Venetia Williams and Charlie Deutsch. Pic Steve Davies/

Trainer Profiles: Venetia Williams, Lucinda Russell, Emma Lavelle

For my third National Hunt trainer piece I want to drill down into three of the most successful females currently training, namely Venetia Williams, Lucinda Russell and Emma Lavelle. I will be examining nearly ten years of UK racing data from 1st January 2013 to 31st October 2022. I have used the Geegeez Query Tool to source around 90% of the stats shared in this piece. All profits / losses have been calculated to Industry Starting Price, which the Query Tool uses, but I will quote Betfair SP returns as and when appropriate.

Brief Biographies

Venetia Williams took up her license in 1995. She became only the second female to train the winner of the Grand National when Mon Mome scored at 100/1 in 2009. Venetia is still going strong and this year had two winners at the Cheltenham Festival in the Broadway Novices' Chase and the Kim Muir Handicap Chase.

Lucinda Russell trains in Scotland and has a career tally of over 800 winners and, like Williams, she has been successful in the Grand National, winning that flagship race in 2017 with One For Arthur. The Aintree Festival has been a happy hunting ground in the last two years also, with Ahoy Senor winning the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle in 2021 and the Mildmay Novices’ Chase in 2022.

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Emma Lavelle trains near Marlborough in Wiltshire and has produced consistent results year in, year out. Her stable star Paisley Park has won 10 of his 23 starts including three Grade 1 successes and four at Grade 2 level. He is one of three Cheltenham Festival winners trained by Lavelle.


Overall Records

First off, let's compare their respective records by year in terms of strike rate:



As we can see Venetia Williams tends to come out on top from a wins to runs ration perspective each year – she has outperformed the other two in seven of the ten years. Russell tends to have the lowest yearly strike rate figure – this has occurred in eight of the ten years. As can be seen from the graph, each trainer has occasional ups and downs, and this is to be expected. The table below shows the exact yearly strike rates as well as the A/E indices for each year:



Venetia Williams has generally been on the ‘up’ in the last four seasons with very decent strike rates in 2019, 2021 and 2022 and good correlation from the A/E indices.

OK it’s time to dig a bit deeper now, starting with Lucinda Russell.

Lucinda Russell Trainer Profile

Lucinda Russell Performance in NH Race types

By race type here are the splits:


Chase results have clearly been the best from a win perspective; meanwhile, National Hunt Flat races have been a bit of a struggle. It is interesting to note, however, that each way performance (win & placed) has less than a 3% differential between the chase figure (30.4%) and the NH Flat figure (27.6%).

Digging deeper when looking at race type, here are the most useful angles (both positive and negative), from a potential future betting perspective:

  1. Russell has a very good record when sending chasers to Hexham. Of her 230 runners at the Borders track, 46 have won (20%) showing a profit to SP of £68.82 (ROI +29.9%). To BSP the profits increase markedly to £133.87 (ROI +57.7%). The figures are skewed somewhat by a winner whose SP was 40/1 (BSP 79.92), but having said that, Russell has produced profits to SP in seven of the ten years which is impressive
  1. Horses racing in a chase who won LTO are worth avoiding. They would have lost you a whopping 48p in the £ to SP (40p in the £ to BSP)
  1. Favourites in chases have broken even to BSP. Focusing on clear favourites only (not joint favs) would have seen a small 8p in the £ return
  1. Lucinda Russell is not generally one for big-priced winners in handicap hurdles. Horses priced 22/1 or bigger have won just once from 212 runners


Lucinda Russell Performance by Race Distance

Race distance breakdown next:



Looking at the strike rate, returns, A/E indices and Impact Values there is a correlation showing an improvement as the distance range increases. Indeed, backing all her runners to BSP at 3 miles or more would have seen a break even scenario.

Lucinda Russell Performance by Starting Price

Let’s examine starting price now using Industry SP prices. Firstly win strike rates:



As is usually the case, the win strike rates go down as the price bands increase. Odds on shots have fared well from a limited sample, but the Evens to 15/8 bracket have under-performed. When we look at NH trainers as a whole, the win percentage for horses priced Evens to 15/8 stands at over 38%; an absolute difference of 5% for this price bracket - 14% in relative terms - is huge. Russell also under-performs by over 3% (15% relatively) with horses priced 2/1 to 11/4, and by 2.5% (14% relatively) in the 3/1 to 9/2 price bracket. Hence her A/E indices in these three price brackets are lower than one would expect:



It can be said that there has been little value in backing Lucinda Russell runners priced between Evens and 9/2. Knowing this, when we see a Russell runner within this price range, there could be value elsewhere in that particular race.

