Are you a stats follower? You might think twice after reading this

Stats and trends have become hugely popular in the past few years, especially for festival meetings.  Maths was never my strong point – if I could work out a £2 double at 11/4 and 9/2 I was happy.

So when stats came to the fore in racing, I, like many, welcomed them. They were the S-Plan diet for form students – lose work, gain time painlessly.

The first time I was alerted to the cracks in the stats ceiling was in 2008 when I had a very strong fancy for Captain Cee Bee in the Supreme Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham.

But the stats boys said – “Ignore seven-year-olds, they have a very poor record”.  The Supreme is a race for novice hurdlers aged four and older. I set about digging a bit deeper and found that in the previous ten years, only a handful of seven-year-olds had run in the Supreme.  That blew the stat’s credence, making it a non-stat.  It also helped Captain Cee Bee go off at a longer price so the ‘stat’ was helpful to me in the end.

Another, bound to pop up somewhere before next Friday, is “ignore six-year-olds (Long Run) who have a very poor record in the Gold Cup”  But as the popular Paul Jones, the man who is to stats what Brian Epstein was to The Beatles, tells us in his annual Festival Guide , only three six-year-olds have run in the race since 1963.

My simplistic view is that, unless stats are published with a sample size, treat them with extreme caution.  For a much more comprehensive and learned insight, you will find James Willoughby’s article, enlightening.

Another excellent article from Timeform’s  studious stats guru, Simon Rowlands is here

Good luck with your betting.

NB links are provided for easy access by readers; I do not get paid affiliate fees

3 thoughts on “Are you a stats follower? You might think twice after reading this

  1. I think you have to expand the parameters of assessment when considering the merits of 6yo chasers, given that so few have contested the Gold Cup in the past 40 years.
    In the National Hunt Chase over 4-mile, since 1989 there has been just 1 winning 6yo from 62 (6yo’s or younger) contesting the race.
    In the RSA Chase over 3-mile 110 yards, there has been just 2 winning 6yo’s since 1978 and there have been some cracking good horses amongst those beaten 6yo’s too (ie, Wayward Lad, One Man, Little Owl, Righthand Man etc).
    In chases over 3-mile-plus at the Festival, 6yo’s have a terrible strike-rate, and that must be due to their relative immaturity and experience.

    1. “In chases over 3-mile-plus at the Festival, 6yo’s have a terrible strike-rate, and that must be due to their relative immaturity and experience.”

      Must it? Shouldn’t price, as a mathematical measure, albeit not scientific, be factored into the sample?


  2. Completely agree with this one. Remember when Master Minded won his first Champion Chase? Plenty disregarded him because a 5yo had never won the race before. I’m not sure if this is true but I’d guess he was the first to attempt it. I wrote him off personally as I felt that since 5yos used to get an allowance in the Arkle then surely they would not be mature enough to win a better race, however this has changed now with the way horses are trained early in France.

    Nowadays I look at stats and trends cautiously and only tend to pay attention to them if I believe there is a good reason for them. Its an interesting point there from Willoughby that a trainer with an 8% strike rate is only a 9/2 shot to have 20 straight losers. This would almost certainly be published by one or two racing journalists as the trainer being out of form.


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