This is the second article in a series in which I will be looking at run style bias, writes Dave Renham. The first article was quite a general piece, although it did drill down into some of the key stats of three trainers – Eric Alston, Mark Johnston and Tom Dascombe. This follow up piece looks at success rates for trainers with front runners including breaking down the data by distance. Once again I have looked at the last eight full calendar years of data (1/1/14 to 31/12/21) including both turf and all weather racing in the UK. The focus is all race types (handicaps and non handicaps) and all distances, races with six or more runners.
Run style is all about the position a horse takes up early on in the race, normally within the first 100-200 yards. There are four basic positions a horse can adopt in a race and these are categorised on the Geegeez website as Led (4), Prominent (3), Mid Division (2) and Held Up (1). The number in brackets is the run style score that is assigned to each section.
Below is a basic breakdown of which type of horse fits which type of run style profile:
Led – horses that get to the front early or horses that dispute for the early lead often simply called (front runners);
Prominent – horses that race just behind the leader(s);
Mid Division – horses that race mid pack or just behind the mid-point;
Held up – horses that are held up at, or near the back of the field.
Run style is often linked with the word pace because the early pace shown by horses in a race determines their early position. Hence for many the words run style and pace are interchangeable.
On this site you can find plenty of run style data in both the Pace Analyser and the Query Tool. These can be found from the Tools tab anywhere on site. Additionally, each racecard has the last four run style/pace figures for each runner. Inexperienced horses may have less data as they may not have run four times.
Benchmarks: Overall strike rates for run style
To begin with I want to look at the average win percentage strike rates for all trainers / runners in terms of run style. In other words what percentage of front runners / early leaders win on average, what percentage of prominent runners win etc. Here is the breakdown:
These raw stats illustrate why run style is so important and why it staggers me that some trainers are clearly averse to sending out their runners to try and lead early.
Front runners do best at shorter distances as the graph below shows. (It should be noted that the small number of 6½f races, just 43 in total, were included in the 7f-1m data):
The advantage to front runners is very strong in sprints (5-6f) and quite potent at races up to a mile, also. The advantage is less pronounced over longer trips but those on the lead still win more often than any other of the overall run styles shown in the first chart (13.91% for leaders over 1m1f+ vs 12.3% for all prominent racers).
Data for hold up horses, as you may expect, shows the reverse. The longer the distance the more chance horses from the back of the field have of coming thorough to win:
Still, even the best strike rate for hold up horses is lower than those racing midfield overall, much lower than the prominent racer superset, and more than half as low as the early leader overall group. More materially, perhaps, the just better than 8% hit rate for hold up horses in 1m1f+ races compares highly unfavourably with the nigh on 14% rate for early leaders in the same races.
Best Front Runner Trainers: All Races
Moving on, let us look at the trainers who had the highest strike rates with their front runners in ALL races of 6+ runners (minimum 80 runs / top 30 trainers):
This table really knocks the eye out! There are some seriously impressive figures here with 14 trainers having strike rates of 25% or higher, five of them hitting 30%+.
The Win PL figures show how profitable front runners are, and that trying to find the best way of predicting them is something all punters should want to achieve.
Saeed Bin Suroor tops the list, and combining a front runner of his with a fancied runner is a potent combination as this table further illustrates:
As the table shows, bin Suroor front running favourites score nearly 54% of the time, while the top four in the betting all have good strike rates and would have produced excellent returns. Remember, all such returns shown on Geegeez are to SP. Using BOG and/or Betfair would see these figures looking even more impressive.
Best Front Runner Trainers: Non-handicap Races
Now let's drill down a level and look at the top trainer strike rates in non-handicap races only (minimum 60 runs / top 20 trainers):
There are few surprises here, with 18 of this top 20 having already appeared on the ‘All Races top 30’ list. Just David and Nicola Barron and Richard Fahey new names to the party.
Best Front Runner Trainers: Handicap Races
Onto the top 20 trainers in terms of front running strike rates in handicaps only (minimum 70 runs) and the key players are as follows:
Here we see slightly lower strike rates, but this is to be expected in handicaps where field size is generally larger (9.85 runners versus 9.26 runners in non-handicaps during the study window).
