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A Good First Run In A Bumper
It is at this time of year my research begins to switch from flat racing to National Hunt. By the time you read this article, we will be starting to see the flat season slowing up a little and the National Hunt season gathering a bit of pace. For many the National Hunt season really gets going in October, but it is always good to be well prepared!
In this article I am looking at horses that finished in the first three on their debut in a bumper (National Hunt flat race). The data is taken from the last full five years 2007 to 2011. From this initial starting point I will be looking at their subsequent performances, up to a maximum of 12 runs (career runs 2 to 13).
So to begin with let us look at what happens on subsequent career starts for these runners:
Combining all runs their record reads 790 wins from 4814 runs (SR 16.4%) for a loss of £568.02 (ROI -11.8%). Clearly there are several runners in the study that have yet to run a further 12 times, but we still have a decent data set for runners who have reached at least 13 career starts. The figures are extremely interesting and perhaps can be seen more clearly when I group the data thus:
Career runs 8 to 13 have comfortably outperformed runs 2 to 7 – not just in terms of strike rate, but in terms of returns as well. Why is this? Well, a possible theory is that horses that perform well on their bumper debut are subsequently pitched in at a better level too early and it takes the trainer a few runs to find its actual level. Another theory is that punters latch onto good performances and hence are prepared to stick with such runners for a few runs at least. Hence the prices of these horses contract due to the punter support and offer poor value and produce bigger losses as a result. Whatever the reason, the data is worth further exploration and I intend to look at pre 2007 data when I get the time.
Moving on, let me look at overall trainer performance next and from there see if there are any trainer angles worth pursuing (I have only used trainers who have had 60+ runs) :
Four familiar names at the top of the list – Nicky Henderson, Donald McCain, Paul Nicholls and Nigel Twiston-Davies – and all four showing a profit with their runners. It makes sense therefore to look at their runners in a bit more detail.
Nicky Henderson – it is interesting to note that Henderson’s record is in complete contrast with the overall figures. His best stats come from career runs 2, 3 and 4:
Overall his stats for these next three runs combine to give 48 wins from 135 runs (SR 35.6%) for a profit of £52.81 (ROI +39.1%). Indeed, he is no averse to taking his runners to the top tracks on these next three starts – his record when going to Grade 1 tracks on career start 2, 3 or 4 reads a tidy 17 wins from 51 (SR 33.3%) for a profit of £34.84 (ROI +68.3%).
It also should be noted that 36 of the 49 Henderson runners have gone on to win at least one race after their initial good debut run. This equates to over 73%.
Donald McCain – only 3 winners in total behind Henderson, although he has had more runs overall. He has a similar record to Henderson in terms of the fact that 72% of his runners have gone on to win after their good debut run – 31 from 43 runners to be precise. Having said that a few of his runners were not originally in his care for the debut run – he seems a trainer that is popular in terms of switching to early in their career. Another point worth noting (for in running punters) is that his front runners have a far superior record to those runners that are held up – 34% of his front runners go on to win their race, while just 11% of his hold up horses eventually prevail.
Paul Nicholls – a good overall record but I would be wary of backing his runners on their second career start as only 2 of 17 have won for a loss of £13.27 (ROI -78.1%). Admittedly this is a small sample but a trainer of Nicholls’ stature rarely has figures this poor even from a limited data set. Nicholls also has a poor record when sending runners to Grade 1 tracks – just 4 wins from 36 (SR 11.1%) for a loss of £16.13 (ROI -44.8%). Hence it looks best to concentrate on runners that do NOT race at a Grade 1 track as their record reads a far more pleasing 20 wins from 68 (SR 29.4%) for a profit of £36.58 (ROI +53.8%).
Nigel Twiston-Davies – the figures look excellent on the face of it, but a 50/1 has skewed things rather. However, he would have still made an overall profit without that winner. It seems to be a positive when Sam Twiston-Davies is on board for his father – 13 wins from 45 (SR 27.9%) for a profit of £28.42 (ROI +63.2%). Twiston-Davies is another trainer where in running punters can gain an edge - 14 from his 37 front runners have gone onto win (37.8%) while of his 18 horses that were held up, none have gone onto win.
Let me now look at the courses where the horses made their debut to see if there are any tracks worth noting. I have combined the results of all subsequent starts from the debut course. Firstly a look at the initial courses that have produced the best strike rates:
A mix of tracks in the list, but it is interesting to note that four of the eight Grade 1 tracks appear on the list, although it should be stressed that Ascot’s data is limited. Let me look at courses that have fared less well:
Somewhat surprising to see Cheltenham with a low striker rate, whereas it is less of a surprise to see some of the lowest grade tracks such as Hereford, Plumpton, Sedgefield and Towcester in the list. So despite the Cheltenham figures, and looking at both tables as a whole, it seems that the quality of track in terms of debut does make a difference, with generally the better courses producing better subsequent performances.
All in all the research has been interesting and some patterns certainly seemed to have emerged.