Tag Archive for: pace in horse racing

Trainers and Run Style: Part 2

This is the second article in a series in which I will be looking at run style bias, writes Dave Renham. The first article was quite a general piece, although it did drill down into some of the key stats of three trainers – Eric Alston, Mark Johnston and Tom Dascombe. This follow up piece looks at success rates for trainers with front runners including breaking down the data by distance. Once again I have looked at the last eight full calendar years of data (1/1/14 to 31/12/21) including both turf and all weather racing in the UK. The focus is all race types (handicaps and non handicaps) and all distances, races with six or more runners.

Run style is all about the position a horse takes up early on in the race, normally within the first 100-200 yards. There are four basic positions a horse can adopt in a race and these are categorised on the Geegeez website as Led (4), Prominent (3), Mid Division (2) and Held Up (1). The number in brackets is the run style score that is assigned to each section.

Below is a basic breakdown of which type of horse fits which type of run style profile:

Led – horses that get to the front early or horses that dispute for the early lead often simply called (front runners);

Prominent – horses that race just behind the leader(s);

Mid Division – horses that race mid pack or just behind the mid-point;

Held up – horses that are held up at, or near the back of the field.

Run style is often linked with the word pace because the early pace shown by horses in a race determines their early position. Hence for many the words run style and pace are interchangeable.

On this site you can find plenty of run style data in both the Pace Analyser and the Query Tool. These can be found from the Tools tab anywhere on site. Additionally, each racecard has the last four run style/pace figures for each runner. Inexperienced horses may have less data as they may not have run four times.

Benchmarks: Overall strike rates for run style

To begin with I want to look at the average win percentage strike rates for all trainers / runners in terms of run style. In other words what percentage of front runners / early leaders win on average, what percentage of prominent runners win etc. Here is the breakdown:



These raw stats illustrate why run style is so important and why it staggers me that some trainers are clearly averse to sending out their runners to try and lead early.

Front runners do best at shorter distances as the graph below shows. (It should be noted that the small number of 6½f races, just 43 in total, were included in the 7f-1m data):



The advantage to front runners is very strong in sprints (5-6f) and quite potent at races up to a mile, also. The advantage is less pronounced over longer trips but those on the lead still win more often than any other of the overall run styles shown in the first chart (13.91% for leaders over 1m1f+ vs 12.3% for all prominent racers).

Data for hold up horses, as you may expect, shows the reverse. The longer the distance the more chance horses from the back of the field have of coming thorough to win:



Still, even the best strike rate for hold up horses is lower than those racing midfield overall, much lower than the prominent racer superset, and more than half as low as the early leader overall group. More materially, perhaps, the just better than 8% hit rate for hold up horses in 1m1f+ races compares highly unfavourably with the nigh on 14% rate for early leaders in the same races.


Best Front Runner Trainers: All Races

Moving on, let us look at the trainers who had the highest strike rates with their front runners in ALL races of 6+ runners (minimum 80 runs / top 30 trainers):


This table really knocks the eye out! There are some seriously impressive figures here with 14 trainers having strike rates of 25% or higher, five of them hitting 30%+.

The Win PL figures show how profitable front runners are, and that trying to find the best way of predicting them is something all punters should want to achieve.

Saeed Bin Suroor tops the list, and combining a front runner of his with a fancied runner is a potent combination as this table further illustrates:



As the table shows, bin Suroor front running favourites score nearly 54% of the time, while the top four in the betting all have good strike rates and would have produced excellent returns. Remember, all such returns shown on Geegeez are to SP. Using BOG and/or Betfair would see these figures looking even more impressive.

Best Front Runner Trainers: Non-handicap Races

Now let's drill down a level and look at the top trainer strike rates in non-handicap races only (minimum 60 runs / top 20 trainers):



There are few surprises here, with 18 of this top 20 having already appeared on the ‘All Races top 30’ list. Just David and Nicola Barron and Richard Fahey new names to the party.


Best Front Runner Trainers: Handicap Races

Onto the top 20 trainers in terms of front running strike rates in handicaps only (minimum 70 runs) and the key players are as follows:



Here we see slightly lower strike rates, but this is to be expected in handicaps where field size is generally larger (9.85 runners versus 9.26 runners in non-handicaps during the study window).

