knowledge and therefore our betting skill.

Let’s start with a broad-brush approach evaluating National Hunt runners by trainer during the months of October and November.  This time all the data have been crunched using the Query Tool on this very site, any runners on or after 7th October 2018 are not included.

All National Hunt runners with an SP of 20/1 or shorter by trainer in October and November from 2012 onwards

The table above displays trainers ordered by the best return on investment (ROI) at starting price (SP).  Encouragingly, there are nine of them returning over 10% without diving any deeper.

Top of the tree and first cab off the rank is Henry Oliver, the Worcestershire-based trainer who is returning a very substantial 61% over the period in question: it’s stating the completely obvious but that’s worth more than a quick glance.   First stop is to check the context of this apparent seasonal bounty, it may be that Mr Oliver is an all year-round cash cow.

All Henry Oliver National Hunt runners with an SP of 20/1 or less from 2012 onwards

If you backed every Oliver NH runner from January 2012 you would have a neat 5% return to SP with 90 winners from 534 bets.  Not quite ‘cash cow’ status but there are certainly worse ways to put your money on the line.  The below graph shows how the 26.7 points of profit is split by month.

Monthly P&L to a £1 level stake for all National Hunt runners at 20/1 or shorter from the Henry Oliver stable from 2012 onwards

 

First thing to note is that, like a number of NH trainers, the summer months are fallow for Oliver’s charges.  December aside, Oliver is operating at a profitable level over the winter months and I wouldn’t put you off tracking all stable runners over the core NH season so certainly a trainer to follow.

However, we started searching for early season value and clearly November sticks out like Brian Blessed playing hide and seek, returning 94% profit to ROI.  The 20% October ROI is worth noting, too.

Trying to dive deeper into those autumnal runners, evaluating variables such as obstacle type, race class, horse age or date of recent run doesn’t generate anything of real material value.   If you’re nit-picking, Oliver’s horses are 0/11 for runs greater in distance than 2m 6f in those months and 5/58 overall, something to keep an eye on.

The last metaphoric hurdle is to understand the consistency aspect of the performance.

The table below shows Oliver’s October/November runs by year.  Maybe a little streaky but scintillating performance in 2013, 2015, and in particular 2017, with a bit of a washout in 2016.  Only one losing year though (excluding 2018 thus far for hopefully obvious reasons) means that this is solid enough to go on the list!

All Henry Oliver National Hunt Oct/Nov runners with an SP of 20/1 or shorter from 2012 onwards

Suggestion: Back all Henry Oliver runners in October/November at 20/1 or less

 

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The second luminary of the list is Fergal O’Brien, who quite simply has the best (in my opinion) and most entertaining twitter profile of all of the trainers, well worth a follow (@FOBracing) if you’re active on that medium. The stable contains relative household names such as Chase The Spud, Cap Soleil, and their first Grade 1 winner Poetic Rhythm to name but three of them.

There is no doubt the yard has impressive credentials and performance has been very strong over recent years.  If you backed every single stable runner at SP from January 2012 you’d walk away with 3.7% more cash than you invested.

I think there are angles aplenty when it comes to O’Brien, most of which are for another day but with specific reference to the early season view there are a couple of options to home in on for profit. The first is National Hunt race code

All Fergal O’Brien Oct/Nov National Hunt runners with an SP of 20/1 or shorter from 2012 onwards by race type

All profitable, which is nice. The pertinent angle for me though is his performance in bumpers, where O’Brien has nearly double the volume of winners than expected with a 186% return to boot.  Yes, the sample size is small, but within the data there are ten winners from horses making their debut (from 22), indicating that the yard gears up to get quality horses (or horses ready to win) out on the track in the months of October and November. Generally speaking, the later in October, the better as the record is 1/11 from the 1st-16th.

Profit in relation to hurdles and fences is quite small over those two months; however, if we zoom in a little closer there is a quite telling split in monthly performance, again it looks like the stable is peaking in November.

All Fergal O’Brien Oct/Nov Hurdle & Chase runners with an SP of 20/1 or shorter from 2012 onwards by race type

It’s not an absolute rule, and certainly doesn’t mean that a horse on the track on the 1st November is in different shape to one on 31st October, but it does indicate generally that as we start heading towards the big November Cheltenham meeting, the O’Brien yard picks up pace and is a definite one to follow closely.

Suggestion 1: Back all O’Brien NHF runners in late October/November at less than 20/1 SP

Suggestion 2: Back all O’Brien Chase and Hurdle runners in November at less than 20/1 SP

 

Moving to the trainer in the bronze medal position in the opening table, Harry Whittington: the Lambourn-based outfit is growing rapidly, currently housing nearly 50 horses with an increasing number of runners per year. I like these yards that are growing, it often means they’re on an upwards trajectory and are worth closer review.

