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Pythagoras brings up Fahey century

Pythagoras gave trainer Richard Fahey his 100th domestic winner of the campaign in the ebfstallions.com Silver Tankard Stakes at Pontefract.

Owned by Sir Robert Ogden, the two-year-old colt is seen by Fahey as a “staying type” for next season, after he gamely stuck to his task to claim these Listed spoils.

Namoos set the pace – but Paul Hanagan, riding Pythagoras for the first time in public, had the 5-1 shot close before making his move over a furlong out.

Mystery Angel and The Rosstafarian pressed hard in the closing stages, but the son of Zoffany would not be denied and won by a neck and a short head.

“We’re delighted for Sir Robert – it was a tough performance,” said Fahey.

“He’ll stay well. It’s desperate conditions there, but he coped with it well enough.

“I’ll get him home first, before making any decisions. I’ll speak to Sir Robert and see what he thinks.

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“He’s going to be a staying type – a mile and a quarter mile and mile and a half.

“There is talk about maybe taking him to France in November, but we’ll see how he is.”

Fahey and Hanagan doubled up when Society Queen (10-1) led well inside the final furlong to take division one of the Racing TV On Sky Channel 426 Handicap by a length and a quarter from Wots The Wifi Code.

Stag Horn ran his rivals ragged in the hands of Hollie Doyle to complete a hat-trick with a strong staying display in the Phil Bull Trophy Conditions Stakes.

On her only ride of the day and her first since a famous Group One success and big-race double on British Champions’ Day at Ascot on Saturday, the record-breaking rider made the two-and-a-quarter-mile race a real test from the outset.

Stag Horn comes home well clear under Hollie Doyle to win the Phil Bull Trophy at Pontefract
Stag Horn comes home well clear under Hollie Doyle to win the Phil Bull Trophy at Pontefract (Tim Goode/PA)

Only The Grand Visir was able to live with Archie Watson’s three-year-old – but even he was a spent force in the home straight, with Stag Horn (evens favourite) romping home by nine lengths. There were 32 more lengths back to Fun Mac in third place of the six runners.

“He’s progressive and was impressive at Goodwood last time,” Doyle told Racing TV.

“Stepping up to two miles two today on heavy ground, he seems to thrive in testing conditions – and the further he went the better.

“He’s got quite a high cruising speed for a horse that stays so far, and for those conditions that is what you need.

“At the beginning of his campaign, he used to be quite windy and soft – but he’s making a man of himself now.

“He’s going to be a competitive stayer next year. I don’t know if there are any more options for him for the rest of they year, but I’m sure there’s a bit more developing for him to do.”

Ben Curtis took his tally for the calendar year to 150 with a narrow victory on Rod Millman’s Coul Kat in the Join Racing TV Now Nursery Handicap.

The evens favourite was all out to hold the persistent challenge of The Bravest by a short head.

Curtis completed a double when steering Cockalorum to success in an even tighter finish in the Pontefract Thanks The NHS Handicap.

Roger Fell’s charge just got up to score by a nose from Viceregent, who hung badly left across the track to the far rail, taking the winner with him.

Paul Hanagan secures 100th Ayr win in style

Paul Hanagan enjoyed his biggest success since his return from injury with a hard-fought triumph on Exceptional in the Arran Scottish Sprint EBF Fillies’ Stakes at Ayr.

The two-time champion jockey was sidelined for six months after fracturing his T6 vertebra in a fall at Newcastle in February.

It was fitting Hanagan picked up this Listed prize as it provided him with a 100th career win at the Scottish track.

There were plenty in with chances inside the final quarter-mile but Exceptional (11-2) knuckled down to her task to score by a length and a length and a quarter from the Kevin Ryan-trained pair of Last Empire and Dandy’s Beano.

Hanagan told Racing TV: “I’ve been trying to get it for a while. Obviously I was off injured for a good time. It’s just nice to get 100 winners at Ayr – it’s been good to me over the years.

“The easier ground helped this filly as she was on her head most of the way and I just had to sit and suffer. I think she’ll probably get further.

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“She’s a very good filly. She was going away at the end and has a very good attitude.”

Fahey was pleased to see Exceptional gain some valuable black type for her future career as a broodmare for owners Cheveley Park Stud.

“She’s a sweet filly, she’s not had a lot of racing. It’s just nice to see her win a Listed race for Cheveley,” said the North Yorkshire handler.

