Ger Lyons (centre) has performed extremely well with his 2yo debut runners. Photo Healy Racing /

Two-year-old Flat Debutants, Part 1: Trainers

After reading the responses from last week's SotD overview and also checking that I wasn't duplicating anyone else's work, I'm going to kick off my series of research pieces with a fairly simple analysis of trainers to follow on the Flat with their 2 yr old debutants, writes Chris Worrall.

And the way I've approached this ahead of the 2020 season, which will hopefully be here as soon as it's safe to do so, is to look back over the previous four seasons to get a five year overview by the end of this season. With that in mind, I then applied the following criteria to the long list of trainers with such runners since 2016...

  • a minimum of 30 2yo debutants
  • a minimum strike rate of 10%
  • an A/E above 1.00
  • profit over the four years at Betfair SP
  • and profitable in at least three of the four years

Applying those filters reduces the list to a far more manageable six trainers:

Paul Cole, Richard Fahey, Jessica Harrington, Eve Johnson Houghton, Ger Lyons and David Simcock

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Their collective figures, pulled from the excellent, over the last four seasons look like this...

A near 15% strike rate and an ROI at Betfair SP in excess of 50% is something we can really work with, even if replicating that stratospheric level may be nigh on impossible.

The yearly breakdown since 2016 looks something (well, exactly) like this...

As you can see, 2018 wasn't quite as good for our highlighted trainers, but still profitable nonetheless. That said, the strike rate, which dipped below 10%, would have tested confidence.

We can further break down the data so see which trainers performed best in each year or, conversely, which years were best for each trainer which would lead us ultimately to the same end point.

What I can tell you from that breakdown is that runners trained by Cole, Fahey and Harrington were profitable at Betfair SP [the P/L(BF) column in the tables] in each of the four seasons.

Ger Lyons had a tough 2016, but has shown three years of unbroken profit since; and Eve Johnson Houghton's numbers dipped in 2018, when she went 0 from 15 with juvenile first-timers, but are otherwise solid.

But I'd have reservations about David Simcock in this context after he went 0 from 20 in 2019: if we were to drop one of our six trainers, it would likely be him.

Figures for 2016...

And 2017...

With 2018 producing...

And finally 2019 gave us...

From the above annual break down figures, Paul Cole's failure to hit the 10% SR in both 2017 & 2018, and Eve Johnson Houghton's similar strike rate deficiency in 2018 and 2019 ought to preclude them from our final angle; and if we also decided that David Simcock's 2019 performance was too unsettling for inclusion, we'd then take just three trainers forward: Fahey, Harrington and Lyons.

I'm happy to overlook Ger Lyons' failure to make profit in 2016, as a near 16% strike rate suggests his winners were simply too short-priced to cover the losers. If we set 2016 aside for now, our three final trainers' collective record over the past three seasons stands at a combined...

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...which is not too dissimilar to our opening set of figures. The strike rate has risen slightly from 14.56% to 15.38% whilst the ROI has dropped from 50.13% to a still very respectable 43.29% and, importantly, I think the final numbers are likely to be more stable with less scope for variance.


So, if you're looking to blindly back 2 yr olds on their Flat debut this season I'd suggest your starting point should be those trained by Richard Fahey, Jessica Harrington and Ger Lyons.


I intend to back up this starter piece with a more detailed analysis of each of my six originally highlighted trainers to analyse which of their two-year-old debutants to back based on criteria such as track/track location, going, distance, jockey, time of year and so on.

- CW

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9 replies
  1. Graham
    Graham says:

    Very informative article. Worthwhile following as other form lines will be late in developing due to Cv virus lock down. Trust things will slowly get back to norm within the next month otherwise they will be going on for 3 year olds!!!!

  2. Bob Bailey
    Bob Bailey says:

    Great article Chris. One thing I can’t fathom out is how to use the query tool to identify a 2yo debutant? I have set the timeframe race code and age in the tool and ordered by trainer, but that pulls out ALL runs for 2yo horses for every trainer. Is there some way to set a “flag” in the query tool that will only select horses that haven’t run before so we narrow it down to FTO horses only?

    • Matt Bisogno
      Matt Bisogno says:

      Hi Bob

      Not at this stage, I’m afraid. We will add a ‘days since last run’ option later in the year, and that will enable users to select ‘first run’. For now, simply add ‘DEBUT’ or some such to the QT angle, and then you’ll be able to easily check those trainers’ runners to see if they’re making their debut. Later in the year you’ll be able to add the extra criterion.



    can anything be done about strike rate of 1st and 2nd runs from trainers, keep up the good work. cant wait for racing to start but think its going to be at least a month before anything near normal it could be. feel sorry for the trainers with 2yo who are running out of time get into the horses when they don’t no when racing will start.

  4. warrenchester
    warrenchester says:

    Agreed, very interesting and nice to have something different to think about. Thanks.

    What this does demonstrate is the importance of knowing Betfair SP in properly analysing angles as clearly it can make a material difference to the marginal success or failure. I realise we all know intuitively that BSP return will be better than SP but we are looking at c. 100% uplift in this analysis which would make many currently marginal / negative angles potentially attractive.

    Matt if it’s not already on the “To Do” list for upgrades can it be added?

    Thanks again.


    • Chris Worrall
      Chris Worrall says:

      I use betfair SP for my angles, because that’s a closer approximation to BOG odds and it’s a price that everyone can attain.
      This data is in the pipeline to be added to the Query Tool.

  5. Xub
    Xub says:

    Interesting an a very ‘light’ approach the 2yo-debut niche. I played around with the 2yo-debut REPORT for a few months last year and was rather satisfied with the strike rate and bottom line P/L. (currently in the process of analysing which settings are most efficient). To Bob, you’d use this report to flag 2yo debutant runners, as long as the QT doesn’t have the option. But yeah, a trainer-based query is much simpler indeed and based on the figures above, it covers most of the profit that the report produced. Suggestion: have a look at the odds-analyser. You could put in a odds minimum.

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