Trainer Profiles: Nicky Richards

Trainer Profiles: Nicky Richards

It’s time for another edition of trainer profiles and, for this one, I’ve opted to run the rule over the Cumbrian operation headed by Nicky Richards.

There are two key motivating factors in selecting Richards for a bit of the data treatment. Firstly, it’s not a yard I have especially followed, and I enjoy the educational journey that penning these articles delivers: the discovery of new insight and information is the fun element of compiling these pieces. Secondly, and far more importantly, it’s a results thing. The stable has generally strong and consistent performance over time, which is a solid foundation for deeper analysis. Let’s begin.

Here is an unedited, unfiltered view of all the yards runners from 2011 at SP in UK National Hunt racing (up to and including 5th Feb 2021)

 

That’s a very impressive set of numbers. I’d speculate that, based on these data, if you were farming the bookies’ offers of best odds guaranteed, backing all runners from the stable you’d be at worst broadly breaking even. Not a bad starter for ten.

Nicky Richards: Performance vs. the Market

As is now tradition (if three events can be counted as tradition) we will commence with a market check to obtain a general feel for the yard, which I’ve found to be a reliable starting point in the construction of a trainer profile.

The table below contains all of Richards’ runners for just over the last ten years, grouped by starting price.

 

 

As might be expected, there is a healthy look to the picture, with the probable exception of those sent off at 22/1 or longer. Three winners from 228 runners at these prices is cause enough to avoid almost at all costs. That said, one does need to be a little careful in ranges where a single winner can significantly impact the overall view. Even so, not for me in data terms, given that just one of the 81 horses priced 50/1 or bigger made the frame.

Meanwhile, at the sharper end, there is a strong impression that broad value exists in the 5/2 to 20/1 price range. This implies a slight but consistent underestimation of the stable within the market where perhaps the form claims are not overtly obvious. That’s far from an endorsement or recommendation to get involved indiscriminately, however.

Here are the data represented graphically, displayed by A/E which assists in painting a picture of where general value may exist.

 

After further rummaging, there wasn’t a lot more to get excited about within this area (that I found, anyway). Therefore, the message is a broad one, in that there is value in following Richards when paying particular attention to those priced in the 5/2 to 20/1 ranges.

Despite this, for the rest of this article I’m going to only consider runners with an SP of 14/1 or shorter, unless explicitly stated otherwise. Yes, the graph and data does show potential value up to 20/1. However, between 16s and 20s, a strike rate of 5.9% (13/222) isn’t enough to insure me against the dreaded losing runs in spite of the potential long-term profit. It’s a personal choice and you have to be geared up for feast and famine at that end of the market: I’m not especially.

Nicky Richards: Seasonal Performance

As is often the case with National Hunt yards, performance can vary throughout the year and it’s something which can be seen from Team Richards, as the table below illustrates.

 

In relative terms at least, the numbers put up during the summer jumps season are a pale shadow of the rest of the year. They’re not terrible, far from it, but it would appear that the summer season is not a major focus for the yard. The below graph shows the same data through the prism of A/E and clearly illustrates the dip.

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Catching the yard from December to March appears to be optimal in rough terms.

Digging further, I’ve mentioned before that seasonal performance and underfoot conditions often go hand in hand. Given that the A/E numbers have a slight dip during the summer it could generally be expected that the overall performance is less positive on firmer ground, a condition more prevalent at that time of year.

 

Exactly as expected, the insight on Good and Good to Firm are strikingly below those for going on the softer side with clear variance across strike rates, P&L, A/E and even place percentages.

It’s of specific interest to try and establish whether softer ground runners in summer do comparatively well against those running on ground more typical of the warmer months, and vice versa (firmer ground performance in winter).

 

The above line graph splits the data by underfoot conditions and month. By way of explanation the dotted grey line represents the overall data for the yard in terms of A/E (same data as the graph at the start of this section). The blue line shows A/E performance for stable runners on Good to Soft, Soft and Heavy ground conditions. The sunny orange line contains A/E info for Good and Good to Firm runs.

It reveals that, generally, the yard out turns better numbers when the going is on the softer side irrespective of the time of year. It also at least hints towards an assertion that there might well be some sort of edge backing Richards runners during the summer jumps season when the going is more winter like (June still moderate). In fact, A/E performance peaks in July on the wetter going across all data sets. Granted, this only relates to 12 runs, but it does demonstrate potential value can still be attained in summer, despite the higher-level data pointing in another direction.