“There is one more race but we’ll speak to Chris (Richardson) and see.

“It was a good winner to get. They are definitely keeping her for stud so I’m delighted to get that bracket done and she did it well.”

Fahey was completing a double after the victory of Outrun The Storm (18-1) in the EBF Nursery Handicap under Paddy Mathers.

Winter Power showed a terrific turn of foot to take the Listed honours in the Shadwell Stud/EBF Stallions Harry Rosebery Stakes.

The Tim Easterby-trained filly put up a career-best effort on her eighth start to win for a third time as she bounced back from being well-beaten in the Flying Childers Stakes at Doncaster a week ago.

David Allan had Winter Power (7-1) well-placed as Rebel At Dawn took the field along before asking her to go and in the race over a furlong out.

She quickly put the race to bed and enjoyed a cosy half-a-length success over Nomadic Empire (5-1). First Company, the 250-1 complete outsider of the party, three-quarters of a length back in third.

Winter Power was a winner at Ayr
Winter Power was a winner at Ayr (Tony Knapton/PA)

“She’s a very good filly. She’s plenty of speed and loved the ground, which we weren’t sure about. She enjoyed it and travelled well through the race,” said Easterby.

“It was a hot race she ran in at Doncaster last week, but she’s got a fantastic attitude. You can back her up and run her quick. It’s not very often you can do that with a filly.

“She’s very fast. She’s in the race at Redcar (Two Year Old Trophy), but we maybe wouldn’t go there and stick to five.”

Jockey Joe Fanning was in fine form, landing an 865-1 treble on Fairmac (10-1), Mondain (11-4 favourite) and Bringitonboris (20-1).

Fahey targets third Ayr Gold Cup with Mr Lupton

Mr Lupton is out to bag his second major prize in the space of a week in Saturday’s QTS Ayr Gold Cup.

Richard Fahey’s sprinter was rated as high as 113 at one stage of his career, but a fairly slow start to the current campaign saw him fall to a mark of 98.

A third-place finish in last month’s Great St Wilfrid at Ripon suggested he was on the way back and he continued his resurgence with victory in the lucrative “Bold Lad” Sprint Handicap on Irish Champions Weekend at the Curragh last Sunday.

With talented apprentice Billy Garritty booked for the ride to negate his 5lb penalty, Fahey is hopeful Mr Lupton can provide him with a third victory in this weekend’s Scottish showpiece following the previous triumphs of Fonthill Road (2006) and Don’t Touch (2015).

“He hasn’t done a lot since he came back from Ireland, just a couple of light canters,” said the Musley Bank handler.

“He seems in good form. It’s one of those – you just don’t know until the day, but we’re happy to run him.

“He’s been a star, a legend. It’s amazing. He was bought at a charity function. Out of the charity came a bit of good.”

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Fahey also saddles outsider Gabrial The Wire, of whom he added: “He’s a bit hit and miss. A fast-run six-furlong race should suit – it’s just if he’s quick enough to lay up early on.”

Tim Easterby was relieved Staxton made the cut, having decided against running him since winning the Great St Wilfrid last month.

He said: “He’s in good order and I hope he’ll run a good race.

“We took a gamble by waiting for this race. I could have run him somewhere else under a penalty, but I spoke to the owners and we decided we’d wait for this and thankfully he’s just crept in.

“He’s drawn down the middle (15) and I hope he’s got a good chance.”

Seven days on from claiming Classic glory in the St Leger at Doncaster aboard Joseph O’Brien’s Galileo Chrome, jockey Tom Marquand has high hopes of landing another major prize with the William Haggas-trained Nahaarr.

Tom Marquand is looking forward to teaming up with Nahaarr
Tom Marquand is looking forward to teaming up with Nahaarr (Edward Whitaker/PA)

The lightly-raced son of Dark Angel was a runaway winner at Newbury in July before finishing ninth when favourite for the Stewards’ Cup at Glorious Goodwood.

“He’s a really good ride to have. I think we’ve got drawn pretty well in 13, so I’m looking forward to riding him,” said Marquand.

“He’s a horse with lots of ability. He didn’t handle Goodwood all that well in the Stewards’ Cup and I just hope this can be a bit of a bounce back from that run. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be.

“Fingers crossed things can go our way.”