First port of call is checking the race type in the table below, a small number of runners but the bumper aspect doesn’t look entirely compelling so I’m happy enough to exclude and keep a watching brief.

All Harry Whittington Oct/Nov National Hunt runners with an SP of 20/1 or shorter from 2012 onwards by race type

Again, evaluating the profile of Whittington’s hurdle and chase runners across the whole year gives an interesting picture in terms of P&L.  The graph below shows that very same P&L by month to a £1 level stake, it’s fair to say that Q4 looks quite compelling – another yard that’s fast out of the blocks for the new season.

Monthly P&L to a £1 level stake for all National Hunt runners at 20/1 or less from the Harry Whittington stable from 2012 onwards

 

If we analyse the October to December runs in terms of race class as a differentiator there is a further shard of light to assist profitable punting.

All Harry Whittington Oct-Dec Hurdle and Chase runners with an SP of 20/1 or shorter from 2012 onwards by race class

 

The basement C5 races are easy enough to ignore in punting terms, most of them crossing over with the NHF group we already discounted; the Class 1 & 2 are less straightforward, particularly if the yard’s expansion means they may be knocking on the door of the higher echelons of the racing ladder. Here and now I’d be inclined to back the C3 & C4 horses and track the C1/2 runners for signs of improvement or add to a shortlist to back on their relative merits.

Suggestion: Back all Harry Whittington’s October, November and December Chase/Hurdle runners at less than 20/1 in Class 3 or 4 races.

 

The final trainer I’m going to run through from the initial table is Venetia Williams, largely due to her volume of runners: to deliver a 17% ROI across 440 runners in the months of October/November from 2012 onwards is impressive and merits closer scrutiny.  That’s not to say all of the other trainers are not worthy of further investigation and I’d definitely be inclined to sharpen the focus on Messrs Pauling and Keighley in particular.  Have a play on QT yourself and maybe post anything of interest (or otherwise) in the comments below.

Returning to Venetia Williams, the Grand National-winning trainer has a profitable record during the months in question, but the below table tells a stark tale.  Clearly, Williams has a knack for getting her cavalry of chasers ready early in the season

All Venetia Williams Oct/Nov National Hunt runners with an SP of 20/1 or shorter from 2012 onwards by race type

 

Again, if we look specifically at the month, the record in November is much stronger than that of October.

Perusing the “Venetia” page at her website www.venetiawilliams.com the following sentence caught my eye:

“Since then Venetia's career has flourished. Never one to expose her horses to the high risk of summer ground, each year Venetia can be seen with the big Saturday winners during the core NH season”

There is a common belief that Williams’ runners love soft turf, and the statement above also seems to indicate a preference to avoiding the risks associated with summer ground.  On Geegeez we like facts to back up a theory, so the table below shows Venetia’s chase runners in November by official going.

All Venetia Williams Chase runners in November with an SP of 20/1 or shorter from 2012 onwards by official going

 

While there is confirmation that Williams’ runners prefer a softer surface, it is worth noting that the stereotyped ‘hock deep’ runner from this yard fares less well than those encountering merely ‘winter ground’, i.e. good to soft or soft.

There is one mild concern with the overall angle though, namely 2017 performance, showing a loss of 28%, this is also on the back of a moderate 2016.  It could be this angle has run its natural course, albeit I will be adding it to my own armoury this November.  Williams had a very quiet spell last winter, alluding to a potential problem in the yard so I’m just about happy enough to strike a line through 2017.  This is one for keen observation though.

All Venetia Williams Chase runners with an SP of 20/1 or shorter from 2012 onwards on good to soft, soft or heavy ground by year

Oh, and incidentally the Saturday assertion in the quoted sentence does have a degree of credence too.

Suggestion: Back all Venetia Williams November Chasers on Good to soft or softer ground with a 20/1 or less SP (with caution)

- Jon Shenton

Chasing A Winter Profit

Winter is coming

About a week ago I was thinking about topics to turn my hand to, playing with possible angles and messing around with data, writes Jon Shenton. Given that winter is coming™ I was looking through general National Hunt stats and I stumbled across the below potentially revelatory information.

 

All chase runners with an SP of 20/1 or shorter by trainer (from 1st January 2012 to 8th September 2018)

All chase runners with an SP of 20/1 or shorter by trainer (from 1st January 2012 to 8th September 2018)

 

The data is sorted by ROI at SP and only includes trainers that had 100 or more runners over fences in the review period.  Summarising all of the data, that’s 4890 runs in total with a decent £812 profit at a £1 level stake - a return of 17%.  To be honest I pore over data constantly and I can’t remember seeing anything this blatant, immediate and maybe obvious before, in fact I’m kicking myself I hadn’t clocked it previously. My only partial defence is that I have a slightly odd penchant for a class 6 Southwell AW handicap as a betting medium, clearly I should widen my focus to the chasing game!

