For many years I have been collating the trends for big races and meetings as my role of trends expert in the Racing & Football Outlook Newspaper. In these weekly newspaper articles I tend to look at Group / Graded races as there is another column in the paper that focuses on the big handicaps. However, I often feel that past trends in handicaps are more likely to be replicated than in other race-types and hence I have been researching, collating trends in big handicaps for this HorseRaceReport Service.
Over the flat season I will look at 50 of the best handicaps run in the UK and Ireland each year. This includes such races at the Wokingham, the Stewards Cup, the Ayr Gold Cup, the Northumberland Plate, the Bunbury Cup, and so on. Additionally during National Hunt season I will be producing similar for 50 of the major National Hunt races. The data I examine covers the last 10 renewals of each race.
So why 10 years I hear you ask?
I personally think 10 years a sensible time span – not too short and not too long. I have done 15 year and 20 year trends in the past and I cannot say which is best – if in fact there is a ‘best’.
Let me explain how I break down each race for clients here:
Market trends – this section looks at the betting market including favourites, top three in the betting, top six in the betting and Starting Price is also analysed. The first three sections (favs, top 3 and top 6) are shown for each race so that a comparison with other races can be made. Any ‘price’ data will vary – it may focus on a certain price band that has one well in the past 10 years; it may look at shorter prices; or outsiders, or a combination of all three.
Here are some overall handicap stats that will hopefully prove useful:
- Favourites win around 25% of all handicaps.
- The top three in the betting provide the winner in around 60% of all races.
- The top six in the betting provide the winner in around 85% of all races.
These figures should give readers a baseline figure from which each race can be compared. For example, if a particular contest has seen 4 winning favourites, 8 winners from the top three in the betting, and all 10 winners from the top six of the betting, it would suggest that that particular race has had a market bias to the more fancied runners. Conversely if a race had seen no winning favourites, 2 winners from the top three in the betting and 4 winners from the top 6 of the betting then it would suggest the contest is more competitive than the average handicap. Of course the number of runners does make a difference and hence I have given the average number of runners for each individual race at the top of each page.
LTO stats – this section as the title suggests looks at Last Time Out performance. Once again there are areas that are analysed for every race I cover– these are: days since last run, position LTO in terms of LTO winners and horses that finished in the first three LTO, LTO favourites and horses from the top three in the betting LTO. Depending on the strength of the stats or trends other areas that are looked at include LTO price, LTO distance, LTO Course, LTO Race-type and distance beaten LTO.
Once again here are overall handicap stats to help give you a comparison:
- LTO winners have a 16% strike rate in handicaps.
- LTO favourites also have a 16% strike rate in handicaps.
Age – a breakdown of winners in terms of age. There are a few 3yo only races covered on the service during the year where this section will clearly not be included! For the record, the higher class 3yo+ handicaps give younger horses an edge – 3yos actually have the best strike rate of all the ages in recent seasons in these events. Over the past four seasons, in class 2 handicaps 3yos have won 25% of the races from just 15% of the total runners.
Official Ratings (OR) – I choose to do Official Ratings rather than weight carried/weight rank. I have tried where possible to give as even splits as possible in terms of groupings. I have grouped each race into three.
Draw – I have the split the draw into three parts, low middle and high dependent on the average number in each specific race. Again I have tried to make the splits as even as possible. I also have taken account on non runners in my figures – for example if stall 5 won the race but stall 2 was a non runner, I have counted this as a win for stall 4. Reason being is that the winner was the 4th lowest drawn horse. I have always done this with any draw research as I feel it is most accurate way to do it.
Breeding – I have looked at the results in terms of country of breeding. Each race has British, Irish and US bred data as these are three countries that dominate UK/Irish racing in terms of breeding. Other countries including France and Germany are added when relevant.
Class Change – in each race I have examined the results of horses dropping in class, racing in the same class to last time and horses upped in class.
Trainer stats – this section notes any trainer who has won the race at least twice. Some trainers do target certain races year in year out.
General stats – this section includes stats on horses wearing headgear, claiming jockeys and also shares figures on horses that have at least once in their last three starts. These three areas are covered in all of the 50 flat races. Additional stats vary depending on the data, but I have discussed at some point course winners, distance winners, change in distance, handicap wins, career wins, career runs, etc, etc.
Finally I write a concluding paragraph giving a summary of the key findings.
I am often asked what is the best way of using past race trends? This is not an easy question to answer but essentially past trends build up a picture of the type of winner we are to expect. Of course the strongest past trends are not always replicated in every race in every year, but if strong patterns have emerged over a 10 year period, there is a strong possibility that at least some, if not all will be repeated.
My personal method is to produce a shortlist of the horses that have the best trends profile. Clearly, it is very rare for a horse to have all the positive trends and none of the negative ones. However, we are looking for the ones that are the ‘best fit’ and hence if we can narrow the race down to a manageable number of candidates it should ultimately improve our chances of finding the winner. Once you have your initial shortlist the next job is to decide whether it can be narrowed down further or whether the prices are big enough to back / dutch all the runners. I quite often ‘attack’ a race by backing more than one selection – this clearly gives you more chance of finding the winner and will increase your strike rate but of course will reduce net payout odds should your number one selection win. It depends what your betting philosophy is. Some punters will simply look for the strongest trends candidate and back that; others will take their initial shortlist and use a more traditional form-based approach to finish off their analysis. There is not a right or wrong way to do it – essentially the past trends are there to give you a helping hand; they are your starting point, and an excellent starting point at that.
In terms of whether you back trends selections to win, or each way is again up to the individual. Many of the races discussed in this service have decent sized fields so there is scope for each way betting thanks to bigger prices and several races being likely to have 4 places each way (5 in some races, from some bookmakers).