This time, there are some new names to be aware of - Chris Wall, John O’Shea, Malcolm Saunders, Julie Camacho, Stuart Kittow, Ismael Mohammad and the Coles father and son team (research based on father, Paul Cole, only).


Best Front Runner Trainers: By Race Distance

In this next section, we are going to look at different race distances; specifically, the top 10 front running trainers in terms of win strike rate in each division:

5f / 6f races

Simon Crisford, now training with his son, Ed, is the king of front-running sprinters, his speedballs that go forward immediately winning a whopping 40% of the time. Crisford is one of the more active trainers at the breeze up sales and tends to specialise in two-year-olds generally; perhaps that early education for his runners is a material component. Regardless, many of them clearly know their job from the starting stalls.

Crisford used to be racing manager for Godolphin, and the next three entries in this table are all Godolphin trainers, two of them on the payroll plus John (and Thady) Gosden.



7f / 1m races

Those familiar names appear again when the race distance ramps up a touch, though there are interlopers in the top five now. Sharing top honours with Messrs bin Suroor and Appleby, C. is William Haggas, the trio all winning at this range with around 39% of their front runners.



1m1f or longer races

As we get towards the longer distance races, the strike rates curtail somewhat - to be expected based on the overall data I shared in my introduction; and yet Saeed bin Suroor still managed to achieve a better than one-in-three win rate with early leaders in races of nine furlongs-plus. He's well clear of the wily Sir Mark Prescott and the quietly excellent David Menuisier.



Front Runner Trainer/Jockey combinations

As well as how a trainer likes his horses to be ridden, a key consideration must be the actual rider!

Here, I have collated a list of the top 50 trainer / jockey combos with front runners. For this table I have not added profit/loss data (minimum 40 races), though the A/E column may be used as a proxy (where a number above 1 implies future potential profitability).


As you might expect, there are some very strong stats here with many of the very top trainers and jockeys combining. However, perhaps of more interest are a few combinations that may have sailed under the radar, such as Channon and Bishop, Osborne and Currie, Quinn and Hart, Griffiths and Allan, Midgeley and Lee to name but five. Feel free to do your own sleuthing in the table above!

Front Runner Trainers: Led Win Rate compared with Held Up Win Rate

To finish, I would like to compare individual trainer strike rates for their front runners with the percentages for their hold up horses. Earlier in the piece we saw the average win percentage for front runners was 17.02% between 2014 and 2021 in 6+ runner flat races, while for hold up horses it was just 7.16%.

The aim of this exercise, then, is to create a 'led to held up ratio' (L:H for short) using individual trainer percentages. So, for example and using the overall figures, I divide the led percentage of 17.02 by the held up percentage of 7.16 to create the benchmark trainer L:H ratio of 2.38. From there, we can see which trainers differ markedly from the average figure.

Trainers with a high 'led to held up ratio'

This first table shows those trainers with a much higher L:H ratio. I have also included both win percentages (SR%) to aid the comparison:



Adrian Nicholls tops the list mainly due to his dreadful record with hold up horses – just 1 of the 102 such runners have won. It is also worth noting that Nicholls has a 14.3% strike rate with prominent racers which, considering his overall record, is a real stand out figure.

Phillip Makin’s stats are interesting as he has saddled 21 winners from 84 front runners (25%); compare this with his record with the other three run styles combined which has seen 31 wins from 648 runners for a strike rate of only 4.8%. It might be worth scouring the daily racecards to find potential front runners from the Makin yard.

I also will keep an eye out for other potential front runners from the following stables - Jedd O’Keeffe, Sir Mark Prescott, William Stone, Staurt Kittow, Richard Hughes, John Quinn and Karl Burke.

Trainers with a low 'led to held up ratio'

Let’s now look at the trainers with the lowest L:H ratios:



One trainer worth mentioning here is Lucy Wadham. Her flat race win strike rate across all run style categories is remarkably even:



Not many trainers whose overall SR% exceeds 10% have figures like this.


