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.
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.
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
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|
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.
|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).
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:
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.