Tag Archive for: best five furlong pace tracks

The Importance of Pace in 5f handicaps

This is my first article for www.geegeez.co.uk and before I start I would like to share with you my racing background, writes David Renham. I have worked for the Racing Post as a Spotlight writer and the Racing and Football Outlook as a trends ‘expert’; I have also written several books, mainly on draw bias, back in the early 2000s. And I have been a tipster with some success – and some failures! In all, I have written over 700 racing articles for magazines, newspapers, and websites.

Matt asked me to write on an ‘ad hoc’ basis which suits me as I have a full-time job outside racing at present. I hope you will find my articles interesting, useful, and ultimately lead to some profitable betting opportunities. However, as we all know, making money from backing or indeed laying horses is not easy. You need a combination of many things I believe – hard work; a good understanding of what you are trying to achieve; some sort of specialism as I feel there is simply too much racing and too many horses to gain a handle on if you don’t specialise; and, last but not least, a bit of luck.

For this article I am going to discuss pace in a race. When I talk about pace my main focus is the initial pace in a race and the position the horses take up early on. One of the many useful aspects of geegeez.co.uk is the pace section and the stats I am sharing with you in this article are based on the site’s pace data (found in the Pace tab on the racecard).

The pace data on Geegeez is split into four - Led, Prominent, Mid Division and Held Up. Let me try to explain what type of horse fits what type of pace profile:

Led – essentially horses that lead early, usually within the first furlong or so; or horses that dispute or fight for the early lead;

Prominent – horses that lay up close to the pace just behind the leader(s);

Mid Division – horses that race mid pack;

Held Up – horses that are held up at, or near the back of the field.

So after each race all the horses are assigned points in regards to what position they took up early in the race. Leaders get 4, prominent runners 3, horses that ran mid division 2, and those held up score 1. Geegeez has over 1,059,000 runners’ pace comments scored, from a total of about 1,100,000. [The others are things like unseated rider at the start, or where there is no discernible pace reference in the comment].

If you click the pace tab on the website you are presented with pace data regarding the specific course and distance of that race, and pace data for each horse covering their last four UK or Irish runs. For this article I am concentrating on the course data and creating pace figures for specific course and distances – namely handicap races run over 5 furlongs. I have always been a fan of sprint handicaps and early pace in sprint handicaps generally gives a bigger advantage to front runners than races over longer distances. In addition to this, some courses offer a bigger advantage to front runners than others as you will see.

The first set of data I wish to share with you is the overall pace stats for 5f turf handicaps (minimum number of runners in a race 6):

Pace comment Runners Wins SR%
Led 3450 637 18.5
Prominent 9987 1078 10.8
Mid Division 3187 235 7.4
Held Up 8465 567 6.7

Horses that led, or disputed the lead early, have a huge advantage in turf 5f handicaps. So, if we could predict the front runner or front runners in each race we should be ‘quids in’, and indeed would be. Unfortunately, it is not an exact science and how best to do this I will leave for a future article.

Best performing 5f handicap tracks for front runners

My aim for this article is to show you the differences in the course figures for 5f handicaps and how some courses are more suited to early leaders/front runners than others. Here are the courses with the best strike rates (minimum 40 runners):

Course Front Runners Wins SR% P/L SP IV
Chester 88 31 35.2 120 3.38
Catterick 196 47 24 177.71 2.51
Hamilton 170 39 22.9 130.29 2.04
Beverley 197 44 22.3 167.29 2.51
Epsom 50 11 22 45.5 2.96
Nottingham 219 48 21.9 224.08 2.32
Leicester 88 19 21.6 60.75 1.91
Windsor 160 34 21.3 100.31 1.9

 

Chester has amazing stats for early leaders: the tight turning 5f clearly suits front runners and, when combined with a good draw, front runners are clearly hard to peg back. Another round 5f, Catterick lies second with excellent figures also. Keep in mind that the average strike rate is 18.5% for all courses over this minimum trip.

Worst performing 5f handicap tracks for front runners

At the other end of the scale here are the courses with the poorest stats for early leaders/front runners in 5f handicaps:

Course Front Runners Wins SR% P/L SP IV
Newmarket (July/Rowley combined) 88 12 13.6 -8.37 1.19
York 106 14 13.2 21 1.78
Haydock 146 18 12.3 -18.17 1.25
Sandown 119 13 10.9 -19.37 1.04
Yarmouth 96 10 10.4 -39.58 0.86
Ascot 98 8 8.2 -30.5 0.99
Doncaster 90 6 6.7 -32.5 0.81

 

It is interesting to see York in this list – York is often considered a decent front running track, but not according to our figures.