Just before we plough on, let me explain the 20/1 upper limit choice: in basic terms, when looking for angles, quite often you can find what appear to be mightily profitable paper systems, but they are skewed by one or two big winners.  Now, one could reasonably argue that they are a component of the angle, however, I prefer to look for good solid reliability and hopefully sustainable profit, especially when trying to get a handle on a large data set such as ”all chase races” as we are reviewing in this article.

Back to the data, there are plenty of familiar names involved and also as you might expect, plenty of smaller yards potentially flying under the radar. In theory backing all runners from all of the yards systematically may yield a return but underneath this high-level view there should be interesting pockets of gold where a sharpened focus could improve the yield.

So how can we zoom in?  Well we could just analyse each trainer individually and sequentially, hunting for micro angles.  Maybe if we have unlimited time that would work but I have deadlines to meet, bills to pay, a family to talk to and a day job to think about.

I think in this case a quick look at consistency of performance over each calendar year may give a better view of the trainers to follow in the chase field. The table below gives that summary, blatantly and unashamedly ripping off an Instant Expert type view to assist in landing the individual nuances in the data.

P&L performance by year for a £1 level stake by trainer (All chase runners with an SP of 20/1 or shorter by trainer (from 1st January 2012 to 8th September 2018)

P&L performance by year for a £1 level stake by trainer (All chase runners with an SP of 20/1 or shorter by trainer (from 1st January 2012 to 8th September 2018)

 

First thing to note, 2018 as a whole so far is certainly disappointing in comparison to previous years.  It may be seasonality, i.e. we are only part way through 2018 and perhaps a number of these trainers hit their straps in Q4 so there could be juicy profit to be had over the next few months. It may be that the market is now wising up to the yards’ chasing proficiency. It may be reversion to the mean. It may be that the dataset was happenstance in spite of the 100+ runners stipulation. Or It may be something else entirely!

The original reason for pulling that view of the data was to find trainers upon which to focus; to look for those with a high degree of consistency both in strike rate and profit. We’re not really interested in flash in the pan performance: for instance, we can see that Kerry Lee makes the list purely on the back of a Hollywood 2016.

All of the trainers in the table with a comment of either “Consistent” or “Improving” are worth prioritising in the first instance but, for the sake of brevity, I’m going to concentrate on three: Dai Burchell at the top of the list, Michael Scudamore and Nigel Hawke.  Perhaps I’ll visit some of the others in a future edition!

 

Dai Burchell

I have a confession to make. Until starting this research I had genuinely never heard of, knowingly backed, or even looked at a Dai Burchell horse. I follow the flat more closely than the jumps – that’s my excuse – but even so!  Anyway, for those in the same hitherto ignorant boat as me, the yard is based in Ebbw Vale, has around a dozen horses in training currently and has been operating since 1983.  Dai and I have something in common too: apparently, we both enjoying walking around castles, perhaps our paths have crossed before unwittingly.

A keenness to learn more about Burchell reveals he is clearly a chase specialist, his hurdle strike rate being less than half as good. The yard’s sole bumper runner barely merits mention.

 

Dai Burchell National Hunt Runners by race type (from 1st January 2012 to 8th September 2018)

Dai Burchell National Hunt Runners by race type (from 1st January 2012 to 8th September 2018)

 

As I’ve mentioned in a previous article one of the first things I check where a trainer is concerned is how their fleet perform after a layoff. The table below shows Burchell’s chase runners split by days since last run.

 

Dai Burchell Chase Runners by days since last run with an SP of 20/1 or less (from 1st January 2012 to 8th September 2018)
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Dai Burchell Chase Runners by days since last run with an SP of 20/1 or less (from 1st January 2012 to 8th September 2018)

 

If a Burchell horse hasn’t had a run in 76 days then it doesn’t win. Granted there are only 18 of them so not a reliable number but the fact that the place percentage is also lower than the rest of the sample I’m happy enough to ignore it, leaving us with the following.

 

Dai Burchell Chase Runners at less than 20/1 SP with a run within the last 75 days (from 1st January 2012 to 8th September 2018)

Dai Burchell Chase Runners at less than 20/1 SP with a run within the last 75 days (from 1st January 2012 to 8th September 2018)

A 24%-win rate and 78% ROI by backing all Dai Burchell chase runners if they’re fit (i.e. ran in the previous 75 days). Ordinarily I’d take that any day of the week, but there is a very substantial elephant in the room that needs addressing. This is a small yard and this seemingly bulletproof performance is down to a small number of horses winning multiple times.

