Tag Archive for: Fontwell

Wet spell continues to hit racing hard

This afternoon’s meeting at Fontwell and Saturday’s Premier fixture at Kelso are the latest to fall foul of the persistent wet spell.

Officials at Fontwell held a precautionary inspection at 7.30am following over 30mm of rain through the week and a further 7mm in the last 24 hours tipped the decision over the edge.

Unfortunately for Kelso, where the £100,000 Herring Queen Series Final Mares’ Novices’ Handicap Hurdle was the feature on a valuable card, heavy rain overnight left the course unraceable and more is forecast.

Clerk of the course Matthew Taylor said: “Unfortunately we’ve had a further 12mm overnight and it has left us unraceable.

“We had 22mm yesterday but then we had some improvement which was significant but this further 12mm has set us back quite a way. Up to 50 per cent of the track is waterlogged.

“It has just stopped raining by 8am and it is a bit breezy but we’ve got random sporadic showers forecast this afternoon which will be heavy and there’s a further rain band coming in Friday night and into Saturday morning.

“That wouldn’t give us enough time to do the work needed so we’ve had to abandon. We’re really sorry, we were desperate to get it on as a Premier raceday but we just can’t guarantee the integrity of the structure of the surface underneath.”

Wexford in Ireland were also forced to abandon on Friday, while the meeting at Wetherby had already been called off.

Saturday’s Curragh fixture, due to feature the Group Three Alleged Stakes, is subject to a 7.30am inspection, while officials at Downpatrick will inspect at 7.30am on Sunday ahead of their jumps meeting later that day.

Brendan Sheridan, the IHRB clerk of the course at the Curragh, said: “Following a further 6.5mm of rain overnight, the Curragh remains heavy and fit for racing. Having spoken with Met Éireann this morning, there is the possibility of a further 8-11mm of rain between now and 5.35pm tomorrow.

“However, we are also faced with the prospect of Storm Kathleen which has the potential to bring high gusts of wind through tomorrow. On the basis of the forecast for further rain, we will have a 7.30am inspection on Saturday morning to assess if the track remains fit for racing.

“Should the track remain fit for racing at that point, we will continue to monitor the situation and consult with Met Éireann in relation to the high winds.”

Wetherby abandoned and more inspections scheduled

Disruption to the fixture list looks set to continue into the weekend after Wetherby’s meeting on Friday became the latest to fall due to a waterlogged track.

With no sign of the current wet spell coming to an end, Southwell flew the flag for jumps racing in Britain on Thursday, with meetings at Warwick and at Clonmel in Ireland both called off.

Officials at Wetherby called an inspection for 3pm on Thursday ahead of Friday’s card and made the decision to draw stumps shortly after.

A statement on the track’s website read: “There has been insufficient improvement during the last 24 hours and the ground remains waterlogged, with false ground in several areas. A further 12-15 millimetres of rain is expected overnight Thursday into Friday morning.”

Fontwell’s Friday fixture is also under threat, with a precautionary check called for 7.30am, while Saturday’s Premier Raceday at Kelso is already in doubt.

The Borders track is due to host a high-profile card, part of which is set to be shown live on ITV, but the ground is described as heavy, waterlogged in places and an inspection will take place at 8am on Friday to assess the latest state of play.

Officials at Uttoxeter will inspection at 2pm on Friday ahead of the track’s meeting the following day, while Chelmsford’s meeting scheduled for Saturday evening has been moved to an earlier start, from 5.25pm to 2.50pm.

A statement from the British Horseracing Authority read: “In light of the current forecast for Saturday April 6, the BHA has agreed to move Chelmsford City’s fixture to a 2.50 start and rearranged the running order.

“This is in order to ensure an appropriate level of racing content for our customers on Saturday afternoon and offer potential ITV coverage to the Woodford Reserve Cardinal Conditions Stakes at 3.30 should other fixtures on Saturday be abandoned.”

Fontwell loses National Spirit card to waterlogging

Heavy rain around the UK continues to hit this week’s National Hunt fixtures, with Sunday’s top-class card at Fontwell and Friday’s meeting at Warwick falling to the weather.

The £80,000 Grade Two Star Sports National Spirit Hurdle was to be the feature race of Fontwell’s biggest day of their centenary year.

However, persistent heavy rain has left standing water on the West Sussex venue, with 18mm falling prior to a 4pm inspection on Thursday.

Clerk of the course Philip Hide said: “The track is waterlogged and I’m seeing water lying where I’ve never seen it before.

“We just haven’t got any fresh ground to offer up to get any meaningful racing line, with a forecast for plenty more rain – although the forecast doesn’t have a lot to do with it, because it would need to improve a fair amount from where we’re at and there’s just no prospect of it happening.

“Even though I was expecting today to be wet, we’ve probably had 5mm above where I dreaded being. We had about 5mm in 25 minutes around 12 o’clock today.

“It’s an important race for us, but unfortunately, however much you want something to happen, you can’t make it happen. I couldn’t just keep going blindly forward, I’d be misleading people.

“It’s not a hard decision to make and it’s not a decision I’ll regret at any stage – I’m happy to have made it in a timely fashion, to be honest.

“Obviously, there’s a chance they might put the race on somewhere for those horses that have been waiting for it – I think Brewin’upastorm has had it as a target since winning it last year.”

Following another downpour at Warwick, the adjacent Gog Brook burst its bank and left the course unraceable due to waterlogging.

Officials quickly decided there would not be sufficient improvement ahead of raceday and called an early halt to proceedings.

A precautionary inspection has also been scheduled for 8am ahead of Exeter’s jumps meeting on Friday.

