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Running Well Against a Pace Bias, Part 2

In the first half of this two-parter, I started to look at something I term as ‘negative pace bias’, writes Dave Renham. The basic idea is to find races where there seems to have been a strong pace bias with a view to highlighting horses that have run well against it. I mentioned last time that one can never be 100 per cent certain whether there has actually been a pace bias in a race or not but, generally speaking, one is going to be right many more times than one is wrong.

To recap, there are two ways a pace bias could play out. Firstly, races where horses close to the pace from the start dominate: here we are looking for any hold up horse that has run well. And secondly, one where hold up horses end up fighting out the finish, in which case we look for prominent racers or race leaders that have run well.

As before, I have looked at bigger field – races of 15 or more runners – from UK turf flat and all-weather racing in 2020. In the first piece I looked in detail at five races and the subsequent form of highlighted runners; in this one I will look at another quintet of big field negative pace bias races.

Continuing in chronological order, and starting on 4th July, with the Derby.

 

RACE 6 - 4th July – 4:55 Epsom

One of the most iconic races of the year, the Investec Derby showed a strong pace bias this year as the result and race comments below imply:

 

This was an extraordinary race where the early leader, Serpentine, just gradually increased his lead in the final mile until he was over ten lengths clear with three furlongs to go. He basically slipped the field, and it was a triumph of pace setting by jockey Emmet McNamara.

What was equally remarkable was that the first three horses home stayed in those positions for most of the race. Not only that, all three were huge prices which, for me, strengthens my belief that there was a bias that day for those who raced close to or up with the pace.

Also don’t be fooled by the words ‘held up’ in Kameko’s in running comments, because as it says he was ‘held up behind leaders’ and for virtually the whole race he was positioned in 4th or 5th.

English King and Mogul did best of those who ran midfield for the first part of the race and they are the horses that seemed to have run best in terms of performing against the bias.

In English King’s next run on 30th July at Goodwood he finished 4th, but can you guess who won that race? Yes, it was Mogul, who scored at a decent enough price of 9/2. English King has run once more since, finishing 6th at Longchamp, while Mogul finished 3rd at York before scoring another victory at Longchamp in September (price 6/1). All in all, another good outcome for the approach.

 

RACE 7 - 5th July – 3:15 Haydock

For the next race we travel north to Haydock a day after the Derby. The Old Newton Cup is a decent Class 2 handicap, which this year strongly favoured horses coming from off the pace as you can see from the following race comments.

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Seven of the first eight raced midfield or in rear early and only The Trader, who finished third, was close to the pace. Therefore, The Trader is the horse to take out of the race on the negative pace bias angle. He has run twice since, finishing 3rd at Ripon and then 4th at Newcastle. No future win yet but the Ripon race result with the comments are definitely worth sharing:

 

As we can see, the jockey on The Trader dropped his rein a furlong out. Not only that, he also got his whip tangled up. I think we could legitimately argue that he should have won that race, but for those two unfortunate incidents. Even with that happening he was only beaten by a neck and a neck.

 

RACE 8 - 8th July – 8:40 Newbury

Newbury next and a long distance handicap.

 

In this race, six of the first seven home came from off the pace with only Tralee Hills in 4th racing prominently. Clearly, Tralee Hills was the horse to take out of this one. He has run four times since with his results shown below:

 

As we can see he has not made the frame subsequently in four starts and in truth all runs have been relatively poor. Initially I thought it was interesting that Tralee Hills had been ‘held up’ in all starts since when trying to look for potential reasons or excuses. However, looking at his career record, he has actually raced close to the pace in just three of his 25 starts. The remaining 22 saw him positioned midfield or in rear early. If I had the opportunity to speak to his trainer, I might point out that racing prominently is a running style that may in fact suit his horse!

Over both articles, this is the first race of the eight I have looked at where, to date, the follow up results have shown no positivity. This highlights, of course, that no method or angle is fool proof, as I have indicated many times in the past.

 

RACE 9 - 17th July – 12:35 Beverley

A class 6 5f sprint handicap is next on the agenda with the first two, and the fourth home returning big odds.

 

As the comments indicate, six of first eight home raced rear (four) or mid-pack (two). Pivotal Art, who raced close up and finished 3rd, has only raced once since when well beaten into 10th on the all-weather. The sixth horse home, Newgate Angel, who had led until the final furlong returned to the same course and distance on 12th August. In a slightly weaker contest, he proved that the previous run had indeed been a good one, by winning relatively cosily at odds of 7/1 (result below).

 

It is interesting to note that Newgate Angel was drawn in stall one on both occasions, a favourable box for a front-runner at Beverley – when getting the run of the race.

