This is the second of two articles looking at two-year-old runners (2yos) on their second career starts. The first piece looked at last time out (LTO) performance, LTO course, market factors, sires, damsires and some jockey stats. You can read that here. This one focuses exclusively on trainer data. I have collated stats from UK flat racing for six full years, from 2017 to 2022, and this includes both turf and all weather data. I have calculated profit and loss to Betfair SP (BSP for short), with commission of 5% taken into account.
Overall 2yo second run stats for trainers
I am going to start with a full table with all trainers who have had at least 100 two-year old second starters in the past six seasons. I have ordered the trainers by win strike rate:
* C Johnston in 2023; ** Jack Channon in 2023
A familiar face heads the list – Charlie Appleby. His 37%-plus strike rate is remarkable but, despite that whopping win percentage, he has failed to make it into blind profit. This is, naturally, because many of his runners start at short prices. Seven other trainers have secured strike rates of 20% or higher with juvenile runners making their second career starts, which again is extremely noteworthy. Just one of these seven in profit though: Hugo Palmer.
In terms of A/E indices Messrs. Palmer, Dods, Dalgleish, Osborne and Tinkler are above the magic 1.00, although Nigel Tinkler, with a strike rate of under 5%, is not a trainer for the faint of heart to follow.
At this juncture it makes sense to compare the performance of trainers' 2yo debut runners with their 2yos having a second run. In the following table I have broken this down by strike rates and A/E indices for each trainer. I have ordered them by trainers who have seen the most improvement in strike rate from first to second start:
In the final column I have divided the second run win percentage by the debut one to give us a type of Impact Value. I call it a Comparison Strike Rate (CSR) and I also used this idea in the previous article when comparing sire stats. The higher this figure the more improvement the runners show on their second run compared to their debut. I have highlighted any CSR figure of 2.00 or more in green as these are much higher than the average. The CSR figure to bear in mind is 1.52. This is the average CSR figure when looking at the strike rate comparison for second starters compared with debutants; that is, on average a two-year-old is 1.52 times more likely to win on its second start compared with its debut (7.96% vs 12.08% in case you were curious).
Ed Dunlop has a very high CSR figure but that is because his debut runners having won less than 0.6% of the time. His second starters still only win on average once in every 15 or 16 races. Ed Walker, Michael Dods, William Haggas, Hugo Palmer, Charlie Hills, Sir Michael Stoute and Andrew Balding are the group of trainers who I would be expecting to see excellent improvement between first and second runs. Some of their runners should offer us decent value.
Brian Meehan is one specific trainer whose second starters look poor value, especially when comparing the stats to his debut runners. With debutants his A/E index stands at an impressive 1.36, for second starters this drops markedly to 0.76. Eve Johnson Houghton has a similar slide (1.38 to 0.79) which is also worth noting. Ths is essentially saying that Brian and Eve have their two-year-olds ready to fire on day one, which in itself is well worth noting.
Distance breakdown: trainer performance in 5f and 6f races
I want to split the trainer data by distance now and for this piece I am combining the sprint distances of 5 and 6f, and then will be looking at races of 7f or further. This is because it gives better sized data sets. So, to start, here are the win strike rates for trainers who have had at least 75 two-year-old second starters over 5f / 6f. I have split the data into two graphs – the first with strike rates of 16% or more:
William Haggas stands head and shoulders above the rest in terms of win record. He also has an A/E index in excess of 1.00 (1.09), as do three others - Michael Dods (1.24), Andrew Balding (1.15) and Clive Cox (1.02). For the record these three have made decent profits to BSP, while Haggas would have just about broken even. Of the remaining trainers, all made a loss bar Tom Dascombe, who made a small profit. Dascombe will be interesting to follow this year in his second season after the move from Cheshire to Lambourn and without the support of Chasemore Farm.
Now for those with strike rates under 16%:
There are still some relatively decent strike rates here as well, on the left-hand part of the graph at least, although only Keith Dalgleish managed a BSP profit. No trainer in this group had an A/E index of 1.00 or more and, for the record, Richard Hughes and Tim Easterby had the poorest A/E indices (0.64 and 0.54 respectively) with both making significant losses.
Distance breakdown: trainer performance in races of 7f or further
There are 10 trainers who have secured a strike rate of 16% or more in these longer distance races:
Charlie Appleby strikes at a preposterous close to 40% and backing his runners would have seen you break even to BSP. Here are these trainers' A/E indices which give us a better indication of overall value:
Hugo Palmer, Archie Watson and the Charlton stable have figures above 1.00 and they are trainers who, over 7f or more, I think we should keep on the right side (more often than not).
At the other end of the scale, these are the trainers with lower strike rates over 7f+. As there are quite a few I’ve put their results in tabular form rather than in a graph.
Andrew Balding’s bottom line looks impressive but he had a 232.24 BSP winner in 2020 which accounts for most of his profit. Having said that, even without that outlier, Balding still made a positive return. The three trainers at the bottom – Richard Fahey, Sir Mark Prescott and Tim Easterby - are trainers I think should be swerved with 2yo runners at 7f or beyond when making their second start.