The formidable combination of trainer Andrew Balding and champion jockey Oisin Murphy is represented by Stone Of Destiny, who bids to follow up his win in the Portland Handicap at Doncaster last Saturday.

Balding said: “He won the Portland well and although this is a little bit further for him, he is a good horse when everything drops right – that is the key to him.

“He needs a strong gallop to aim at, which is what he will get at Ayr, but he doesn’t want the ground too soft.

“The Portland was the aim, but we decided this was worth having a go at afterwards.”

David O’Meara fires a four-pronged assault, with top-weight Gulliver joined by stable companions Arecibo, Cold Stare and Young Fire, while Kevin Ryan has three runners in Bielsa, Hey Jonesy and Major Jumbo.

Jedd O’Keeffe’s Air Raid and the David Barron-trained Another Batt also feature in what is always a fiercely competitive affair.

Rhythm Master back out in Mill Reef

Prix Morny third Rhythm Master is one of eight colts declared for the Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury on Saturday.

A runaway winner on his racecourse debut at Haydock in mid-July, Richard Fahey’s son of Dark Angel subsequently ran an excellent race to place behind a couple of Royal Ascot winners in Campanelle and Nando Parrado when stepped up to Group One level at Deauville.

The John Dance-owned juvenile will be well fancied to get back on the winning trail in this weekend’s Group Two feature in Berkshire.

Rhythm Master’s rivals include the unbeaten Bahrain Pride. Simon and Ed Crisford’s inmate made a successful start to his career at Windsor before following up in the Listed EBF Ripon Champion Two Yrs Old Trophy last month.

Andrew Balding’s Fivethousandtoone was runner-up to Bahrain Pride at Windsor and renews rivalry off the back of a dominant display at Newcastle a little over a fortnight ago.

Line Of Departure completed a hat-trick for Roger Varian in a valuable sales race at Doncaster last week and is swiftly stepped up to Pattern class, while Mick Channon will be hoping his Group Three winner Cairn Gorm can bounce back from a below-par effort in the Morny.

Alkumait (Marcus Tregoning), Devilwala (Archie Watson) and First Edition (Clive Cox) complete the octet.

The Charlie Hills-trained Equilateral, not beaten far into sixth place in the Flying Five at the Curragh last Sunday, heads a nine-strong field for the Group Three Dubai International Airport World Trophy.

The five-year-old is taken on by Cox’s recent Leicester scorer Tis Marvellous, Charlie Appleby’s Lazuli and Moss Gill from James Bethell’s yard, among others.

Group Three honours are also up for grabs in the Dubai Duty Free Legacy Cup – formerly The Arc Trial.

The likely favourite for this one-mile-three-furlong contest is Extra Elusive, who bids to complete a Group Three hat-trick for Roger Charlton and Hollie Doyle follow strikes in the Rose of Lancaster at Haydock and the Winter Hill at Windsor.

With the William Haggas-trained Addeybb and Balding’s Fox Chairman instead declared to run in Saturday’s Doonside Cup at Ayr, Extra Elusive faces just three opponents in Desert Encounter (David Simcock), Elarqam (Mark Johnston) and Gifts Of Gold (Saeed bin Suroor).

Paul Hanagan sets sights on 100th win at Ayr

For Paul Hanagan just to be riding at this year’s Ayr Western Meeting is an achievement in itself, but he is also on the verge of a landmark winner at the Scottish track.

The two-time champion jockey was out of action for six months earlier this year after fracturing his T6 vertebra in a fall at Newcastle in February, and some even doubted if the 40-year-old would return.

But return he has, and after a slow start he is now back among the winners, with one more victory at Ayr required for a century at the venue – while he is also approaching 2,000 career winners.

In typically self-effacing style, though, he deflects plenty of the praise on to trainer Richard Fahey, with whom he has had a long and successful partnership.

Fonthill Road (far side) won the Ayr Gold Cup for Hanagan and Fahey
Fonthill Road (far side) won the Ayr Gold Cup for Hanagan and Fahey (Chris Clark/PA)

“It’s always a week we look forward to, we’ve had a lot of success there. Richard fires a lot of bullets at it, but you’ve still got to win the races and we’ve managed to have a bit of luck,” said Hanagan.

“It seems like yesterday, winning the Ayr Gold Cup on Fonthill Road – it’s startling to think it was back in 2006. Winning it is one of my career highlights, there’s no doubt about it, up the north it’s like winning the Derby.

