These two will net some handicap winners between them. Photo Healy Racing / Racingfotos.com

Trainer Profiles: Gordon Elliott

We head back to Ireland for my next trainer profile; this time I will be examining the record of Gordon Elliott. In this article I will be drilling down into just under ten years of National Hunt racing data from 1st January 2013 to 31st October 2022, the majority of which can be sourced by members using the Geegeez Query Tool. All profits / losses have been calculated to Industry Starting Price but where appropriate I will share Betfair SP data as that is a better guide these days of the likely profits/losses punters will make.

The main body of this piece will look at Elliott's record when running horses in Ireland. However, I will also examine his UK record as he sends plenty of runners across on the ferry.

Gordon Elliott Brief Bio

Elliott was not born into a racing family, but he started working for Tony Martin in his teens before riding in point to points and under rules. Towards the end of his riding career, before injury curtailed that part of his CV, he rode for Martin Pipe for a year as a conditional.

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In 2006 Elliott took out his training license, operating out of Cullentra House Stables, and just a year later became the youngest trainer ever to win the Grand National, courtesy of the former Paul Nicholls inmate, Silver Birch. He has also won the Gold Cup at Cheltenham, one of his 33 winners at the Festival. He mainly focuses on National Hunt racing but he does have a few runners on the flat, and has enjoyed success at Royal Ascot (Pallasator) as well as winning the Ebor Handicap at York (Dirar). He was banned for six months in 2021 after being photographed astride a dead horse, a reckless act. We will probably have to wait another year or two to see what, if any, long term effect that has on his success.

 

Gordon Elliott: Irish racing Record

As stated, the main part of this analysis will focus on Elliott's domestic record.

Gordon Elliott Record by Year

We'll begin with a yearly performance breakdown:

 

It is worth pointing out that 2022 (to date) has produced the lowest win strike rate and the lowest A/E index of the near decade in focus. Has this something to do with the repercussions of his ban? Possibly, but as I mentioned above we will probably need a bit longer to formulate a clearer opinion on that. Even though he lost some high profile horses at that time, it wouldn’t take a lot to pull the strike rate back up over the last two months of 2022.

[Update, Elliott finished 2022 with a domestic strike rate of 14.84%, in line with results since 2018 - Ed.]

It's time to dig a bit deeper.

 

Gordon Elliott Performance by Race Type

A look at race types first; I have excluded hunter chases as he has had just 16 runners over the ten years.

 

 

In terms of strike rate National Hunt Flat races are comfortably the best performers; it is also the sphere that has seen the smallest losses to SP. Interestingly, though, there is little in it when we examine the A/E indices. Amazingly, one could have made a small profit in chases if backing at BSP, and a slightly bigger one using the machine in NH Flat races. Hurdle races returned a loss to BSP but only just over 7%.

Gordon Elliott Performance in National Hunt Flat Races

It makes sense to dig first into these flat contests. I would like to share market rank data first as it is quite revealing:

 

 

Elliott has an outstanding record with bumper favourites, close to a 50% strike rate. Compare this to the 39.8% success rate of ALL trainers with favourites in Irish NH Flat races, and you can see why this is such a strong stat. Using BSP he would have snuck into profit which, again, for favourite data, is impressive. A/E index at 0.99 is also high.

Less impressive are the performances of second and third favourites, who recorded modest win percentages and significant losses to SP. Painfully, even at BSP, second favourites would have lost you nearly 27p in the £ if backing them all, and over 35p in the £ at industry odds.

Here are a few extra stats for NH Flat races that hopefully readers will find useful:

  1. Male runners outperform female runners, scoring 23.1% of the time to 16.9%. Female losses have been around 6.5p in the £ worse when compared to male returns (Industry SP). However, female favourites actually have done better than their male counterparts, albeit from only 53 runners. Female favourites have returned an impressive 26.5% profit;
  1. Jockey Mr J Codd (Jamie) has secured an overall SR% of just over 30% (116 wins from 381) with losses of only 7p in the £ to SP; to BSP this flips to an 11p in the £ profit;
  1. Horses on debut have a very good record in these races. There have been 435 runners of which 96 have won (SR 22.1%). Profits to SP stand at £27.62 (ROI +6.3%); to BSP this becomes £144.17 (ROI +33.1%). Note, there have been a few big-priced winners in this cohort but nothing outlandish. For the record he has had ten winners priced between 14/1 and 25/1.

