Tag Archive for: Kempton Park

Kempton Racecourse All Weather Run Style Bias

This is the fourth article of my series looking at run style bias at individual all weather tracks and this time we'll look for run style/pace biases at Kempton Park, writes Dave Renham. Kempton is the only right handed all-weather track in the UK and all races are contested around at least one bend. There are two loops at Kempton, an inner loop used for 5f and 1m2f races, and an outer loop for all other distances.


To view other all-weather track run style biases, choose from the below:

Chelmsford Racecourse Run Style Bias
Kempton Park Racecourse (AW) Run Style Bias
Lingfield Racecourse (AW) Run Style Bias
Newcastle Racecourse (AW) Run Style Bias

 


Run style refers to the position a horse takes up early in the race, usually within the first furlong or so. I have written numerous articles where the stats demonstrate that this early position can be really important, especially over shorter distances. The word pace is sometimes used instead of running style because the early pace shown by horses in a race determines their early position.

Geegeez.co.uk has numerous excellent attributes including two extremely user-friendly resources to help you investigate run style. If you head to the Tools tab of Geegeez there is the Pace Analyser. This focuses solely on run style / pace and is an excellent and quick starting point. In addition this you have the Query Tool which can also be used to investigate run style along with other factors such as the draw, trainers, jockeys, class, going, etc. I personally use the Query Tool far more because of its ability to test more angles in combination with running style.

The stats I am using for this piece are based on the site’s pace / run style data. This data is split into four sections, each one being assigned a numerical value. The values go from 4 to 1, with 4 equating to horses that lead early (front runners); 3 is given to horses that race prominently and track the leader(s); horses that race mid pack / mid-division are assigned 2 points while horses held up at, or near the back, score 1.

As with the previous articles in this series I will be looking at individual distances – primarily the shorter ones with the focus being 8+ runner handicaps. The data has been taken from 2016 up until 30th September 2021.

Kempton 5 furlong Run Style Bias

A look at the minimum trip first which, as mentioned, is run around the inner loop with competitors on the turn for a significant percentage of the race distance. Let us look at the run style (pace) figures for Kempton:

 

There is a very significant run style bias over 5f at Kempton with front runners enjoying a huge edge. Sadly though, 5f handicaps are relatively few and far between at the track, and this pattern of limited races has been repeated in non-handicaps. For the record, there have been just 13 non-handicap races over 5f with eight or more runners since 2016 – the run style bias is the same as one would expect, with 6 wins for front runners, 5 for prominent racers and only 2 for the remainder.

Going back to the 5f handicap races here is a look at front runner performance by draw:

 

The draw, as a whole, generally favours the lower stalls and hence I had expected front runners to have the highest SR% from the lowest draws. However, as the table shows, front runners seem to be able to win from anywhere. This even looking spread may simply be down to the small sample size, but more likely it is because the front running bias is stronger than the low draw bias. This means the draw almost becomes irrelevant for these trail blazers.

For draw fans, here are the overall draw strike rates for all runners, not just front runners. This time I have split the draw data into three equal parts to look at percentage of winners from each third of the draw:

 

There is a fair edge to low drawn runners as can be seen, but it is not as strong as the run style bias.

Despite the limited number of races over 5f each year, it is clear that when they do occur, we need to take note. Being able to predict the front runner in these events will almost certainly prove very profitable over time.

 

Kempton 6 furlong Run Style Bias

Onto 6f handicaps now, and there are many more races here to get stuck into. The maximum field size over 6f at Kempton is 12 and this is how run style impacts performance:

 

Kempton has the strongest front running bias over 6f that we have seen so far at an all-weather track. However, in more recent seasons front runners have fared less well as far as winning is concerned. The graph below shows quite a drop off in win strike rate:

 

The SR% from 2016 to 2018 was 22%, compared to around 15% in the last three seasons (2019 to 2021). However, if we look at win and placed stats (each way stats), the strike rates are reversed:

 

The recent data concerning the each way stats makes me think that the front running bias continues to be fairly strong over 6f. The seasons 2019 and 2020 were probably slight outliers in reality with several front runners running well, but probably not quite making it home in front. Indeed, confidence in my opinion is helped further by the fact that the last 21 front runners of 2021 (up to 30th Sept) have provided seven winners (SR 33.3%).

Onto to 6f favourites at Kempton and their performance across all running styles:

 

A strong edge exists for front-running favourites. We have seen this numerous times now with different all weather courses and distances. This market / run style bias is replicated when we focus on horses from the top three of the betting over this 6f trip:

 

All in all, then, horses towards the top of market have a very good record when taking the early lead.

Let us look at the draw next, firstly for all runners. Once again I have split the draw into thirds:

 

As we can see, low drawn runners (those closest to the inside rail) have a decent edge, slightly stronger from a draw perspective than we saw with the 5f stats. Middle draws win as many races as one would expect given a level playing field, while the wider higher draws tend to struggle a little.

The table below shows the performance of front runners in 6f handicaps by stall position.

 

As we saw with the 5f data, front runners can win from anywhere, but in general over this furlong longer trip the lower drawn the better. This can be seen more clearly if I split the stalls into two, comparing draws 1 to 6 with draws 7 to 12.

 

Hence, a potential front runner drawn 6 or lower is the type of horse that might be expected perform well. If they happen to be in the top three in the betting, then such a horse becomes a very interesting proposition. Indeed, looking at all horses that led early from draws 1 to 6 that were in the top three in the betting, the stats show that 34% of them went onto win (67% win & placed).

Finally in terms of 6f handicap run style data I want to look quickly at field size. It seems that the more runners, the stronger the front running bias. Here is front runner performance split by field size:

 

A better strike rate has been achieved by front-runners in 11- to 12-runner 6f handicap races, when compared with 8- to 10-runner handicaps, coupled with a better A/E value and Impact Value.

With so many races over 6f, one would expect some good betting opportunities to appear here considering the decent front running bias.

 

Kempton 7 furlong Run Style Bias

Let's move on to the 7f trip now. Field size increases to a maximum of 14 runners at this distance. Here are the run style splits:

 

The front running bias here is similar to the 6f one, and A/E values for early leaders at the two distances correlate closely (1.48 versus 1.44). The strike rate is lower, due to the average field size being greater over 7f.

