Royal Ascot 23-6-23 Shaquille and Oisin Murphy win the Commonwealth Cup (Group 1) for owners Hughes/Rawlings/O'Shaughnessy and trainer Julie Camacho (left) Photo Healy Racing /

Steamers and Drifters: Part 3

I was originally not going to do a ‘part 3’, but in the comments a reader asked about early morning odds and if there was any data available in connection with price movement, writes Dave Renham. As that was data I could access, I thought I would do some digging and share my findings. So here goes...

As in the previous two pieces I am focusing on flat and all weather racing in the UK spanning five years from 2018 to 2022. Bookmaker data is taken from William Hill.

If you missed those articles, you can read the overview one here, and the second part here.


Change from Early Odds to Starting Price

To begin with I want to look at early morning odds versus opening show odds. Later on, I will be comparing some of this early odds data with SP. As I alluded to in parts one and two the opening show tends to be around ten minutes before the start of the race. Early morning odds tend to be available around 9am. Indeed, these days most bookmakers price up the night before. Alas, I do not have data for this.

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Below is a graphic comparing early morning odds to opening show where I am looking at the percentage of all runners that either shorten in price, stay the same price, or lengthen in price:



As we can see, nearly 53% of all horses drift / lengthen in price, compared with 36.4% who shorten. Roughly one in nine runners see their price stay the same. These figures follow the pattern of previous research but the differential between drifters and shorteners is much bigger.

These data show us that Early Morning Odds are essentially poor value. If your only option is to bet ‘early’ then I would urge you to use a bookmaker that offers BOG (Best Odds Guaranteed). If you can’t, then I would suggest you do not make the wager at early prices. Regularly ‘taking’ Early Odds will probably lose money for over 95% of punters.

When comparing handicaps with non-handicaps the percentages splits are virtually identical (in handicaps 52.7% of horses drift, in non-handicaps it is 52.4%.) so the market behaves in a very similar way from Early Odds to Opening Show regardless of race type.


Effect of Early Odds price movement on Strike Rate and Profitability

Now I want to look at the effect price movement from Early Odds to Opening Show has on strike rate and profit/loss. In terms of profit/loss I am going to calculate returns to Betfair Starting Price. I have split the runners like I did earlier into three groups – horses that shorten in price from ‘early’ to ‘opening’, those that stay the same price, and those that lengthen in price.



There is the same win percentage pattern here that we saw when looking at Opening Odds versus SP in the previous articles: horses that shorten in price have comfortably the best strike rate. In fact, those that shorten are almost twice as likely to win as those horses that drift. In terms of returns to Betfair Starting Price, horses that shortened in price edged it; but there is less than 1% (1p in the £) between the three groups.

So, we have a very even looking starting point in terms of returns / value. Let's push on...


Horses that lengthened in price from Early Odds to Opening Show

I want to look in more detail at horses that either drifted in price from Early Odds to Opening Show Odds or went the other way, i.e. shortened in price. Drifters first. I want to know what percentage of these horses continued to drift in price from Opening Show to SP, having already drifted from the morning price to the first one available on the show ten minutes or so before the 'off'. Here are the splits:



As we can see, 42.1% of horses that lengthened in price from ‘early’ to ‘opening’ continued to drift out in price. So, there is more chance that the drift will continue compared with the other two scenarios. Roughly a third of these horses shortened, while a quarter remained the same price.

Below are the strike rates and returns for this cohort:



Don’t be fooled by thinking the best value has been with the horses that initially lengthened in price and then stayed the same odds. These figures include BSP winners at prices of 1000.0, 538.81, 403.45 and 358.50. Taking those out the ROI was around -6%.


Horses that have shortened in price from Early Odds to Opening Show

A look at the converse group next, those shortening from the morning to opening show, to give us a comparison. Firstly, a look at what happened between Opening Show and SP in terms of percentage splits:



Horses that shorten from Early Odds to Opening Show are still more likely to subsequently drift than to continue to shorten. However, the percentages for the horses that shortened and those that drifted are the closest they have been in any of the comparisons made, either in this article or the previous two – there is less than a 5% differential between the groups.

Strike rates and returns for these runners are below:



The strike rates are much higher in this table than the previous one and it seems that horses that shorten initially and then drift on course are slightly better value than the rest. This time the figures for the ‘best’ group are not skewed by huge 300.0 plus BSP winners.