There is plenty to digest in this article and I hope it has given you plenty of food for thought. The next piece in the series will look at run style data for two-year-olds. Until then, and as always, thanks for reading.

- DR

What is the point of sectional timing in horse racing?

Sectional timing has finally become a thing in British racing having been a staple around the globe for - literally - decades. In this post, we'll explore what sectional timing is and, more to the point, for what it can be used in the racing and betting context.

What is sectional timing?

Sectional timing is, as the name suggests, a record of how fast something happened within a part of a race. In Formula 1 or track and field, this would be lap times within an overall race time; in skiing or cycling time trials, it would be the time a competitor took within a specific segment - or section - of the race.

In all cases, it is a snippet of information about a chunk of a race which can be used to broaden our understanding of how a competitor is performing, or has performed. In and of itself, sectional timing is no more than that.

By collecting this information for lots of similar events, however,  we can start to build up a picture of how to do things optimally, which inevitably means how to win more often.

Why bother with sectional timing?

Let's take a stupid example. Like, a really stupid example. Let's say I was going to run a marathon (already pretty stupid), and let's further say that I decide to sprint the first 200 metres. How do you suppose the remaining 26 miles 185 yards are going to go for me? Not well; I've blown much of my available energy before the race has even started.

Now let's take a slightly more real world example, the 2018 Arkle Chase won by Footpad. Even if you don't watch the video, much of what you need to know about this race is shown in the still image below. Petit Mouchoir (purple Gigginstown colours) and Saint Calvados (white, blue, red Brooks family colours) did something not far removed from my preposterous marathon analogy above.

Guess what happened to the 4/1 third- and 11/4 second-favourites respectively?

They were absolutely whacked by the finish, allowing Footpad - in the green, running at a much more sensible, and sustainable, speed - to win as he liked. Second home was Brain Power, white and black colours, and also restrained away from the duel ahead.

The two scrapping protagonists finished 15 lengths third and 53 lengths fourth of five, only beating a totally outclassed rival who jumped poorly.

After the race, the media went mad about Footpad's demolition job: here we had the new Champion Chase favourite, the next generation of untouchable speed chaser...

Only we didn't. And, with a stopwatch (or even a bit of common sense in a setup as blatant as this), it was obvious that this was not a coronation procession, but rather a case of one very capable horse benefiting from the lunacy inefficiency of two other very capable horses and their human support acts.

Footpad did go on to win the equivalent Grade 1 at Punchestown as the 2/5 favourite on his next start. But there he beat a broken Petit Mouchoir - who'd also rocked up at Aintree in between times - and a gaggle of Grade 3 (at best) rivals. Thereafter he was beaten on all three starts in what should have been his breakthrough season in non-novice company. On each occasion he was sent off favourite, twice at evens or shorter. Connections ultimately swerved Altior and the Champion Chase in favour of the Ryanair, in which Footpad finished a distant eighth of twelve.

Even allowing for a solid race in the middle of that trio, he was still beaten by an 11-year-old called Simply Ned that day.

Back to sectional timing, and what it would have told us about that race. In point of fact, it told us that Footpad ran extremely fast. But he also ran extremely efficiently as a result of sitting off the crazy fractions set by Petit Mouch and Saint C. He was able to maintain his consistently quick pace where those two could not sustain their overly rapid early dash.

Subsequently, in more sensibly run contests, Footpad was less able to bring his high-cruising one pace to bear: the notion that he quickened in the Arkle is plain wrong, he merely slowed down far less markedly than his main rivals on the prevailing heavy ground.

But still we've not got to the nub: why bother with sectional timing?

Because, at the most fundamental level, it helps us to understand what happened far more reliably than our eyes. Sectional information acts as a permanent record where our eyes / brains have a more temporary or transient ability to capture, store and re-process such intel across a wide range of races.

And, most importantly, the collection and collation of this timing data enables us to make inferences that were hitherto not possible, or at least to make them with more certainty and/or confidence.

If we know that an unexposed two-year-old was all at sea early but covered the last two furlongs in a very quick, relatively, time that is worth noting. All the more so if the horse in question didn't win the race and may not be obvious to the betting public.