The front running bias has been consistent over the past six seasons as can be seen when we compare the front running SR%s in three yearly blocks:

 

A slightly stronger performance has transpired over the past three seasons but nothing statistically significant.

Favourite performance in 7f handicaps is next on the list: will the same type of front running favourite bias manifest over 7f?

 

An even more potent market / run style bias can be seen here. Indeed, front running favourites have returned profits of 23p in the £ in the study period. Compare that with favourites that were held up early, a group that lost a whopping 44p in the £.

Looking at the top three in the betting and combining them with a specific run style produces a similar result – backing all relevant front runners would have yielded a profit of 26p in the £; hold up horses from the top three in the betting would have lost 21p in the £.

Next stop a look at the draw – firstly for all runners and run styles:

 

Horses drawn closest to the inside rail (low) have an edge but it is not as strong as over 6f.

Now focusing on solely front runners and the draws they come from.

 

In general, more of the lower drawn horses lead early, but it seems that front runners are able to win from any draw. Front runners drawn 2 have an excellent record but this is an anomaly when comparing with draws 1, 3 and 4.

The last thing to discuss in terms of 7f handicap run style data is field size. We saw over 6f that bigger fields increased the front running bias. Is it the same over an extra furlong?

 

The strike rates are similar, but races with fewer runners should produce higher strike rates for the front runner. We need to look at the A/E value and to a lesser extent the Impact Value. Both figures show a higher performance value from front runners in bigger fields, which correlates neatly with the 6f findings.

Taking all this data into account, punters that use run style as a key component in their betting should be looking closely at qualifying handicap races here over 7f. Potential betting opportunities await.

 

Kempton 1 Mile Run Style Bias

Onto the mile distance now, where runners have the full length of the back straight to establish a position, and the maximum field size moves up to 16.

 

Over this fairer constitution, we are moving towards run style parity. Front runners still have a very slight edge but not one we can easily take advantage of.

There is one extra statistic I wish to share with you at this distance, however, which is looking at run style bias in conjunction with the race favourite. Once again we see the same pattern as before, even though the overall front running bias is minimal:

 

Front running favourites have won roughly twice the number of races compared with favourites that were held up.

 

Kempton Run Style Bias at 1m2f and 1m3f

There were only 16 qualifying races at a mile and a quarter going back to 2016, this distance being contested on the tighter inner loop, so the data set is far too small to try and analyse. However, over an extra furlong, 1m3f, it is worth a scan of the handicap data as the figures surprised me a little (max field size is 16):

 

There does appear to be a slight run style bias with front runners again performing pretty well. I cannot really explain this, except that perhaps the proximity of the first bend gives those on the lead an edge in terms of distance travelled and/or luck in running. When betting in such contests I would definitely prefer to be on a horse that is near the front early than held up at the back.

 

Kempton Run Style Bias: Conclusions

Kempton's all-weather circuit is a track where run style bias is relatively strong from 5f to 7f; these are the distances I would mainly concentrate on. Front runners have a good advantage across all three, while prominent racers are preferable to those racing further back early. Once again I would not be wanting to back a horse that is likely to be held up.

- DR

Five-star Henderson firmly back on track

Nicky Henderson returned from a period of self-isolation after contracting Covid-19 with the ideal tonic – an 821-1 four-timer at Kempton Park on Saturday.

Incredibly, only one of the Seven Barrows yard winners was sent off favourite, as Falco Blitz (7-1), Mister Fisher (15-8), Caribean Boy (9-2) and First Street (11-2) had Henderson followers flooring the Kempton bookmakers.

And just for good measure, the 71-year-old saddled a fifth winner at Warwick when Luccia (7-2) landed the bumper.

“It is great,” said Henderson. “A fortnight ago I was grumbling they were not running consistently well, and everybody said, ‘stop moaning, they are perfectly all right’. It was just that they were not very good or the conditions did not suit them.

Falco Blitz kicked off what was to be a fine day for Nicky Henderson
Falco Blitz kicked off what was to be a fine day for Nicky Henderson (Steven Paston/PA)

“You know I love Kempton and, even in this tacky ground, it suits our horses. They have all spent the day going wide.

“It has been a good day and we can’t complain – although we could complain about the ones who got beat.

“Christmas here was fantastic, then it has been a bit dull since Christmas, apart from Constitution Hill (winning the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown last week), and then we come here and it goes back to where you want it.”

Falco Blitz got the ball rolling in the Coral “Fail-To-Finish” Free Bets Handicap Chase, sparking a double for jockey Nico de Boinville.

The 7-1 shot came wide in the extended two-and-a-half-mile heat and recorded a length success.

Henderson said: “I thought the secret to him was the other way round on good ground, so we have gone the wrong way round on the wrong ground!

“He does like space but does still drift a bit left. He does technically want to go left. His ideal good ground, going left-handed. He likes it round here and has crept nicely into the race.

“He might be a horse for the Topham Chase (at Aintree), but he likes his spaces and you don’t get many of those in the Topham. Not over the first three fences  anyway.”

Winning connections after the victory of Mister Fisher
Winning connections after the victory of Mister Fisher (Steven Paston/PA)

Mister Fisher took the Coral Silvinaco Conti Chase in good style under James Bowen, who also recorded a double on the day.

After the length-and-three-quarters victory, Henderson will look ahead to the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

He said: “This was a race made for him. If the Ryanair was on good ground, he will be competitive. Aintree would be next. He deserves a nice pot like this and he has now got to go an fly in the top flight. We think he is top-class, always has been. I love him, he is a beautiful horse.”

He was also full of praise for Bowen, adding: “James Bowen deserves it, so does Nico. You know where James is going, he is going straight to the top. We had a little period when things were not going right last year, and we have managed to turn that round. His confidence is high, and he is riding beautifully.”

Caribean Boy could be a Grand National contender
Caribean Boy could be a Grand National contender (Steven Paston/PA)

Aintree may also be on the cards for Caribean Boy, winner of the three-mile Coral Committed To Safer Gambling Handicap Chase.