Lucinda Russell Performance by Course

The Russell stable focus the majority of their attention on just nine courses – Ayr, Carlisle, Haydock, Hexham, Kelso, Musselburgh, Newcastle, Perth and Wetherby. 90% of their total runs have been at these courses, so we have good data sets to examine. Below is a graph comparing chase and hurdle win strike rates.



With better overall chase strike rates, I guess these stats should come as no surprise (chase fields tend to be smaller than hurdle fields, which is an important factor, but not one that fully accounts for these differentials). Only Haydock has seen Russell hurdlers win more often than chasers in percentage terms. Haydock hurdlers from the stable have made a blind profit both to SP and BSP.

We noted the excellent record at Hexham in chases earlier, and it turns out to be the only course that has proved to be profitable backing all runners in all chases. From a negative perspective, Carlisle has not been a happy hunting ground.

Lucinda Russell Performance by Running Style

A look at run style next. To begin with let us see the proportion of runners that fit a specific run style. As you'll probably be familiar with by now, breaks run style into four categories:

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.

In terms of run style, 18% of Russell’s runners have led early, 29% have taken up prominent positions while the remaining 53% have raced mid division or been held up near the back. Let's examine the success rate of each run style group in terms of win percentage:



Regular readers will not be surprised by this graph: early leaders / front runners have been the most successful group for Russell winning roughly one in every six, whereas hold up horses have been less successful winning around once in every 14 starts.

Looking at Lucinda's front running stats in more detail, it is interesting to note that her record improves as the distance increases:



Front runners / early leaders at distances of 3m+ have been clearly the best performers. Of course, the profits shown in the table are assuming you’d predicted every single front running horse before the race – clearly this is not possible, but it shows the potential value in the yard's front running stayers.

Lucinda Russell Performance by Jockey

Russell currently has two primary jockeys she uses – Derek Fox and Stephen Mulqueen. In 2022, Fox has ridden just over half of all her runners, Mulqueen around a quarter. Here are their overall records going back to 2013:



Fox has the better record of the two both from a strike rate and a returns perspective. Indeed, if betting to BSP the Russell / Fox combination would have yielded a profit of £130.99 (ROI +11.0%). That said, the profit has essentially been down to one 120.09 BSP winner at Aintree last year.

If we examine results for this combination nearer the front end of the market they have actually performed well. Focusing solely on horses from the top four in the betting, Fox has ridden 103 winners from 572 runners (SR 18.0%) losing around 7p in the £ to SP; to BSP that loss would have been turned into a 7p in the £ profit.

The ‘top takeaways’ for Lucinda Russell will be collated at the end of this article, along with those from the other two trainers.

Time now to examine the stats for our next eminent female tranier, Emma Lavelle.


Emma Lavelle Trainer Profile

Emma Lavelle Performance in NH Race types

Race type is the first port of call once more:



We can see almost identical strike rates in chases and hurdles, with ROI figures also similar. National Hunt Flat races have made a profit but a 66/1 winner has skewed the figures somewhat. Even without that bomb, she'd have almost broken even at SP.

Emma Lavelle Performance in Chases

Let's look at some of the strongest stats (both positive and negative) specifically for chase races:

  1. Younger chasers completely outperform older chasers as this table clearly shows:


Five- to seven-year-olds do best and backing all of them blind would have broken even to BSP. 8yos have performed reasonably, but once we get to nine or older performance is poor with just 14 successes from 242 runners (SR 5.8%);

  1. Class 1 and 2 chases have been a struggle – just 18 wins from 234 runners (SR 7.7%). Losses to SP stand at £90.92 (ROI -38.9%). Losses to BSP have been around the 30% mark;
  1. Worcester has been a happy hunting ground in chases with 12 wins from 44 (SR 27.3%). Profits to SP stand at £30.87 (ROI +70.2%); to BSP this edges up to £47.08 (ROI +107%);
  1. Horses making their chase debut have won just over 23% of the time breaking even to SP (+6p in the £ to Betfair).


In terms of hurdle races – the strongest stat has been when focusing on shorter distances. Hurdle races of 2m1f or less have provided 39 winners from 182 (SR 21.4%) for a small SP profit of £9.86 (ROI +5.4%). To BSP this increases to +£44.17 (ROI +24.3%).

Having ended this section looking at race distance let us next look at the distance stats across all race types.

