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Winter Power sizzles on the Knavesmire

Winter Power is set for a return to the Knavesmire after a blistering performance in the Listed John Smith’s City Walls Stakes at York.

The filly bounced back from an unplaced run in the King’s Stand at Royal Ascot to produce a convincing success as 9-4 favourite under David Allan.

The Nunthorpe Stakes is now on the agenda, a Group One test run over the same course and distance in August, but trainer Tim Easterby would like to see the three-year-old rein in her enthusiasm a touch.

“That was pretty impressive,” Easterby said.

“David said he wasn’t in control of her, she was going too quick.

“She’s got to get settled, if she doesn’t settle she won’t get home.

“She won it well, but she has got to settle because she was doing too much.

“She’ll go for the Nunthorpe, whether we’ll go to Goodwood I’m not sure.

“She won’t be short of speed but you’ve got to be in control.”

The victory was the second leg of a York double for both trainer and jockey, who teamed up earlier on the card to take the John Smith’s Nursery Stakes with Atomic Lady.

Easterby plots big sprint targets for Power pair

Tim Easterby has the major sprint races in mind for his two speedsters Art Power and Winter Power following their creditable efforts in defeat at Royal Ascot.

The Darley July Cup at Newmarket and Newbury’s Hackwood Stakes are among the options for Art Power.

The four-year-old led until the last half-furlong before having to settle for third place behind Dream Of Dreams and Glen Shiel in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes.

“He’s come out of it really well. He’s in great form and was bang on, straight after the race,” said Easterby.

Art Power has the July Cup as a possible option
Art Power has the July Cup as a possible option (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

As for Art Power’s next target, he added: “Not sure yet – maybe the Hackwood next month, there’s a race for him in Ireland as well.

“There are quite a few options. Or the July Cup, he could go there.”

Winter Power may head to Glorious Goodwood for the King George Qatar Stakes next, having weakened in the closing stages to finish ninth in the King’s Stand Stakes behind Oxted.

The three-year-old filly was sent off 7-1 third favourite for the Group One over five furlongs, following an impressive victory at York on her seasonal debut.

“She came out of the King’s Stand really well,” said Easterby.

“There are lot of obvious options for her over five furlongs – like the King George at Goodwood, the Nunthorpe, the Abbaye at the end of the season.

The North Yorkshire handler has had to put plans on hold, however, for Wells Farhh Go – who suffered a setback following his run in the Yorkshire Cup.

The injury-plagued six-year-old was fourth to Spanish Mission, in his first race for 587 days.

“We just had a little hiccup with him after last time,” said Easterby.

“It’s nothing serious, but we had to just put him on hold a bit again.

“We’ll get there some time – no plans at the moment. It will be an autumn campaign with him.”

Winter Power ready for King’s Stand surge

Tim Easterby reports Winter Power in fine shape for the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot following her impressive victory at York last month.

The three-year-old filly staked a big claim for sprint honours when running away with the Listed Westow Stakes on the Knavesmire.

She was carrying on where she left off last year, having ended a busy juvenile campaign with a convincing victory in the Group Three Cornwallis Stakes at Newmarket.

Easterby said: “She’s in great order, she couldn’t be better.

“She was impressive at York, and she’s impressive all the time.”

The Great Habton trainer also expects Art Power to be at fever pitch for the Diamond Jubilee Stakes after he too made his seasonal reappearance at York’s May meeting.

The four-year-old burst on the scene when scoring at Royal Ascot last summer, before going on to win at Group Three level and running creditably in three Group Ones.

The Dark Angel colt blew away the cobwebs when sixth to Starman in the Duke of York Stakes.

“He’s in great form. His race at York has put him right,” said Easterby.

Lampang also booked his place at the Royal meeting when ending a 21-month losing spell at Hamilton on Thursday.

“It was good to see him come back to form. He’s a good horse,” said Easterby.

“He’s in the Wokingham, and there’s the seven-furlong race (Buckingham Palace), but I’d think he’d have to go for the Wokingham.

“He’d have a very good chance. The stiff six furlongs will suit him.”

Winter wonderful on the Knavesmire for Easterby

Winter Power looks like she is going to have a say in some major sprints this season given the way the three-year-old bolted up in the British Stallion Studs EBF Westow Stakes at York.

Tim Easterby’s filly looked progressive at the end of last season when winning the Cornwallis Stakes at Newmarket, yet even with that Group Three penalty her rivals did not see which way she went.