Before moving on there are a few points worth making.
Firstly, Clive Cox has a vastly contrasting distance record: over sprint distances his second starter strike rate is 21.9%, over 7f+ it is just 8.8%. A/E indices also have a chasm between them at 1.02 vs 0.60.
Secondly, Richard Fahey has a similar bent to his stats with much better sprint results: strike rates of 15.6% compared to 6.9%; A/E indices of 0.88 to 0.59.
And third, Roger Varian’s stats are somewhat remarkable from the point of view that his strike rate has been exactly 20% for both distance groups and his A/E indices are almost identical, too, at 0.67 and 0.68.
Market breakdown: trainer performance with top three in the betting
As we know, profit figures can be easily skewed by big priced winners. Hence it makes sense to analyse trainer data where it is a more level playing field – or at least where we can perform a fair price comparison. Here are the data for trainers when their 2yo second starters have figured in the top three of the betting. A minimum of 75 runs has been used as the cut-off point:
It seems right that Charlie Appleby hits a small profit considering his overall figures.
Any trainer with an A/E index of 0.90 or more I feel can be considered much more a positive than negative when it comes to their more fancied runners. Ten trainers have achieved that, of which six have edged into profit. These are Charlie Appleby, the Johnston yard, Archie Watson, Team Crisford, Hugo Palmer and Tom Dascombe. The other four - William Haggas, Charlie Hills, Clive Cox and Richard Fahey - made losses and only Cox had losses of worse than 7 pence in the £.
On the other side of the coin, Saeed bin Suroor’s record is surprisingly poor with qualifiers from the top three in the betting – a win rate of roughly one in six, but losses close to 30p in the £ and a very poor A/E index of 0.56.
So far in this article I have looked at more general trainer stats – but now I want to focus in on a few specific trainers starting, not surprisingly, with Charlie Appleby.
Individual Trainers with Second Start Two-Year-Olds
We have seen already that Charlie Appleby has an impressive overall strike rate, but this does not mean he is a money making machine for punters. If only it was that simple! Strike rate is important but betting is essentially about getting a value price - having 50% of winners at 10/11 keeps you in the game but loses you money, whereas 15% of winners at 8/1 means long losing runs but wins you money. Such is the challenge for us punters: winners, or profit?
From my personal experience it is harder to find value with short prices and this is why one cannot just blindly back Appleby runners, or indeed almost any other short-priced 'no brainer' angle. This is perhaps neatly illustrated when we breakdown Appleby’s profit with horses from the top three in the betting. As the previous table showed, these runners did make a small 5p in the £ profit for him. However, all the profits came from horses second and third in the betting. These combined to produce returns of just under 26p in the £, whereas favourites lost just over 4p in the £.
I have dug deeper into the Appleby stats and one angle that does stand out is jockey based. I touched upon jockeys in the first of these articles when I compared second starters that were ridden by the same jockey who had ridden them on debut, with those who have seen their jockey change. As a general rule I found that horses ridden by the same jockey outperformed those which were not. For Appleby this bias is pronounced as the table shows:
William Buick has been responsible for 72 of these 103 ‘same jockey’ runners. His strike rate was 45.8% and backing these runners would have returned you £16.06 (ROI +22.3%). James Doyle has had an even better strike rate albeit from a much smaller group of runners. He had a success rate of 52.2% (12 win from 23) for returns of 19p in the £. Hence any 2yo second starter from the Appleby yard who is ridden for the second time by either Buick or Doyle is a horse that potentially offers some value.
We have seen good consistency before with Appleby runners and his second starters seem no exception. They have proved versatile by going / ground conditions as the graph below shows:
All the strike rates are above 30%; it should be noted that the highest one (tapeta) is from a small sample (7 wins from 15) so this may be artificially high.
Here are some additional Charlie Appleby stats, both positive and negative:
- Appleby 2yo debut winners have a relatively modest record when running for the second time. They have backed up this win just 14 times from 60 (SR 23.3%) for a loss of £25.02 (ROI -41.7%).
- The value in terms of debut performance has come from horses that finished 5th or worse on debut. On second starts Appleby has secured 19 winners with these runners from 58 (SR 32.8%) for a profit of £10.59 (ROI +18.3%).
- At the highest level (Class 1 races) Appleby's runners on second start have won just 7 from 41 (SR 17.1%) for a loss of £18.07 (ROI -44.1%).
- Second time runners returning to the course where they debuted have done well, scoring nearly 50% of the time. 16 wins from 33 (SR 48.5%) have created a BSP profit of £17.36 (ROI 52.6%).
- Appleby has done well when sending second starting 2yos to Newmarket. He has been rewarded with 24 wins from 53 (SR 45.3%) for a healthy profit of £19.48 (ROI +36.8%).
I have chosen Richard Hannon next as he has had the biggest number of second starters in the past six seasons.
