Tag Archive for: newmarket tips

Wetherby Pace Bias Over Both Hurdles And Fences

The first weekend in a very long time where national hunt racing is the sole serving on ITV and although the flat isn’t completely done with yet (it’s the November Handicap next week which signals the official end of the flat turf season), jumps racing will largely be the focus in the coming months.

Ascot and Wetherby host the majority of Saturday’s live races and it will be interesting to look at potential pace biases at both tracks over the winter. This is Wetherby’s big day, whereas Ascot has other feature days, so I’m going to concentrate on Wetherby this week.

Wetherby Hurdle Pace Bias

Wetherby hosts hurdle races over 2m, 2.5m and 3m at this meeting so I’ll look at each distance individually.

2m Hurdle Pace Bias At Wetherby

Let’s first examine the pace bias over the minimum distance over hurdles here.

This course and distance certainly seems to suit those up with the pace when racing over hurdles. Front runners have both the best win percentage and place percentage in medium sized fields.

Front runners have produced an 18.37% win strike rate and a 38.78% place percentage, with this run style proving profitable when backed blind for both win and each way purposes.

Prominent racers have the clear second best win percentage although they are narrowly third best to mid division when it comes to place percentage.

Those that are held up certainly seem at a disadvantage here with the worst win percentage (6.38%) and comfortably the worst place percentage (23.4%).

2.5m Hurdle Pace Bias At Wetherby

Do we see the same sort of pace bias over a little further here?

The answer is no. This time around front runners have the worst win strike rate and hold up performers have the best win strike rate. This trend isn’t quite echoed with the place percentages, which do hold more weight in a sample of this size, but the win percentages and place percentages are all very closely matched.

The only run style here that is profitable, and profitable for both win and each way bets, is mid division so that may be most favoured but the bottom line over this two and a half mile trip over hurdles at Wetherby is that there doesn’t look to be any real sort of pace bias.

3m Hurdle Pace Bias At Wetherby

So how does the data over a three mile trip look like?

Not the biggest of samples here but we do see a slight swing back to front runners enjoying the run of things over this longer distance with the pacesetters gaining both the best win percentage and best place percentage.

Front runners certainly aren’t as dominant as they were over 2m here though and the data is far more closely matched, just as it was over half a mile shorter.

Front runners are profitable to back blind for both win and each way purposes and prominent racers have the next best place percentage suggesting that being nearer the pace is certainly some sort of advantage. There is only around 5.5% difference though in place percentages between front runners and being held up so the pace bias here, and there does seem to be one, is not a strong one.

Wetherby Chase Pace Bias

The main races over fences at this meeting are run over 2.5m and 3m so these distances will be the focus over the larger obstacles.

2.5m Chase Pace Bias At Wetherby

This distance was pretty even and fair over hurdles and although there isn’t a huge amount in the figures here we do seem to see a bias towards those who race nearer the pace.

The best win percentages and place percentages belong to front runners and prominent racers (front runners edge it as far as the win data is concerned, prominent racers do better for place purposes).

Meanwhile the worst of the data performance belongs to mid division and held up.

There does seem a fairly substantial drop off in place strike rate when you go from prominent to mid division. Prominent racers have a place percentage of 37.95% and that drops all the way down to 25% (the same as hold up performers have) for mid division.

The takeaway here seems to be that when racing over 2.5m over fences at Wetherby it pays to be in the front half of the field early.

3m Chase Pace Bias At Wetherby

It’s difficult to know what to make of this data with front runners having the worst win percentage but the best place percentage.

The overall trend for the win data is also difficult to decipher given how up and down it is so it should definitely pay to concentrate on the place data, which gives us three times as much data as the win sample.

As previously mentioned, the top place percentage belongs to front runners here and it’s also worth noting that the worst place percentage goes to those that are held up. There is over 10% difference in the figures which seems fairly significant.

Prominent and mid division are fairly closely matched and although mid division actually slightly outperforms prominent the overall trajectory of the place percentages seems to suggest closer to the pace the better but the bias towards those nearer the pace doesn’t seem as strong as it is over shorter distances here.

Hopefully this information helps you pick a few more winners, and a few less losers at Wetherby this weekend and this season.

Newmarket Analysis

As far as betting races are concerned this weekend, for me there are a couple of interesting contests over at Newmarket whilst the majority of the jumpers get their seasonal pipe openers out of the way.

The 2.23 at Newmarket is a class 3 mile handicap and judging by the very early betting I’d rather be with the bigger prices than the shorter prices. This is definitely the race I’m most interested in.

I’m still fairly interested in Scottish Summit despite the fact that he’s without a win in 13 months and just seems to be finding one or two too good in almost every race. He was better than the bare form last time at Redcar (had to switch away from the favoured rail to get a run and was racing against a pace bias) and before that he’d been in good form, finding just a lightly raced, promising 3yo too good when travelling best at Doncaster. He should be good for another place again here.

I quite fancied Fairy Cakes last time out at Newbury as she had a couple of interesting pieces of form to her name. She beat the progressive Wink Of An Eye early in the season at Goodwood. Admittedly Fairy Cakes is now 15lbs higher but she beat that rival by 2 lengths and Wink Of An Eye is now rated 25lbs higher and the 3rd also won next time out giving that form a really solid look.

Fairy Cakes is proven off a higher mark too.

She dropped back to this mile trip at Sandown in June and finished 2nd to Hoodwinker, who has won again since. The 3rd won her next two starts, the fifth won next time out and even the 7th won two starts later.

When racing six weeks later off a 1lb higher mark I thought she was a very good thing but she was weak in the betting and finished last, beaten 24 lengths. She’s been off since and that run came 108 days ago so it clearly wasn’t her running but will she be able to resume progression here?

The good news is that trainer Eve Johnson Houghton has had two winners and two runners up from her last six runners, including two at 33/1, so she’s clearly got her string running well. In the past 12 months though her handicap runners have achieved a PRB of 0.51 but her handicap runners who have been off 60+ days have only managed a PRB of 0.4 so Fairy Cakes isn’t guaranteed to be fully wound up unfortunately. Any rain could be against her too. One to watch in the market maybe.