Of course, there is no categorical rule; none of this info should mean back or laying blindly, life is always more nuanced than that. However, by gaining an understanding of these elements a general sharpening of the punting process can be attained.

For example, to convince me to part with my cash on a Richards summer jumper on Good or Good to Firm ground I’d want the horse to tick virtually every other box available and show significant superiority over the rest of the field. In such cases, there would very likely be no juice in the price as the horse’s chance would be so obvious.

On softer ground I’d show more leniency with regards to the form in the book. Naturally, we will still be wrong a lot more often than right, but by using data to find value we can ensure our winners pay for a lot more losers!

 

Nicky Richards: Seasonal performance by race type

Another notable aspect where the seasonal performance can be seen is with National Hunt Flat races. The first port of call is to evaluate accomplishments by the different types of National Hunt discipline to ascertain how data in bumpers holds up against the other race types.

 

It’s clear, and very much like Fergal O’Brien from my last article, that Richards is a trainer to follow when no obstacles are in play. It may be enough to leave it there, however, the seasonal factor is again well demonstrated focusing on this race category alone.

 

The above table shows the rhythm of the stable regarding its bumper runners. From May to September there are two wins from 23 runs. However, performance through the winter is exemplary. If this table is representative of the future, then March will be a good time to get on board with a strike rate of very nearly a third since January 2011.

 

 

Nicky Richards: Performance by Racecourse

There is little doubt that Richards is a leading light of the northern racing circuit. A perusal of his runners by UK region confirms that beyond all reasonable doubt.

 

This yard, based in Cumbria, thirty miles from the Scottish border, has saddled just under half of its UK runners in Scotland. Most of the other stable competitors have been heavily concentrated in and around Northern England. In very general terms, the rare forays to the Southern parishes are underwhelming.

The dichotomy is stark: this is a yard that is seemingly content to harvest on the northern circuit consistently, leaving the South to others.

Analysing individual track performance, the below table demonstrates all course data for those where the stable has saddled 50 or more runners over the duration of the analysis.

 

The focus on Scotland can be clearly seen with Ayr, Kelso and Perth filling the top three berths and Musselburgh not too far behind. However, it’s hopefully obvious regarding the tracks that are front and centre in terms of punting interest. The output at Carlisle and Hexham sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb. Consequently, they’re highlighted by the unsubtle dark blue bandings (Sedgefield and Kelso have claims, too).

Whilst Carlisle has an edge over Hexham in terms of profitability, both are worth noting with percentage strike rates well in the 30s. For the record it’s a 64% ROI at SP combined across this pair of wagering diamonds.

I spent a while trying to ascertain a better edge to the track info: race types, distances, venue of last run, all sorts of other info and, in truth, there wasn’t too much to be found to enhance the edge in question. That’s heartening, I guess, because the best, most sustainable, angles are also usually the simplest.

I did check those runners with SP’s at 16/1 or greater too, just in case there was a trick being missed at these tracks. Reassuringly, the numbers for the stable at these prices are 0/37 with only four placed horses, somewhat validating my semi-arbitrary 14/1 cut off point.

With an edge that is as route-one as this it may be expected that the market would have adapted, evolved, and essentially reduced or removed any punter advantage. To evaluate this, the graph below illustrates the cumulative profit and loss picture from the 2011 start date used in this article.

 

Basically, there is no sign of abatement, in fact it could be argued that performance is going from strength to strength with the twin track performance being as strong as ever over the past three years. The law of averages (and of Sod!) suggests it’s due a reversal at some point. However, as a bare minimum a Nicky Richards-trained horse at Carlisle or Hexham requires thorough analysis given that a third of them prevail. Until the market adapts, I’m going to keep a close eye on stable runners at these courses.

Nicky Richards: Stable jockeys

The below table shows the principal riders Richards has engaged from 2011 to date [excluding Brian Harding who took the bulk of the rides until his retirement in 2017]. Craig Nichol is also riding with much less frequency for the stable, too, over recent times (but is included).

