04.10.2015, Longchamp, Paris, France, Portrait of trainer Karl Burke and jockey Adrie de Vries. Photo FRANK SORGE/Racingfotos.com

Trainers in Two-Year-Old Races, Part 2

This is the second in a new series of articles where I will examine the performance of trainers over the past few seasons, writes Dave Renham. Throughout the series, I will be using data from 1st January 2016 to 31st December 2021 giving us six full seasons to examine (UK racing only). All profits / losses have been calculated to Industry Starting Price using £1 level stakes. Therefore these figures could be readily improved by using early prices, Best Odds Guaranteed and / or the exchanges.

In the first article of the series I looked at trainers in two-year-old (2yo) races, drilling down into non-handicaps and looking at how the distance of the race affected the results of individual trainers. In this piece I am going to examine course stats and annual breakdowns across all 2yo races, and then I will look specifically at 2yo handicaps. Once again I have used the Geegeez Query Tool as the sole tool for my data crunching.

Course statistics (All 2yo races)

First, then, let's delve into some 2yo trainer course stats. Below is a table of trainers who have achieved a strike rate of 20% or more and produced a profit to Industry SP. To qualify they needed to have at least 35 runners in the six-year period:

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There is a good mix of trainers here; in fact we have 19 different handlers in total. Two appear three times each, the Johnstons and Karl Burke. There were a few other trainer course stats that were close to making it on the main list but just missed out. This was due to either not having quite enough runners, or the strike rate was just below the 20% benchmark I had set. However, I felt these were still worth sharing in a secondary table:



As can be seen, Archie Watson has made a decent profit at Lingfield on the turf course as well as on the all-weather strip. The Johnston stable appears for a fourth time so let's drill down into the course data in more detail for those most frequently listed trainers:


Charlie & Mark Johnston 2yo Course Stats

What follows are some extra nuggets regarding three of the four 'hot Johnston' courses that have been highlighted already:

  1. At Chelmsford, their favourites have done particularly well with 21 wins from 38 (SR 55.3%) for a profit of £12.50. This equates to returns of just under 33p in the £; A/E index also a strong 1.29; IV is 4.03;
  1. 2yos (any odds) that took the early lead at Chelmsford have won 32% of their races (23 wins from 73);
  1. At Bath over 1 mile or further the stable has 7 wins from 20 (SR 35%); over 5 & 6f it is a relatively poor 2 from 19 (SR 10.5%);
  1. Over 1m1f at Epsom the Johnstons (either in tandem or just Mark) have only saddled nine runners but six have won;
  1. Also at Epsom Francis Norton and Silvestre de Sousa both have five wins a piece from just ten and nine Johnston rides respectively.


The Johnston stable race all over the country so I thought it worthwhile looking at their 2yo A/E indices and Impact Values at each course (minimum 30 runs). The graph is split into two separate ones so they don’t get too cluttered:




One of the best things about using graphs like this is that you can judge how well the A/E indices and Impact Values correlate. In this case there is a very strong correlation. Also we can see that the courses that were highlighted earlier (Bath, Chelmsford, Epsom and Yarmouth) are four of the eight courses where the A/E index has exceeded 1.00, the others being Ascot, Newbury, Nottingham and Redcar.

The lower parts of the graph for both A/E indices and IVs show that the Johnston record is less good at Carlisle, Chester, Newcastle, Sandown and Thirsk.

These graphs are relatively easy to produce if you have Microsoft Excel as the data generated from the Query Tool can be copied straight into an excel spreadsheet. Hence you could do this with other trainers and their course stats if you had the inclination. In fact you can compare lots of different data from the Query Tool in this way, which is one of the many reasons why I personally use Geegeez so much.


Karl Burke 2yo Course Stats

We noted earlier that Karl Burke had good enough two-year-old course stats to make the ‘cut’ at three different tracks, so let us look at his ‘all courses’ data; again I am using graphical form but this time sharing Win Strike Rate percentages and Return on Investment. These can be charted in exactly the same way as per the video above but selecting the 'Win %' and 'ROI' columns. Firstly Win SR%s (again using 30 runs minimum to qualify):



There are some considerable course fluctuations, which is the case with the majority of trainers. We know already about Burke's excellent record at Carlisle, Nottingham and Pontefract, but on the flip side he seems to have struggled at Haydock, Newmarket and Redcar in particular. Let’s see how the ROI% graph correlates:



In general the correlation is sound, but the odd big-priced winner does tend to skew the ROI% when compared with the Win SR%. Doncaster has the highest ROI% by far but this is in part due to a 50/1 winner; the Newcastle returns have also been boosted somewhat, this time by a 66/1 winner.