She burst out of the stalls and held a big early advantage after three furlongs, when Silvestre de Sousa began to look around to see where the others were.

It soon became apparent that nothing could live with the King Power Racing-owned filly and when Acklam Express began backpedaling – eventually finishing tailed off – the 5-1 winner had the race in the bag.

She came home three lengths clear of Atalis Bay with another five back to Dexter Belle.

“She’s just a natural. She’s always been able to gallop, it just took us a while to get it together, but she’s so relaxed now,” said Easterby.

“She’s a good size – she’s grown and done well. She was quite backward in her coat until about two weeks ago and she’s blossomed.

“She’s goes on firm ground and goes on soft ground – she’s just a pro. You get good horses like that once in a while.

“She hasn’t had a lot of galloping, but she doesn’t blow. Pipalong was the same – they don’t blow those good horses.

“She’s as good as we’ve had for a long time, I’d have thought.

“She definitely goes for the King’s Stand – that has been the plan all along.”

Winter Power was cut to 10-1 from 20s for the King’s Stand by Betfair.

Copper Knight (left) wins for the fifth time at York
Copper Knight (left) wins for the fifth time at York (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Easterby had earlier won with Copper Knight (11-2 joint-favourite), who took the Matchbook Betting Exchange Handicap at York for a second time to gain a fifth success on the Knavesmire.

Rated as high as 106 at his peak, he was well-backed at Chester last week to take advantage of a much-reduced rating of 85 but could only finish third to Jabbarockie.

In front a long way out, first James Sullivan’s mount had to see off the attentions of Jawwaal on entering the final furlong and then Mulzim made good ground from the rear to chase him home, at a distance of half a length.

Easterby said: “He’s a star, last year he just lost his way a bit.

“He ran great first time out (second at Newmarket), but went up a fair bit and that snookered him.

“He got himself re-handicapped really and he ran well at Chester last week.

“He likes it here. We might look at the Dash at Epsom.”

He added: “When he first came he was a bit stressy and took a bit of settling down, but he’s just one of those horses that is easier to train now.”

Kynren (left) was a narrow winner at York
Kynren (left) was a narrow winner at York (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Another Chester third went a couple of places better in the Matchbook Betting Podcast Hambleton Handicap, with the David Barron-trained Kynren coming out on top in a thrilling finish.

Ridden by Connor Beasley, 17-2 chance was strongly pressed by 7-2 favourite Brunch in the closing stages, but clung on by a neck.

“I got a little bit checked two and a half furlongs down, but once I got him back in a rhythm he went to the line all the way,” said the winning jockey.

“He’s a model of consistency and ran a mighty race last week at Chester. Coming back to a lovely track like York with a bit of ease in the ground just played to his strengths.

“I followed the fancied ones through and it worked out well.”

Lusail made a winning debut for Richard Hannon in the Constant Security ebfstallions.com Maiden Stakes.

The Al Shaqab Racing-owned colt was a largely unconsidered 28-1 shot in the hands of Andrea Atzeni, but displayed a willing attitude to get the better of Mattice by three-quarters of a length, with 5-2 favourite Albahr best of the rest in third.

Hannon, whose chief hope Secret Strength (4-1) finished fourth, said: “The winner is a nice colt and will improve massively for that.

“He’s only galloped twice and is not there in his coat yet. We’ll take things quietly, but if he’s good enough to go to Ascot he’ll go.

“I can’t work out the fourth horse – I’m certain there’s a good horse in there somewhere. He’s not finishing his races and I don’t know why.”

Copper Knight wins again on the Knavesmire

Copper Knight won the Matchbook Betting Exchange Handicap at York for a second time to gain a fifth success on the Knavesmire.

Rated as high as 106 at his peak, he was well-backed at Chester last week to take advantage of a much-reduced rating of 85 but could only finish third to Jabbarockie.

One of three runners for Tim Easterby along with Count D’orsay and top-weight Sunday Sovereign, the market spoke strongly in his favour and he was sent off the 11-2 joint-favourite.

In front a long way out, first James Sullivan’s mount had to see off the attentions of Jawwaal on entering the final furlong and then Mulzim made good ground from the rear to chase him home, at a distance of half a length.

Easterby said: “He’s a star, last year he just lost his way a bit.

“He ran great first time out (second at Newmarket), but went up a fair bit and that snookered him.

