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Racing Insights, 9th December 2020

The Hobbs/Johnson/Fontwell/Chase stat came good again this afternoon for the 7th time in 11 attempts as Earth Moor comfortably brought his hurdling form to the bigger obstacles and fully justified his maximum 15 score on the Shortlist report. I know a few of you gleaned enough from my write-up to back him and I hope I didn't talk too many of you out of it.

For the record, I'd a couple of quid on Kilbricken Storm, which was money spent/lost well before the finish, as he just didn't go at all. I'm hoping for better things on Wednesday, where the free feature is the excellent trainer statistics report and our free cards will cover...

  • 2.55 Hexham
  • 3.50 Kempton
  • 4.20 Kempton
  • 7.25 Kempton

And as much as I love the trainer statistics report and as much as I'm out of form with the final race analysis of late, I just can't resist a heavy ground chase, so I'm tackling the 2.55 Hexham, a Class 5 handicap chase for  4yo+ over 1m7½f on heavy ground. The winner, who I'll hopefully highlight, will earn £3,444 for his/her connections.

I'm going to try a more concise/clinical approach this evening, something I've done in the past that has served me well, so here goes.

As most of us are aware, heavy ground is a massive factor in the outcome of the race, so I want horses proven on heavy ground or with some soft ground form at the very least. This sends me straight to Instant Expert even before I look at the actual racecard itself. I start with the place form, as I'll be shortlisting more than one horse and they can't all (if any) be winners!

At this point, I'm already against Nettlebush and Muilean Na Madog based on their previous run(s) on heavy ground. Perhaps soft ground form will save them?

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Perhaps not! Roll of Thunder's lack of a heavy ground run and the fact that none of the three have even one soft ground victory to their name, never mind one on heavy means that all three are instantly cut. I did say this would be clinical!

We then move to the win side of Instant Expert...

...where we see that all have won on heavy ground in the past. In fact all bar Wor Verge have won on soft ground too, so we've some definite mudlarks here. Skipping On is now rated 5lbs lower than his last win whilst the other four all race off marks 5 to 7 seven pounds higher.

Race positioning is going to be very important here on a track where it has paid to be up with the pace on heavy ground in recent years...

Of the dozen similar contests considered, leaders have won exactly half with 5 of the other 6 going to prominent runners, suggesting that Southeast Rose and Dunly would be best suited. The graphic doesn't tell the full story, though, as Skipping On normally races prominently too but was held up last time out probably because he was racing over an extra half mile and it was his first run for almost nine months, so normally his jockey silks icon would be further to the right.

Wor Verge doesn't look likely to win from a hold up position and was 12 lengths behind Southeast Rose last time out when employing those tactics here over course and distance whilst Casimir du Clos looks caught in no-man's land neither pushing on nor dropping back suggesting they'll end up either kicking on or dropping back and I doubt either would suit a horse that has already been beaten by more than twenty lengths in each of his three starts this winter season.

To that end, Wor Verge and Casimir du Clos are discarded and I'd expect the former to beat the latter. Now we're already at three runners, where I like to be and it's now time to turn to the racecard whilst we look at our shortlisted trio. I've also opened up my angles boxes for you.

Skipping On might well be 11 years old now, but hasn't shown much signs of slowing down of late, finishing consistently towards the head of affairs. Addmittedly there's no win in eight since scoring on Boxing Day 2018, but other than last time out, he has been running at Classes 3 & 4. He dropped down to Class 5 last time out for the first time since a win at this grade in early Feb '18 when clear by 7 lengths over 2m0.5f on soft ground. He's slipping down the weights now and might just have one more win in him.

The stat angle is trainer Laura Morgan is 18 from 88 (20.5% SR, A/E 1.39) in Class 4/5 handicap chases since the start of 2018.

Dunly was third last time out here at Hexham, having a spin over 2m0.5f on his comeback from a 251 day absence. To his credit, he was only beaten by two lengths behind an overpriced 80/1 winner who has since only just lost by a nose at Sedgefield. Dunly is back over fences now and he's two from four this year in this sphere, having won twice over 2m0.5f, including a Class 5 by 4 lengths on heavy at Ayr and then more impressively landing a Class 4 on soft ground at Newcastle by nine lengths with both the runner-up and the third placed horse going on to win.