Early priced favourites

This is a new departure in terms of what I have looked at previously but I thought it would be interesting to see what happened to horses that were initially favourite on the 'morning line'. I have focused on those horses that were solely at the head of the betting market (no joint or co-favourites) in the morning. Firstly, a look at how all such runners fared:



The strike rate exceeds 30% which suggests most of the horses remained as favourite. Losses are very modest at just over 2p in the £. If we split these by race type, we get the following:



Horses that were clear favourite in non-handicaps as the markets opened in the morning have got close to breaking even, which is eye-catching. The difference in strike rate is to be expected, but I had expected that the returns would be very close to the same.

Earlier I suggested that most of the early favourites are likely to have remained favourite at the off (SP) – let's see if that assertion was correct:



As expected, the figures back up the hypothesis. Nearly two thirds of these runners remained clear favourite at the start of the race and 86.7% of them were either clear favourite, joint favourite or 2nd favourite.

What was even more interesting, though, is what I discovered when I looked at the profit/loss figures in terms of their final market position. Horses that ended up outside the top two in the betting (eg. 3rd fav+ at SP) edged into profit. The strike rate was down as you would expect at 13.1%, (530 wins from 3804 runners, around one winner in eight), but a miniscule profit of £5.41 (ROI +0.1%) was achieved. We have seen in the first two articles that drifters have tended to offer more value – here is another case in point, albeit not a bankable one in isolation.


Trainers – Early Odds v SP

To finish off this piece I want to look at some raw trainer data, comparing their respective runners' Early Odds to SP. I have chosen 45 trainers and compared win strike rates and A/E indices for their runners within the three groups: horses that shortened from morning odds to SP, horses that stayed the same price in that time frame, and horses that drifted from morning odds to SP. I have highlighted A/E indices of 0.95 or higher (in green) – these are essentially positive. A/E indices of 0.79 or lower (in red) are essentially negative:



As one would expect, most trainers have a significant difference in strike rate when comparing drifters to horses that shorten in price. Stuart Williams for example has a three times better strike rate with his horses that shorten in price compared to his drifters (19.01 v 6.28). Indeed, his runners that have shortened in price have made a small profit of around 4p in the £.

Julie Camacho seems to be a trainer to note if her runners shorten from early odds to SP. She has had 451 runners that have contracted in price, of which 86 have won, producing a healthy £99.59 profit to BSP. This equates to impressive returns of 22p in the £.

In terms of Early Odds to SP drifters, Brian Ellison runners that fit that profile look worth avoiding: 44 wins from 838 qualifiers showing hefty losses of £341.35 (ROI -40.7%). Likewise, Ed Dunlop has a similarly poor record with drifters thanks to only 77 wins from 1195 (SR 6.4%) for a loss to BSP of £440.90 (ROI -36.9%).

A few trainers have made profits with their drifters, but many have been helped by the occasional huge priced BSP winner. One trainer who has been less reliant on big-priced winners has been Charles Hills. He has saddled 149 winners from 1240 drifters turning a profit of £277.50 (ROI +22.4%). This record actually improves if you ignore his big-priced runners (BSP 40.0 or higher) – a £433.44 profit returning over 42p in the £. I did check the data for his 2023 drifters, and he has made a decent profit this year so far, too. Very interesting!




So, there we have it. The data collection for these three market movement articles has taken a while, but I hope Geegeez readers are able to take plenty from it. Perhaps the main message is, more horses will drift than shorten be it comparing Early Odds to SP or Opening Show to SP. So, if you can, bet late or bet Betfair SP. Also, when viewing the overall findings there is more value in drifters. This was highlighted especially in the second article where I looked at more significant (i.e. bigger) price movements.

From a trainer perspective, each trainer will have slightly different patterns of price movement, but the trainer tables in articles one and three will assist in that regard.

Good luck.

- DR

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6 replies
  1. dway14
    dway14 says:


    Thanks for putting this together – it’s an interesting read.

    I’ve been looking into this area myself, specifically around significant movements in the last 10-15 minutes. However, there’s a lot of variables and I’ve found it difficult to be confident of statistical significance from either a drifter or steamer perspective.

    I have a query – how have you accounted for price movements caused by non-runners in a market?

    • Dave Renham
      Dave Renham says:

      With a data set running into the hundreds of thousands there is no way you can account for the non runners. In reality therefore my percentages for drifters will be slightly under-estimated due especially to rule 4s. Dave

  2. wattyk14
    wattyk14 says:

    A fantastic read. Very helpful. I follow the Tim Easterby stable closely as it is the nearest to my home. Please would it be possible to tell me the stats you ascertained for Tim on the flat and jumps. Thankyou. Keith Watson.

    • Dave Renham
      Dave Renham says:

      No problem – I write in the hope that people find my articles interesting and ultimately helpful / useful. Nice to get such positive comments – thank you.

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