 

RACE 10 - 17th July – 3:40 Beverley

The final race in review is a race later on the card that same day at Beverley. This time it was a 1m2f handicap.

 

This was another race where the pace setters struggled with five of first seven home held up out the back early on. The two horses to buck the trend were Ideal Candy in 3rd and Motahassen who finished 5th. After watching a video of the race I had a slight preference for the latter even though he finished two places behind Ideal Candy. My reasoning was that Motahassen raced a little wide early but despite this soon took up a position in 3rd. By halfway he was still close up in 5th and then in the straight he did not take a particularly direct line, veering and changing direction a couple of times.

Since this race, Ideal Candy has run poorly on five occasions with a best finishing position of 6th. Motahassen has fared better finishing 3rd next time before winning at the fourth time of asking at Redcar in October.

Whether one would have stuck with him for four runs is another question. However, if you did, you would have been rewarded with excellent winning odds of 12/1.

 

The five races in this sample have not been as ‘successful’ as the first five but, having said that, I believe over the ten races the angle has produced an impressive set of future results.

**

Putting ‘Negative Pace Bias’ to work for you

If you want to check out other races for yourself, you can do this through Query Tool on Geegeez, using the following step by step method:

  1. Select 2020, UK, flat turf, flat AW, 15+ runners
  2. Go to Qualifiers tab and sort by position (this is in order to get the race winners)
  3. Click on the winner to go the race result
  4. Select 'Comments' to view the in-running comments
  5. Note any positive efforts against a bias
  6. Go to back to number 3 and repeat the process.

 

Step 1 is something that can be tinkered with – those were just the parameters I chose. I have yet to check Irish races, but the same principle should apply so you could add that if you wish. Likewise, this method can be applied to National Hunt racing, too. Furthermore, you may want to limit races to handicaps only, as I would guess they work better in general, and of course you could look at slightly smaller field sizes to include races with, say, 12 to 14 runners. I would be wary of going below ten runners, personally.

When choosing races that fit your ‘negative pace profile’, this becomes more down to the individual. I tend to look at the first six to eight finishers and look at the split between pace horses (leaders/prominent racers) versus non-pace horses (horses who raced midfield or rear). Even then, I have no hard and fast rules, but clearly there has to be an imbalance between the two.

To conclude, I continually ‘bang on’ about pace bias and how useful it can be for punters. I hope these two articles may have swayed any ‘remainers’ to switch their allegiance!

Running Well Against a Pace Bias, Part 1

As regular readers of Geegeez will know I have a particular interest with running styles / pace in a race, writes Dave Renham. I strongly believe it is an area that remains misunderstood by many and essentially dismissed as unimportant.

In this piece I am going to examine a way to use pace to find future betting opportunities, something I call ‘negative pace bias’. To that end, I have looked at big field races (15 or more runners) from UK flat racing in 2020. This includes all weather racing, although the vast majority have been on turf as four of the six UK all weather courses have field size limits of 14 or less. Races with larger fields were chosen simply because I thought it would be ­easier to spot a potential pace bias.

So how does one determine whether there has been a potential pace bias in a race or not? Before I attempt to answer that, please note the word ‘potential’: it is important to say that one can never be 100 per cent confident that there has actually been a pace bias in a race or not. However, I think it is possible to be reasonably sure in certain circumstances.

For example, if you are watching a race and the horses that dominate the race have all raced up with the pace from the start, then it can be assumed that there has been a pace bias towards more prominently ridden animals, and against hold up horses. A reverse pattern could emerge of course with the race finish fought out by hold-up horses with all those racing up with the pace fading out of contention. Even in those scenarios, this method is far from an exact science. What is when it comes to racing?

Also, naturally, I am writing this article retrospectively. However, I do use this angle with my own betting and some of the races highlighted are ones I noted at the time, certain horses from which I ended up following.

In order to be able to write this article I needed to go through all the qualifying races and see if either of the two pace bias angles occurred. The key idea from here was relatively simple and hopefully logical. Once a race had been found where there seems to have been a pace bias, I looked for any horse who seemed to have run well ‘against’ this bias. More about these horses shortly.

In terms of finding the races I used the race comments in the Geegeez results section. From there I then watched the race video online to ensure the race panned out as the comments had indicated. [You don’t necessarily have to do this, but I personally like to see the bias for real as it were].

Normally I would expect to find one horse that may stand out given the circumstances outlined above, occasionally there maybe be more, but rarely will there be more than two; after all, if there was, then there probably wasn’t a strong enough edge in the race.

To summarise, we are looking for horses that have probably run much better than their finishing position may have initially indicated. Once finding a horse in my research that fitted the criteria, I reviewed how it ran in the races that followed. The hope or even expectation of course was to a see a ‘win’ in the finishing position column soon afterwards; and the sooner the better. After all we are trying to find a method that produces future winners that we will bet on.

