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Trainers In Form How Important Is It In Reality?
Recent trainer form is something that many punters seem take into account before having a bet. In fact recent trainer form is mentioned in the Racing press on a daily basis and hence it should come as no surprise if it is taken into account. Newspapers, racing papers, racing websites all seem to have this information to hand. Indeed, you regularly see comments such as “xxxx is in good form having had 4 winners from his last 9 runners”, or “the stable of xxxx is struggling having had no winners from their last 30 runners”. These days it is very easy for punters to get access to recent trainer form – be it 7 day form, 14 day form, etc.
However, how important really is trainer form? In fact more to the point, how do we quantify recent trainer form? The reason I ask this is that a basic fact such as trainer X has had a 20% strike rate in the past 14 days does not really give us much information. OK most publications or websites give the wins to runs figures which helps with sample size, but some trainers score close to 20% all of the time, so a 14-day 20% strike rate looks to be fairly irrelevant in terms of recent form. However, if a trainer normally scores 7% of the time with his runners, then a recent 20% strike rate would logically become more relevant.
In this article I am going to look into recent trainer form in more detail – or at least try to. At this juncture I should mention that a few years ago, I did an experiment connected with this idea to see whether “trainers in form” were worth following. At the time I decided I needed to use specific criteria that would make it as fair a test as possible, and this is what I decided upon at the time:
a) all trainers must have had at least 10 runners in the past 14 days (all codes);
b) their 14 day win strike rate % (SR%) must be at least double their SR% for the previous 2 years (eg. if their overall strike rate in the previous 2 years had been say 10%, then to be termed a “trainer in form” their strike rate in the last 14 days must have been 20% or higher);
c) UK and Irish racing included;
d) profits / losses calculated to Betfair Starting Price.
Now I am not saying this was the perfect criteria for such a study, but it something that looked logical and the sample size of 10 or more runners over 14 days seemed to be enough. I checked results for a month, (it was September 2012 to be precise), and they produced the following results:
A low strike rate but a small profit overall – these results at the time surprised me although I had assumed such ‘qualifiers’ would not sustain a profit over a longer time frame. I have not gone back to check this …………….. until now.
I have tweaked the original criteria ever so slightly – I have focused on just UK racing; have restricted qualifiers to National Hunt racing only, and I have ignored any trainer whose 14 day SR% is under 10%. I have kept the ‘key’ variables of using 10 runners in 14 days as a minimum and the 14 day win SR% being at least double the 2 year overall SR%. Also I have used Betfair SP for my profit and loss figures.
I looked at four full years of UK National Hunt racing from January 1st 2014 to December 31st 2017. The overall figures were as follows:
As we can see, an overall loss equating to about 9 pence in the £. Not a profitable angle for backers – for the layers out there you would have made a small profit of £44.89 (ROI +1.1%).
For the eagle eyed reader, the strike rate of 15.1% is much higher than the September 2012 experimental figure. However, most of the races in that study were flat races and generally they have bigger fields than National Hunt; hence that is the likely reason for such a differential in the SRs.
I decided to look at the figures in more detail by breaking the data down by the 2 year trainer strike rate (SR%). I have split the figures thus: trainers with an overall 2 year strike rate of 12% or less; trainers with an overall 2 year strike rate of 13 to 20%; and trainers with an overall 2 year strike rate of 21% or more:
The SR% goes up as one would expect with the better trainers historically producing the higher SRs. For the record very few trainers have a 2 year SR% of 21% + and of course to produce qualifiers for this particular idea, their 14 day SR% must be double this. Therefore it should come as no surprise to see just 159 qualifiers for such trainers. These trainers make a loss of around 10p in the £ - this is perhaps to be expected as one would suspect their runners have been overbet.
What is interesting perhaps is the fact that trainers with a 2 year SR% of 12% or less have produced such significant losses from a backing perspective. Losing over 20 pence in the £ at BSP is huge. For all the layers out there laying all these runners would have yielded a profit of £276.66 if you layed each horse for a unit stake of £1 – food for thought perhaps.
My next port of call was to break the results down by Starting Price to see if any patterns emerged – I was not sure what to expect and indeed whether there would be any meaningful to come out of this.
It is easier to use traditional SP as a price guide although the profit/loss column is calculated to Betfair SP.
Here are the findings:
A couple of things strike me when studying the figures. Firstly, it looks like there may be some value opposing shorter priced runners. This might be due to punters ‘overbetting’ such horses or bookmakers reacting to ‘good recent trainer form’ and cutting the prices accordingly …… or a combination of both. Laying horses at SP 9/4 (3.25) or shorter simply to a unit stake of £1 would have yielded a small profit of £48.86.
Secondly, horses whose SP is bigger than 20/1 (21.00) have a very poor strike rate – even lower than normal. It should also be noted that the ROI% for the 22/1 (23.00) to 40/1 (41.00) price bracket would have been much worse but for a freak winner. Perfect Pirate was the horse in question and it won at Towcester in December 2016 - its SP was 40/1 but its Betfair SP was an enormous 134.62. Clearly this demonstrates the potential problem with laying such big priced animals if you use the simplistic £1 unit stake per lay method. You need a hefty bank to cope with such results and some decent personal resilience. Having said that if you did lay all horses that started 22/1 (SP) or bigger you would have secured a huge profit of £262.12. For you layers out there, most of you use a more sophisticated laying method and it would be interesting to hear how you approach laying bigger priced runners – if indeed you do.
I now thought it might be a good idea to reverse the process and look at ‘out of form’ trainers – hence to be classed as ‘out of form’ I decided that their 14 day win SR% must be at least half of their 2 year SR%. Again 10 runners in 14 days being the minimum and I decided that a 2 year strike rate of 8% would be the minimum requirement.
I looked at the same four full years of UK National Hunt racing (2014 to 2017). The results were as follows:
Considerably more qualifiers for these ‘out of form’ trainers and losses are more significant. Backing all qualifiers would have lost you close to 16 pence in the £. Again there seems possible scope for the layers out there.
As before let us look in more detail by breaking the data down by the 2 year trainer SR%. I have split the figures in the same way as before: 12% or less; 13 to 20%; and 21% or more:
Again the SR% increases in line with the long term trainer SR% – this time though the ‘more successful’ trainers in terms of 2 year SR% have come out making a small profit and their runners may offer us a small amount of value.
So trainer form? How important is it in National Hunt racing? Well, looking at the data I have crunched to date, my general feeling is that trainers who are supposed to be ‘in a rich vein of form’ offer little or no real value from a betting perspective; ‘out of form’ trainers even less so. Some laying angles are worth further investigation, but personally I am a backer, not a layer – so I will leave that to the laying experts.
For my own betting purposes it looks to me that ‘trainers in form’ are generally overbet and therefore this fact might put me off having a bet purely from a value perspective. I will also take more note of trainers who are under-performing significantly as this also could put me off having a bet.
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