 

Gordon Elliott Performance in Chases

A quick review of chases now. Looking at Elliott's yearly stats in terms of win strike rate and win & placed (Each way) strike rate we see the following:

 

Gordon Elliott, win and each way performance in Irish chases

 

Both lines show a gradual drop off in success when compared with the early to mid-2010's. From 2018 to 2022 the average win strike rate was 12.2%; the previous five year period was up at 16.8%. Likewise, the each-way five year splits see the latest period on 31.6% while the earlier five year block was nearly seven percentage points higher at 38.5%, a relative differential of around 20%. Not surprisingly, returns to £1 win level stakes have been much poorer between 2018 and 2022 compared with 2013 to 2017 – 15p in the £ poorer to be precise.

The same pattern can be seen when looking at the performance of his runners in chases when they start favourite:

 

Gordon Elliott, record with chase favourites 2013 to October 2022

 

Elliott made a profit to SP in five of the six seasons between 2013 and 2018 but, since then, he has made a loss each year, with 2020 and 2021 being particularly poor. This is essentially down to the clear drop in strike rate. [Update, by the end of 2022, Elliott had crept into profit for the year with his chase favourites, returning +4.78% ROI at a 43.48% win rate]

However, before moving on there is one further stat I would like to share with you: horses priced 14/1 or bigger have provided a profit to BSP despite a strike rate of just 3.5% (26 wins from 735 runners). To £1 level stakes (BSP) profits stand at £314.17 (ROI +42.7%). I guess many punters on Betfair ignore his bigger priced runners and hence their prices are inflated somewhat, though at that strike rate you can expect to go a very long time between drinks (losing sequences of 45, 48 twice, 49, 51, 52, 67, 75 and 88) !!!

 

Gordon Elliott Performance in Hurdle Races

Our final race code stop is the smaller obstacles, and one interesting comparison is when we look at age stats:

 

 

We see a very clear preference to the younger group with correlation across strike rates, returns, A/E indices and Impact Values.

Before moving on I want to look quickly at hurdles distance data now. There is a slight dip in performance in races of 3 miles or more as the graph below highlights:

 

 

There are notably lower win and win/placed (each way) strike rates over the longer distance hurdle contests. These are races where I suggest one thinks twice about backing Elliott runners.

 

Gordon Elliott Performance by Course

Onto racecourse data now. I am going to look at all courses where Elliott has had at least 100 runners and break the data down into different subsets. I am going to look at win strike rate and A/E indices across National Hunt Flat races, hurdle races and chases. With a ‘par’ A/E index for all trainers at around 0.87, I have highlighted A/E indices of 0.95 or higher in green – these are positive. A/E indices of 0.79 or lower (in red) are negative. Missing values means that within that race code subset Elliott had fewer than 40 runners:

 

 

There is a huge variety of figures here as one might expect, more A/E indices coloured red than green showing there are several course/race type combinations where he has struggled a little or, more fairly perhaps, where he is overbet. Courses where the stats across the board are generally positive include Down Royal, Clonmel (note that NH Flat rate is 25% from 36 races, just below the threshold for display) and Navan. Courses to avoid look to be Killarney, Leopardstown and Wexford. It may also make sense to steer clear of hurdle races at Galway, Gowran Park and Tipperary. In terms of chases it looks best to avoid Gowran Park and Naas.

 

Gordon Elliott Performance by Starting Price

Industry SP performance data now. I have looked at market position in National Hunt Flat races already, but it’s time to break all Elliott's runners down by starting price:

 

 

The most positive data comes from the odds-on group followed by the Evens to 15/8 bracket. Odds-on runners are actually very close to breaking even.

