Roger Varian in the parade ring, Rashed Equestrian and Horse Race Club, Manama, Bahrain. Photograph by NEVILLE HOPWOOD/Racingfotos.com

Trainers with Three-Year-Old Runners, Part 1

This is the fourth article in a series where I have been examining the performance of trainers with certain age groups of horses over the past few seasons, writes Dave Renham. Data for these articles have been collated from 1st January 2016 to 31st December 2021 giving six full seasons to examine (UK racing only).

For this piece my focus will be three year old (3yo) runners and I have used the Geegeez Query Tool as the sole tool to gather the data. All profits / losses have been calculated to Industry Starting Price. Of course, as punters we should be able to significantly improve upon these figures by using early prices, Best Odds Guaranteed and / or the exchanges.

3yos have a special place in UK flat racing as this is the age in which they contest the ‘Classics’: the 1000 & 2000 Guineas, the Oaks, the Derby and the St Leger. Hence, one of the primary focuses for several trainers is their 3 year old battalion. As a result, one might expect trainers to use similar methods, strategies and plans each season with their 3yos. Thus, as punters, we may - I hope! - be able to exploit some patterns.

All 3yo runners

First, let me look at all 3yo runners before breaking the data down. Three-year-olds may race in 3yo only races and also in 3yo+ races where they will typically take on older, more experienced runners. Both race types are included in the data below.

Here are the top 20 trainers in terms of strike rate with their 3yos (minimum 150 runs):

 

 

It is worth noting that 16 of these twenty trainers were in the top 20 strike rates for their full 2yo race records during this six -year period (see article 1). Moreover, if I had ordered the table by Impact Value, 19 of the twenty would have remained in the list; only David Simcock would not have made it. Just two of the twenty have made a blind profit to SP but, considering how many runners they have had, this should come as no surprise. If we consider Betfair SP, then nine of the twenty would have been profitable to follow.

Charlie Appleby tops the table in terms of strike rate, just as he did with his 2yos. The Godolphin operation, for whom he works, continues to be such a powerful entity, churning out quality runners year in year out. Let's dig down into his 3yo data set:

 

 

Every year has seen a win strike rate of better than 20%, with the last four seasons all above 25%. There's good consistency there, and when we look at his yearly A/E indices we see a similar pattern:

 

 

Figures of 1.00 or more indicate good value selections and in three of the six years Appleby has managed that.

We saw in the first two-year-old article that, in terms of the sex of Appleby’s 2yo runners, he has been more successful with male runners than female runners. This has been replicated with his 3yos as the table below shows:

 

 

It should be said that the master of Moulton Paddocks has run many more male 3yos than female ones but, even so, the figures show that his male runners are the ones on which to concentrate: a return of 9p in the £ to SP is excellent.

It is also worth looking at the records of the three jockeys who primarily ride for Appleby:

 

 

William Buick is the main jockey used and his record is outstanding with a win strike rate edging towards 30%, and decent returns of 18p in the £ to boot. Buick has been amazing from the front on Appleby 3yos: when he has gone into an early lead he has won an incredible 36 races from just 73 rides, just shy of a 50% strike rate!

Adam Kirby’s record is also impressive; indeed last season (2021) he had 19 rides of which 10 won (SR 52.6%). James Doyle’s figures are a little below the other two, but are still extremely solid.

Sir Mark Prescott comes into his own with his 3yo runners. His overall strike rate with the Classic generation is more than three times higher than with his 2yos, the younger age group having a win SR% of a measly 7.3%. Similar to Charlie Appleby, there is a big difference between his male and female runners. In fact, it is even more stark as the table below shows:

 

 

A strike rate differential of over 10% between the two is enormous: in relative terms Sir Mark's colts and geldings perform 55% better than his fillies.

Prescott’s 3yos also have a good record when they front run, recording a 37% strike rate overall. It is interesting to note that this Win SR% increases to over 42% with 3yo front runners racing over distances of a mile and half or more. Here, he has secured 32 wins from 75 starters. We know from previous articles that win percentages for front runners are higher at shorter distances so these figures for horses racing at long distances are quite remarkable.