What the Johnston and Burke course data tell us is that performance can vary considerably depending on the course.


Trainer Annual Breakdowns of Win Strike in 2yo races

In the first article in the series I compared Charlie Appleby’s annual 2yo runner breakdown in terms of strike rate. Here I am going to extend this to a further 14 trainers. To qualify, these trainers must have had at least 900 2yo runners in the past six seasons with at least 100 runs per season. This gives us a really solid data set to look at.

I will display the data in two ways; firstly in tabular form to display exact strike rates, and secondly in graphic form.

A look at the table first with the numerical strike rates displayed:



In general these figures look relatively consistent. It is usually easier to discern that by looking at the stats graphically, which I have presented below. Here I have published three trainers on four of the graphs and then two on the final graph.



Each trainer has a relatively level line although Andrew Balding had quite contrasting fortunes in 2016 compared to 2017 (19.72% dropping to 7.94%). Since then he has been much more consistent. We have to remember that each season the trainers get a different crop of 2yos and quality can fluctuate. So, while trainers are likely to have similar ‘types’ that cost similar money, 2yo crops can vary in class and ability.



The Johnston stable have had a couple of lean years by their own high standard in the past two seasons. That said, I’ve just checked this season’s figures to date (up to 18th July) and their strike rate for 2022 year is currently just under 23%. There seems to have been a small dip in Mick Channon’s results in the past three seasons and the A/E and IV figures back this up. He's currently hitting around the 10% mark in 2022.



Once again the figures for this trio are quite similar year on year. Roger Varian's and Ralph Beckett’s performance is similar but it is worth knowing that Beckett tends to offer punters more value.

It is also worth noting that Richard Fahey is having an outlier of a year to date in 2022. His strike rate, at the time of writing, is up nudging 18% and he has been profitable to the tune of 52p in the £. It will be interesting to see if he maintains this uptick for the rest of this season; statistically, it seems unlikely.



Tim Easterby has plenty of 2yo runners but success has proved hard to come by as can be seen by the green line in the chart above. William Haggas, meanwhile, generally hits close to the 20% mark; 2017 was above average for him whereas 2020 was below par. Tom Dascombe has been a solid performer who could be relied upon to hit around one win in seven on average, but his training career has essentially been reset by the loss of the Manor House Stables retainer - now with Hugo Palmer - and a relocation to Lambourn. He needs to be on the watch list only for the time being.



Richard Hannon and Karl Burke have figures that correlate closely with each other. They are both currently striking at around 14% for the first half of the 2022 season which is the type of performance level one might expect given the graph.


2yo handicaps (nurseries)

2yo handicaps, known as nurseries, begin annually in July and run until the end of the year when, of course, two-year-olds - like all horses - age by a year. Nurseries account for around 20% of all 2yo races in the UK. On average there are approximately 240 such races each year.

Let us first look at all trainers who have had at least 100 runners in nurseries in the past six seasons. I have ordered them by strike rate:



Ralph Beckett tops the list with an excellent overall record. He is close to scoring once in every four nursery races which is top drawer. Messrs. Dascombe, Ryan, Cox, Hills, Dunlop and Tinkler are the only other trainers to be profitable out of the 30 in the list.


Ralph Beckett in 2yo Handicaps

It is worth digging a bit deeper into the Beckett 2yo handicap stats. Here are my key findings:

  1. In five of the six seasons Beckett has achieved a strike rate in excess of 20%, thus showing excellent consistency overall;
  1. He has a much better record with male horses compared to female ones. Male 2yos have secured a strike rate of 29.5% which is roughly double that of his female nursery runners (SR 15.3%);
  1. All Beckett's winners have returned 9/1 or less. Hence we have no big prices skewing these stats. Runners 10/1 or bigger have provided 0 winners from 29 with only two managing to place. Clearly it is best to focus on his more fancied runners;
  1. Keep an eye on the official rating of his 2yos. Those rated 75 or higher have won 26 races from 73 runners (SR 35.2%) for a healthy profit of £43.37 (ROI +59.4%). Those rated 74 or lower have won 9 races from 74 (SR 12.2%) for a loss of £22.67 (ROI -30.6%);
  1. Three courses where he has done particularly well in nurseries are Kempton (7 wins from 23), Newmarket (6 wins from 21), and Lingfield (6 wins from 13).