Back briefly to the ‘now’ as it were. If you find such an ‘eyecatcher’ horse, as punters we have the difficult decision regarding how long we go on backing it in the future. Do we back it ‘blind’ in the next race? If we do and it loses, do we back it a second time, a third, a fourth, etc until it wins? Because we need to realise that it might not win within the next three or four races, it might not even win again within the next ten or twenty. Do we instead back it any time it runs in the next 4-6 weeks? Do we look at future races on a case by case basis digging deeper before making a final decision whether this is the right time to back it?

Deciding upon the right approach is essentially impossible and is all down to individual preference. I guess the ‘results’ from this article may help shape a method – should you decide there is sufficient mileage in what follows. For the record, I personally make decisions on a race by race basis and each horse will remain on my ‘pace horses to follow list’ for three or four runs maximum. If and when a horse wins it is invariably removed from my list.

At this point it is worth mentioning that when I am testing new ideas for the first time, like this one, I am very systematic to begin with. This is because a rules-based approach is much quicker when all I want to do is to get a ‘feel’ for whether an idea shows merit. During any testing phase I check results in two ways. Firstly I focus simply on the next run to see if they would have returned a profit, and secondly I look at the next three runs but will STOP AT A WINNER (should there be one). This is a variant of the method Nick Mordin used in his iconic book ‘Winning Without Thinking’ where he used the next three runs regardless on various ‘systems’.

Now I won’t be able to examine every race in 2020 that ‘showed’ a pace bias along with its aftermath, otherwise the article would become more like a thesis! However, there is still be plenty here to get our teeth into. The following are in chronological order the first ten ‘pace biased’ races I found, in the hope that they offer a variety of future outcomes. There is a lot to look at so what follows are the first five of those ten races.

RACE 1 - 7th February 2020 – 4:35 Chelmsford

As you can see below this was a 15 runner class 6 handicap over 1 mile. Looking closely at the race comments, you will see that the first four finishers raced up with the pace, as did the fifth despite an awkward start. Horses 6th all the way down to 15th raced midfield or at the back. To me this race showed a very strong bias to horses that raced near the front.

Two horses catch my eye. Bird To Love who finished 6th and Zayriyan who finished 7th. These were the best of the midfield/held up runners with only a head separating the pair at the line. Both were around three lengths behind the winner. The 8th placed horse, Irish Times, was a further 2 lengths back and it makes sense to me to ignore that one.

Before discussing what happened next, this was not a race I noted at the time. I’m giving a bit away here by saying I’m wishing I had.

Both Bird To Love and Zayriyan raced again just under three weeks later. Amazingly they reappeared in the same race, again at Chelmsford, but this time over a quarter mile further. The result is shown below:

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Not only did they fill 1st and 2nd in their very next race, but there are two other things that also stand out. Firstly, look at the distance they beat the third by, over five lengths. Secondly look at the prices: if you had backed both at SP you would have made a 24-point profit. The straight forecast paid over 293/1, while the exacta returned a mouth-watering 514/1.

Of course, amazing outcomes like this are rare, very rare; and I’m gutted I missed it at the time. I doubt I would have been brave enough to have backed the 1-2, but I am fairly certain I would have backed both horses individually.

Before getting carried away, though, this type of result occurs extremely rarely; it just happens to be the first ‘qualifying’ race I found in 2020.

RACE 2 - 16th June – 4:40 Ascot

Royal Ascot often has big fields and this 19-runner race seemed to show a relatively strong held up pace bias. Four of the first five home and six of the first eight came from off the pace. The first eight horses with their comments are showed below:

Summer Moon did clear best of the prominent racers, hanging on for 3rd, so from a pace perspective he was arguably the horse to take out of the race. Land Of Oz was the next best of the ‘pace’ horses, finishing over five lengths further back in 6th. It still looks a decent enough effort considering it was a long distance slog, but Land Of Oz has not raced since. It will be interesting to see how he performs when he returns to the track.

Let’s now look at Summer Moon’s record including this race and subsequent ones:

As we can see next time out he ran a shocker at Sandown although to be fair he had gone up in class to a Group 3. Back in handicap company he came 8th next time, beaten five lengths, before winning at York at the rewarding odds of 18/1. For the record, this horse did appear on my radar after the Ascot run, but after his Sandown flop I unwisely crossed him off my list of horses to follow: a frustrating outcome for me considering he won within three races at such good odds.