After 10.5mm of rain fell on Thursday morning, the ground was described as heavy but raceable, although the last hurdle in the backstraight is being omitted.

The prospect of further showers has forced officials to take another look at conditions in the morning.

Thursday’s meeting at Huntingdon was called off due to a waterlogged track, but prospects for Saturday’s big jumps meetings are more encouraging.

The Premier Raceday fixture at Kempton, which features the £150,000 Coral Trophy Handicap Chase and a trio of Grade Two events, is set to be staged on going that is soft, heavy in places.

There has been plenty of rain in the Surrey area but the forecast is for sunshine and showers on Friday and Saturday.

Newcastle’s Eider Chase card is currently set to be run on ground described as heavy, soft in places.

Gosforth Park received less rain than expected over the last two days and a bright and breezy day is forecast for Friday.

Temperatures could drop to around zero for a short time at night, bringing the possibility of a light frost, but raceday has a predcited low risk of showers through the afternoon, with a light breeze and highs of 7C.

Moore eyeing Fontwell for Peking Opera debut

It could be a big weekend for Gary Moore’s juveniles as Irish Derby fourth Peking Opera is pencilled in to begin life over obstacles at Fontwell on Sunday.

The son of Galileo was a Listed winner for Aidan O’Brien on the Flat before going on to finish just over nine lengths adrift of Auguste Rodin at the Curragh in the summer.

He also saw Group One action in the Grand Prix de Paris before finishing his spell at Ballydoyle with a third behind Vauban in the Ballyroan Stakes.

The four-year-old is now set to try his hand at a new discipline and, having been picked up for 100,000 guineas at the sales, has joined Gary Moore to run in Steve Packham’s colours, made famous by Goshen.

He can be backed at a best price of 20-1 for the Triumph Hurdle, but before thoughts of the Cheltenham Festival enter the picture, he will have to pass his first assignment, having been handed an entry for the Join The Vickers.Bet Free Bet Club Novices’ Hurdle.

“If everything is all right, we might run on Sunday at Fontwell,” said Moore.

“We’re running tight on time and I need to get a run into him.”

Salver in winning action at Chepstow
Salver in winning action at Chepstow (David Davies/PA)

Although Peking Opera has yet to jump a hurdle in public, stablemate Salver has already put down a marker when romping to a wide-margin victory in Chepstow’s Finale Juvenile Hurdle over Christmas.

A best price of 14-1 for the Triumph, he is unbeaten in three over obstacles and holds an entry for the Grade Two JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday although ground conditions at Prestbury Park are set to determine his participation.

“The horse is very well and he has an entry just in case the ground came up soft,” said Moore.

“He’s probably not going to get his ground and if it did come up soft, he would go there, but if it isn’t then he won’t go.

“It’s a stiff two-mile-one and I thought I would just make the entry, but he would be 50-50 – it would have to be good to soft or softer at least. I wouldn’t even want too much good in it, I want it proper soft ground.

“I’m very mindful of the fact he has improved with every time he has run and it will also depend on how he works in the morning more than anything.”

Fontwell called off early due to frozen track

Fontwell’s meeting on Thursday has been abandoned with parts of the course frozen and another cold night forecast.

Temperatures dipped to a low of minus 3.5C on Tuesday evening and were only due to rise to a high of 2C on Wednesday.

To make matters worse there was a windchill of minus 4C preventing conditions from improving.

Given it could get even colder on Wednesday evening all hope was lost that the track would thaw and having originally called an inspection for 8am on raceday, that was brought forward to 1pm on Wednesday and an early decision was made.

Wincanton on Friday is also under threat due to frost.

Having performed a minor miracle to get the course raceable on Saturday, clerk of the course Dan Cooper and his team now face a different problem.

The course is currently frozen in places and temperatures overnight could reach minus 3C before racing but a daytime high of 5C offers hope.

The meetings at Doncaster and Leicester on Wednesday both passed inspections before racing.

There were no issues at all at Doncaster but Leicester did need three inspections before getting the go-ahead, the latter at 12 noon.

Weather continues to cause headaches

Fontwell’s meeting on Thursday must pass a precautionary inspection at 8am due to the threat of frost.

Temperatures dipped to a low of minus 3.5C on Tuesday evening and are only due to rise to a high of 2C on Wednesday.

It could get even colder on Wednesday evening but there is hope that a daytime high of 4C may help thaw the track in time.

Wincanton on Friday is also under threat due to frost.

Having performed a minor miracle to get the course raceable on Saturday, clerk of the course Dan Cooper and his team now face a different problem.

The course is currently frozen in places and temperatures overnight could reach minus 3C before racing but a daytime high of 5C offers hope.

The meetings at Doncaster and Leicester on Wednesday both passed inspections before racing.

There were no issues at all at Doncaster but Leicester did need three inspections before getting the go-ahead, the latter at 12 noon.

Testing ground guaranteed, but Doncaster hopeful for weekend

Storm Babet continues to hit racing fixtures in Britain and Ireland but the forecast is less daunting for the major meetings scheduled to take place later this week.

The ground at Doncaster was described as heavy, waterlogged in places on Tuesday afternoon, ahead of the Futurity Trophy weekend cards on Friday and Saturday.

However, the recent rain is expected to ease off at the South Yorkshire track, which is set to stage the final Group One contest of the season with Saturday’s Kameko Futurity Trophy Stakes.

Clerk of the course Paul Barker said: “We’ve had around 7mm today, which has taken us to heavy ground and it is just a bit waterlogged around the mile shoot, so we are seeing if we can do anything about that.

“But the forecast is for things to improve later on this evening and then stay relatively dry until Thursday morning, when it should just be a case of getting a few showers, rather than the heavy stuff we’ve had since the weekend.

