All posts by winningracing

All-Weather Championships Finals Day – The Nature of the Track

The Lingfield map below is courtesy of Attheraces.com and is useful when considering some of the theories that follow:

Lingfield

Lingfield is a tricky test of a horse on the all-weather. It’s a twisting, turning track, with some interesting undulations to boot. The tight bends mean that the focus tends to lie heavily on the draw, and with good reason – in 6f races, for example (of which there are two today), the horses turn almost immediately after leaving the stalls, leaving those with a wide draw with more work to do from the offset.

So, a good starting point would be to look at the draw at each distance with relation to the conditions in which we’ll see horses run today. Today’s races are as follows:

1:30 – 7f, 14 runners
2:00 – 2m, 10 runners
2:30 – 7f, 12 runners
3:05 – 6f, 11 runners
3:40 – 6f, 12 runners
4:15 – 1m2f, 8 runners
4:45 – 1m, 11 runners

6 Furlongs

The 6 furlong races today have 11 and 12 runners going to post. Even if not familiar with the nature of the track itself, the theory for the 6f course is fairly obvious; at a short distance, low draws should benefit more over this trip than over further, assuming that a low draw is preferential. The fact that the bend comes so soon after the start of the race should heighten this effect.

Looking at races with 10-12 runners over 6f at Lingfield since the beginning of 2014:

Runners Winners from bottom half of draw Winners from top half of draw
10 25 28
11 27 17
12 25 12
Total 77 57

I’ve left out stall 6 when looking at 11-runner races, so that we can establish the top and bottom half. The difference doesn’t seem particularly pronounced when looking at 10-runner races, but if we just compare the bottom 4 and top 4 stalls in these races we can see a clearer advantage to the bottom stalls:

Stalls 1-4 Wins Stalls 7-10 Wins
20 15

The “advantage” of the top stalls in the first table in 10-runner races actually comes from stall 6, which has 13 winners alone. Regardless, it’s clear that the lower stalls do have an advantage over 6f, as we might expect.

7 Furlongs

In theory, this advantage should decrease gradually as the distance is increased to 7f and a mile, as each extra furlong takes the start a furlong further back from the first bend, giving the horses more time to move in before turning. Today’s races over 7f have 12 and 14 runners going to post, so I’m going to look at races with between 11 and 14 runners:

Runners Winners from bottom half of draw Winners from top half of draw
11 14 19
12 22 22
13 24 16
14 10 8
Total 70 65

Again, the middle stall has been excluded in the cases of 11- and 13-runner races. The advantage looks small or non-existent in fields of 11 and 12, but in fields of 13 and 14 it can be seen more clearly. Again, it might make sense to look at the record of those drawn in the top and bottom few stalls so that those drawn towards the centre don’t skew the data:

Runners Winners from bottom 4 Winners from top 4
11 10 17
12 17 13
13 18 9
14 9 5
Total 54 44

The 11-runner races seem to be an exception here, but it’s clear that in larger fields those drawn out wide are at a significant disadvantage to those drawn on the inside.

1 Mile

Again, the draw should become less significant as the start moves a furlong further back. Today’s race over a mile has 11 runners, so I’ll look at races with 10-12 runners:

Runners Winners from bottom half of draw Winners from top half of draw
10 47 31
11 25 35
12 34 24
Total 106 90

A bias is evident again, but the fact that it’s reversed in 11-runner races does bring its validity into question.

1 Mile 2 Furlongs

Here, things get more interesting again. The 1m2f start, like the 6f start, is shortly before the first bend so, as is the case in 6f races, the runners have little time to get themselves into a good position before turning.

Runners Winners from bottom half of draw Winners from top half of draw
7 22 20
8 31 27
9 27 23

There’s actually no clear advantage here, and it’s probably because we’re looking at races with so few runners – today’s race only has 8, though, so it doesn’t look like something that we should worry about hugely.

Jockeys

With the track being such a tricky one, it’s no surprises that certain jockeys have developed reputations as Lingfield specialists. Those with the highest strike rates (having had at least 25 rides at the track since the beginning of 2014) are listed below:

Jockey Runners Wins W% W/P W/P% P/L(BF) A/E
Frankie Dettori 65 22 33.85 39 60 8.2 1.06
Ryan Moore 137 40 29.2 72 52.55 -20.28 0.92
James Doyle 188 54 28.72 121 64.36 85.64 1.09
Connor Beasley 26 6 23.08 8 30.77 7.72 1.47

Connor Beasley’s record stands out but he only just makes the list, having had 26 rides in that time, and his success has all been on one horse (My Target, who has Lingfield form of 111172 under Beasley). His win/place strike rates are well below those of the other jockeys.

It’s interesting to see that Kirby doesn’t make the list. If we look just at the current season, his strike rate is decent considering the number of rides he has had (22 wins from 115, 19% strike rate, 40% win/place rate), but there are others with impressive strike rates (albeit with fewer rides) – Joe Fanning is one (11 wins from 37, 30% strike rate, 35% win/place rate, A/E 1.79).

