The Best Performing Trainers of 2014

"Oh God, I'm Geegeez Trainer of the Year..."

"Oh God, I'm Geegeez Trainer of the Year..."

Following on from yesterday's 'Best Jockeys of 2014' post, this article takes a similar squint at the training ranks, and asks, "Who were the best trainers of the last twelve months?"

As with the jockeys, there are as many means of measuring 'best' as there are people with an opinion and so, to keep things consistent, I've used the same criteria for handlers as I did for the riders. That is, I looked at those trainers who saddled 75 or more runners in the first three in the betting in 2014, and their performance specifically with that group of runners.

Highest Win Rate Trainers

Some punters like winners more than profit. The general folly of that approach is exemplified in the table below, where the trainer with the joint highest winning percentage of all - Willie Mullins - has proven expensive to follow again in the past twelve months.

Here's the top ten in full:

Trainer Bets Wins Win Strike SP P/L
Mulholland, N P
118 44 37% 31.26
Mullins, W P 505 188 37% -56.72
Greatrex, W J 152 55 36% 32.21
Newland, Dr R D P 106 38 36% -8.62
Ferguson, J P 146 51 35% 1.52
King, N B 85 29 34% 18.92
Richards, N G 105 35 33% 31.75
Walker, Ed 101 32 32% 12.88
Fry, Harry 109 35 32% 8.12
Bailey, K C 149 48 32% 28.78
OBrien, A P 390 121 31% -55.46

**

It is expected of the likes of Mullins and Nicky Henderson that they will score with a large number of their fancied runners, and they don't disappoint on that score. However, Henderson's near par profit/loss figure is impressive for such a high profile trainer.

Harry Fry is another in the National Hunt ranks whose horses are starting to be over-bet on a regular basis, with the value projected to have gone by the end of the current season. But elsewhere in the top ten strike rates are trainers who continue to operate under the radar - to some degree at least - including Kim Bailey, Warren Greatrex and Neil Mulholland.

Of that trio, the only one for whom the longer term prognosis, from a wagering angle, could be favourable is Greatrex. The Lambourn conditioner has beaten parity in each of the past two calendar years, a sequence which aligns with his scaling up of operations. As touched on in yesterday's post, Greatrex has linked up with Gavin Sheehan to their mutual benefit, and I'd expect them to remain a force to be reckoned with in 2015.

What is also interesting to note is that just one flat trainer made the composite top ten. Ed Walker is a fairly new trainer, having set out in 2010, and he's made a profit in the context of this study every year except 2013. The caveat - and it's a significant one - is that the losses in 2013 were substantial.

That may have been a case of scaling up too quickly, or there might have been a bug in the yard. Or something else. Whatever the reason, it is clear that the stable notably under-performed in 2013, and caution is therefore advised in terms of a 'back all fancied runners' strategy with the yard.

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that the table is actually a top eleven. This is because I wanted to include Aidan O'Brien, whose strike rate was the eleventh highest in 2014, and who was - like Mullins - a high profile trainer to be no friend of blind 'top of the market' backers. That said, merely backing O'Brien-trained favourites in Britain and Ireland in 2014 would have yielded a small SP profit, and a 49% win rate, which is quite remarkable.

[Before you go thinking that's the simplest betting system in the world, note that O'Brien's favourites had made a loss at SP in each of the previous nine years. The game just isn't as simple as that, mercifully!]

Most Profitable Trainers of 2014

As with the jockey piece, the 'cart before horse' approach of looking at the profit column is fraught with danger, and caution is advised before wading in to fancied runners from the below stables. Nevertheless, some of these guys do deserve much closer scrutiny.

Trainer Bets Wins Win Strike SP P/L
Swinbank, G A
165 50 30% 37.06
Simcock, D M 210 60 29% 33.6
Greatrex, W J 152 55 36% 32.21
Richards, N G 105 35 33% 31.75
Mulholland, N P 118 44 37% 31.26
Bailey, K C 149 48 32% 28.78
OMeara, D 363 88 24% 28.69
Wall, C F 104 30 29% 22.93
Suroor, Saeed Bin 287 85 30% 22.04
Harris, S A 90 23 26% 20.83
King, N B 85 29 34% 18.92

**

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Messrs. Greatrex, Bailey and Mulholland again make the list, and there's nothing to add in relation to their future prospects than that which I've written already.

However, top of the pile in 2014 from a ledger perspective was Alan Swinbank. Swinbank is known for getting his horses hard fit, and his record supports that reputation. As well as a 30% win rate across all disciplines with those sent off in the top three in the betting, Swinbank was able to harvest a 37.06 unit SP profit (22.46% ROI): great news for his owners.

And that was no flash in the pan either, as the Melsonby handler has made a profit under such conditions in seven of the last ten years. Again, note however that the three losing years would have incurred material losses; and, three of the winning years recorded just 3.4 units of gravy or less.

Still, there is plenty of scope for the keen student to investigate Swinbank's modus operandi in more detail, and it may feature in a future piece on geegeez.

David Simcock laid claim to the most profitable trainer on the flat (in the context of this study), and he was backing up a profit under similar conditions in 2013. Simcock enjoyed an equivalent pair of profitable years in 2007 and 2008, but in between were sandwiched four unsavoury years of losses against these criteria. As with others, a selective approach to Simcock's fancied runners should keep players close to level at worst.

Nicky Richards is also worthy of comment. 2014 was his first year of SP profit in this context since 2005. But that tells only half the story, as Richards has made a surplus at Betfair SP in nine of the past twelve years, under the same conditions! I don't expect him to reach the dizzy heights of 2014 this year, but he too should pay his way to selective support.

The last word in this space goes to Chris Wall, a trainer whose star has been waxing once more for the past four years. He's been profitable to follow in each of those seasons in the context of this study, and his win strike rate has crept up each time too, even against a growing number of runners. Wall does most of his damage in handicaps, so keep an eye out for him.

Geegeez Top Trainer of 2014

In truth, there was no real standout performer in the training ranks in 2014, and my personal preferences are not well catered for by this fairly basic mainstream analysis of form.

That said, Warren Greatrex deserves huge credit for his performance in improving his strike rate and profitability considerably since 2012 at the same time as markedly increasing the number of qualifying bets (i.e. having a lot more fancied runners).

His symbiotic relationship with Gavin Sheehan, though still in its relative infancy, looks sure to continue to yield rewards for those that keep the partnership in mind; and 2015 can be another year of profit for a number of the other handlers in the table above.

I'd be most hopeful that the likes of Chris Wall, Alan Swinbank, and to a lesser degree, Neil King and the emerging talent of Shaun Harris, will continue to keep punters on the right side of the bottom line.

Keep them in mind when framing your wagers in 2015. And good luck!

Matt

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