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Headgear Return Gives Outsider Major Chance In Haydock Handicap

An interesting selection of live races this week and several appeal as betting races, none more so than the 1.55 at Haydock. This is a 7f handicap likely to be run in very testing conditions at Haydock. With rain forecast for most of the day on Friday we are almost certainly looking at heavy ground all round for this contest.

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Draw

Here’s the draw data for this sort of field size in testing conditions at Haydock over 7f.

Not a massive sample size but it seems a low draw is likely to be favoured here. A massive fifteen of the nineteen wins in this sample have come from either low or middle draws. The place data echoes this with low draws having a place percentage of 31.88%, middle draws having a place percentage of 27.40% and high draws having a 21.74% place strike rate.

Given we’ve got a smallish sample size here the PRB data could be most telling. Low draws have a pretty impressive 0.56 PRB, compared to 0.47 and 0.46 for middle and high draws respectively. This metric suggests there isn’t as much between middle and high draws as the win or place data indicated.

With some sharp swings in draw data between low, middle and high, hopefully we’ll get a clearer picture of where good draws become bad using the individual stall data.

Now the first thing we have to do here is look at the sample sizes. Stall 14 has provided just one runner and stall 13 has provided just two runners. It’s pretty remarkable that those three runs have produced two wins which is in direct contrast to the general low v middle v high draw data but given the small sample size with have to take it with a huge pinch of salt.

That’s especially the case given the next four best stalls according to the individual PRB data are 4, 1, 3 and 2 (in that order) and the worst three stalls are 11, 10 and 12. The larger data samples indicate low is good and high is bad, for all it’s clearly possible to win from very high stalls.

There will have to be some debate about the highest stalls but there certainly seems no debate that the lowest four stalls are advantageous in these conditions, despite the tendency for the runners to swing into the middle or nearside of the course in the straight on testing ground.

Pace

It can sometimes be hard work making up ground when conditions are testing, is that the case for a venue that seems to have more than it’s fair share of testing conditions?

In medium sized fields here the winningmost position is held up but given much more runners have been held up compared to other run styles, this is actually statistically the least advantageous position with a place percentage of just 19.66%. So you clearly can win from a waiting ride, it’s just a bit of a disadvantage to be ridden this way in most cases. In fairness this is a general trend in all horse racing and Haydock is amongst the fairer courses.

The highest place percentage of 41.07% belongs to those ridden in mid division, whilst there is very little between front runners and prominent racers with place percentages of 31.25% and 32.29% respectively.

Front runners actually have a far superior win percentage, admittedly from a fairly small sample. The value probably lies with those ridden in mid division though, this run style has been profitable to back blind both win only and each way, as have front runners to a lesser extent.

It’s difficult to make a case for front running and mid division to be an advantage but prominent not being an advantage so the main takeaway should be that whilst plenty of runners that are held up win, they offer the poorest value and win least often relative to the number of runners that are ridden that way.

Pace Map

The pace map for this race will give further clues about what kind of run style might be an advantage in this particular race.

We shouldn’t have to worry about a steady gallop here with Ffion leading early in all his three races to date plus Lincoln Park and Sunset Breeze also being happy to make the running if need be. It seems unlikely they’ll set a searching gallop on this ground given the latter two are both comfortable taking a lead but they probably won’t make it easy for each other either.

Moll’s Memory and Cold Stare seem most likely to be the back markers in this contest with Gabrial The Devil, Redarna and Tom Collins also likely to be given plenty to do.

Draw and Pace Combination

This heat map is great for figuring out the best run styles for each draw, hopefully it will give us some extra insight here.

This particular heat map is made up from a relatively small sample, although by using PRB data we at least get a data reading from every runner in every race. For leaders a low draw seems to be a disadvantage whilst early leaders drawn in the middle perform well above average.

Any other run style than front running is a positive for low drawn runners whilst middle drawn runners from mid division perform well, much better so than those held up from the same draw. Mid division is seemingly the best place for those drawn higher to be placed.

Given the small sample sizes above I also want to take a look at the data including non handicaps.

Now we see fewer fluctuations in the data with a bigger sample. Wider drawn front runners perform well again, prominent racers have good PRB figures, especially those drawn low, whilst if you are drawn in mid division the lower your draw the better and being held up from anything but a low draw also looks a disadvantage.

The Runners

Here is the full list of runners, in early odds order.

Ffion

A sound starting point for this race given he finished 2nd over course and distance on heavy ground just two weeks ago. He looked fairly handicapped off 79 going into that race having beaten a reliable 69 rated yardstick on his previous run, giving that runner up 5lbs and an almost two length beating. That rating of 79 also marries up well with his debut performance too.

He was beaten last time out, and by 4.5 lengths, but the winner came out and won an 18 runner handicap at York under a 5lb penalty by a similar distance the following week so he clearly bumped into one on that occasion.

He’s drawn in stall 4 here, statistically the best draw of all, and his front running style is certainly no disadvantage on this ground. The one negative is perhaps the other pace angles could make him go faster than he wants early but other than that he looks tough to beat.