Emma Lavelle Performance by Race Distance

Here are the splits:


We can see that as the distance increases the performance seems to dip a little. Chases at 2m1f or less, like the hurdle races, hit a win SR% of over 20%. It is National Hunt Flat races that bring the overall win strike rate down for shorter distances. In terms of 3m+ both chases and hurdles hit the 12% mark – chases at 12% exactly, hurdles 12.2%.

Emma Lavelle Performance by Starting Price

Market data is next on the agenda – a look at win strike rate first:


These are better figures overall when compared to Lucinda Russell, especially in the 2/1 to 11/4 and 3/1 to 9/2 brackets. Unsurprisingly, the A/E indices look much healthier overall too:



If you had backed all Emma Lavelle runners priced 9/2 or shorter you would have won 27% of the time losing just 3p in the £ to SP. To BSP this edges to a positive return of nearly 5p in the £. It seems therefore a good tactic to focus on the better fancied runners from the stable.

Emma Lavelle Performance by Course

We noted earlier that Worcester + chases has been a good combination. Let us look at the win strike rates in all races across courses where Lavelle has saddled at least 50 runners:



There is a big variation from track to track – the premier tracks at Newbury, Ascot and Cheltenham have three of the lowest four strike rates. Combining these courses has produced just 19 wins from 272 runners (SR 7.0%) equating to losses of 62p in the £ to SP. To BSP these losses are still steep at 57p in the £. Some of the most competitive NH racing is seen at these courses and swerving Lavelle runners at all three of these would seem to be a sensible move by and large.

There are much better results from courses such as Newton Abbot, Doncaster, Stratford and Worcester – the yard has hit 20% or better at all four of these. Indeed focusing on these courses and sticking to runners priced 9/2 or shorter we see some excellent results:



All the profits shown are to Industry SP; to BSP returns have been around 10p in the £ higher. These seem to be four courses to look out for when Lavelle sends a runner there especially if the horse is fancied.

Emma Lavelle Performance by Running Style

In terms of run style 15% of Lavelle’s runners have led early, 35% have taken up prominent positions while the remaining 50% have raced mid division or been held up near the back. Here are the success rates of each run style group in terms of win percentage:



It's the same old pattern we see time and time again – front runners / early leaders are by far the most successful winning close to one in every four, followed by prominent runners. Horses racing further back early (mid div / at the back) have won roughly just one in every ten starts.

Sticking with Lavelle front runners, these have excelled in hurdle races, winning 30% of the time; chase front runners have won just under 21% of the time. This is unusual as front runners in chases have a higher strike rate than front runners in hurdle races when considering all trainer data as a whole.

Emma Lavelle Performance by Jockey

Lavelle currently employs three main jockeys – Tom Bellamy, Adam Wedge and Ben Jones. All three have had 100+ runners for Lavelle since 2013 and their overall records are shown below:



All three have strike rates in excess of Lavelle’s overall strike rate, which stands at 14.3%. All have decent A/E indices and two of the three have made a blind profit. It should be noted though that Bellamy has ridden over 72% of Lavelle’s runners in 2022. One additional Lavelle/Bellamy stat worth noting is that when they have teamed up on favourites they have won 21 races from 46 (SR 45.7%) for a SP profit of £6.35 (ROI +13.8%). This increases to returns of 20p in the £ to BSP.

Two trainers down, one to go – it’s Venetia Williams turn next:

Venetia Williams Trainer Profile

Venetia Williams Performance in NH Race types

We will first look at Venetia's record in different race codes:


Williams has a reasonable record in National Hunt Flat races from a smallish sample. In terms of chases versus hurdle races there has been a much stronger performance in chases, with losses in such races of less than 10p in the £ to SP, while to BSP this is limited to just 1p in the £. Chases provided a four percent higher strike rate to boot. These races look a good starting point for further digging.

Venetia Williams Performance in chases

Firstly let us look at Venetia's chase performance by year – for this I will compare her yearly A/E indices:



As we can see, eight of the ten years have seen A/E indices over 0.90 which shows good consistency, performance dipping below that threshold only in 2015 and 2016. In six of the ten years you would have made a BSP profit backing all Williams chasers blind.

Handicap versus non handicap chases next. Generally she has far more runners in handicap chases as this table shows:



The ROI is much better in handicaps compared to non-handicaps which is useful considering the sample sizes.