In fact, if we look at the 34 winners we have only 11 unique horses accounting for them, with such luminaries as Rebecca’s Choice, Ratify and One For The Boss getting their noses in front a total of 15 times between them.  There have been only 16 individual horses running for the yard since 2012 so to have 11 different winners is a strong performance, but even so it does make the data evidence slightly less compelling.

Having said that, what we know for certain is that Dai Burchell has a small, highly effective unit of chasers, who can win on a regular basis. They’ll certainly be going in my tracker or angles to flag each time they run for deadly serious consideration.

 

Michael Scudamore

Let’s look at one of the more mainstream names, the Welsh National and Cheltenham Festival-winning trainer MJ Scudamore, who has horses such as Mysteree and Kingswell Theatre associated with the yard.  My eye was drawn to this trainer on account of a profitable return in each of the last four years – significantly so in each of the last three years – and look to be on an upward curve, at least at first glance.

As with Dai Burchell, the record of Scudamore runners in chases is far superior to hurdles and NH Flat: his hurdle strike rate is 9%, less than half of the chase equivalent. The hurdlers also have an ROI of -60% compared to the 27% profit on chase runners.

Digging deeper into the record over fences there is a great deal of consistency across the usual factors I’d initially use to home in (days since last run, race class, horse sex, age etc).  There is, however, one area which merits attention.

 

MJ Scudamore Chase Runners at 20/1 or less SP by month (from 1st January 2012 to 8th September 2018)

MJ Scudamore Chase Runners at 20/1 or less SP by month (from 1st January 2012 to 8th September 2018)

 

The above graph clearly shows a fallow period through the summer jumps period, which is perfectly understandable: the yard keeps ticking over, but the focus is seemingly to gear up for the main season over the winter months.  The strike rate trend is mirrored by profitability, April to September runners collectively delivering a yield of -9%.

If we take Scudamore chase runners from October to March we’re left with a nice return of 64% at SP (78% Betfair Exchange).  The yard certainly has a bigger scale than Burchell with 46 horses in training, according to scudamoreracing.com.

Again, the 42 winners include multiples, with 18 unique horses delivering them.

One final thought on this section relates to recency bias. Very often when churning through data (trainer data especially) one check I do is to differentiate between whether a horse placed last time out.  For some trainers form of the horse can be less relevant, they are better at bouncing back from more moderate runs (maybe as they drop down the handicap). Below shows the differential for the Scudamore chasers through the winter months.

 

MJ Scudamore Chase Runners at 20/1 or less Oct-Mar by whether they placed LTO (from 1st January 2012 to 8th September 2018)

MJ Scudamore Chase Runners at 20/1 or less Oct-Mar by whether they placed LTO (from 1st January 2012 to 8th September 2018)

 

No discernible difference in strike rate but the P&L is much healthier for horses that didn’t hit the frame in their previous run. The average SP for a winning horse placing LTO is a shade over 10/3, whereas for those off the board on their most recent run, the winners return an average 15/2 SP. Recency bias in numbers? I hope to review this in more detail over the coming months.

Recency bias or not, don’t be put off by a recent moderate run by a Scudamore chaser.

 

Nigel Hawke

The final trainer subject to a more detailed review is Nigel Hawke, who is based in Tiverton and has a team of nearly 30 horses in training. Whenever I hear or think about Nigel Hawke the first thing that springs to mind is geegeez.co.uk’s Trainer Snippets report, specifically with regard to last time out winners. Hawke’s name seems to be a permanent fixture on there! So, first port of call is to check that and, given his general strong record over fences, I’d expect to see a nice angle looking specifically at LTOW’s.

 

Nigel Hawke Chase Runners at 20/1 or less SP where they won LTO (from 1st January 2012 to 8th September 2018)

Nigel Hawke Chase Runners at 20/1 or less SP where they won LTO (from 1st January 2012 to 8th September 2018)

 

Sure enough, the theory holds water: a small number of runners but solid enough. As a slightly off-topic bonus, below is the record of Hawke’s LTO winners running over hurdles over the same period, a very similar story.  Conclusion: Nigel Hawke last time out winners are worth backing irrespective of obstacle type

 

Nigel Hawke Hurdle Runners at 20/1 or less SP where they won LTO (from 1st January 2012 to 8th September 2018)

Nigel Hawke Hurdle Runners at 20/1 or less SP where they won LTO (from 1st January 2012 to 8th September 2018)

 

Back to Hawke in general chases, here is his record by class of race

 

Nigel Hawke Chase Runners at 20/1 or less SP by race class (from 1st January 2012 to 8th September 2018)

Nigel Hawke Chase Runners at 20/1 or less SP by race class (from 1st January 2012 to 8th September 2018)

 

As can be seen, Class 5 – the basement level in National Hunt – race performance is fairly wretched by comparison to all other classes.  I’m always comfortable taking these factors into account when it’s either at the elite end or the opposite (let’s call it grassroots) levels.