“So, once we get through today, hopefully everything will get a bit more manageable right through the rest of the week and we can start to put a plan together for Friday and Saturday.

“At least Friday’s entries were made after Saturday’s deluge and the Futurity is historically run on testing ground, so everyone who is planning to have runners are aware of what to expect.

“Other than that, all we can do is take it one day at a time and try our best to keep on top of everything.”

Cheltenham have no issues prior to kicking off their new season with The Showcase meeting on Friday and Saturday, when Grand National hero Corach Rambler and dual Stayers’ Hurdle winner Flooring Porter could return to action.

“It’s really exciting to get going again and we’re in great shape,” clerk of the course Jon Pullin told Racing TV. “We’ve had a really beneficial summer from our point of view and the turf manager’s point of view.

“Whilst we’ve seen significant rain, which did cause some problems around areas of the site, fortunately the track took it really, really well. We’re in a good position.

“It’s currently good to soft in the main and the forecast is for little bits of rain between now and racing, so I’d envisage that staying the same.”

Newbury are also scheduled to race on Friday and Saturday, with a couple of Group Three events on the second of those cards – the Horris Hill Stakes and the St Simon Stakes.

The Berkshire track is described as heavy, soft in places, with the warning that it will not be able to take substantial rain.

The forecast is for another downpour tonight to be followed by a mixture of sunshine and showers.

Clerk of the course George Hill said: “The bulk of the rain should be tonight but then it’s a variable forecast. It could be anything from 5mm to 10 or 15, or even an inch of rain.

“If we’re talking those higher kind of quantities over a 24-hour period, we’d be very much up against it, but the track is in good shape for this time of year and we’ll just have to hope for the best and see what we get.”

Tuesday’s meeting at Yarmouth and the Wednesday card at the Curragh were the latest casualties of Storm Babet and a sustained spell of heavy rain.

That followed last Saturday’s scheduled meetings at Stratford and Market Rasen being lost to the weather, along with Wednesday’s Worcester card and four upcoming fixtures at Southwell.

Storm Babet continues to cause havoc

Storm Babet continues to affect racing in Britain and Ireland, with this afternoon’s meeting at Yarmouth and tomorrow’s card at the Curragh the latest casualties.

There are also now inspections planned at Fontwell ahead of tomorrow’s fixture and at Clonmel for Thursday.

Yarmouth were forced to abandon their seven-race Flat card after an early-morning inspection, as “considerable rainfall overnight” left the track waterlogged.

Officials at the Curragh have cancelled Wednesday’s meeting following 21mm of rain last night, with the course currently unfit for racing and facing an unfavourable weather forecast.

Clerk of the course Brendan Sheridan said: “The forecast is for a further 5mm of rain today with the possibility of more rain moving in tomorrow, so there was no prospect of the situation improving here prior to racing.

“We’ve had a total of 77mm in the last week and the ground has been heavy since entries closed last Thursday.”

Fontwell have called a precautionary inspection for tomorrow morning at 7.30am.

The going is currently described as soft, good to soft in places, but “further significant rain” is expected this evening and early on Wednesday.

At Clonmel, the ground is heavy but currently fit for action ahead of racing on Thursday.

However, clerk of the course Lorcan Wyer reported: “Having spoken with Met Eireann, there is the possibility of a further 5-10mm of rain and some spot flooding tomorrow afternoon which will be on top of the 54mm of rain the track has had in the last week.

“With that additional rain forecast for tomorrow, we felt it was prudent to let people know as early as possible that we will need to have a precautionary inspection at 7.30am on Thursday morning.”

Last Saturday’s scheduled meetings at Stratford and Market Rasen were lost to the weather, along with Wednesday’s Worcester card and four upcoming fixtures at Southwell.

Brewin’upatstorm regains National Spirit crown

Brewin’upastorm survived a scare at the final flight to continue his love affair with the Betgoodwin National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell.

Olly Murphy’s stable stalwart won the Grade Two contest in 2021 before finishing a head second to Botox Has 12 months ago, but showed real guts to regain his crown in the Sussex track’s feature contest.

Given a wind operation since disappointing in the Relkeel Hurdle on New Year’s Day, Aidan Coleman was content to bide his time as Goshen cut loose on the front end in the hands of Jamie Moore.

Gary Moore’s enigmatic seven-year-old was the focal point for the majority of the contest as, out on his own, his tendency to jink right came back to haunt him. But, by the time the quintet taking part reached the final bend with two to jump, the pack had swarmed on Goshen and Brewin’upastorm in particular was travelling menacingly in the hands of Coleman.

Hitting the front after the second last, Coleman sent the 10-year-old for home and the 7-2 chance proved a willing ally – pulling out more when challenged by Sceau Royal in the closing stages having briefly opened the door to Alan King’s veteran when having his momentum checked by a blunder at the last.

“That was brilliant,” said Murphy. “He’s a horse who has always had a lot of ability and I’ve kind of always stressed when he is good, he is very good.

“He was clearly on a going day today after coming back from a little break following a wind operation and it is great to win the race for a second time. He’s an absolute star.

“We were tight time-wise (to get to the race) but when these horses get a little bit older, you get to know them a bit better and the older they get, they probably don’t need as much graft. He was ready today and maybe he’s better off being a gallop short these days than one too many.

“It was a messy old race to watch. He had the door shut turning in and then walked through the last. But he’s a horse with an awful lot of ability who likes to make you sweat as well. He doesn’t make life easy for himself but he’s got a big engine and when he’s good, he’s good.

“He’s unlucky not to be three from three in the race, but we’re chuffed to win it again and we’ll enjoy celebrating.”