“It’s a really classy race now, you’ve almost got to be a Group horse to win it and if anything, it’s getting stronger every year.

“It’s nearly at the end of a long season for a lot of horses when you think in a normal year it begins in March, so it’s a good training feat to get your horse to Ayr still in top form – that’s why I hold Richard in such regard, his seem fresh when they get there.

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“I think the fact I’ve done so well at Ayr comes down to the fact I’m riding for Richard and I just go out full of confidence, which is a massive thing. I know the track well as I’ve been riding there so long.

“I love going up there, the crowd are so knowledgeable and they don’t talk from their pocket – it’s a different feel up there. That’s why it’s going to be so strange this year. Because of my injury, I’m still not really used to the empty stands – it’s very strange.

“Jockeys, like footballers, feed off an atmosphere and energy. I noticed it most at Chester where they are normally on top of you. We need to get the crowds back soon.”

Hanagan’s injury was serious enough to give him time to reflect on what he has achieved in his career to date and there was plenty to look back on, not least being champion in 2010 and 2011 and his spell as retained rider for owner Hamdan Al Maktoum.

Taghrooda won the Oaks and King George for Hanagan
Taghrooda won the Oaks and King George for Hanagan (Adam Davy/PA)

He said: “In the time I was off, I had plenty of time to reflect. I’ve got two boys who are 10 and 14 now and it was nice to reminisce a little with them because as they get older, they understand and take a bit more of an interest, so it was nice to tell them I wasn’t so bad!

“I thought about a lot while I was off. It was nearly six months and it was touch and go whether I would make it back at all, so I did have a look back at what I’d achieved.

“I had people telling me if I didn’t make it back, I should be proud of what I’d achieved and that was nice to hear.

“I suppose I’ve had the best of both worlds in quantity and quality. Being champion a second time was tough, I gave it everything, racing around the country. I loved the buzz, but it was really 24/7.

“You’ve got to take into account how much racing there is these days and the constant travelling and the amount of traffic. You’d get to the races with minutes to spare, give a horse a bad ride and be kicking yourself.

“It’s mentally challenging, so the Hamdan job came at the perfect time really. Riding the likes Taghrooda, Mukhadram and Muhaarar was brilliant.

“Wootton Bassett, who was my first Group One winner, was a great horse for Richard, unbeaten at two and to see that Coolmore have bought him as a stallion now, he could go right to the top given the mares he’ll be getting.

“Unfortunately for me, Muhaarar was retired at the end of his three-year-old season as Shadwell had no real stallions to speak of, so he went to stud at the same time as Mukhadram, which meant we had nothing for the big races the following season!

Paul Hanagan with Richard Fahey and Wootton Bassett
Paul Hanagan with Richard Fahey and Wootton Bassett (John Giles/PA)

“I enjoyed going out to Dubai as well. I took my family out, the kids went to school out there and I think I went out for about five years (during the Carnival). It was amazing.

“I won some of the biggest races at the Carnival and had a four-timer one night – I loved it.”

When the sun does eventually set on Hanagan’s career, it will be for his relationship with Fahey that he will be mostly remembered.

“I’d like to think my partnership with Richard has been one of the great ones,” said Hanagan.

“I’m not one for patting myself on the back, but I’m not from a racing background. My dad had a brief flirtation, but I’ve had to do it the hard way.

“I wouldn’t be in this position without Richard, but I also owe a lot to Malcolm Jefferson, God rest his soul, who gave me my first job when unbelievably I wanted to be a jump jockey. Thankfully my weight stayed low and he passed me on to Richard.”

Two-year-old Flat Debutants, Part 2

In part 1 of this series, here, I suggested that if we were looking to blindly back two-year-olds on their flat debut this season, our starting point should initially be those juveniles trained by Richard Fahey, Jessica Harrington and Ger Lyons, writes Chris Worrall. As well as that standout trio, I was also interested in those trained by Paul Cole, Eve Johnson Houghton and David Simcock, notwithstanding the reservations I highlighted about those three.

I went on to highlight in that opening piece that we may be able to eliminate some bad bets by focusing more on each trainer's runners based on a series of factors: track location, actual track, race class/distance/going, jockeys used, time of year and sex of horse.