 

If the primary focus is a quest for winners, then it’s no surprise whatsoever to see Brian Hughes lead the way. The strike rate on a Hughes ride is far superior (27%) to any other pilot deployed by the yard (Sean Quinlan, who has only taken 21 rides thus far, aside). However, deriving value from a champion jockey-steered runner is easier said than done in the long term as the ROI (0.9%) and A/E (0.95) allude. At first glance, at least, the value approach is to follow the mounts of Ryan Day. In fact, there would be worse ways to indiscriminately wager than backing the Richards/Day combo based on the intel above.

To prevail, or even tread water, in this game it’s essential to swim against the tide of the market on a consistent basis (if you’ll pardon my mixed and mangled metaphors). Listening to the many protagonists within racing media it’s quite easy to pick up on common assumptions or themes and it’s always fun trying to prove or disprove the comments through, you know, actual fact-checked analysis. It’s amazing how many urban myths and factoids are hurled around which have little statistical merit. One such oft-spouted view relates to jockey upgrades or downgrades from race to race and how much this may affect the chances of a particular horse.

By way of example, we have a young, talented jockey (Day) whose impact on his rides may be underestimated by the market. And we have an extremely high profile, leading champion jockey (Hughes) with all the associated focus. This inevitably results in his mounts usually being well found in market terms.

But what about jockey switches between the two on the same horse? We can see (albeit on a micro scale) that moving from Hughes to Day is not necessarily a downgrade. Day to Hughes is not necessarily is an upgrade either. In fact, the numbers suggest the converse.

 

Horses piloted last time out by Day that have switched to Hughes have produced just three victories from 23 outings. The converse switch is four from 13. Again, these are tiny samples so let’s not go overboard; but the point is to challenge assumptions about supposed rider upgrades. There are cases such as this everywhere, every day. In this example, from a value perspective, you shouldn’t be put off a horse piloted by Ryan Day, even if the champ was on top last time.

Nicky Richards: Headgear

Analysing the Richards stable in terms of headgear performance throws up some interesting stats. The table below shows the performance of the yard’s animals by whichever accoutrements are fitted to aid performance.

 

Yard runners dating back to 2011 have outperformed market expectations where some form of body kit has been added. Based on these numbers alone it appears to be reasonably clear cut that Richards and team are exemplar in understanding when to call on some of the aids available. Including the visored runners there are a total of 49 wins from 193 runs, an A/E of 1.29 and a 33% ROI just from backing all Richards runners with headgear at SP.

I did check to establish whether there was any pattern in how many times the yard had turned to a particular piece of headgear equipment for a given horse, expecting to potentially see horses with new (to them) attachments performing better to the tried and tested ones. There wasn’t too much in it, with all horses performing well irrespective of the freshness of the headgear solution to the animal. Again, it’s one for the checklist. A Richards runner with ‘go-faster stripes’ is one to shortlist if the price is keen enough at 14s or shorter.

Yet again, I’ve exceeded my intended word count so that’s it for another edition of Trainer Profiles. Hopefully, you’re armed with a few snippets around the top trainer Nicky Richards and have discovered something new along the way. I certainly have. The stable is right in the crosshairs now, and I’ll be tracking runners closely hereafter.

Trainer Profiles: Fergal O’Brien

This deep mid-winter lockdown is not good for much, but it is providing ample opportunity to conduct racing analysis, reading, and a general upskilling on the racing knowledge front, writes Jon Shenton. Yes, it’s wafer thin positive but, as for many others, focusing on our wonderful sport provides a diversion and purpose through the long dark nights.

With that in mind, I’ve decided to focus on the yard of Fergal O’Brien for this edition of Trainer Profiles as there is plenty of data-driven interest emanating from the stable’s runners. Based at Ravenswell Farm deep in the Cotswolds, and a few miles away from Cheltenham, the yard as of 23rd January has notched 73 winners during this National Hunt season. That’s enough to reside in 7th in the trainer table in terms of prize money, and 3rd in terms of winning races. O’Brien and team have been an outfit to keep onside for quite some time and are still on an ascendant arc.

A link to their website is here and it is well worth perusing at your leisure (it also saves me using wordcount on the intro!)

In addition to this, it would be remiss of me not to highlight the very entertaining twitter presence that the yard has, which has attracted over 36,000 followers currently. I’m sure that if you’re on the platform you probably follow them already but, if not, I’d heartily recommend checking them out @FOBracing.  An array of very funny content awaits, along with a championing of many worthy causes and a dedicated obsession with cake and cardigans.

