After a recent focus on some of the UK’s All-Weather courses it’s time to adjust the radar to a little bit of National Hunt racing (I’ll return to the remaining AW tracks of Wolves and Lingfield in due course), writes Jon Shenton. For this edition, I’ve chosen the Staffordshire venue of Uttoxeter to focus upon, the reason being that, based on a quick query (run in Query Tool), this course has hosted the most races in the last few years. More races equals more data, and more data sometimes equals better inferences.
Uttoxeter is probably best known for the second longest race in the UK calendar, the 4m2f Midlands National. The course offers a year-round jumping programme, with 25 scheduled meetings per annum. The summer jewel in the crown is the prestigious and valuable Listed race, the Summer Cup.
The course is left-handed and relatively sharp in nature. It is seemingly synonymous with punishing winter ground meaning the track has a reputation for suiting stamina-laden types. Although, given its relative sharpness, speed is possibly an undervalued commodity, especially on the typically firmer ground during the summer. A single circuit is approximately 1 mile 3 furlongs in length, with an unusual kink in the back straight.
We start, as usual, with a perusal of trainer performance as a way into developing betting opportunities at the track. The table below shows the record of each yard that has had 50 or more runners at the track since 2012, at a starting price of 20/1 or shorter, and with a minimum of 10 victories over that period.
There is some promise in these numbers, with the trio at the top of the list possessing phenomenal records at the track. The IV data confirm that runners from these stables are approximately 2.5 to 3 times more likely to prevail than the average at this venue, and all at a healthy margin, based on A/E or plain old profit and loss.
The Sue Smith, Evan Williams and Harry Fry data also would merit further investigation should time and word count permit, which it doesn’t for this edition, sadly!
For Warren Gretrex, things aren’t quite as rosy as they might seem from the headline figures, as will become clear below. Firstly, it is notable that his yard hasn’t had a single winner at the course at odds above 10/1. I haven’t shown workings but if you can take that on trust, of the remaining 78 runners we get the following profile by splitting the info by calendar year.
As can be seen, performance has dipped in 2018, and thus far in 2019. In fact, there was not even a solitary placed animal this year until Elleon won on the 16th November at a welcome SP of 15/2. [As was noted in this article, the Greatrex yard suffered a big dip in fortune last campaign, and will hopefully revert to type this term].
Any projected angle from this high-level data comes with a wealth warning then. Taking the overall data at face value, 24 winners from 78 runs, a strike rate of over 30% and a reasonable return all appears to be a rock-solid no-brainer. But two victories from 22 over the last couple of years removes some of the lustre of the overall picture.
Of course, it’s possibly attributable to the usual variance and randomness (as could the over-performance of earlier years be) given the acutely small sample size. It’s the beauty / challenge / pointlessness of using data such as this to base punting on depending on your viewpoint. I’m firmly in the beauty & challenge camp if that’s not clear enough already.
Presenting the data differently gives an alternative view. The graph below shows the cumulative return if you had put a £1 win single on every Greatrex runner with an SP of 10/1 or shorter at Uttoxeter since 2012.
It’s not a bad picture is it? In the context of the overall numbers the relative downturn in 2018/19 of 2/22 winners doesn’t look too damaging. The key question is, what is going to happen from today onwards? Clearly nobody knows for sure, but I’d be inclined to treat this data positively, at least for the time being, and especially in light of the recent winner.
However, if that’s not convincing enough, by looking a bit deeper under the surface there are opportunities to potentially improve the chances of success and lessen the risk based on historical data.
The table below shows track performance by the race code/type data for the yard at the course.
Did you spot it? One of those lines is very striking indeed! Chase numbers are fine; hurdle data are competitive, but not micro material. However, the National Hunt Flat race data is exceptional and irrefutably worth tracking. Sadly, for us, the aforementioned Elleon delivered the goods recently meaning a good betting opportunity was missed. The SP of 15/2 is the largest priced winner in the dataset just to add a little bit of salt to the wound! It does mean that for angle purposes a cap of 8/1 on SP will be used for Uttoxeter runners.
The Greatrex bumper (NHF) record at Uttoxeter is particularly strong, so it is a sensible step to check if the yard performs well in such races generally, or particularly at the Staffordshire venue. Analysing results by course suggests there is some definite further interest. The below table offers insight:
There is no doubt that performance is strong at the top four listed tracks, arguably five if including Ffos Las. A/E’s of the quartet at the head of the table are all above or equal to 1.22, a nice benchmark.
Is it interesting or coincidence that it could be argued that the top three are all geographically close to the trainer's base (in relative terms)? Or is it interesting that all the high-performing tracks have similarities in being left-handed sharpish constitutions? Indeed, all of the top five are left-handed circuits.
The absolute, sacrosanct rule on angle building is that every filter used to compile the angle is explainable and must make at least some degree of sense. I am aware enough to recognise entirely that the above conjecture may be stretching that point, but I have the gut feel that there is something worth noting here. Probably more based on the track layout similarities than location; after all, Lambourn to Uttoxeter is a bit of a schlep.
However, I’ll be watching Greatrex bumper entries at these tracks with great (and probably financial) interest over the coming months.
Incidentally no winners have been delivered at SP’s of greater than 15/2 in this data. While that’s risky and arguably somewhat convenient, for pure angle building I’m only going to consider those runners at 8/1 or shorter (but will personally monitor all).
The bottom line is, as always, that it is your call how - and indeed if - to play: the numbers presented are factual, but whether they are strong enough or reasoned enough for you to part with your hard earned is your choice. Caveat emptor!
