• Time for a change? The ability of horses to adapt to new conditions

    I’m not a big fan of change. Some might say that this is because I’m at a certain stage of life. You know the one. The balding, fat and post-forty phase. The fact is though I’ve never really liked change. The adventure of foreign travel to me has always been stressful. Why waste your precious holiday time by going somewhere new when you know the place you went last year will be hard to beat? For the same reasons I also like to eat at the same restaurants when I go out. The last time I tried anywhere new I got food poisoning. For these reasons I’m suspicious of change, and especially when the only reason for making a change is because someone tells you ‘it’s time for a change’. Racehorses appear to share my view on life. Unfortunately their trainers keep on insisting that they need to embrace change and keeping trying out for them new race classes, new going or new distances. The data suggests that change is seldom profitable when it comes to horses encountering new race conditions.

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  • Can you quantify bad luck in running?

    There are a great number of betting systems on horse racing that are based around a horse’s previous finishing positions. I recall that one of the first systems that I ever read was based around such a method.

    The system cost me twenty-five quid and it involved awarding points according to where the horse had finished in its last two races. As you would expect the maximum number of points were awarded to the horse that had finished first in its last two starts. A horse could only score points if it had finished in the first four. No other form factors were considered

    However, this system took form figures at their face value. What about bad luck in running ? Wuld a horse have recorded a higher finishing position with a clear run in the race? This then got me thinking about whether I could come up with a way of re-calculating form figures to take account of bad luck in running. Here are the results of my research.

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  • The weight-for-age allowance in handicap chases

    In mid-December Paul Nicholls won the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham with a four-year-old chaser called Frodon. The odds of reward were a tasty 14-1. This wasn’t the only time that Nicholls has won a big handicap chase with a four-year-old. Indeed he won the same race with another four-year-old novice called Unionise in 2012. The seven pound weight allowance that Frodon received at Cheltenham made all the difference because in a tight finish he beat Aso by 1 ½ lengths, with a further head back to the favourite Village Vic. On the basis of one pound equalling one length over jumps then had Frodon not had his weight-for-age allowance then he would have finished no better than sixth!

    This got me thinking about the four-year old weight-for-age allowance in handicap chases. Do the statistics show an advantage for horses of this age?

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  • Profitable systems for the festive period

    A couple of years ago we shared with you two simple systems for the big races run over the Christmas period, namely for the Christmas Hurdle and the King George VI Chase. The question is how have they done?

    The first thing to say is that as the systems have been previously published, and haven’t been changed then they aren’t simply systems that have been back fitted to past results. In a back fitted system the selection rules are manipulated to account for a sample of previous results. For instance if the system developer finds that his or her system picks a loser, the rules are then changed slightly to eliminate this selection. Similarly some rules are changed to accommodate a long-priced winner. This process is repeated until the system produces a respectable number of winners and a decent level of profitability on past results. These are the types of systems developed by either people who don’t know how to develop profitable systems or, if they are selling the systems commercially, are trying to take a few people in. The tell tale sign of a back fitted system is fantastic results, with plenty of long-priced winners. In the case of the King George and Christmas Hurdle systems we know they are definitely not back-fitted. Does this though mean that they haven’t worked? We’ll leave that question for now and for the benefit of new readers I’ll start by giving the details of the systems themselve.

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  • Is Nicky Henderson still the trainer to follow in December?

    Nicky Henderson has been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons. He has had a torrid time of late with first the forced retirement of the brilliant Sprinter Sacre and then, worse still, the death at Cheltenham of the talented chaser Simonsig. November has certainly been a cruel month for Henderson and the team at Seven Barrows stables. They must be sincerely hoping that December will be better, and that the stable will enjoy its usual good form in the festive month.

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