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And Now For Something Completely Different
“And Now for Something Completely Different” was originally used as a catchphrase in the TV show Monty Python’s Flying Circus in the 70s and it aptly describes what I am writing about this month. It is something totally different and shows the depths that punters now need to go to in order to have an edge over other punters.
The seeds of this research area struck me when researching race trends last year for the Cheltenham festival. In the Racing Post Plate (known formerly as the Mildmay of Flete) horses that were bred in France had started to perform extremely well in the race. Indeed French breds have won 5 of the last 8 renewals of the race (a strike rate of 62.5%). This looks a strong stat and it becomes even stronger when you realise they have provided less than 32% of the runners. Hence they have been successful twice as often as statistically one would expect. Not only that, four have won at double figure odds – 25/1, 25/1, 14/1 and 14/1; and also they have had two big priced 2nds at 28/1 and 50/1.
This bias to French bred horses was not a one off – French breds have had arguably a stronger edge in another Cheltenham festival contest the Arkle. In the last 13 renewals of the 2 mile Grade 1 chase, 7 of the winners were French bred. That equates to 53.8% of the winners. Considering French breds have provided only 20.4% of the runners during this period which means they have been 2.6 times more successful than one would expect statistically. This is an extremely strong advantage. Indeed if you look at the performance of British bred horses in the Arkle during this period you can see they provided just 2 winners (SR 15.4%) from 34.5% of the runners. It is clear when analysing this race for 2008, that you would be far better off backing a French bred horse than a British bred one.
As I have mentioned before, using breeding as a tool to assist your betting is an area that only a few punters try and exploit. Hence, there is plenty of “value” to be had by using breeding ideas, assuming of course they are sound ones! The French bred bias in the two races mentioned earlier is not a well known fact, and hence this should give you an “edge” when analysing these races this year.
Some of you might be thinking, this all sounds a bit complicated – how on earth do I find out whether a horse is French bred, American bred, British bred, etc, etc? However, with a copy of the Racing Post it is dead simple. Just look alongside the name of the horse and you will either see (FR), or (IRE), (GER) or (USA), etc, etc. That will tell you where the horse was bred. If there is blank / nothing in brackets that means it is (GB) or British bred. This information is also available on the Racing Post on-line website. What you need to do is this: when looking at a race click the “form” tab under the Spotlight Verdict (at the bottom of the relevant race). This brings up the recent record of each horse and will also highlight the breeding. Hence within less than a minute you will have all the breeding facts you require.
Of course, it is not just those two Cheltenham races that offer the punter an edge using this idea. With the reopening of Southwell in December I have been exploring breeding ideas at the Midlands track. Southwell is the only all weather course that retains a Fibresand surface. This surface may not be “perfect” for horses and jockeys alike, but for punters it is the one all weather course that I firmly believe you can gain an edge. I have written before that horses that race up with pace have an advantage at Southwell, but there is also an edge in terms of using breeding stats.
The data for the remainder of this article is taken from 1st January 2000 to December 18th 2007. In terms of flat racing, the vast majority of runners are either British bred or Irish (IRE) bred. However, around 10% of runners are American bred (USA), and it is these horses that have a clear edge at Southwell as the the table below shows:
To explain the stats more clearly the 12.3% figure for American breds shows that out of all American bred horses at Southwelll 12.3% win; hence 8.7% of all Irish bred horses win and 8.4% of all British bred horses win. As raw stats go, these are fairly signifcant. Essentially American breds are 1.41 times more likely to win than Irish breds; while they are 1.46 times more likely to win that British breds. I will call these figures COMPARISON RATIOS. An comparison value ratio of 1.00 would indicate no advantage; as the number gets bigger than 1, the advantage strengthens.
This American bias makes logical sense considering the amount of all weather racing there is the United States compared to this country. Many American horses are bred for dirt, rather than grass, and you often hear the comment, “this horse is bred for dirt” in other words its breeding suggests it should act well on an all weather surface.
There is a bias to American bred horses on the Polytrack surfaces at Lingfield, Wolverhampton and Kempton, but the bias is less strong. The comparison ratio for American breds over other countries on the three Polytrack courses varies between 1.15 to 1.25 depending on the course. Significant enough to be aware of, but the advantage is clearly much stronger at Southwell, and this is where I am going to concentrate.
Another factor to consider at Southwell is the effect of breeding at different distances. Anyone who has read Nick Mordin's excellent book "Winning Without Thinking" may have noted how he commented that horses are bred more for speed these days than stamina. When we look at the performance of American bred horses at Southwell we can see this has / is happening.
American breds have an excellent record in sprints; one almost as good at 7f and 1 mile, but a less impressive record over 1 mile 3f or more. Once again this gives us, the punter, a useful edge. American bred horses over 5 and 6 furlongs have a definite advantage over their rivals. Indeed, you could have made a small profit backing all American bred runners at Southwell over sprint trips in the period of study. When we compare these figures to their British and Irish counterparts we see the advantage for American breds is now extremely strong between 5f and 1 mile (their respective strike rates are show in the table):
Comparison ratios are as follows –
For USA breds compared with IRE breds over 5-6f is 1.57;
for USA breds compared with GB breds over 5-6f is 1.71;
for USA breds compared with IRE breds over 7f-1mile is 1.51;
for USA breds compared with GB breds over 7f-1mile is 1.63.
These figures are extremely significant and as punters this knowledge should help you to find better value selections when backing American breds.
At this point in the article I hope you can see the clear advantage American bred horses have at Southwell in races of 1 mile or less. However, there are more stats that should give us an even stronger advantage. The idea goes back to something else I read in Mordin’s book “Winning Without Thinking”. He noted that horses are being bred to peak earlier in their careers with the reason being that owners / breeders are keener than ever to get a quick return on their money. This pattern certainly seems to run true with American bred horses at Southwell, whereas Irish and British breds do not seem so affected. The table below illustrates the facts neatly:
American bred horses seem to gradually regress as they get older, (although they still have an edge up to age of 7), while Irish and British bred horses are fairly consistent regardless of age. Clearly American bred horses have a massive edge as 2yos, and a significant one as 3 and 4yos. The comparison ratio of American bred 2yos compared with British 2yos is a massive 2.16; for 3yos the comparison ratio is 2.08. Clearly these are stats that we need to use in our favour when analysing races involving 2 and 3yos. However, as with any betting “tool” such breeding analysis, one could not simply back American bred horses ‘blind’. Having said that you would have made a profit backing all American bred horses aged 5 or younger at Southwell in the past 8 seasons! The figures are as follows:
Strike Rate 14.1%
Profit +13.5pts (to 1pt level stakes)
Ok, not a get rich quick scheme, but it is still a remarkable fact that backing all American breds aged 2 to 5 would have produced a profit with no additional form or statistical study!
Finally in this piece, let us looking at the top 25 sires at Southwell in terms of strike rate. A minimum of 30 runs was used:
It should come as no surprise to see 5 of the top 10 sires being American bred; indeed 17 of the top 25 are American bred sires. That is some performance when you consider American bred runners have made up only 10% of all runners at Southwell.
One can argue that with only 10% of all runners at Southwell being American bred limits betting opportunities. However, an average card at Southwell may have 60 runners and hence there should be around 6 horses per card that are worth much closer scrutiny!
I trust this article has given you an insight into a rather unusual and unique winning finding approach. I hope you have not got too bogged down with the stats and the comparisons; suffice to say that American bred horses at Southwell have a clear edge; especially over 1 mile or less, when aged 5 or less.
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