RACE 3 - 17th June – 2:25 Ascot

The following day another Royal Ascot race again showed what seemed like a hold up bias:

Although the winner raced close to the pace, as did the 5th, they were the only two from the first 11 runners home that did. The remaining nine came from off the pace. Horses that win despite a bias are still horses to be interested in. Now, of course, if they won a handicap they are going to go up in the weights, which potentially makes winning more difficult in the near future. However, they still should be of interest as we know horses in form can run up winning sequences, and we also know – or believe – that the horse overcame a pace bias to win. In this case, the winner Hukum stepped up to a Group 3 next time at Newbury (15th Aug) and continued the winning thread at odds of 4/1.

Arthurian Fable, the horse who finished 5th, went on to win a handicap two races later as shown:

All in all, this Ascot race worked out extremely well from a negative pace bias perspective.

 

RACE 4 - 18th June – 2:25 Ascot

The Britannia, a mile handicap at Ascot for 3yos only, is the next race I found. Big field handicaps over Ascot’s straight mile traditionally tend to favour horses from off the pace and even more so on softer ground. The Pace Analyser shows how the strong the hold-up bias has been since 2009 on soft/heavy ground in 1m handicaps (albeit from a small sample):

This race was no exception and conformed to the hold-up pattern. The winner won extremely impressively having been way off the pace early, but both Finest Sound (2nd) and Overwrite (6th) appeared to be ‘negative pace’ horses to note the race. The first seven home and their race comments are shown below:

Let’s look at the subsequent runs of Finest Sound and Overwrite. First Finest Sound:

To date just two more runs; a decent third next time out at Newmarket before a poor run at York. Meanwhile, Overwrite returned to the track 10 days later at Windsor winning a class 2 handicap:

The price of 11/5 was perhaps a bit disappointing given he was 40/1 when 6th at Ascot, but this race again highlights that following horses that have run against a pace bias have the potential to win soon afterwards.

RACE 5 - 20th June – 4:10 Ascot

One of the big handicap sprints of the year, the Wokingham, provides the next example:

Five of the first seven finishers raced from off the pace which seems a common theme at the Royal meeting regardless of distance. Hey Jonesy however, made all the running to win which not only looks a fine effort in the context of this specific contest, but when looking back through the history of the race it becomes clear that leading from start to finish in the Wokingham is nigh on impossible: in the last 30 renewals of this big field cavalry charge (going back to 1991) no horse has previously led from start to finish. The closest was Selhurstpark Flyer back in 1998, who led the centre group that day but was not the overall leader until hitting the final furlong. Hence this seems an even better performance than it originally looks. However, all that glisters is not gold, and Hey Jonesy has been well beaten three times since his big day in June, as we can see:

In many ways, that’s a good outcome because it reminds us that all approaches are fallible, and that sensible staking and managing our expectations are pivotal mental attributes even when deploying a solid strategy.

Back to the Wokingham, and Stone Of Destiny, who finished 6th, is another horse that caught my eye having raced prominently. He was beaten less than two and half lengths. Although he was well beaten in his next two runs he then came 2nd before prevailing at 16/1 in another marquee event, the Portland Handicap at Doncaster.

The question all of us should be asking at this point is would we have followed Stone Of Destiny until this Doncaster run? It is back to that quandary again, being down to individual preference with no right or wrong answer. Here are two of the possible ways it could have gone:

  1. Stone Of Destiny having run two poor looking races in a row in his next two runs is discarded after race 2;
  2. After doing some post-race analysis you notice that six furlongs may be a bit of a stretch for this horse. Let me elaborate on the reasoning you may have used to reach this conclusion. In the actual race he was 2nd with just over half a furlong to go before fading slightly into 6th. That meant he had won just once in 12 attempts at the six-furlong distance with the sole win being on debut in a novice event. Overall, his five-furlong record was better with two wins from nine including a class 2 handicap win at Ascot in the summer of 2019. It looks that although potentially effective at 6f, those last 100 yards, especially on a stiff track like Ascot, are a few steps too far. Hence it would be likely that you would upgrade his Wokingham run for not only running well against a pace bias, but also potentially battling his own distance bias, too.

It is almost certain therefore you would have backed him at Ascot next time over 5f (11th July), a day on which he reared at the start which severely compromised his chance. Most people would immediately forgive that run if they’d seen it. His second subsequent run was at Goodwood in the Stewards’ Cup back over 6f (1st August). This is a much easier 6f so you may have backed him again hoping he would just get the trip, or you may have swerved.

He again ran well for about five furlongs before fading badly in the final eighth of a mile. Once again he had credible excuses. His 3rd run after the Wokingham was at Sandown back over 5f. This would probably have looked a great opportunity and indeed he ran very well, finishing 2nd.