By focusing on Class 1 to 4 races only we are left with 46 wins from 212 runs (21%) and a starting price ROI of 44%, the 46 wins delivered by 19 different animals.

 

Summary

There are a number of generally profitable trainers over fences in the review period and using a quick check of consistency to zoom in on particular yards, I would flag three angles worth putting in the notebook for the winter months:

  • Dai Burchell chase runners if they’ve had a recent run (in the last 75 days)
  • Michael Scudamore chase runners running from October through to March, focusing on those that had a moderate last run (didn’t place)
  • Nigel Hawke’s chase runners in Class 1-4, and all last time out NH winners

 

- Jon Shenton

Predicting Mark Johnston Runners, Part 2

In the second part of this two part article, part one available here, Jon Shenton digs into Mark Johnston's performance record in search of profitable betting angles. Here he looks at older horses as well as Johnston's favourite course.

Older Horses

Roughly 70% of Johnston’s runners are 2- and 3-year-olds so perhaps there is less focus on his older horses. The vast majority of these more mature runners’ activity, as you might expect, is in handicaps (all bar 150 or so runs, which have a losing ROI of c.25% at SP). It makes sense, then, to concentrate on the journeyman handicapping cohort for further review.

Mark Johnston older horses (aged 4-9) in handicaps by race age restriction, from January 2013

Age restriction Runs Wins Win% P/L (SP) Place% ROI (SP) P/L (BF) ROI (BF) A/E
3yo+ 530 69 13.0 82.1 33.0 15.5 277.6 52.4 1.02
4yo+ 919 130 14.2 -218.4 32.5 -23.8 -136.4 -14.8 0.85

 

The table above shows the split of the runners in the two age groupings for eligible handicaps, and it is apparent that a Johnston 'older horse' in a 3yo+ handicap is worth a second look. In fact, if we split things down further by age of runner, we can see that the focus ought to be on 4- or 5-year-olds in 3yo+ handicaps. The table below illustrates the breakdown by age:

 

Mark Johnston trained older horses in 3yo+ handicap by age of horse from January 2013

Horse Age Runs Wins Win% P/L (SP) Place% ROI (SP) P/L (BF) ROI (BF) A/E
4 382 56 14.7 135.2 32.2 35.4 319.1 83.5 1.12
5 82 12 14.6 8.9 32.9 10.9 20.2 24.6 1.11
6 31 0 0.0 -31.0 41.9 -100.0 -31.0 -100.0 0.00
7 17 0 0.0 -17.0 41.2 -100.0 -17.0 -100.0 0.00
8 17 1 5.9 -13.0 23.5 -76.5 -12.7 -74.5 0.69
9 1 0 0.0 -1.0 100.0 -100.0 -1.0 -100.0 0.00

 

Horses aged six and older have a record of 1 win from 66 races, losing 95p in the pound over time.  In fact, checking the record of Johnston 6-year-olds-plus in all handicap races (including the 4yo+ category) makes for ugly reading with just 13 wins from 155 runs, something of a red flag when seeing horses such as Final or Watersmeet taking their place in the stalls next time.

The 4/5-year-old performance also comes with a major health warning sadly, in that there are a couple of long odds winners buried in there - at 66/1 and a couple of 33/1 shots too - which are enough to inflate the profit level significantly without negating the angle entirely. Ordinarily these could and probably should be ignored: it is not generally good policy to rely on a few Hail Mary’s to land so I’d probably take these out of the equation.  That may be a risk averse mindset but I have a preference for higher strike rates, and more reliable data-driven wagering.

That extra reliability can be attained by trying to establish which may be the better quality horses within the data. In very general terms the higher the weight carried (or ranking of horses' official rating in the race) the greater the chance of that horse winning in a handicap.

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If we analyse these 4/5-year-olds in terms of position in weights (excluding jockey claim) we get the following breakdown:

Mark Johnston 4/5-year-olds in 3yo+ handicaps by position in weights (excluding jockey claim), from January 2013

Pos in weights Runs Wins Win% P/L (SP) Place% ROI (SP) P/L (BF) ROI (BF) A/E
1 104 22 21.2 40.7 47.1 39.1 54.4 52.3 1.24
2 64 14 21.9 16.5 31.3 25.8 23.8 37.2 1.48
3 75 12 16.0 16.3 34.7 21.7 29.8 39.8 1.06
4 43 4 9.3 -14.5 25.6 -33.7 -10.7 -24.8 0.72
5 39 5 12.8 -11.8 25.6 -30.2 -6.2 -15.9 1.01
6 31 1 3.2 -18.0 25.8 -58.1 -14.7 -47.4 0.30
7 20 1 5.0 -10.0 10.0 -50.0 -7.6 -37.9 0.49
8 22 3 13.64 6 31.82 27.27 11.43 51.95 1.51

 

As can be seen, horses in the top three in the weights are worth closer scrutiny, and I suspect that Johnston, with his vast army of young horses, knows better than most how to place his slightly older fleet to maximise probability of a strong run.