Sunset Breeze

Having looked well handicapped on his last two runs of last season he was perhaps a shade disappointing from a good draw at Ascot, not beaten far (3.75 lengths) but never looking likely to play a part in the finish. It could be argued he’ll come on for the run but Sir Mark Prescott’s horses have generally been running okay fresh. A simpler explanation was the ground was too soft at Ascot.

Now this horse does have a win to his name on soft ground, but that was off a 15lb lower mark with a winning margin of just a length against a now 17 race maiden. In two soft ground starts since he has finished 6th and 10th , whereas his two subsequent good ground runs have both resulted in 2nd place finishes.

I’d be keen to back this horse on good ground but I’m happy to oppose again on this ground.

Moll’s Memory

Certainly no ground worries for this two-time heavy ground winner, the more rain the better in fact. She also has wins on good to soft to her name and they came over 6f so she's not a slow horse either.

She’s looked in the grip of the handicapper in three runs this season so far but two of those came on good ground and the other was on the all weather (met trouble in running and did third best of the hold up performers that day). Those runs have seen her drop 3lbs in the handicap back to her last winning mark of 84. This is stronger than the race she last won though and stall 11 seems a slight negative for a hold up performer. With the ground now turning heavy she'll be popular in the betting having won both her heavy ground starts (off this mark and higher) but her draw and run style combination is a bit of a negative.

Tom Collins

A very hit and miss performer last year who was either beaten 7+ lengths (four times) or he either won (once) or got beat a head (once). The form of his win, in October, is very strong with the runner up rating 12lbs higher soon after and the 3rd winning twice since (admittedly on a different surface at Southwell).

A gelding operation and a switch to William Haggas’ stable seem two positive moves for the horse and in my Thirsk Hunt Cup preview, in which he made his seasonal debut, I stated that the ground would probably be too fast but he’d be interesting on softer ground, probably dropped in trip. Well here he is in softer ground down a furlong.

He's only 5lbs higher than his last win and although he finished 12th last time out, that was on fast ground, held up against a pace bias and he was beaten less than 6 lengths in a hot race, certainly running as if in form. His best form has come when held up and that’s potentially a problem here given his very wide draw in stall 13.

There is also a headgear question mark as he’ll be running in first time cheekpieces. The good news here is that William Haggas seems pretty adept at using cheekpieces his overall PRB in handicaps with and without headgear in the past five years is exactly the same (0.60). He’s a really interesting runner who will be wanting them to go hard up front to help him overcome his draw and pace combination bias, which is the most off-putting factor with this runner.

Cold Stare

Exposed mudlark who at the time of writing is entered at Goodwood on Friday but he’ll likely get softer ground here so for the purpose of this preview it will be assumed that he isn’t running on Friday.

David O’Meara’s runner has been in decent form this season, starting off his campaign with an eye-catching 5th on ground that was far too fast at Redcar. In three previous runs on fast ground he had faced fifty-three runners and beaten just two of them! He was beaten the best part of 7 lengths in soft ground in the Victoria Cup at Ascot on his penultimate start but he was drawn very low that day and ended up finishing 2nd in his group. He followed that up with a 2nd at Thirsk, dropped back to 6f on soft ground. The winner got the run of the race that day and the 3rd has come out and gone one place better since so that was a good effort.

The horse has a solid record at Haydock over 6f/7f on ground with the word soft in the description, producing form figures of 18912. He’s below his last three winning marks and if being held up is no disadvantage in this contest he comes here with a decent chance.

Lincoln Park

Pace angle that will love the ground. His effort last time at Chester, when beaten 13 lengths can be disregarded as he went very hard early to try to lead from stall 11. He’s a course and distance winner in heavy ground and his career form figures at this venue read 13752. Based on that 3rd, which came last summer, he’s handicapped to finish a couple of lengths behind Cold Stare in this.

His last win at 7f came two years ago and he’s arguably been getting quicker as time goes on (was placed over 5f last season). If he can repeat much of last season’s 7f form off a slightly lower mark here he is entitled to run well though but he seems likely to find a few too good though.

Raatea

A lightly raced 4yo who did best of those that were held up last time out (and he was given an extreme hold up ride so can be marked up further) at Newcastle, ahead of Moll’s Memory. He’s entitled to come on for that and looks interestingly handicapped. All his turf runs have come on much faster ground to date and this much softer going has to be a concern.

All of the dams winners came on the all weather or fast ground whilst the sire’s two best place percentages in turf handicaps came on good to firm and firm ground according to the Profiler tool. The sire’s runners also perform very well on artificial surfaces so it’s no surprise he ran so well at Newcastle last time. He’d be of most interest if running on the all weather next time but would also take plenty of beating in the right company on fast ground.