So although three races in, Stone Of Destiny would still look like he is knocking at the door. You therefore decide to back him again next time dependent on conditions. The race as stated earlier was the Portland at Doncaster and although it says the distance is 6f on his race record (see above), it is actually 5f 140 yards. This equates to just over 5½ furlongs, though nearer six than five. You feel he is certainly worth a chance at this interim distance. He goes on to win as we know at 16/1. Happy days!

Both of those two scenarios could have emerged and I wouldn’t argue against anyone who chose either route. There are of course many other ways this could have played out and a good number of those I’m sure would have been logical as well.

*

So there we have it. Five races in and I have another five races to share and analyse in the second half.

All in all there have been some very positive signs for this method to date, albeit from an extremely small sample of races. Will the next five work as well? Honestly, I think it is highly unlikely that they will, and I certainly cannot envisage a similar outcome to the first race I looked at. But you never know. Let’s hope that we don’t draw a blank with the next five finding no future winners at all!

Also next time, I’ll show you how I researched this, and how you can find your own negative pace biases using the Geegeez toolkit.

- DR

 

Carlisle National Hunt Pace Bias

When discussing the word pace our primary focus is the initial pace in a race and the position horses take up early on, writes Dave Renham.

The running style of the horses is another way some pundits describe it. geegeez.co.uk includes a pace section (the Pace Analyser) where you may research this angle to your heart’s content.

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

For this article I am again concentrating on data going back to 2009 with races of eight or more runners. My main focus when looking at pace will be handicap races, but for National Hunt racing I do also look at some non-handicap data. CARLISLE is the course under scrutiny today.

The course is a little over a mile and a half in circumference and is considered to be a stiff, galloping track. The hurdle course is shown below:

 

As you can see there are three flights in both the back straight and the home straight.

The chase course has nine fences of which two are open-ditches.

The fences are considered to be fairly easy at Carlisle.

 

Carlisle Handicap Hurdle Pace Bias

They run over three main distances in hurdles races at Carlisle namely 2m 1f, 2m 4f, and and 3m 1f.

N.B. it should be noted that on Geegeez the 3m 1f trip comes under the 3m 2f (26 furlongs) bracket for research.

 

2 miles 1 furlong – here is the handicap hurdle breakdown (8+ runners):

 

There is a definite edge toward runners that race up with or close to the pace. Below shows a graphical comparison of the A/E values, which helps illustrate the pace bias visually.

 

1 - Held Up / 2 - Midfield / 3 - Prominent / 4 - Led

 

Interestingly, of the 12 front-running winners, 11 had raced prominently or had led on their most recent start.

In non-handicaps, however, the picture is less clear cut as we can see:

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Front runners do well again while hold up horses look at a severe disadvantage. However, horses that have raced midfield fared surprisingly well. This gives us a slightly confusing picture so it seems best to concentrate only on handicap races therefore from a pace perspective over this 2m 1f trip.

 

2 miles 4 furlongs – in the past few years they have raced half a furlong either side of 2m 4f (so 2m 3 ½f and 2m 4½f) so I have lumped these similar trips together. Let’s examine the handicap hurdle breakdown (8+ runners):

 

A fairly level playing field here with no edge to any particular running style. Front runners though seem to have under-performed and it actually looks a disadvantage to lead early in such races.

Onto the non-handicap data:

 

In non-handicaps a pattern seems to emerge if we focus on the place percentages - they seem to suggest that in reality horses that race close to or up with the pace have had the advantage. The IV figures also suggest this, although the A/E values for hold up horses offers us conflicting evidence: they have won infrequently but occasionally popped up at a big price.

 

3 miles 1 furlong – at Carlisle there have been races of 3 miles ½ furlong up to 3 miles 1½ furlongs. On the Geegeez site you need to combine the 3 miles and 3 miles 2 furlong data to get all the relevant qualifying races. A look at the handicap data:

We see that hold up horses have the best record here – they have the best strike rate, too, which is rare, and by far the best A/E figure.

Below is a graphical representation comparing the A/E values for all pace scores across all distances:

 

1 - Held Up / 2 - Midfield / 3 - Prominent / 4 - Led

 

In general, we can see that in handicap hurdle races at Carlisle, as the distance increases the front running bias at the shortest distance (2m 1f) becomes a hold up bias at the longest distance (3m 1f).

The figures for hold up horses (1 / blue bar), prominent racers (3 / grey bar) and leaders/front runners (4 / yellow bar) all correlate in terms of the switching of the pace bias as the distance increases; horses that race mid division (2 / orange bar) don’t quite fit the same pattern but that is largely due to a slightly skewed performance (in my opinion) at 2m4f.

Non-handicap races over this extended 3 mile trip are rare – just nine in total going back to 2009 and only three of those had eight or more runners. Hence the data set is far too small to analyse!

