Stat angles - the Sky Bet Handicap Chase....

Last Updated: 25.01.2022

Tuesday, 25th January 2022

Stat angles - the Sky Bet Handicap Chase….

No favourite has won the Sky Bet Handicap Chase – Saturday’s feature handicap at Doncaster –– since 2015….

But don’t get carried away with that stat – which could lead you to misinterpret the Listed-class contest as a shoo-in for the contrarian punter….

It is no such thing. Ten of the last 17 winners were sent off in one of the top three spots in the betting….

And in the 6 renewals since that last winning favourite passed the post – 5 of the winners were sent off at odds between 8s and 10s, In other words, they were skinny enough….

  • No gun to head….

If nothing else those stats illustrate one thing….

…. exactly what I’m up against in a lot of these races when I deliberately avoid short-priced horses (the ones with the best form and most obvious chances) and instead seek out a contrarian selection to outrun a bigger price….

I know the way I bet makes out-and-out tip-hunters (who have entirely the wrong idea about what ATC is or what it provides) boil over and have conniptions….

My game is a long game – longer (granted) than out-and-out tip-hunters have the temperament for. I make no apologies for that. It is what it is. I am what I am. I do what I do….

My betting game revolves around finding more occasional winners at prices substantial enough to make up lost ground quickly. That’s how I roll….

I share details of what I’m backing because readers want to see me put my money where my mouth is. Nobody is obliged to follow me in. There’s no gun to anybody’s head….

Most ATC readers are knowledgeable about the game. They have their own ideas and I encourage them to go their own way and oppose me – if or when I’m out of line with their own conclusions. Most do. Most of the time….

Readers who know zero about racing, who can’t think for themselves and who expect to be spoon-fed one winning bet after another would probably be more at home on one of the 563,212 tipping services (last count) that guarantee winners on a day-in day-out basis (good luck!)….

  • A big-field helps my contrarian cause….

Big-fields help my contrarian cause….

The markets in the bigger-field races are more inefficient than in small fields – less accurate….

In big-field races there are more horses and more opinions – but no more time in which to form them. This creates more room for pricing errors. These errors – most plentiful in big-field races – are exactly what I look to capitalize on….

We don’t get too many big-field handicaps over the winter. Not proper big fields anyway. And we probably won’t get one on Saturday afternoon….

But right now 23 horses retain an entry in the 3-mile contest for chasers aged 5yo+….

Hopefully, the majority will stand their ground at the final declaration stage and we’ll get something meaty to shoot at….

  • Different gravy....

Playing the big handicap races is a very different proposition to playing the big G1 conditions races....

Horses that win big G1 races like the Gold Cup or the Derby tend to share many of the same characteristics, credentials, and qualifications as previous winners of the race – winners going back decades....

Very particular types of horses tend to win those big G1 races and for that reason the historic record is very useful in helping you identify likely contenders for upcoming editions of those races – well in advance of the race being run....

It’s not quite the same thing with the handicaps that this column focuses on....

The horses that win big handicaps don’t tend to have quite so much in common. The winners tend to come from all over the spectrum. It’s a bit more of a scattergun thing. The historic record is not quite so useful as it is in the G1 sphere....

But it is not entirely useless either. You just need to get used to working with fewer pointers and scarcer clues. And you can’t take things quite so literally as you might with the stats for a G1 race....

In the big G1 races, you could almost use the historic record as the basis of a selection method….

In the big handicaps, the stats are more of a guide – a starting point rather than the final word. They help you split the field rather than zero-in on an actual selection. At least that’s how I see it….

  • Which brings me back to Saturday’s race....

The strongest stats make the best potential field-splitters – that much is obvious....

Where the Sky Bet Handicap Chase is concerned, you might take an interest in the actual weights carried because 14 of the last 17 winners carried 11-2 or less to post....

Or you might take an interest in official ratings with 15 of the 17 winners rated lower than 150....

Or you might take an interest in the age of the horses declared to run because 12 of the last 17 winners were aged 9 or younger....

A previous win over fences at the 3-mile trip is a positive too. 14 of the last 17 winners ticked that box....

But here’s the dilemma with handicaps. You can’t bet the farm on the back of a couple of stats – no matter how strong. If it were that straightforward, the bookies would have been out of business years ago....

In 2019, the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Go Conquer emerged victorious on Town Moor. He went to post aged 10, rated 151 and carrying 11-10. In other words, he failed to tick three of the four strong boxes....

In 2020, OK Corral won for Nicky Henderson – also aged 10 and carrying top weight of 11-12. So, he failed to tick two of the four strong boxes….

Last year Takingrisks took the honours. He’d won at 3-miles and rated 146 he carried bang on 11-02 – but he was a 12-year-old….

The wider record suggests that these sorts of results won’t happen every year. Bur races change – in terms of shape, format, and the types of horses they attract. It happens over time….

The downside of which is that you can never really know whether a couple-of-years-worth of trend-busting results are mere aberrations in the wider record or signals of deeper, more fundamental, and more permanent changes in the nature of the race and the horses that are best set-up to win it….

In other words, we can’t know until we know. You see the dilemma?

The stats offer clues. They act as a guide. They point you at some horses and they point you away from others. They tell you what has happened more times than not. They tell you what is most likely to happen – based on past occurrences....

But there is no concrete certainty. The stats are not infallible. Far from it....

  • The final word….

That’s all from me for today. I’ll be back tomorrow. Meanwhile….

Anything to report? Anything to say? Anything to share? Contact me at: nick.pullen@oxonpress.co.uk
 
Until next time. Stay tuned.

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd