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Racing Questions From The Pub
Racing Questions From The Pub
I was down the pub the other day having a drink with a good friend of mine. He has been a punter for many years, but unfortunately too many of them have been unsuccessful years! I always tell him that he only has himself to blame as he only buys ‘The Sun’ newspaper and relies far too heavily on the tipster in there, Templegate. Having said that, I felt that during this particular conversation I was starting to convert him towards my way of thinking. The reason I say this is that he actually asked me about what I research and why. He had never done that before! In the past most of our conversations have centred upon the number of hard luck stories he has had in the previous month or months.
I told him about numerous angles I have looked at in the past, and those angles I have yet to look at, bemoaning the fact that the vast majority of my good ideas are either impossible to research or would simply take too long. He asked me about article writing and whether I ran out of ideas. “I never run out of ideas” I replied, “but there are times when I get halfway through an article and realise I have not got enough data or material to write a whole one.” He suggested that I wrote an article that covered a variety of different angles or ideas, so there was more chance that the reader would find something interesting or stimulating within the article. He said that if I wrote about a specific subject, one which some readers were not that interested in, too much of my hard work would be wasted. That actually struck a chord with me because there have been numerous times when I have picked up racing or betting magazine and ignored any article which covered a subject that I was not particularly interested in.
We spent the next couple of hours discussing what I could put in this article, so I am hoping that there will be something for everybody. If not, at least I have tried! The data for this article has been taken from January 1, 2004 to August 17, 2010.
Trainers with one runner in a day
“Hey Dave. I often look to see if a trainer has one runner at a meeting or one runner on the day, especially if it is one of the top trainers. Is there any angle there?”
“I suspect there may be I said. My gut feeling is that there may be an angle if we look at trainers that have one runner a day in a really low quality race.”
The argument being for such an idea is simply “why would they bother?”
When I got home that night, I decided to look at Turf races only on the flat, as so many all weather races have poor prize-money. The figure I settled on was a winning prize of under £3000. Here are the trainers with the best strike rates:
Saeed bin Suroor has the best strike rate, but clearly punters have latched onto his runners contracting the prices. Hence, despite a good record here is a trainer to avoid in such circumstances. Howard Johnson on the other hand has produced excellent profits from a similar strike rate. More renowned for his exploits over the sticks, this is an angle perhaps worth following. Others trainers worth close scrutiny include Dandy Nicholls, and John Gosden, as well as the lesser known pair of Andrew Haynes and Stuart Kittow. Indeed Haynes has done particularly well with horses that have been fancied – those from the top 3 in the betting have secured an impressive 11 wins from 26 (SR 42.3%) for a profit of £17.07 (ROI +65.7%).
First run after changing trainers
“Dave .... have you ever looked into what happens when a horse runs for the first time for a new trainer. I know a fair few horses are sent to Bin Suroor for example at the end of their 2yo career. Any mileage in that general idea?”
“Horses change trainers for a variety of reasons.” I mused. “The owners of the horse may be unhappy about the way their horse has been running, and hence decide that switching trainers may produce a change in fortunes. Other owners may be happy with the current trainer, but feel that a move to an even better and more high profile stable would be more beneficial. Another more common route is when horses are claimed from claiming races, or sold in selling races. I have looked at this briefly for National Hunt trainers so I suppose I should look at flat trainers now!”
Since that conversation I have looked at a plethora of data in connection with horses having their first run after switching trainers and this is what I found:
2yo debutants from September onwards (on turf)
“I hate September onwards ... well not until the jumps really kicks in come the Paddy Power meeting at Cheltenham in October.”
“Why’s that then?” I asked, although I had a pretty good idea why this was the case.
“More sudden changes of going. Horses that have run poorly in the summer suddenly come alive in the Autumn; big fields for maidens at places like Newmarket and Newbury, etc, etc. Maybe I should be looking to lay horses at this time rather than back them!”
“A good plan, if you normally have a poor time of it at this time of the season. Any angles spring to mind?”
My mate pondered for a moment, finished his last handful of cashew nuts, (by the way he had not offered me a single one!), and said, “something to do with 2yos I reckon. Big fields and all that as I mentioned earlier. OK ... how do 2yos making their debuts at this time get on?”
“Not very well would be guess also” I replied. “I’ll look into it!”
On my return home I noted that as of the flat season progressed, 2yos making their debut started to win less frequently. This is almost certainly due to the fact that in the first month or two of the season the majority of the runners are debutants so they are running against each other. However, by the time we get to the autumn, the vast majority of 2yos have already run. Hence, debutants struggle at this time of the year because invariably they are racing against experienced opposition.
