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Southwell All Weather All You Need To Know
Last month my focus was National Hunt, this month I am focusing on all weather racing at Southwell. Southwell is the only all weather track in this country to race on fibresand – this surface is very different to the other tracks as it is much deeper and theoretically makes it a good stamina test. I have crunched the data from January 1st 2014 to October 1st 2017. Profits and losses have been calculated assuming a £1 win bet using Betfair Starting Price (BSP).
The first thing that should be stressed about all weather racing at Southwell is that the class of contest is generally on the low side. Over 84% of all races are class 5 or lower, while class 3 or higher events account for under 5%. Hence you are unlikely to being seeing the next Frankel if you watch and bet here. Having said that, a winner at 5/1 in class 6 company is just as profitable for a winning punter as 5/1 win in a Group 1 race.
The main focus for this article is going to be handicaps as these races are the most prevalent – indeed just under 75% of all races here are handicaps. However, let us look at some ‘all races’ data to begin with:
Favourites at Southwell – a look at how the jolly has fared at Southwell:
Limited data for Sellers but Selling favourites have an excellent record during this period. In fact if you look back at the previous four year period also (2010-2013) we see that selling favourites made a profit then also – 57 wins from 111 runners (SR 51.4%) for a BSP profit of £20.26 (ROI +18.3%). Interesting there was treble the amount of selling races then compared to 2014-2017. Not sure why this is the case. However, for all you favourite backers out sellers at Southwell look a logical and potentially profitable option.
Country of Breeding – it is a now well-known fact that American bred runners have a good record at Southwell. It is worth sharing the data though for all races over the past four years:
The shame is that American bred runners provide a relatively small proportion of all the runners (roughly 7.5% of all runners). However, a decent blind profit would have been made backing them all. This trend has been a positive one for some time – indeed if we look back at the 6 years before 2014 we get the following results for American bred runners at Southwell – 346 wins from 1838 runners (SR 18.8%) for a BSP profit of £553.93 (ROI +30.1%).
If you want to try and increase your ROI backing American bred runners you may want to consider only backing horses that are still maidens – in other words have yet to win. These runners produced a huge profit between 2014 and 2017 (+£228.06 for an ROI of +161.7%). Going back again and looking at data from 2008 to 2013, a +£303.28 profit would have been made with an ROI of just under 52%.
Draw – there are three distances which I believe are worth looking at in terms of potential draw bias at Southwell, and that is over 5, 6 and 7 furlongs. I have looked at 10 runner+ handicaps over the past four seasons at these distances and the split the draw up into thirds – which is the method I have used for over 20 years now. Here are the win percentages for each third:
Looking at the 6 furlong data first it seems that this is a pretty level playing field with each section of the draw having a fair chance. The 7 furlong data shows a potential bias to horses drawn in the middle. I can only guess why this is but perhaps those drawn low go off to quick and those drawn in the middle are in the best position to take advantage. The 5 furlong data does seem to show a significant bias. The 5f track at Southwell is straight and for many years low draws have held the upper hand and this is still true today. According to the stats those drawn in the bottom third are over 2.5 times more likely to win than those drawn in the top third. Indeed, if we simply split the draw into bottom half and top half we have win percentages of 74% for the bottom half and 26% for the top half – nearly 3 times more likely to win then from a berth in the bottom half of the draw.
I am glad that draw bias is still alive and well, albeit the biases are fewer and farther between these days compared with the ‘heady’ days of the late 90s. Having said that in an article early next year I plan to share the latest draw bias information and there are still a few course and distances where one can gain an edge. The final stat to share in terms of Southwell 5 furlongs – the two lowest drawn stalls (normally stalls 1 or 2, although this is dependent on non runners of course) have won 31% of all races ….. for a tidy profit of £69.46 (ROI +82.7%).
Weight in handicaps – I always look at potential weight bias in handicaps both on the flat and over the jumps. Despite an excellent handicapping system higher weighted horses continue to win more often than lower weighted horses. Now of course, the bookmakers take this into account but I always think weight is one area you should always take note of in any handicap race. At Southwell there is not surprisingly a weight bias which can be seen from the following stats:
As the percentages show the top three in the weights win nearly twice as often as horses 7th or lower in the weights. This is a strong stat and although the market does adjust, I do not think it quite adjusts enough.
If we dig a little deeper at Southwell top weighted runners in handicaps have actually made a blind profit to BSP. Backing all top weights (including joint top weights) would have produced 177 winning bets from 922 runners (SR 19,2%) for a small profit of £65.36 (ROI +7.1%). With a near 1 in 5 strike rate, top weighted runners are definitely worth of close scrutiny.
Top weights in handicaps – thus I have looked at a variety of angles connected with top weighted runners in handicaps at Southwell. Firstly, it seems sensible to avoid top weighted female horses (fillies and mares). Their record is poor compared to their male counterparts – 22 wins from 178 runners (SR 12.4%) for a loss of £87.48 (ROI –49.1%). Male runners (colts, horses and geldings) have provided 155 winners from 744 runners (SR 20.8%) for a profit of £152.84 (ROI +20.4%). Secondly age seems to be worth considering. Generally punters are wary of backing older horses as they feel that they are past their best. This may well be the case, at least some of the time, but whether they are as good as they used to be it does not really matter as they are handicapped according to their current form/ability. My research indicates that it seems worth siding with top weighted horses that are 6 or older. The table below illustrates this fact:
As we can see, strike rates are fairly similar, but there is a big difference with the profit/loss figures. My guess is that older horses just start at slightly inflated prices probably due to punter bias. However, whatever the actual reason, it is something that we need to be aware of.
Another area I have investigated is last time out race. Top weighted handicap runners do better having run in a handicap LTO rather than a non handicaps. Most of course have come from a handicap, but it is a stat worth sharing:
I would be slightly wary of backing a top weighted handicap runner who had not raced in a handicap LTO.
Moving onto the betting market, top weighted horses that are near of the head of market do win far more often than bigger priced runners.
A very decent strike rate for the top four in the betting (as one would expect) and a fair profit to boot. Despite the poor strike rate for those fifth or bigger in the betting they still made a minimal profit. For punters who do not losing runs you could do worse that back any top weighted runner near the head of the betting.
The final top weight in handicaps stat I wish to share with you is looking at position LTO:
Horses that ran well LTO (finished in first four) look worth noting.
In conclusion, I will be noting American bred runners in all races, low drawn runners in 5f handicaps (10+ runners) and top weights in handicaps. Hopefully with a bit of extra research into these potential qualifiers, we will come out on top at Southwell this winter.
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