Murphy was denied a double on the card when Ben Pauling’s 11-8 favourite Quinta Do Mar edged out Grandads Cottage to take the Download The Betgoodwin App Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase by a length.

Quinta Do Mar, here winning over hurdles at Market Rasen, is now unbeaten in three runs at Fontwell
Quinta Do Mar, here winning over hurdles at Market Rasen, is now unbeaten in three runs at Fontwell (Mike Egerton/PA)

“It was very pleasing and the application of cheekpieces saw him right back to his best I think,” said Pauling – whose eight-year-old enhanced his fine unbeaten record at Fontwell.

“He travelled very well, jumped better for them and ultimately won quite nicely and it’s pleasing to see him get off the mark over fences.

“It doesn’t seem to matter what track it is down there, he does seem to like Fontwell, but I think he’s just been in good form every time he has gone there and the cheekpieces are what made the difference. I was pleased to see them work the way I thought they would.”

There was a double on the card for Chris Gordon and jockey Tom Cannon, who linked up to win the Free Bet Nose Losers At Betgoodwin ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle with Goodwin Racing (4-1), before Goodwin (100-30) claimed the concluding Benedict Cox Open Maiden National Hunt Flat Race in good style.

Moore eyeing National Spirit hat-trick with Goshen

Goshen has been tasked with helping Gary Moore win a third Betgoodwin National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell on Sunday.

The Moore family first won the Grade Two contest at one of their local tracks in 2017 with Camping Ground and added to their tally 12 months ago when the now-retired Joshua Moore partnered his father’s Botox Has to a game success over race regular Brewin’upastorm.

Now it is the turn of their stable stalwart to uphold family honour, while Jamie Moore will have the chance to write his name on the roll of honour.

The unseasonal dry spell means conditions will once again be against the ever-popular seven-year-old, who also has to tackle his old nemesis of racing left-handed. But encouragement is taken from two high-quality hurdling appearances this term, which are sandwiched by a pair of lacklustre outings over the larger obstacles.

He surged clear of the reopposing Brewin’upastorm to record an eight-and-a-half-length victory in the Ascot Hurdle in November before backing it up with a strong second behind Paisley Park in the rearranged Long Walk Hurdle on Boxing Day and his handler believes Goshen deserves plenty of credit for the way he has acquitted himself, despite being yet to race on his favoured ground.

“He’s had a brilliant year. He’s done really well and on not one day has he had the ground in his favour yet,” said Moore.

“The trip will be fine for him. It’s the wrong way round, but there’s just not that many options for him. He’s in the long-distance hurdle race at Cheltenham, but I feel that’s a waste of time.

“There’s no point leaving him in the stable and there’s not that many runners either so he has got to take his chance.”

Knappers Hill, here winning at Sandown, attempts to get back to winning ways in the Betgoodwin National Spirit Hurdle
Knappers Hill, here winning at Sandown, attempts to get back to winning ways in the Betgoodwin National Spirit Hurdle (Nigel French/PA)

Sceau Royal returns to hurdles having failed to feature in the Dublin Chase earlier this month and he will be looking to reverse Elite Hurdle form with Knappers Hill, who was two and a half lengths clear of Alan King’s consistent veteran when they met at Wincanton earlier in the campaign.

Paul Nicholls’ charge has seen his form slightly tail off since his early-season heroics, but is proven over this trip and hails from a yard that is always well represented in this £80,000 contest.

Brewin’upastorm won this in 2021 before going down by just a head when defending his crown last year and Olly Murphy will be hoping his 10-year-old enjoys the tight turns of the Sussex track for a third time.

“He’s come back from a severe wind operation but seems in good form and galloped well this week,” said the Warren Chase handler.

“He will just improve for whatever he does at Fontwell as it’s been a bit of a tight squeeze to get him ready for this race, but we’re looking forward to running him and if he comes back to his old self, there’s no reason why he can’t run really well.

“He probably should be two from two in the race, he was unlucky in it last year and we’re looking forward to running him in the race again.”

The select quintet going to post is rounded off by Dan Skelton’s Proschema, who was a clear-cut winner of the West Yorkshire Hurdle in the autumn, but was pulled up on his next start in Newbury’s Long Distance Hurdle.

Jamie Moore relatively unscathed following Fontwell fall

Scans have revealed Jamie Moore suffered no broken bones when knocked unconscious in a fall at Fontwell on Monday.

The 38-year-old was taken to the Sussex County Hospital in Brighton after his mount Auriferous suffered a fatal fall four out in the South Coast Skips Maiden Hurdle.

On Tuesday morning, his father Gary Moore said: “Jamie is up and about. He is a bit battered and bruised, but the scan was all clear so he will live to fight another day.

“He will have to go through the concussion protocols, because apparently you can’t have another test for another week.”

The rider will be sidelined for at least seven days, giving the Horsham yard some difficult decisions to make with their big weekend runners.

They include promising chaser Haddex Des Obeaux who has won his last two and was expected to make his Grade Two debut in either the Virgin Bet Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Warwick or the Betfair Exchange Game Spirit Chase at Newbury.

“The disappointment is obviously Saturday,” added Moore.

“I don’t know what we are going to do, because we have runners at two meetings and don’t know where Haddex Des Obeaux will go, if he goes anywhere.”

The Moore family has been through the mill in the past year, with Jamie’s younger brother Joshua suffering a fall at Haydock in April last year which left him with a broken leg, broken ribs, a punctured lung and damage to his lower back. He subsequently announced his retirement from race-riding.

Moore added: “It’s good news with Jamie, anyway. It is what we choose to do, so we can’t complain about it. But I think my wife, Jayne, is kind of at her wit’s end with it, you know?”