Richard Fahey

So, if we start with our three headline acts, we can see that Richard Fahey's results with 2yo flat debutants from 2016-19 were as follows:

Closer inspection of those 381 runners showed no real bias towards either gender or for any particular reported ground conditions, but of the other five tested variables, I found (in sample size order) that those numbers included:

  • 55/363 (15.15%) for 135.66pts (+37.37%) over trips of 5 to 7 furlongs
  • 53/359 (14.76%) for 125.13pts (+34.85%) during April to September
  • 51/339 (15.04%) for 122.82pts (+36.24%) in Yorkshire, NW & Central England
  • 47/314 (14.97%) for 132.07pts (+42.06%) at Classes 4 & 5
  • 38/236 (16.10%) for 92.88pts (+39.36%) ridden by Tony Hamilton or Paul Hanagan

(all profit quoted is to Betfair Starting Price, BSP)

And when combine all those filters, we are left with...

Suggestion: back all Richard Fahey 2yo Flat debutants ridden by Tony Hamilton or Paul Hanagan at up to 7 furlongs in Class 4 or 5 races in Yorkshire, the North West or Central England during April to September.

Jessica Harrington

And now onto Jessica Harrington, whose 2016-19 stats were...

From which (in order of winners)...

  • 18/114 (15.79%) for 81.5pts (+71.49%) over trips of 5 to 7 furlongs
  • 15/122 (12.3%) for 23.28pts (+19.08%) in Leinster
  • 15/104 (14.42%) for 56.85pts (+54.67%) on ground declared as Good to Yielding or firmer
  • 15/80 (18.75%) for 80.7pts (+100.88%) during May to July
  • 13/95 (13.68%) for 26.94pts (+28.35%) with female runners

And combining trip, track location, going and time of year gives us...

             

of which the gender spilt is as follows....

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The females win more often, but the males generate more profit, so I'm not really convinced we should narrow it down either way.

Suggestion: back Jessica Harrington's 2 year olds on debut in Leinster (Bellewstown, Curragh, Fairyhouse, Gowran Park, Leopardstown, Naas, Navan) during May to July at trips up to 7 furlongs and on ground described as Good to Yielding or firmer.

Ger Lyons

The final member of our top trio is Ger Lyons, who qualified on his record over the last three seasons of...

Once again, we'll subject those runners to the filtering system, where it can be noted:

  • 30/130 (23.08%) for 90.71pts (+69.78%) over trips of 6f to 1m
  • 30/125 (24%) for 95.71pts (+76.57%) during April to September
  • 29/137 (21.17%) for 76.78pts (+56.05%) on ground deemed Soft or better
  • 29/136 (21.32%) for 79.30pts (+58.31%) in Leinster and Munster
  • 28/116 (24.14%) for 79.07pts (+68.16%) when ridden by Colin Keane

and when we combine those five sets of data, we end up with a fantastic set of numbers reading...

Once again both sexes fare well as follows...

...so we'll not differentiate between the two.

Suggestion: back all Ger Lyons' 2 yo debutants ridden by Colin Keane over trips of 6f to a mile in Leinster (see above for tracks) and Munster (Cork, Killarney, Limerick, Listowel, Thurles, Tipperary) on Soft ground or better from April to September.

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Those were the three main protagonists from part 1 of this series; combining their two-year-old flat debutants under the specified conditions brings us to 66 winners from 293 runners (22.53% SR) and 266.74pts of profit at an excellent ROI of some 91.04%.

Clearly it will be difficult to fully repeat those numbers but if they only do half as well in the next three or four years we'll still be looking at 130+ points.

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So what of our 'second string' trio of Paul Cole, Eve Johnson Houghton and David Simcock? Are there conditions under which we might follow their juvenile debutants?

The easiest way to find out is to dive into the data, starting with...

Paul Cole

Cole's base figures with 2yo first-time starters are:

That's a small sample size so caution is advised, but they do include of note...

  • 6/35 (17.14%) for 68.1pts (+194.57%) in Classes 4 and 5
  • 6/30 (20%) for 73.1pts (+243.67%) over trips of 5 or 6 furlongs
  • 6/29 (20.69%) for 74.1pts (+255.52%) during April to July
  • 6/14 (42.86%) for 89.1pts (+636.43%) at Brighton, Leicester & Newbury
  • 5/28 (17.86%) for 31.35pts (+111.96%) in SE England
  • 3/10 (30%) for 60.92pts (+609.2%) with Raul Da Silva in the saddle

You probably don't need me to point out how Paul got all of his six original winners, but combining those first four filters gives...