It’s also worth mentioning Redarna, probably not with this race in mind. I wrote ahead of his run at the Ayr Western Meeting that with a bit of cut in the ground he would probably be pretty much unbeatable at that venue in the right sort of company given his record at the track. I was therefore pretty perplexed when he was weak in the market and one of the first beaten. However he returned there just two weeks later and won a better race comfortably, proving my theory about him correct to a certain degree.

He’s since let that form down slightly at York but that’s clearly not his course and it’s worth noting how well his Ayr win has now worked out.

The 2nd, 3rd and 4th have all won since whilst the 5th, 6th and 7th have all placed since. Redarna is definitely one to look out for again next season at Ayr, even at the ripe old age of 8 which he'll hit at the turn of the year.

But with this race in mind I’m going to be backing Scottish Summit to place and I’ll be monitoring Fairy Cakes in the market.

Racing Insights, 29th October 2021

I’ll be stepping in for Chris for a couple of days but don’t worry, Chris will be back on Racing Insights duty on Monday so you won’t be without him for long.

The free feature of the day on Friday is the Horses For Courses Report. With racing from six different UK and Irish venues on Friday you are able to use this report to identify course specialists, or at least runners that tend to run better than average at each of these courses, across a range of metrics.

As usual there will also be a selection of completely free races for free registered users, they are as follows:

1.10 Down Royal
1.38 Uttoxeter
2.30 Newmarket
3.30 Down Royal
4.05 Down Royal
4.50 Newmarket

I’m much more of a flat specialist so the two races from the above that make the most appeal are obviously the ones at Newmarket and there is far more form on offer in the 4.50 compared to the 2.30 which is a listed race for 2yos.

So the 4.50 Newmarket it is. This is a one mile, class 5 handicap for 3yo+ and with 14 runners set to go to post it’s certainly not the easiest puzzle to solve. The ground is currently good and drying out so this could be the last time a race is run on decent ground this flat season and could make very recent form invalid with most courses having been pretty soft for the past couple of weeks.

It’s well worth noting that the stalls are on the stands’ side here and that means the runners are likely to stick as near side as possible, probably inconveniencing those drawn low and also making it more difficult for anything held up to get a clear run through what could be a quite closely knit pack.

This course and distance does tend to lend itself to pace horses anyway.

The data doesn’t necessarily scream ‘pace bias’ given those that are held up in similar types of race to this have better place percentage than prominent racers and almost as good place percentage as front runners. However the only run style that is profitable for each way bets is front running (produces an EW PL of 7.0) and prominent racing is the only run style that is profitable to follow blind for win bets with a WIN PL of 29.58.

On top of this data we don’t have a whole lot of likely pace in this contest with Goddess Of Fire likely to get an uncontested lead. You couldn’t rule anything out here based on run style but I’d definitely prefer something that is likely to race prominently.

There are 14 runners in this so plenty to go through but I’m going to give a very quick lowdown on each to give you an idea if they are ‘in’ or ‘out’ of my calculations.

Super Den

Drawn high and likely to be held up. Caught the eye at York under tender handling but then missed 141 days before a very good return from a poor draw at Goodwood. Put in a rare below par run last time out at Redcar and connections quickly reach for a first time visor, which is a massive unknown. Drying ground is probably a negative so although he’s been on my radar for most of the season, I won’t be backing him here.

Masked Identity

Low drawn hold up performer who is a consistent sort. The last two races he’s contested have probably been stronger than this (winner at Nottingham won again next time out) and the step back up to a mile here should suit. Most of his best form on turf has come on deep ground but has finished twice since on fast ground. Every chance of running well on form but might not be well enough handicapped to win.

Helm Rock

Relatively lightly raced 3yo who bounced back from a poor run two starts ago with a good run at Pontefract in the mud last time out. Lowish drawn and likely to be ridden somewhere between mid division and prominent. Both his wins came at Carlisle and hasn’t got within two lengths of the winner in four runs since so probably isn’t well handicapped, away from Carlisle at least.

Newton Jack

Progressive front runner earlier in the season on testing ground with form lines that have worked out well but he’s been too patiently ridden on his last two starts, albeit running as if something was amiss on both occasions as well. The first time cheekpieces go on here and they could sharpen him up enough to lead on the near side rail from stall 14 and he’s well handicapped if he can bounce back to form but he needs to return to his early summer form. Drying ground probably against him.

Pientre D’Etoiles

Low drawn very lightly raced 3yo who ran well on second and third starts in terms of finishing position although neither race worked out at all. Handicap debut at Kempton was disappointing and it looks as though she’s simply started handicaps off a stiff mark assuming it wasn’t the artificial surface that held her back last time out. Could take a step forward on just her fifth start but needs to improve.

Goddess Of Fire

Low drawn front runner who has won six races but five of those came on the all weather or at Yarmouth. His other win was in the Legends race at Docnaster. He’s 0 from 9 in turf handicaps away from Yarmouth. He has run some decent races here in the past and is generally pretty consistent but he’s 2lbs above his highest winning mark with no obvious reason why he should improve. Should run well enough but likely to bump into a few better handicapped runners.

Geminga

Handicap debutant who has finished 3rd on all three starts to date. She’s probably run to this sort of mark on at least two of those but is difficult to weigh up in this sort of company. She’s certainly got room for improvement and run style and draw should be okay here. She’s not the type I’d personally be willing to back but it’s impossible to rule her out of calculations for all I’d prefer something a lot more ‘solid’ and proven.

Expresso Freddo

A mudlark on turf but ran poorly on soft ground last time out at Nottingham, well behind Masked Identity. Likely to bounce back at some point but the drying ground is surely against him here.