The stat here is that James Ewart's Hexham chasers are 9 from 21 (42.9% SR, A/E 2.11) when sent off at odds of 7/1 and shorter over trips of less than 2m5f since 2013.

Southeast Rose won over course and distance last time out, beating the re-opposing Nettlebush by 3.5 lengths to register her second win in thirteen attempts. She wasn't entirely convincing that day, if I'm honest and had Nettlebush not made a mistake 2 out, the result might well have been different. This is no Novice event like the last one and she's up against more experienced rivals and that pressure allied to a rise in weights will make this tougher for her. That said, she does seem to be on an upward curve, so will warrant respect here.

And the stat? Since the start of 2017, Martin Todhunter's Class 4/5 handicap chasers are 1- from (20.4% SR< A/E 1.26) on soft or worse ground, including 5 from 12 (41.7%) here at Hexham, 4/13 (30.8%) at C5 and 2 from 5 here at Class 5.

Summary

Skipping On, Dunly and Southeast Rose are my three against the field and unsurprisingly, they head the market showing that someone is doing some work too 😉

Southeast Rose probably has the slight edge and definitely has the most scope for improvement, whilst she's getting weight from the other two. Dunly won't want to be much higher than his current mark and Skipping On is in the twilight of his career now. Southeast Rose should just about win, but Bet365's standout 9/4 aside, she's a sub-2/1 shot here and I can't back her at that price.

Skipping On at 5/1 and Dunly at 9/2 are more attractive from a price point of view, although I felt Dunly might have been longer than the old boy. I can't back the fav, but I can back the other two and I'll probably have a couple of quid each on the pair for some interest. Fingers crossed for you forecast/tricast backers out there.

Racing Insights, 10th October 2020

Still finding my feet here, folks, as this is as new to me as it is to you, but today I've chosen to look at a race for Saturday from a more familiar angle and my eye was taken by the opener on the Hexham card, as it really appealed to the statistician in me, as all the runners seem to have some good relevant stats.

So, today's piece will focus on the 12.25 Hexham : a Class 4 Novice Handicap Chase for 4yo+ over 2m4.5f on Soft ground, worth £4549 to the winner and we start with the racecard sorted alphabetically...

and as you'll see there are plenty of green form icons, red numbers denoting appearing on my angles report and blue numbers showing qualifiers from my query tool saved angles, so let's have a quick runthrough...

Bluefortytwo : jockey Danny McMenamin is 4/13 (30.8%) over the past fortnight, including 2 from 5 over fences. Trainer James Ewart is 11 from 43 (25.6%) with chasers here at Hexham since 2013, whilst on days when he only has one runner, he is 29 from 170 (17.1%) since 2017.

El Kaldoun :  is sent on a near 500-mile round trip by trainer Nicky Henderson, but that's not a worry, as since 2016 Hendo's horses running in non-Festival races more than 200 miles from home are 29 from 55 (52.7%) with a 4 from 7 (57.1%) record here at Hexham.

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Glorious Lady : is on the Geegeez Shortlist report by virtue of 2 wins and 2 places from four runs on soft and the same record at Class 4 and also 2 wins and 1 place from three races over 2m4.5f/2m5f. The green icons show that both jockey & trainer fare well here, whilst trainer Keith Dalgleish has a 19 from 51 (37.25%) record in Class 4 chases.

Hills of Connemara : trainer Susan Corbett doesn't run many handicap chasers on treacherous ground but those that have run on soft or worse are 4 from 15 (26.7%) since 2015 with a 3 from 10 (30%) record on soft ground

Kauto D'Amour : Jockey Danny Cook rides trainer Sue Smith's horses well and most people know that, but they're particularly effective in Class 3-5 handicap chases, where they are 75 from 312 (24%) including and excellent 40 from 133 (30.1%) on soft ground.

Scottish Accent : is by Golan, whose Soft ground handicap jumpers sent off at 7/2 to 14/1 are 20 from 105 (19.1%) whilst trainer Rebecca Menzies is 15 from 96 (15.6%) with handicap chasers on soft or worse ground since 2016.