 

Carlisle Handicap Chase Pace Bias

Over the bigger obstacles at Carlisle they race at 2m, 2m 4f, 2m 5f, 3m and 3m 2f. I will lump the 2m 4f and 2m 5f data together to give a bigger data set. I am also going to look exclusively at handicap data as there are very few non-handicap races at any distance where eight or more runners have taken part.

 

2 miles – 27 qualifying two mile handicap chases, so a relatively small sample:

 

Despite the smallish sample we can be fairly confident that front runners have a strong edge here. The closer you race to the pace the better and prominent racers have a decent record too. Hold up horses have struggled, shown by the poor strike rate and very low A/E and IV figures.

 

2 miles 4 furlongs to 2 miles 5 furlongs – there have been a decent number of handicap chases with eight or more runners combining these distances (55 races). Here are the stats:

 

Front runners enjoy a clear advantage over this distance, too, with figures that are very similar to the two mile data set. Horses that race midfield or at the back early again struggle, although hold up horses perform marginally better than they did at the minimum distance.

It seems that the pace bias may accentuate as the ground softens. On soft or heavy going, front runners have won over 25% of the races with an A/E value of 1.94 (IV 2.48). On good to soft or faster, this drops to under 17%.

 

3 miles – they generally race at 3 miles ½ furlong. Here are the handicap chase data (8 + runners):

 

For the third distance in a row we can see a strong front running bias. Hold up horses actually perform around par which is a clear improvement when compared with the two shorter trips.

 

3 miles 2 furlongs – the final distance to examine for handicap chases with 8 or more runners:

Again front runners have a good record, as do prominent racers. Hold up horses perform extremely poorly which surprised me considering the data from three-mile races.

Let us now look at all the handicap chase pace data graphically in terms of A/E values.

 

1 - Held Up / 2 - Midfield / 3 - Prominent / 4 - Led

 

This graph once again compares each distance pictorially, and the yellow bar (leaders) is clearly best overall, and at each individual race distance. At three of the four distances the grey bar (prominent racers) is clear second best.

Carlisle, in terms of handicap chases, seems to have a reasonably strong pace bias across the board – there is significant value in handicap chases at Carlisle in front runners and to a lesser extent prominent racers.

*

Before closing, I want to share one more graph with you. This looks at the performance of prominent runners and leaders combined in terms of field size in handicap chases across all distances. I have noticed before that quite often a pace bias gets stronger as the number of runners increase. That again seems the case here. I have plotted both A/E and IV figures to illustrate this:

 

 

As can be seen there is a steady rise in performance from smaller fields (8 to 9 runners) through to bigger fields (12+ runners).

 

Carlisle National Hunt Handicap Pace Bias Summary

To conclude, handicap chases offer the pace punter the biggest edge at Carlisle. In hurdle races the picture is less cut and dried, although there is definitely a front running bias in handicap hurdles at the shortest range, while over 3m 1f hold up horses fare best in the handicap sphere.

Newton Abbot Pace Bias

As we move into the Autumn it is time to switch attention to pace angles and biases in National Hunt racing and specifically at individual National Hunt courses, writes Dave Renham.

As I have noted many times before, when I talk about pace my main focus is the initial pace in a race and the position horses take up early on. The racecards on this site have a pace map for each race, as well as a tool to research pace bias, and the stats I am sharing with you in this article are based on the site’s pace data.

The pace data on Geegeez are split into four groups – Led (4), Prominent (3), Mid Division (2) and Held Up (1). The number in brackets is the pace score assigned to each group.

For this article I am concentrating on data going back to 2009 and, unless otherwise stated, on races of eight or more runners. Again the main focus will be handicap races, but often I will dip into non-handicap data too. Newton Abbot is the first course to be coming under the spotlight.

The course is a tight 1m2f oval with longish straights and is considered to be sharp in nature. The hurdle course has five obstacles, two of them in the home straight. One of the five hurdles is jumped on the first circuit only:

 

The chase course has seven fences with three flights quite close together in the back straight and 2 further flights in the home straight.

 

Newton Abbot Hurdle Pace Bias

They race at four distances over hurdles at Newton Abbot: 2m 1f, 2m 2½f, 2m 5½f and 3m 2½f.

Our first port of call is the shortest of the four distances.

Newton Abbot 2 miles 1 furlong Handicap Hurdle Pace Bias

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

We have a level playing field here: hold up horses (the '1' group) are a slight disadvantage, but it is relatively minor.

 

Newton Abbot 2 miles 1 furlong Non-Handicap Hurdle Pace Bias

In non-handicaps the picture is slightly different as we can see:

Front runners have a much better record in terms of win percentage and Impact Value, but before we get too carried away the A/E values across the board suggest there is no real value in front runners. This is because generally such races are less competitive and often those at the front tend to be the more fancied runners. This simple graph shows a pictorial comparison of A/E values in non-handicap races. The pace values are on the horizontal axis.