This time, there are some new names to be aware of - Chris Wall, John O’Shea, Malcolm Saunders, Julie Camacho, Stuart Kittow, Ismael Mohammad and the Coles father and son team (research based on father, Paul Cole, only).
Best Front Runner Trainers: By Race Distance
In this next section, we are going to look at different race distances; specifically, the top 10 front running trainers in terms of win strike rate in each division:
5f / 6f races
Simon Crisford, now training with his son, Ed, is the king of front-running sprinters, his speedballs that go forward immediately winning a whopping 40% of the time. Crisford is one of the more active trainers at the breeze up sales and tends to specialise in two-year-olds generally; perhaps that early education for his runners is a material component. Regardless, many of them clearly know their job from the starting stalls.
Crisford used to be racing manager for Godolphin, and the next three entries in this table are all Godolphin trainers, two of them on the payroll plus John (and Thady) Gosden.
7f / 1m races
Those familiar names appear again when the race distance ramps up a touch, though there are interlopers in the top five now. Sharing top honours with Messrs bin Suroor and Appleby, C. is William Haggas, the trio all winning at this range with around 39% of their front runners.
1m1f or longer races
As we get towards the longer distance races, the strike rates curtail somewhat - to be expected based on the overall data I shared in my introduction; and yet Saeed bin Suroor still managed to achieve a better than one-in-three win rate with early leaders in races of nine furlongs-plus. He's well clear of the wily Sir Mark Prescott and the quietly excellent David Menuisier.
Front Runner Trainer/Jockey combinations
As well as how a trainer likes his horses to be ridden, a key consideration must be the actual rider!
Here, I have collated a list of the top 50 trainer / jockey combos with front runners. For this table I have not added profit/loss data (minimum 40 races), though the A/E column may be used as a proxy (where a number above 1 implies future potential profitability).
As you might expect, there are some very strong stats here with many of the very top trainers and jockeys combining. However, perhaps of more interest are a few combinations that may have sailed under the radar, such as Channon and Bishop, Osborne and Currie, Quinn and Hart, Griffiths and Allan, Midgeley and Lee to name but five. Feel free to do your own sleuthing in the table above!
Front Runner Trainers: Led Win Rate compared with Held Up Win Rate
To finish, I would like to compare individual trainer strike rates for their front runners with the percentages for their hold up horses. Earlier in the piece we saw the average win percentage for front runners was 17.02% between 2014 and 2021 in 6+ runner flat races, while for hold up horses it was just 7.16%.
The aim of this exercise, then, is to create a 'led to held up ratio' (L:H for short) using individual trainer percentages. So, for example and using the overall figures, I divide the led percentage of 17.02 by the held up percentage of 7.16 to create the benchmark trainer L:H ratio of 2.38. From there, we can see which trainers differ markedly from the average figure.
Trainers with a high 'led to held up ratio'
This first table shows those trainers with a much higher L:H ratio. I have also included both win percentages (SR%) to aid the comparison:
Adrian Nicholls tops the list mainly due to his dreadful record with hold up horses – just 1 of the 102 such runners have won. It is also worth noting that Nicholls has a 14.3% strike rate with prominent racers which, considering his overall record, is a real stand out figure.
Phillip Makin’s stats are interesting as he has saddled 21 winners from 84 front runners (25%); compare this with his record with the other three run styles combined which has seen 31 wins from 648 runners for a strike rate of only 4.8%. It might be worth scouring the daily racecards to find potential front runners from the Makin yard.
I also will keep an eye out for other potential front runners from the following stables - Jedd O’Keeffe, Sir Mark Prescott, William Stone, Staurt Kittow, Richard Hughes, John Quinn and Karl Burke.
Trainers with a low 'led to held up ratio'
Let’s now look at the trainers with the lowest L:H ratios:
One trainer worth mentioning here is Lucy Wadham. Her flat race win strike rate across all run style categories is remarkably even:
Not many trainers whose overall SR% exceeds 10% have figures like this.
There is plenty to digest in this article and I hope it has given you plenty of food for thought. The next piece in the series will look at run style data for two-year-olds. Until then, and as always, thanks for reading.