Anyone who knows about Sir Mark Prescott will not be surprised by the following comparison between his handicappers and non-handicappers:

 

Prescott’s three-year-old handicap runners win more than twice as often as his non handicappers - 27% vs 13% - and there is a similar pattern when you compare the each way strike rates. His handicappers have essentially broken even at starting price and would have returned just under 10 pence in the £ if using BSP.

Another stat which I am very impressed with is that 57% of all Prescott’s 3yo horses that have raced in handicaps won at least one race. Further, 13 horses managed to win four or more times! Prescott is the undisputed master at getting multiple wins out of his 3yos.

Before moving on here are some other 3yo stats for individual trainers which caught my eye:

  1. William Haggas has an excellent record at the distance of 1 mile 4 furlongs. He has saddled 226 runners over this distance of which 82 have won (SR 36.3%). Backing all runners would have secured a tidy £55.41 profit (ROI +24.5%). His A/E index in this context stands at a hugely eye-catching 1.26.
  2. Owen Burrows has a good record with 3yos in handicaps with horses near the top of the weights. Those carrying 9st 4lb or more have produced 28 winners from 103 runners (SR 27.2%) for a profit of £37.15 (ROI +36.1%).
  3. Clive Cox and William Haggas are the only two trainers from the top 20 who have secured a profit with their runners sent off as favourite.
  4. Saeed bin Suroor is not one to back at bigger prices. His runners priced 12/1 or bigger have produced just one score from 105 runners.
  5. The Gosden stable has secured a 20% win strike rate in Group 1 races, which is excellent considering this is the top level of racing. If you restrict Gosden runners to those that started 8/1 or shorter, the record improves to 14 wins from 44 (SR 31.8%) for a profit of £9.71 (ROI +22.1%).

 

Non-handicaps versus handicaps

Up to this point I have not split the data between non-handicaps and handicaps. In my next article, I will look at some of the 3yo handicap data, so for the rest of this piece I will concentrate on non-handicap races only.

Non-handicaps races broken down by distance

As we saw back during the first article in the series, 2yos have a ceiling in terms of the maximum distance over which they can race in the UK. However, with an extra year on their backs, 3yos are able to run further than 2yos, although - in overall terms - they rarely run further than a mile and a half. In fact, a mere 2% or so of all 3yos race in non-handicaps of 1m5f or more. Around 85% of all 3yo non-handicap runners race at 1m2f or less, with the highest proportion of these over 7 furlongs and 1 mile.

It's time to break trainer 3yo non-handicap performance down by distance. I am going to look at sprint distances first.

3yos in non handicaps over 5 to 6 furlongs

In the table below I have restricted it to trainers who have had a minimum of 60 runs or more, which actually only gives me 26 trainers in total. Hence with this number of trainers it makes sense to give the data for all of them:

 

 

It is interesting that Irish maestro Aidan O’Brien lurks at the bottom of the list with a win SR% of below 5%. Additionally, there are a few different trainers from those who normally appear in our 'top xx' lists which is good to see. Specifically, none of the following trainers had enough runners to qualify: Charlie Appleby, Saeed bin Suroor, Sir Michael Stoute, and/or the Gosden and Charlton stables. These trainers tend to target bigger prizes with their 3yos which are generally contested over longer distances.

When we look at the A/E indices, 12 of the 26 trainer have hit 1.00 or bigger – these trainers have essentially been good value to follow over this six year period with their non handicap sprinters.

Roger Varian tops the table in terms of strike rate, recording an impressive 35.79%, and he has made a decent profit with them, too. Varian is six from ten at Salisbury and six from 11 when sending these runners to Doncaster. He has also secured a win strike rate of better than 25% in five of the six seasons. In terms of starting prices, Roger has had only one double digit winner (12/1) while 28 of his 34 winners have been priced 5/2 or shorter.

David Simcock is second on the list in terms of win% and, when his horses start favourite, they have performed extremely well – 12 wins from 20 starters (SR 60%) for a profit of £10.63 (ROI +53.2%).

Before moving on, there are some interesting Running Style snippets to share with you. As regular Geegeez readers will know, I am a big fan of front runners, especially over the shorter distances, and certain trainers have excelled with such runners in 3yo non-handicaps over 5 and 6 furlongs. This is especially true when we compare performance to their record with hold up horses in the same cohort of races. The graph below shows a group of trainers and compares the two strike rates – the blue bar is SR% for front runners (early leaders); the orange bar is the SR% for hold up horses.