Thoughts on Today’s Cards

Not much jumps out at Lingfield as a betting opportunity but, unusually enough, I don’t think that odds of 4/6 are unwarranted in the case of Kachy. He hasn’t been handed the easiest draw ever in stall 8 of 11 in the 3:05, but his initial speed when he breaks means that I would expect him to be able to get over to the inside quickly before the bend. He seems to have come on significantly since a wind operation in the autumn, and there are a few trends in his form which work in his favour today. His form in fields of 11 or less reads 11616262021213511 (that’s 7 wins from 17 starts, compared to 1 win from 7 starts in larger fields, and that was in a field of 12). His form going left-handed reads 1111211, compared to a much less consistent 1662600450202395 (1 win from 16 starts). Also, he has 5 wins from 12 after a break of over 30 days (2 wins from 12 after a shorter break) and he comes here after 76 days off the track. In my view, this race is his to lose, and while you’ll rarely see me put a horse up at such a price, 4/6 isn’t all that bad.
3:05 Lingfield – Kachy 1pt win 4/6 (general)

I was looking forward to seeing Chaplin Bay at Newcastle, considering his fine record fresh – he was 2nd on his reappearance in 2016, and won on his reappearance the last two years. He was rated 80 less than a year ago but has dropped to 75 now, which makes him an interesting prospect as he was rated 74 when winning on reappearance in both 2017 and 2018. His form at Newcastle reads 41128, the 4th and 8th coming after 18 and 13 days off, and the wins coming after 181 and 185 days off. He runs today after a break of 182 days.
2:45 Newcastle – Chaplin Bay 0.5pt win 5/1 (general)

Craven Stakes Day Preview, Plus Ante Post Classics Bet

It was an interesting day of racing at Newmarket yesterday, but not a betting day for me. Shine So Bright was a good winner of the 7f listed handicap and the course form at Newmarket is a plus, but the more I watch it back the more I doubt that he will take to the Guineas in a big field as well as he took to yesterday’s test. That said, I wouldn’t write him off over shorter trips – he could potentially be a real 7f specialist and could be one to watch for the Jersey Stakes. Qabala has jumped to the top of the 1000 Guineas market after winning the Nell Gwyn and that seems justified – more on that race later.

This isn’t prime betting time on the flat for me but it is a very interesting time of year, so I’m just going to quickly run through the day’s ITV races, then take a quick look ahead to some bigger races later on in the season and point out one other horse worth watching today…

Today’s ITV Racing

13:50 Newmarket – Moyassar is one that will be interesting to watch having been a progressive type last season. He improved throughout the year and came close on his last two starts in nurseries. Both of those runs were fairly impressive on the clock. He looks as if further improvement is likely and he’ll be an interesting one to watch.

14:40 Cheltenham – Renes Girl is an obvious starting point as, at this late stage in the season, it may pay to side with horses which have avoided the testing route of Cheltenham and Aintree. She comes here fresh, having not run since the Christmas period. However, the interesting point in this race is just how much pace there is – Imperial Presence, Wenyerreadyfreddie, Tree Of Liberty, Highway One O One and Renes Girl all tend to go forward, and Kings Monarch has done so a few times too. This is the majority of the field, and leaves just Mister Whitaker, Tiquer and Got Away. The fear for Renes Girl must be that she could get into a battle up front and set the race up perfectly for the likes of Mister Whitaker under a patient ride. With that in mind, I would suggest that the market has this one backwards, and Mister Whitaker looks the bet at 9/2.
Mister Whitaker 1pt win 9/2

15:00 Newmarket – Brando deserves to be favourite having won the race the last two years, but 11/8 doesn’t seem overly generous. It’s worth noting that Dreamfield clearly goes well fresh, having won on debut and after a 569-day break, and comes here after a break of 235 days.

Craven Stakes

Zakouski is currently (just about) favourite here at 2/1, with Royal Marine 9/4, but the money appears to be for the latter rather than the former and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see their market positions reversed soon. This seems reasonable – Royal Marine is the one with the form in the book, having won a group 1 at Longchamp, and although he was disappointing in Meydan last time it wouldn’t be unreasonable to forgive him that run and assume that he didn’t take well to the surface. Back on turf, he’s the one to beat.