Silver Samurai

Well beaten last time out from a poor draw at Chester but in good form before that in two runs at a mile at Kempton. He’s still lightly raced and has won on soft ground before – that was a wide margin maiden win against none other than the now higher rated Sunset Breeze. He also ran well here on good to soft ground over a mile last season but ran poorly on soft ground at Newmarket in August. He was below par on his next and final start last season on good ground so it might have been more than the soft ground that caused the poor performance at Newmarket but given he won his only start on good to firm well it does seem that faster ground probably suits better. He shapes like the drop back to 7f might suit but his best form is at a mile so that’s another question mark, as is stall 12.

Stone Soldier

Archie Watson’s runner was progressive at Southwell over the winter, winning three times, but he’s one from thirteen on turf and hasn’t threatened in two turf runs this season. His sole turf win did come in soft ground but that was at Chester, a course where his best two turf runs have come. Away from Chester on turf he’s never got within less than 5 lengths of the winner, even off lower marks.

Arafi

Relatively lightly raced 4yo who landed a hat trick of handicap wins in earlier this year. The softest turf she has faced is good to soft and she was successful on it but she was rated 67 that day and is running off 90 here. She’s probably fairly treated off her new mark and this is definitely her trip but she was a bit below par last time out without an excuses and does have to prove herself on this ground. Nice draw though.

Lord Oberon

Was just ahead of Raatea and Moll’s Memory on his penultimate start (better placed than that pair) but he has a much better strike rate on artificial surfaces and wasn’t in the same form on turf last time out. His sole turf win came on soft ground at Doncaster when beating Cold Stare into 2nd and he’s weighted to confirm that form with his shorter priced rival, for all that run came the best part of three years ago.

Apart from that Doncaster win, his best turf form has come at Haydock producing form figures here of 228234. You could argue that he’s better at 6f as his last five turf starts at 7f have all been underwhelming but he finished 1st and 3rd on his last two runs at this distance on the all weather and he’s run well in two 7f handicaps on turf earlier in his career.

His latest turf effort was underwhelming but the ground wasn’t soft enough (only good to soft) and he raced away from the rest of the runners. If you can forgive that, returning to his favourite turf venue he looks overpriced.

Redarna

Campaigned over a variety of trips in the past twelve months ranging from this 7f to 10.5f. He ran well for much of last season, winning twice, but hasn’t yet hit those heights this season. It’s worth noting that his form first time out between 2017 and 2020 was 5980 and his second time out form during the same period was 1171. The season he finished 7th on his second start he won both his 3rd and 4th start. It’s therefore a little disappointing he didn’t improve on an okay 5th on seasonal reappearance this season as he was last 6 here on his second start after a break but that run came on good to firm ground and he’s generally enjoyed a bit of cut in the ground, for all he has a couple of wins on faster ground.

Lack of headgear may also be to blame for the poorer runs this season. For the past two seasons he’s won the first time he’s worn them that season and they are back on here. In two years he’s gone from being rated 68 to 92 thanks to that headgear so it seems significant it is back on here.

What’s really interesting about this runner is his record at this 7f in cheekpieces. He’s finished 1st on three runs and runner up in the other. Admittedly the first two efforts came off much lower marks and the two more recent runs came at his beloved Ayr (form figures of 1111241 there).Whilst possibly not as good at other venues the ground would have been fast enough for all those 7f runs and he is two from two on soft ground at all venues. He’d be pretty much unbeatable off this sort of mark on softer ground at Ayr’s 7f but he can outrun his odds massively here too from the lowest stall.

Gabrial The Devil

Not the most consistent but he’s versatile with regards to underfoot conditions (won on good to firm and heavy) and he’s also won at this course. All his wins have come at 6f and whilst he has run okay at 7f it’s generally been a sharp 7f and this will be a proper test at 7f so he’s opposable based on stamina as well as recent form.

The Verdict

Certainly not the easiest contest to call. Of those nearer the head of the market Sunset Breeze still has to fully prove himself on this ground and seems relatively easy to oppose. Raatea should be in your trackers for all weather races and perhaps fast ground races but he too is opposed on this ground as are Silver Samurai and Arafi who both have other question marks. The trip, in combination with this ground should also catch Gabrial The Devil out, and he too is opposable on other grounds too.

Lincoln Park has it in him to run well but he’ll have to be at his best to get close to winning this so although he’s not completely ruled out for a place, he doesn’t make the shortlist. Stone Soldier’s only appeal as a turf runner comes at Chester.

That means the winner is most likely to come from Ffion, Moll’s Memory, Tom Collins, Cold Stare, Lord Oberon and Redarna.

Tom Collins is really interesting and is the sort who could overcome all the negatives here if things click in the first time cheekpieces. He’s inconsistent, probably poorly draw and likely to be poorly placed given his run style. He also has to prove himself at 7f and in the cheekpieces so there are just too many negatives to get involved. He was also reported to have been unsuited by heavy ground the only time he encountered it, for all that was in his 2yo days.