Suggestion: keep an eye out for Paul Cole 2yo firsters in Class 4 or 5 races over 5 or 6 furlongs at Brighton, Leicester or Newbury from April to July, especially if Raul da Silva's on board, even if it's a big price.

Eve Johnson Houghton

Next up is Eve Johnson Houghton, whose own record during the last four seasons was...

...which, like Paul Cole previously, was a smaller than ideal sample size, but did include...

  • 8/52 (15.38%) for 141.35pts (+271.82%) excluding April and July
  • 7/62 (11.29%) for 98.02pts (+158.10%) in Classes 4 and 5
  • 7/46 (15.22%) for 106.94pts (+232.48%) over 6 or 7 furlongs
  • 6/47 (12.77%) for 120.04pts (+255.41%) in SE England
  • 6/41 (14.63%) for 88.22pts (+215.16%) ridden by Charles Bishop
  • 6/37 (16.22%) for 142.18pts (+384.26%) from female runners
  • and 5/21 (23.81%) for 42.74pts (+203.52%) on Good to Soft or Soft ground

Combining class, month, distance and going gives us...

...and despite this dozen qualifiers include 4 from 7 (57.1%) for 48.5pts (+392.7%) for Charles Bishop, 3 from 6 (50%) for 43.6pts (+726.2%) for females and 3 from 6 (50%) for 31.4pts (+524%) in the South East, there is an uneasy feel to the exclusion of April and July - I can't come up with a logical reason why the horses would fail to fire in that month. Instead, I've taken a more straightforward view...

Suggestion: Look out for Eve Johnson Houghton's Class 4 and 5 runners over 6 or 7 furlongs on Good to Soft or Soft ground. Add a bonus point if you see Charles Bishop down to ride.

David Simcock

And finally for this look at trainers who perform well with juvenile first time starters, we'll put David Simcock under the microscope, despite his sobering record last season (0 from 20). Even with that abject campaign, his four year score is...

and again we've only a small number of runners to consider, but they do include...

  • 6/31 (19.4%) for 18.65pts (+60.17%) when ridden by Jamie Spencer
  • 4/20 (20%) for 49.15pts (+245.76%) over a mile
  • 4/15 (26.7%) for 27.4pts (+182.66%) at Yarmouth
  • 3/14 (21.4%) for 23.6pts (+168.6%) for Jamie Spencer over a mile
  • 3/9 (33.3%) for 28.6pts (+317.8%) for Jamie Spencer at Yarmouth
  • 3/7 (42.9%) for 30.6pts (+437.1%) over a mile at Yarmouth
  • and 3/6 (50%) for 32.69pts Jamie Spencer over a mile at Yarmouth

Obviously the Jamie Spencer angle is interesting, especially over a mile at Yarmouth, but I feel that particular stat lends more to the excellent record the jockey and trainer have together at that venue (a story for another day, perhaps?), but as for this piece...

Suggestion: Note, but don't necessarily back, David Simcock two-year-old flat debutants.

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All of which second team deliberation leaves us with just the Paul Cole and Eve Johnson Houghton runners, whose suggested angles combine for 11 winners from 22 runners (50% SR) and 144.84 pts (+658.6% ROI) as a juicy-looking - but less reliable based on sample size - supplement to our top trio's 66 winners from 293 runners (22.53% SR, +266.74 BSP, ROI of 91.04%).

Hopefully, we'll soon be able to "live trial" these angles. Fingers crossed and all that, but for now, thanks for reading and I'll be back with more soon.

 - CW

Early Season Turf Pointers

April trainers

With Cheltenham now a fading speck on the horizon our next scheduled stop is the cavalry charge of the Lincoln in only a few days time, writes Jon Shenton. The shackles of winter are off (hopefully), Spring has sprung, and the flat turf season is well and truly on the way.

It’s without doubt my favourite time of year, certainly in terms of the racing calendar. The promise of the long, warm summer nights and a plethora of punting challenges stokes the fires like no other.

Conventional wisdom is that bettors should tread very carefully in the opening few weeks of the season whilst form-lines are built. Whilst that might be true to an extent if you’re a pure race reader it is certainly of less relevance to the data driven approach that I primarily use.

Horses having long absences, an array of new talent on show and highly variable underfoot conditions all contribute to devilishly difficult puzzles. Data can be your friend and ally under these circumstances and it can give you an edge on the general population.