Thunder Lily

Seemingly in the grip of the handicapper on his last two runs after a win three starts ago but that might not be the case. Her third over further in July off a 3lb lower mark worked out well with the first two going on to win subsequently. She then benefitted from a drop back to this mile when a comfortable winner next time out, albeit in a weak handicap. She was undoubtedly below par next time at Leicester but never got a clear run last time out at Bath when finishing with plenty of running left. She’s been dropped a pound here and is seemingly well drawn in stall 12. After just nine runs she should still have more to give.

Sir Sedric

Ran well enough on first start for new connections at Catterick last time out, albeit well placed. That form hasn’t worked out though and he’s yet to win in any of his nine starts to date. Definitely needs to improve which is possible on second run for a new trainer and Ryan Moore is an eye-catching booking but he still has something to find.

Lockerbie

Best runs to date came over this distance so no surprise to see her drop in trip after seeming to not stay 10f or 12f. She’s dropped 5lbs courtesy of those non staying efforts which probably puts her on a fair (not lenient) mark so she could step forward again for powerful connections, for all she has something to prove. Low draw might not be ideal.

Finoah

Hasn’t taken much racing this season and ran no sort of race last time out on the back of a break. Drops back in trip on different ground here but those conditions shouldn’t have been a problem and he’s difficult to fancy on this year’s form.

Bonus

Best efforts have come on softer ground over shorter and he’s yet to place over this distance. He’s struggled for form since winning earlier in the season and doesn’t look well handicapped and on previous limited) evidence doesn’t stay this far either.

Assembled

Lightly raced for a 5yo and drawn lowest of all here. He arrives here in form having taken care of a subsequent winner last time out and a 2lb rise for that looks very fair. He’s 13lbs lower than his only visit here when he was 3rd so also looks fairly handicapped on that form, for all it was from two years ago. That was the last time he ran well on turf though which is a worry and stall 1 is also a concern.

Summary

It’s not easy to completely rule many of these out but plenty of these do have questions to answer. It would be no surprise if the most lightly raced of these, Geminga, won on handicap debut but there is probably better value elsewhere.

Goddess Of Fire and Masked Identity could run well but are very well found in the betting and neither look well enough handicapped to win this, even if it’s not the greatest race ever.

The value in the early betting for me lies with Thunder Lily at double figure odds. She’s only really disappointed once this season and although she doesn’t seem to have a huge amount in hand of her current mark, neither is she poorly handicapped and several pieces of her form this season are better than they look.

Racing Insights, 23rd July 2021

Friday’s free feature of the day is the Horses For Courses report. As you’d expect it highlights runners that have strong records at certain tracks. Personally speaking I am using this report more and more these days, especially at the quirkier courses that are more likely to produce course specialists.

As usual there are a selection of completely free races on Friday where all free registered users can can get full access to the racecards. These races are:

1.00 Uttoxeter
1.10 Thirsk
3.50 Uttoxeter
7.15 Cork
7.22 Newmarket
7.30 York

The 7.30 at York is a nice listed race so would have appealed as a race to go through but there is likely to be an extremely short priced favourite and with just 7 runners entered each way alternatives will be thin on the ground.

The 7.22 at Newmarket will therefore be the subject of this article. It’s a five runner, class 3 novice stakes set to be run over 12f. Not at all the sort of race I’d normally look to get involved in but there are some top stables represented and it’s likely the winner of this will go on to bigger and better things. The last three winners of this have rated 89, 111 and 87 so expect an above average winner.

Newmarket is often a track where the leaders don’t come back to the pack, even over longer distances, so we’ll need to take a look at the pace map. With several of these having had just two or three career runs there is a fair chance tactics change here but we can only go off what we’ve seen before. Given tactics do often change from race to race in the early stages of a horse’s career I’ll showcase the pace data rather than the graphic, allowing us to see where each runner has been placed early on in each of their races so far.

Auriferous seems most likely to take them along and he may well get an uncontested lead here. The course and distance pace data shows that early leaders have the best win and place percentages and they’ve been very profitable to follow producing a WIN PL of 70.85.

As previously mentioned, tactics can often change on these lightly raced runners and we see that with Constanta who was held up on his first two runs but raced prominently last time out. Line Of Descent has raced prominently in both starts to date whilst Adrastus and Thousand Oaks seem likely to be more patiently ridden.

Before we look at each of the runners, I want to take a look at the Instant Expert data for the sires of each runner. With so little form on offer this could be as enlightening as each runner’s races to date.

It’s no surprise these have ended up in a class 3 novice – some top sires on show here. The first thing that stands out is Camelot’s offspring are far less successful across each criteria which could be a negative for Constanta for all Camelot has sired his fair share of good horses - he's maybe just not quite as consistent at passing on his talents or it could be that he gets sent to less good mares.

Nathaniel enjoyed a decent amount of dig in the ground and so do his offspring more often than not as they are less successful on good to firm than the offspring of Golden Horn, Dubawi and Kingman. So possible ground concerns for Line Of Descent.

Golden Horn’s offspring have the best record in class 3 races so that’s a positive for Auriferous. He’s followed by Kingman (Thousand Oaks), Dubawi (Adrastus) and then Nathaniel with Camelot once again trailing.

Dubawi’s progeny do particularly well at Newmarket but Golden Horn, Kingman and Nathaniel aren’t far behind. As far as distance is concerned Golden Horn has by far the best record with his runners producing a 26% win rate at 12f. That’s well above the 16% of Dubawi and Nathaniel and the 13% from Kingman, who does tend to have many speedier types. Golden Horn and Dubawi offspring also have the best record in small fields.

Relying solely on this data it’s pretty clear that this is a near ideal setup for anything sired by Golden Horn so that’s good news for Auriferous backers. Adrastus also has lots of positives here being by Dubawi. I’d have some slight concerns, breeding wise, about the ground for Line Of Descent and maybe the distance for Thousand Oaks. Most criteria is a concern seemingly for Constanta so we'll hope to see some already good form from her on the track.

Now onto the runners.

Adrastus

By Dubawi who ranked well in Instant Expert for sires but he’s out of a staying mare rated just 73.