Lord Oberon and Cold Stare are old rivals and are closely matched on a couple of older bits of form. They are also very familiar with Haydock's heavy ground too. Cold Stare has held his form better over the years and most of this season’s form gives him an excellent chance. Both horses like it here but Lord Oberon seems slightly more in the handicapper’s grip currently so at similar prices Cold Stare is more preferred from the pair but both could run very well.

Ffion is the completely unexposed one here and he’s open to more improvement. He’s completely proven in conditions and surely has to run well. He didn’t beat a whole lot in behind last time though and if he was a stone or more well in he would have made more of a race if it with the easy winner. At the prices we can let him win.

Moll’s Memory is really interesting on heavy ground and has a good record at Haydock so seemingly has every chance of making it three from three on heavy ground. Her price has been contracting on Friday though and her draw and run style combination might leave her slightly disadvantaged. She also doesn't have that much in hand of Redarna on their meeting at Musselburgh earlier this season and Redarna potentially has more scope for improvement from that with cheekpieces refitted.

Given the odds it’s the far more exposed REDARNA who looks the more interesting bet here at around 20/1. He’s run poorly in two runs here but both of those came without cheekpieces on and on faster ground. This trip on this ground could be absolutely perfect for this runner and he’s well drawn and tactically versatile. Paul Mulrennan is three from five on the horse (only beaten on good or faster ground) and the kicker here is the stable form. In the past twelve months Dianne Sayer has a PRB in handicaps of 0.55 and in the past 30 days that has risen to 0.67. Redarna has won both times he’s worn cheekpieces having not worn them in the previous race, including off this mark in soft ground. If he does let us down we'll recoup losses when she next turns up at Ayr.

Haydock Grand National Trial Preview: Achille Has Claims For Form Reversal With Favourite

On Saturday we have Haydock’s Grand National Trial Handicap Chase to look forward, a race in which Neptune Collonges finished runner up in 2012 before landing the big one just six weeks later.

The off time is 2.40pm for this contest and whether it throws up another Grand National winner or not it should be a great race and a real test of stamina.

As usual I’ll be going through this race using a range of tools and data that are available with a Geegeez Gold subscription.

Don’t forget you can get your first 30 days of Geegeez Gold for just £1 right here.

Pace

Pace is one of the most crucial (and overlooked) factors in racing. Using the Pace Analyser we can see any potential pace bias over staying trips at Haydock.

In this kind of field size there is an edge towards horses that race closer to the pace.

The most common racing style for a winner is prominent and it’s interesting to compare the win percentages of 18% and 14.29% for front runners and prominent racers respectively to those provided by mid division (5.06%) and held up (7.75%).

Place percentages follow a similar trajectory which adds to the impression that there is a fairly strong pace advantage here and both front runners and prominent racers have strong IV figures 1.71 and 1.36 respectively.

We might gain further insight from looking at races only run on soft or heavy ground given the current going at Haydock is soft, heavy in places.

It’s a similar story again with prominent racers providing the most wins but with front runners having the best win percentage. Prominent racers seem to enjoy almost exactly the same advantage they do in better conditions but it is notable that front runners seem to perform better in the more testing conditions.

The fact that when you only look at soft or heavy ground races front runners perform even better and hold up runners perform worse suggests that the pace bias might be exaggerated in softer ground.

The above information is best used in conjunction with the pace data for each individual race. Each runner is assigned a ‘pace score’ every time they run based on what early position they raced in and this data is used to create an interactive pace map.

It looks highly likely that The Two Amigos is going to get an easy, uncontested lead in this race with no other real pace options in the race. Achille tends to race fairly prominently and has led in the past but he was held up last time so looks likely to be handy at best.

If this race does end up suiting those up with the pace then Sojourn and Potters Legend could be the most inconvenienced by the pace setup.

Instant Expert

Instant Expert can give us a snapshot of each runner’s suitability to the important race conditions here. First let’s look at the place data.

Plenty of green on offer and very little red suggesting the majority of these are well proven in conditions. It’s worth noting that class data would include non handicap runs too which makes it a bit less relevant in the context of this race.

Sojourn and Notachance clearly go very well in this kind of ground whilst four runners come into this with a 100% place record at the course (Perfect Candidate and Lord Du Mesnil have both placed in all three runs here).

One of the more worrying red flags here is that Potters Legend has failed to place in two runs over this kind of distance. On closer inspection he has run well enough over a furlong shorter though.

Now let’s narrow things down for win purposes.

Another worry for Potters Legend, he’s just one from fourteen in these ground conditions. The Two Amigos and Achilles also have questionable win records on testing ground. Lord Du Mesnil and Perfect Candidate both score well across the board (disregarding race class) and that pair both have won two out of three here so the course clearly holds no fears for them. Based on Instant Expert alone they both seem decent each way bets.

The Runners

Let’s take a look at each runner in odds order.

Notachance

A very exciting prospect. He’s finished 1st or 2nd in five of his six chase starts and he’s won his last two, including the Warwick Classic Handicap Chase over a furlong further last month. He tracked the pace at Warwick last time out and a repeat of those tactics should give him an advantage here.