“He got himself re-handicapped really and he ran well at Chester last week.

“He likes it here. We might look at the Dash at Epsom.”

He added: “When he first came he was a bit stressy and took a bit of settling down, but he’s just one of those horses that is easier to train now.”

Kynren (left) was a narrow winner at York
Kynren (left) was a narrow winner at York (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Another Chester third went a couple of places better in the Matchbook Betting Podcast Hambleton Handicap, with the David Barron-trained Kynren coming out on top in a thrilling finish.

Ridden by Connor Beasley, 17-2 chance was strongly pressed by 7-2 favourite Brunch in the closing stages, but clung on by a neck.

“I got a little bit checked two and a half furlongs down, but once I got him back in a rhythm he went to the line all the way,” said the winning jockey.

“He’s a model of consistency and ran a mighty race last week at Chester. Coming back to a lovely track like York with a bit of ease in the ground just played to his strengths.

“I followed the fancied ones through and it worked out well.”

Art Power aiming to sparkle in hot renewal of Duke of York

Tim Easterby reports Art Power ready to return to the fray in the Duke of York Clipper Logistics Stakes on the Knavesmire on Wednesday.

The son of Dark Angel, owned by King Power Racing, enjoyed a successful three-year-old campaign that saw him develop into a serious contender for sprinting honours.

After completing a hat-trick in convincing fashion in the Group Three Lacken Stakes at Naas in July, Art Power contested Group One company for his last three races.

He had his baptism at the top level in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York, where he was sixth to Battaash over the minimum trip, and was fourth in both the Haydock Sprint Cup and the Qipco British Champions Sprint at Ascot in the autumn.

“He looks great, he’s in good form and is working well,” said the Great Habton handler.

“We’re aiming for Ascot and the Diamond Jubilee with him. This is a good starting point.”

“We’re ready for off.”

Oxted bids to win for the first time since he lifted the July Cup in the summer.

The Roger Teal-trained sprinter has just had three starts since then, with the latest coming at Newmarket when he was beaten by Summerghand in the Abernant Stakes.

The five-year-old takes on that old rival as well as other talented speedsters, but Teal could not be happier with his charge.

“He’s been working well and seems to be in good order. I’m very happy with him,” he said the Lambourn handler.

Roger Teal (left) with son Harry and Oxted after the July Cup and Oxted
Roger Teal (left) with son Harry and Oxted after the July Cup and Oxted (Hugh Routledge/PA)

“It’s a tough race, but at that level it’s going to be competitive. He’ll have to be on his A game, but he goes there in good form.”

Starman finished behind Brando (second), Art Power (fourth) and Oxted (fifth) when only 14th in the Champions Sprint when he got stuck in very testing ground.

“We’ve been waiting for this race all spring. He’s in cracking form,” said trainer Ed Walker.

“I’m a bit disappointed with the potential ground. I’m hoping the rain stays away. He’s been training great and moving fantastic, but it’s a stiff renewal of the race.

Starman bids to return to winning ways in the Duke of York Stakes
Starman bids to return to winning ways in the Duke of York Stakes (Mark Cranham/PA)

“He was beaten by a few of these at Ascot last year, for which we blamed the ground. Tom (Marquand) said he couldn’t get his feet out of the mud. We’re just hoping that on better ground, over the course and distance when he beat Dakota Gold, he can get back to winning ways and prove worthy of a shot at the Diamond Jubilee.

“We’re excited and couldn’t be happier.”

Molatham drops back to six furlongs for the first time since he was runner-up to Mums Tipple on his racecourse debut at Ascot in July 2019.

Roger Varian is hoping the Night Of Thunder colt can book his place in the Diamond Jubilee at the Royal meeting.

“We’re hopeful – he’s training super and looks fantastic,” said Varian.

“It’s his first run over six furlongs since he made his debut as a two-year-old, but he’s won a Jersey Stakes and has been placed in a Park Stakes – he’s a good horse.

Molatham (near side) drops back in trip at York
Molatham (near side) drops back in trip at York (Megan Ridgwell/PA)

“He’s a deceptive horse because he’s a fairly laid-back worker at home, but in his races he’s always been a strong traveller.

“York is quite a sharp track, but we’re hoping that he’ll handle the drop in trip to six furlongs and runs well enough to put himself in the Diamond Jubilee picture.”