Jamie Moore taken to hospital after Fontwell fall

Jamie Moore was taken to hospital for further examination after suffering a heavy fall at Fontwell on Monday.

The rider was aboard Auriferous, trained by his father Gary, in the South Coast Skips Maiden Hurdle when the pair came to grief four flights from home.

Auriferous suffered a fatal fall while Moore was reported to have been knocked unconscious.

On Monday evening, Gary Moore said: “I think he’s OK. He at the Sussex County Hospital now and waiting for a scan.

“That is as much as I know.

“I think he regained consciousness by the time he got in the ambulance and had feelings in all his arms and legs. So that’s all good.”

Trainer Profiles: Paul Nicholls

In this, and subsequent articles I am picking up the baton from Matt and Jon who have both previously written excellent pieces digging into the profiles of certain trainers, writes Dave Renham. As we are heading into the winter months it makes sense to throw the spotlight on some National Hunt trainers for this latest series. The first trainer I am going to look at is one of Britain's winter luminaries, Paul Nicholls.

I will be analysing nearly ten years of UK racing data from 1st January 2013 to 31st October 2022, the majority of which can be sourced by members using the Geegeez Query Tool. All profits / losses have been calculated to Industry Starting Price. Of course, we should be able to significantly improve upon the baseline figures of SP using the exchanges or BOG (Best Odds Guaranteed), and I will share Betfair SP data when appropriate.

Paul Nicholls Brief Biography

Born in Gloucestershire on April 17th 1962, Paul Frank Nicholls was educated at Marlwood School. He didn’t carry on into further education because, upon leaving school aged 16, he started working in a point-to-point yard. By the age of 20 he was race riding for Josh Gifford out of Findon, West Sussex, and then, in 1985, he moved to David Barons. His biggest successes as a jockey were back to back wins in the Hennessy Gold Cup (1986 & ’87) and, in his seven year career, he rode a relatively modest 133 winners. However, it is as a trainer that he has really excelled. Nicholls first took out his licence in 1991 but his training career took off in 1999 when he bagged three wins at the Cheltenham Festival, including the Gold Cup with See More Business. He was crowned Champion trainer for the first time in 2005-06 and, since then, has repeated this feat an amazing dozen further times.

Paul Nicholls Overall Performance Record

Below is Paul Nicholls' win record by calendar year:


Every year during the decade or so in review, his win strike rate has exceeded 20% which is impressive. Also, both his win and each way figures are consistent; both can be seen on the graph below:



Nicholls' overall win strike rate across the 10-year period stands at 23%; the each way SR at 43.2%. Breaking down into five-year groups really demonstrates his consistency:


Not surprisingly, though, given the Ditcheat handler's high profile, profits are hard to come by; and if you had backed all 5693 runners you would have lost roughly 12p in the £ to Industry SP. However, this improves to just under a 3p loss in the £ using BSP - not the worst way to lose a few quid with a high strike rate!

At this juncture it is worth mentioning Nicholls does send the occasional runner over to Ireland, but these are extremely rare. Indeed, just 29 runners have crossed the Irish Sea since 2013 with five winning and a further eight getting placed. Backing all his Irish runners would have seen a steep loss of 40p in the £.

It's time to dig a bit deeper.

Paul Nicholls Performance by Race Distance

When Matt dug into the Nicky Henderson numbers we saw a definite preference for shorter distances. What about his great rival Nicholls?


The distance distinction is not as pronounced as with the Henderson data but Team Nicholls do also seem to perform slightly worse in staying races, both from a win and returns perspective. The each way figures correlate, too, with 3 mile+ runners placing just over 36% of the time compared to the other two distance groups which stand at 46.3% (2m1f or less) and 44.8% (2m2f to 2m6f).

Paul Nicholls Performance in 3 mile+ Races

I want to dig into these 3 mile+ races in more detail as I think it is equally important to share negative angles as positive ones; avoiding poor value bets will clearly help our bottom line in the long run.

When we split these longer races into handicap and non-handicap races we get some very interesting results:


One might expect some difference in the win strike rates in favour of non-handicaps, due to quality biases and field size, but it is the returns that stand out. In non-handicap staying races, blanket support would have nudged into BSP profit; whereas in handicap races, losses of 31.58% (SP) are steep and, even using BSP, this only improved to a loss of 23.5% (23.5p in the £).

Here are the splits for 3m+ handicap chases and handicap hurdles:


Here we see similar win percentages, Impact Values and Actual vs Expected (A/E) indices; handicap chases have lost a little less money, but I would suggest these races are generally worth avoiding, unless you have a good additional reason to get involved.


Paul Nicholls Performance in Handicaps at 2m6f or less

Having seen some relatively poor stats for staying handicaps, let me share some more positive data.


As can be seen, Nicholls has recorded much higher strike rates, A/E and IV indices and, in the case of handicap hurdles, the smallest of profits even at starting price. At BSP, however, those profits would be just above the £200 mark to £1 level stakes – this equates to excellent returns of 22p in the £.

Despite this positive performance in handicap hurdle races of 2m6f or less, it is interesting to see the varying win strike rates at different courses. Below are all courses where Nicholls has had at least 40 runners:



There is quite a range here: one might expect lower strike rates at Ascot and Cheltenham due to the competitive nature of the races and, generally, races at these courses have bigger fields. Despite the low win rate, however, Nicholls has made an SP profit at Cheltenham in this context.

I want to share Nicholls' Taunton data specifically, as it is impressive: 18 wins from 71 runners, with a further 22 placed. Taunton SP profits stand at £27.47 (ROI +38.7%). BSP profits would have been increased considerably to +£47.29 (ROI +49.3%).

