Tag Archive for: Flat season trainer angles

Racing Systems: Flat Trainers, Part 1

Last week, I switched focus to flat racing (turf and all weather combined) and, as we’re now officially into the flat season, I am sticking again to the flat with attention switching to trainer based systems, writes Dave Renham.

As with the first five articles in this series I am going to look over the long term, studying UK data from Jan 1st 2009 to Dec 31st 2021 with all profits quoted to Betfair Starting Price.

As we know, systems are not for everyone, and I am not a system user per se. However, I do have a group of systems that highlight horses I will then go on to study in more detail: systems do not have to be totally rigid unless you want them to be.

As I have stated before when sharing these racing systems I am not advocating that you use some of them, or all of them; rather, the plan is to give you the facts and figures in order to make an informed choice. So let’s get cracking:


Keith Dalgleish – Second Career start system

Keith Dalgleish started training in 2011 in South Lanarkshire. His career strike rate stands at 12% which is very respectable and last year (2021) was his best year numerically with 93 winners in total. It was also his most profitable; backing all Dalgleish runners on the flat in 2021 would have yielded a return of over 26p in the £.

Looking at his record, he has done very well with horses having their second ever career run. Hence this system reads very simply:

  1. Flat racing (Turf / All weather)
  2. Trainer – Keith Dalgleish
  3. Second career start


Let us have a look at the raw system results:



These are solid looking results – good profit from an excellent ROI. The strike rate of nearly 17% is sound considering the type of horse we are talking about: the average win strike rate for all second time starters (all trainers) is around 12%.

Let's graph the annual breakdowns and as we are looking at relatively small yearly samples I have used profit figures to £1 level stakes. As Dalgleish started training in 2011, the data set starts from there rather than 2009:



As can be seen, Dalgleish's results were not so good in the two of the first three years, but I think we can forgive this as it was the early days of his training career. From 2014 onwards his runners having their second career start have done very well. Overall they've recorded seven winning years and four losing ones; (six out of the last eight were profitable). 2017 looks poor but he had runner up finishes that year at BSP prices of 20.45, 14.50 and 12.74. Two of these were beaten very narrowly (a head and half a length) and if a couple had managed to win, the year would have been around the breakeven point. We have to appreciate that regardless of bottom line results, luck, good or bad, can play a significant part in whether we make a profit or a loss.

There is good news that these results have not been badly skewed by numerous big priced winners; just two winners over 30.0 on Betfair and none over 50.0. Indeed, if we focus on his runners whose BSP was under 30.0 results actually are even better:



That focus brings the strike rate up nicely to nearly a win from every four runners, and returns close to 73p in the £. The yearly breakdown also improves to eight winning years and three losing ones.

As with any system involving very unexposed horses, we are playing with fire a bit. However, Dalgleish has been profitable with both his 2yos and 3yos under this system (N.B. he has had just four qualifiers aged 4 or older, one of which won). The majority of his qualifiers have been 2yos, but the 66 3yo qualifiers produced half of the profits.

So is this a system to use? Quite possibly. Obviously we are reliant on the trainer having a 2yo crop each year of similar ability to what he has had in the past as they will make up about 75% of all system qualifiers, but consistency in that regard hasn't been too much of an issue to date.

Some additional points to note. Dalgleish's female runners have been particularly successful. Also, as highlighted in this Keith Dalgleish trainer profile, his best results have come at tracks in the north of England and in Scotland. He had 31 qualifiers that raced in the midlands or further south and just two have won.


Hugo Palmer – 2 & 3yos that made debut at Newmarket

In my last article I shared a system that backed horses that finished in the first three at Newmarket on their debut (first ever run). Newmarket debutants are a key part to this system too. Here are the rules:

  1. Flat racing (Turf / All weather)
  2. 2yo and 3yo runners from the Hugo Palmer stable
  3. Subsequent runs after debut at Newmarket
  4. SP 10/1 or less


This is a completely different system from anything I have shared before. This is because the same horse could become a qualifier several times in different races using this system. Essentially if the horse made their debut at Newmarket, you back it on any subsequent start as a 2yo or 3yo. That might be one or two runs, it could be ten, and it could be none.

I have also added a price cap which as we know is something we cannot always be 100% sure of when betting pre-race, especially if the early price of the horse is around the figure quoted (in this case an industry SP of 10/1). For the record a BSP price cap of 15.0 would give us virtually the same results and bottom line. The good thing about this price cap is that we know the overall figures are not skewed by any huge priced winners.

Onto the system results now:



Considering the system is backing all Newmarket debutants on all of their subsequent starts up to and including the age of three, these figures look very sound. For me personally, the strike rate of over 30% is the most impressive part. Good strike rates are not a pre-requisite for a good system, but in general the higher the hit rate the more likely it is to be consistent.

I dug a bit deeper by looking to see how many individual horses qualified under this system – 57 horses did and of those 43 managed at least one win. This means 75% of all runners that started won at least once after their Newmarket debut before reaching the age of 4. That is a very high percentage (average for all trainers is 59%), which I guess explains the system’s apparent success.