Meanwhile, back in the betting world…

 

Fergal O’Brien: General Market Performance

As per my recent article on Jeremy Scott I like to get a feel for the general performance of a yard through a quick market check. The below table contains data representing O’Brien’s runners from January 2011 to present (9th Jan 2021). It relates to National Hunt runs only in the UK.

 

Immediate focus and initial conclusions show a competitive yard at all prices but there does appear to be a potential sweet spot in one or two of the more fanciful price ranges. Based on these data it would have been profitable at SP to support every one of the yard’s horses where their odds returned between 13/2 and 20/1 over the past decade or so.

To help further contextualise, the below graph demonstrates the A/E performance of the team at SP when compared to the UK National Hunt Market Average over the same period.

 

O’Brien’s numbers match the market trend in reasonably close fashion until the aforementioned 13/2 price banding. The orange (FO’B) line on the graph shows a significantly improved outcome versus the overall market through these ranges. It may also be prudent to note that at SP’s north of 20/1 the yard is 7-from-416 so historically there aren’t many that deliver from completely out of left field.

In summary, the graph and stats demonstrate an operation who can swim against the tide of conventional market consensus on a regular basis.

When presented with a picture such as this it is sensible and pragmatic to establish why the market seems to consistently understate the chances of a horse under certain conditions. In general, markets are positively receptive to recent evidence of a “good” run. As a result, a good first port of call is to check performance by whether the horse had a decent result in their prior race. There are numerous ways of doing this. However, keeping it simple and evaluating by whether the horse placed last time out is as good a starting point as any.

The table below shows these mid-range priced animals for FO’B in relation to whether their last outing resulted in a placed finish. There are 77 runs where the horse at the price ranges had no previous run, so they are excluded from the data.

 

The numbers clearly demonstrate enhanced performance for horses that had (at least by finishing position) a less impressive venture last time out. An obvious health warning is that a strike rate of 11% is not for the faint of heart. By tracking and backing such runners indiscriminately over the past decade one would have faced a longest losing run of 37 (according to horseracebase) during that period. It takes a lot of mental fortitude, and a commensurate betting bank, to keep pressing on whilst in the eye of a storm like this.

Taking it slightly further, there is always reassurance in finding reasons that a runner may improve next time. Factors such as differing underfoot conditions, headgear amendments, and even jockey changes can all be considered. Race distance is another.

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The table above displays the performance of those unplaced last time out runners by whether they competed over the same, or a different, race distance compared to last time out. There is a clear divergence in performance: essentially, a change in distance has resulted in an improvement in a high proportion of the yard’s runners.

Again, it’s not an angle for the timid, and it is hard to advocate backing these blindly with a strike rate shy of 12%. However, the evidence at least increases the mental fortitude to partially ignore the market when an FO’B horse does not have the comfort blanket of a productive run last time out, especially if there is a credible reason that the horse may step forward today, perhaps as a result of a different trip.

Having said that the record of horses at an SP of between 16/1 and 20/1 in this sample is neutral so, ideally, I’d want a price at 14/1 or shorter to play.

 

Fergal O’Brien: By National Hunt Race Code

Maintaining a high level focus the below table illustrates the yard’s performance by the race code within National Hunt racing. For reasons broadly alluded to above I’m only considering runners with SP’s of 14/1 or shorter from this point on in this article.

 

It’s all good stuff, however, there is slightly more meritorious performance levels in the chase and NH Flat disciplines. Initially, I want to focus on the bumper component. I have referred to O’Brien’s proficiency in these races in this earlier article. However, it’s worth a quick refresher / reminder, and updated view here.

The first stop is to check performance by the number of career runs under rules that the horse has experienced. This info is contained below.

 

Again, it probably is another exhibit demonstrating how the consensus of the market underestimates a first-time out runner with zero racecourse evidence. Evidently, there is only marginal variance between the two data sets in terms of win and place rates. However, the debut runners outperform the market in terms of A/E at 1.11 and return nearly 25% profit as opposed to an 8% loss for those with a previous trip to the track.

It’s not all good news though, the below table shows the monthly distribution of the yard’s debut runners.