 

Courses: Goodwood

Mark Johnston’s positive training record at Goodwood is well documented: 53 victories over the past six years from 355 runs, with a pretty healthy 14% profit if you backed every single one at SP.

There are some cautionary tones to heed, however: during 2018 we’ve seen the best strike rate (18%) but the worst wagering return since 2013, with losses of 19% at starting price. Few braindead simple approaches last very long, and perhaps the market has wised up and adjusted, or perhaps it is genuinely a case of the shorter priced horses landing (average price of winners in 2018 is approx. 5/2 compared to the overall 13/2 or thereabouts).  One to keep an eye on as usually Johnston's second- and third-string entries can be relied on to hit their mark during the season, and especially at the Glorious - sorry, Qatar Goodwood Festival - meeting.

Overall, there are not many Johnston horses that go to Goodwood at huge prices. Indeed, only 23 have gone off with an SP of 20/1 or bigger, and not a single one has even hit the frame. It seems sensible to be apprehensive of any horse at these prices, with the yard apparently knowing more about what is expected than many in the betting media and indeed public.

Another consideration when evaluating trainers is checking how their runners perform in relation to their layoff: how many days they have been off the track. The table below shows the breakdown of all Johnston's Goodwood runners split by the last time the horses stretched its legs in competitive action.

Mark Johnston Goodwood runners (20/1 or shorter) since January 2013, by days since last run

Days Off Runs Wins Win% P/L (SP) Place% ROI (SP) P/L (BF) ROI (BF) A/E
2 4 0 0.0 -4.0 50.0 -100.0 -4.0 -100.0 0.00
3 1 1 100.0 2.5 100.0 250.0 3.1 305.9 3.45
4-5 11 1 9.1 -3.0 18.2 -27.3 -1.2 -11.1 0.74
6-10 59 11 18.6 0.0 52.5 0.0 4.0 6.8 1.27
11-15 67 12 17.9 23.4 41.8 34.9 33.3 49.7 1.34
16-20 52 14 26.9 68.8 48.1 132.4 84.0 161.5 1.89
21-25 38 5 13.2 8.0 36.8 21.1 15.7 41.4 0.90
26-30 21 0 0 -21 23.81 -100 -21 -100 0.00
31-45 31 1 3.23 -21 12.9 -67.74 -20.28 -65.42 0.24

 

It could be argued that the data alludes to the fact that Johnston has a plan in mind when sending horses to this particular corner of the Sussex countryside, getting them there in peak condition through a relatively recent tuning run, 11-25 days looking optimal. Backing in line with this improves the strike rate to nearly 20% and a SP profit level of 64%.  Horses that haven’t run for more than 25 days have a rather lean record of three wins from 69 runs (not all data included in the table) so should be considered unsympathetically based on that evidence; evidence which is supported by the fact that Johnston famously keeps his horses fit on the racecourse rather than at home, so greater absences may be assumed to infer an issue of some sort.

 

Summary

A fair amount of rummaging around the Johnston battalions since 2013 has kept me very busy, although it has still left a feeling that I’m just scratching the surface. Hopefully there are a few angles of interest, or at least some food for thought for development of your own approaches. As ever with analysis of this nature sample sizes can be small, but that’s the beauty and challenge of it all: trying to figure out if these snippets of data and patterns can be used as a basis to bet in the future, in this case to pinpoint some of Johnston’s next 4194 winners!

 

Possible angles and betting opportunities (from part one and two of this article)

  • Johnston First Time Out 2-year-old fillies over 5-6.5f, especially during the months of May to August
  • Previous 2yo winners in novice races if they have had a recent run throughout spring and summer
  • Winless 3yo runners with five or fewer career runs in 3yo handicaps
  • 4/5-year-old runners in 3yo+ handicap races, particularly if they are in the top 3 official ratings / weights
  • Goodwood runners shorter than 20/1 that have had a recent run (ideally 10-25 days)
  • Tread carefully with Johnston runners in nursery handicaps and any older horse (6+) running in a handicap.