We are able to see all performances from the dam’s offspring and it’s worth noting that nothing as yet as rated higher than 84. Given the subsequent ratings of previous winners of this race Adrastus doesn’t look like he'll be good enough to win this. That is backed up by his form as both runs to date have been extremely modest and this trip and ground have already been explored so there isn’t great scope for improvement.

Auriferous

The most exposed in the field with seven runs to date but he’s also been very consistent and being by Golden Horn, he looks bred to be very suited to these conditions. His mare was rated 89 and Auriferous is the sole result of that mare.

His form has been a little disappointing though, yet to shed his maiden tag and held last time out in a handicap off a mark of 78, albeit a decent handicap. It’s probably fair to say he’s not going to be a 90+ rated runner, unless it’s over further, and there are surely going to be some more promising types in this.

Line Of Descent

Instant Expert flagged a potential ground worry but some Nathaniel’s do enjoy fast ground and Line Of Descent has so far only run on good or better. The dam’s other two runners to have earned handicap marks have so far only managed to earn marks in the 60s which raises concerns about Line Of Descent’s ability ceiling.

On the course he made a very promising start, finishing 3rd surrounded by runners rated 85, 95, 78 and 83 respectively. In doing so he has probably already outperformed any half siblings to date. He looked likely to improve for the run and for further that day. He then ran okay over this distance on fast ground and looked the winner a couple of furlongs from home but didn’t quite see it out. It was by no means a bad effort but he did look as though a drop in trip might suit that day so mixed messages regarding best distance from the two runs in his career.

Constanta

She’s a half sister to Skardu (group 1 placed at a mile) but Camelot’s sire data did trail behind the others here in Instant Expert.

Ran okay on debut in a hot maiden on the Rowley course over ten furlongs and again followed some fairly decent types home on her second run, stepped up to this trip but racing on soft ground. Thousand Oaks was half a length ahead of her that day. On her most recent start she raced on fast ground, finishing runner up, earning a mark of 80 in the process. She’s in good hands to progress and looks well capable of running  above her current mark in time, although a drastic step up from third run to fourth might not be on the cards.

Thousand Oaks

There was perhaps a slight distance worry on the sire’s side of things but both runs to date have come over this kind of trip so it doesn’t look a concern. If anything she has looked in need of even further.

She made a promising debut at Kempton, probably not running to a particularly high mark but very much looking as though the outing would do her good. She followed that up with a third at Haydock on soft ground, narrowly ahead of Constanta. On faster ground here she wouldn’t be guaranteed to confirm that form, especially if they don’t go much of a gallop which seems fairly likely. She is open to the most improvement though it seems.

Summary

A difficult race to work out. Adrastus is pretty easy to oppose whilst Auriferous sets a decent standard on much of his form and should get a tactical advantage but it would be disappointing if nothing was able to improve past what he has shown so far.

If I was awarding each of these runners a handicap mark I’d probably give the highest rating to Line Of Descent and given nothing is more lightly raced there is no reason why he can’t keep on improving further.

He does have to give 5lbs to the fillies though and given there isn’t a massive amount between some of these on form that could hand the initiative to the females. It’s interesting that Constanta and Thousand Oaks have already met, albeit on soft ground. On this fast ground, in a possibly tactical race, Constanta may end up reversing form. A slightly surprising selection given the sire data in Instant Expert but Camelot has produced some very good horses Constanta should be able to run to higher marks than 80 this season.

Going For Gold In The Cesarewitch

The big handicap this weekend has to be the Cesarewitch. It’s going to be a real test this year on soft ground but who is going to come out on top in this cavalry charge?

Draw

The Cesarewitch draw is much talked about and the general consensus is a low draw is best but how strong a draw bias is there over this marathon trip?

Cesarewitch Draw Bias

It can be a common misconception that just because a high draw is a negative, that a low draw must be better than a middle draw. Looking at the above stats there have been almost twice as many wins from middle draws compared to low draws with the place figures neck and neck between the two. High draws though compare miserably with just a solitary win and on average high draws are producing less than one place per race which means all but the very well handicapped high drawn runners can possibly be ignored, even for a place.

The A/E and IV figures favour middle draws much more so than low draws but the PRB can barely be separated between low and middle draws. So in terms of chances of winning or placing there probably isn’t much between a low draw and a middle draw but it seems clear the bookies overreact to those drawn low and offer better value on those coming from the middle stalls.

Over the years this race has been run on a variety of going conditions, will softer ground amplify the draw bias or negate it?

Cesarewitch Soft Draw Bias

Looking at races on soft or good to soft, we have far less data so we should tread with caution slightly, but what we seem to be seeing here is a slightly stronger focus on low draws compared to middle. The PRB figures give us the most data and low draw PRB goes from 0.54 to 0.57 on softer ground, whilst middle drawn PRB drops from 0.53 to 0.52. High drawn PRB also decreases from 0.43 to 0.41. So the data is very similar and it’s possible the going doesn’t make any difference but if softer ground does affect the draw bias it makes a lower draw more important rather than less important.

In such a big field plenty of runners fall into the category of low, middle and high and it can be of benefit to find a cut off point for where a good draw becomes a bad draw.

Cesarewitch Stall Bias

Looking at the individual draw figures, sorted by PRB3, on all but fast ground, gives us some interesting figures. Stalls 1-10 fill ten of the best eleven results with only stall 19 crashing the party.

It’s worth noting that stall 27 has a 30% place strike rate but the only other stall that is 20 or higher to manage even a 15% place strike rate is stall 22 (20%). So given that twelve of the fourteen best place strike rates belong to horses drawn 19 or lower that seems a good cut off point for where a good draw starts to become a bad draw. Five of the best six place strike rates remarkably belong to horses drawn in bottom six stalls so away from fast ground a very low draw is clearly of benefit to each way punters.

Pace

Front runners have an advantage at most distances in horse racing but generally speaking the further you go, the less of an advantage it becomes.