2yo Handicaps by Race Distance

Lastly, I will break trainer 2yo nursery handicap performance down by distance. I am going to split the distances into two – 5 to 6f (including 6.5f), and 7f to 1m.

The data for 1m 1f or more is too limited to give us anything concrete as only two trainers have had more than 25 runners in the time frame we are looking at. Having said that, it is worth mentioning that Richard Hughes has saddled 12 runners over 1m 1f+ and six have won!


2yo nursery handicaps over 5-6 furlongs

Sprint trips first, those being nurseries over five to six furlongs. In the chart below the top ten trainers in terms of strike rate are shown. I have restricted it to trainers who have had a minimum of 50 runs or more:



Archie Watson is the only trainer to get above the 20% mark although Tom Dascombe, Clive Cox, William Haggas and Kevin Ryan are not far away. Seven of the ten were in profit which is more than I would have thought – Haggas, Karl Burke and Mick Appleby showed losses.

Onto A/E indices now for these ten trainers which helps to show which trainers have proved the best value:



The trainers with the three lowest A/E indices are the three mentioned above that had incurred overall losses. We can see good A/E indices as a group here, however, with eight of the ten hitting over 1.00. Nigel Tinkler's and Rod Millman's figures are particularly impressive – they have proved exceptional value over the past six years in these races.


2yo nursery handicaps - 7 furlongs to 1 mile

Again a look at the top ten trainers in terms of strike rate; again 50 runs is the minimum to qualify:



We can now see more specifically where Beckett excels from a distance perspective. He has made a blind profit of £26.00 (ROI +26.8%) in nurseries over seven furlongs to a mile. Five of the other nine trainers in this cohort have proved profitable also – these being Charlie Hills, Ed Dunlop, Marco Botti, Team Johnston and Keith Dalgleish (who, incidentally, learned his trade as a jockey at Mark Johnston's yard). To be fair, Haggas and Hugo Palmer have lost under 2 pence in the £ which probably still equates to a profit at exchange or early best odds guaranteed prices.

The A/E indices are shown below:



Beckett (1.48) and Hills (1.37) stand out, while Dunlop, Botti, Dascombe and Dalgleish also are above the magic 1.00.


Distance comparison in nursery handicaps – individual trainers

I thought it would be useful to end this piece in a similar way to the first article by comparing the data for all trainers who have had at least 50 2yo runners in both 5-6f nursery handicaps and 7f-1m nursery handicaps. This time I am focusing just on the strike rates. I have included once again a Win% Ratio which can be seen in the right hand column. This is derived by comparing the short trip Win% with the longer trip Win% by creating a ratio of one to the other. The greater the number above 1.00, the more sprints are favoured; the smaller the number below 1.00, the more 7f-1m races are favoured.



Just 21 trainers have had enough runners to qualify for this table but it does give us the odd juicy titbit. Karl Burke, for example, has done significantly better in sprints (Win% Ratio of 2.34); likewise David Evans, Rod Millman, Archie Watson and Clive Cox seem to perform better with horses in the shorter distance nurseries. John Quinn and Tim Easterby also fall into that category but both their percentages are very low which makes it hard to profit from this knowledge. A couple of trainers have the Win% Ratio strongly favouring the longer trips, namely Charlie Hills (0.64) and Keith Dalgleish (0.67).

There are plenty of stats, graphs and tables to digest in this article and I hope they will point you in the right direction if betting in these types of races.

Until next time...

- DR

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1 reply
  1. chazzer66
    chazzer66 says:

    Thanks for the excellent analysis Dave – as a frequent visitor to Lingfield I am always on the lookout for clues in two-year old races. I often avoid these races but I am better armed now!

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