If we know that an exposed handicapper invariably runs his best races when recording even fractions off an overly fast pace, and the pace map suggests plenty of early zip today, that is very much worth noting.

If we know a horse like Footpad had a perfect setup to bring his A game, and that such a scenario is unlikely to present itself too often, we can risk taking a chunk out of the market by betting against him subsequently. [By the way, I really like Footpad; for him to do what he did in the Arkle having absolutely walked through one of the fences on the way round was awesome. But my affection for the game and its warriors resides in a separate compartment - let's call it my heart - to the one from where my punting intent manifests, and rarely the twain doth meet].

How can I use sectional timing?

As with all pieces of the puzzle, the most important thing to say is that you don't have to use sectional data to make good betting decisions. If you currently get on just fine using form profiling, trainer patterns, pace/draw, or any other methodology, feel free to carry on regardless.

But, just as I have long banged the drum for the value of a greater awareness of early pace in races, I think sectional information takes us to another level of comprehension of what happened and why - and, far more importantly, perhaps, what might (or might not) happen today as a consequence of what we understand of the previous days.

If you already use the geegeez pace maps, sectional timing information will help you understand more fully what happened. It will contextualise one horse's performance in the race macro. And that will help you make better, more informed betting decisions.

Why are you telling me all this?

Two reasons, one narrow and one broad. Broadly speaking, knowledge is power when betting. A company called Total Performance Data has been recording sectional timing information for more than three years at some of the all-weather tracks. They have more recently extended their coverage to all of Sky Sports Racing's tracks (with the exception of Ascot).

Racing TV's umbrella company, Racecourse Media Group (RMG), has - via its own supplier, CourseTrack - also been gathering sectional timing information since late summer.

A year from now sectional timing data will be available for all tracks in UK (with the possible exception of Chelmsford) and, via the specialist racing channels first - but with some noteworthy interjections in terrestrial coverage - the language of sectionals and their implications will find their way into the conversation.

Five years from now, sectional data will be mainstream. Talk of how races will be run will be fundamental cornerstones of the form debate, rather than the last word before a race goes off: "xyz is lining up at the front of the field and he looks like he might lead".

The more narrow point is that geegeez.co.uk will soon start publishing sectional timing information in its Gold racecards. It won't clutter the view for those who have no intention of engaging with it (yet), but it will be there for Gold subscribers of a more curious / time-based nature.

Here are some artist's impressions of how things might look:

Full Result


Full Form


Cards Inline


What next?

At some point before Christmas, sectional timing information for Total Performance Data / Sky Sports Racing tracks will appear within the Geegeez Gold racecards. It will be switched 'off' as default, but with options in your My Geegeez profile to turn it on, either in visual or data format.

Sectional data will be part of the existing Gold provision at least until the end of 2020, after which it may become a paid 'add on' for those who derive value from it. (This content does not come cheap, even before the months of development time/cost have been factored in, and it's been something of a gamble to take it on. That is my problem, of course, and we'll see how things go, but I want to be clear at the outset about the potential to charge separately for this at some point far down the line. Fair enough?)

Alongside the release of sectional data on site, there will be a number of explainer videos and a section (no pun intended) in the User Guide to help you get your feet under the table.

Thereafter, we'll have regular editorial picking up on races of interest from the previous week or fortnight. Sometimes these will be big races, and sometimes they will be races which might have otherwise snuck under the radar.

Super Important

One really important point in closing: I am not by any manner of means expert in inferring sectional content. I know plenty about running lines and points of call from my exposure to US racing, and I have got up together on such as finishing speed percentages and pars more recently as a result of grappling with their inner workings to help my developers.

I am still learning how best to infer the data, and how best to use it for punting purposes. To that end, I very much welcome comments from those who maybe already use this intel from other sources. And, also to that end, I very much welcome your tolerance if/when I/we make a mistake in presentation.

When the sectional content arrives on site it will be in BETA mode. That means it might be imperfect, and I welcome your support in resolving any glitches.

This is an innovative new frontier as far as British racing - and geegeez.co.uk coverage of it from a form perspective - is concerned. I'm excited to see where it takes us...