Paul Nicholls Performance in Non-handicap races

We have already seen that Nicholls has performed well in non-handicap races of 3 miles or further. Here are his overall non-handicap stats across different race types (all distances):


There are not many hunter chase runners per year (average around 13), but that cohort has made a small profit. However, the profit is hugely skewed due to two big-priced Cheltenham winners at 16/1 and 25/1.

His non-handicap chase figures (excluding hunter chases) also look very solid. Below I have broken down this record by age of horse – and it reveals a clear pattern:



There is a definite drop off in success rate in non-handicap chases as the horses hit the age of 8. Horses aged 7 or younger actually made a 3% profit to BSP; those 8 or older would have lost nearly 19% to BSP.

Sticking with these non-handicap chases (excluding hunter chases) and splitting the performance by starting price gives us the following breakdown:


Clearly horses priced between evens and 9/2 have offered punters good value in the past. The figures in the table above are to Industry SP; using Betfair SP one would have roughly doubled those profits. We can see very good A/E indices, too. In contrast, once starting prices get to 5/1 or bigger, there have been quite significant losses.

Paul Nicholls Performance by Starting Price

We have seen some SP data already, but let us now look at all races as a whole:


The win strike rates go down uniformly as the price bands increase – nothing unusual there. Industry SP losses have been smallest with the shorter priced runners, but the Betfair SP returns on investment are probably more useful to see.



Using Betfair SP sees a much more even return on investment across the price bands (ranging from a high of +1.6% to a low of -7.6%). In contrast to the Industry SP figures, it actually looks more advantageous to focus on runners priced 5/1 or bigger.

Paul Nicholls Performance by Course

I shared a small amount of course data earlier, but I want to dig a little deeper. I am going to look at all courses where Nicholls has had at least 100 runners and break the data down into different subsets. Firstly I am going to look at win strike rate and A/E indices across all races, hurdle races, and chases (again excluding hunter chases). With a ‘par’ A/E index for all trainers at around 0.87, 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 negative:



There is a good sprinkling of positive A/E indices with not many negative ones; strong overall stats emerge for Fontwell, Newbury and Taunton.

Meanwhile, Haydock fascinates me; here, Nicholls' chase figures are exceptional, showing a 31p in the £ profit to SP, but his hurdle figures at the same course are dire, with a very low strike rate and losses in excess of a bruising 62p in the £. There are some things you just cannot explain!

Now a look at the same courses comparing handicap with non-handicap results using the same colour coding as before:



This time there is a more even split of positive and negative A/E indices. Fontwell and Newbury once again stand out, while Haydock again has hugely conflicting figures – excellent non-handicap results, dreadful handicap ones.

I have dug still deeper at different courses to share with you five positive looking PFN track stats:

  1. At Fontwell in non-handicap chases (excluding hunter chases) the stable has secured 22 wins from 36 (SR 61.1%) for a profit of £9.73 (ROI +27.0%). Using BSP would increase profits marginally to £11.64 (ROI +32.3%);
  2. At Haydock in non-handicap chases (excluding hunter chases) horses that started first or second favourite have bagged 10 wins from 16 (SR 62.5%) for a profit of £14.06 (ROI +87.9%). A slight increase again if using BSP with profits up slightly to £15.44 (ROI +96.5%);
  3. In non-handicap novice hurdles at Wincanton, Nicholls has seen 67 of his 133 runners win securing a strike rate of 50.4%. Backing all runners would have yielded an SP profit of £30.09 (ROI +22.6%); BSP profits stand at £38.38 (ROI +28.9%);
  4. At Taunton if you backed all his runners in hurdle races at 2m1f or less you would have been rewarded with 38 wins from 107 (SR 35.5%) for an SP profit of £19.51 (ROI +18.2%); BSP profits would have been double, at £38.78 (ROI +36.2%);
  5. In handicap hurdle races at Musselburgh, Nicholls has sent only 22 runners on the long trek to such events but nine have won with a further five placing. Returns of over 90p in the £ were achieved to SP; to BSP this increases to 108p in the £. When Harry Cobden has ridden, he has managed five wins and two places from just eight runs.

Paul Nicholls Performance by Horse Run Style

As regular readers of mine will know, running style data is something I believe can often be an important piece of the betting puzzle. To begin with let us see the proportion of runners that fit a specific running style. Geegeez breaks running styles into four:

Led – front runners; horse or horses that take an early lead;

Prominent – horses that track the pace close behind the leader(s);

Mid Division – horses that race mid pack;

Held Up – horses that race at, or near the back of the field early.


Here are the splits for Nicholls:


We can see the marked preference for a prominent running style, tracking the early pace. That approach has accounted for over 40% of all runners from the stable. The other three run styles are each around the 20% mark.

From here, let us review the win success rate of each running style:



This is a very familiar pattern, with horses that go to the front and lead early (L) winning a far bigger proportion of races compared to other run styles. Front runners from the Nicholls stable are edging towards winning 40% of the time. Prominent racers also do well, hitting around one win in every four races; but horses that raced mid-pack or to the rear have relatively poor records.

I want to look at favourites now to see their success rate in terms of run style:



We see exactly the same pattern here with early leading favourites having an excellent record. By contrast, if you had backed every Nicholls favourite that ended up racing early in mid-division or at the back, you would have lost a whopping 33p in the £ to SP.

