In this second article of a new series where I have been looking at run style bias at individual all weather tracks, we travel up North (from where I'm writing, at least) to Newcastle, writes Dave Renham. Newcastle changed from a turf flat course to an all weather one in 2016, employing a Tapeta surface for the new project.
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
Wolverhampton Racecourse Run Style Bias
Run style is connected with the position a horse takes up early in a race, usually within the first furlong. This early position can be really important over certain course and distance combinations as we have seen in many of my previous articles on the subject; and not just on the flat, but in National Hunt racing too.
Geegeez.co.uk has two key resources to help you investigate run style. In the Tools tab of Geegeez there is the Pace Analyser which looks solely at run style / pace, and you also have the Query Tool which can be used to investigate run style / pace along with other factors such as going, draw, trainer, class, etc. For all of these articles I use the Query Tool because, as previous noted, it can test more angles in combination with running style. Running style is often linked with the word pace because the early pace shown by horses in a race determines their early position.
The stats I am using for this piece are based on the site’s pace / run style data. For those of you unfamiliar with this data it is split into four sections, each of which has a numerical value. The highest is 4, which equates to horses that lead early, down to a value of 1, which is given to horses that are held up at, or near, the back of the field early. Horses that race prominently (just behind the leader) score 3, and horse that race mid pack / mid division are assigned a 2.
As with the previous article 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 17th May 2016, the first meeting on the Newcastle tapeta surface, up until 30th September 2021.
Newcastle 5 furlong Run Style Bias
We'll start with a look at the shortest trip. Let us look at the run style (pace) figures for Newcastle:
The 5f front running bias is a solid one, but not as strong as some other all-weather minimum distances. Also hold up horses, which struggled badly elsewhere, have been much more competitive here. This is probably down to the fact that Newcastle’s 5f is run on a straight track whereas others we have looked at are run round a bend.
The strike rate for front runners has been relatively consistent when splitting into groups of three years (2016-2018, and 2019-2021):
Front-running strike rates have been relatively consistent at between 15 and 16%, assuming field size has remained largely constant, which it has.
Onto market leaders next. Let me share the data of 5f handicap favourites at Newcastle with you across all running styles:
As with the previous favourite stats I have shared in this series, front running favourites fare exceptionally well, albeit in this case from a small sample size. Overall, favourites have struggled over this course and distance losing 18p in the £, while front running favourites would have yielded returns of 76p in every £1!
Newcastle 6 furlong Run Style Bias
Onto 6f handicaps now. The run style (pace) figures are as follows:
The overall stats again suggest a front running bias, but it is little less potent than it is over 5f. Having said that, front runners have a similar edge when you combine the win and placed stats (each way stats) for each grouping as the graph below shows:
One area where there is big difference in terms of front running performance comes when we look at field size. In smaller (8 to 10 runner) fields, those on the front have done much better than in bigger fields (11 to 14).
These stats are quite contrasting; it may be down to the fact that hold up horses (which make up comfortably the bigger run style section) are much more competitive than is usual over 6f. Bigger fields means more hold up horses, of which only one needs to come through to win. To offer more confidence in these findings, the front running win and placed stats (each way) correlate with the win percentages as this graph below shows:
Looking at the fate of favourites over six furlongs at Newcastle and I'll start with their performance across all running styles:
This is the first time we have not seen an edge for front running favourites. That might be down to the relatively small sample of 25 runners; and we do get a more familiar picture if we combine the top three in the betting when looking across all running styles:
Front runners from the top three in the betting have re-established a significant advantage. Indeed, if you had access to a crystal ball pre-race, knowing a) who was going to lead early and b) if those leaders would be in the top 3 of the betting at the off, you would have made a profit of 61p for every £1 wagered. Sadly, it's not always the easy to discern (though, naturally, the tools on geegeez give you a far better chance than Joe Punter).
All in all, front runners remain the most interesting group in 6f handicaps at Newcastle from a run style perspective.
Newcastle 7 furlong Run Style Bias
The 7f trip is also run on a straight course and here are the run style splits:
We are now edging towards parity in terms of run style win performance with a relatively even set of figures. Horses that race mid division have the poorest record, but hold up horses are now almost on par with front runners in terms of SR% and A/E values.
Interestingly though, front running favourites conform to the ‘usual model’ of easily outperforming their counterparts as the table below illustrates:
A 45p in the £ profit could have been achieved by backing all favourites that took the early lead. Interestingly, favourites that were held up also would have made a small profit of 6p in the £, though their win strike rate has been notably lower than the trailblazers.
In conclusion 7f at Newcastle is not a combination where a run style / pace edge is easy to find.
Newcastle 1 mile Run Style Bias
This is the longest distance where horses race on the straight track at Newcastle. Here are the figures:
In contrast to what we've seen so far, though perhaps hinted at by the 'changing of the guard' seven-furlong range, front runners struggle over this mile trip, whereas hold up horses actually perform best. Indeed if you had backed all 1114 hold up runners you would have actually made a starting price profit which is impressive. Let's see if we can find any angles where the hold up run style bias strengthens.
One area where hold up horses do seem to have a stronger edge is when the field size gets close to or up to maximum. 14 runners is the ceiling, and if we look at 13 or 14 runner handicaps the hold up bias strengthens. First a comparison of the SR%s.
Hold up horses have roughly double the strike rate of the other three pace categories. Their A/E [market performance] values correlate perfectly too:
This is a very impressive A/E value of 1.21 for hold up horses in bigger field mile handicaps at Newcastle. The other three run style categories labour at between 0.56 and 0.60, where 1.0 is a par score.
In terms of market position, hold up horses that were in the top three in the betting perform well: of the 289 runners, 68 won equating to a decent strike rate of 23.5% (A/E 1.14; IV 2.70).
Compare this to hold up horses ranked 4th or lower in the market and the strike rate collapses to 5.82% (48 wins from 825 runners), while A/E value drops to 0.93 and IV drops markedly to 0.67.
As far as favourites go, let me compare the performance of each specific run style.
Hold up horses that start favourite perform well but they been marginally out-performed by prominent racing favourites. What is interesting is the dreadful record of front running favourites, albeit from a small sample, with just a single winner from 27 to attempt to make all.
So the mile trip definitely favours hold up horses; keep an eye out for maximum or near maximum sized fields which seems to strengthen the bias.
Newcastle 1 mile 2 furlongs Run Style Bias
This is the first distance where the horses race on the round course.
In truth, I had expected a more come from behind profile to be effective at this course/distance combination. However, prominent racers have fared best and relatively comfortably best at that.
Newcastle 1 mile 4 furlongs Run Style Bias
Finally a look at the 1½ mile trip:
Prominent racers again have the best of it and that close-to-but-not-on-the-speed run style looks the preferred approach on the turning track in 8+ runner 10-12 furlong handicaps.
Newcastle Run Style Bias Conclusions
Over five furlongs front runners have a very decent edge and they also fare best over 6f. However, over 7f the front running edge has all but disappeared, while hold up horses have the call in mile races. Finally, over the longer distances of 1m2f and 1m 4f, run on the round course, it is prominent racers who have an overall advantage.