 

Chester performance by number of runners in race

Looking at Chester in more detail, we can split the data by number of runners:

Runners in race Front Runners Wins SR% P/L SP IV
6 to 8 36 18 50 90.5 3.65
9 to 11 35 11 31.4 23.5 3.22
12 to 14 17 2 11.8 6 1.46

 

Here at geegeez.co.uk, data regarding number of race runners is calibrated slightly differently to my table, but you are able to change the figures on the site to suit your own personal requirements.

 

Overall performance by number of runners in race

As we can see from the Chester figures, the smaller the field size, the better it has been for front runners. The general perception of punters I believe matches the Chester data – in other words most punters believe front runners are more likely to win in smaller fields. It makes sense I guess as there are less rivals to pass the leader. However, is this really the case? Here are the data:

 

Runners in race Front Runners Wins SR%
6 to 8 1214 264 21.7
9 to 11 1205 223 18.5
12 to 14 624 106 17.0
15+ 407 44 10.8

 

The stats back up the basic theory, but a 17% win rate for early leaders/front runners in 12 to 14 runner 5f turf handicaps is a strong performance, especially when you take into account the likely prices of such runners. Hence, one could legitimately argue that the best front running value lies in the 12-14 runner range.

 

Best performing 5f handicap tracks for hold up horses

Of course, early leader/front runner stats are not the whole story when trying to build up a ‘pace’ picture of each course. We need to look at the stats at the other end of scale – those for hold up horses. Firstly a look at the 5f courses that offer hold up horses the best strike rates:

Course Hold up horses Wins SR% P/L SP IV
Yarmouth 195 27 13.8 -33.04 1.16
Bath 332 41 12.3 -9.5 1.1
Brighton 258 30 11.6 -68.97 0.89
Newbury 99 9 9.1 -31.92 0.82
Salisbury 66 6 9.1 -23.5 0.8
Leicester 178 16 9 -51.87 0.79
Carlisle 192 17 8.9 -55.25 0.82

 

Interestingly you would expect these courses to match those that have the poorest stats for early leaders/front runners (see above). However, only Yarmouth appears in both groups. Hence the importance of not just looking at the ‘led’ data in order to appreciate pace biases at particular courses.

More materially, perhaps, all courses are firmly negative at SP, and most have an impact value of less than 1, meaning such types are less likely than horses with other run styles (1 meaning the same likelihood).

Worst performing 5f handicap tracks for hold up horses

Now a look at those courses with the worst strike rates for hold up horses:

Course Hold up horses Wins SR% P/L SP IV
Chepstow 187 10 5.3 -104.42 0.5
Musselburgh 746 39 5.2 -346.17 0.5
Ripon 200 8 4 -122.42 0.38
Redcar 307 12 3.9 -200.92 0.41
Catterick 473 18 3.8 -312.17 0.4
Epsom 113 3 2.7 -98.25 0.36
Chester 194 4 2.1 -160.5 0.2

 

Chester, Catterick and Epsom appear in this table – courses that appeared in the top 5 for front runners. However, once again the correlation between good courses for front runners / poor courses for hold up horses is not as strong as one might expect.

What can be said with a degree of confidence is that these tracks are graveyards for hold up horses and such runners make abject bets in the main.

Summing Up

So how should we use the data discussed in this article? There are numerous ways to do this, some of which I will elaborate upon in a future article. Ultimately however, it is important to appreciate the differences between each course and distance in 5f handicaps, especially their configuration and favoured run styles, points which should inform your betting when you decide to use pace data as part of your betting strategy.

For example, if you feel you have found two ‘nailed on’ front runners in two different 5f handicaps, at say Chester and Yarmouth, you need to appreciate that whoever front runs in the Chester race, has, according to past data, over 3 times more chance of winning than your Yarmouth trailblazer. Of course your ‘nailed on’ front runner might not lead early but that is not really the point I am trying to make!

I hope you have found this article interesting and potentially useful from a betting perspective. If you have yet to use the pace data on geegeez.co.uk, I hope I have sown some seeds of interest and that you may start to think about how to incorporate pace handicapping into your betting armoury.

- David Renham

** You can read Part 2 of this series here **