That’s not to say that Zakouski isn’t an exciting horse – he was impressive at Kempton on debut and has become a major talking horse. It would be great to see the hype justified, but it would make more sense to side with the proven contender. Just a quick mention for one at a massive price – Jackstar has had his trouble with injury, but he returned at Wolverhampton last month and won with ease. It’s possible that he’s a better horse than his 33/1 price tag suggests.
Royal Marine 0.5pt win 9/4
Jackstar 0.5pt win 33/1

One Other…

4:00 Beverly
City Tour won on his handicap debut last time out off a mark of 73, defying a significant draw bias. He was drawn in stall 12 of 12, whereas the all of the other winners that day were drawn low (with the exception of the 5f races on the straight course). That was the first flat meeting of the season at Musselburgh so we don’t have much to compare it to, but on the evidence available to us, a 3 pound rise for that performance may still have him ahead of the handicapper. With that in mind, early prices of 8/1 seem more than fair, and I’ll be keeping an eye on his odds when the race is priced up by other firms.
City Tour 1pt win 8/1

The Classics

It seems strange to be discussing the Classics when in just a few days I’ll be pouring over the Fairyhouse form for the Irish Grand National meeting. However, I have had a couple of bets thus far and have had one as recently as yesterday.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m on Magna Grecia for the Guineas at 12/1. His price has contracted over the last few days, but this is predominantly due to the withdrawal of Too Darn Hot from the Greenham and his subsequent drift out to as far as 9/4. Although that puts the Magna Grecia bet in a good position, should Too Darn Hot turn up fit and well on the day, he’ll most definitely be my selection in the race and I will be backing him at anything longer than odds on, assuming the vibes from connections are that he’s fit and well.

As for the Derby, I don’t have any strong opinion on the race. Too Darn Hot doesn’t really deserve his position at the top of the market, and Japan probably does. Again, I have backed one whose price has shortened a bit since – Mount Everest’s prices of 40/1 in recent weeks were a bit silly, and the 25/1 for him now is more reasonable, if not still a bit on the big side. He was only beaten a short head by Japan, and if he was to come out and win any trial, his price would contract significantly.

The 1000 Guineas is generally a race of lesser interest for me, but I’m surprised to see that one firm (888) still has Iridessa at 20/1. In the 1000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown she was drawn wide and carried a penalty on ground that was much softer than would have been ideal, but still raced well to finish 3rd. Joseph O’Brien stressed before the race that she wasn’t completely fit and that she should come on for the run, so 20/1 looks more than fair for the Guineas.
1000 Guineas – Iridessa 1pt win 20/1 (888Sport)

Monday Selection

There were a few non-runners among Saturday’s selections, with Mister Fisher pulled out of the Scottish Champion Hurdle and Super Julius withdrawn at Wolverhampton. Those that did run ran reasonably well, with a 3/1 winner, a 6/1 3rd, a 12/1 faller, a 20/1 each-way 3rd, a 20/1 each-way 4th (finishing just a neck outside the places) and two finishing down the field in Newbury’s Spring Cup. It’s unusual to have a selection up on a fairly mundane Monday afternoon, but one of the more interesting selections of the day was withdrawn and runs today instead. The theory is the very same as it was on Saturday:

Super Julius really caught my eye finishing 5th at Navan last time out. He was dropped 2 pounds for that start to 62. On his handicap debut, this horse was rated 88, and his rating has been in the 80’s a few times since. His last two wins were off 77 and 82, and he looked like he was finding form again last time, so it’s reasonable to think that he could now be a few steps ahead of the handicapper. His 2 wins in England for his old yard were his first two starts with cheekpieces, which he then wore for 9 of his next 11 starts but hasn’t worn on his 4 starts so far for his new connections. He dons them again today for the first time, and is running over 5f, his optimum trip, on good ground which will suit. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him put in a massive run.

He’s a bit shorter today than he would have been on Saturday but I still think that he’s worth a bet at the prices.

5:20 Pontefract – Super Julius 2pt win 7/2 (general)

Saturday Selections (Plus a Punchestown Ante Post Bet)

There’s plenty of good racing in both codes today as Ayr hosts the Scottish Grand National and Newbury has its Greenham meeting. I’ve had a look at some of the ITV races at both tracks, along with the flat card at Naas and a couple of interests in the evening at Wolverhampton.

1:25 Ayr – Handicap Chase – 2m½f
Azzuri was a non-runner in the Red Rum at Aintree last week and I did fancy him for it. The key to his form is spring and summer – over jumps, his record from March to September reads 312212113110 – 6 wins and another 3 places from 12 starts. He hasn’t been up to much on his first three starts for Dan Skelton, but they came between February 2nd and March 2nd so he could just be reaching his peak now. Those three starts have also seen his rating drop down to 132 from 144 when he arrived in the yard – he won a grade 2 handicap chase in Killarney by 10 lengths off 131 for Richard O’Brien last July, so he looks to be well treated now. He’s a real good ground horse (5 wins from 8 on good ground over jumps and 1 win from 12 on softer), so pulling him out at Aintree and waiting for today may have been a shrewd decision. 3/1 isn’t a wild price but it’s just about big enough for me to support him.
Azzuri – 1pt win 3/1 (general)

2:20 Naas – Maiden – 5f
Capel At Dawn looked like one to keep an eye on when running on well to finish 5th on her first run at Naas when running green from a bad draw. I would have thought that better ground and possibly a step up in trip would have suited and while she doesn’t step up in trip today, she will have a nicer surface, will have come on for the run, and has a nicer draw. I wasn’t particularly excited about her from a betting point of view as I thought that she’d be found in the market but 9/2 seems like a fair enough price for a small interest.
Capel At Dawn 0.5pt win 9/2 (Paddy Power, Betfair)