He’s up 7lbs for that latest effort but he’s completely unexposed at this sort of distance so it’s not unfeasible that he’ll have improved that much since his last run. There is very little in the formbook to suggest he won’t run very well once again in this race ahead of a possible tilt at the Scottish Grand National.

The Two Amigos

A consistent front runner who has hit the frame in all four starts since finishing 4th in this last year. He's 2lbs higher this time around but should get the uncontested lead he didn’t get last year and that should see him improve. Finishing 2nd to Secret Reprieve in the Welsh National last time out was certainly a decent trial for this and suggests he is as good as ever.

He hasn’t won for over two years now though which is a major concern and although he’s entitled to give his running once again, he does look vulnerable for win purposes, especially at the current odds.

His jockey, James Bowen, has been in great form in the past 30 days, generating an IV (Impact Value) of 2.53.

Enqarde

Been in very good form since joining Dr Richard Newland, winning twice, finishing a neck runner up and unseating his rider on his other start. With only one completed chase start on these shores he’s potentially well ahead of his mark considering the style in which he won (and he beat two last time out winners). He also jumped left when winning at Ascot so this course should suit better.

He’s the shortest priced contender who is yet to prove his stamina but that does also mean he potentially has more secrets from the handicapper than much of the rest of the field.

The Profiler is great for telling us the likelihood of a horse staying based on sire stats and although this could be the limit of his stamina, his sire’s offspring do have a good record over this distance with a 44.44% place strike rate. This suggests there is a good chance he stays and if he does he should go very well. He should also race prominently which will suit.

Sojourn

Not seen since finishing 2nd last time out here before Christmas having previously won a hot handicap at Carlisle.

The runner up and 3rd both won next time out and the 4th was runner up on his next start so to beat those runners by 15 lengths is quite impressive.

Trainer Anthony Honeyball has previously stated that the horse is probably best fresh so the recent break should have done him so good. In fact Honeyball has an IV of 3.52 with handicap runners returning from a break of 60+ days so that’s another bonus.

He’s got very few miles on the clock and does have to prove his stamina over an extra couple of furlongs but it should be no issue. He’s tactically versatile and another very strong contender.

Lord Du Mesnil

A possible good each way place according to Instant Expert with some strong stats for the most important criteria. He has course form figures of 112 and that includes two course and distance efforts. He’s only 2lbs above his mark when 2nd in this last year.

He hasn’t been in quite the same form this season, having not run brilliantly in either run. This and/or the Grand National have probably been the aim all season so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he steps forward from that form but he does come with risks attached given those two runs so isn’t quite the each way play he might have looked.

Achille

Runner up behind Notachance on his latest start, which came off the back of a 427 day break. Given he could come on for that run and is 3lbs better off with the winner for a half length defeat he’d have a fair chance of reversing form and looks a possible value play at the odds given his form line with the favourite.

He’s clearly not been easy to train but he’s been consistent on the track when getting there in one piece so his problems shouldn’t be too off putting. Reverting to slightly more aggressive tactics than last time out should suit and he’s very much respected.

Potter Legend

Potters Legend looked like he may be unsuited by the way the race will be run in the pace map and there were also some question marks when looking at Instant Expert, namely the going. He has won three times in his career on soft but he hasn’t won in six runs on heavy so the heavy in places is a concern. He’s a previous course winner but he doesn’t look amazingly handicapped and is yet to fully convince at the more extreme trips so there are enough negatives to go against him.

Ramses De Teillee

Beat reliable yardstick Yala Enki in November but has struggled twice in similar contests to this on his last two runs. He’s a previous course winner in a small field so perhaps the return to this venue will spark a return to form.

It's worth noting that trainer David Pipe is in excellent form at the moment, notably producing an A/E of 2.57 in the past 14 days. It’s possible that helps him return to form too but on the whole he remains a risky proposition.

Perfect Candidate

Perfect Candidate also looked a fair each way shout according to Instant Expert but he’s the complete outsider in the field. He’s gone up 8lbs for winning a course and distance handicap by a procession in which not many handled the conditions. He’s never finished worse than 2nd in three course and distance runs and the only real negative is this is a very exposed 14yo against some well handicapped rivals. If the ground was to deteriorate further he’d look a very interesting each way option but he’s going to need at least a couple of these progressive rivals to fail to give their running to win this.

Verdict

If the going was predominantly heavy on Saturday then Perfect Candidate would be the value each way call.

Notachance, Enqarde and Sojourn are the most interesting trio longer term. Notachance is really solid and looks to have a really good chance, Enqarde has a bit more risk attached but still has plenty of upside (potentially even more than Notachance) and Sojourn still looks well handicapped but was beaten last time out and does still have to prove he stays this extra couple of furlongs.

The value against the favourite though is surely Achille at 9/1. With that last run under his belt and a change to more positive tactics than were used last time he could potentially improve past Notachance, in the short term at least.

