## NH Jockey Profiles: Creating Ratings

This is the last article in my series on jockeys and, to close, I have decided to do something slightly different, writes Dave Renham. For this piece I have been number crunching using Excel and reviewing all UK National Hunt Racing results going back to the beginning of 2019.

My plan? To try to evaluate jockey performance in a different way compared with more standard horse racing approaches. The idea is relatively simple: I am going to compare a jockey’s finishing position with their market position. It will be easier to give an example so let us imagine the following set of ten results:

Using these ten results I add up both columns to compare the market position total to the finishing position total. Adding up the market positions (1 + 1 + 2 + 2 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 4 + 4 + 7) we get a total of 30. The finishing positions equal 50 (1 + 3 + 4 + 8 + 1 + 6 + 5 + 3 + 8 + 11) when added up.

Hence the jockey in this imaginary example has arguably performed below expectations as the total of finishing positions is higher than the total of market positions. Now my idea is to give this overall performance a numerical figure by dividing the market position total by finishing position total. In this case we would get a performance rating of 0.60 (30 divided by 50).

I soon realised, though, that I had an issue with non-completions: horses that fell, unseated, were brought down, or pulled up. I decided it made sense to group all such horses giving them a position in last place. Doing it this way each jockey would be affected in the same way creating as level a playing field as I could. Whether this is the ‘ideal’ I am not sure, but it made the most sense to me.

So let’s start by looking at the 20 jockeys with the highest performance ratings. To qualify each needed to have at least 300 rides during the five-year period.

In general, this list contains lesser-known jockeys most of which actually have quite a poor win record. This is illustrated in the table below which shows their overall record in terms of strike rate / returns:

The question that springs to mind, then, is why are these jockeys producing the highest ratings? I believe there are two things in play here. Firstly, if we look at the majority of their each way percentages, they are higher than one might expect given their respective win percentages. John Kington is an excellent example of this with his each way percentage roughly five times higher than his win percentage. As a general rule in racing, the each way percentage is around 2½ times bigger than the win percentage.

And secondly, most of these jockeys normally ride outsiders, and if you are riding the outsider in a field of 10, any result other than 10th will give you a performance rating of greater than 1.00. Clearly, for shorter priced horses that are at the top end of the betting market, it is harder for those to beat their market rank with their finishing position. Indeed, favourites are unable to beat their finishing position – they can only match it should they win, or fall behind it.

I decided therefore that it would be a better idea to create jockey performance ratings within different Starting Price brackets, which would produce a more level playing field. The price brackets I chose to focus on, which granted were somewhat arbitrary, were: 3/1 or shorter, 100/30 to 5/1, and 11/2 to 8/1.

3/1 or shorter – let’s consider the shortest price bracket first. I have used a minimum of 50 rides and here are the top performing jockeys in terms of my performance ratings model. Overall, the ratings within this price bracket will look relatively low, for the reasons I mentioned earlier:

It is interesting (and pleasing) to see Charlotte Jones topping the list – she was discussed positively in the two most recent articles in the series. Her record reads a hugely impressive 28 winners from 51 (SR 54.9%) for an SP profit of £28.18 (ROI +55.3%). Also, as the graph clearly shows, she and Theo Gillard are well clear of the rest of the top ten.

I also want to share the ratings of the main jockeys who have appeared in this jockey series as well as some others I’ve mentioned along the way:

It is surprising perhaps to see de Boinville with the poorest rating with these well fancied runners. However, I did some digging, and he pulls up these shorter priced runners much more often than the average jockey (5.6% compared 3.5%). Hence, this looks the most likely reason why he is a significant amount below the rest.

100/30 to 5/1 – now a look at the middle price bracket. Again, here are top ten jockeys in terms of my performance ratings:

Patrick Wadge tops the list and by a comfortable margin in relative terms. It should come as no surprise therefore that he has been profitable with these runners to the tune of 31 pence in the £ to SP, 45p in the £ to BSP. Specifically, he has had 57 runners of which 15 won (SR 26.3%). Fergus Gillard has also proved nicely profitable thanks to his 26 winners from 104 rides (SR 25%). Profits to SP stand at +£28.65 (ROI +27.6%); to BSP +£38.54 (ROI +37.1%).

Now at look at the ‘main’ jockeys again – McMenamin featured in the top ten above so is not included again – he would have led this list and by a comfortable margin:

Again, we can see that Nico de Boinville is clear at the bottom. His strike rate with these runners has been 14.8%, with SP losses of over 28 pence in the £. Compare that with the average figures for all jockeys where the strike rate is 17.2% and losses are only at 12p in the £.

11/2 to 8/1 – onto the final price bracket into which we will look in detail. Once more I have collated the jockeys with the top ten ratings:

Two ladies top the list, with Charlotte Jones appearing again, this time in second place, and once again she has proved profitable to the tune of 19p in the £. Tabitha Worsley tops the pile, though, with an impressive 1.04 figure.

The shame for Tabitha Worsley is that she gets limited opportunities on better horses. 65% of her rides in the past five seasons have been on horses priced 16/1 or bigger; 44% have been 33/1 or bigger. If we consider her overall record on horses from the top three in the betting, they have essentially broken even to SP and, to BSP, have seen returns of 12p in the £.

A look now at the ‘main’ jockeys with horses priced 11/2 to 8/1:

It’s a familiar story for Nico de Boinville, whose allegiance with Nicky Henderson means almost everything he rides is over-bet; while Danny McMenamin again tops the list, continuing his decent ratings performance across the board.

Higher prices - I did briefly look at other price brackets and here are a few headlines:

For horses priced 17/2 to 11/1, once again two female jockeys had the highest ratings – Emma Smith-Chaston was top with 1.15, while Lilly Pinchin was second with 1.14. Danny McMenamin scored well again, with 1.02, topping the main group of jockeys. Nico de Boinville was not bottom of the main group this time with his score of 0.83; that dubious accolade went to Harry Cobden who was on 0.82.

Looking at the 12/1 to 18/1 bracket Paddy Brennan was third out of all the jockeys with an excellent 1.21 rating. Meanwhile, de Boinville was second worst out of ALL jockeys with a figure of 0.92. In the 20/1+ group, Tabitha Worsley and Danny McMenamin both appeared again in the top ten scoring 1.23 and 1.22 respectively.

It seems abundantly clear from these figures that Nico is hugely over-bet by the wagering public and Danny McMenamin is still vastly under-rated.

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This article has hopefully fuelled some food for thought amongst readers. In order to make money at horse racing one needs to have an edge over the ‘crowd’. Ideas like these performance ratings have the potential to give us that edge.

While I am not remotely suggesting that these numbers are the holy grail of jockey ratings, what I am clear about is that if we don’t test out new theories or ideas, we are probably going to bet in very similar ways to everyone else. That is unlikely to give us the long-term edge most punters dream of.

Before I finish, this type of idea could be used to create horse performance ratings or trainer performances ratings, too. I might look into either or both in a future piece.

- DR