Tag Archive for: Southwell horses for courses

Racing Insights, 1st January 2021

My main runner of interest on Thursday wasn't amongst the places but was much better than the bare result and she did outrun her odds. She would have been seen to much better effect had she been ridden prominently. Blushes were salvaged slightly by the runner flagged as the main danger winning the race.

This will be my final day filling the Racing Insights hot seat, Chris will be back to continue shining the light on some nice bets in the new year.

Friday is the final day that registered free users will have full free access to Geegeez Gold. That’s not the end of the benefits of being a free user though – every day there are free features and races available to free registered users.

You can sign up for a free Geegeez account here to get benefits every day.

I mentioned earlier in the week that I find Geegeez Gold extremely useful in analysing races at Southwell with course form and/or being bred for the surface so important and this is where I’ll be heading for Friday’s preview. The 1.15pm is a class 3 handicap over 7f and looks an interesting contest to get stuck into.

Only seven runners in this but Instant Expert is still going to save us plenty of time in shedding light on those that have gone well here in the past. First let’s check out the place data.

The majority of these have run consistently well here in the past with nothing standing out as not liking the surface. Both Teston and Irreverent have yet to run here.

Now let’s see the win only data.

Fieldsman was the least interesting of those that have run here before based on the place data and that’s definitely reflected in the win only data here, he’s won just two of this fourteen runs here in handicaps.

In terms of winning records here something is going to have to give with Stone Soldier, Ayr Harbour and Borsdane Wood all having a 100% record here to date.

Before we look at the sire data in Instant Expert we should first pick up any other snippets from the Instant Expert screenshots above. Ayr Harbour strong across the board for win purposes and is crucially the only runner proven in this class and here at Southwell. Fieldsman on the other hand does have a fairly consistent place record here but he scores poorly for all categories for win purposes on Instant Expert.

The sire data in Instant Expert should tell us more about the chances of Teston and Irreverent who will both be making their course debuts.


Rio De La Plata, sire of Teston, comes out as the top sire here from those with runners in the race but unfortunately he’s had just one runner here is seems. So that 100% place record certainly needs to be taken with a large pinch of salt.

Iffraaj, sire of Irreverent, doesn’t have an amazing place strike rate here with his runners but it is still better than that of Invincible Spirit (Borsdane Wood) and Dandy Man (Fancy Footings). Both of those runners have run well here in the past so we can’t confidently rule out Irreverent (or Teston) based on the surface.

Stone Soldier is likely to be the early favourite. He looked an exposed 3yo until trying this surface for the first time on his stable debut early in December and he looked a natural on that occasion, winning by over 4 lengths from a reliable yard stick. That 2nd was a neck from victory on his next run over course and distance and the 3rd won next time out so overall that was strong form.

Stone Solider followed that effort up with a narrower victory up at a mile. He’s up another 5lbs now and may be short enough in the betting but what is potentially most interesting is this horse has run seventeen times but has only run over 7f twice, winning on both occasions.

He does have some decent stats in his favour here, particularly the IV produced by this trainer and jockey partnership.

Ayr Harbour is the horse that brings slightly classier form into this contest having won a class 2 handicap two starts ago at Chelmsford before recording a 2nd last time out in this class. His course win hasn’t worked out well though and his recent wins have been at a mile so he could be opposable if on the short side here.

Borsdane Wood was the other interesting one based on course form, having won both his previous runs on fibresand. Both wins were over this distance too but the issue is they came 13 months ago for a different trainer. He managed just two runs in 2020 (both poor efforts in June) and has possibly not trained on or at the very least had some serious soundness issues – perhaps both. It’s possible the return to this venue will spark a revival (it certainly needs to) but he’s a hugely risky proposition. Market support would be interesting though.

The trainer change might be a positive here with Julie Camacho producing an IV of 1.81 with recruits from other yards on their stable debuts.

Fancy Footings is difficult to weigh up. He seems to run very well or absolutely terribly with little to predict what is coming. He won here by over three lengths off just a 2lb higher mark just over a year ago and followed that up with a decent 3rd over course and distance off a 6lb higher mark than he carries here. A return to that sort of form may see him win this. He was less impressive back here in January though when beaten 7 lengths off a 4lb higher mark than he contends with in this. He’s one you can’t rule out but he’s difficult to back.