So Good For Honeyball and Dingle At Haydock On Saturday

The 2.40 at Haydock on Saturday, a handicap to be run over an extended 3m1f and shown on ITV4, looks a very interesting contest and hopefully one we can find an edge in using a selection of the brilliant data on offer through Geegeez Gold.

Pace

As with any race, pace and any potential pace bias is of great interest in figuring out this puzzle.

Using the Pace Analyser we can get a nice enough sample size on soft or heavy ground by using a slightly wider distance range (3m to 3m4f) and by including handicaps containing between 8 and 12 runners.

As is often the case, those nearer the pace tend to have an advantage over those that are ridden more patiently. This advantage is not necessarily considered by the bookmakers with several betting related metrics such as WIN PL and EW PL both showing that front runners and prominent racers produce far better returns than those that race in mid division or are held up.

Let’s have a look at the pace map for this race to see which runners might be advantaged by this bias.

We could be set for a contested pace here with Roll Again and Hill Sixteen often keen to get on with things. The four runners who are likely to be ridden most patiently in this race are all amongst the least well fancied in the market and if the two front runners to take each other on and compromise each other’s chances then from a pace perspective the most interesting runners in this contest are likely to be Lord Napier, Enqarde, Sojourne and Crixus’s Escape.

Instant Expert

Instant Expert is always worth a look in every race, especially races that are set to be run on heavy ground as this one is.

There is a decent level of placed heavy ground form in handicaps here, Sojourn perhaps best on show with two places from two efforts in heavy. Roll Again is not only likely to be taken on for the lead but also failed to place on his only run on heavy ground. That run was two starts ago when beaten 97 lengths which is a massive worry but it was his first run for 248 days.

Hill Sixteen and Highest Sun seem reliable propositions in this race class. Lord Napier has failed to make the frame in three runs in this class and Crixus’s Escape is 0 from 2 in class 2 races.

Course handicap form is thin on the ground but Pop Rockstar does at least have a 50% place record at Haydock. Sam’s Adventure, Crixus’s Escape and Lord Napier all failed to place in their one handicap run here.

We have a distance range set in Instant Expert which is showing us data from runs between 3m and 3m2f. Sojourn now looks consistent both in the ground and at this trip with a 100% place record over these trips in handicaps from three runs. Lord Napier and Enqarde also have a 100% place record from fewer runs. Roll Again is once again a negative, as are Crixus’s Escape and Salty Boy.

Sojourn and Enqarde have both run well from limited opportunities in this sort of field size. Highest Sun, Pop Rockstar and Roll Again all get a ‘tick’ having provided more data. The negatives would be Crixus’s Escape and Lord Napier.

Highest Sun is well handicapped on older form as he’s now 8lbs lower than his last handicap win. The rest of the runners are either higher than their last winning marks or have never won a handicap before.

Now let’s take a look at the win data in Instant Expert:

Sojourn once again scores very well for both going and distance which proves conditions will be absolutely fine for him. We don’t know about the class or course for this runner but he’s potentially progressive in these conditions.

Sam’s Adventure and Hill Sixteen look largely good here whilst that comment could also apply to Pop Rockstar who generally scores well but has only won once from five attempts on heavy ground.

Lord Napier has a lot of warning signs across the board whilst it’s difficult to weight up Enqarde here with so few qualifying runs.

Other Angles

Roll Again has some interesting trainer snippets in his favour. For the distance range and last time out winners in handicaps his trainer has an IV of 1.64 and 1.51 respectively.

Three runners  whose trainers win more than their fair share of handicaps in general are Sojourn (IV 2.0), Crixus’s Escape (IV 1.78)  and Salty Boy (IV 1.67).

Sojourn is also highlighted for winning a race that was hot form. His win on seasonal debut in heavy ground has thrown up four subsequent winners and two next time out runners ups which shows that race in great light. He won that race by 15 lengths and although now up 11lsb, that could be lenient for winning a race of that depth in that kind of style.

The trainer and jockey combination for Crixus’s Escape is worthy of closer inspection. The Boanas/Quinlan double act have a 25% win strike rate over the past year and have produced an IV of 2.50. Sean Quinlan is also certainly a jockey in good current form, over the past 30 days he has generated a WIN PL of 30.25 if backed blind.

Lord Napier represents a trainer and a jockey who score well as individuals both over the long term (5 years) and the short term (30 days). You can see their stats below.

Verdict

Sojourn does look extremely solid from all angles here, representing Anthony Honeyball and Geegeez sponsored jockey Rex Dingle. It’s difficult to pick many holes in him and although he’s the early favourite, he still looks a fair price and should be perfectly positioned here. Picking a main danger is tough with many in with a decent chance but Crixus’s Escape does look interesting based on several angles.

Punting Angles: Haydock Racecourse

For this edition of Punting Angles, I’m going to concentrate on the enigmatic Haydock Park, writes Jon Shenton. Whilst the course is home to both National Hunt and Flat racing, it is the latter that I’ll be evaluating in this edition given the time of year. For whatever reason, it’s one of those tracks that seems difficult to read, racing developing on both rails and atop a seemingly unique range of underfoot conditions, "Haydock Soft and Heavy" almost becoming an official going description in its own right. The track is synonymous with horses slogging through bottomless ground in pursuit of glory.