2:25 Ayr – Scottish Champion Hurdle Race (Handicap) – 2m
Mister Fisher has some strong form to his name in the novice hurdling division this season – at Christmas he finished 5 lengths ahead of Thomas Darby at Kempton, who went on to run a brilliant race to finish 2nd in the Supreme, and at Haydock in January he beat Bright Forecast with quite a bit of ease despite giving him 3 pounds. The latter went on to finish 3rd in the Ballymore at Cheltenham and is now rated 149, whereas Mister Fisher comes here off a mark of 145. This is due to a more disappointing performance in the Supreme, but he seemed to just pull too hard that day on ground which may not have suited, and if they can manage to get him settled here he might just turn out to have a bit more class than his mark suggests.
Mister Fisher – 1pt win 11/2 (Bet365, Unibet)

3:15 Newbury – The MansionBet Spring Cup (Class 2 Handicap)
The Spring Mile at Doncaster won by Petrus looks to be good form, and Exec Chef ran very well from off the pace to finish 2nd that day. There was a bias towards more prominent runners, so I would think that that form can be upgraded slightly. He looks to be the pick of the bunch here. In the same race, Gulf Of Poets was another few lengths back in 5th. I fancied him that day, particularly considering his form at the beginning of the season, but I reckon the ground was just a bit quick for him and he should be more at home here with a little bit more ease underfoot. His form in April reads 311111, and he looks slightly forgotten in the market at around the 20/1 mark.
Exec Chef 1pt win 8/1
Gulf Of Poets 0.5pt e/w 20/1 (William Hill, 5 places, 1/5 odds)

3:25 Naas – Handicap – 6f
Verhoyen received a good bit of market support last time out at Leopardstown and ran a much better race than he had on his previous few starts. This was over 7f, but his best form is over shorter so I’m glad to see him drop back to 6f today. He ran an excellent race to finish 2nd in a 5f handicap at the Curragh last August off 74, so it’s interesting to see him run today off 67, with a 5 pound claimer on board. His last run suggested that he might just be beginning to find form and if he does return to something near last August’s level of form, he would be very interesting.
Verhoyen 0.5pt e/w 12/1 (general, ¼ odds 4 places)

3:35 Ayr – Scottish Grand National – 4m
It’s easy to see a case for a lot of these at the top of the market – Vintage Clouds, for example, had obvious claims in the Grand National and never got the chance to run his race, so if you fancied him there, you would have to like him here too. Big River absolutely stormed up the hill in the Ultima, making up a lot of ground to finish 4th – however, that was after a break of 86 days which I reckon might be key to this horse. His form after over 30 days off is 12121131F4 (5 wins and 3 places from 10 starts), whereas his form back out within 30 days is 15P26 (1 win and 1 place from 5 starts). He comes here after a break of 32 days, so you could argue that it’s enough of a break, but I’m happy to leave him alone and wait until he appears somewhere else as a slightly fresher horse. Beware The Bear also has obvious claims based on the Ultima form, but again I’ll leave him alone considering his hefty weight.

18 pounds lower in the weights, we’ll find my selection (admittedly not going unnoticed in the market) – Crosshue Boy for Sean Doyle. There are two key points which stand out in his form. Firstly, when back out within 2 weeks of his previous start, he has 5 wins and another 2 places from 12 starts, with form of 115B21046113. After a longer break, he has won just twice from 20 starts, one after a break of 73 days and the other coming just 20 days after his previous start. The second of those wins was at this meeting last year, when he won the 3 mile novices handicap chase in what was probably a career best performance. This brings us to the second key point in his form – he has won 6 times and places another 5 times from 15 starts in the months of March and April, with his form in those months reading 221901113153. The last two starts came this season, when he was 5th after a break of 99 days on St Patrick’s Day at Wexford, before running at the same track the day before the Grand National, catching the eye as he ran on well into 3rd in a handicap hurdle over 2m 4f. It would appear that he has been laid out for this race since his win at the meeting last year. It’s now his time of year and he has had his run to shake off the cobwebs, so it looks like the plan might just work out.
Crosshue Boy – 1pt e/w 12/1 (Bet365, ¼ odds 5 places – you might choose to go with one of the other firms paying out on 6 places, but I’m happy to give up the extra place in order to get ¼ odds).