The Delray Munky : is by Overbury, whose Soft ground handicap chasers are 16/89 (18%) since 2016, whilst her trainer Iain Jardine, not best known for chasers, is 11 from 45 (24.4%) with his handicap chasers on soft or worse since 2016

The Ferry Master : will be ridden by Ryan Mania who always seems to be there or thereabouts, making the frame in 43% of his rides over the last two months, including winning twice from his last seven starts. He also does well when riding for trainer Sandy Thomson and the pair are 23 from 146 (15.75%) together since 2014, including 22/71 (31%) in handicaps, 16/50 (32%) over fences and 15/45 (33.3%) in handicap chases of which they are 11 from 26 (42.3%) on soft or worse ground.

Toi Storey : is, like Scottish Accent above, trained by Rebecca Menzies whose soft ground chasers are worth a second glance, but this one will be ridden by Henry Brooke who is 3 from 12 (25%) over the fortnight and has ridden 10 winners from 36 (27.8%) for Rebecca Menzies.

Victarion : is of interest purely because he is trained by Philip Hobbs, who quite amazingly has been profitable to follow by blindly backing his Saturday handicap chasers over the last 10 years. Eight of the ten years have shown an annual profit due to the overall 19% strike rate (65/342) with today's jockey Tom O'Brien riding 15 winners from 732 (20.8%)

Western Aussie : is a lightly raced runner from the Martin Todhunter yard, a yard whose soft ground handicappers are 19/123 (15.5%) since 2014 including 9 from 56 (16.1%) over fences

Whateva Next : is trained by George Bewley, whose handicap chasers are 10 from 40 (25%) here at Hexham since 2015, including 6 from 24 (25%) at Class 4. As usual Jonathan Bewley will be in the saddle hoping to add to his tally of 10 wins from 37 (27%)

Summary

Hopefully you can see why this race fascinated me and has whetted your appetite to get in to the query tool and loads some angles in for future use. All the above angles will generate winners in the future, even if most will fail here : there can only be one winner.

The one I liked the look of for at least a place myself was the Danny Cook / Sue Smith runner : Kauto D'Amour, who won a similar novice handicap (albeit over hurdles) over 2m0.5f at Newcastle on soft ground three starts ago and when last seen back in March ran really well to finish as a runner-up at the same venue at today's class and trip, also on soft ground.

He was only beaten by a length despite two bad errors, one of which causing his saddle to slip and it's interesting that he's pitched straight into handicaps for his chasing bow. Conditions should suit him here today, as most of his runs have been at this grade, he loves the mud and has ran well here at Hexham in the past.

It's always a guessing game with chase debutants, but at (hopefully) double digit odds, Kauto D'Amour could be a nice each way option.

Hexham Racecourse Pace Bias

In this third instalment looking at pace biases at National Hunt courses, we will look at the picturesque Northumberland track at Hexham, writes Dave Renham.

When discussing the word pace my main focus is the initial pace in a race and position the horses take up early on. Some pundits talk about the running style of a horse: this is essentially the same thing.

The Pace Analyser and Query Tool on geegeez.co.uk are places where you can research pace / running styles to your heart’s content.

Pace data on the site is split into four – Led (4), Prominent (3), Mid Division (2) and Held Up (1). The numbers in brackets are the pace scores that are assigned to each section.

For this article I am again concentrating on data going back to 2009 with races of eight or more runners. My main focus when looking at pace will as always be handicap races, but for National Hunt racing if the non-handicap data indicates any biases I will share those data also. Hexham is the course in focus today.

The course is left-handed and a mile and a half in circumference and is considered to be severe and undulating. The hurdle course is shown below:

 

 

As can be seen there are six flights in total, three each in both the back straight and the home straight. The chase course has ten fences in its circuit and a separate home straight with a single fence to navigate.

 

 

Hexham Hurdle Pace Bias

They run over three main distances in hurdles races at Hexham, namely 2m, 2m 4f, and 2m 7½f.

Hexham 2m Hurdle Pace Bias

Here is the handicap hurdle breakdown (8+ runners):

 

There is a marginal advantage for front runners but in general this is a fairly even playing field in terms of early pace. The each way placed percentages are often an area I look at, and the graph below helps demonstrate how even the splits are here. The held up figure is lower but not significantly so.