 

Haydock Going

Although there isn’t too much of punting value in it, I still felt it would be of interest to benchmark how Haydock shaped compared to the rest of the UK in terms of the official going for races over the last five years.

The below graph illustrates the ground conditions for UK flat races.

 

Immediately, the orange bars relate that Haydock proportionately has much more racing on the easier side of good: it’s nearly four times as likely to race on heavy than the UK flat average too.

Knowing that may not directly help in the pursuit of profit; however, searching for mud-larks or horses whose sires loved sploshing around in the deep ground may be a pragmatic activity in preparation for a wet Haydock meeting.

 

Haydock Course Constitution

What about the course itself? The map below illustrates a tight loop with a straight up-to-6-furlong run. Based entirely on the map alone, curiosity is piqued with regards the draw for the 7-furlong trip. The journey from the stalls to the first bend appears to be an exceptionally short one implying that a wide berth could be a problem.

 

 

Haydock Trainer Angles

However, before checking that out and getting into individual race specifics, let’s first take our usual glance into the world of trainer performance. Using Query Tool, I'm evaluating all runners from 2012 with an SP of 20/1 or shorter. A minimum of 50 runs is required at an A/E of greater than 1 to secure a position in the top trainer table below.

 

 

There is much upon which to mull here.

Despite the relatively small number of runners, Hugo Palmer's figures offer something to satisfy even the most voracious appetites in angle finding.

Keeping it simple by analysing the yard's runners by market strength, the following split in performance is observed.

 

There is a very clear dichotomy here in terms of a Palmer runner which has been supported versus one that has not. Notably, with a place record of 70% on those runners sent off at 11/2 or shorter it has been even more profitable to back each way, albeit to double the stake.

Of course, on a sample size like this, it only takes a single 20/1 winner on the next day to create a profitable “unfancied” segment. The cliché of fine margins applies without doubt and there is a chance (probably a 20/1 one) that I'll endure an element of regret as a Palmer animal bolts up at a big price here in the near future. However, with my cool data-driven mind I’d rather sup regularly in moderation than binge excessively once in a blue moon. Albeit there is a place for both, I’m sure!

Suggestion: back Hugo Palmer runners at Haydock where they’re supported in to 11/2 or shorter

 

Second stop on the trainer list is the seemingly ubiquitous Tom Dascombe who has a prolific volume of runners at the track.  It’s impressive in terms of pure scale but to beat the market with an A/E of 1.15 over so many runners is quite a rare feat.

Looking a little more closely, there is a noteworthy split along race class lines.

 

The competitive stuff of class 1 and 2 racing is obviously more of a challenge and it is likely that these races attract more top yards and animals thus making it tougher for the Dascombe runners to prevail even with home advantage. Whilst the performance of his charges is perfectly respectable in those upper echelons, I’m happy to pass them over in punting angle terms.

There is also a clear distinction between relative performance in handicap / non-handicap races in the Class 3 to 5 races, as can be seen below:

 

The table is unambiguous: handicap racing is where it’s at for Tom Dascombe's Haydock horses.

Suggestion: back Tom Dascombe Handicap runners at 20/1 or shorter in Class 3, 4 and 5 races

 

[As a footnote, it’s not unheard of that the yard fires in the odd big-priced scorer at the track. If you’re inclined to play with fire, there are worse places to go than a Haydock Dascombe runner to satisfy those punting pyromaniac tendencies. In C3-C5 races he has had 6 winners from 65 at SP odds of 20/1 or greater across all race types, which is somewhere between great and probably unsustainable!]

 

Ordinarily sticking with a deep dive in to the record of two trainers from the top table would be enough, but seeing John Gosden playing a prominent role means it would be negligent to let him pass by without further evaluation.

A good starting point with Gosden, Stoute, Charlie Appleby and the like is always to check performance by distance given their predominate modus operandi is to dominate the middle-distance division. Checking Gosden entrants at Haydock by race length gives the below breakdown:

 

Sure enough, sprint race performance is less compelling. Plenty of winners, yes, strong IV, definitely; but finding winners doesn’t always mean value.  Despite a strike rate of over 20% the return over 5, 6 and 7 furlongs is not a positive one. To eke out profit it appears as though an even healthier strike rate of over 30% is required. Happily, this has been apparent at distances of a mile or greater: 31 winners from 93 runs, a nice round third. A 68% ROI is not to be sniffed at either.

Suggestion: back John Gosden runners ay Haydock at 20/1 or shorter from races of 1 mile or greater in distance

Haydock by race distance

Moving on from the trio of trainers, let us now evaluate the shape of races at the track.

7 furlong races

As you will recall, I was particularly interested in the 7-furlong trip based on the course map. The left-hand bend which is seemingly close to the start could result in some interesting pace and draw snippets, with an expectation that low draws close to the rail should have the best of it.

