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Change in Distance - Does it Really Matter?


Most of the articles I write I try to come up with a very positive, or a very negative set of results. The reason being as that punters like to either bet and win money, or lay and win money. However, this is not always possible and for this article I have decided to simply research an area and report its findings.
 
You hear many racing pundits say that certain horses are specialists at certain distances. I too have found this when backing sprinters – you get some horses that specialize at 5f, and others that specialize at 6. However, there are other horses whom seem equally effective at both 5 and 6 furlongs so for them any switch in distance is clearly not a negative.
 
Profits / losses have been calculated to £1 level win stakes.
 
5f handicaps - My first port of call was to look at 5f handicaps since 2000 and see whether the distance run LTO made any difference:
 
LTO Distance
Runners
Winners
Strike rate
Profit / loss
ROI
5f
18960
1618
8.5%
-£4947.99
-26.1%
6f
9361
779
8.3%
-£2346.65
-25.1%
7f
1111
60
5.4%
-£413.67
-37.2%
8f+
265
9
3.4%
-£184.50
-69.6%
 

The table shows that the vast majority raced previously over the same 5f trip – just under 64% to be precise. Around 31% raced over 6f LTO ( last time out ) , with the remaining 5% racing over 7f or more. The strike rates suggest that horses that raced over 5 or 6f LTO have the best chance of winning and also they give the best returns. Horses that raced over 7f LTO have a poor strike rate of 5.4%, with losses of over 37%. These horses are clearly not good investments, while the horses to definitely avoid are those that raced over a mile or further (8f+) LTO. Of course these runners are rare (around 30 - 35 a year on average), but to win at 5f you do need real speed and it should come as no surprise that they perform poorly.
 
6f handicaps – I have always felt there is an angle in 6f handicaps in terms of opposing 5f specialists. I think at sprint distances it is harder for a horse to go up from 5f to 6f than drop down from 7f. The figures in the table below seem to back up the theory: 
 
LTO Distance
Runners
Winners
Strike rate
Profit / loss
ROI
5f
9511
578
6.1%
-£3748.01
-39.4%
6f
22657
1952
8.6%
-£5626.39
-24.8%
7f
7993
646
8.1%
-£1397.12
-17.5%
8f
1702
103
6.1%
-£214.54
-12.6%
9f
218
13
6%
+£31.00
+14.2%
10f+
130
9
6.9%
+£53.00
+40.8%
 
As we can see, horses that ran over 5f LTO do indeed have a poor record in terms of strike rate and returns. A loss of over 39% is a very poor return indeed. The message at this early stage seems clear – in 6f races it is worth considering eliminating all horses that raced over 5f LTO. Now, it is clear we cannot simply ignore ALL of them, but you should be able to sensibly eliminate a decent percentage of them.
 
On the other hand, it is interesting to note that backing all horses dropping down from 7f have an acceptable strike rate of over 8% and would have lost you only 17.5%. Clearly horses that ran over 7f LTO (and at longer distances as it turns out) are worth a second glance. Indeed I decided to look into these runners in more detail – here are some interesting facts for horses dropping in trip in 6f handicaps:
 
1. Horses that have won before, but not over 6f have a strike rate of 8.6% for losses of only 9%;
 
2.  Concentrating on 5yos only, the strike rate increases to 10% and you would have made a small profit of 2.8%.
 
3. 4yos also have a decent record with losses equating to less than 2%.
 
After this research I will personally taking much more note of 4 and 5yos dropping in trip in 6f handicaps. Indeed combining the above three points we get a simple system that actually has made a profit since 2000:
 
Rules:
 
1. 6f handicaps races
2. Raced over 7f or further LTO
3. Age 4 or 5
4. Not won over 6f, but has won at least one career start
 
This system gives the follow results:
 
Qualifiers
Winners
Strike rate
Profit / loss
ROI
1103
112
10.2%
+£123.42
+11.2%
 
I am not advocating backing all runners blind in the future, but it just shows that these runners are worth close scrutiny.
 
7f handicaps – many pundits and punters believe 7f to be a specialist distance and genuine sprinters cannot last home. That is the theory anyway. Let us see what difference the LTO distance makes over this trip:  
 
LTO Distance
Runners
Winners
Strike rate
Profit / loss
ROI
5f
1339
62
4.6%
-£478.87
-35.8%
6f
9331
599
6.4%
-£3393.86
-36.4%
7f
17278
1549
9%
-£3384.92
-19.6%
8f
8626
727
8.4%
-£1357.87
-15.7%
9f
1431
104
7.3%
-£279.06
-19.5%
10f+
615
37
6%
-£124.25
-20.2%
 
The table shows that horses that ran over sprint distances LTO (5 & 6f) have particularly poor records. The earlier theory therefore about genuine sprinters struggling over 7f is probably true. Of course not all horses that ran over 5 and 6f LTO were necessarily genuine sprinters, but the chances are that around 85% or more were.
 
The pattern in this table is similar to the 6f one. Horses dropping in trip perform fairly well once again, while those running over the same trip of 7f also have a solid record. In 7f handicaps therefore it makes sense to concentrate on horses that ran over 7f or more LTO.
 
1 mile (8f) handicaps – finally let us look at 1 mile handicaps:
 
LTO Distance
Runners
Winners
Strike rate
Profit / loss
ROI
5f
294
10
3.4%
-£154.17
-52.4%
6f
2499
114
4.6%
-£1119.45
-44.8%
7f
11232
838
7.5%
-£3236.42
-28.8%
8f
20186
1814
9%
-£4412.23
-21.9%
9f
5059
415
8.2%
-£1074.42
-21.2%
10f
3394
244
7.2%
-£796.12
-23.5%
11+
1480
71
4.8%
-£612.31
-41.4%
 
Once again, horses stepping up from sprint trips have a dreadful record. They only make up 6.3% of the total runners, but they are definitely worth avoiding. Horses dropping down in trip from 9 or 10 furlongs have solid looking records, although horses that raced over 11f or more have done fairly poorly.
 
Main findings of research  
 
1. In 5f handicaps concentrate on horses that raced over 5 or 6f LTO. Ignore horses that raced over a mile or further.
 
2. In 6f handicaps ignore specialist 5f sprinters that raced over 5f LTO. Do not be worried by a horse dropping down in trip.
 
3. In 7f handicaps concentrate on horses that raced over 7f or more LTO.
 
4. In 1 mile (8f) races concentrate on horses that raced between 7f and 10f LTO, with slight preference to 8-9f.
 
Best wishes
Dave Renham
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