The Bowen-ridden eight-year-old has Henderson potentially eyeing the Grand National.

He admitted: “We are probably just finding out that he is a stayer. I am dying to find a Grand National horse. We ran him in the Topham one year and fancied him like hell, but Daryl (Jacob) said he hated it. But that is not to put me off.

“(Bloodstock agent) Anthony Bromley thinks we should come back here next month for the Coral Chase and there is every possibility he will.”

Henderson completed his Kempton quartet when First Street led home stablemate Mengli Khan in the concluding two-mile Coral Proud To Support British Racing Handicap Hurdle under De Boinville.

Henderson said: “All he has done has beaten my old friend Mengli Khan and I feel absolutely gutted he has done that.

“Mengli Khan’s day will come. He loved it today and I just can’t believe I’ve gone and beaten him.

“All I want is to train a winner for Michael Blencowe, who is a lovely guy. He has four horses and I can’t win a race for him.

“I don’t know what we’ll do with the winner. He has got all the penalties to take him out of the novices. He has to probably go for something like the Imperial Cup. He only beat Mengli Khan, though – tell the handicapper that!”

Fry will steer clear of Cheltenham with Ree Okka

Harry Fry ruled out sending Ree Okka to the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival after his impressive success at Kempton Park.

The six-year-old backed up a pleasing second at Aintree with victory at Chepstow last time and improved again to score by six lengths in the Watch Racing Free Online At Coral Novices’ Hurdle from Dash Full Of Cash.

Despite the decisive nature of the victory, it was far from a faultless display from the 8-13 favourite – he jumped right over the last two – and Fry is keen to keep him away from the rigours of Cheltenham at this stage in his career.

Fry said: “We are delighted with the performance. I love everything about him, his attitude. He is a trier. He showed a willing attitude at Chepstow the last day and today he showed how straightforward he is.

“He was up there all the way at Chepstow. Today they have gone a good gallop and Sean (Bowen) had one or two horses behind him most of the way and then when he wanted him to come into the race, he came on the bridle.

“He is just a lovely, young horse whom we hope is going to make a chaser and we are going to have some fun yet in novice hurdles this season.

“We were keen to see him step up to three miles today and see where the rest of our season is heading.”

He added: “We don’t want to go down the Albert Bartlett route. We could go to Haydock in February and then on to Aintree (Sefton Novices’ Hurdle).

“The Albert Bartlett is a tough, gruelling race – I know that from experience – and I just don’t think he is the horse for that at this stage.

“When he finished runner-up at Aintree on his first run for us, I thought immediately then that the three-mile novice hurdle back there in April would be perfect for him and that is hopefully where we’ll end up.

“Today was the first stepping stone to see him over three miles and it was great to see him do it in the manner that he did.”

Falco Blitz and Nico de Boinville
Falco Blitz and Nico de Boinville (Steven Paston/PA)

Falco Blitz may prefer going left-handed, but he coped admirably going the other way around to land the Coral “Fail-To-Finish” Free Bets Handicap Chase in the hands of Nico de Boinville.

The 7-1 shot came wide in the extended two-and-a-half-mile heat but soon put the race to bed for a length success.

He had been pulled up on his seasonal bow at Bangor, but the top-weight had more than enough to spare over Champagne Court, with Foxboro a further half a length back in third.

Winning trainer Nicky Henderson said: “I thought the secret to him was the other way round on good ground, so we have gone the wrong way round on the wrong ground!

“He does like space, but does still drift a bit left. He does technically want to go left. His ideal is good ground, going left-handed. He likes it round here and has crept nicely into the race.

“He might be a horse for the Topham, but he likes his spaces and you don’t get many of those in the Topham. Not over the first three anyway.”

Lanzarote card given go-ahead after fog threat

Kempton’s valuable Coral Lanzarote Hurdle card has been given the go-ahead following three inspections.

While temperatures got down to -4C overnight, the track was raceable, but heavy fog threatened the seven-race fixture.

Clerk of the course Barney Clifford held inspections at 8am, 10.20am and 11.20am before deeming the track raceable.

He said: “We are giving it the go-ahead. It is raceable at the moment, but we will have to obviously monitor it throughout the afternoon.”

Warwick was also subject to an 8am inspection but racing was cleared to go ahead at the track, despite overnight frost, with temperatures getting down to -2C overnight.

Frost covers, which were deployed, means the Agetur UK Ltd Classic Chase meeting can go ahead with racing scheduled to start at 12.40.

The ground conditions at Warwick are described as soft, good to soft in places.

Fog threat to big Kempton card

Kempton’s clerk of the course Barney Clifford will hold a further inspection at 11.20am to determine whether its valuable seven-race card can take place.

Racing is scheduled to start at 12.20pm but thick fog is covering the track and while the ground conditions remain soft, good to soft in places, visibility remains poor.

Clifford said: “We held an inspection at 8am and again at 10am due to the fog. There is a heavy fog here right now and we are having trouble seeing the winning post from the judge’s box. It needs to lift – and we shall hold another inspection at 11.20am.

“The forecast is for it to lift mid-morning but it is very much fingers-crossed at this stage.”

Warwick was also subject to an 8am inspection but racing was cleared to go ahead at the track, despite overnight frost, with temperatures getting down to -2C overnight.

Frost covers, which were deployed, means the Agetur UK Ltd Classic Chase meeting can go ahead with racing scheduled to start at 12.40.

The ground conditions at Warwick are described as soft, good to soft in places.

Shishkin all set for reappearance at Kempton on Monday

Nicky Henderson has confirmed Shishkin an intended runner in the Ladbrokes Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton Park on Monday.

The Seven Barrows trainer had hoped to start off his season in the Tingle Creek at Sandown earlier this month, but felt last season’s Arkle winner was slightly off colour and he subsequently returned a dirty scope.

Shishkin returned to fast work last week, but Henderson wanted one more strong gallop before making a provisional Kempton entry.

Nicky Henderson with Shishkin at his Seven Barrows yard
Nicky Henderson with Shishkin at his Seven Barrows yard (David Davies/PA)

While that happened on Tuesday and all went well, Henderson stressed the seven-year-old would still need a schooling session and further gallop before he could commit to running in the Grade Two feature.