Focusing therefore on the autumn, in 2yo turf races debutants win just 5.4% of the time with losses of 41p in the £. Let us look at the trainers that have had more than 10 debutant winners:
Brian Meehan’s record is extremely interesting. 9 of his 11 winners have been priced between 8/1 and 22/1 so one should not be put off by bigger prices about his runners. Saeed Bin Suroor has a very impressive strike rate, but with most of his winners being shorter prices there have been no profits to be made by backing his runners ‘blind’. However, it should be noted, that he has sent 14 debutants to Nottingham of which six have won returning a profit of £7.20 (ROI +51.5%). In addition to this, the jockey booking of Frankie Dettori does look significant as he has teamed up with his boss to ride 21 winners from 71 (SR 29.6%) for a profit of £7.08 (ROI +10.0%).
Below is a list of trainers that look worth avoiding with 2yo Autumn debutants if past stats are anything to go by:
Moving away from trainers, it seems that 2yo debutants struggle more in lower grade contests at this time of the year. In class 6 or lower, they have produced just 8 winners from 227 runners (SR 3.5%) for a loss of £154.75 (ROI -68.2%). A plausible reason for these poor figures, is if the trainers are entering them in such a low class to begin with, they almost certainly have very low expectations. Either that or their cunning plan to win a low-grade race with a debutant too often goes awry!
Let us move onto a couple of positives now. Once again, the betting market is a fairly accurate reflection of the chances of these runners. Indeed, debutants that have started favourite have scored 34.1% of the time producing a break-even situation. Looking at the top four of the betting as a whole, combined losses stand at less than 6p in the £. On the other hand, horses priced 20/1 or bigger have been successful just 1.3% of the time producing losses of over 56p in the £. The second positive, should be of interest to ‘in running’ punters although you have to be very patient. Only 2.7% of all debutants have had the speed to lead a race early, but of the 118 who have, 24 have gone on to win which equates to a strike rate of slightly better than 1 win in 5. My guess is that these runners will still be available at decent prices on the exchanges within the first furlong of the race and the potential is there to make a tidy profit. However, as I said earlier, with only 2.7% of such runners leading a patient approach is definitely required!
Changing jockeys where the new jockey on board has a good course record
“What is your feeling about jockeys Dave?”
“I must admit that I take more notice of them now than I did say 3 or 4 years ago. I think several are over-rated, a few are under-rated ....”
“Which ones?” my mate interjected quickly.
“You think I’m going to tell you that? Especially after you not offering me any of your nuts?!!”
He laughed, “OK, I get the picture. Keep a bit up your sleeve and all that....... so anyway, jockeys, is there any value in looking at what happens when a trainer puts a new jockey on board? More especially if the new jockey is a good ‘un?”
“I’m sure I can check that out” I replied. “Maybe if we look at a jockey that rides the specific course well?”
“Yes sure. I look at the course stats for jocks in the ‘Sun’”.
I smiled to myself. I stopped myself from saying that he could not just rely on the stats in his rag, but I had told him numerous times before and I would be sounding like a broken record.
“OK we need to decide upon a % figure for the jockey strike rate at the course.”
“Maybe a tad high. How about 15?”
“Sounds good. And ..... maybe a minimum number of winners at the course. Is that something you can check?”
“Good idea and yes I can.”
We decided on at least 10 course wins.
A fact of life for horses is that they will rarely have the same jockey on board for every race they run. Trainers change the jockey for the variety of reasons – it may be that their stable jockey is riding for them at another course, it may be that the usual jockey is banned, it might simply be the case that the trainer does not have a stable jockey and simply gets the ‘best’ he can find each time. There are plenty of other plausible reasons, and one such reason I am going to look into now.
The idea is this – is there any advantage in putting a different jockey on board, (to the horses’ last run), because that jockey has a good record at the relevant course? I decided therefore to focus on jockeys that had a strike rate of at least 15% at the course, but also had 10 wins or more. I added the wins caveat to avoid such jockeys that had limited course data. Looking at all qualifiers (nearly 19,000 of them) the overall strike rate is impressive at 16%. However, punters seem to take this jockey switch as a positive because the prices of the winners have been too short to make a profit. Indeed, backing all qualifiers would have lost you 16p for every £ wagered. Let us look at some of the individual jockeys:
It is clearly difficult to find profitable angles there, although Neil Callan has made a small profit when he has taken over the ride at courses he rides well. So it seems that the top jockeys are over-bet in such circumstances. Let us look now at the trainers, as they, along with the owners would make the change in jockey decision. I have focused on those with the best strike rates:
There certainly seems to be some trainers worth following when switching jockeys to one that has a good course record. Sir Mark Prescott tops the list in terms of strike rate and his record in handicaps is particularly good – 44 winners from 107 (SR 41.1%) for a profit of £54.65 (ROI +51.1%). It might be worth keeping an eye out for those runners!
I hope there has been something for everyone in this article and hopefully some of you were interested by all four topics discussed. Oh by the way, I have sent the article to my mate, but don’t hold out much hope that it, or I will change his way of punting. I am sure next time I see him he will be bemoaning his luck and/or blaming Templegate!
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