Using the Draw Analyser Tool and combining the heat maps for draw position and field size for Impact Value (how likely a horse will win from that position with 1.00 being par) we get the below data to evaluate relating to the whole spectrum of ground conditions.

 

 

Conclusions are probably less obvious in the data above than they have been in previous articles. However, there are still some noteworthy and useful outputs to consider.

Firstly, evaluating hold up runners, there is a big stripe of red (Red Stripe?) confirming that it’s a tough gig for a horse that’s held up to win from a high draw. This also applies to middle stall positions in larger sized fields (see the top of the dotted black box).

In general terms it is spoken often that a high stall position is less relevant for animals who race by stalking from the rear as they can drop in and wait. However, these data show that adopting the waiting tactic from wide over seven at Haydock is not generally a good plan. This is surprising, or at least mildly counter-intuitive, as the home straight is over half a mile in length, giving hold-up horses plenty of time to wind up and make their move. It is hard to argue with the facts, though.

The data also appear to indicate that it’s not a productive strategy to try and secure an early leading or prominent position from a wider draw in middle- to large-sized fields (the red coloured zeroes on the table). Through watching race replays this starts to make sense. Horses sharply away from wider stalls have only a small run to get across to the rail / near the front prior to the the bend; if they fail to get a front berth quickly enough, they face the issue of being trapped wide and covering significant additional ground.

Even if they get out apace, given the proximity of the bend, all it takes is for one or two from inside stalls to be away well and it’s difficult for the wider drawn speedster. As the turn develops, our wide trailblazer has the choice of burning through more juice to get to the front or travelling further: both potentially terminal to the chances of him or her winning the race.

When investigating this, I expected a variance based on ground conditions. Surprisingly though, and broadly speaking, the conclusions work in all racing circumstances. If anything, high draws have it even tougher as the going deteriorates though data is quite sparse from which to draw anything more than lukewarm conclusions.

Low drawn and/or early pacers look to be generally the best bet on a consistent basis (the blue dotted boxes), as expected. Although, like a lot of other courses, it appears as though early speed is of more importance than draw, unless the horse has a starting position in the proverbial car park in a big field, as already mentioned.

 

Haydock Straight Track races

As noted previously the straight track at Haydock stretches for trips up to six furlongs in length.  Evaluating the draw using the analyser tool again for all ground conditions and number of runners for the straight track paints the following picture:

The data displayed relates to the IV3 calculation. I’ve picked this to try and smooth out variance and noise to help illustrate a general pattern. A definition of IV3 is simply an average Impact Value of a stall and its nearest neighbours. For instance, the IV3 of stall six would be the average IV of stalls 5, 6 and 7.

There is an indication that, irrespective of the number of runners, there is a definite bias to horses with higher stall numbers. The red and amber colours represent draw positions which are less likely to house the victorious horses. Green is good and it would be anticipated that based on historical performance horses that prevail are more likely to start from these stalls.

There is a line displaying the straightforward mean average (AVG) for each stall position which reminds me of the pH chart from my gruelling chemistry lessons in times gone by (even though it’s the wrong colour). Anyway, progressing from low to high the hue gravitates from an angry dark orange to a lovely tree-hugging green, showing that, on balance, low stalls are not the place to be drawn.

With that intel in the bank we can add a bit of spice by applying some complementary pace data.

Taking the minimum trip alone in the first instance.

 

The data is split by field sizes, and the information shown represents the IV data for each run style by underfoot conditions. The column entitled "races" simply represents the number of races that are included in each line of data. You can then draw your own conclusions based on sample size.

The field size 12-16+ (data on the left) has a limited sample size contained therein so firm conclusions are not sensible. Having said that, on a sounder surface it appears to be a challenge to win from the very rear; instead front runners boss proceedings. Whilst on the sludge of a Haydock soft or heavyTM surface, hold up (and mid division) run styles seem to be the way to go.

Is there something in that? Maybe, but I’m not sure as we only have eight races to go on for those relatively deep ground conditions. Sectional timing may help us understand these things one day as it may be that too fast a pace has collapsed setting things up for the closers on these small samples.  As things stand, it’s a bit of a leap of faith to assume it’s a true representation. Nonetheless, it is interesting.

The smaller field size data contradicts it, sadly. Broadly speaking, it pays to be on the pace over the five furlong range, where the prospect of less pace contention and, therefore, an ability to rate energy more efficiently is manifest.

Moving onto 6-furlong races, we get the following:

 

There is a little more data to go at over this distance. For all field sizes, horses that lead or are prominent early are most likely to win across all surface conditions. In larger fields there is an absolute bias to the lead horse.

 

Closing thoughts

In conclusion, when evaluating a Haydock race on the straight track the first item to look for is early speed, the second item should be a high-ish stall number. If both those boxes are ticked then it could be a good play, depending on the animal, of course.

A Dascombe or fancied Palmer runner on the straight track with early speed and a high draw would be a very exciting prospect, until it misses the kick anyway!

 - JS