And he was able to report on Friday morning: “We’ve had a good week with Shishkin and we have decided that he will run. He schooled really well yesterday, Nico (de Boinville) came in this morning to ride him again and he worked very nicely.

“We’ve got to get out there, he’s in great form.”

Hales to make late call on Kempton outing for Millers Bank

Alex Hales will wait until the last possible moment before deciding whether or not Millers Bank will take on Ahoy Senor and Bravemansgame in the Grade One Ladbrokes Kauto Star Novices’ Chase (In Memory Of Nigel Clark) at Kempton on Boxing Day.

A close-up third in the Aintree Hurdle in April, the seven-year-old produced a faultless display of jumping on his seasonal and chasing debut at Huntingdon, but unseated Harry Bannister two out when left in front in a four-runner Grade Two novices’ chase at Newbury last month, a race won by Nassalam.

While Millers Bank has the option of going up in trip to three miles at Kempton, the Edgcote trainer admits he could wait a week for Grade Two Dipper Novices’ Chase over two miles and five furlongs at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.

“Lucinda (Russell) seems pretty set on coming down now with Ahoy Senor and you have (the Paul Nicholls-trained) Bravemansgame who definitely runs, and they are going to run Threeunderthrufive as well.

“I am just thinking of what might run in the Dipper outside of My Drogo.

“There aren’t that many high-quality chases over three miles, but on the other hand, should there be?”

Hales laughed: “We really need to be forced to take each other on – and here’s me trying to swerve Bravemansgame and Ahoy Senor and cherry-pick a win, where perhaps we should just throw our hat in the ring.”

Millers Bank looked certain to win when the Nicholls-trained Pic D’Orhy fell four out at Newbury and with that one franking the form by taking the Grade Two Noel Novices’ Chase at Ascot on Friday, Hales has every faith that Millers Bank can bounce back.

“At Newbury, his jumping caught us on the hop a bit,” said his trainer.

“At Huntingdon on debut, his jumping was just sublime.

“He was very cold over the first three at Newbury, then he jumped well and got into a rhythm.

“Harry (Bannister) and I are in agreement – Paul’s horse fell and he got left in front and that was probably his weakness. He just had a bit to learn and was a bit inexperienced.

“He has schooled extensively since and he has been very good – and schooled this morning.

“He’ll definitely get three miles and he’ll have more of a chance to get in a better rhythm too, but I’m still undecided at the moment.”

Leopardstown or Limerick next for Bob Olinger

Henry De Bromhead has resisted the temptation to send Grade One-winning Hurdler Bob Olinger to Ascot for the Howden Noel Novices’ Chase on Friday.

Winner of the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March, the six-year-old made an impressive debut over fences at Gowran Park last month on his return to action.

Though entered for the Grade Two event over two miles and three furlongs, where he could have faced the likes of the Dan Skelton-trained Faivoir and Pic D’Orhy from the Paul Nicholls yard, De Bromhead has decided to stay at home in Knockeen for the time being.

He said: “He is not travelling to Ascot. We are not sure where he goes yet.

“We haven’t sorted out any plans. He is entered in both races (Leopardstown and Limerick) over Christmas, so we will see nearer the time.

“We just haven’t made any firm decision, but he is well. All is fine with him.”

However, De Bromhead confirmed that Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Minella Indo is bang on course for the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

“Our plan is to definitely to go for the King George,” he said.

“We are looking forward to that. He is in good form. It is a Grade One, so it is never going to be easy, but we will take our chance.”

Minella Indo, currently 7-2 second-favourite for the three-mile showpiece with the sponsors behind Clan Des Obeaux, will have the chance to avenge his five-length defeat by Frodon in the Irish Champion Chase at Down Royal on his return to action in October.

Silver Streak to bypass Ascot with Christmas Hurdle again on cards

Silver Streak will be given his chance to defend his Christmas Hurdle crown at Kempton after Evan Williams decided to bypass Saturday’s Betfair Exchange Hurdle at Ascot.

The Llancarfan trainer enjoyed the 2020 festive season more than most, with big-race success in both the Grade One hurdle at Kempton and in the Welsh National at Chepstow with Secret Reprieve.

Williams is hopeful that both his stable stars remain on course to defend their respective titles, but admitted both will take their engagements more in hope than expectation.

Silver Streak has failed to produce the form that saw him land the Christmas Hurdle in four subsequent starts, including when trailing eight lengths behind dead-heaters Not So Sleepy and Epatante in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle last month.

Williams said: “Silver Streak will go to the Christmas Hurdle. I scratched him from Saturday. He will go to Kempton Park on Boxing Day. I haven’t worked him but he will work this week, and the plan is for him to defend his crown.

“He jumped terribly at Newcastle. He jumped like his legs were tied together – his jumping, the last two runs, has been an issue and I can’t say I have found the reason why.

“I just think he is getting older and wiser, and the ground he has been running on, when it is on the soft side, it has become very difficult for him to operate.

“I don’t think that is an excuse for his jumping, he just hasn’t been on his A game this year at all.

“However, we are going back there, just because the track suits him and that is where he has shown his best form.

“It is nice that he can go back and defend his crown. Win, lose or draw, he does deserve that chance as the current holder.”

Secret Reprieve, who justified favouritism to take the extended three-and-three-quarter-mile Coral Welsh National under Adam Wedge last season, is 6-1 second favourite with the sponsors to follow up on December 27th – despite not having a run since.

Secret Reprieve will go to Chepstow without the benefit of a prep run
Secret Reprieve will go to Chepstow without the benefit of a prep run (David Davies/PA)

“Secret Reprieve will hopefully go straight to Chepstow,” Williams said.

“I wouldn’t say we are on course, because we haven’t had a prep run.

“I would dearly have loved to have got a prep run under his belt and I presume we will just use it as a stepping stone to dates we know after Christmas.

“It has been very tricky. We have not been able to get a run into him. The lack of rain has definitely had implications not just for him, but for many trainers and horses.”