Cesarewitch Pace Bias

It’s a common theme in horse racing that those ridden nearer the pace will offer better value and out and out front runners have a good strike rate here with two winners from just eighteen runs. As horses are given more to do here over this trip they produce more places but from more runners. So just because more placed horses are held up than any other run style, that doesn’t mean they are advantaged. They certainly aren’t disadvantaged either though with only prominent racers having a better each way strike rate.

The going can affect pace bias so let’s have a quick look at the same data on ground that is good to soft or softer.

Cesarewitch Pace Bias On Softer Ground

We have less data here so win percentages seem less relevant but there is a decent amount of place data on offer and it looks as though front runners are only advantaged on faster ground - their record in softer conditions isn't good. The majority of placed horses are coming from nearer the back but there isn’t a massive difference between the place percentages whether you are prominent, mid division or held up. What is noteworthy though is the huge IV of those coming from mid division so that does look the ideal race position on this kind of ground.

In terms of this race, with so many runners the pace map is rather large.

Cesarewitch Pace Map

There is guaranteed pace in here from Mukha Magic and potentially another 5 or 6 who could easily try to force the pace or dispute it – this should be run at a good gallop and stamina is likely to be well tested. Those who are settled somewhere around mid division are likely to be seen to best effect.

Draw and Pace Combination

One of the best visuals on Geegeez Gold for me is the draw/pace heat maps. They give such a good snapshot of where you might want to be placed depending on your draw.

Cesarewitch Draw and Pace Combination

Showing data for PRB on course and distance races run on good or softer, this gives a strong indication that low drawn horses that don’t lead are well served. If you are drawn in the middle racing prominently can be advantageous and extremes of rides suit those that are drawn much wider.

Jumps Experience

You often hear that you need a jumps trainer/horse for this kind of test so let’s see if that’s actually the case.

The last two winners of this race were saddled by Willie Mullins so both had of course previously run over hurdles. In 2015 Grumeti won for Alan King and the previous year Big Easy was the winner for Phillip Hobbs. That’s four of the last six winners having previously jumped a hurdle.

In 2017 the 2nd and 3rd were hurdlers and in 2016 the 5th and 6th were jumpers so it does seem that the proven stamina of those that have national hunt experience comes in handy.

The Runners

Coltrane

Was impressive in the Melrose last time and has been saved for this since but there has only been one 3yo winner of this race this century and he’s as yet unproven over further than 14f. Add stall 34 to the mix and he is going to have to improve plenty for this step up in trip to figure. That’s possible but the draw makes it easy to put a line through him.

Great White Shark

She was a late plunge in this race last year (11/1 into 7/1) but seemed to run a bit flat, finishing 10th. She’s now 3lb lower this time and her latest flat effort, when a close 7th to Princess Zoe at Galway when better than the bare result, makes her a leading contender. Stall 20 is just about okay but she doesn’t always translate her Galway form elsewhere and needs to step up massively on last year’s effort. No surprise to see her go well but it’s not guaranteed and that’s not really reflected in the price.

Leoncavallo

Form figures of 211 since joining David Pipe – he’s clearly found the key to this one. He’s up 8lbs for an impressive win last time out on good to soft but that form has been let down a few times and not only does he have stall 29 to contend with, he’s only won once from seven attempts on soft ground and that was when winning by a nose at odds of 4/6. He’s proven over this far both as a flat horse and a jumps horse but is a little risky on this ground.

Not So Sleepy

Clearly laid out for this with just one run since March which was an easy victory over just 12f at Pontefract in a 4 runner handicap. He’s 2lbs well in under a penalty and goes very well in soft ground. He’s got experience over hurdles and was a good 4th in this last year under similar conditions. Stall 4 looks great and there is an awful lot to like about this horse. He’s likely to be somewhere between mid division and prominent which will be fine. The only nagging doubt is he’s 4lbs higher than when beaten over 6 lengths in this 12 months ago. That was arguably a deeper renewal though so no surprise if he at least places once again.

Just Hubert

He can be difficult to catch right (fairly well beaten on four of his six starts this term) but he’s well suited by a massive test of stamina, as was demonstrated when he won the Goodwood Stakes this summer over 2f further. Most of his best efforts have come on faster ground but many of his poorer runs on softer ground have been followed up with a poor run on a faster surface so it wasn’t necessarily the ground that held him back on those occasions. He won on good to soft as a juvenile and did run well at Chester on soft ground last year. A quick look at the Profiler tool for the sire’s offspring suggests soft ground shouldn’t be a problem and it will certainly help bring out his stamina. Stall 17 is fine.

Just Hubert Sire Ground Stats

Rock Eagle

Hasn’t taken much racing but the result of that is he’s still unexposed at the age of 5. He’s a winner here and shaped as though he might stay further when staying on well over 14f at Salisbury last time out but he’s never encountered ground softer than good and has stamina to prove so whilst he has potential he’s a very risky proposition.

Lightly Squeeze

**Didn’t get in**

First reserve at the time of writing and will only get a run if there is a non runner before 1pm on Friday. This comment will be left in even if he doesn’t make the cut  - it will make a nice ‘what if?’!

Lightly Squeeze seems to have an absolutely ideal profile here. He’s been progressive over hurdles since joining Harry Fry - his hurdle rating has risen from 108 to 137. His last run over hurdles was when falling at the last, in the lead, in the Betfair Hurdle. He’s had just the one flat run since then and that was a very interesting run indeed. He drifted from 3/1 to 5/1 before the off (suggesting this was a prep or the run would be needed) but he ran really well. He moved smoothly into contention and was disputing the lead a furlong out before tiring slightly into 3rd. The winner has won again since and the 4th has won both starts since so that was clearly decent form.

The 14f of that race was the furthest he has gone on the flat but his sire (Poet’s Voice) has a 100% place record with progeny over this trip on the flat and he’s also won over a furlong further over hurdles. All his best form is with plenty of cut in the ground and to top it all off he’s drawn in stall 1.