It seems that the boat has been missed in terms of this current National Hunt season. Autumn is clearly the peak period for O’Brien in terms of delivering new runners to the track. Any animal making their bow during this time of year is usually a serious betting proposition. It doesn’t mean that runners at other times need the cold shoulder treatment. However, that concentration in performance from September through to November is compelling. Keep this in the front of your mind later in 2021. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get to the racetrack to watch them prevail!

 

Fergal O’Brien: By Track

When evaluating O’Brien’s performance across the different racecourses around Britain there are several interesting considerations which are of the ‘sit up and take notice’ variety.

Firstly, the below table gives us the numbers for the stable runners by general geographic location of the track. Sorted by A/E. The top line is sweet viewing.

 

These Scotland data are extremely noteworthy! Nearly a third of the runners sent north of Hadrian’s barrier return home furnished with winning spoils, returning a fat SP profit of 43.5% for punters too.

Mr O’Brien and team appear to have the measure of precisely when to undertake the long trek north. There is a small caveat (as usual) in that the place data isn’t materially superior for the Scottish runners than those sent to the rest of the UK. This may indicate a statistical anomaly in this exemplar performance, especially given the ever-present warning regarding sample sizes.

For completeness, zooming in on these data below, we can view the numbers for individual Scottish courses.

 

Unmistakably, Perth is the track that has been targeted on these raids. It’s an eye-watering 387-mile expedition from Cheltenham and a six-and-a-half-hour drive (on a quiet Saturday, too, when checking my app!): with a nearly 800-mile round-trip, making the outing worthwhile is obviously a sensible proposition.

Perth has a summer only fixture list (April through to September) so tracking stable runners during this time provides a National Hunt interest while the flat season is in full swing.

Turning the focus southwards, here is a top ten of all tracks in England and Wales in terms of A/E data in relation to the stable runners (30 runs minimum).

 

One or two points are well worth raising based on this table. Firstly, despite a small sample size, the yard’s runners at Sandown are seemingly always significant and should be on any shortlist for further evaluation. It’s also of interest that O’Brien’s horses generally run very well at their local track, Cheltenham. A lower strike rate (18%) is easily explained by the generally larger field sizes and the competitive nature of racing at NH racing’s premium venue.

However, something else caught my attention here: six of the tracks that make this list have the potentially interesting trait of being right-handed in nature. If you add Perth (another right-hander to the list) that’d be seven of the yard’s top 11 performing UK tracks being righties.

As a result, I thought it would be interesting to evaluate all of Fergal’s UK runners and their relative performance by track direction with the 14/1 odds ceiling.

 

Am I alone in finding this of interest?  Probably, but I do find it fascinating!

In truth, only the yard would know if this was a “thing”. It’s more likely just a numerical curiosity but given some of the volumes involved it was well worth flagging! If nothing else, it’s a good example of the merit of stats and data in horse racing. The interpretation of the information is key and, without having a reason, it’s best to play safe. Consequently, I wouldn’t advocate building an angle around this. In fact, I’d strongly suggest you didn’t unless there is a tangible reason that the variance in performance exists (please feel free to leave a comment if you have a view!)

However, it is still worth writing it: by backing every single one of the 911 stable runners over the past ten years at SP (at 14/1 or shorter) on a right-handed course you’d have made a 14% rate of return!! I’d love to have a discussion with the yard to understand if there is any solid rationale for this, or whether it’s absolute codswallop!

 

Fergal O’Brien: By Jockey

For the final lap on Fergal, a quick assessment of the jockeys the yard typically engages to ride for them is in order.

 

These data illustrate the records of the jockeys who have most frequently represented the yard over the past two years, with the numbers showing their records at 14/1 SP or shorter dating back to the start of 2011.

Firstly, that’s an incredible percentage of rides that number one stable jockey Paddy Brennan takes for the yard. Secondly, it’s quite remarkable that by extensively backing all of Brennan’s rides for the stable from 2011 onwards you’d have a tidy profit of 11% to SP. It’s clearly a tight and fruitful combination of the utmost quality.

That said, I’m not personally a huge fan of jockey angles and can never seemingly make them pay. However, there is undoubted merit in analysing jockey performance by pace (run style) profile using the Geegeez Gold Query Tool.

 

No mega surprises here; it is generally seen that performance improves the closer to the front of the field a horse is in a race, and an O’Brien/Brennan animal is no different as the numbers clearly demonstrate. Finding a probable front running horse with this trainer / jockey combo is a desirable way to go punting.