 

 

I have looked in more detail at these non-handicap races in terms of ground conditions. When the going is fast (good to firm or firmer) things look like this:

 

There are only 19 races in the sample but there emerges a pace bias, with front runners clearly doing best. Prominent racers have a reasonably good record also, while horses positioned mid-division or held up early seem to struggle. Despite the sample size being small, there is good correlation between the SR%s, EW%s, A/E and IV figures which gives me more confidence in the hypothesis.

When we look at the data on softer ground (good to soft or softer) the picture is quite different:

We have 25 races with softer underfoot conditions and it points to the complete reverse of the fast ground output. The bar chart below offers a pictorial comparison of the A/E values. The blue bars represent firmer ground, the orange softer ground.

 

In summary, the most interesting pace angle in non-handicap hurdles at 2m1f seems to be connected with the going. Firmer ground seems to favour pace horses; softer ground seems to favour horses that are patiently ridden, more especially those that race midfield (though the place percentages mean the softer ground arena is less concrete).

 

Newton Abbot 2 miles furlongs Handicap Hurdle Pace Bias

It should be noted that when analysing this trip on Geegeez using either the Pace Analyser or the Query Tool, you need to set the distance parameters to 2m2f to 2m4f. This is because within those tools races beyond two miles are grouped together in quarter mile distance brackets.

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

 

As with the minimum distance handicap hurdles, we see a fairly even spread of run styles with no edge to any particular group.

 

Newton Abbot 2 miles furlongs Non-Handicap Hurdle Pace Bias

In non-handicaps the pattern is similar with no clear edge to any pace section; however, hold up horses have really struggled as the table below shows:

 

A 2.1% strike rate for hold horses with a very low A/E value of 0.35 suggests we want to avoid these runners at all costs. The place percentage is also well below other run style groups.

 

Newton Abbot 2 miles 5½ furlongs Handicap Hurdle Pace Bias

There have been 113 races over this trip since 2009, so this represents the biggest sample to date:

 

A bigger sample and a very consistent set of results: the A/E values range between 0.81 to 0.87, while the strike rates - both win and place - are similar also. There is little to report then pace wise, although when the going gets soft or heavy, (which is rare at Newton Abbot as the vast majority of their meetings are run between April and September), hold up horses have won 6 of the 14 races.   

 

Newton Abbot 2 miles 5½ furlongs Non-Handicap Hurdle Pace Bias

Non-handicap races over this trip are less prevalent (49 in total) and here are the pace stats:

 

In such races there seems to be a slight edge for front runners, but it is not a potentially profitable angle. Those coming from the latter half of the field have a poor record which, as previously stated, may be at least in part to do with a relative ability limit.

 

Newton Abbot 3 miles 2½ furlongs Handicap Hurdle Pace Bias

On to the longest distance for hurdle races at Newton Abbot and at this range there have been just handicap races (48 with 8+ runners in total). Again due to the use of distance range brackets when looking on Geegeez you need to select races of between 3m2f and 3m4f to catch all the qualifying races:

 

At this longer trip, front runners have a clear edge and you would have made a small profit if backing them blindly at SP. The A/E value of 1.3 is a decent one, although we need to be slightly careful as the place percentage is less impressive/consistent.

 

Newton Abbot Hurdle Pace Bias: Summary

At Newton Abbot over hurdles you generally have to dig a little bit to find pace angles. In my opinion these are the four most promising:

  1. In non-handicap hurdle races over 2m1f, front runners have the advantage on good to firm or firmer going.
  2. In non-handicap hurdle races over 2m1f, horses coming from off the pace have the advantage on good to soft or softer ground, more especially those that race mid division.
  3. In non-handicap hurdle races over 2m2½f, horses that are held up are at a big disadvantage.
  4. In handicap hurdle races over 3m2½f, front runners have a solid advantage.

 

Newton Abbot Chase Pace Bias

They run over three distances the shortest of which is just more than two miles:

Newton Abbot 2 miles ½ furlong Handicap Chase Pace Bias

There are not many races in total but here is the breakdown for handicap races with 8 or more runners:

 

From this small data set it appears that horses that race up with or close to the pace have an edge. This is a common trend across most courses for handicap races over a shorter distance. Hold up horses have a very poor record  with a win strike rate of just 3.45% and an A/E of just 0.28).

Before moving on I thought it would be interesting to compare the A/E values in 2m1f handicap hurdle races with 2m ½f handicap chases. The blue bars are handicap hurdle, orange are handicap chases:

 

The upward sloping nature of the orange bars helps to illustrate the much stronger pace bias that  exists to front runners in handicap chases than hurdlers at this shorter distance.