Fieldsman is very much exposed here and although he has only won twice from fourteen runs here, those victories have both come in the past six weeks. He’s only 7lbs better off with Stone Soldier for a 7.5 length beating though here earlier in December and it’s difficult to make a case for him reversing that form.

Teston has some interesting form and could be a contender here. He’s got plenty of form on artificial surfaces from his time in France and he’s only 7lbs higher here than when victorious by 7 lengths at Doncaster in June. He ran well in listed company after that effort. He’s been in lesser form in three runs since but there have been some excuses for that (heavy ground, then much faster ground, then the distance).

Irreverent is well handicapped on some older form but hasn’t quite been firing recently, running okay but not as if about to win. He’s running here for the first time and is wearing a first time visor so there are reasons why he could suddenly run much better but also reasons why he’ll run terribly!

It pays to be up with the pace here but we may well see a contested pace.

Teston is likely to try to burn them off with his customary running style but he’s going to have to go very fast to lead. There are plenty of prominent runners here as well as front runners so we could see a few having to go wide round the turn as they jostle for position.

Verdict

A difficult race in which to find value with the bookies looking to have got this market pretty much right. Neither Stone Soldier or Ayr Harbour look brilliantly handicapped but they’ve both shown the classier form and they have the least questions to answer.

Unless there is a ton of money for Borsdane Wood the best play in the race might be a straight forecast on Stone Solider to beat Ayr Harbour. The drop in trip for Stone Solider should suit better than it does for his nearest market rival.

Southwell Statistics: Horses for Courses?

There are few racing betting mediums as divisive as Southwell All-Weather, writes Jon Shenton. I know people who barely acknowledge its existence, and yet, in the other camp, are people like me: I absolutely love it with every fibre(sand) of my being!

Indeed, I love winter all weather racing, full stop. It’s probably as a result of me getting some (well earned) gardening leave from January to March 2017, when I really started to immerse myself in the world of racing. Those halcyon days of studying my new toys (Geegeez Gold being the main one) in the morning and watching the racing in the afternoon on ATR will live long in the memory.  I was drawn to Southwell because it seemed a bit easier to navigate than the complicated world of National Hunt racing.  No vagueness on ground, no fences or hurdles to consider, and a whole stack of course form to evaluate.  Perhaps some moderate, relative early success helped too.

Whilst it may not be to the taste of everyone, supporters assert that the deep, stamina sapping test provided by the track offers a unique challenge and adds to the rich tapestry of UK racing. Arguably, it serves as an outlet for horses to show their ability who aren’t ordinarily suited to other racing surfaces.

It also has the important attraction of familiar names returning year after year, which as we know isn’t then norm for the racing on the level. It may be a stretch to claim superstar status for the main protagonists, but there are legends such as La Estrella (16 wins from 21 runs at the course) and General Tufto, who has run no less than 125 times on the fibresand over the last 10 years. 125 times and still counting!

To be honest, that’s even more frequently than I’ve attempted to explain odds and probability to my poor, not really interested, long suffering and very tolerant partner. Yes, on occasion I’m surprised I have one too! Anyway, let’s crack on. What follows are a few thoughts and insights which I hope will inform your Southwell wagering hereafter.

 

USA Bred horses at Southwell

It’s relatively well documented that horses with a pedigree originating from the good ‘ole US of A are worth consideration on the fibresand.  There is certainly logic in this given the perceived proximity between the Southwell surface and the dirt tracks of America.  The table below illustrates track runners by sire origin, for all races in 2012 onwards (three major countries only included)

 

Origin of Stallion Runs Wins Win% P/L (SP) Place% ROI (SP) A/E
(GB) 7881 892 11.3 -1815.6 29.3 -23.0 0.86
(IRE) 5919 700 11.8 -1327.8 30.1 -22.4 0.85
(USA) 1248 225 18.0 155.6 38.8 12.5 1.03

Southwell (AW) runners by country of origin, 1st Jan 2012 to present

 

The picture is pretty clear: US-bred horses outperform their UK- and Irish-bred counterparts significantly, winning more often (18%), beating market expectations (1.03) and returning a profit (12.5%) at SP.

