Hello again, it’s been a while! It goes without saying that I’m delighted to be back “on-grid” and I very much hope that this article is the first of a steady flow over the next few months, writes Jon Shenton.
Expect the usual data-driven analysis in what follows. However, this time I’m going to move ever-so-slightly away from the approach of purely seeking angles and/or system bets. Whilst these are naturally going to be a result of the research, I don’t intend for that to be the be all and end all. In this series, I’m going to delve into the profiles of specific National Hunt trainers. The primary goal is to develop a deeper understanding of the circumstances in which stables excel and/or alternatively where they generally come unstuck.
To kick things off, I’m going to run the rule over the Somerset yard of Grade 1-winning trainer Jeremy Scott. It’s a safe start as this outfit seems to be omnipresent in terms of “good data” and I already have a couple of reasonably robust, well-performing data-driven “ins” which, of course, I’ll share in due course.
Firstly, some light optional reading on the Scott operation. If you have the time it is well worth kicking back with a cuppa and having a mooch around their website. There is an abundance of good info and a blog which is updated with greater regularity than most.
Of course, in addition, the yard also has an indirect affiliation to this very site through its relationship with Geegeez-sponsored conditional jockey Rex Dingle, who rides with regularity for Team Scott. [Rex's day job is centred at the yard of Anthony Honeyball, which you’ll already know is sponsored by Geegeez too].
I’ll be using a mix of Query Tool and Horseracebase for all the data in this article and all analysis relates to 1st Jan 2011 through to 7th November 2020 inclusive.
Jeremy Scott Runners: Performance vs. the Market
Firstly, when developing a feel for a yard, I often begin by examining performance in the context of the market. This gives a solid guide to the relative importance of the weight of money behind a runner from the stable in question. It can often be the case that a line can be struck through horses once they get to more exotic price levels. As a starter for ten the below table shows Scott performance by SP range.
These data have a reasonably clear division between the shorter side of pricing and the more fanciful range of SP’s. Notably, backing all horses indiscriminately where the price is on the skinnier side (equal to or less than 8/1) would result in a reasonable profit. It’s a 9% ROI across 927 runners over the near decade of performance from 2011. That’s an impressive stat and smashes home the mantra that keenly priced runners from this yard are at the very least worth shortlisting. The colour formatting on the ROI column demonstrates this in a clear enough way.
To further evaluate the outfit's overall performance the below graph gives an interesting perspective by comparing the Actual vs Expected market data for Scott runners against all the market averages by SP.
Basically, Scott comfortably outperforms the market across virtually all price bands, reinforcing that this is a trainer to keep firmly in the metaphoric crosshairs. As expected, the results at the prices up to 8/1 generally are north of 1.00, indicating market-beating propensity at these ranges.
The blue “average” line on the graph also demonstrates that if you habitually play at fancy prices then it’s exceedingly difficult, maybe close to impossible, to consistently beat the bookies. With an A/E of below 0.40 for all runners at 50/1 or greater it indicates what an uphill battle it is to prevail against starting price. [The exchanges reflect a more realistic representation of a horses chance of victory in these deep waters].
Circling back to Scott, here is the annualised breakdown of those runners at 8/1 or shorter, underlining that, historically speaking this stable is repeatedly a serious outfit at these prices.
A staggeringly simple and staggeringly consistent punting perspective, notwithstanding the smallest of small blips in a couple of earlier years.
Consequently, given that Scott’s runners are just 34-from-1042 (a little over 3% strike rate) when their SP is greater than 8/1 I’m going to ignore and exclude these runners from all subsequent analysis for the remainder of this article. It doesn’t mean that there isn’t value at some of these larger prices but, for the sake of brevity, starting with the more solid data set of keenly priced horses is a pragmatic option. There is always the chance of throwing the baby out with the bathwater in some cases, however, it’s a risk I’m happy to take.
Jeremy Scott Runners by Race type
When evaluating trainer records in National Hunt racing it is often a hugely worthwhile exercise to perform a check on the numbers by the different disciplines within the sport. It’s surprising quite how many yards display significant variance between the obstacle types. Through separation, value can regularly be attained.