 

- Jon Shenton

 

POST SCRIPT 3rd September 2018: My mate Ben Aitken has taken the Mark Johnston theme and run with it a little further, looking at performance by run style. Regular followers of Geegeez Gold pace content may be able to guess at the findings, but they're pretty striking all the same, and can be checked out here.

Predicting Mark Johnston Runners, Part 1

When Poet’s Society delivered win number 4,194 for Mark Johnston in the Clipper Logistics Handicap to cement his position as winning most trainer in UK racing history, I read a number of tweets about the impossibility and frustration in predicting how his sizeable battalion of horses perform, writes Jon Shenton.

This rang true: having searched high and low in the past for potential Johnston angles I’ve found it hard to see the wood for the trees. Perhaps the sheer volume of runners essentially evens everything out?   Surely though there must be something in that vast amount of data worth discovering? Armed with a renewed vigour I put the kettle on, fired up a database (the excellent horseracebase) and got to work.

The first question to ask, and answer, is, “where do you start?”. To me there is a certain logic in evaluating the yard by age groups, so in flat racing terms it makes sense to run the rule over Johnston’s ample contingent of 2-year-old runners in the first instance.

 

Two-year-olds

The volume of horses travelling through this yard from a young age is phenomenal. By my calculations there are on average around a hundred new 2YO debutants from the stable per year.  Backing them systematically is a complete no go as that would result in a loss of 17% at SP, however if we look at distance as a differentiator, we start to get a different feel:

Mark Johnston debutant 2yo's split by race distance (1st January 2013 to 24th August 2018)

Distance Runs Wins Win% P/L (SP) Place% ROI (SP) % P/L (BF) ROI (BF) % A/E
5f & 5.5f 145 30 20.7 -6.9 40.0 -4.8 10.0 6.9 0.94
6f & 6.5f 163 28 17.2 4.2 36.2 2.6 40.9 25.1 1.04
7f & 7.5f 156 20 12.8 -35.9 27.6 -23.0 -18.4 -11.8 0.81
1m & 1m.5f 67 5 7.5 -44.8 35.8 -66.8 -43.2 -64.5 0.68
1m1f & 1m1.5f 4 0 0.0 -4.0 0.0 -100.0 -4.0 -100.0 0.00
1m2f & 1m2.5f 3 1 33.3 -1.2 66.7 -39.0 -1.1 -36.3 1.49

 

Immediately we can see that the 5-6.5f debutants more or less break even to SP with a reasonable return to Betfair SP.  In my experience this is usually a good starting point for further investigation and with BOG on the table there would be many worse ways to wager than backing these all blindly.  However, I very much doubt you’re reading this to more or less break even, so let’s see if there is a better indicator in the data to improve punting performance.

A key component to consider with trainers often is the gender of the horse, in fact Geegeez’s own Tony Keenan appraised Irish Trainers and their relative performance with fillies, here.

Assessing Johnston’s debutants by gender is very interesting, as the table below indicates:

 

Mark Johnston’s debutant 5f-6.5f runners by gender (1st January 2013 to 24th August 2018)

Gender Runs Wins Win% P/L(SP) Place% ROI(SP) P/L(BF) ROI(BF) A/E
Colt 169 23 13.6 -74.0 33.1 -43.8 -62.6 -37.0 0.7
Gelding 2 1 50.0 6.5 50.0 325.0 11.2 559.0 2.7
Filly 137 34 24.8 64.8 43.8 47.3 102.3 74.7 1.3

 

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In anyone’s book that’s quite a variance between colts and fillies (despite the 325% ROI I think with a sample size of two, we can ignore the geldings).  A debut MJ filly wins a quarter of the total runs and returns nearly 50% on SP, and that’s very much backing blind territory if you are that way inclined. Certainly such types are worthy of marking up when you’re betting in a race containing a Johnston debut juvenile filly.

Digging deeper, backing those fillies from May to August improves the picture, the runners early in the season generally underperforming, as do many fillies at that time of year.

 

Mark Johnston 2yo first time out fillies running May-August between 5f-6.5f in distance

Year Runs Wins Win% P/L(SP) Place% ROI(SP) P/L(BF) ROI(BF) A/E
ALL 98 26 26.5 79.3 45.9 81.0 115.5 117.8 1.5
2018 18 6 33.3 5.8 66.7 32.2 7.3 40.6 1.3
2017 20 5 25.0 39.0 35.0 195.0 60.0 299.8 1.7
2016 24 4 16.7 5.8 33.3 24.3 10.3 42.7 1.1
2015 17 6 35.3 18.5 52.9 108.5 22.3 130.9 2.1
2014 10 4 40.0 16.5 70.0 165.0 22.0 219.6 2.4
2013 9 1 11.1 -6.3 22.2 -69.4 -6.3 -69.8 0.7

 

The same underperformance applies to horses making their first strides in the autumn, which may be being geared up for 3YO handicaps the following season and potentially running to get a mark (more on those unexposed types later).