6:30 Wolverhampton – Handicap – 5f
With such intriguing action over jumps and on the flat in both the UK and Ireland today, it’s strange for me to have an interest in the card at Wolverhampton. However, there is one that I’m very interested in, in the 6:30. Super Julius really caught my eye finishing 5th at Navan last time out. He was dropped 2 pounds for that start to 62, although he runs on the all-weather this evening off a mark of 59. On his handicap debut, this horse was rated 88, and his rating has been in the 80’s a few times since. His last two wins were off 77 and 82, and he looked like he was finding form again last time, so it’s reasonable to think that he could now be a few steps ahead of the handicapper. His 2 wins in England for his old yard were his first two starts with cheekpieces, which he then wore for 9 of his next 11 starts but hasn’t worn on his 4 starts so far for his new connections. He dons them again today for the first time, and is running over 5f, his optimum trip. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him put in a massive run.
Super Julius 2pt win 13/2 (general)

7:30 Wolverhampton – Handicap – 1m½f
This is a bit of a mad one, and he’s not a horse that many people will have an interest in backing these days. However, I didn’t think that Gabrials Kaka shaped all that badly last time out at Newcastle for a 33/1 shot, and he’s a big price again today at 20/1. He wouldn’t be my most confident shot of the day, but he’s down another 2 pounds for that run and I think he’s worth a very small each-way bet.
Gabrials Kaka 0.5pt e/w 20/1 (Paddy Power, Betfair, ¼ odds, 3 places)

Ante-Post – Punchestown Gold Cup
When Paddy Power and Betfair put up an ante post market for the Punchestown Gold Cup, Bellshill’s price of 5/1 caught my eye. For that reason, I was delighted to see Ladbrokes put him up at 7/1. For one thing, this race doesn’t usually have a massive field – in 2016 and 2017 there were just 6 runners (from 20 entries in 2016 and 19 in 2017) and last year there were 12 (from 29 entries). This year there are 22 initial entries, 9 of which are also entered in the Irish Grand National just over a week before this race. In other words, it wouldn’t be a major shock if the field was fairly small on the day.

It sounds as if both Kemboy and Al Boum Photo are being aimed at the race, and although they deserve their places at the head of the market, I reckon that running fresh probably played to their strengths on their last starts. Bellshill jumped very poorly in the Gold Cup but this was hardly a major disappointment as it’s no secret that he doesn’t like Cheltenham, with his career form away from the track reading 122111132111F15141 – the 5th was in the Irish National when he could well have won but got into trouble at the last fence, and the 4th was in an unusual Savills Chase (won by Kemboy) when he put in a great run. His Punchestown form is 111, all in grade 1’s, including this race which he won last year. His Cheltenham form, on the other hand, is 003P. I’m more than happy to excuse his last run and 7/1 looks like value in a race that could cut up a lot.
Bellshill 2pt e/w 7/1 (Ladbrokes, 1/5 odds 3 places)

That ante post bet aside, today’s bets are:

1:25 Ayr – Azzuri – 1pt win 3/1
2:20 Naas – Capel At Dawn 0.5pt win 9/2
2:25 Ayr – Mister Fisher – 1pt win 11/2
3:15 Newbury – Exec Chef 1pt win 8/1
3:15 Newbury – Gulf Of Poets 0.5pt e/w 20/1
3:25 Naas – Verhoyen 0.5pt e/w 12/1
3:35 Ayr – Crosshue Boy – 1pt e/w 12/1
6:30 Wolverhampton – Super Julius 2pt win 13/2
7:30 Wolverhampton – Gabrials Kaka 0.5pt e/w 20/1
Total staked: 10.5 points

Ballymore Novices Hurdle – An Overview

Class Beats Stamina

The second day of the festival doesn’t get off to the same ferocious start as day one. The Ballymore is run over 5f further than the Supreme and tends to be run at a much steadier pace. This creates a bit of an unusual paradox – while the Supreme is more of a test of stamina than you might expect over 2m, the Ballymore is more of a test of speed than you would expect of 2m 5f. They don’t go a mad gallop, so the key is settling, getting into a nice rhythm, staying in a good position and then having the speed, class, and turn of foot to win when the race heats up.

The evidence of the speed angle is in the role of honour – it was here that Aidan O’Brien ran Istabraq as a novice before he won three Champion Hurdles. Hardy Eustace ran in this as a novice before winning two Champion Hurdles. In more recent years, Simonsig won it before going back to 2m for the Arkle the following year, The New One won it before running in the next 4 Champion Hurdles, and Faugheen won it and then became the Champion Hurdler. In the same year that Faugheen won this, Vautour won the Supreme for the same trainer – it was Vautour who was campaigned over longer trips the following year, winning a JLT and almost winning a King George over 3 miles while Faugheen dominated the 2 mile hurdling division.

In other words, we won’t worry too much about stamina here, but will focus more on speed. This could explain one of the long-standing negatives for this race – the winner of the Challow Hurdle tends to perform poorly. The Challow is run at Newbury just before the New Year and is the natural trial for this race in the UK – it’s a grade one novice hurdle run over 2m 5f. No Challow winner this century has gone on to win the Ballymore (although a few have managed to make the frame). It might be better to focus on horses which ran over shorter trips last time out in order to find the classier, speedier contenders:

Distance of prep run Runners Wins W% W/P W/P% P/L(BF) A/E
2m 2.5f or less 58 7 12.07 12 20.69 -22.41 1.36
2m 3f or further 75 3 4 18 24 -52.26 0.46

The theory holds up here. Horses which ran over a longer trip last time out (such as 2m 3f or further, which you would imagine would be beneficial) underperformed significantly in comparison with horses which ran in a shorter race last time out.