 

 

There are some massive differences here; yes, the sample sizes are modest but the figures are striking nonetheless. Clearly if one of these trainers saddles a 3yo in a 5-6f non handicap, you would prefer it to go straight to the front. If it does, its chances of winning seem to be massively increased.

3yos in non-handicaps over 7f to 1 mile

Let's now move on to 7f and 1 mile contests; this is the biggest data set we have in terms of the distance splits. This time, I have used 75 runs as a minimum to qualify and these are the top 15 trainers by strike rate first:

 

 

Some of the bigger stables now begin to show their hand although, as can be seen, it has been hard to make a profit to Industry SP. Just the two trainers (Saeed bin Suroor and Archie Watson) have exceeded 1.00 with their A/E indices. As a consequence, there are not that many positive trainer stats to dig up with this top performing group's miler(ish) 3yo non-handicappers, but here are a few that I thought were notable:

  1. The Gosden stable has secured a 46.5% win strike with front runners in 7f-1m non handicaps – 53 winners from 114 runners; they have also managed a 1 in 3 win rate in all-weather races producing a small profit of £2.75.
  2. When William Haggas has booked the services of jockey Jim Crowley, they have combined to win 19 out of 36 races (SR 52.8%) for a profit of £14.35 (ROI +39.9%).
  3. Saeed bin Suroor has a good record with favourites in these races; 41 wins from 74 (SR 55.4%) for a small profit of £5.70 (ROI +7.7%).
  4. Charlie Appleby has saddled just one winner sent off bigger than 7/1 from 35 runners. As ever it seems best to stick to his more fancied runners.

 

3yos in non-handicaps of 1m1f to 1m2f

Let’s check out the stats for nine- and ten-furlong three-year-old non-handicap races now. First a look at the top ten trainers in terms of win strike rate:

 

 

Charlie Appleby edges over the 30% wins to runs mark which is mightily impressive. His runners have made a good profit to Industry SP,  returning nearly 14 pence in the £. He is the only one of the top 10 in profit, though the Gosden, Johnston and Varian stables would have sneaked into the black using Betfair SP.

A look at their A/E indices and Impact Values now:

 

 

The Impact Values correlate well with strike rates as you would expect; in terms of A/E indices, only Hugo Palmer has a poor figure at 0.79; Charlie Appleby hits the magic 1.00 mark, while Messrs. Gosden, Haggas, Varian, and Balding are all above average (over 0.90).

 

3yos in non-handicaps of 1m3f to 1m4f

The final distance group to check out is 1m3f to 1m4f, because - as previously mentioned - races of 1m 5f or more offers very little data with which to work. At this distance group (around a mile and a half), the data set is relatively modest so in the table below I am sharing all trainers that have saddled at least 70 3yos in these non-handicap events. They are ordered once again by win strike rate:

 

 

The records of the Haggas, Appleby and Gosden stable are particularly impressive at first glance. For the record, Hugo Palmer’s bottom line is skewed somewhat because he saddled a 66/1 winner (Morning Beauty at Haydock in 2018). He has also had big winners at 20/1 and 25/1.

Charlie Appleby has made huge profits and, with no winners returned greater than 16/1, his record is not badly skewed like Palmer's. Meanwhile, the longest priced winner for William Haggas was just 7/1; he is 0 from 22 with runner 15/2 or bigger. With horses 7/1 or shorter his returns stand at 34p in the £ which is highly impressive. The Gosden stable has struck with close to 55% of their favourites in 3yo non-handicaps over 1m3f-1m4f and produced a very small profit; furthermore, their record on the all-weather again sees Team Gosden hit an impressive win strike rate, at 38.3%.

Final Words

There is quite a bit of detail in this article to sink your teeth into. More than that, I hope it has given readers the incentive to personally dig deeper into different trainer records in 3yo non-handicaps. By using the Geegeez Query Tool you can extend this research to look at more specific ideas within the initial parameters that I have looked at. Once you've added the basic rules to the QT filters, see image below, it will take you literally seconds to check your ideas.

 

 

Please post any useful findings in the comments below. For me, it is time to research the follow up to this piece.

- DR

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