We have seen already that 19.61% of runners from the stable lead when we look at all races as a whole; but this figure differs markedly depending on the race type as the table below shows:



It seems therefore that non-handicap chases are the race types where we are most likely to see a Nicholls horse front run: out of trouble. However, it should be noted that the figures are skewed somewhat as non-handicaps (both hurdle and chase) tend to have slightly smaller average field sizes when compared to handicaps. To mitigate for that, I have chosen an arbitrary field size band so that we can more easily compare ‘led’ percentages across race types. I've selected races of 6 to 8 runners only to see what happens:



So in races of 6 to 8 runners we can see that non-handicaps are still much more likely to see a Nicholls runner at the front of the pack early compared to handicaps. The gap has narrowed but it is still significant. Perhaps the most interesting finding here is that front runners in National Hunt Flat races have increased considerably in these relatively small fields. There were 81 qualifying NH Flat races and Nicholls runners led early in 30 of them. Of these, a good proportion (43.3%) went onto to win.

This is a good time to mention that statistics can be really useful and informative but, naturally, it is important to see the bigger picture as possible. Sometimes stats in isolation can be a little misleading and we need context as much as possible.

Paul Nicholls Performance by Jockey

Onto some jockey analysis now. The table below shows all jockeys to have ridden at least 50 times for Nicholls since 2013, with the proviso that they have had at least one ride for the stable in 2022. I have ordered them by number of rides starting with the most:



Stable jockey Harry Cobden has a very good record on favourites scoring nearly 46% of the time for a break even scenario to SP (profit of 4p in the £ to BSP). However, the stand out here is Bryony Frost – a strike rate of around one win in every four and a profit to boot. If betting every runner of hers at BSP the profits would have risen to £113.87 (ROI +26.8%).

She has done especially well in non-handicap chases thanks to 28 wins from 65 runners (SR 43.1%) for an SP profit of £55.11 (ROI +84.8%). At BSP these returns increase by a few pence to 92p in the £.

Here are three more Frost / Nicholls stats to be aware of:

  1. Their combined record at Ascot, Cheltenham and Kempton is impressive considering the competitive nature of the races at these tracks:


  1. When Frost has taken an early lead, she has won on over of 40% those runners. On hold up horses, though, she has won less than 10% of the time (SR 9.3%);
  2. Frost has an excellent record on horses she has ridden before. 68 winners from 245 rides (SR 27.8%) for a profit to SP of £87.53 (ROI +35.7%); profit to BSP of £127.01 (ROI +51.8%).

Frost is back in the saddle after a lengthy spell on the side lines so hopefully she will continue her success for Nicholls during the remainder of this season and beyond.

Paul Nicholls – Extra stats and nuggets

With the main body of the article complete let me just share with you some extra stats or nuggets that may be of interest:

  1. Nicholls' longest losing run over the ten seasons stands at 29. He has had 29 losers in a row on five separate occasions
  2. He has saddled back to back winners (e.g. one horse winning and then his next runner winning also) on 340 separate occasions
  3. There are punters around who occasionally back their favourite trainer or favourite jockey and put their selections in doubles, trebles etc. Hence I thought I would look at what would have happened if you had backed all Paul Nicholls runners in trebles on the days when he had exactly three runners. He has had exactly three runners running on the same day 212 times; the treble would have been landed seven times. However, due to the fact that most prices were quite short, if you had placed a £1 win treble on all 212 days you would have lost £96.59 (ROI -45.6%). Even worse would have occurred on days where he had exactly four runners – if you had backed all four runners in a win fourfold accumulator on each of those days, you would have landed a winning bet just once, losing a whopping £136.09 (ROI -76.9%). I am not saying punters cannot be successful with these types of bets, but the odds are generally stacked against us
  4. Just over 400 horses have run at least five times for Nicholls – of these horses 85% of them have won at least one race
  5. In handicaps the time to catch Nicholls runners is when they have had five or fewer previous runs in a handicap. This cohort has combined to win 291 of their 1624 races. Backing them at BSP would have secured a healthy profit of £243.35 (ROI +15.0%)

Paul Nicholls – Main Takeaways

Below is a summary of the key findings from my research above. It's a handy 'cut out and keep cheat sheet' for those who like such things.

  1. Every year Nicholls has secured an overall win strike rate of over 20%
  2. Distance wise, Nicholls has a relatively poor record in handicap races of 3 miles or more
  3. Handicap hurdle races at 2m 6f or less have seen impressive returns to BSP of 22p in the £
  4. In non-handicap chases (excluding hunter chases), horses aged 7 or younger have produced a small 3p in the £ profit to BSP
  5. Several course stats have been highlighted; three of the strongest being in handicap hurdles at Musselburgh, non-handicap chases at Fontwell, and non-handicap novice hurdles at Wincanton
  6. Over 40% of PFN runners take a prominent position early, of which just over 25% go onto win. His best run style performance comes with front runners / early leaders: they have won 38.5% of their races
  7. Bryony Frost has a good overall record and she has excelled in non-handicap chases
  8. Look for horses in handicaps who have previously had five or fewer handicap runs

Paul Nicholls is an incredibly successful trainer and this article has unlocked a few angles that have proved to be positive in the past. Hopefully they will continue that way for at least some time in the future, too! Also there some negatives that we need to be aware of.

I hope you have enjoyed this piece and I’ll be back next week with a drill down into the stats of another National Hunt trainer, Mr Daniel Skelton.

- DR

Roving Reports: To Cheltenham, eventually

It's been a while since my last missive, mainly because after the last one the good lady and myself took ourselves off to St Ives to celebrate her milestone birthday, writes Dave Massey. You'll not want to hear stories about me traipsing around the coast, visiting art galleries and generally making out I'm far more cultured than I actually am; what you want to know is where I've been racing since I got back.