Good Recent Form

A relatively successful run last time out is something which is often considered essential coming into the Ballymore. The majority of runners tend to have finished in the top 2 last time out, and the importance of this stat is probably easier to see when looking at the awful performance of horses which didn’t finish in the top 2 last time out:

Finishing position LTO Runners Wins Win% W/P W/P% P/L(BF) A/E
1st or 2nd 97 10 10.31 29 29.9 -38.67 0.93
Not 1st or 2nd 36 0 0 1 2.78 -36 0

However, the vast majority of these horses which didn’t finish in the top two on their last outing ran at massive outsiders – only one of the 36 ran at a single-figure starting price, and 26 of them were priced 33/1 or longer. For that reason, I wouldn’t get too caught up on this.

More significantly, the Ballymore winner tends to have run in a good race last time out. The poor record of horses stepping up from handicaps to grade ones at the festival is covered elsewhere, and it’s as significant as ever here. I’ll start by comparing the record of horses which had their prep run in a graded race to those which didn’t:

Prep Run Runners Wins W% W/P W/P% P/L(BF) A/E
Grade 1/2/3 62 9 14.52 24 38.71 -6.87 1.1
Other 71 1 1.41 6 8.45 -67.81 0.28

Again, we’re often dealing with big-priced outsiders here, but there have been plenty of high-profile horses at shorter prices which came into the race off the back of a run in a non-graded contest. The record of horses which ran in grade ones last time out is particularly noteworthy:

Prep Run Runners Wins W% W/P W/P% P/L(BF) A/E
Grade One 18 4 22.22 8 44.44 2.43 1.37

Official Ratings

In a few races (notably the Mares Hurdle and National Hunt Chase so far) I’ve been pointing out the successful records of horses with higher official ratings. This might seem very simple, but it’s often underrated in what should in theory be very efficient festival markets. The Ballymore is another prime example. Last year, 5 of the 14 runners were rated 145 or higher. Their finishing positions were 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 6th. The year before, 4 of the 15 runners were rated 145 or higher. Their finishing positions were 1st, 2nd, 3rd and pulled up. In 2016 the record wasn’t quite as strong (whilst both the winner and the runner-up were rated 145+, so were the 7th and 8th-place horses and one which was pulled up), but 2015 is an excellent example – the 4 horses in the field of 10 rated 145 or higher finished 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th. The interesting thing is that these aren’t necessarily the top horses in the betting, although the main point to take from this stat is probably that the class horses tend to come to the fore here (remember, we have already pointed out that a good turn of foot and a bit of class is essential in this race).

OR Runners Wins W% W/P W/P% P/L(BF) A/E
<145 95 1 1.05 7 7.37 -86.71 0.22
145+ 38 9 23.68 23 60.53 12.04 1.25

The key figure here is the A/E – the 1.25 for the horses rated 145 or higher shows that the market hasn’t caught on to the fact that these horses are better bets than the lower-rated contenders.

Not All About Experience

The final point that’s worth making is that here, contrary to in the Supreme, experience isn’t really paramount. In the Supreme, we were looking for hardened hurdlers who had run at least 4 times already over these obstacles. This isn’t the case in the Ballymore.

Hurdles Runs Runners Wins W% W/P W/P% P/L(BF) A/E
0-3 72 7 9.72 19 26.39 -29.88 0.96
4+ 61 3 4.92 11 18.03 -44.8 0.67

The record of the less exposed hurdlers is actually far superior in this race to that of the toughened, experienced hurdlers. This doesn’t necessarily mean that having less experience is a plus, but the A/E’s might suggest that the market underestimates less experienced horses in the race. This makes sense – the idea could be that over a longer trip, you’re going to want a tougher, more experienced hurdler. In reality, the emphasis here is neither on stamina nor on jumping at speed, due to the fact that the race tends to be run at a fairly steady pace. For this reason, not writing off horses just because they’re less experienced over hurdles might help us to get an edge over the market.

The Ideal Candidate

  • Ran over a shorter trip last time out (we’ll say 2m 2½f or less)
  • Officially rated 145+

14 horses have fit the bill in the last 10 years, with 6 of them winning and another 2 making the frame. Blindly backing them at Betfair SP would have returned a profit of +13.3, and their A/E was 1.94.

More Festival Content can be found in the Cheltenham 2019 Section.

Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle – An Overview

One for the Outsiders

The Albert Bartlett is a race in which I tend to like to find a horse at a big price. The form of the favourite in the last 10 renewals is 2P121F7PU3. Compare this with the Ballymore (1331313221) and you can see that there can be shocks here. In the Ballymore, only one of the last 10 winners had a double-figure starting price. In this race, 6 did, including all of the last 5, at prices of 33/1, 14/1, 11/1, 16/1 and 33/1.

The reason for this in my view is that the favourite in a grade one novice hurdle at the festival is likely to be a horse who has shown a lot of class, talent and potential in just a few starts – an exciting unknown quantity. However, it’s no secret that this is a seriously tough race and even when not run on ground as testing as in last year’s renewal it can be an absolute slog.