Saeed bin Suroor is pleased with Final Song, who has her first run back in the UK after spending the winter in Dubai.

Saeed bin Suroor, trainer of Final Song
Saeed bin Suroor, trainer of Final Song (Mike Egerton/PA)

The four-year-old filly, who will be ridden by Frankie Dettori, was second in the Group One Al Quoz Sprint on the last of her four races at Meydan where she was successful in the Group Three Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint.

“Final Song worked nicely on Saturday and is ready to go on her first UK start this season,” Bin Suroor told www.godolphin.com.

“She showed out in Dubai that this trip really suits and I am hopeful of another good run.”

Art Power returning to scene of finest hour

Tim Easterby is eyeing a return to Ascot for his star sprinter Art Power.

The grey son of Dark Angel looked every inch a top-class sprinter in the making when dominating his rivals in handicap company at the Royal meeting in June – his fourth win from his first five starts.

He finished a disappointing sixth when well fancied for the Nunthorpe at York last month, but shaped better when fourth in the Sprint Cup at Haydock on his latest appearance.

Art Power has looked a top-class sprinter in the making
Art Power has looked a top-class sprinter in the making (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The Qipco British Champions Sprint on October 17 is next on Art Power’s agenda.

Easterby said: “He’s in good shape – he came out of Haydock well.

“I was very happy with how he ran at Haydock and it will be Ascot next for him, all being well.

“He’ll be a better horse next year as he’s still got some strengthening up to do.”

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.”

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.

Stat of the Day, 14th August 2020

Thursday's pick was...

4.25 Bath : Tell William @ 11/4 BOG 4th at 9/4 (Close up, ridden and every chance over 1f out, kept on same pace) 

Friday's pick runs in the...

3.40 Chester :

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Normally, I'll identify and share the selection between 8.00am and 8.30am and I then add a more detailed write-up later within an hour or so of going "live".

Those happy to take the early price on trust can do so, whilst some might prefer to wait for my reasoning. As I fit the early service in around my family life, I can't give an exact timing on the posts, so I suggest you follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for instant notifications of a published pick.

Who?

Bossipop @ 7/2 BOG

...in an 8-runner, Class 4,  Flat Handicap for 4yo+ over 5f on Good To Soft, ground worth £5,984 to the winner... 

Why?...

We start with the racecard...

...which primarily tells me that Tim Easterby is a trainer to follow in handicaps here at Chester with a 1 in 6 record backed blindly over the last three seasons prior to this one. My starting point for trainer/course angles is always last three seasons / 15%+ SR / AE of 1.25+ and IV of 1.50+.

Moreover, since the start of 2016, Tim's Chester handicappers sent off at 2/1 to 17/2 are 15 from 48 (31.25% SR) for 52.35pts (+109.1% ROI) at an A/E of 1.87 and an IV of 3.11, including of relevance today...

  • 10/29 (34.5%) for 32.3pts (+111.4%) in races worth less than £10,000
  • 9/27 (33.3%) for 34.92pts (+129.3%) in 3yo+ handicaps
  • 8/24 (33.3%) for 26.25pts (+109.4%) at Class 4
  • 7/22 (31.8%) for 33.18pts (+150.8%) with runners unplaced LTO
  • 6/21 (28.6%) for 27.45pts (+130.7%) over 5 to 6 furlongs
  •  5/7 (71.4%) for 25.04pts (+357.7%) on Good to Soft ground
  • 4/14 (28.6%) for 13.28pts (+94.8%) for jockey David Allan
  • and 3 from 8 (37.5%) for 11.42pts (+142.7%) over this 5f course and distance...

...giving us... a 1pt win bet on Bossipop @ 7/2 BOG as was available at 8.10am Thursday, but as always please check your own BOG status (*some firms are not BOG until later in the morning)To see a small sample of odds offered on this race...

...click here for the betting on the 3.40 Chester

Don't forget, we offer a full interactive racecard service every day!

REMINDER: THERE IS NO STAT OF THE DAY ON SUNDAYS

Here is today's racecard

P.S. all P/L returns quoted in the stats above are to Betfair SP, as I NEVER bet to ISP and neither should you. I always use BOG bookies for SotD, wherever possible, but I use BFSP for the stats as it is the nearest approximation I can give, so I actually expect to beat the returns I use to support my picks. If that's unclear, please ask!

Jon Shenton: Who to Layoff?