- Back Warren Greatrex horses at Uttoxeter in NHF races where the SP is 8/1 or shorter
- Take note of all other Warren Greatrex runners at 10/1 or shorter at the course
- If you feel so inclined, track or back Warren Greatrex runners in NHF at SP’s of 8/1 or shorter in races at Warwick, Stratford and Bangor in addition to Uttoxeter
It’s hardly new news that the Stratford-based operation has a prolific and rewarding record at the not-too-distant Staffordshire track; however, it’s always worth delving to establish if any deeper insights can be attained. The first port of call in this instance is by market price (it’s usually the first item I look at), and in the case of this intel there is some enthusiasm for a deeper dive.
The data tell us that shorter-priced animals outperform the market in terms of A/E, IV and profit (look at that 5.3 IV for animals sent off shorter than 2/1!), whilst the entrants who start at prices of 11/2 or greater just about hold their own. Shorter priced the better, then.
If a lower SP is counter-intuitively a good thing then analysing performance based on market position is a sensible step. There may be an angle containing the favourite, rather than just short priced animals.
An odds rank of 1 relates to the favourite, 2 is the second favourite and so on. It is crystal clear that a Skelton jolly at Uttoxeter is a very serious contender, with over half of them delivering, and recording an A/E of 1.29 to boot. Impressive stuff at such apparently such short prices. It proves that there can be value when fishing at the top of the market on occasion.
Obviously, knowing whether a horse is going to start at the top of the market is a bit of guesswork if you generally back the night before or early on the day of the race, but invariably you win some, you lose some and such things even themselves out over time.
Suggestion: Back Dan Skelton horses at Uttoxeter when they are positioned as SP favourites
Dr Richard Newland
Third on the trainer table is Dr. Richard Newland. The former GP and Grand National-winning trainer (2014, Pineau De Re) has an impressive record at Uttoxeter. However, focusing on the time of year gives a lot of clarity regarding when the real spotlight on his runners should occur.
The graph illustrates the volume of Newland runners at Uttoxeter, as well as the number of winners. There’s a pronounced focus on summer jumping at the track, particularly in the months of June and July.
This table shows the same data in more traditional format, with the usual supplementary info, as provided by geegeez.co.uk's Query Tool:
Admittedly, highlighting summer jumping prowess at this point in the year is terrible timing, but it’s worth keeping in cold storage until the warmer temperatures return to these lands. Again, Query Tool is your friend!
The summary version of all runners from May-Sep (inclusive) results in the below output.
That’s good enough but further optional sharpening could be attained as there is no runner that has won at odds of greater than 15/2 SP, albeit only from nine attempts (three of which placed).
I get a strong impression that there is more to find with this trainer. From a relatively small number of horses in training this is a yard worth tracking closely and getting to know in closer detail.
Suggestion: Back Dr Richard Newland horses at Uttoxeter over the summer months (May-September) at odds of 15/2 or shorter
As ever, let's have a quick hack around some of the race dynamics at the course.
Hurdle races – 2 miles
I’ve concentrated on hurdles primarily due to the volume of data; the chases are a little sparser in frequency so harder from which to draw even moderate conclusions. Initially, then, let's pick up the two-mile distance for larger field sizes (nine or greater) the following profile is generated:
The table illustrates the Impact Value (IV) performance of horses by the various underfoot conditions and by pace profile. The column “races” simply contains the number of races that relate to those going descriptions. This is included primarily to demonstrate the sample size of each data set so you can draw your own conclusions to the relevance when assessing a race.
The data clearly shows that front end pace is important and it’s better to be at the head than biding time in the relative back positions. This is a general truism for all races on all goings at all courses.
There is a suggestion that racing prominently is of greater importance as the ground becomes more testing, with the strongest two numbers in terms of IV relating to leading in Soft (1.81) and Heavy (2.55) conditions, abeit on smaller sample sizes. Making up ground from the cheap seats is tough in all conditions, especially so in the sticky stamina-sapping Staffordshire mud.
Hurdle races – 2m 4furlongs
The data for the two-and-a-half-mile trip is reasonably similar to it’s shorter two-mile counterpart, namely that leaders and prominent racers are generally favoured. The green-tinged data is on the right-hand side of the table where the speed is, the redder/orange numbers relating to horses who are ridden patiently is towards the left. There isn’t the same profile in terms of front-running mudlarks getting an even better time of it, perhaps stamina becomes of greater importance than track position over the extra half-mile. Irrespective of reasons or rationale, backing a horse that is likely to be in the leading ranks seems a sensible approach when assessing a race at this distance.
Hurdles - 3 miles
Finally, a focus on the longer distance of the 3-mile trip. The first thing to say is that there are fewer races at this distance, but there is no doubt that based on the information available, the box seat seems to have shifted towards the prominent racers, not the horses who cut out the running.
Whilst the front runners perform perfectly well on average, it seems logical that to lead without cover for this longer distance is a more difficult proposition. The low sample sizes do not help, but there is a flavour of it becoming increasingly difficult to make all as the ground gets more testing.
Broadly speaking the optimum position is tucked in nicely behind the leaders; however, based on the overall sample sizes it is not a strong conclusion. Taking the good ground data (where there is the biggest sample, 71 races) the pace profile is relatively flat in comparison to some of the numbers we’ve seen on other tracks. However, caution is advised on likely leaders in deeper underfoot conditions.
I hope that is of some use to you over the winter and beyond. Forget the Derby, I’m already looking forward to Dr. Newland at Uttoxeter next summer!