Having said that it’s not ‘backing blind’ territory in my opinion, especially given the fact there are some exceptionally big priced winners in the sample. The biggest of all was a 100/1 shot, the Derek Shaw-trained Hammer Gun, who is definitely worth putting in the tracker for future Southwell entries as we will see shortly.

The Hammer bolted up in that particular race and, if you’re going for the Hail Mary play, I can think of worse places to do it than backing a US-bred runner at Southwell who is unproven on the surface.

As USA horses have a positive record at the track it would make some sense for American stallions to have similarly favourable numbers.

The below table shows sire records at Southwell for the same period.  This time I’ve only considered runners with a maximum SP of 20/1.  The usual reasons apply: I’m looking for angles which will return with a modicum of regularity.  Whilst there can be value at larger prices if you look hard and wait long enough, it’s not a game I want to play, or perhaps I can’t afford too long between drinks.  20/1 works for me, I know some of you prefer shorter. If you do, the data is there in the Geegeez Query Tool – go play!

 

Stallion Runs Wins Win% P/L (SP) Place% ROI (SP) A/E
Key Of Luck (USA) 67 15 22.4 21.8 47.8 32.5 1.39
Dubawi (IRE) 79 26 32.9 64.2 45.6 81.2 1.34
Ballet Master (USA) 53 9 17.0 1.3 43.4 2.4 1.30
Poets Voice (GB) 53 11 20.8 35.2 54.7 66.4 1.26
Refuse To Bend (IRE) 64 16 25.0 -5.2 40.6 -8.2 1.23
Speightstown (USA) 85 20 23.5 8.2 51.8 9.6 1.21
Street Cry (IRE) 129 35 27.1 40.5 50.4 31.4 1.21
Invincible Spirit (IRE) 130 32 24.6 22.0 37.7 16.9 1.20
Showcasing (GB) 55 10 18.2 24.0 45.5 43.6 1.12
Captain Gerrard (IRE) 105 21 20.0 54.3 40.0 51.7 1.10
Clodovil (IRE) 58 11 19.0 3.8 34.5 6.5 1.10

Sire performance at Southwell (AW) 1st Jan 2012-present at 20/1 SP or less

 

The table of top Southwell AW stallions has smattering of USA sires on the list, no major shock there. And, in the case of Street Cry, he was raced on dirt in America and latterly Dubai, winning the Grade 1 Stephen Foster in US and the Grade 1 Dubai World Cup in Dubai.

Ordinarily I’d now be searching through these data, trying to find a few nice angles to share and adopt over the next few months. In general, though, Southwell is a different proposition. Angles still have relevance but the number of course specialist horses can paint a different picture. I’ve already referred to the fact that one of the joys of the track is the number of repeat runners. Taking the top of the stallion charts (Key of Luck) we can see where the problem lies in angle creation.

 

This graph shows all of Key of Luck’s runners by individual animal, illustrating runs (blue) and wins (orange). The conclusion rapidly emerges: all of Key of luck’s progeny wins have been delivered by three individual horses, with 14 of the 15 coming from The Lock Master and Serenity Now! Even the most prolific stallion on the list, Street Cry, sire of the Australian darling, Winx, has a third of his victories from just two horses, namely Tatting and Fluctuation.

Based on this I don’t feel like many genuine angle opportunities exist in sire data. The samples are too small and the number of progeny involved are insignificant in many cases. No, for me, finding the right individual horses is the key. Then tracking and following them closely can be a productive method with which to approach the fibresand puzzle. Having said that, any Key of Luck or Street Cry progeny running at Southwell are still of interest and I’ll be watching them all closely and backing where conditions appear to be right.

 

Southwell trainers

Like any track across the world there are handlers who seem to know what is required for the unique Southwell test. Using the same approach as the sire table above here is the equivalent view for trainers, again sorted by A/E.