In the case of Scott, there is variance between the chase and hurdle form with the smaller obstacle data being clearly superior. Bumper results are worth a distinct footnote due to their relative strength, albeit that's not an area of focus here.
By zooming in on hurdle form, further differentiation can be established by checking the handicap and non-handicap status of the race:
Again, performance is meritorious across both formats. However, the non-handicap form appears to be particularly noteworthy, with just about a third of runners prevailing and more than half making the frame, comfortably beating market expectations, too.
Evaluating at a slightly deeper level into specific non-handicap race type:
“None of these” relates to Graded/Listed races and all bar one of those runs relate to the stable star, Melodic Rendezvous, who won the G1 Tolworth Hurdle in 2013. That aside, performance in maiden and novice hurdles is exemplary. In fact, we’re into angle territory with this one: I’ll be setting an alert for any Scott runner with an SP of 8/1 or shorter in maiden and novice hurdle events over the coming months and hopefully beyond.
Jeremy Scott Runners by Jockey
Evaluating who are the go-to pilots for Scott is the topic for exploration in this section. It transpires that there are three jockeys who have secured by far the lion's share of rides for Scott during the ten years covered here.
Clearly, based on this table, Rex Dingle has an outstanding record when getting legged up for Scott. Incidentally, I did check and there is not a single winner at a price of greater than 8/1 in his Scott portfolio of rides.
However, there are a couple of considerations worth discussion in the Dingle data. Firstly, he is still is riding as a conditional jockey (now at 3lb claim) and it is not beyond the realms of possibility that his claim has historically been utilised to maximum effect by this trainer. As the claim expires over time, it may be that Dingle is called upon less frequently by the Scott operation. Or perhaps the dynamics of the horses ridden may change resulting in degradation of performance. However, that said, a Scott/Dingle combo at a short to middling price is a clear indication of general intent.
As a bit of a diversion I decided to inspect in detail how these three jockeys performed based on their pace position in the race. It’s in Query Tool so seemed it rude not to!
It may be of marginal benefit to know though, I maintain, interesting, nonetheless, that there is a clear variance in performance and style between the stable jocks.
In particular, the contrast between Scholfield and Griffiths is fascinating.
From the table above it can be seen that Griffiths leads from the front on over 28% of occasions. His performance on these front-running rides is strong, too, with an A/E of 1.44. Scholfield, by contrast, only leads in 13% of races where he’s piloting a Scott horse. (Note, there are some “null” pace scores, when a horse's run style cannot be determined from the in-running comments, which explains why the percentages for each rider do not total 100%).
I wonder if this is purely down to jockey discretion or whether the yard matches horses preferred run styles to the rider. Either way, it may be something to note in the future. A proven front-running or prominent animal with Griffiths jocked up may be upgraded in any shortlist. Scholfield less so obviously.
Dingle, as intimated, excels in most scenarios, although it should be noted that he has only led on five horses in the sample above. Interesting that such an ascendant talent is seemingly content to take a tow into a race with greater regularity than may be anticipated.
Jeremy Scott Runners by Race Class
One of my treasured angles over the past few years is remarkably simple in nature and has been consistently reliable in terms of returns. It relates to following Scott horses in the lower classes of UK National Hunt racing. See if you can spot it in the table below!
Whilst the numbers are solid enough across the board, it’s abundantly clear that Scott is a shrewd operator when placing his charges amongst the lesser lights. In 2020 thus far, for instance, he has a strike rate of four-from-nine; so there is no obvious sign of this letting up just yet. I’m usually inclined to produce deeper analysis and comment but on this occasion it is best to just let the speak for themselves.
For assurance purposes, here is the annualised performance. Of course, there are no guarantees in this game but everything being equal it’s well worth tracking Scott animals lining up in these lower echelons with maximum interest.
Jeremy Scott Runners: Seasonal Performance / Ground conditions
Broadly speaking, trainers are creatures of habit and one factor which is always is worth due care and attention is how a yard's form typically fluctuates across the course of a season or calendar year. However, it can pay to cross reference this seasonal view with how that stable's horses perform in specific ground conditions, particularly where National Hunt racing is concerned.