He would have to run from 3lbs out of the handicap but he was due to go up 2lbs for his recent run anyway so is effectively only 1lb wrong.

What a shame it will be if he misses the cut by one place!

Mondain

He's officially the best in here with his 4lb penalty still leaving him 3lbs well in. He’s pretty much proven at the trip having won at 17.5f last time out at Ayr. In fact his record at 2m or further reads 1121 whereas his 14f record reads 3255589442 so stamina definitely appears his forte. It looks as though he’s been ridden with a little more restraint in recent starts (as opposed to front running) which is probably a good thing given front runners seem to have struggled in his race on softer ground and stall 19 is fine but there is a slight question mark over the ground, he seems to have run his best races on good or good to soft ground (beaten 5+ lengths in three starts on soft). He’s also been running in much weaker contests than this recently so there has to be a doubt about how well handicapped he is for this. He has a definite chance if okay on the ground though.

Best of the Rest

Couer De Lion would have been very interesting on this ground but he’s been drawn in stall 35 and doesn’t have too many secrets from the handicapper so that’s him ruled out. Dalton Highway is quite interesting on some of his form with Great White Shark and he’ll enjoy the ground but stall 27 makes his task even harder. Diocletian will like the ground and shapes as though he may get further but he’s run relatively poorly in all four starts over 2m or further so he can’t be backed with any confidence for all he’d be capable of running very well if he did stay.

True Destiny loves having his stamina tested and runs well in good staying handicaps but he’s difficult to win with and the ground has probably gone against him. Cleonte is well drawn and fairly handicapped but has been in poor form on his last three runs.

Perhaps most interesting of the rest is Gold Arch who could offer some value at a very big price. He’s not the easiest ride and can be awkward under pressure but he’s had a more consistent profile this season for William Knight, finishing in the first four in all five starts. On his first run at 2m he had to be hard ridden half a mile from home and he stayed on well into 2nd. It was a similar story next time out over the same trip at Ripon, a course that wouldn’t have suited his running style. On that occasion he ran on into a never nearer 4th. He then ran over 16.5f at Wolverhampton on his latest start and once again stayed on late behind two rivals who were more forwardly ridden. He made up a lot of ground again late that day to finish 3rd (True Destiny who is a shorter price here was just a short head in front) and although it could be argued that he’s better on all weather than turf (very possibly true) he’s yet to have his stamina fully tested on turf and may well enjoy the softer ground.

Verdict

Obviously this is a wide open race and it’s more a case of finding a few runners who have been underestimated by the bookies than looking for the most likely winner. Those at the head of the market look too skinny for a variety of reasons and there is definitely value to be found elsewhere.

With Lightly Squeeze not getting a run the shortlist is going to be:

Not So Sleepy
Just Hubert
Mondain
Gold Arch

Not So Sleepy is perhaps the most solid of the of the quartet having run well in this last year. He’s well drawn, stays the trip and comes here in form and fresh. It’s a concern that he’s 4lbs higher this time around but perhaps being a fresher horse this year will make the difference. He’s a solid each way at 12/1, especially with as many as 8 places on offer, but the suspicion has to be he’ll find a couple too good.

Just Hubert still looks fairly handicapped and whilst the ground is a slight concern he’ll absolutely adore this stamina test. There is a bit more risk involved compared to backing Not So Sleepy but he’s as big as 18/1 so he could be slightly more rewarding too.

Similar sentiments apply to Mondain. He’s technically well handicapped here and seems well suited to a real stamina test but he hasn’t really finished amongst well handicapped horses this season so could find this too competitive. There is also a small worry about the ground conditions suiting, for all he is proven on good to soft.

Now Gold Arch is riskier than the other three but at 50/1 (including with SkyBet who are offering 8 places) he looks the value play here. He can be a difficult ride, he needs reminders, riding along early and often carries his head high. However the further he goes, the stronger he gets and this long straight and extra distance could well be the making of him. He’s been a consistent horse this season in a visor so should be a decent each way bet despite not having yet registered a win on turf. It’s just a shame they don’t run the Cesarewitch at Wolverhampton as he’d be a near certainty there!

Stroke Of Luc Required In The 2020 Cambridgeshire Handicap

The Cambridgeshire is undoubtedly the big betting race of the day on Saturday and it’s certainly the most difficult puzzle of the weekend for us punters.

When approaching a race like this it’s not uncommon to come out of it with a shortlist of at least ten runners unless we can find a way to narrow down the field. Often in races like this the draw is the easiest way to rule chunks of the field out . In 2016 it looked as though high draws would be favoured and by backing my favoured two high drawn runners I was able to (huge aftertime incoming!) back the 328/1 winning exacta. I’ll be examining more than just the draw here though.

Draw

The 9f distance over which the Cambridgeshire is run isn’t a common one and most years we have the Silver Cambridgeshire the day before to give us some draw hints. There is no such race this year though and two days of largely small field races this week haven’t told us much about a potential current draw bias, although the centre of track seems to be where a lot of the action has taken place.

Looking at the Draw Analyser in Geegeez Gold for this 9f trip at Newmarket, we have data for twenty-two races run on ground ranging from soft to good to firm in field sizes of 16+ since 2009:

Remarkably there has been little to no long term draw bias over this course and distance. The win figures are almost exactly the same across the board, the place figures are almost identical and the PRB (percentage of rivals beaten) data is exactly the same for low, middle and high draws.

More recently higher draws have seemed advantaged though. Looking at the eight qualifying races since 2016 gives quite a different outlook:

It looks as though the higher the better as far as recent draws are concerned with high draws having twice as strong a place ratio compared to low draws and all other metrics improving the higher you are drawn.

It has been profitable to blindly back several stalls each way since 2016 and six of the top seven most profitable stalls have been 19 or higher.