On Monday, the Vale of Glamorgan handler was still basking in the afterglow of success with Coole Cody following Saturday’s Racing Post Gold Cup victory at Cheltenham, but Williams reiterated that plans are on hold for the 10-year-old.

“It was a lovely weekend,” said Williams. “There is no plan for him at all. We were just delighted that he has managed to win a major prize again. It is a race with a lot of history, so it was a nice race to win.

“There is nothing on the horizon for him, though. We will just see how the horse comes out of the race and worry about everything else from there. He seems fine and has taken it well.”

Looking ahead to the weekend, Williams is anticipating a dual-pronged attack in the Virgin Bet Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase, one of the feature races on an exciting seven-race Haydock Park card.

Both Fado Des Brosses and No Rematch are expected to make their belated seasonal debuts at the Merseyside track.

Williams said: “Even though he has an entry in the Welsh National, I’d like to go to the Tommy Whittle on Saturday with Fado Des Brosses. I have got two in that with No Rematch.”

Monday Musings: Tritonic to be the Spring King?

I was speaking to Micky Hammond a couple of weeks ago and he declared: “Winter has finished!”. I thought maybe he was rather precipitous as there were still great drifts of snow around much of the North of England and points further on, but he must have had divine inspiration from somewhere, writes Tony Stafford.

Often the Kempton Saturday meeting in late February has offered better ground than anywhere else for ages and as such provided a nice lead-in for Cheltenham Festival runners. February 27 2021 proved no exception.

Through this most depressing of winters, denied visits to the racecourse and resigned to watching horses slogging through the mud day after day on television, Kempton’s jumps track always provides the kindest of surfaces. No wonder Nicky Henderson opposed plans for its closure so vigorously.

On Saturday the three-mile handicap chase, which has had many identities, but was staged under the Close Brothers banner this year, was run in five minutes 51 seconds, one second FASTER than standard time.

Clondaw Castle was the meritorious winner. Trained by Tom George and ridden by Jonathan Burke, he led home a field of 17. Runner-up Erick Le Rouge, a 33-1 shot, had been successful on similarly fast ground at the corresponding meeting two years ago in a handicap hurdle while on that same card, Southfield Spirit, a faller when favourite for the Close Brothers, won the Grade 2 Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle for Paul Nicholls.

Micky must have been slightly irritated at the accuracy of his prediction as he chose the same weekend for the return to hurdling of stable star Cornerstone Lad in the National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell yesterday. The ground had dried out appreciably there too and Cornerstone Lad, a proper mud-lark, was pulled up.

I always loved the late February meeting at Kempton which used to be a two-day affair on the Friday and Saturday. I know my memory plays tricks these days but I definitely remember one year (not sure which one) when at least half a dozen of the Kempton winners (and possibly a couple more) went on to success at the Cheltenham Festival.

The Adonis Hurdle will always be a favourite and its annual arrival unfailingly reminds me of the 2007 renewal which led to a 14-year connection with Raymond Tooth. Sadly Raymond’s association with racing has for now been curtailed but I will always be grateful to Punjabi and to Derek Hatter and Brod Munro-Wilson whose input that day hastened the union.

Few winners of the race, which in 2007 and 2008 provided Nicky Henderson with the 2009 and 2010 (Binocular) Champion Hurdle winners, were more impressive than Saturday’s ten-length Adonis victor Tritonic, a fifth Adonis score for Alan King, equalling Henderson’s tally.

Tritonic, a 99-rated Flat racer, had been more workmanlike than spectacular in the Ascot mud five weeks earlier when a strong-finishing one-length victor from the Gary Moore-trained Casa Loupi. That horse, a far inferior performer on the level but still a tough campaigner, was again the main rival on Saturday.

Coming to the last flight it appeared that there would probably be only a slightly wider margin between them but once over the obstacle, Tritonic took off and sprinted away up the run-in in the manner of a Goshen in an easing-down ten-length exhibition.

Cheltenham has a habit of fooling us with its ground and many times I’ve been in a less than successful going prediction business, certainly not in the Hammond league anyway. At various Cheltenham preview nights I’ve suggested it will be impossible for it to be anything but soft and it often wasn’t. I don’t think it matters for Tritonic, who is down to 7-2 for the juvenile championship.

I feel I have to change my Triumph allegiance, with French Aseel showing no sign of a second run having transferred into the Willie Mullins team. Gordon Elliott still has a strong grip on the race with 2-1 shot Zanahiyr and third-best Quilixios (6-1) but he is making all the wrong headlines after the picture of him talking on the phone while sitting on a dead horse on his gallop started doing the rounds. Both the Irish authorities and the BHA are understandably on the Elliott case.

In these more sensitive times in terms of animal welfare it is little wonder that social media has been so much on this matter. I’ve been told that the belated release of the grotesque image many months after it was captured last summer is because of the ire of a scorned former paramour of the trainer! Whatever the truth of that, it’s a great story. As Mr Bolger instructed when I first contacted him back in the 1980’s: “No names!”

In those days in Ireland you never knew who was listening in. Nowadays there’s always someone taking a picture and it has an ever-ready target audience. No doubt in no time at all there will be a million “likes” of which 999,000 of them will be utter “dislikes”.

Anyway, I digress. Tritonic is a reminder of Alan King’s talent as a jumps trainer which to some extent has been slightly eroded in the public understanding because of his equal facility on the Flat. Considering he doesn’t have easy access to the top pedigrees but instead needs to develop his own talent, that success is even more meritorious.

Tritonic was a case in point. Bred by Kirsten Rausing, he was originally sold as a foal at Tatts December sale for 14,000gns to Tony O’Callaghan’s Tally Ho Stud. Eighteen months later at the lesser of the two Tatts Breeze-ups, with the benefit of the Tally Ho expertise, he realised almost a 300% increase at 55k.

He might not have seemed the obvious “breezer” in pedigree terms. He was by the German Derby winner – by 11 lengths! – Sea The Moon who won four of five career starts with his only defeat coming as a 2-1 on shot in his last run in the Grosser Preis von Baden. The four-year-old winner there, Ivanhowe, was later a multiple Group 1 winner in Australia.

