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Apprentice Jockeys - The Facts
Apprentice jockeys – THE FACTS! By David Renham
At the beginning of their careers young jockeys are able to claim a weight allowance. The idea being that this will provide compensation for their lack of experience and success in comparison to fully licensed jockeys. Such jockeys are known as claiming jockeys or apprentice jockeys.
Apprentice jockeys can take three, five or seven pounds off their horse's back and the figure dependent on how many winners a jockey has ridden – jockeys who have won 20 or fewer races are able to claim 7lb, jockeys that have ridden 21 to 50 winners can claim 5lb, while jockeys that have ridden 51 to 95 winners are able to claim 3lb.
This article examines the statistics of apprentice jockeys and the data has been taken from the past 10 full seasons. This article focuses on apprentice jockeys in open races – races that are also open to professional jockeys. Let us look at the record of all apprentice jockeys in all open races:
Essentially these figures should come as no surprise – a strike rate of roughly 1 win in every 14 rides and a loss of just over 30 pence for every £1 staked. Let us now break down these figures into 3, 5 and 7lb claimers:
This table suggests that you are better off concentrating on jockeys that have won at least 20 races (eg. 3 and 5lb apprentices), as those claiming 7lb have an inferior record.
One interesting angle I noted was the performance of a jockey who had reached the 50 winner mark last time out. These jockeys in their next race are only able to claim 3lb, rather than 5, but their performances seem to have been under-estimated by the betting public – 247 wins from 3110 rides equates to a strike rate of just under 8%, but the key statistic is that you would have lost less than 20% of your money backing all such mounts. When comparing this loss to the overall figures for apprentice jockeys this is a marked improvement – over 11%. The reason for this can only be guessed at – it may be down to the fact the jockey is on a “high” from making the step up the ladder and hence finds that little bit extra. Whatever the reason you should not be put off a good apprentice just because he can only claim 3lb instead of 5.
The next angle I considered was race-type. Do apprentice jockeys perform better in handicaps compare with maidens for example. The table below gives a breakdown:
The statistics are very clear showing that maiden races are races to avoid in terms of apprentice jockeys. A poor 1 win in 20 record, and a loss verging on 50 pence in the pound. There seems little to choose between the other race-types – conditions’ races offer marginally the best strike rate, while handicap races sees the best returns (albeit a loss of 27 pence in the pound).
My next area of research focused on jockey strike rates. The table below shows the findings:
This table neatly illustrates that the more successful apprentices in terms of strike rate are the ones to focus on. A 10.5% strike rate is acceptable and losses of less than 17p in the pound. It seems therefore that the better apprentices get the better rides. Apprentices with an overall success rate of less than 4% (eg. worse than 1 win in 25 rides) are definitely worth swerving.
Clearly trainers use apprentice jockeys for a variety of reasons, but one area that was worth exploring were races where apprentices were riding a horse that had a penalty. The reasoning behind this idea is that the apprentice claim would offset all, or part of the penalty. The results are of penalty carriers with apprentice riders on board is positive:
Although this still has shown a loss, this is by far the most worthwhile finding to date. The strike rate is not far short of 1 win in 5, while losses are restricted to less than 7p in the pound. From here I have dug further and produced the following profitable angles for penalty carriers ridden by apprentices:
Although these angles have produced only modest profits, they are stats worth bearing in mind. It also should be noted the success of penalty carriers in terms of the battle of the sexes. Male horses carrying a penalty outperform female horses in all races, and this is also the case when apprentices are on board as the table below illustrates:
Quite a difference when comparing returns on investment – females lose over 20p in the pound, while males lose less than 1p in the pound.
Arguably the best angle to analyse in terms of apprentice jockeys is by looking at the records of specific trainers. As I have written before, most trainers are creatures of habit and tend to be fairly predictable. Hence it makes sense that some trainers would try to make the best use of the weight concession of a good apprentice. Other trainers may have a different slant and essentially use apprentice jockeys when they are unable to book a preferred professional. Therefore one would expect a good contrast, and the research backs this up. Firstly a look at trainers who have a poor record when using apprentice jockeys:
There are some high profile trainers in the list. Ed Dunlop for example has had 47 consecutive losers stretching back to the end of 1997; 27 of which started at single figure prices. His father John Dunlop has a similar record, although he seems to use apprentices on very rare occasions. Henry Candy’s poor strike rate of 3.6% compares with a healthy strike rate of 12.5% when he employs professional jockeys. Indeed, he has saddled apprentices on 20 horses that have been in the top three in the betting and only one has won. Roger Charlton is another with a below par record for such a high profile trainer – it seems best to ignore any horse ridden by an apprentice that starts 8/1 or bigger as he has saddled 0 winners from 57 runners.
Therefore the layers reading this article may have found some profitable angles from the above list. However, for backers out there, there are trainers who have proved profitable:
David Barron’s record with over 100 winners is very impressive made even more so when looking at the 20% plus profit figures. It is interesting to note that Barron has good success in maiden races when using apprentices – 10 wins from 75 runners (SR 13.3%) for a profit of £68.58 (ROI +91.4%). He does well in all age handicaps also with 48 wins from 416 runners (SR 11.5%) for a profit of £118.76 (ROI +28.6%). However, it is also worth noting that his record in nurseries (2yo handicaps) and 3yo only handicaps is less good when booking an apprentice to ride - 11 wins from 137 runners (SR 8.0%) for a loss of £62.25 (ROI -45.4%).
Mark Johnston’s record is excellent with a near 16% strike rate – he is a very loyal trainer when it comes to good apprentices as Greg Fairly will surely testify. In addition, Sir Michael Stoute has an excellent record from a reasonably small number of runners thanks to an impressive strike rate of nearly 1 in 4.
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