One thing to note about straight course draw advantages is they can often change depending on the ground. It looks as though this race will be run on something close to good to soft ground. In 2017 this race was run on good to soft ground and whilst the 1st and 5th home stuck to the near side rail, six of the first eight home actually raced in the far side group. That year’s Silver Cambridgeshire, run on the same good to soft ground, saw 16 runners start on the far side and finish on the stands’ side with the winner once again getting the near side rail on the run in.

In summary it’s been advantageous in recent years to be drawn higher in this race, especially if able to race predominantly against the near side rail. Lower draws however are certainly able to place at the very least and a middle draw is fine, especially on good to soft ground.

Pace

Newmarket is often a course that favours those who are near the pace but big fields and a strong early gallop  at any course can often swing things in favour of those who are held up, especially over slightly longer distances.

The Geegeez Gold Pace Analyser shows us that in this race it can be an advantage to lead in this race, leaders have the highest win percentage and place percentage and have produced a win P&L 15.0. So the best value will likely be found with front runners. In terms of volume, most wins and places are held up in mid division or in the rear.

It’s potentially worth noting, despite very limited data, that in two recent course and distance races on good to soft ground no horse that was held up in the rear even reached the frame.

In this year’s renewal there are plenty of potential front runners and the pace seems fairly even across the track so on that score it should be a pretty fair contest.

The Distance

When recently analysing a 6.5f race at Doncaster  a trend emerged that recent winners tended to be 6f horses, with 7f specialists almost always finding it too sharp a test.

This race is contested by a mixture of milers and ten furlong performers - is there a bias towards speed or stamina?

Seven of the last ten winners of this race raced at a mile before taking this contest and five subsequently won a race over further. This seems to suggest this is slightly more of a speed contest than stamina contest (and you certainly don’t need to be proven over further than a mile) but having likely stamina for 10f or further would be a bonus.

Slightly more testing ground could have a say in this matter though. As previously mentioned, the 2017 renewal was run on good to soft ground.

The winner had his previous race at 10f and had a prior success at that distance.
The runner up had his previous race at 10f and had a prior success at that distance.
The 3rd had his previous race at 8f but had a prior success over 10f.
The 4th had never previously run over further than 8f.
The 5th had his previous race at 10f and had a prior success at that distance.

So on this occasion proven stamina seemed a big positive but one thing certainly worth noting is that the first four home that year in both the Cambridgeshire and the Silver version had all raced at a mile at least once that season so this isn’t a race for ten furlong specialists.

How Well Handicapped Do You Have To Be To Win This?

This is an important question to ask as plenty of these runners look pretty well handicapped. However if you generally need to have at least a stone in hand of your rating that will rule many of these out.

Last year’s winner, Lord North, is now rated 25lbs higher than when winning this. His stable mate, Wissahickon was rated 10lbs higher than his winning mark in this less than 6 months later.

2017 victor, Dolphin Vista, was rated a stone higher than his rating when winning this within 5 subsequent starts on the flat. Spark Plug, winner in 2016, went up 8lbs for his victory and never rated higher.

The winner in 2015, Third Time Lucky, wasn’t the most consistent but did subsequently rate 11lbs higher whilst Bronze Angel, who won this twice off marks of 95 and 99, also won handicaps later in his career off 104 and 105 with his rating going as high as 111.

Meanwhile Educate, the 2013 Cambridgeshire winner, went up 8lbs to a mark of 112 for his victory and although he never rated higher, he ran to that mark of 112 several times in the next year.

This goes to show that in most cases the winner was 8lb to 10lbs well in. If you can’t see your pick rating that much higher than his current rating then he’s probably running for place money at best.

And on the subject of the official ratings, it can also pay to see what sort of rating does well in this race. You need to be well enough handicapped to win of course but you also need to be classy enough. This year there is 26lbs between the top weight and the bottom weight so a nice spread of ratings.

In the last 10 years the winners have been rated between 107 and 87 so that’s not going to rule many out this year for win purposes (just the top 3 rated horses, but two of those are quite well fancied). In fact no horse rated higher than Wissahickon’s 107 has even placed in the past decade.

Eight of the last ten winners have been rated 95 or higher which would rule out the bottom thirteen horses as likely winners. Just thirteen of the last forty placed horses were rated lower than 95 too. Eighteen placed runners have been rated between 95 and 100 inclusive and only eight runners this year represent that band. Meanwhile only eight placed horses were rated 101 or higher and seven horses are rated above 100 this year. Despite that relatively poor record for those higher up in the weights, in eight of the last ten years at least one horse rated 101 or higher has made the first four.

Half of the last ten winners have been rated between just 95 and 99 and only six runners (less than a quarter of the runners) this year fit into those ratings.

Cambridgeshire Odds

I’m not a fan of stats such as “only one winning favourite in the past ten years” as a runner doesn’t have less of a chance to win just because they’ve been backed from second favouritism into favouritism, and horses certainly don't know their odds.

However there is some mileage in looking at bands of prices that tend to do well as it shows if the results tend to be reflected in the previous form book or not.

The fact that eight of the last ten winners were priced up at 14/1 or lower goes to show that there aren’t many great shocks in this race. Now a runner currently priced up at 25/1 could end up winning at 14/1 tomorrow so not looking at anything above 14s would be counter-productive but it’s definitely something to consider with more than half the field likely to start at a bigger price.

The 2020 Cambridgeshire Field

So for place purposes it’s difficult to rule runners out based on draw, running style, stamina or official rating. However those who have raced at a mile at least once this season and those who are rated 100 or lower should largely be favoured, as should those drawn higher rather than lower.

For win purposes, we are likely looking for a runner:

Likely to have at least 8lbs in hand of official rating
Has run at a mile this season
Preferably races in mid division
Preferably drawn middle to high
Starting price of 14/1 or less

And those rated between 95 and 99 should certainly be very much considered.

So let’s look at the main contenders:

Tempus

He's won both starts this year (at a mile) and seemed to have improved for his seasonal reappearance last time out. He’s been consistently strong at the finish over a mile, will handle the ground fine and is 3lbs well in under his penalty. Looks the proverbial ‘group horse in a handicap’ and appears to have a nice draw in 23.