Whilst a horse that gets to the front is optimal, the numbers are reasonably strong across the board. Even horses that are held up more or less break even (I’ve excluded 31 instances without a pace rating, where the in-running comment for the horse failed to outline its early race position). Again, this is not really angle material for me, more of a shortlisting tool.

The emerging talents of Max Kendrick and Liam Harrison are well worth keeping fixed in your sights, too, especially when they are working for Mr O’Brien. Kendrick in particular is off to flyer when riding for this stable.

That concludes this statistical jaunt around the O’Brien yard. I’ll be tracking them with a great deal of interest over the coming months and years, they are evidently an operation on the rise.

- JS

Trainer Profiles: Jeremy Scott

Hello again, it’s been a while! It goes without saying that I’m delighted to be back “on-grid” and I very much hope that this article is the first of a steady flow over the next few months, writes Jon Shenton.

Expect the usual data-driven analysis in what follows. However, this time I’m going to move ever-so-slightly away from the approach of purely seeking angles and/or system bets. Whilst these are naturally going to be a result of the research, I don’t intend for that to be the be all and end all. In this series, I’m going to delve into the profiles of specific National Hunt trainers. The primary goal is to develop a deeper understanding of the circumstances in which stables excel and/or alternatively where they generally come unstuck.

To kick things off, I’m going to run the rule over the Somerset yard of Grade 1-winning trainer Jeremy Scott. It’s a safe start as this outfit seems to be omnipresent in terms of “good data” and I already have a couple of reasonably robust, well-performing data-driven “ins” which, of course, I’ll share in due course.

Firstly, some light optional reading on the Scott operation. If you have the time it is well worth kicking back with a cuppa and having a mooch around their website. There is an abundance of good info and a blog which is updated with greater regularity than most.

Of course, in addition, the yard also has an indirect affiliation to this very site through its relationship with Geegeez-sponsored conditional jockey Rex Dingle, who rides with regularity for Team Scott. [Rex's day job is centred at the yard of Anthony Honeyball, which you’ll already know is sponsored by Geegeez too].

I’ll be using a mix of Query Tool and Horseracebase for all the data in this article and all analysis relates to 1st Jan 2011 through to 7th November 2020 inclusive.

Jeremy Scott Runners: Performance vs. the Market

Firstly, when developing a feel for a yard, I often begin by examining performance in the context of the market. This gives a solid guide to the relative importance of the weight of money behind a runner from the stable in question. It can often be the case that a line can be struck through horses once they get to more exotic price levels. As a starter for ten the below table shows Scott performance by SP range.

 

These data have a reasonably clear division between the shorter side of pricing and the more fanciful range of SP’s. Notably, backing all horses indiscriminately where the price is on the skinnier side (equal to or less than 8/1) would result in a reasonable profit. It’s a 9% ROI across 927 runners over the near decade of performance from 2011. That’s an impressive stat and smashes home the mantra that keenly priced runners from this yard are at the very least worth shortlisting. The colour formatting on the ROI column demonstrates this in a clear enough way.

To further evaluate the outfit's overall performance the below graph gives an interesting perspective by comparing the Actual vs Expected market data for Scott runners against all the market averages by SP.

 

Basically, Scott comfortably outperforms the market across virtually all price bands, reinforcing that this is a trainer to keep firmly in the metaphoric crosshairs. As expected, the results at the prices up to 8/1 generally are north of 1.00, indicating market-beating propensity at these ranges.

The blue “average” line on the graph also demonstrates that if you habitually play at fancy prices then it’s exceedingly difficult, maybe close to impossible, to consistently beat the bookies. With an A/E of below 0.40 for all runners at 50/1 or greater it indicates what an uphill battle it is to prevail against starting price. [The exchanges reflect a more realistic representation of a horses chance of victory in these deep waters].

Circling back to Scott, here is the annualised breakdown of those runners at 8/1 or shorter, underlining that, historically speaking this stable is repeatedly a serious outfit at these prices.

 

A staggeringly simple and staggeringly consistent punting perspective, notwithstanding the smallest of small blips in a couple of earlier years.

Consequently, given that Scott’s runners are just 34-from-1042 (a little over 3% strike rate) when their SP is greater than 8/1 I’m going to ignore and exclude these runners from all subsequent analysis for the remainder of this article. It doesn’t mean that there isn’t value at some of these larger prices but, for the sake of brevity, starting with the more solid data set of keenly priced horses is a pragmatic option. There is always the chance of throwing the baby out with the bathwater in some cases, however, it’s a risk I’m happy to take.

