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Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Bash the bookies at York with these punting pearls of wisdom

The stats that matter at the Ebor festival

York: the four-day Ebor festival kicks off next Wednesday
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Respect O’Brien hotpots in Group 1s . . .

Aidan O'Brien has celebrated a Group 1 success at the Ebor festival in six of the last 11 seasons, and the record of his shorter-priced horses in the meeting’s top-tier races – the Coolmore Nunthorpe, Darley Yorkshire Oaks and Juddmonte International – is strong. Since 2006, of the 19 who were sent off shorter than 10-1, seven were successful and these runners produced a £1 level-stakes profit of £9.58. By contrast, those sent off 10-1 or bigger are 0-19.

 . . . but oppose his two-year-olds

The Ballydoyle maestro’s last 21 two-year-old runners at this meeting were beaten, four of the losers were favourites and 11 were 5-1 or shorter. Curiously, O’Brien has yet to win the Group 2 Sky Bet Lowther Stakes, although Roly Poly finished second last year for the stable, and his last Gimcrack Stakes winner was Rock Of Gibraltar in 2001.

Haggas has a hot record with two-year-olds

The leading trainer at this meeting since 2006 is Yorkshireman William Haggas. Newmarket-based Haggas has achieved 19 winners from 78 runners for a juicy £1 level-stakes profit of £53.37.

Eleven of his winners were two-year-olds, with almost two in every five of his juveniles hitting the target (profit of £38.62 to £1 level stakes). In juvenile Group races he is a superb seven winners from 14 runners (+£23.75). He's won the Gimcrack three times, the Lowther twice and the Acomb Stakes twice.

William Haggas: has a fine record with his two-year-olds at the meeting

Three is a magic number

Three-year-olds often prove to be well treated in weight-for-age handicaps if attracting strong support in the market. However, those from the age group sent off at bigger odds routinely fail to win.

The record of three-year-olds sent off 13-2 or shorter in such races is nine winners from 34 runners (27 per cent, +£16.33), and 18 (53 per cent) finished in the first three. In contrast, just two of the last 114 runners sent off bigger than 13-2 were successful (-£96).

Trends no longer the key to cracking Ebor puzzle

The SPs returned by Ebor Handicap winners illustrate how this historic race over 1m6f regularly throws up big-priced winners. Since Mudawin’s 100-1 success in 2006, five of the ten winners were 20-1 or bigger, and Purple Moon in 2007 is the only winning favourite in that period.

This spate of surprises reflects how the Ebor has evolved into a race where trends are no longer a useful winner-finding tool. In the 1980s and 1990s, this handicap was often won by a three-year-old with a low weight, but runners from that age group with this profile now struggle to make the cut.

The typical Ebor winner is now aged five or older – 11 of the last 13 winners were from this age group – and the average weight shouldered by a winner since 2004 is 9st. Last year the bottomweight carried 8st 13lb, so applying these trends to this year's field is not going to rule out many horses.

The last three Ebor winners had altogether different profiles and preparations. Last year Heartbreak City had the previous month won a handicap hurdle at Galway, two years ago Litigant defied an absence of more than a year and was running for his trainer Joseph Tuite for the first time, while Mutual Regard in 2014 warmed up for the race with a third in a Listed contest. It would seem a pin has as much chance of picking the Ebor winner as followers of trends.

Cumani handicappers come to the fore

Luca Cumani is another trainer showing a £1 level-stakes profit at the meeting since 2006, with seven winners from 49 runners producing gains of £23. His four-year-olds in 1m2f-plus handicaps are achieving finishing positions of 2010110757220 (+£11.50), and this record highlights how his middle-distance horses often improve with age.

He has run only two two-year-olds at the meeting in this period and both won the Convivial maiden: White Lake (25-1) and Beautiful Morning (12-1).

Luca Cumani: keep an eye on his handicappers

Spirit’s juveniles are proving to be invincible

York is a speed-favouring course which might explain why Invincible Spirit is enjoying a lot of success with his two-year-old progeny. Five of his 23 juveniles hit the target for a £1 level-stakes profit of £9.50. The sire could be represented by Invincible Army in the Gimcrack.

Thumbs up to Godolphin's older horses – thumbs down to their two-year-olds

In six of the last seven seasons, Godolphin have enjoyed at least one winner at this festival, and since 2006 their runners are showing a £1 level-stakes profit of £2.62 (16 wins from 101 runners, 16 per cent).

Closer analysis of this record suggests you should focus on their older horses.

Just two of their 19 two-year-olds hit the target (11 per cent) for losses of £11.62, a more impressive five of their 28 three-year-olds landed the spoils (18 per cent) and these runners have yielded a slight profit (+£0.75), while their older horses (four-year-old-plus) are producing profits of £13.50 with nine of the 54 rewarding backers (17 per cent).

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The record of their older horses improves to nine wins from 33 bets when ruling out those priced bigger than 12-1.

Another Godolphin stat that suggests the betting can be informative is that in the last 21 races in which they had two runners, the horses who were shortest-priced posted five wins, returning profits of £12.25, but the others are 0-21.

Ryan revved for a big meeting

A case of equine herpes shutdown Kevin Ryan’s yard for a period earlier this season, but the stable is now firing on all cylinders and historically he has an impressive record at the Ebor festival.

Ryan excels with sprinters and his stats reflect this. Since 2006, ten of his 11 winners were achieved in 5f or 6f races. Blindly backing his runners in sprints would have resulted in a £1 level-stakes loss of £32, but notably all 64 of his horses who were sent off 14-1 or bigger were beaten. At 12-1 or shorter, his record is an impressive ten wins from 42 runs (+£32).

Low numbers probably the way to go in sprints

The draw advantage in York sprints containing large fields was reliably predictable last season. The ground on the far side regularly seemed to be a bit quicker, often handing low numbers an advantage.

As the table below shows, there were 14 sprint handicaps featuring 12-plus runners, and ten winners of these races were berthed in the lowest draw section, when splitting up fields by their draw numbers into thirds (low, middle and high). Also, in the 2015 season low supplied the most winners of such races – eight of the 15 were drawn low.

But the stats for the ten sprint handicaps with 12-plus runners this season challenge whether low numbers will have the edge in this meeting’s sprints, with low and high each supplying four winners.

However, last month’s Sky Bet Dash Handicap – the last big-field sprint to be run at York – muddies the waters. Winner Flying Pursuit was drawn one, the second was drawn two and the third berthed in four.

The Ebor festival starts with a sprint handicap, and based on evidence from the last three seasons you would lean towards a low draw being an advantage. But the outcome of this race could give us a better idea as to where any faster ground could be during the rest of the meeting.

Anything can happen at Ebor Festival

Winners of Group 1s rarely return huge SPs. Since 2006 just four winners of British/Irish top-tier races were 50-1 or bigger. However, this meeting produced two of these massive shocks: Sole Power won the 2010 Nunthorpe at 100-1 and Arabian Queen claimed the 2015 Juddmonte International at 50-1.

It could be coincidence that these surprises occurred at this meeting, but York has a reputation for being a specialist course, suiting some horses more than others. Generally speaking, the probability of there being a massive shock in a Group 1 is extremely low, although conceivably this chance is a bit higher at the Ebor festival.

He has run only two two-year-olds at the meeting in this period and both won the Convivial maiden: White Lake (25-1) and Beautiful Morning (12-1).
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