King didn’t waste any time with his May purchase. Tritonic had his first start in July as an unconsidered 50-1 outsider for a Haydock 7f novice race and, bar taking a false step in the closing stages, could have been even nearer than fourth place, less than a length behind the winner.

He built on that with wins at Ffos Las in August and Newbury in September and was only a 6-1 chance when fifth to Max Vega in the Group 3 Zetland Stakes over 10 furlongs at Newmarket in October. Placed in four of his five attempts – including first time out at Royal Ascot – in good-class handicaps as a three-year-old, he had the benefit of experience without being over-raced. So when the trainer turned Tritonic to hurdling he already looked the finished article.

With two Triumph Hurdle winners, Penzance and Katchit - who as a five-year-old followed up in the Champion Hurdle - to his credit, King certainly knows what’s needed and, after welcoming his winner on Saturday, there was only one race on his mind.

Another of the Kempton winners that interests me is Cape Gentleman who travelled over from Ireland to win the Dovecote Hurdle in determined style after a tussle with the Dan Skelton-trained Calico, a decent horse in Germany before making an easy winning UK debut at Ludlow.

Cape Gentleman started out in the Nicolas Clement stable after being sourced as a yearling at Arqana’s Deauville sale by the trainer and his sales associate Tina Rau for €20k. After three runs and one win he was back at the company’s Saint-Cloud venue where Emmet Mullins bought him for €80k on behalf of owner Margaret O’Rourke.

It’s uncanny that Tritonic and Cape Gentleman had such similar increases in value between sales and are rated 1lb apart on the Flat: second time out for Mullins in the Irish Cesarewitch at The Curragh last September Cape Gentleman showed tremendous stamina and determination to win by a couple of lengths in a field of 20 after which his mark was increased from 85 to 100.

First time over hurdles he won well at Punchestown but then, in Grade 1 company over two and three-quarter miles at Leopardstown’s Dublin Festival three weeks ago, he was pulled up. That he could recover from those exertions and put in such a good performance within such a short time and back at two miles is testimony both to the horse’s constitution and his trainer’s skill.

Cape Gentleman has two Cheltenham engagements and is a 25-1 chance for both. With the run guarantee in many places, I reckon there will be worse each-way shots at considerably shorter odds on the day. Just two weeks to go.

I’d actually been asked to go to a friend’s house to do an on-the-day hosting of one of the days at the Festival for some of his pals who play for a Premier League team and love their racing. That was great at any rate until spoil-sport Mrs S pointed out that it was still illegal – and no doubt one of the lads would live stream the event, ensuring big fines all round. I had regretfully to decline.

- TS

Mighty Gurkha battles to Kempton victory

Mighty Gurkha showed all his battling qualities to prevail in the Unibet 3 Uniboosts A Day Conditions Stakes at Kempton Park.

The latest fast-track qualifier for All-Weather Championships Finals Day at Lingfield on Good Friday looked a well-contested affair, despite just the five starters – and that is how it played out.

Hollie Doyle and the Archie Watson-trained Mighty Gurkha (11-4) led from the outset, but were headed by Zamaani before fighting back for a neck success over the 13-8 favourite. The previously-unbeaten Bravado was another length and a half away in third.

A delighted Doyle told Racing TV: “It was an excellent performance. He pinged the gates and I managed to get an easy enough lead for the first half of the race. Jack (Mitchell, on Zamaani) took me on early enough and we got into a bit of a battle.

“I got headed and felt like I was beat a furlong out, but he stuck his neck out and ran very well to the line.

“I felt he was giving me his all and that I’d take a bit of beating once I got that position and controlled it – he showed a great attitude to get his head back in front.”

Victory for Mighty Gurkha was the second leg of a quick double for Doyle, who also struck on Twilight Madness (3-1) for Simon Hodgson.

King George will be run behind closed doors

Kempton’s Ladbrokes Christmas Festival will be staged behind closed doors following the latest announcement from the Government on areas of England which are to move to the highest level of coronavirus restrictions.

While nearby London moved to Tier 3 earlier this week, with the Sunbury track being in Surrey – at that time in Tier 2 – a crowd of up to 2,000, albeit not racegoers from the capital itself, was still set to attend the showpiece fixture which features the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day.

However, the announcement to the House of Commons by Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Thursday that Surrey will now join Tier 3 means no crowd will be permitted.

A spokesperson for the track’s owners, Jockey Club Racecourses, said: “We know that racing fans will be disappointed to be missing out on some thrilling live action over the Christmas period, especially having only just been allowed to return to our venues in very limited numbers.

Clan Des Obeaux won last year's King George in front of packed grandstands
Clan Des Obeaux won last year’s King George in front of packed grandstands (Steven Paston/PA)

“However, we recognise we must all play our part in tackling this pandemic and look forward to welcoming racegoers back to our courses as soon as we’re able to do so.”

Ascot’s pre-Christmas fixture this weekend has also been affected by the latest developments.

A statement from the track read: “The Government confirmed today that the local authority in which Ascot is situated (Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead) will formally move into Tier 3 of Covid restrictions at midnight on Friday, December 18 which automatically means that the public cannot be admitted to Ascot on Saturday, December 19, day two of the December Racing Weekend.

Crowds will be absent from Ascot this weekend
Crowds will be absent from Ascot this weekend (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“Ascot has consulted with Public Health England and its Safety Advisory Group, and the advice received is that it should not to be open to the public tomorrow, Friday, December 18, day one of the December Racing Weekend. Therefore, Ascot will not be admitting the public for Friday’s racing.

“Cases in the south of England have risen over 40% in the last week and the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead is now in a very high-risk area.

“Ascot is sorry that that it has to deliver this news to people looking forward to coming racing this weekend.”

Newbury’s Challow Hurdle card on December 29 is another which will be without racegoers over the festive period, as will the Tolworth Hurdle fixture at Sandown on January 2.

Newbury is another track forced to move behind closed doors
Newbury is another track forced to move behind closed doors (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Newbury tweeted: “Following the recent Government update regarding West Berkshire moving into Tier 3 from Saturday 19 December from 00.01hrs, communications will be issued to all those with a ticket or hospitality booking for MansionBet Challow Hurdle Day on Tuesday 29 December 2020.”