Under normal circumstances April and May is my favourite time of the year, both in personal “real-life” terms but also through the racing lens, writes Jon Shenton. Usually, as the flat season kicks into gear it is a period when I’d be at my most active in punting terms. This year there is a void, and I’ve as yet not wanted want to fill it with third tier US racing, or whatever other meagre scraps are on offer.

Before we begin, an uber-caveat: the date of the restart of the sport will go a long way to establishing whether data-driven angles have a strong role to play in this years’ flat campaign.

Sadly, it may be smart to keep certain angles in cold storage until the spring of 2021: a truncated campaign will quite likely manifest in all sorts of data anomalies for otherwise robust angles. Let me explain with a specific example.

Many of my favourite angles are early season specific. Several yards are typically fast out of the blocks and others have a more nonchalant approach to the first exchanges in the campaign, in result terms anyway. Avoiding some yards during the initial knockings of the turf season can be a prudent move. A case in point is Tim Easterby: the powerhouse yard has a colossal number of runners throughout the spring and summer months with performance notable by its variance over the course of the season as the below graph illustrates.

It’s not the most exciting data, illustrating only the yard’s win percentage. However, it clearly shows a seasonal variance: Easterby’s performance in April and May is moderate in comparison to the peak summer period. To give a feel for the scale, there are 642 total runners in April alone, so in horse racing terms the sample sizes are broader than most (the yard is also 0-from-29 in March).

Focusing on 2020, what happens now? It is pure speculation but for the sake of this article let’s assume the season starts in July. Ordinarily, this would be peak Tim territory assuming a standard racing calendar. The million dollar question is, would the yard be expected to drop straight into the usual July prolific form or will it build slowly like usual, allowing its animals to develop race fitness through visits to the track, peaking as a yard in September or later? Perhaps we will see neither and the yard will flatten their own curve.

It is very difficult to project with any confidence, especially when placed in the context of every other yard rethinking and rehashing their own usual blueprint, planning for and around a truncated season.

Arguably, all typical trainer patterns could be of limited relevance. I certainly wouldn’t back a usual Easterby July qualifier this year, at least until I had more evidence to show the yard had adapted to the revised topology.

However, we don’t give in that easily at geegeez. Yes, it is true that a data-driven gambler may have to tread carefully; but there is also such a thing as first mover advantage! By cutting through the noise more quickly than most, there may be opportunities to gain utility from the numbers as they happen. Within that, possessing a good understanding of the ‘norm’ is beneficial as it provides a head start in terms of knowing what to look for as racing awakens from its enforced hiatus.

One sensible starting point is to evaluate how trainers perform after a horse has had a long rest from racing. This year, most animals are going to be hitting the track after a sizeable hiatus when the sport re-commences. Knowing the trainers who perform well in these circumstances ought to be of use.

The table below (containing data from horseracebase) shows exactly this: it summarises trainer performance with horses returning after a break of 181 days or longer (UK flat turf races only, 2011-present, SP 20/1 or shorter). The SP cut-off is a personal choice and generally helps sort the wheat from the chaff in my opinion.

The insight is sorted in A/E order (Actual vs. Expected, assessing performance vs. the expectation of the market, 1.00 being par, anything greater being outperformance against market expectation) and a minimum of 100 runs are required to qualify for the table. There are plenty of points to discuss but we will begin with my eye being drawn to the four yards marked in yellow.

These jump off the page, predominantly due to their impressive strike rates around one-in-four win to run ratio. They are also bona fide prime flat racing organisations where value can be hard to come by so merit closer scrutiny.

Given the profile of these yards, it is surprising that the market seems to ever-so-slightly underestimate their lay-off horses: time and again these guys fire in winners after an absence. The length of time off the track is far from detrimental to their chances; in fact, it may be a positive indicator of intent. However, we, as the general punting public still subconsciously prefer the reassurance of a recent run. In the case of the highlighted yards (and several of the others) it is a wise move trying to ignore the long elapsed time between runs.

Taking this concept further, the graph below illustrates the same trainers contained in the original data table above. The red line shows the A/E performance for the horses returning to the track after more than 180 days by trainer, whereas the blue bars shows the A/E for those who have a run during the last 180 days.

In basic terms, virtually all these trainers perform more profitably with lay-off animals than they do with more recent runners (using A/E as the measure). The only three that do not are Messrs Balding, Prescott and Ryan, but even then, the difference in results is virtually negligible.