 

Jeremy Scott Runners by Race type

When evaluating trainer records in National Hunt racing it is often a hugely worthwhile exercise to perform a check on the numbers by the different disciplines within the sport. It’s surprising quite how many yards display significant variance between the obstacle types. Through separation, value can regularly be attained.

 

In the case of Scott, there is variance between the chase and hurdle form with the smaller obstacle data being clearly superior. Bumper results are worth a distinct footnote due to their relative strength, albeit that's not an area of focus here.

By zooming in on hurdle form, further differentiation can be established by checking the handicap and non-handicap status of the race:

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Again, performance is meritorious across both formats. However, the non-handicap form appears to be particularly noteworthy, with just about a third of runners prevailing and more than half making the frame, comfortably beating market expectations, too.

Evaluating at a slightly deeper level into specific non-handicap race type:

 

“None of these” relates to Graded/Listed races and all bar one of those runs relate to the stable star, Melodic Rendezvous, who won the G1 Tolworth Hurdle in 2013. That aside, performance in maiden and novice hurdles is exemplary. In fact, we’re into angle territory with this one: I’ll be setting an alert for any Scott runner with an SP of 8/1 or shorter in maiden and novice hurdle events over the coming months and hopefully beyond.

 

Jeremy Scott Runners by Jockey

Evaluating who are the go-to pilots for Scott is the topic for exploration in this section. It transpires that there are three jockeys who have secured by far the lion's share of rides for Scott during the ten years covered here.

 

Clearly, based on this table, Rex Dingle has an outstanding record when getting legged up for Scott. Incidentally, I did check and there is not a single winner at a price of greater than 8/1 in his Scott portfolio of rides.

However, there are a couple of considerations worth discussion in the Dingle data. Firstly, he is still is riding as a conditional jockey (now at 3lb claim) and it is not beyond the realms of possibility that his claim has historically been utilised to maximum effect by this trainer. As the claim expires over time, it may be that Dingle is called upon less frequently by the Scott operation. Or perhaps the dynamics of the horses ridden may change resulting in degradation of performance. However, that said, a Scott/Dingle combo at a short to middling price is a clear indication of general intent.

As a bit of a diversion I decided to inspect in detail how these three jockeys performed based on their pace position in the race. It’s in Query Tool so seemed it rude not to!

It may be of marginal benefit to know though, I maintain, interesting, nonetheless, that there is a clear variance in performance and style between the stable jocks.

In particular, the contrast between Scholfield and Griffiths is fascinating.

 

From the table above it can be seen that Griffiths leads from the front on over 28% of occasions. His performance on these front-running rides is strong, too, with an A/E of 1.44. Scholfield, by contrast, only leads in 13% of races where he’s piloting a Scott horse. (Note, there are some “null” pace scores, when a horse's run style cannot be determined from the in-running comments, which explains why the percentages for each rider do not total 100%).

I wonder if this is purely down to jockey discretion or whether the yard matches horses preferred run styles to the rider. Either way, it may be something to note in the future. A proven front-running or prominent animal with Griffiths jocked up may be upgraded in any shortlist. Scholfield less so obviously.

Dingle, as intimated, excels in most scenarios, although it should be noted that he has only led on five horses in the sample above. Interesting that such an ascendant talent is seemingly content to take a tow into a race with greater regularity than may be anticipated.

 

Jeremy Scott Runners by Race Class

One of my treasured angles over the past few years is remarkably simple in nature and has been consistently reliable in terms of returns. It relates to following Scott horses in the lower classes of UK National Hunt racing. See if you can spot it in the table below!

 

 

Whilst the numbers are solid enough across the board, it’s abundantly clear that Scott is a shrewd operator when placing his charges amongst the lesser lights. In 2020 thus far, for instance, he has a strike rate of four-from-nine; so there is no obvious sign of this letting up just yet. I’m usually inclined to produce deeper analysis and comment but on this occasion it is best to just let the speak for themselves.

For assurance purposes, here is the annualised performance. Of course, there are no guarantees in this game but everything being equal it’s well worth tracking Scott animals lining up in these lower echelons with maximum interest.