A sensible point to start would be evaluating trainer angles for April performance.

The below table shows the April numbers, sorted by A/E and only including the usual SP of 20/1 or shorter animals. All races since 2012 are analysed.

 

One can clearly delve into any of these further. It’s certainly of interest that the highly populated Fahey yard is profitable over a high volume of runners. The same applies to Gosden, O’Meara, Appleby (Charlie), Haggas and Beckett. If they’re delivering runners to the track in April, then these data give a degree of confidence that they are likely to be competitive.

In pole position, however, is the veteran trainer Mick Easterby. He will be 88 years-old at the end of this month! If at a similar age I’m lucky enough to be around, I’d be hugely disappointed to be still working (understatement!) so it surely shows the enthusiasm he has for the game. Those rich experiences over the years certainly seem to have been put to good use in getting the yard's runners blasting out of the stalls early.

The April output is impressive with an A/E of 1.61, a nice strike rate (19%) and an ROI of 41% is more than welcome.

Evaluating performance against SP there is no winner at 18/1 or 20/1 from 26 attempts so from an angle point of view I’m going to exclude those personally. I do realise entirely that this may be folly, mathematically you’d only expect 1-ish winner from 26 attempts at those odds. But given the number of angles I operate and the relatively high number of daily bets I’m always happy to be more selective and potentially leave a winner or two on the bench.

Taking the 16/1 (SP) or shorter only it leaves 129 runs, of which 123 are in handicaps of some description. The remaining half-dozen non-handicappers have failed to register a single win. It’s clearly a yard focussed more on handicap racing so I’m happy to trim the angle accordingly again.

I also want to understand if April performance is uncharacteristically positive against the rest of the year. It could be that the basis of this angle applies to other months.

The graph below effectively puts the notion of strong other periods of the year to bed. It overwhelmingly illustrates the peak month for Easterby is April, with spikes in both win and placed rates in the month. It’s generally downhill from there as the season progresses.

 

Finally, to understand the consistency of the potential angle, a check of performance by year is helpful. Doing so we get the following split:

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29 wins from 123 runs, 1.79 A/E with a 78% ROI. That’ll do for me. With no fallow year since 2014 this goes into my active angles as one to follow. Ordinarily these should go through a bit of testing before committing, but where’s the fun in that? I’ll be live with this in April, trying to get early prices. A high volume, small stakes approach mitigates the risk to some degree and enhances the entertainment value exponentially!

Back Mick Easterby in April handicaps at 16/1 or less on turf

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Working down the list sequentially, the second-best performer in terms of A/E is John Quinn. The Yorkshire stable is a powerhouse of racing in the North. Around two thirds of his April runs are on relatively local Yorkshire tracks.
Starting with the April performance vs. rest of year this time we have the following by win strike rate:

 

On the chart I have marked the April data point with a red circle. Like Mick Easterby, it is clearly a landmark month for the stable.

A point of note, the March number is only representative of a handful of runners (15), and the same applies to November’s apparently phenomenal peak (17) so it’s easy ignore these months given the paucity of data.

Also, like the Easterby angle there is no winner at 18/1 to 20/1 so a small snip to the criteria to only take account of SP’s 16/1 or shorter is my personal choice. Looking at the annual performance there are two poor yyear, 2013 and 2014, which weirdly are also the same as Easterby. It might be that those were particularly cold or wet springs, leaving the horses a little short in their work, though that is no more than conjecture.

 

 

I’ve poked around looking for other trends or items of note with these data. In truth though, nothing stands out and there is usually little point in forcing it, such efforts usually leading to at least a degree of backfitting. Simple is best.

Back John Quinn runners at 16/1 or less on turf in April

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Maiden & Novices

The onset of a new season means an absolute battalion of untried, untested and unraced 2YO’s will all hit the track for the first time. Like a lot of readers I don’t generally play in this type of race. Paddock judging is out personally, aside from worldly insight such as “that’s a big horse” and “that one looks a bit fired up” I have nothing to offer in this field, though I very much respect those who can read the confirmation, maturity and fitness of these babies. I have limited sources (i.e. none) of yard and course chat so the only thing in my armoury is my old mate, data.

From 2012 to date there have been no less than 14,911 horses making their racetrack debuts on turf as two-year olds in maiden or novice races. Changes to the novice programme in 2017 do make individual analyses on Maidens or Novice races more difficult on a like for like basis which is the reason that I’ve compiled them together.

