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Pace Running Styles for Jockeys
Pace / Running Styles for Jockeys
This month I am going to revisit the whole question of pace or running styles. For the last four or five years the question of “pace” in a horse race is something that has become a much hotter topic. In the Racing Post for example, it is not unusual to read such comments as “I expect the far side to be favoured as that is where the best pace is or “there is plenty of pace in the race, which could set the race up for a finisher”; or “**** could get a soft lead in front and hence might be difficult to pass”. Knowing how a race is likely to “pan out” in terms of a “pace angle” can give punters a valuable insight, which in turn can lead to that all important “edge” over your fellow punters. I have used the “pace angle” more and more in my favoured betting medium – sprints. I have taken data from all sprint races over a recent 4-year period and have included all races that were run at less than 7 furlongs.
In the past my pace research has mainly focused on horses and / or courses. For this article I have focused on jockeys. The reason I have decided to look at jockeys is that I believe that a jockey can make a difference in sprint races – more often than not in sprints, it is important to race up with the pace, and hence I want to find jockeys that consistently do that. Ideally I want to find jockeys that not only consistently race up with the pace but do it successfully! Also the more insight I get into jockeys preferred running styles, the more it should help me in terms of predicting how a sprint will unravel in terms of which horses will be where early in the race. Of course there are other factors to take into account such as the draw, but for this article I have ignored the influence of the draw.
First port of call was to look at the percentage of sprinters that each jockey took out into the lead. I focused on jockeys that had raced at least 150 times and had won at least 10 races:
What this table seems to indicate is the major differences between certain jockeys. Of course one may argue that the class of horse is a major factor here, and you would be right. Some jockeys simply get the opportunity to ride moderate horses most of the time and hence for them to lead at any time of the race is more unlikely. Having said that, there is a big difference in the “led percentages” between some of the “top” jockeys. To illustrate this, I have taken the top 20 jockeys in terms of wins from 2008 (turf) and grouped them in one table:
Hence Phillip Robinson has taken the lead nearly 4 times as often as Ted Durcan (in percentage terms). Not surprisingly therefore when we compare their profit and loss figures on their sprint rides over the last 4 seasons, Robinson actually made a small profit of 3.5% whereas Durcan lost 26%. I strongly believe that putting your horse in the right place in sprints is key – I am not saying that you should lead every time, but you certainly should be much closer to the pace than not.
For the remainder of the article in order to save space, I will focus on those “top 20 jockeys” from 2008. My next area of research was to see what percentage of races were won when the respective jockeys took their mounts out into an early lead. Here are the findings:
More interesting findings – the first point to make is that Phillip Robinson is definitely a jockey I want on my side in sprints. Not only does he take the lead early in a race more often than most, he is also very good when he goes to the front. Dettori also is good from the front and my gut feeling is that both Robinson and Dettori are good judges of pace on front runners not only in sprints, but at all distances.
Seb Sanders is third on the list in terms of success rate on front runners, but the question must be asked why has he led on only 13% of all his sprinters, when his win percentage on such leaders is over 27%? Digging a bit deeper it should be noted that Sanders has held up his runners in sprints 40% of the time – that equates to 355 runners of which only 25 have won. That equates to a 7% success rate for hold up horses. 27.2% for leaders; 7% for hold up horses …. hmmmm. Ok, I would imagine several of his rides in sprints have been on horses that may be were not quick enough to get to the front, but even taking that in account, the differences in percentages are too big.
Sanders in not the only one – RichardHills is perceived to be a good jockey from the front at all distances. He may well be, and indeed his strike rate on front running sprinters was a respectable 22.2%. However looking at all his runners, he took only 10.5% of these sprinters into a lead. It is not much good being effective from the front if you hardly ever take your horses to the front! Indeed, backing all sprinters ridden by Hills would have seen you lose 44% in the four years of study; compare this to losses of 18% in races of 7f or more for the same jockey.
Finally let us see what would have happened if you had been able to back every front runner for these 20 jockeys. Obviously you would not have known this before the event, but it does show why jockeys and punters need to be aware why leading in sprints can be a real advantage:
Hopefully some food for thought – I hope to revisit this area very soon ………….
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