 

Jeremy Scott Runners: Seasonal Performance / Ground conditions

Broadly speaking, trainers are creatures of habit and one factor which is always is worth due care and attention is how a yard's form typically fluctuates across the course of a season or calendar year.  However, it can pay to cross reference this seasonal view with how that stable's horses perform in specific ground conditions, particularly where National Hunt racing is concerned.

The logic for doing so is thus: given that ground conditions tend to be softer over the winter months, it could be easily argued that the primary reason a yard peaks in winter is because their horses are geared toward running in the mud, and not because their horses are highly tuned at that specific time of year.

It probably doesn’t overly matter, as horses that are mudlarks will be trained to peak with winter conditions in mind. However, I do think it’s pragmatic to check as, by focusing on winter (for example) rather than soft ground, it’s possible that other seasons' creditable soft ground performance is missed. Scott is a good case in point.

The two graphs below illustrate the performance by month. The left hand graph demonstrates the rate of return through backing all horses from the Scott yard. On the right is A/E performance relating to the same data. As you’d expect there is a strong correlation between the two.

 

This is a yard that appears to make hay when the sun starts to shine in the spring. Performance, whilst still of a respectable nature, is a notch or two lower as things progress through to late summer, autumn and into the dark winter months.

Naturally, it might then be expected that this yard would deliver stronger numbers on the slightly quicker ground which is usually more prevalent in the spring and summer months.

 

Bang in line with expectancy: Good to Soft, Good, and Good to Firm all sit proudly in profitability comparison against their slower ground counterparts. However, note the overall consistency of strike rate, both win and place.

To attempt to understand which of the ground or seasonal aspects is the primary driving force in performance it’s sensible to test the data by dividing it by month and by going. Perhaps it’s easier to explain with a graph. Below, the data show A/E of the yard's runners on good to firm, good and good to soft ground (the blue line). Soft and Heavy are represented by the broken orange bar (May through to September excluded due to small sample sizes).

The data do indicate a bias towards ground conditions being the primary factor rather than time of year. Performance of Scott horses appears to be stronger on the quicker ground across all months. It is also worth noting that the A/E’s of 1.00 or greater in deep ground conditions in March, April, September and November still exceed market expectation: likely profit still, but certainly a reduced edge.

 

Jeremy Scott Runners by Race Distance

Another element of differentiation of performance within the Scott dataset is race distance. Like many of the other topics, results are strong across the board. However, there is an advantage to consider when evaluating the yard's runners over the shorter or intermediate National Hunt trips, the table below demonstrating this:

 

A 20% strike rate for races of around three miles and beyond is not to be sniffed at. Nevertheless, it appears as though Squadra Scott has a stronger winning formula at distances towards the lower end of the spectrum. One to be filed under good to know.

 

Jeremy Scott Runners by Course

Finally, it would be remiss to omit track performance insight when considering any trainer. It’s often one of the first things to evaluate. In terms of Scott, he is an operator who seems to like keeping things close to his Somerset base.  Most of the yard's runners are concentrated across the South West and West Midlands. The data below show track results (at 8/1 or shorter) sorted in A/E order for all courses where Scott saddled 30 or more runners. His local patch of Taunton is clearly a fertile hunting ground, displaying the strongest strike rates and P&L performance, as well as A/E value.

 

 

Essentially, it’s a picture of almost metronomic consistency. Perhaps the Taunton data may merit further individual study. However, the excellent all-round performance signifies that course data is of less relevance for Scott than it is for most of his contemporaries. Whist it is always prudent to check performance by track, this insight gives reasonable assurance that achievement is predominantly course agnostic.

 

Jeremy Scott Trainer Profile: The Summary

There is a lot to consider when weighing up runners from the Jeremy Scott yard and none of the data are mutually exclusive. Based on the analysis above, the identikit Scott runner might be:

  • Keenly Priced (8/1 or shorter)
  • Maiden or novice Hurdle
  • Good to soft or quicker ground
  • Rex Dingle as jockey (or perhaps a Matt Griffiths front runner)
  • Less than 2 mile 7 furlongs in distance
  • Class 5 or 6 Race
  • And perhaps at Taunton!

Incidentally, and probably not surprisingly, this perfect cocktail has never happened yet. But when the stars align, I’ll be ready! I’m a patient man.

Until next time.

- JS

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