A dilemma that faces punters from time to time is when a trainer saddles two or more runners in the same race, writes Dave Renham. Do you take the obvious option and back the shortest-priced runner? Or is there value in backing the outsider of the pair? Whichever approach you take, it’s likely that many of you can recall times when you backed the wrong one!
The scope of this article is restricted to looking at trainers’ performance when they have exactly two runners in the same race. The data has been taken from UK flat races (turf and all weather) from January 1st 2014 to June 28th 2021. I have restricted it to two runners purely for ease of data compilation, as well as the fact that not many trainers run three or more horses in the same race on a regular basis (Aiden O’Brien the obvious exception).
All profit and loss is calculated to Industry Starting Price. For the shorter priced horse of the pair I will call this the “first string”, the bigger priced runner will be known as the “second string”.
Let us first look at trainers that have had at two or more runners in the same race on at least 100 occasions (hence at least 200 runners overall). There have been 49 trainers that qualify against that stipulation:
Below are the combined results of all runners for each trainer (i.e. both first and second string):
Not surprisingly, just three of the 49 trainers show a profit when looking at both strings as a whole. It is hardly likely that backing both runners for every trainer in every race is going to make a profit long term. But let's see what happens when we break the data down and compare strike rates between first and second string runners. I have done this in four graphs in order to show the comparison pictorially and, hopefully, more clearly.
My approach was to add up the winners and work out which percentage of all the winners came from the trainer’s first string (shorter priced runners) and what percentage came from the second. For Charlie Appleby, for example, he has had 85 winners of which 61 were first string runners (71.8%); 24 winners came from second string runners (28.2%). The blue bar accounts for first string runners, the orange bar for second string.
Overall, when combining all 49 trainers, roughly 75% of the winners have come from their first string entries, thus 25% from their second string. I would guess these figures would be roughly what we might have expected.
As can be seen, however, there is a wide fluctuation when analysing the performance of individual trainers. John Bridger, for instance, has had no winners from his second string runners, whereas Scott Dixon has very even stats with 17 first string winners (56.7%) compared to 13 second string winners (43.3%).
Trainers to note with first string runners
Eight trainers have made a blind profit to SP with their favoured runner of the pair, while a couple have essentially broken even. The table below gives their individual stats ordered by win profit / loss.
Of course, we have to be careful when looking at relatively ‘raw’ data like this: two trainers have made a profit purely due to one big priced winner each - Mick Appleby's figures are skewed due to an 80/1 winner, while Gary Moore had a 50/1 winner. It is also worth noting that Dean Ivory had two winners at 50/1 which make up most of his £123 profit (though he was still profitable even allowing for that brace of bullseyes).
Let's now dig a little deeper into some individual trainers.
John & Thady Gosden
The Team Gosden partnership, whose stats include Gosden Senior on his own previously, have broken even with their first string runners from a very decent sample size. I thought it would be worthwhile to see if breaking the data down further may reveal a potentially profitable angle or two.
With that in mind, let's first look at race type – the bar chart below compares strike rate (in blue) and ROI% (profit/loss) in orange.
As can be seen, there were crippling returns in handicaps from a modest strike rate (relatively) of around 13%.
The Clarehaven yard enjoyed similar strike rates, at around double the handicap clip, in maidens and other non-handicaps (e.g. Group, Listed, Stakes races etc), excluding novice races; similar returns, too, with a tiny loss in maidens and a tiny profit in non-handicaps.
Far and away the best figures for Gosden’s first string runners have come in Novice races, where they've notched a strike rate of 33% with strong returns of 14p in the £ at SP.
The Novice race stats can be improved slightly if we focus on the front end of the market. Gosden’s first string runners that have started 4/1 or shorter have provided 35 winners from 97 (SR 36.1%) for a profit of £20.19 (ROI 20.8%).
There are some interesting data to share also regarding Roger Varian. His first string runners have an excellent record when sent off at single figure odds. Under these circumstances Varian’s runners have provided 27 winners from 98 runners (SR 27.6%) for a healthy profit to SP of £36.82 (ROI +37.6%). This can be improved further if we ignore handicaps, with 23 of the 75 runners winning (SR 30.7%) for an overall profit of £38.19 (ROI +50.9%).
If we focus on horses 10/1 or bigger Varian has managed just one win from 39 attempts.
A final side note for Varian is that he has struggled at Ascot with just 1 success from 23 in this context doubly-represented context.
The record of Richard Fahey with his first string runners is also interesting. Overall his figures look relatively modest – 177 winners from 1305 runners (SR 13.6%) for a loss of £265.74 (ROI -20.4%). However, when we break it down we see some big differences:
Virtually all of Fahey’s losses have occurred in handicap races. In maidens and novice events he has broken even, and from a small sample of runners in low grade sellers and claimers made a tidy profit.
Breaking the maiden data down further, focusing on Fahey runners priced 8/1 or shorter has produced 29 winners from 103 runners (SR 28.2%) for a healthy profit of £46.49 (ROI +45.1%).
Worst First String Returns
Before moving onto second strings, it is worth sharing the stats of the trainers with the worst overall returns for the first strings:
I was surprised to see Sir Michael Stoute languishing in this list; he some very poor figures indeed. Clearly the first strings of the above trainers are worth avoiding in most, if not all, circumstances.
Trainers to Note with Second String Runners
To finish off let's briefly look at trainers' second string performances. As you would expect strike rates are much lower and profits are generally hard to come by. Indeed the highest strike rate in our sample of 49 trainers is just 9.9% for Charlie Appleby, with the next best a mere 7.3% for the Gosden stable.
Messrs. Burke, Dascombe, Ivory, Dixon, Hammond and Beckett were the only trainers to make a profit on their runners, and only because of a huge priced winner here or there which skews their figures.
Some high profile trainers have very poor records with their second string runners as the line graph below shows. The blue line represents their individual strike rate and the orange line shows their return on investment (ROI%). All trainers in the graph have shown losses in excess of 33p in the £; Jamie Osborne stands the worst on that front with an 85p loss for every £1 bet. Ouch!
Trainer statistics as we know come in many forms – course stats, favourite stats, horses on debut, etc. The ones I have shared with you in this article are less well advertised. Hopefully you will find them useful either pinpointing possible bets or, just as importantly, helping to avoid poor value ones.
- Dave Renham