It started with my first visit to Plumpton this season, that coming on the Bob Champion Charity Raceday, a meeting I do try and get down to each year. Plumpton, like Fakenham, is one of those well-run country tracks where after about four visits, you know the crowd that go there on first-name terms. I love the place, full of genuine race enthusiasts that have their favourites. You can pretty much guarantee a roar going up every time a Chris Gordon or Gary Moore horse hits the front in the closing stages. The former had one winner on the day, the latter two, and I doubt very much that the bookmakers walked away winning.

I'm staying in a hotel in Horsham for a couple of nights, as Kempton and Fontwell are also on the agenda in the next two days. After a long drive down I'm really tired and fall asleep about half ten, only to be woken up around 12.45am as the fire alarm goes off. I'm on the top floor, right at the rear of the hotel, so quickly put trousers and a t-shirt on, grab the phone and wallet and get out as swiftly as possible.

However, I didn't put socks and shoes on, and am stood outside without either. What happens next is bizarre, to say the least; the potted version is a German woman took pity on me, gave me her dressing gown, chatted to me for 15 minutes before asking me my star sign to see if we'd be compatible, and then gave me her room number. I'm not making this up. I mean, I couldn't have looked any worse - disheveled without footwear in the early hours, hair all over the place, yet here we are. After being allowed back into the hotel (no fire, a sensor issue) you'll be pleased to hear, dear reader, I retired to my own room.

Tuesday. I decide, as I'm fairly near, to have an hour at Hove greyhounds before I set off for Kempton. It's depressing to tell you that there couldn't have been a dozen punters there. The place had all the atmosphere of a crypt. It's saying something when the evening Kempton meeting felt busy by comparison. Such a shame, as Hove used to be a really busy little place, even the afternoon meetings drawing enough to make playing the Tote worthwhile. No longer.

A change of plan. I'm supposed to be going to Fontwell on the Wednesday, but I've a share in one running at Worcester and the card, with three novice hurdles and a bumper, looks more appealing. So I set off from Horsham around 7.45 am in bright sunshine, but by the time I get to Worcester around 11.30 it's cold and cloudy and the wind is blowing.

My fallouts with the car park attendants at Worcester have been many over time, but on this occasion all goes smoothly and before you know it, I'm enjoying an early lunch. There aren't many bets to be had on the card, although I do like the giant (and wonderfully named, Trumpton fans) Cuthbert Dibble in the bumper and try a little each-way investment. Third place gets me a small profit back but he's definitely one you want to be taking forward. Lovely big chasing type, he'll do well once he sees some obstacles.

Sadly Blue Suede Shoes, the horse I've a small share in, doesn't complete and leaves us scratching our heads. Too green, or just not a racehorse? I've no doubt her next couple of runs will reveal a lot more.

Thursday. Southwell sees rain, lots of it. It's the usual crowd, and as they don't want to hang around outside between races, it is decided we will all bet to 15 minutes. This means no prices until fifteen minutes before the off, with all the books going up at the same time. This not only gives you time to get a cup of tea and a loo visit between races, but it gives a chance for the market to form properly.

So we open up fifteen minutes before the first. There is one, sole, woman punter in the ring. None of us are in a rush to get her business.

She comes over to me, and looks at the board. To the astonishment of us all, she announces...

"£300 number one, and £100 ew number three."

We all stand there, open-mouthed. What just happened there, then?

It turns out she's one of a party upstairs who have all chipped a fair amount of money into a pot and are basically betting whatever the majority go with. Number 1 wins, and she draws £1300 off us as a start. £300 is invested back and they keep a grand. Sadly for them, they barely back another winner and by the time the last comes around, funds have dwindled.

However, there's a twist. They have their last £300 as a £150 each-way bet on Superstar DJ at 28-1. When it romps home, you can hear the screams a mile away. Over £5k to draw. You have never seen a happier bunch of ladies and we're delighted to pay them out.

And so to the end of the week, and a return to the home of National Hunt. Yes, Cheltenham is back, and I'm working on the rails both days.

The Friday is a quiet day, despite plenty of runners, and there are few big bets flying around. The biggest I take is a £300 Music Drive in the novice hurdle at 13-8, but that stays in the satchel as Mofasa, who looked really well going to post, comes out on top despite a mistake at the last.

The rain just keeps a-fallin' even with the forecasts saying that it ought to have stopped around lunchtime; but Cheltenham, as we know from Champion Chase Day this year, has its own micro-climate and trying to guess the weather here is a game in itself. Two slip up on the Flat in the last and we all agree it's probably a good job there's no more racing on the day.

Saturday is busier. Some old familiar faces in the crowd including Cheltenham member Bridget, who always has her fiver with me. Good judge too, is Bridget, and after she's backed Shearer in the first I remark to her it's always the same old faces in the payout queue!

Things really get going in the handicap chase that follows but Lord Accord is an absolute skinner on my side of the book. Not one single person has backed it with me which, for a Cheltenham handicap, is remarkable. A total payout of £115 on the race on my side, with just the places to reimburse.

That means I can crack on with the next and here comes the money for Pied Piper. Plenty of £200 and £400 bets and they don't have much worry as he quickens clear after the last to win. This payout is bigger, but it's nowhere near as big as it is for Dad's Lad in the next.

Dad's Lad is one of those horses that the public latch on to in a big way. One in three bets I take is on the Mullins charge. The writing is on the wall from some way out as he cruises into contention and, although the winning margin is under a length, the result never really seemed in doubt. £3k to pay out and a bad result.

And of course, the tenners and twenties merchants all back the outsider of three in the novice chase, so Chemical Energy is no good either. Encanto Bruno wins the last as favourite and that puts the nail in the coffin for many of the books. The dark is already descending as we pack away; it's time to head home...

- DM