Sandown wrote: “Following the news that @Sandownpark is in a Tier 3 area of England, we are unable to welcome spectators to the racecourse.

“We will be in touch with anyone who has already purchased a ticket for a fixture now affected, and a refund will be automatically processed.

“We look forward to welcoming racegoers again when it’s safe and appropriate to do so.”

Hereford racecourse is now in Tier 1 one of coronavirus restrictions
Hereford racecourse is now in Tier 1 one of coronavirus restrictions (Tim Goode/PA)

A total of 15 tracks with winter fixtures will continue to have crowds under the current restrictions, including Cheltenham, who race next on New Year’s Day.

All of those courses are in Tier 2, with the exception of Hereford which has moved into a Tier 1 area and will now be allowed as many as 4,000 spectators at its next meeting, which is scheduled for January 2.

No courses that were in Tier 3 have moved to a lower tier.

Punting Angles: Kempton Park

Kempton Park is dripping in racing heritage, having staged its first event more than 140 years ago, writes Jon Shenton.  However, it is the polytrack racing that has been the most prominent fixture from 2006, and that will form the content for today’s piece. There are plenty of data to get stuck in to, hardly surprising considering the number of fixtures at the venue.

The course map reminds us that Kempton is the only right-handed all-weather track in the UK, and it also highlights the existence of two racing loops. Only the five-furlong and 1m 2f trips use the inner ring, the other distances all charting the outer course.

As a supplementary starter, if you want a real expert opinion on the track, David Probert’s blog was published on geegeez a few months ago and contains some very useful first-hand snippets from a rider’s perspective.  It certainly sets the scene nicely for this article if you have time.

https://www.geegeez.co.uk/catching-up-with-david-probert/

Kempton AW Trainers: Richard Fahey

As usual, let us first delve into the performance of trainers at the track. Before getting into the positive angles it’s worth noting a high-profile and generally prolific yard that appears to a have a few challenges at the Sunbury circuit.

The above data represent the powerhouse Richard Fahey team at Kempton from 2012 onwards. A strike rate of less than 4% is not fantastic by any measure and such runners should perhaps be given second thoughts prior to investment. That said, earlier in 2019 George Bowen was a Class 2 winner from just three runners this year.

Kempton AW Trainers: General

Moving into positive territory, below are the best performing trainers (still active) at the track since the same 2012 date.

To qualify for the table, 75 runners are required with minimum at SP’s of 20/1 or less and a bar of an A/E of over 1.10 needs to be overcome.

Frankly, the list is quite underwhelming in terms of potential angle development. All are probably worthy of further analysis, but nothing really jumps off the page.

Kempton AW Trainers: Rae Guest

However, for some reason it feels impolite to move on without at least a cursory glance at the top of the list. So, with that in mind, an evaluation of Rae Guest’s numbers is in order.

I find that a key factor to always consider when analysing all-weather data is the time of year. I’m now into my fourth annual wagering cycle and am getting a better feel for performance variation and seasonality impact within my portfolio. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles all-weather punting is my staple diet and where most of my effort is centred.

However, being brutally honest, my all-weather angles generally under-perform over the summer months. It may be usual variance but each summer I watch my bank (from AW) glide downwards to then power up over the the winter. It makes sense, the majority of AW racing occurs through the colder months with many yards gearing around the season, or potentially focussing their efforts elsewhere during the summer months.

The Rae Guest info does show some of the hallmarks of that fallow summer performance. The below table illustrates the yard results at Kempton for May to August (inclusive)

Granted, not a huge number of runners, but not the best record either. It seems logical to check this record by opening the data to the yard’s performance across all AW tracks over the same period to see if there is a general downturn or if it’s course specific.

It’s a slightly better record, but still somewhat underwhelming as a collective.  The companion data (from the other months) across the artificial tracks may be of interest and is as follows:

That’s a pretty impressive record relating to over 300 runners and indicates the Guest yard is generally one to track on the artificial surfaces.

Delving deeper, here is a view of performance by race class.

The data above show a 1-from-18 record in Class 1 to 3. That’s most likely a representation of the materials available to the yard in terms of equine talent rather than any training limitation. It might be argued that Class 4 races are marginal from a betting perspective, too, with a strike rate of 11.6% and an A/E of 0.72 but for now, at least, they remain included.

There is also something very interesting when splitting out Guest runners by gender as the numbers below illustrate:

Taking the not specified gender (I assume missing data) out of the equation over 80% of the horses competing for Guest are female. This is quite unusual and even more interesting is that these female animals are outperforming their male counterparts, at least in market terms (A/E 1.30 vs. 0.98).  It must be noted that strike rates and IV are broadly similar.

In general terms, fillies and mares underperform on the artificial surfaces compared to colts and geldings. Strike rates for females are approx. 12.5% vs 14.2% for the male runners with A/E measuring 0.85 vs 0.88 since 2012, that’s an evaluation of 145,000 runners. Therefore, the Rae Guest yard seems to buck the trend and consequently there could be value in backing his fillies as a result. Perusing their website for horses currently in training, the majority are fillies so perhaps it is as simple as specialising in the development and training of the fairer sex. Nevertheless, it is worth noting all the same.

Suggestion: Back Female Rae Guest All Weather runners from September through to April in Class 4-7 races at an SP of 20/1 or less

 

Draw at Kempton

To search for clues in terms of which race distances to drill down into, the table below contains a summary of all distances up to a mile and a half using the Draw Analyser tool from the Gold toolkit.

Essentially the numbers demonstrate by race distance the average IV3 number (Impact Value of a stall and its nearest adjacent stalls) for each draw. It’s not perfect, but it does offer solid indications regarding where to look more closely, as well as giving a good reference table for general study. A summary of the key findings are:

  • The low draw bias looks most acute on the inner-course 5-furlong trip
  • Inside/low draws also appear to be beneficial for other distances up to 7-furlongs
  • Races at a mile and above show a slight accent to favouring more mid-range draws, with perhaps the most pronounced being for the mile and a quarter (10f) trip around the inner loop.