 

Trainer Runs Wins Win% P/L (SP) Place% ROI (SP) A/E
Carroll, D 101 24 23.8 37.6 41.6 37.3 1.63
Fell, Roger 55 11 20.0 33.8 38.2 61.4 1.48
Bailey, A 84 17 20.2 59.8 40.5 71.1 1.29
Furtado, Ivan 60 12 20.0 18.0 33.3 30.0 1.28
Brown, D H 67 15 22.4 -6.8 43.3 -10.2 1.25
Nicholls, D 103 22 21.4 32.9 37.9 31.9 1.25
McCabe, A J 184 34 18.5 31.1 36.4 16.9 1.19
Dwyer, C A 82 19 23.2 14.3 53.7 17.4 1.16
Shaw, D 251 44 17.5 5.5 41.8 2.2 1.15
Burke, K R 118 28 23.7 28.7 40.7 24.3 1.13
Kirby, P A 60 11 18.3 -11.6 40.0 -19.3 1.11
Butler, John 75 19 25.3 9.8 45.3 13.1 1.10
Bowring, S R 209 33 15.8 -12.4 35.9 -5.9 1.09

Southwell (AW) runners by trainer from 1st Jan 2012 to present at 20/1 or less SP

 

As is becoming tradition it feels right to have a quick delve into the top name on the list, in this case Declan Carroll.  The Malton-based trainer sends a high proportion of runners to the Nottinghamshire track. Indeed, the only course that is frequented more by his team is Thirsk, relatively local to the outfit.

Again, like the Key of Luck data, on the face of it, it seems that backing the Carroll stable representatives blindly is a good idea. In truth, it might be: there is a healthy strike rate, fantastic A/E performance and a reasonable return on investment.  On closer inspection though, we run into a familiar theme.

 

 

This graphical representation shows Carroll horses that have had 3 or more runs on the fibresand track from 2012 onwards at an SP of 20/1 or less; we can see quite clearly that Monsieur Jimmy and Shearian with their six wins apiece (the orange line) account for over half of the trainer’s wins during the nearly six years analysed. I think this illustration reinforces the fact that successful horses generally return to the track time and time again.

In other words, there is a selection bias in these small samples. It’s a repeat of the sire analysis scenario, and again begs the same question: is it worth following specific yards on the fibresand, or is it worth following specific horses?

The answer is difficult, as are all such responses to small sample sizes skewed by individual elements. What is not in doubt specifically is that Carroll knows what it takes to nurture a successful Southwell career for a horse and, once he knows he has one with the right aptitude, he isn’t afraid to keep running them.

By way of example, let’s examine the record of Shearian at the course under the tutelage of Carroll (he was with Tracy Waggott previously).

 

 

Impressive stuff. In spite of a remarkable track record, Shearian still, however, went off at a price of 15/2 on the 12th November this year. This, despite him winning in his previous run over course and distance.  Granted, he hit the crossbar on this occasion, in a grade where he’d largely struggled, but netted the rebound three days later with a comfortable victory back in Class 6. However, considering his price shortened significantly on the 12th throughout the day the bet represented potentially great value.

That value was present due to his previous eight runs (four on tapeta, four of turf) being fairly unproductive. To Shearian followers that is absolutely of no consequence whatsoever: his lamentable record away from Southwell is 61 spins for just two wins, both as far back as 2013. The cynic in me would point towards a summer of official rating reduction in preparation for a bountiful winter campaign cruising around the Rolleston venue, his AW rating having reduced from 73 to 65 over the period in question.

I recognise that you can always find examples to fit any given narrative; however, it does seem that Southwell form offers more reliability for predicting future prospects at the track.

 

Horses for Southwell

I’d love to be able to statistically assert and prove that course form is more important at Southwell than most places and I think I can do that, at least partially.

The graph below is quite simple in what it’s trying to show but not so easy to explain.  It contains data for all AW runners, by track, from January 2012 for 3YO+ and 4YO+ handicaps only.  I’m selecting these age groups due to the likelihood of more horse runs, and logically more course form to check. It’s the journeyman (or woman) type of horse that I’m interested in here.

Anyway, the graph below shows win rate by how many victories a horse has had at the track previously:

 

 

The thick blue line represents Southwell.  What it depicts is that, compared to the other all-weather tracks of the UK, a previous course win means the horse is more likely to win again at the same track. Newcastle is an interesting newcomer, and runs it close, albeit sample sizes are tiny for the three and four previous wins data points for that course.

This statistical evidence is all well and good, but it still doesn’t quite sit right. That is due to the fact that field sizes could have a bearing on the data.  If we take the black line above (Kempton) we can see that it languishes at the bottom, or close to it, across all bandings.