Here are some more chase facts and stats worth knowing about:

  1. Chasers priced 11/4 or shorter have provided 158 winners from 424 runners (SR 37.3%) for a profit of £13.64 (ROI +3.2%) to SP; profit to BSP of £26.11 (ROI +6.2%);
  1. Perhaps it is no surprise seeing the previous stat that chasing favourites have done well. They have won 36% of the time producing returns of 5.5p in the £ to SP, 8.8p in the £ to BSP;
  1. In terms of age, younger chasers have done better. Horses aged seven and younger have won 184 races from 881 (SR 20.9%); horses aged 8 or older have won 154 from 1193 (SR 12.9%). The younger brigade have just sneaked into BSP profit across those 881 races;
  1. Female chasers have a good record with 45 wins from 221 (SR 20.4%) showing a very small profit to both SP and BSP;
  1. Horses that won last time out do well when trying to repeat that win in a chase, with 81 wins from 352 (SR 23.0%) for a break even situation to SP; to BSP these runners would have secured a profit of £55.56 (ROI +15.8%).


Venetia Williams Performance by Race Distance

Here is the breakdown by race distance but this time I am splitting into chase and hurdle results as they differ somewhat:



In terms of chases, Venetia Williams has her highest strike rate in the shortest distance band, and her lowest strike rate in the longest distance band. Having said that, the A/E values are all between 0.91 and 0.97. Hurdle wise, we see similar strike rates across the board, but slightly better value it seems as race distance increases. Once again, though, it shows that chases are the races that we should probably concentrate on the most.

Venetia Williams Performance by Starting Price

Market data now and win strike rates first:

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Williams has a surprisingly low odds on strike rate, coming in at under 49%. However, the Evens to 15/8 bracket has a high figure, as does the 2/1 to 11/4 range. Indeed, backing all Venetia's runners between Evens and 11/4 would have seen you break even to SP, and earn just under 3p in the £ to BSP.

The A/E indices now:


Here is confirmation of what was mentioned above, with strong A/E indices for runners sent off between Evens and 11/4. Bigger priced runners (14/1 and up) are definitely worth avoiding – they would have lost you 43p in the £ to SP; 28p in the £ to BSP.

Venetia Williams Performance by Course

On to course stats now and here are the win strike rates for all courses where Williams has saddled at least 100 runners:



If we take the highest and lowest strike rates out, the percentages across the other courses are not too dissimilar. There are five courses where the A/E index has hit 0.95 or higher; these being Hereford (1.29), Ascot (1.20), Ludlow (0.97), Haydock (0.95), and Newbury (0.95).

I would say that Williams is a trainer who seems to target the race rather than the course.

Venetia Williams Performance by Running Style

In terms of run style, 22% of Venetia runners have led early, 39% have taken up prominent positions while the remaining 39% have raced mid division or been held up near the back. I would surmise that she is more aware than Russell and Lavelle of the importance of a position at, or near, the front early in a race.

The win percentages for each run style group are shown in the graph below:


The pattern is what we have come to expect generally, but in percentage terms her results mirror those of Emma Lavelle almost exactly. Hold up horses and mid div runners have poor records.

If we drill into her front runners in chases her strike rate hits 26.1% and if your crystal ball for predicting front runners was in tip top condition, these runners would have returned a profit of £191.59 to £1 level stakes (ROI +41.3%) – and that was to Industry SP! To BSP add another 25p in the £ to this. Hence a Venetia Williams front runner in a chase is a potential gold mine.

Venetia Williams Performance by Jockey

Williams relies mainly on Charlie Deutsch, but both Hugh Nugent and Lucy Turner are jockeys she does use from time to time. Here are their stats:



5lb claimer Lucy Turner has performed very well and shows a fair profit. However, that surplus would be obliterated if you took out her 40/1 Cheltenham festival winner, Chambard. Deutsch starting riding for Williams in 2015 but had just 11 rides that year. Since then he has ridden 100 times or more for the stable in six of the seven years; the other year he rode 85 times. Here is a year by year breakdown of his win strike rate for the stable:



Strike rates have been fairly consistent as the graph shows. However, breaking his performance down by race type gives us some interesting results:



Results in chases have been by far the best, breaking even at SP; and, while there have been a very limited number of National Hunt Flat races, comparing chases to hurdles we see a huge difference.

Main Takeaways

Let me finish by focusing on what I think are the key stats from each of the three trainers.

Lucinda Russell Positives and Negatives


Emma Lavelle Positives and Negatives


Venetia Williams Positives and Negatives


And that's it for this piece: three trainers for the price of one, and bundles of key takeaways.

Next time it is the turn of the Irish and a certain Mr William Mullins.

Until then...

- DR

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