That said, front runners have an Impact Value of 1.47 which implies they are almost one-and-a-half times as likely to win.

It is also worth sharing the non-handicap data at this trip as there does seem to be a pace bias:

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There has been a definite advantage to those horses that have led or raced close to the pace (prominent). Quite often the reason for this is the fact that some non-handicap races can be rather uncompetitive, especially novice events. Having said that, these stats are strong and with good correlation between strike rates (both win and each way).

 

Hexham 2m4f Hurdle Pace Bias

In the past few years they often move the rail so the distance here can change a little from the advertised two and a half miles. The handicap hurdle breakdown with eight or more runners over this trip looks thus:

 

If there is an advantage, it is towards prominent racers but, unlike the shorter trip, there seems little in it from a pace perspective.

However, when we dig deeper into ground conditions it looks as if there could be a pace bias against front runners as the going eases. On good to soft or softer, front runners have secured just one win from 35 runners: this equates to a very low win strike rate of under 3% and poor A/E and IV values of 0.35 and 0.31 respectively.

 

Hexham 3m Hurdle Pace Bias

The handicap hurdle data over this longer trip looks like this:

 

We see that front runners and prominent racers have a clearly superior record here with a good correlation across all stats. If you had managed to predict the front runner in each three-mile handicap hurdle here since 2009 you would have been rewarded with excellent profits both for win and each way wagers. Easier said than done, of course!

Below is a graphical representation comparing strike rates (win & ew) for each pace figure over this trip which emphasises the positive correlation:

 

Before moving onto chases, it should be noted that this front-running edge seems to strengthen on better ground, whereas prominent runners fare much the best when it is more testing.

On good ground or firmer, front runners have won nine races from 43 (SR 20.9%) with a strong A/E value of 1.89 (IV 2.43).

Whereas on good to soft or softer, those close up but off the lead won 16 races from 102 runners (SR 15.7%) with an IV of 1.56 and a level stakes profit of +25.64.

 *

Hexham Chase Pace Bias

Over the bigger obstacles at Hexham they primarily race at the following three trips - 2m , 2m 4f and 3m. There is one race each year over the marathon four-mile trip, too.

Hexham 2m Chase Pace Bias

Up until 2015, they officially raced over 2 miles ½ furlong so I have grouped the data together. There have been 40 qualifying races (8+ runner handicap chases):

 

Wow!

This is one of the strongest National Hunt pace biases in the country; not only do front runners enjoy a huge edge, but horses that race in the second half of the field early have a quite dreadful record. The pie chart below gives a powerful pictorial representation of the bias (it shows % of races won by each pace section):

 

Good luck if you're backing a patiently-ridden horse in a Hexham two-mile handicap chase!

When the going is on the soft side, the message is even more stark, as if that was even possible:

 

Hexham 2m4f Chase Pace Bias

There have been a decent number of handicap chases with eight or more runners over this trip (59 races in total). Here are the stats:

 

Another very solid bias to front runners who again show a clear edge. It is not as strong as the shorter distance but still extremely significant. Prominent runners also have a reasonable record while hold up horses have at least been more competitive than they were over the shorter trip.

 

Hexham 3m Chase Pace Bias

Up until 2015 they officially raced over 3m1f as well and I have incorporated those stats with the three-mile figures. The handicap pace splits are as follows (8 + runners):

 

This longer trip still readily favours pace horses but the strength of bias against those that are waited with is not as strong as over the two shorter distances.

 

Hexham 4m Chase Pace Bias

There have been only eight handicap races over four miles and the data is far too limited to dig into.

**

Hexham National Hunt Pace Bias Summary

In conclusion, the running style bias towards those leading and/or racing prominently at Hexham is far stronger in handicap chases than it is in handicap hurdles. Here is one final graph comparing win and each way strike rates between front-runners and hold up horses in handicap chases over the three different distances:

 

The graph beautifully illustrates that

a) the front-running bias is strong across the board,

b) the pace bias does diminish a little as the distance increases; and,

c) front-runners have a significant edge over hold up horses regardless of distance.

Hexham is definitely a course to keep an eye on from a pace perspective.