The logic for doing so is thus: given that ground conditions tend to be softer over the winter months, it could be easily argued that the primary reason a yard peaks in winter is because their horses are geared toward running in the mud, and not because their horses are highly tuned at that specific time of year.
It probably doesn’t overly matter, as horses that are mudlarks will be trained to peak with winter conditions in mind. However, I do think it’s pragmatic to check as, by focusing on winter (for example) rather than soft ground, it’s possible that other seasons' creditable soft ground performance is missed. Scott is a good case in point.
The two graphs below illustrate the performance by month. The left hand graph demonstrates the rate of return through backing all horses from the Scott yard. On the right is A/E performance relating to the same data. As you’d expect there is a strong correlation between the two.
This is a yard that appears to make hay when the sun starts to shine in the spring. Performance, whilst still of a respectable nature, is a notch or two lower as things progress through to late summer, autumn and into the dark winter months.
Naturally, it might then be expected that this yard would deliver stronger numbers on the slightly quicker ground which is usually more prevalent in the spring and summer months.
Bang in line with expectancy: Good to Soft, Good, and Good to Firm all sit proudly in profitability comparison against their slower ground counterparts. However, note the overall consistency of strike rate, both win and place.
To attempt to understand which of the ground or seasonal aspects is the primary driving force in performance it’s sensible to test the data by dividing it by month and by going. Perhaps it’s easier to explain with a graph. Below, the data show A/E of the yard's runners on good to firm, good and good to soft ground (the blue line). Soft and Heavy are represented by the broken orange bar (May through to September excluded due to small sample sizes).
The data do indicate a bias towards ground conditions being the primary factor rather than time of year. Performance of Scott horses appears to be stronger on the quicker ground across all months. It is also worth noting that the A/E’s of 1.00 or greater in deep ground conditions in March, April, September and November still exceed market expectation: likely profit still, but certainly a reduced edge.
Jeremy Scott Runners by Race Distance
Another element of differentiation of performance within the Scott dataset is race distance. Like many of the other topics, results are strong across the board. However, there is an advantage to consider when evaluating the yard's runners over the shorter or intermediate National Hunt trips, the table below demonstrating this:
A 20% strike rate for races of around three miles and beyond is not to be sniffed at. Nevertheless, it appears as though Squadra Scott has a stronger winning formula at distances towards the lower end of the spectrum. One to be filed under good to know.
Jeremy Scott Runners by Course
Finally, it would be remiss to omit track performance insight when considering any trainer. It’s often one of the first things to evaluate. In terms of Scott, he is an operator who seems to like keeping things close to his Somerset base. Most of the yard's runners are concentrated across the South West and West Midlands. The data below show track results (at 8/1 or shorter) sorted in A/E order for all courses where Scott saddled 30 or more runners. His local patch of Taunton is clearly a fertile hunting ground, displaying the strongest strike rates and P&L performance, as well as A/E value.
Essentially, it’s a picture of almost metronomic consistency. Perhaps the Taunton data may merit further individual study. However, the excellent all-round performance signifies that course data is of less relevance for Scott than it is for most of his contemporaries. Whist it is always prudent to check performance by track, this insight gives reasonable assurance that achievement is predominantly course agnostic.
Jeremy Scott Trainer Profile: The Summary
There is a lot to consider when weighing up runners from the Jeremy Scott yard and none of the data are mutually exclusive. Based on the analysis above, the identikit Scott runner might be:
- Keenly Priced (8/1 or shorter)
- Maiden or novice Hurdle
- Good to soft or quicker ground
- Rex Dingle as jockey (or perhaps a Matt Griffiths front runner)
- Less than 2 mile 7 furlongs in distance
- Class 5 or 6 Race
- And perhaps at Taunton!
Incidentally, and probably not surprisingly, this perfect cocktail has never happened yet. But when the stars align, I’ll be ready! I’m a patient man.
Until next time.