Hurdling Experience

This brings experience, rather than pure talent, to the fore. My starting point, therefore, is experience over hurdles:

Hurdles Starts Runners Wins W% W/P W/P% P/L(BF) A/E A/E(W/P)
0-3 79 2 2.53 11 13.92 -67.26 0.34 0.78
4-5 61 3 4.92 9 14.75 51.81 0.8 0.91
6+ 38 5 13.16 10 26.32 60 2.02 1.52

Given that this is a grade one novice hurdle at the festival, it’s no surprise that over 44% of the runners had previously run 3 times or less over hurdles. However, it seems to be a major disadvantage. Only 2 of these 79 horses won, and they underperformed significantly based on market expectations. The real noteworthy record is that of horses with 6 or more previous hurdles starts to their name – around 21% of the field fit this profile, but these have accounted for half of the winners, and this group over-performed based on market expectations in terms of both wins and places. This implies that these horses were underrated and under-bet, with punters tending to favour those with more interesting, attractive profiles.

Age Runners Wins W% W/P W/P% P/L(BF) A/E A/E(W/P)
5 37 1 2.7 4 10.81 21.75 0.65 0.96
6 94 5 5.32 17 18.09 -53.32 0.62 0.87
7 33 3 9.09 5 15.15 78.26 1.44 0.91
8+ 14 1 7.14 4 28.57 -2.15 2.17 2.81

If experience is a plus, then the same logic would suggest that we would prefer older horses in this race, and the results back this up. Yes, 6 of the last 10 winners were aged 5 or 6, but these horses accounted for around 74% of the total field. In fact, the horses which significantly punched above their weight were horses aged 7 and older. If we combine the record of all horses aged 7 and older, we see the following stats:

Age Runners Wins W% W/P W/P% P/L(BF) A/E A/E(W/P)
7+ 47 4 8.51 9 19.15 76.11 1.57 1.3

Stamina

The main reason that this is considered such a tough race is obviously the trip. 3 miles around Cheltenham is a tough ask for a hardened staying chaser, never mind a novice hurdler. With this in mind, it would make sense that experience over staying trips is an advantage:

Ran over 3m+? Runners Wins W% W/P W/P% P/L(BF) A/E A/E(W/P)
No 85 2 2.35 12 14.12 -23.11 0.34 0.85
Yes 93 8 8.6 18 19.35 67.66 1.28 1.09

Only around half of the runners in the last 10 years had actually run over 3m or further previously, yet these horses accounted for 8 of the last 10 winners. The over-performance based on the market is significant, as is the underperformance of those unexposed over staying trips. The disparity decreases when we factor in places as well, but is still noteworthy.

Won over 3m+? Runners Wins W% W/P W/P% P/L(BF) A/E A/E(W/P)
No 111 3 2.7 17 15.32 -0.61 0.44 1
Yes 65 7 10.77 13 20 47.16 1.32 0.96

In theory, you would assume that if experience over longer trips is a plus, then success over longer trips is even better. However, when we narrow down the criteria to just those with a win over 3m or further, the A/E of those which don’t fit the trend improves, and the A/E taking places into account improves to the extent that they perform exactly as they would have been expected to, while those horses which do fit the trend actually marginally underperform based on places. For this reason, I’m going to leave it with those horses which have run over longer trips.

Grading Form not as Important?

Ran in a graded race Runners Wins W% W/P W/P% P/L(BF) A/E A/E(W/P)
No 56 0 0 7 12.5 -56 0 1.23
Yes 122 10 8.2 23 18.85 100.54 0.98 0.92

When looking at the other grade one novice hurdles at the festival, I tend to emphasise the importance of graded form. It doesn’t seem to as vital in this race. Obviously form has to be taken into account, but the focus shouldn’t necessarily be solely on the winners of graded hurdles. Having said that, 56 horses have run in the race having never run in a graded race in the past, and all have been beaten. However, they actually over-performed based on market expectations when taking places into account.

The Ideal Profile

I’m not overly fussed about graded form or about wins over longer trips. For this reason, the ideal profile here is:

  • 7yo or older
  • 6+ starts over hurdles
  • Ran over 3m+

As I’ve said, my aim in this race tends to be to find something at a big price. With this in mind, the idea would be that these angles would count out those at shorter prices and find a few which are going unnoticed in the market. Indeed, these horses with more experience and proven over the trip tend to be those with the less exciting, less interesting profiles and can go unnoticed by the betting public. There have been 12 runners fitting all 3 criteria in the last 10 renewals, with 3 wins and another 2 places, and overall form of PPP73103P115. This might not seem overly impressive, but there prices were as follows: 15/2, 66/1, 25/1, 14/1, 66/1 (3rd), 33/1 (won), 9/1, 13/2 (3rd), 50/1, 14/1 (won), 11/1 (won) and 33/1. Their A/E was 4.23 and their A/E(W/P) was 2.18.

