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Starting Points : National Hunt

Starting Points – National Hunt by David Renham

Most research that is shared reaches an ‘endpoint’ or a conclusion – for example the researcher may finish an article with a ‘winning’ system or method. However, on many occasions these ‘winning systems’ have flaws; it might be because they have too many filters, which essentially has given a positive result through ‘back-fitting’. Back-fitting is a real problem when researching systems and it is what often gives racing systems a bad name. However, in this article I am going to focus on starting points – raw ideas that have the potential to produce winning systems or winning methods. I will be looking at a selection of specific race types and highlight some ideas that merit further investigation. They may not at this initial stage be profitable, but the potential for future profits is there. This is essentially me looking for a ‘KISS’ starting point rather than a ‘KISS’ system. The starting points will hopefully give you a ‘pool’ of horses that are definitely worth further investigation.

I have written two similar articles for other publications recently using this ‘starting point’ idea, but with both being based on flat racing, it seemed sensible to investigate National Hunt racing. The data for this piece has been taken from January 2006 to October 2011.

Novice hurdles – 2m 1f or shorter

With National Hunt racing, there is a significant difference between shorter and longer distances races so my initial focus for novice hurdle races is the shorter races of 2m1f or less. Firstly let me show a stats breakdown of these novice events based on LTO position - here are my findings:

Position LTO Wins Runs SR% Profit/loss ROI%
1st 311 1201 25.9 -£104.18 -8.7
2nd 212 961 22.1 -£177.60 -18.5
3rd 146 984 14.8 -£300.03 -30.5
4th 109 1050 10.4 -£454.23 -43.3
5th 79 1025 7.7 -£366.55 -35.8
6th 65 1067 6.1 -£490.53 -46.0
7th 45 939 4.8 -£273.52 -29.1
8th+ (finished race) 139 4069 3.4 -£2581.55 -63.4
Did Not Finish 51 1331 3.8 -£748.78 -56.3


As we can see LTO winners have a decent enough record. If you look at last time winners in ALL National hunt races, losses incurred in percentage terms are roughly double the 8.7% figure here. A strike rate of better than 1 in 4 is also a fair starting point. Horses that finished 8th or worse or those that failed to finish LTO have particularly poor records.

Where to go from here is the question? I only wanted to look at one more filter to avoid to back-fitting scenario. I looked at market position LTO, more especially LTO favourites. So let us look at LTO winners in terms of their market position LTO:

Market Position LTO Wins Runs SR% Profit/loss ROI%
Favourite 167 500 33.4 +£34.87 +7.0
Not favourite 144 701 20.5 -£139.05 -19.8


The results see a clear difference with the horses that won LTO when they were favourite actually showing a profit. Essentially this gives us a simple starting point from which to work from in these shorter novice hurdles.

Starting point – Novice hurdles of 2m1f or less – horses that won LTO and were favourite LTO.

Novice hurdles – 2m 6f or longer

Still keeping to novice hurdles but looking at races over a longer distance. First port of call this time are the official BHB ratings. A good proportion of novice hurdlers have yet to obtain a rating, but the table below does highlight an area to concentrate on:

BHB Ratings (OR) Wins Runs SR% Profit/loss ROI%
Not rated 209 3084 6.8 -£1501.89 -48.7
Less than 110 73 905 8.1 -£388.45 -42.9
110 or more 233 925 25.2 -£32.51 -3.5


The higher rated runners seem to have quite a significant edge here. Thinking that class seems to make a difference, I decided to combine class with fitness. I decided upon 5 weeks off the track as my cut off point. This is what I found:

Days since last run Wins Runs SR% Profit/loss ROI%
35 or less 165 610 27.1 +£45.06 +7.4
36 or more 67 309 21.7 -£80.11 -25.9


The ‘fitter’ runners definitely seem to have an edge here. Better strike rate and far better returns. Hence horses that have run within the last 5 weeks with a BHB official rating of 110 or more look worth further investigation.

Starting point – Novice hurdles of 2m6f or more – horses with a BHB rating of 110 or more that have run within the last 5 weeks.

Novice/beginners chases – 2m 6f or longer

Again I have not focused solely on one race-type, but a race type coupled with a distance rule. For horses to win longer distance novice/beginner chases, I believe the horses need to have shown some semblance of ability in the past. So my starting point this time is to look for horses that have won more than 20% of their career starts. Here is what I found:

Career win% Wins Runs SR% Profit/loss ROI%
Over 20% 363 1334 27.2 -£96.45 -7.2
20% or lower 370 3450 10.5 -£1449.71 -42.0


As expected, horses with a career win percentage of over 20% have a far better record than those that have won 20% or less. The good news stats-wise is that there is a decent number of qualifiers from which to find a second ‘angle’. I have always preferred younger runners in these types of chases and so ‘age’ is my second filter:

Age of horse Wins Runs SR% Profit/loss ROI%
7 or younger 267 873 30.6 +£10.42 +1.2
8 or older 96 461 20.8 -£106.87 -23.2


As we can see, horses aged 7 or younger that have a career strike rate in excess of 20% have actually made a small profit thanks in part to an excellent strike rate.

Starting point – Novice chases of 2m6f or more – horses aged 7 or younger that have won over 20% of their career starts.

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