On the back of that it seems prudent that a detailed analysis of the two inner-course trips would be the most sensible use of word count.

Kempton 5 Furlong Draw and Pace

Firstly, a point of order: with all races at Kempton a low draw is closest to the inside rail and all data from here on relates to Standard and Standard/Slow going using actual stall position (not card number), that is taking out non-runners.

Over the minimum, at least half of the burn-up takes place around the inner course bend, so a low draw can mean travelling a shorter distance than the competition because claiming a spot close to the rail should be a simpler task.

The above table shows the numbers in more detail by specific field sizes (the column RN means number of runners). It’s in the usual format for regular readers. If you’re new to it then the left-hand section shows the IV3 number for each stall position by number of runners; the right-hand table shows performance in relation to early track position, i.e. pace, for the same field sizes.

Firstly, draw. The green colours are largely concentrated in the lower stall numbers, confirming the reasonable bias towards these positions. Interestingly, the greater the number of runners the more pronounced the bias appears to be. Incidentally, the maximum number of entrants over the five-furlong distance is twelve; however, the volume of races with a full field is very small so I’ve ignored them within this analysis.

The pace data is very interesting. In very basic terms, the horse that gets to the front early has at least twice the chance of emerging victorious: early speed is a huge advantage.

Given what we know about the five-furlong course topology, we’d expect to see that. If an animal can get to the front around the tight inner course loop it’s going to be in pole position, given the almost constant turning nature of the trip.

Early pace is undoubtedly a great asset, a low draw is also a great asset. So, combining both, surely must be a licence to print money? Well, yes and no, it’s not quite as simple as that. Why? Because it’s widely understood that a low draw is advantageous on the Kempton polytrack, so it’s probable that stall position is factored into available prices.

To establish the effect of the draw on value, the below table contains the equivalent A/E information for the race set ups covered in the IV3 table. As a quick reminder, A/E is an index of market value where 1 is neither good nor poor value, and a number above or below is good or poor respectively. The further away from 1, the better or worse things are.

The numbers do arguably ratify that the market has stall position covered in its starting prices.  The average (AVG) data confirms that A/E performance, whilst marginally better in the lower draws isn’t market busting by any means with averages for stalls 1-3 around the 1.00 mark: eking out a profit from picking low drawn runners may be a long-term challenge despite the clear higher propensity for providing winners, at least at industry SP.

If draw doesn’t necessarily give the edge that is craved, perhaps pace can. To try and get under the skin of the impact of pace by stall position, Gold’s Query Tool can assist.

The next table is using the tool data purely with the purpose of analysing only front runners by field size and starting gate. The reason for doing this is to try to understand if there is any commercial advantage in identifying these leaders by stall position.

The filters used in QT are:

Distance:            5-furlongs

Course:               Kempton

Race date:          1/1/2012 or later

Pace score:        4 (which is used to designate the early speed/lead horse)

The data is split by number of runners and again shows the A/E (performance against market expectation).

Initially, it appears that it’s a stiff ask to win from the widest draws even if the horse is an early speed merchant.  There is the most sizeable of sizeable caveats here though: the data samples are miniscule in places (so, for example, horses in stalls 9 and 10 in field sizes of 10-11 have only led in six races at this distance, with no leaders from stall 11).

These numbers confirm that front runners beat the market under all conditions apart from the aforementioned widest of the wide (the zero in stall 4, field sizes 6-7 is simply a quirk of a small data set). The numbers do, however, indicate greater value in the mid to wide gates, particularly in bigger fields. Small samples notwithstanding, this is worth due consideration.

To illustrate this point as a final check, here is the raw data from the Draw Analyser tool for races of 9-11 runners. The data contained within the blue dotted line illustrate the fate of the early pace (led) horse by draw position, split into thirds.  Win% across low/med/high is consistent at 22-25%, IV is marginally better in the lower drawn animals, emphasising they are more likely winners. But A/E is comfortably at its strongest in the higher drawn leaders at 1.81.

Looking for speed first, draw second and not self-talking myself out of a value play because of a wide stall is the main lesson I’ve taken from this info. Very similar to the last article on Chelmsford in that respect.

Suggestion: Try to identify the early leader in five-furlong races at Kempton

 

Kempton 1m2f Draw and Pace

Before wrapping up, a quick overview of the Kempton mile-and-a-quarter landscape is in order. A reminder that, if anything, there was a mid-to-high draw bias indicated in the initial numbers which piqued interest levels, and also keep in mind that this range also uses the tighter inner loop with the shorter finishing straight.

Below is the now standard format for assessing the pace and draw data.

The data seem to illustrate a reasonably fair and flat draw profile, apart from perhaps the outer stalls in large fields where it seems there may be too much to do.

The lowest gate numbers become increasingly difficult when the number of runners increases to 11 or greater. That is probably when horses are starved of room in the larger herd when forced/taken back during the early stages.

There is no doubt that a mid to “quite” high draw is no bad thing over this course and distance which is a mild surprise given the tight nature of the inner loop. However, in relative terms there is ample time from the starting position to the first bend, and up the back straight, for most horses / jockeys to find a position and avoid a wide trip.

These mid-range draws seem to offer greater flexibility in the run, giving lead animals the chance to get out in front, while hold up horses have less propensity for being trapped at the business end of the race.

Again, early pace is advantageous, as it is in most circumstances. However, the benefit isn’t quite as marked as some of the other trips or courses analysed in this series. In fact, the Hold-Up and Mid Div numbers hold up (!) relatively well considering there will likely be plenty of also-rans contained therein.

Using the draw analyser summary for the 11-14 field sizes (where low draws seem to underperform), the blue dotted box shows the challenge faced by a held-up low drawn horse.  Ridden for luck appears to be generally unlucky in this case. Any horse that is generally slowly away or repeatedly held back at the start should be treated with the utmost caution over this trip if its stall number is low.

Yet again, though, there appears to be some value to be gained from high-drawn leaders if they can be discovered (red dotted line). The prominent high-drawn animals don’t perform too badly either in market terms.

Hopefully the above ruminations will assist during the upcoming winter nights when poring over the Kempton form.

 - JS