More Festival Content can be found in the Cheltenham 2019 Section.

Coral Cup – An Overview

Unexposed in Handicap Company

The Coral Cup is still a handicap in the sense that the average spread in the ratings over the last 5 years has been 19.2. However, with no grade one hurdle run over the same distance, it can be contested by some high class horses. My angle into the race generally focuses on relatively unexposed horses as opposed to seasoned handicappers.

Hcp Runs Runners Wins W% W/P W/P% P/L(BF) A/E A/E(W/P)
0-6 164 9 5.49 29 17.68 22.94 0.94 1.03
7+ 99 1 1.01 11 11.11 -79.99 0.27 0.89

A huge amount of experience in handicaps doesn’t seem to be a plus. 9 of the last 10 winners had run 6 or less handicaps in their careers, despite the fact that these horses took up 62% of the total field. Horses with more handicap starts to their names have massively underperformed in terms of the expectations placed on them by the market, with an A/E of 0.27.

Hcp Wins Runners Wins W% W/P W/P% P/L(BF) A/E A/E(W/P)
0 105 5 4.76 14 13.33 -8.75 0.87 0.84
1 62 4 6.45 15 24.19 28.7 1.16 1.44
2+ 96 1 1.04 11 11.46 -76.99 0.24 0.82

It’s a similar story when we look at previous success in handicaps. Interestingly, horses with exactly one past handicap win have performed very well based on every metric and have been very profitable to follow in the past. However, the logical explanation here is that horses with less previous handicap success outperform those with more. This tells us much the same as the previous stat – those horses with less handicap experience and less handicap success outperform those with more.

Unexposed over Hurdles

Hurdles Starts Runners Wins W% W/P W/P% P/L(BF) A/E A/E(W/P)
0-9 160 9 5.63 30 18.75 26.94 0.95 1.09
10+ 103 1 0.97 10 9.71 -83.99 0.25 0.78

The theory extends to general experience outside of handicaps. 9 of the last 10 winners had run in less than 10 races over hurdles, and again these horses appear to be the ones that we want to be with.

Last run was in a novice hurdle that season
Runners Wins W% W/P W/P% P/L(BF) A/E A/E(W/P)
28 0 0 3 10.71 -28 0 0.52

In theory this should bode well for novices, but that hasn’t been the case. 28 horses have run in the race in the last 10 years having had their prep run in a novice hurdle in the same season. 3 of these made the frame, which is significantly less than the market would have suggested. The 2017 renewal was a good example of these horses underperforming (Tin Soldier went off at 5/1 but finished 8th and Peregrine Run went off at 7/1 but finished 11th) but there have been numerous others; Pendra was 6/1 favourite in 2013 but finished 17th and For Non Stop was 5/1 in 2011 but fell, for example. Politologue went on to prove himself to be an extremely talented horses, but finished well down the field in this race as a novice at 9/1 in 2016.

Recent Success

Placing LTO Runners Wins W% W/P W/P% P/L(BF) A/E A/E(W/P)
1st or 2nd 96 5 5.21 19 19.79 10.32 0.8 1.03
3rd or worse 165 4 2.42 20 12.12 -76.81 0.6 0.92

Less than 37% of the runners in the last 10 years had finished in the top 2 on their previous start, but these accounted for half of the winners in that time (note that there are only 9 winners in the table – this is because it only includes past runs in the UK and Ireland, and Aux Ptits Soins hadn’t run since arriving from France before winning this race).

Official Rating

The final stat appears to be a strong one, despite the fact that we’ve already noted that the race remains a true handicap: 3 of the last 5 winners were officially rated above 145, despite these horses accounting for 37% of the total field. The higher-rated horses significantly outperform those with lower ratings on all metrics, adding strength to the theory that this is a race for classy horses more than handicap veterans:

OR Runners Wins W% W/P W/P% P/L(BF) A/E A/E(W/P)
<145 82 2 2.44 10 12.2 -39.26 0.49 0.8
145+ 48 3 6.25 10 20.83 3.82 1.16 1.35

The Ideal Profile

It’s clear that we’re looking for something with relatively low experience both in handicaps and in hurdles in general – it’s not good practice to use strict numbers to rule out horses, but if we go with 0-6 handicap starts, 0-1 handicap wins, and 0-9 hurdles starts, we should find a sample of horses which are relatively unexperienced. A high rating seems like a big bonus and we’ll use 145 as the benchmark. Horses which finished in the top 2 last time out are also preferred.

8 horses in the last 5 years have fit these criteria, and 2 of them won (Whisper in 2014 and Diamond King in 2016). The overall form is 01010642 – both of last year’s candidates placed (Topofthegame was 2nd at 9/1 and William Henry was 4th at 8/1). I’ve narrowed this down to 5 years as it’s in more recent years that the high official ratings are likely to be more relevant – however, there were 2 runners which fit the criteria in 2013, both at 33/1, one of which was winner Medinas.

More Festival Content can be found in the Cheltenham 2019 Section.