This time I’m going to evaluate yards with a high number of runners, searching for the good and the not so good. The relatively massive table below shows first time out trainer performance in maiden and novices from 2012 onwards. I have elected to leave an SP filter out of the equation for this data set. The logic behind that is with debutants you could argue that the market is more likely to get it wrong and big priced winners could be more prevalent. This may or may not be true but that is the rationale for leaving the data as “pure” as possible.

 

As you might expect, there are some wild variations in performance. Firstly, the ones to potentially avoid, out at least around which to be wary.

Messrs Bell, Stoute and Easterby (Tim not Mick!) have a quite frankly appalling record under these conditions. In fact, the volume of combined winners is of such paucity that I can add it up confidently in my head without consulting any technology.

41 wins from 743 runners (I did have to check the runner number with a calculator). A strike rate of just 5.6%, with a combined loss of about 46% in terms of ROI. Good luck with that!

Of course, we know that SMS famously nurtures his charges along at a careful pace, so it makes complete sense for him to be here. The others are possibly more surprising. Geegeez Gold is of huge assistance in alerting you to these red flags on the trainer icon on the racecard, showing FTO performance of that trainer for the last two years.

Back to the macro-level data in the table relating to the last 6 years. The only trainers eking out a profit in the list are John Gosden and Andrew Balding. Gosden has the most impressive strike rate, 18.6%, on the table too. I must confess, I did find this a tad surprising so with a degree of curiosity I investigated it further.

Zooming in on monthly performance is logical in my mind. The early season calendar is rife with sprints. Short distance blasts are not something you’d ordinarily associate Johnny G with so might expect performance to be less positive early in the season in maidens/novices;

Sure enough, volume of runners, strike rate and ROI all improve as we  move into and through through the hot summer (ha ha). Indeed, Too Darn Hot (August), Cracksman (October) and Coronet (September) all prevailed on their debut run in recent years.

In general terms you might think that Gosden’s strong hand of 2YO’s will be focussed towards the future, and specifically their 3YO campaigns. In fact, it’s quite common that he waits until his charges are three before giving them their first run: La Ti Dar is perhaps the best recent case in point.

To be honest, despite knowing all this there is not enough here to generate a sufficiently strong angle for me. I have evaluated race class, sex of horse and a number of other variables but there is nothing of huge significance. That said, I’d always be very mindful of a Gosden debutant once we get beyond the summer solstice and maybe play on that basis, but it’s certainly not for me in terms of a discreet “system” to run with.

Given the sheer heft of runners (633) and the worthy A/E attainment (0.99) it would be slightly remiss not to comment on the Fahey operation a bit further. In a similar way to Gosden it’s hard to find a robust angle to recommend although there are some clues and pointers worth drawing out.

Firstly, the earlier in the season the better as the graph illustrates, April and May are very strong in comparison to the rest of the year.

 

There is also interest when evaluating at the SP’s of all the stable's Maiden and Novice runs. The line graph below illustrates the cumulative profit or loss position by SP. In basic terms it shows that it is most profitable if Fahey’s first time out animals have been backed to 4/1 or shorter. Virtually every banding bigger than that is loss making.

 

Backing all 4/1 or shorter runners would result in a £26 profit to a £1 level stake (represented by the green arrow on the graph), whereas backing all 9/2 or greater would return a £97 loss (red arrow on the graph). We know two things about Fahey Maiden and Novice performance. Firstly, April and May performance is good. Secondly, horses at 4/1 or shorter are profitable. So, if we take April/May runners at 4/1 or shorter at SP I’d be optimistic we’ll find a reasonable angle. The table below gives us our answer:

There we have it. A small number of prospective bets, and at 4/1 or shorter it should be relatively low risk if unspectacular. It’s not really my sort of usual angle or bet (I tend to favour Hollywood odds long shots) but if you are inclined to have a bet in a maiden and novice race a short priced backed Fahey charge in the spring wouldn't be a bad place to start.

Back Richard Fahey First time out horses at 4/1 or shorter in Maiden/Novice races in April and May

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I hope in the above I've offered a few potential pointers for success at the start of the British flat turf season. Do feel free to play around with Query Tool on some of the other names in the big tables, and leave a comment if you find anything of note.

- Jon Shenton