The first weekend in a very long time where national hunt racing is the sole serving on ITV and although the flat isn’t completely done with yet (it’s the November Handicap next week which signals the official end of the flat turf season), jumps racing will largely be the focus in the coming months.
Ascot and Wetherby host the majority of Saturday’s live races and it will be interesting to look at potential pace biases at both tracks over the winter. This is Wetherby’s big day, whereas Ascot has other feature days, so I’m going to concentrate on Wetherby this week.
Wetherby Hurdle Pace Bias
Wetherby hosts hurdle races over 2m, 2.5m and 3m at this meeting so I’ll look at each distance individually.
2m Hurdle Pace Bias At Wetherby
Let’s first examine the pace bias over the minimum distance over hurdles here.
This course and distance certainly seems to suit those up with the pace when racing over hurdles. Front runners have both the best win percentage and place percentage in medium sized fields.
Front runners have produced an 18.37% win strike rate and a 38.78% place percentage, with this run style proving profitable when backed blind for both win and each way purposes.
Prominent racers have the clear second best win percentage although they are narrowly third best to mid division when it comes to place percentage.
Those that are held up certainly seem at a disadvantage here with the worst win percentage (6.38%) and comfortably the worst place percentage (23.4%).
2.5m Hurdle Pace Bias At Wetherby
Do we see the same sort of pace bias over a little further here?
The answer is no. This time around front runners have the worst win strike rate and hold up performers have the best win strike rate. This trend isn’t quite echoed with the place percentages, which do hold more weight in a sample of this size, but the win percentages and place percentages are all very closely matched.
The only run style here that is profitable, and profitable for both win and each way bets, is mid division so that may be most favoured but the bottom line over this two and a half mile trip over hurdles at Wetherby is that there doesn’t look to be any real sort of pace bias.
3m Hurdle Pace Bias At Wetherby
So how does the data over a three mile trip look like?
Not the biggest of samples here but we do see a slight swing back to front runners enjoying the run of things over this longer distance with the pacesetters gaining both the best win percentage and best place percentage.
Front runners certainly aren’t as dominant as they were over 2m here though and the data is far more closely matched, just as it was over half a mile shorter.
Front runners are profitable to back blind for both win and each way purposes and prominent racers have the next best place percentage suggesting that being nearer the pace is certainly some sort of advantage. There is only around 5.5% difference though in place percentages between front runners and being held up so the pace bias here, and there does seem to be one, is not a strong one.
Wetherby Chase Pace Bias
The main races over fences at this meeting are run over 2.5m and 3m so these distances will be the focus over the larger obstacles.
2.5m Chase Pace Bias At Wetherby
This distance was pretty even and fair over hurdles and although there isn’t a huge amount in the figures here we do seem to see a bias towards those who race nearer the pace.
The best win percentages and place percentages belong to front runners and prominent racers (front runners edge it as far as the win data is concerned, prominent racers do better for place purposes).
Meanwhile the worst of the data performance belongs to mid division and held up.
There does seem a fairly substantial drop off in place strike rate when you go from prominent to mid division. Prominent racers have a place percentage of 37.95% and that drops all the way down to 25% (the same as hold up performers have) for mid division.
The takeaway here seems to be that when racing over 2.5m over fences at Wetherby it pays to be in the front half of the field early.
3m Chase Pace Bias At Wetherby
It’s difficult to know what to make of this data with front runners having the worst win percentage but the best place percentage.
The overall trend for the win data is also difficult to decipher given how up and down it is so it should definitely pay to concentrate on the place data, which gives us three times as much data as the win sample.
As previously mentioned, the top place percentage belongs to front runners here and it’s also worth noting that the worst place percentage goes to those that are held up. There is over 10% difference in the figures which seems fairly significant.
Prominent and mid division are fairly closely matched and although mid division actually slightly outperforms prominent the overall trajectory of the place percentages seems to suggest closer to the pace the better but the bias towards those nearer the pace doesn’t seem as strong as it is over shorter distances here.
Hopefully this information helps you pick a few more winners, and a few less losers at Wetherby this weekend and this season.
As far as betting races are concerned this weekend, for me there are a couple of interesting contests over at Newmarket whilst the majority of the jumpers get their seasonal pipe openers out of the way.
The 2.23 at Newmarket is a class 3 mile handicap and judging by the very early betting I’d rather be with the bigger prices than the shorter prices. This is definitely the race I’m most interested in.
I’m still fairly interested in Scottish Summit despite the fact that he’s without a win in 13 months and just seems to be finding one or two too good in almost every race. He was better than the bare form last time at Redcar (had to switch away from the favoured rail to get a run and was racing against a pace bias) and before that he’d been in good form, finding just a lightly raced, promising 3yo too good when travelling best at Doncaster. He should be good for another place again here.
I quite fancied Fairy Cakes last time out at Newbury as she had a couple of interesting pieces of form to her name. She beat the progressive Wink Of An Eye early in the season at Goodwood. Admittedly Fairy Cakes is now 15lbs higher but she beat that rival by 2 lengths and Wink Of An Eye is now rated 25lbs higher and the 3rd also won next time out giving that form a really solid look.
Fairy Cakes is proven off a higher mark too.
She dropped back to this mile trip at Sandown in June and finished 2nd to Hoodwinker, who has won again since. The 3rd won her next two starts, the fifth won next time out and even the 7th won two starts later.
When racing six weeks later off a 1lb higher mark I thought she was a very good thing but she was weak in the betting and finished last, beaten 24 lengths. She’s been off since and that run came 108 days ago so it clearly wasn’t her running but will she be able to resume progression here?
The good news is that trainer Eve Johnson Houghton has had two winners and two runners up from her last six runners, including two at 33/1, so she’s clearly got her string running well. In the past 12 months though her handicap runners have achieved a PRB of 0.51 but her handicap runners who have been off 60+ days have only managed a PRB of 0.4 so Fairy Cakes isn’t guaranteed to be fully wound up unfortunately. Any rain could be against her too. One to watch in the market maybe.
It’s also worth mentioning Redarna, probably not with this race in mind. I wrote ahead of his run at the Ayr Western Meeting that with a bit of cut in the ground he would probably be pretty much unbeatable at that venue in the right sort of company given his record at the track. I was therefore pretty perplexed when he was weak in the market and one of the first beaten. However he returned there just two weeks later and won a better race comfortably, proving my theory about him correct to a certain degree.
He’s since let that form down slightly at York but that’s clearly not his course and it’s worth noting how well his Ayr win has now worked out.
The 2nd, 3rd and 4th have all won since whilst the 5th, 6th and 7th have all placed since. Redarna is definitely one to look out for again next season at Ayr, even at the ripe old age of 8 which he'll hit at the turn of the year.
But with this race in mind I’m going to be backing Scottish Summit to place and I’ll be monitoring Fairy Cakes in the market.