At Newton Abbot, handicap races over this distance often see smaller fields so below are the handicap data for seven runner or less handicaps too.

 

We see a similar trend here, though the pace edge is not as strong in races with fewer runners.

 

Newton Abbot 2 miles ½ furlong Non-Handicap Chase Pace Bias

In terms of non-handicaps at this distance there have only been 2 races with 8 or more runners. Instead, below are the data for 7 runner or less races:

 

Front runners enjoy a strong edge here and have proved profitable to follow. Of course, as mentioned elsewhere previously, predicting the front runner is not an exact science so making blind profits from front runners is not as straight forward as first appears.

 

Newton Abbot 2 miles 5 furlong Handicap Chase Pace Bias

A decent number of handicap chases have been run with 8 or more runners at this distance since 2009. Here are the stats:

 

An edge again exists for horses that race up with or close to the pace. Hold up horses have a poor record again and l would steer clear of horses that have tended to rate further back in recent races.

 

Newton Abbot 2 miles 5 furlong Non-Handicap Chase Pace Bias

As with the shorter distance there have been a limited number of non-handicap chases at 2m 5f so I have lumped all the data together without the usual field size threshold:

 

Front runners have a fairly good record, but when looking at the A/E values things seem relatively even across the board.

 

Newton Abbot 3 miles 2 furlong Handicap Chase Pace Bias

The longest trip at Newton Abbot now (8 + runners / handicap chases):

Front runners and those racing prominently have the clear advantage at this distance and, in general, you want to be handy. There is a good correlation across win and place strike rates, profitability, A/E and IV values.

All 11 wins from front runners have occurred in races on good going or faster and the bias is clearly stronger on better going. The A/E value for front runners confirm the strengthening of the bias as it stands at a very impressive 1.87 on quicker turf.

 

Newton Abbot 3 miles 2 furlong Non-Handicap Chase Pace Bias

For non-handicap races there have been only eight races with 8 or more runners so I will again look at all non-handicap races at this distance, without the field size restriction:

28 of the 30 races (93.3%) have been won by horses that raced close to or up with the pace. However, it should be noted that these runners have provided just under 70% of all the runners. All in all though it looks far more preferable to lead early or race prominently.

 

Newton Abbot Chase Pace Bias: Summary

For chase races at Newton Abbot the four strongest findings pace wise are:

  1. In handicap chases over 2m½f, front runners have a fair edge, while hold up horses are at a big disadvantage.
  2. In non-handicap chases over 2m½f (all races – no restriction on number of runners), front runners have enjoyed a strong edge.
  3. In handicap races over 3m2f, front runners enjoy an advantage and in general the closer to the pace the better.
  4. In non-handicap chases over 3m2f (all races – no restriction on number of runners), being up with or close to the pace bestows an advantage.

 

Some Context for the Newton Abbot Pace Bias Data

What is seen when researching pace in National Hunt racing is that there is normally a stronger front-running pace bias in chases when compared to hurdles. This is the case here at Newton Abbot.

Before I finish, stats in isolation - for example, just one racecourse - often benefit from the painting of a bigger picture. In this case, it is  useful to know where Newton Abbot’s figure sit in relation to all UK courses.

Below is a graph which compares the A/E values for for front-runners in handicap chases at Newton Abbot against the overall front-runner A/E averages at all UK chase courses. The three distances are compared in the same graph:

 

As we can see Newton Abbot’s figures for the shorter and longer distance are around the average figure for all UK courses. The 2m5f trip, however, shows front runners perform below average at the South Devon track.

I have also compared the each-way strike rate figures between Newton Abbot and all UK courses to help further build an overall picture. The A/E figures deal with winners and it is worth looking at all horses who have managed to win or be placed:

 

In term of win and place runners combined we can see that, over 3m2f, Newton Abbot front runners perform well above the UK average. Once again they perform notably below the average at 2m5f, while at 2m, they are marginally below the average.

As a pace biased course, Newton Abbot lies somewhere in the middle when compared to all courses in Britain. Despite it not having the strongest edges, this article has still highlighted a few angles worth keeping a close eye on.

Good luck when having a bet at the next Newton Abbot meeting.

- DR

 

The (Occasional) Influence of Draw

In today's video post, I've looked at the paucity of meaningful draw information on horse racing websites.

Naturally, geegeez.co.uk is an exception - in fact, I strongly believe we have the most detailed and user-configurable draw tool for British/Irish racing.

But as punters, we have to be careful around draw data, because much of it is half-baked or plain wrong.

Take a look at this short video...

 

 

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