Onto the yearly breakdown now – I am using profit figures to £1 level stakes again due to the relative small number of qualifiers each year. The data shared, as with Dalgleish, only goes back to 2011, as that is when Palmer started training, too:



Despite the relatively small samples for each year, Palmer has secured profits in eight of the years, had two losing years and one that broke even. When you look at the annual strike rates, they too have been impressive:



We can ignore 2013 as he only had two qualifiers but every other year the strike rate has exceeded 20% while in nine of the 11 years the strike rate has been 25% or higher.

This is definitely an unusual system as normally the system rules creates one bet for one horse. As stated earlier, with this system the same horse can be bet several times. In general, horses that make their debut at Newmarket are of a good level of ability and in Hugo Palmer’s case they certainly seem to run well early in their careers.

The one fly in the ointment with this system is that Palmer has agreed to train for ex-footballer Michael Owen at his Manor House Stables in Cheshire. That, of course, is a lot further from Newmarket than his former Kremlin House yard on the Snailwell Road, actually in Newmarket!


Paul Midgley – Finished in first two LTO system

Paul Midgley is definitely not a household name but in previous research I have done he is a trainer who I think is underrated. This system is very simple as the title suggests:

  1. Flat racing (Turf / All weather)
  2. Trainer – Paul Midgley
  3. Finished 1st or 2nd LTO

The overall results going back to 2009 are as follows:



The results are very good considering the simplicity of the system, and the strike rate is about what you would expect for this type of runner. Returns of 16p in the £ are thoroughly acceptable, too. Let’s check the annual figures now to £1 level stakes at BSP:



A small loss in 2009 was followed by a bigger reverse in 2010 but, since then, eight years of profit (albeit two only just) and three losing years. Two very good years (2012 and 2018) produced the lion’s share of the overall profits and, as with many systems, results fluctuate somewhat from year to year. Nothing is ever going to be a smooth line with system angles and this is a good example of the peaks and troughs. The key is that the peaks should Himalayan while the troughs are only small gullies!

In its raw form this not a system I would consider for backing all runners, but I would take a note of any qualifier before undertaking some further race analysis.

It is also worth sharing the fact that much bigger priced runners have performed poorly. Those with an industry SP of 20/1 or bigger have produced just one winner from 67, creating losses of £30.83 (ROI -46.0%). On the plus side this means the raw system has not been skewed in the least by big priced winners; quite the opposite in fact.

With horses that have run well last time out I am personally a fan of that good run being relatively recent – within around three weeks is normally my personal cut off point on the flat. Hence I wanted to see what difference, if any, that type of additional rule would make to the Midgley results.

Here are the findings of Midgley horses that finished LTO 1st or 2nd racing again within 3 weeks:



The strike rate has edged up and although profits are down in absolute terms by about £6 there would have been 276 fewer qualifiers compared to original system. Consequently, returns have improved from 16p to 23p in the £. In terms of annual returns, these have smoothed out a bit, too, as the table below shows:



That's ten winning years (although three were essentially break-even) and three losing years. Restricting selections to those which ran within the last three weeks looks a plausible and logical addition to the system, assuming one is happy that this is not significant back-fitting: your call. This system has possibilities for sure.


Roger Varian – Six month system

Roger Varian was assistant trainer to Michael Jarvis for a decade before taking over the reins in 2011 (making him the third trainer in this article to have started in that year). He has been a very consistent trainer and seems able to get runners fit regardless of time off the track. Here is the Roger Varian system:

  1. Flat racing (Turf / All weather)
  2. Trainer - Roger Varian
  3. Six months (180 days) or more since last run
  4. SP 10/1 or less

Some trainers are adept at getting their runners fit after a long break and Roger Varian certainly falls into that category. I have included the same price cap as I used earlier for the Hugo Palmer system. This attempts to avoid the inevitable price cap ‘back-fit’ trap that many system punters fall into; sticking to the same price cap is the way to go.

Onto the results for this system (2011-2021):



The table shows that roughly three in every ten qualifiers have won which, considering the time off the track, is impressive. Here is the annual breakdown:



It's a fairly consistent set of results with eight winning years and three losing ones. Each losing year lost less than a tenner at £1 stakes, the worst being £8.13. Further signs of consistency can be found when we look at a breakdown of qualifiers by age:



Each age group can boast a profit, strike rates are consistently good to outstanding, and all A/E values  are at 1 or higher. This system looks one to follow and, at the time of writing, Varian has had seven qualifiers in 2022, two of which have won at BSP prices of 2.29 and 9.92, and a further three of which ran second, boosting the overall profits by a further few quid.


And so we come to end of this latest piece, the first of three focusing on flat trainer system angles. Hopefully you have found a few useful snippets above, and next time I’ll be digging under the headline numbers of four more flat trainers.

- DR