The only reasons that can be the case are either that Kempton has larger field sizes, i.e. more horses running equals lower strike rates, after all only one horse can win (dead heats not withstanding); or because course form doesn’t stand up as well as elsewhere.  The fact Kempton is “poor” in all categories does point to it having a higher than average number of runners per qualifying race.  The table below confirms this, to some degree at least:

 

Track Average field size Multiplier
Southwell 9.15 0.94
Chelmsford 9.02 0.93
Wolves 9.66 1.00
Lingfield 9.21 0.95
Kempton 10.52 1.09
Newcastle 10.89 1.12
Overall 9.70 1.00

Average field sizes for AW races from 1st January 2012 onwards

 

Kempton does indeed have notably larger fields than the average AW line up. Interestingly, however, so does Newcastle, a potential course specialist track in the making. So what does this mean, and for what can we use it?

In the table it confirms that a win at Newcastle is harder to get than a win at Chelmsford, and indeed anywhere else in the UK all weather landscape, based purely on field size. To prevail at Newcastle a horse has to be the best of 10.89 animals on average. At Chelmo, the cream of the crop rises above 9.02 horses, a significant 1.87 (17%) fewer.

To try and obtain a like-for-like comparison of course form, effectively taking field size out of the equation, we have to boost Newcastle and Kempton performance to take account of the higher volume of runners per race. Conversely, we’ll be downgrading Chelmsford, Lingfield and Southwell accordingly by deploying the multiplier column in the table above.

It leaves the following picture:

 

 

These data appear to show that in the pursuit of finding winners previous course form is considerably more valuable on the tapeta of Newcastle than other all-weather courses.  The new surface at Gosforth Park is still relatively new having only been in place for racing for just over two years, so the picture may change over time; but the fact that all races at up to a mile are on a straight track is a notable difference from the remainder of the all-weather scene and may contribute to it emerging as a "specialists' track".

However, even with the adjusted numbers previous course form still holds up well in comparison for Southwell.

Of course, this doesn’t necessarily directly translate to profitable angles, as course specialists are often well found in the market after all. But using data intelligently to assist in constantly improving our race reading ability has to be a good thing. If we find a course specialist with a favourable looking setup in terms of pace and draw (for another article, or check out Dave Renham’s excellent general series), we’re looking at a bet on the assumption that the price is reasonable. 

 

A Dozen Fibresand Masters

Let’s wrap things up. Much of this article has referred to course form and the longevity of horses who run at Southwell on a repeated basis. The below table shows some of the stars who thunder around the Notts oval with regularity. Each has had at least one run at Southwell during the past 12 months, and the table is sorted by A/E, with a minimum of 10 runs required to qualify.

 

Horse Runs Wins Win% P/L (SP) Place% ROI (SP) A/E
Custard The Dragon 10 6 60.0 18.8 80.0 187.5 2.75
Hammer Gun  11 6 54.6 111.6 63.6 1014.4 2.64
Piazon 13 6 46.2 20.3 61.5 155.8 1.90
Luv U Whatever 21 9 42.9 15.6 81.0 74.3 1.41
Stand Guard 14 6 42.9 -3.7 71.4 -26.6 0.88
Captain Lars  15 5 33.3 5.3 33.3 35.5 1.37
Philba 12 4 33.3 5.5 66.7 45.8 1.87
Shearian 21 7 33.3 25.6 47.6 122.1 2.28
Razin Hell 22 7 31.8 26.3 59.1 119.6 1.61
Royal Marskell 16 5 31.3 21.6 50.0 134.9 1.89
Pearl Nation  13 4 30.8 -0.1 61.5 -0.9 1.14
Samtu  13 4 30.8 29.3 46.2 225.0 1.43

 

Record breaking Stand Guard has since retired and there may be one or two others who have hung up their racing shoes, but the list should still be broadly active and, hopefully, profitable. Piazon and the aforementioned Shearian have already got their 2018 winter campaigns off the mark and I’m sure some of the others will be troubling the judge in the coming months. I’ve got a keen eye on Hammer Gun, and Samtu if reverting back to the flat, in particular. Here’s to a productive Southwell campaign for us all and a bit of Hammer Time over the festive period!

 - Jon Shenton (@jonnyshents on twitter)