The eagle eyed of you would have seen already that his record in sprint events is better than 7f+ races; specifically, he has a strike rate of 17.3% for sprints compared to 10.6% for longer races. Here are some other Hannon second starter stats I would like to share.
- Just like Appleby, having the same jockey on board that rode the horse on debut has been a plus. These horses have won 37 of their 224 starts (SR 16.5%) for a small profit of £11.29 (ROI of 5.0%); the record of horses with new / different jockeys is 53 wins from 450 (SR 11.8%) for a loss of £73.50 (ROI -16.3%).
- 2yos returning to the track within two weeks of their debut have a surprisingly good record. 40 have won from 244 (SR 16.4%) for a healthy profit of £90.27 (ROI +37.0%). Amazingly, Hannon has made a profit with these runners in five of the six years which shows good consistency.
- Horses that finished first or second on debut have a good record with 26.1% of them winning on their second starts (35 wins from 135) for a profit of £40.06 (ROI +29.9%).
- Hannon has scored nearly 41% of the time with second time starter favourites, making the smallest of profits, £1.93 (ROI 1.8%).
Another Richard and another trainer who has had a decent number of runners. His overall strike rate with second starters stands at just under 13% and I have found a handful of useful stats – positive, negative and neutral.
- Clear favourites for Fahey have secured 33 wins from 73 2yo second starters (SR 45.2%) for a profit of £11.68 (ROI +16.0%).
- 2yos that won on debut have proved profitable on their second starts thanks to a strike rate of 17.9% producing returns of 56p in the £.
- Second starters who race at Beverley have scored 26.5% of the time (13 wins from 49) for a break even scenario.
- Having the same jockey on board as on debut has once again seen a big difference in performance, just as we saw with Appleby and Hannon runners. Fahey horses retaining the same jockey for the second run have won 19.8% of races (A/E index 1.06); those horses whose jockey has changed have won just 8.4% of their races (A/E index 0.60).
- Second starters racing on all weather tracks have a poor record with only 7 wins from 104 (SR 6.7%). Losses have been steep at 54p lost for every £1 staked.
- 2yos that have had their second start in September or later in the year look worth avoiding. Just 11 wins from 153 (SR 7.2%) for a loss of £67.11 (ROI -43.9%). For the record, if the horse was not favourite or second favourite Fahey saw just 3 wins from 121 runners.
Here are some individual stats that I have unearthed related to other trainers:
- Andrew Balding has an excellent record with horses that finished 1st, 2nd or 3rd on debut. On their second starts they have gone onto win 25 times from 89 (SR 28.1%) for a profit of £31.68 (ROI +35.6%). Balding has secured profits with these runners in four of the six years.
- Kevin Ryan has reverse stats compared to Balding. Horses that finished in the first three on debut would have lost a whopping 46p in the £ if backed blindly on second start.
- Sir Mark Prescott has sent 99 2yo second starters to all weather tracks, and only one has managed to win.
- Tim Easterby has a dreadful record with horses running again within two weeks of their debut, with just one win from 104 runners.
- William Haggas has a good record with 2yos that have dropped in class since their debut. He has secured a 34.2% strike rate thanks to 26 winners from 76. These runners have returned a profit of £9.84 (ROI +12.9%).
- Karl Burke is another trainer that does particularly well when retaining the same jockey who rode on debut – 36 wins from 150 rides (SR 24%) for a profit of £45.34 (ROI +30.2%).
Below is a summary of my main takeaways from this article; but there may be stats above that are far more important to you, so keep that in mind!
- Ed Walker, Michael Dods, William Haggas, Hugo Palmer, Charlie Hills, Sir Michael Stoute and Andrew Balding all enjoy much higher strike rates on second starts compared to debut runs.
- Brian Meehan and Eve Johnson Houghton are two trainers whose second starting 2yos offer relatively poor value, especially when comparing second runs to debuts.
- William Haggas, Michael Dods, Andrew Balding and Clive Cox have good records with 2yo second runs in 5-6f races. In contrast, Tim Easterby looks a trainer to avoid.
- Hugo Palmer, Archie Watson and the Charlton stable do well in races of 7f or more with their second starters.
- Charlie Appleby, the Johnston stable, Archie Watson, the Crisford stable, Hugo Palmer and Tom Dascombe have good records with second starters when in the top three in the betting. Saeed bin Suroor has a particularly poor record with these fancied runners.
- Charlie Appleby runners have a very good record when the same jockey who rode on debut rides on the second start. In particular, look out for William Buick and James Doyle. Appleby also does well with horses that finished out of the first four on debut, as well as horses that ran at Newmarket.
- Richard Hannon does well with horses that return to the track within two weeks of their debut. He also does well with debutants that won or finished second on debut.
- Richard Fahey second starters that start clear favourite have a strong record. On the negative side, avoid second starters if racing on the all weather, or if racing after August.
There is a fair bit to get your teeth into in this article and hopefully it has started to point you in the right direction, as well as steering away from some treacherous paths. For those readers who do not generally bet in 2yo races, I hope this, and the previous three articles, may have changed your mind.