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Drifters – some interesting findings by David Renham
Horses that drift in the betting is an area that I have delved into recently although it is a difficult area to research accurately. Ideally to carry out this type of research we would need every single opening board price so that we can compare it with the respective SP. The problem with collating these statistics over a period of time is that it becomes very timeconsuming, as the information is not easily accessible (to my knowledge) and hence it would mean noting down all opening shows in every race for several months / years. Not a particularly good use of time! The best idea I have come up with is to compare the Racing Post forecast price with Starting Price (SP). At least this would give me a fairly good idea of how horses fared when their SP was significantly higher than their forecast price. Of course we are reliant on the odds compilers for the forecast prices to be accurate, but in general they do a pretty good job. For this research I have used 7 years of flat data from 2002 to 2008. In addition, I have also focused only on forecast prices that have been 9/1 or lower. Hence we are studying horses that were deemed to have a fair chance of running well according to the odds compilers.
One perennial problem punters have is to determine whether a market drift for a horse is significant or not. In order to gather the data it was necessary to decide on what parameters to use when comparing forecast prices with SP. I could not simply choose a “number” that simply equates to difference in price – eg. looking for horses that had a difference of 3 points or more (eg 12/1 forecast price; 9/1 SP). The reason this approach does not work is because it is not taking into account the percentage movement in the market. A price coming in from 9/1 to 12/1 is nowhere near as significant as a horse coming in from 6/1 to 3/1.
Hence I decided to use price ratios to determine the strength of the price difference. I chose 1.7 or more as a cut off point for positive moves in the market. To make this easier to equate, here are the types of drift that would have “counted”:
Evens FP moving to 7/4 or bigger at SP
6/4 FP moving to 11/4 or bigger at SP 2/1 FP moving to 7/2 or bigger at SP 5/2 FP moving to 9/2 or bigger at SP 3/1 FP moving to 11/2 or bigger at SP
7/2 FP moving to 6/1 or bigger at SP
4/1 FP moving to 7/1 or bigger at SP
9/2 FP moving to 8/1 or bigger at SP
5/1 FP moving to 17/2 or bigger at SP
11/2 FP moving to 19/2 or bigger at SP
6/1 FP moving to 11/1 or bigger at SP
7/1 FP moving to 12/1 or bigger at SP 8/1 FP moving to 14/1 or bigger at SP
9/1 FP moving to 16/1 or bigger at SP
I started by comparing all runners whose forecast price was 9/1 or shorter, with those whose ratio was 1.7 or bigger. Here is what I found:
Quite a difference in strike rate, the drifters win half as often as compared with ‘all runners’, but the difference in losses is relatively small at 4.9%. Indeed, knowing how much certain drifters can drift on Betfair, there could be profits made backing such drifters. Of course, the problem with this type of idea is that you do not know the SP until after the race. However, for punters backing at literally the last minute there may be opportunities here – if, of course, you are happy with a very low strike rate. This is an idea I will revisit later in this article.
Moving on, I wanted to see whether any strong trainer patterns were prevalent. In other words, do any trainers perform above the norm with drifters, and which trainers clearly are worth avoiding when their horse drifts badly? Firstly a look at the more positive set of stats for trainers – trainers with a strike rate of 11% or more are shown in the table:
Quite a few of the top trainers in there – Bin Suroor, Jarvis, Noseda, Stoute, Bell, Cumani and Haggas. That is good to see. I expect most of the top trainers are trying all the time and a market drift for them would not be a sign of any underhand skullduggery! It is worth looking at a few more trainers in detail as profits for certain trainers could have been increased.
Sir M Stoute – focusing on his ‘drifters’ that were forecast in the Racing post to be 4/1 or bigger, you would have won 20 times from 182 qualifiers (SR 10.9%) for a very impressive profit of £79.00 (ROI +43.2%).
T Barron  focusing on his ‘drifters’ that were racing in class 5 or lower, you would have won 25 times from 142 qualifiers (SR 17.6%) for a very healthy profit of £89.83 (ROI +63.3%).
W Haggas  focusing on his ‘drifters’ that raced in handicaps, you would have won 10 times from 62 qualifiers (SR 16.1%) for a profit of £49.00 (ROI +79%).
J Noseda  focusing on his ‘drifters’ that raced in 2yo maidens you would have won 10 times from 63 qualifiers (SR 15.9%) for an excellent profit of £54.91 (ROI +87.2%).
Now let us look at trainers with a strike rate of only 6% or less:
Probably the most high profile trainer on this list is Peter ChappellHyam. His strike rate with all horses priced by the RP forecast at 9/1 or shorter is over 21%. Hence his figure for “drifters” of 4.5% is worth noting. It seems he is a trainer to avoid when his horses drift markedly.
At this juncture I want to go back to the idea I discussed earlier in the article about backing these ‘drifters’ using Betfair SP. Hence I decided to look at the data for the first month of 2009 – as this was a period not discussed in my initial research. During this period the results at SP were as follows:
A better return for such qualifiers in the month of January ’09, but what would have happened backing the runners using Betfair SP (BSP)? Here is a list of the 23 winners and their corresponding SPs and BSPs:
The right column shows the Betfair price after taking the maximum 5% commission into account. Let us look therefore at the adjusted returns when we take Betfair SP rather than industry SP as our bottom line (5% commission adjusted):
So a loss of 9.4% has been turned into a profit of 6.3% for this particular month. With this type of swing, the 2002 to 2008 results would have seen close to a break even situation. Of course Betfair SP did not exist for most of this time frame, but clearly some drifters are not such a bad bet after all.



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