If you were picking holes in his form you could say he hasn’t beaten anything this year (nine beaten runners in his last two races haven’t placed between them since) but it’s not his fault he hasn’t raced against better horses and his tactical versatility could be an asset in this.

Sinjaari

Won the John Smith’s Cup in good style on his seasonal debut and unraced since (withdrawn twice because of soft ground). The ground is unlikely to be completely ideal here and he doesn’t look likely to be well served by the drop in trip either (tried several times over further than 10f last season). Stall 6 probably a slight negative too and likely to be given plenty to do. The form of his win this season does look strong though.

Ilaraab

Likely to be the shortest priced runner from the classic generation, who have won three of the last five renewals of this. Another of those ‘group horses in a handicap’ having won four on the trot including a mile novice win. It’s difficult to gauge the strength of his form but he did give 7lbs and a length beating to Spirit Dancer a few starts back and that horse has gone close in a handicap off 83 since so you can’t really argue he’s badly handicapped here off 94. Impossible to rule out completely.

Derevo

He’s looked primed to win a decent handicap this season but things haven’t quite worked out for him. This drop in trip in a big field should suit but he hasn’t raced at a mile this season and the ground has probably gone ever so slightly against him. The draw in stall 11 perhaps isn’t brilliant too so he might have to wait a bit longer for his first win in over a year.

Bell Rock

He appears to have been saved for this since finishing 3rd in a good handicap at Glorious Goodwood. That was his first run over 10f and he appeared to stay fine but he also has good form over a mile this season, notably when 6th in the Royal Hunt Cup from a poor draw. This 9f trip might be absolutely ideal for him but he’s been well enough beaten twice from this mark and doesn’t appeal as one who necessarily has 8lbs or more in hand despite relatively low mileage still.

Montatham

He's been a revelation this season since gelded, winning four of his six starts and not finishing out of the first 2. He won a very strong handicap two starts ago off 104 but had his limitations slightly exposed last time out at listed level and now finds himself racing off 109. He would have been beaten in his last couple of handicap wins in another stride or two so the step up in distance is a slight concern, as is stall 2.

Sir Busker

A real credit to connections and a horse I have a soft spot for having followed him since he was rated 77 last year. No one would have thought this horse would be a leading contender in the Cambridgeshire off 111 but that’s a testament to how much he has improved this season. He’s still capable of rating higher than 111, especially with cut in the ground, and he’ll adore this big field. However his last to first tactics won’t be easy to pull off here and stall 3 isn’t ideal so he’s reluctantly passed over. I’d take him in a match bet against Montatham though!

Certain Lad

This horse seems to keep on improving and he was a slightly surprise winner of a Group 3 last time out. This is a monumental ask off a mark of 112 though and he’s another with a draw lower than ideal in 8.

Fifth Position

This horse still looks well handicapped on several pieces of form this season, including his mile run at Newcastle in June and his John Smith’s Cup effort in July. He’ll enjoy the little bit of dig in the ground but he’s looked like he needs to go up in trip rather than back in trip this season. He may well run creditably and can still rate a fair bit higher than 104 but perhaps something like the November Handicap will be more his cup of tea.

Al Rufaa

Gosden and Dettori have won this for the past two years but this looks like a bit of an afterthought for Al Rufaa who has been exclusively campaigned at 7f. It’s difficult to see him staying and he was below par on softer ground last time out so a win in this would be a slight shock.

Lucander

A really interesting contender and one who looks overpriced. Well drawn in 27 and representing the 3yos who do well in this, he’s open to improvement after just eight starts and he brings big field handicap form into this. He won with a bit in hand last time out over 1.5f further on soft ground but was competitive earlier in the season over a mile when 3rd to Strait Of Hormuz.  That winner is now 13lbs higher, the runner up is 18lbs higher and the 4th is 17lbs higher. Lucander is only 9lbs higher than his 3rd over a mile and 4lbs higher than his recent win.

He’s likely to be held up in midfield which is fine and the only negative seems to be an inexplicably poor run at Newmarket’s July course this summer. His best form, and most his runs, have come on flatter tracks but that’s just a niggling worry more than anything.

One at a Bigger Price

Most of those at the bigger prices need to prove themselves in conditions or bounce back from poorer runs. One runner who seems to have been a little underestimated is John Berry’s Kryptos.

Before missing almost 3 years of racing he was beating the likes of Mountain Angel off almost level weights by 5 lengths. Mountain Angel went on to rate 113 yet Kryptos is still rated just 89. Since his return from injury his form has been a bit in and out, and certainly not to his pre-injury best, but there are signs he’s ready to strike. The most notable of those signs was two runs ago when his stamina was stretched at 10.5f, admittedly at Chester which isn’t the most stamina sapping of tracks. He was 3rd and the winner has since gone within a short head of winning again, the runner up has won a big handicap, the 4th has won since and the 5th has been an unlucky loser. He’s drawn in stall 4 which is probably a negative and this is probably too hot company but don’t be surprised to see him outrun his odds of 50/1 here and pop up at a big price before the season is out. One for the tracker at least.

Verdict

It would be no surprise if any of those near the head of the market were to triumph here, especially Tempus who appears to have untapped potential going up in trip (lots of stamina on the dam’s side). However he’s the favourite in a 29 runner race and still hasn’t seemingly beaten much in terms of well handicapped runners.

So at more than twice the price it is Lucander who appeals most. Not only does he bring a nice profile into the race and the scalps of some well handicapped rivals, he also seems to fit the bill of many previous winners perfectly. He’s almost certainly still got at least 8lbs improvement in him, he’s run well at a mile this season, he’s likely to race in mid division, he's drawn middle to high, he’s probably going to go off around 14/1 or shorter (currently priced up at 18/1 and 16/1 with most bookies) and he’s currently rated 98 which is just about the perfect sweet spot as far as ratings are concerned. Assuming he's fine at the track he should run very well.