In general, the betting returns in terms of SP get worse as the starting price increases. By graphing the A/E indices we can perhaps see the downward trend more clearly:

 

 

Sticking with the front end of the market, we saw earlier that NH Flat favourites were close to breaking even to Industry SP so I decided to look at the hurdle and chase favourite data, too. Chase favourites lost around 6p in the £ and hurdlers close to 11p. This improves to marginally more palatable losses of 3p and 6p to BSP.

As a general rule I would say that shorter priced runners from the Elliott yard are worth close scrutiny and in certain circumstances will offer a modicum of value. If, however, you are the other side of the price fence and prefer longshots, it should be said that despite the 32% losses to SP which 14/1+ horses have amassed, to BSP they have actually proved profitable. These runners have won on average just once in every 29 attempts so - as mentioned earlier - if you head down this longshot road, expect it to be a rocky one.

 

Gordon Elliott Performance by Running Style

To begin with let us see the proportion of his runners that fit a specific running style. Geegeez breaks these running styles into four groups: Led – front runners; horse or horses that take an early lead; Prominent – horses that track the pace close behind the leader(s); Mid Division – horses that race mid pack; Held Up – horses that race at, or near the back of the field early.

Here are the splits for Elliott:

 

 

In terms of front runners / early leaders, Elliott sends a relatively modest proportion of his horses to the front: the average front-running figure is 10% for all Irish trainers, so he stands a little below that. Prominent runners, however, have accounted for just under 40% of all runners from the stable which compares with around 30% of all Irish runners; so Elliott is comfortably above the average here.

Let us now see the win success rate of each running style:

 

 

Front runners / early leaders score close to 30% of the time, but remember he sends less than 10% of all his runners to the front early. Some, including me, would say why does he not send more horses to lead early? Prominent racers are comfortably next best in terms of win success with poor strike rates (and very poor returns) for horses positioned further back early in their races.

I want to look at favourites now and see their success rate in terms of run style:

 

 

These are very strong win percentages for front running favourites (over 55% win success) and prominent market leaders do well also, standing at just above 42%. There is a clear drop again when we look at midfield and held up horses sent off favourite. Hence a front running favourite for Elliott is a potent weapon. Here is the figures for favourites by run style, at starting price:

 

 

Essentially if you back an Elliott runner and it goes to the front early, you have far more chance of a) the horse winning and b) making a long term profit. This is especially true if the horse is favoured.

 

Gordon Elliott Performance by Jockey

Onto some jockey analysis now and a look at any jockey who has ridden at least 75 times for Elliott since 2013, with the proviso that they have had at least one ride for the stable in 2022. I have ordered them by number of rides starting with the most:

 

 

We saw earlier that Jamie Codd has a good record in National Hunt Flat races and these are the races he primarily rides in. Regular riders Jack Kennedy and Davy Russell have very similar strike rates – Russell has provided slightly better overall returns to SP, but these are flipped if we examine BSP returns. Both actually have recorded profits on 'the machine', Russell 3p in the £ and Kennedy up at 11p in the £. Kennedy has a good record on favourites scoring 42.9% of the time; all other jockeys combined have scored just under 40% of the time on stable favourites.

Of course, since this study period, Dave Russell has announced his retirement. The main beneficiary is expected to be Kennedy, though Jordan Gainford is also one to watch.

So that brings the curtain down on the Irish side of his record, let’s take a quick look at the UK data now:

 

Gordon Elliott: UK racing record

Here are Elliott's overall figures in the UK over the past nearly ten years:

 

 

As might be expected given the costs of travel and the logistical effort, he enjoys a much higher strike rate. Minimal losses to SP are a slight surprise; indeed, to BSP Elliott has returned 12p in the £ profit on his UK runners.

 

Gordon Elliott Performance by UK racecourse

Perth and Cheltenham are the courses to which Elliott has sent the vast majority of his UK runners. There are five courses where he saddled 40 or more runners (shown below):

 

 

His record at Perth is pretty much bombproof. He has had only one winner priced bigger than 10/1 in the research period (Dantes King at 20/1 in 2013). With horses priced 10/1 or shorter at the Scottish track he has produced returns of 8p in the £ to SP, double that to 16p for BSP.