So, by backing Johnston first time out fillies over 5-6.5f from May to August a return on investment of 81% would have been achieved; just for clarity this covers both Maiden and Novice races.

Looking beyond the first-time out angle, considering novice races only (Johnston’s record in nursery handicaps is par at best so ignored for the purpose of this article) there is more of potential interest.   

Since the expanded novice programme was introduced in 2016 to encourage more sightings of maiden race winners, it is worth a check to see if Johnston is making use of these races by evaluating the performance of his previous winning horses.  The table below shows those runners in novices that have got their noses in front in their fledgling two-year-old careers.

 

Mark Johnston novice runners from 2016 to date with a previous career win

Runs Wins Win% P/L(SP) Place% ROI(SP) P/L(BF) ROI(BF) A/E
92 36 39.13 18.4 66.3 20.0 26.9 29.2 1.13

 

Three-year-olds

Considering the Classic generation, it was actually quite hard to find a robust angle but there is potentially something in evaluating unexposed horses in handicaps with very little in the way of solid form.  Taking all of Johnston’s 3yo runners in 3yo only handicaps we have the following:

Mark Johnston 3YO runners in 3YO only handicaps from 2013 to date

Runs Wins Win% P/L(SP) Place% ROI(SP) P/L(BF) ROI(BF) A/E
1736 262 15.09 -316.7 32.4 -18.2 -154.5 -8.9 0.9

 

That overarching dataset is miles away from a profitable or even remotely interesting angle; however, if we look for potential lurkers, horses that the market may overlook due to previous underwhelming performance there might just be a sliver of light to work with.

Mark Johnston 3YO runners in 3YO handicaps by number of career wins from 2013 to date

Career wins Runs Wins Win% P/L(SP) Place% ROI(SP) P/L(BF) ROI(BF) A/E
0 405 70 17.3 11.4 35.8 2.8 46.8 11.6 1.05
1 619 91 14.7 -184.8 31.5 -29.9 -121.1 -19.6 0.84
2 384 69 18.0 -31.2 35.2 -8.1 8.1 2.1 1.03
3 224 25 11.2 -54.5 28.6 -24.3 -33.2 -14.8 0.79
4 82 5 6.1 -44.1 23.2 -53.8 -42.1 -51.4 0.51
5 20 1 5.0 -16.5 20.0 -82.5 -15.9 -79.7 0.44
6 2 1 50.0 3.0 50.0 150.0 3.1 154.3 2.13
7 1 0 0 -1 0 -100 -1 -100 0.00

 

The top line is interesting. Horses that have no previous career wins running in a 3YO handicap for Johnston are marginally profitable if you back them all, and they have a respectable 17% strike rate too.  There are several ways to potentially sharpen from this starting point.  However, to stay with the unexposed theme, evaluating the horses’ total number of career runs might be considered a logical way to delve in a bit deeper; fewer runs should mean less predictable?

Mark Johnston 3YO handicap runners from January 2013 with no career wins, by number of career runs

Career runs Runs Wins Win% P/L(SP) Place% ROI(SP) P/L(BF) ROI(BF) A/E
3 91 19 20.9 8.0 37.4 8.8 16.7 18.3 1.21
4 87 21 24.1 45.9 40.2 52.7 56.8 65.3 1.41
5 60 11 18.3 16.0 36.7 26.6 26.6 44.3 1.03
6 51 7 13.7 -15.5 27.5 -30.4 -12.5 -24.5 0.88
7 37 7 18.9 -0.1 37.8 -0.2 1.8 5.0 1.22
8 29 1 3.5 -27.4 34.5 -94.4 -27.6 -95.3 0.23

Maybe fewer runs = more predictable!  No career wins, fewer than 6 career runs, 30% profit thank you very much.   Even if ploughing in on them all isn’t for you it’s a smart move to put an unexposed Johnston 3YO on your shortlist or at the very least be wary of them if you have another fancy in the race. This chart shows win strike rate, and ROI (SP/BSP) by number of previous starts for Mark Johnston maiden three-year-olds.

 

Those with more than eight career runs have a 4/50 win record and represent an incredibly poor way of investing.

Possible angles and betting opportunities:

  • Johnston First Time Out 2-year-old fillies over 5-6.5f, especially during the months of May to August
  • Previous 2yo winners in novice races if they have had a recent run throughout spring and summer
  • Winless 3yo runners with five or fewer career runs in 3yo handicaps

In part two of this article, I look at older horses and a course where the 'Always Trying' bandwagon are particularly potent. You can read that here >

- Jon Shenton

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