The left-hand side of the graph indicates those where the variance between the lay-off horses and the race fit animals is most significant. Ballydoyle maestro Aidan O’Brien heads the list. There is some logic in this, at least theoretically. It is not beyond imagination to speculate that a horse travelling across the Irish Sea to the UK is ready for action and means business. Were it not it would be running closer to home, presumably.

However, to satisfy whether that is a fair assertion or not, a comparison with the yard’s Irish return-after-a-break horses should confirm if this is the case.

As can be seen, O’Brien’s travellers outperform their stay-at-home counterparts on every measure. Whilst it is probably not angle material it is certainly worth factoring into big race considerations, especially if the money is down (the record for horses 6/1 or bigger is just 2-from-45 within the UK dataset).

Another trainer highlighted in the table with a large differential between the performance of his lay-off and recent runners is Roger Varian. The Newmarket-based operation is one that, considering its scale and profile, I do not particularly follow or have many related opinions / angles.

However, in the context of his layoff runners there is an interesting edge to consider when runners are evaluated by age.

The table demonstrates that the winning performance level of Varian’s three-year-olds after a break is not as strong as his older horse returners. This could easily be a sample size issue, particularly as the place performance is very consistent. Regardless, the numbers of the four years and older brigade are highly noteworthy.

Taking those four-plus aged horses and evaluating their performance after an absence against the yard’s performance where a run has been more recent, the numbers grow in stature still further by comparison.

Effectively, the table above confirms that the absolute right time to back a Varian horse aged four or older is its first run after an absence.

I dare say that this is the tip of the iceberg and there are plenty of other interesting data-driven nuances in relation to all trainers in the table. A bit of homework for me – or you? – over the next week or two perhaps.

Again, 2020 may prove to be wholly different from recent history given these unique circumstances. Normally, much of the value in these yards horses after a break can be attributed to the likelihood that much of their competition would have had a recent outing: the beady eye of the market is often drawn to those who have provided recent evidence of their well-being rather than those who have been out of sight, out of mind.

This year, especially early in the season, most runners in each race will be racing on the back of a long break. It is conceivable that every yard and every owner will be desperate to get their charges out as early as possible to mitigate some of the economic damage received through the enforced absence.

Consequently, if the phasing of animals having their first run in a while is compressed into a short period of time as there isn’t the luxury of a long campaign, it could be easily argued that the market  will focus more towards the likes of O’Brien, Varian, Gosden and Haggas given their elevated status.

If the mooted Royal Ascot behind closed doors meeting does proceed, virtually every horse will be hitting the track after a long absence. Gosden, O’Brien et al runners could be like moths to a light for punters, even more so than usual, eroding potential value from the lay-off angle.

However, the bottom line is that these yards have proven performance after a lay-off in their locker. Plenty of others do not and those others will have to elevate their game and do something uncharacteristic to their norm to prevail.

Of course, it is conceivable that trainers who build a horse’s fitness through racing will adapt easily. Trainers are generally highly skilled practitioners and should be able to modify their approach to match the situation.

The yards listed in the table below are some of those for whom the first run is typically a sighter; whether things will be different in 2020, time will tell, but it seems prudent to be cautious until evidence to the contrary manifests itself.

It is certainly the case that the performance of runners from these yards after an absence is not meeting market expectation with unhealthy A/E numbers across the board. Again, the table is restricted to runners at 20/1 or shorter (SP), and 100 runners is required to qualify.

In broad terms, unless there is a compelling reason not to, it’s a straightforward decision to pass on entrants from these guys after a hiatus. Naturally, Easterby (Tim) is on here as intimated earlier. It is going to be fascinating to see whether these yards will still be content to play the long game once racing is back.

Personally, I’m not sure how to play things yet. The timing of the resumption will be key in shaping a strategy. With the deferral of four of the Classics it’s looking more and more likely that the resumption date will be mid-summer. Given that, my gut feel is that angle and data-driven wagering of this kind will be fraught with danger. However, where there is a market there will always be an opportunity to find an edge.

One thing is for sure: one of my starting points will be to man-mark the yards in this article when we get going again. By spotting the trainers who are ready to go, or otherwise, there should be plenty of chances to make up for lost time. Who knows, I may even be backing Tim Easterby horses after a prolonged absence. These are strange times, after all!

Stay safe.

- JS