At Ayr his performance is more mixed: he has made a small profit with favourites, but any horse that has not started favourite has generally run poorly. As a group those non-favourites have won just five races from 63 (SR 7.9%) losing nearly 60p in the £ to SP; 49p loss to BSP.

At Cheltenham, Elliott has a much lower strike rate compared to other courses, which is fully to be expected given both the quality and quantity of opposition, but he has still edged into profit to SP. 257 of his 347 Cheltenham runners in the study period ran at the Cheltenham Festival so let’s look his festival record.

 

Gordon Elliott Performance at Cheltenham Festival

Of his 33 Cheltenham Festival winners, 32 have been achieved in the last ten years. He has been leading trainer at the meeting in two of the last ten years, 2017 and 2018. Here is a graph of yearly performance in terms of wins:

 

 

He had no runners in 2021, when he was serving his ban (Denise Foster, who took over the licence during that time, had three winners at the 2021 Festival); and last year (2022) Elliott did seem to underperform a little, especially if we compare it with 2017 to 2020. Having said that he had six seconds, so if two or three of those had won then I probably wouldn’t have mentioned anything. The perils of tiny sample sizes!

If you had backed all Gordon Elliott runners at the Cheltenham Festival to BSP over the past ten years a profit to £1 level stakes of £161.06 would have been achieved. This equates to returns just shy of 63 pence for every £1 bet. In six of the nine years you would have made a BSP profit on his runners. For the record, the vast majority of the profits have come from Class 1 races.

What is also impressive is the breadth of races where he has been successful: Elliott has won 17 different races at the meeting ranging from the Gold Cup to the Champion Bumper to the Cross Country Chase to the Pertemps to the Supreme Novices to the Triumph Hurdle, etc.

One final stat to be aware of at the Festival is that he actually has a better record with horses wearing some sort of headgear - especially a tongue tie, both from a strike rate perspective and a returns perspective.

 

 

 

Gordon Elliott UK Performance by Race Type

A look now at race type and I have again ignored hunter chases as he has had only eight runners in such events. As we can see, Elliott has done well with his hurdlers when sending them over to the UK:

 

 

A one in four strike rate in UK hurdle races is hugely impressive as are the positive overall returns. Favourites in hurdle races have also impressed as a group, scoring nearly 50% of the time for returns of almost 9p in the £ to SP; 14p to BSP. Horses in National Hunt Flat races have a similar strike rate to that achieved in Ireland but losses have been steep. This is due to the fact that many of his runners in these events start at prohibitive odds.

 

Gordon Elliott – Extra stats and nuggets for UK Racing

Lastly on the UK data here are three extra stats to be aware of:

  1. If you ignore horses that finished first or second last time out his record reads 143 wins from 735 runners (SR 19.5%) for a SP profit of £53.03 (ROI +7.2%); BSP profit stands at £194.65 (ROI +26.5%);
  1. Horses that raced at Cheltenham last time out have won 14 races from 59 making SP returns of 32p in the £ (49p to BSP);
  1. When jockey Sean Bowen rides, the results have been impressive: 34 wins from 104 (SR 32.7%) for an SP profit of £15.87 (ROI +15.3%); BSP profit £27.54 (ROI +26.5%)

 

Summary - Gordon Elliott Key Takeaways

Irish Racing

 

 

UK Racing

 

 

So there you have it – the next year or two will be interesting due to potential repercussions of the 2021 ban, though the early signs are that most data are largely in line with pre-suspension levels. There are plenty of solid pointers, both positive and negative, with which to inform your betting in 2023.

Good luck!

- DR

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1 reply
  1. Rotund legend
    Rotund legend says:

    Firstly, happy new year and thanks for this article. I tend to work with the past five years data, but each to their own. The one thing that it highlighted to me was that Elliott is more of an all rounder than a specialist, as it seems that he can win nay type of race. Noted re Perth, but i would only consider backing one of his runners if it was running at Cheltenham and had not been ove rbet. It strikes me that you have to be selective to get any profit from Mr Elliott.

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