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Pace Running Styles In National Hunt Racing
Pace / Running Styles In National Hunt Racing by David Renham
Over the past year or two I have explored pace and running styles in much greater depth than I used to. The reason for this is simple – I believe this is an area where hard work and research can still gain you a betting edge over the majority of punters. Let me explain this in more detail:
For this article I am going to split all the winners of the races studied into three distinct categories – horses that ran from the front early on in the race (front runners); horses that ran close to the pace early in the race (prominent runners); and horses that raced in midfield or at the back early in the race (hold up horses). Essentially, the position a horse takes up early in the race, tends to remain virtually the same for a good proportion of that race. For example, if a horse takes up a prominent position just behind the pace in the first two furlongs of say a 1m2f race, there is a strong chance that the horse will still be in a very similar position after 6-7f. In contrast, you don’t often see a horse lead for 2 furlongs, then drop back to the middle of the pack for 2 furlongs, then race just off the pace for 2 furlongs, then drop back to the middle again, etc, etc. Hence from a research point of view, the fact that a horses’ running style tends to stay consistent for around 75% of the race makes life much easier.
In 2008 there were just over 6000 races on the flat in this country – the winning splits for the three pace categories were as follows:
Front runners won 20.2% of all races;
Prominent runners won 45% of all races;
Hold up horses won 34.8% of all races.
At first glance, one might be thinking therefore that prominent runners have an advantage. Well they have won more races than every other group right? However, to give more meaning to these figures we need to know what percentage of all the runners were a) front runners; b) prominent runners and c) hold up horses. Here are the percentages:
Front runners accounted for 11% of all runners;
Prominent runners accounted for 39.4% of all runners;
Hold up horses accounted for 49.6% of all runners.
These figures now reveal a powerful statistic - that front runners win nearly twice as many races as they statistically should do. In 2008, they won 20.2% of all races having provided just 11% of all the total runners. Being more precise, they have won 1.84 times more often than their expected probability – their expected probability being 11%. Hence, taking a very general view, the best value in flat racing in terms of running styles/pace clearly lies with front runners.
Conversely, although hold up horses win nearly 35% of all races, they provide roughly 50% of the total runners. Hence, once again taking a very general view, hold up horses are clearly poor value from a pace/running styles perspective.
When looking in much greater depth at these ideas, one will find that an even greater edge can be found when looking at certain distances, and also at certain courses. All of my research, and hence all of my articles for that matter, have looked at this in flat racing only. However, the main focus for this article is pace/running styles in National hunt racing so let me move onto National Hunt racing.
Let us take the year 2008 again as my example, and as before, let me split all the winners of the races studied into the three distinct categories – front runners; prominent runners; hold up horses. In 2008 there were 3368 National hunt races in this country – the winning splits for the three pace categories were as follows:
Front runners won 17% of all races;
Prominent runners won 45.7% of all races;
Hold up horses won 37.3% of all races.
As before, we need to know what percentage of all the runners were a) front runners; b) prominent runners and c) hold up horses. Here are the percentages:
Front runners accounted for 10.2% of all runners;
Prominent runners accounted for 38% of all runners;
Hold up horses accounted for 51.8% of all runners.
Once again we can see that front runners seem to be the best value – there advantage may not be a strong as it is on the flat but essentially front runners in National hunt racing win 1.67 times more often than they statistically should. In addition, as with their flat counterparts, hold up horses perform relatively poorly when judged from this pace perspective.
For me, these figures open up a new world of possibilities in terms of my National hunt betting. Up to now, as I have already intimated, 99.9% of my pace research has been on the flat. However, although the ‘edge’ looks less strong in National hunt racing, it still looks a strong enough edge to research in considerable depth. Indeed, for the record, if you had managed to predict the front runner in every National hunt race of 2008, you would have made a profit of £35,000 to £100 level stakes to SP. Of course, this would have been impossible, unless you are Mystic Meg … lol, but what if you had bet ‘in running’ on every front runner, placing your bet within the first 10 seconds of each race? My educated guess is that you probably would still have made a profit and my reasoning is thus: although front runners often shorten in price at the beginning of a race, this contraction is offset by the fact that the Betfair price at the off is likely to be 10 to 25% bigger than the eventual SP. Hence even if the price contracts 10 to 25% in the first ten seconds, then you are still effectively getting SP, or near as damn it, on the horse in question. I appreciate that there is commission to be taken into account, and that the contraction in price for each horse will vary in percentage terms, but hopefully you see my point.
Now betting on front runners ‘in running’ is potentially one way to exploit this pace bias and knowing which course and distances favour front runners the most, and which ones do not, should help you further in gaining more value.
Here is a list of C&Ds combined with a specific race type which has produced the best strike rates for front runners:
For the eagle eyed amongst you, it would have been noted that all the best strike rates for front runners have come in chases. It should therefore come as no surprise that generally speaking front runners perform best in chases, rather than hurdle races or bumpers. The above C&Ds have provided the best strike rates, but from a punting point of view it is also useful to know which C&Ds have been the least successful for front runners. Here is a list of C&Ds where it looks prudent to avoid the front runner:
Now before we take the figures from both these tables too literally, it should be noted that these results take no account of number of runners. Hence a C&D where the average number of runners is 7 is more likely to favour front runners than a C&D where the average number of runners is 14. Therefore, in order to get a more accurate picture we need to take the number of runners into account. I am in the process of doing this and I intend to report back in a follow-up article in the very near future.
Finally, on my other racing website Racing Trends (www.racingtrends.co.uk), my daily e mail includes a detailed look at pace bias in both National Hunt and flat racing. I create unique pace figures that I believe give punters that extra edge over the majority. Pace bias analysis is not only useful in determining horses that are value bets, but it also gives ‘in running’ punters a decent edge also.
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