I preview and provide my tips for tomorrow’s Hennessy Gold Cup run over 3 miles 2 1/2 furlongs, and due off at 3.00 at Newbury. The official ground today on the chase course was good to soft, good in places, and with little or no rain forecast it should be similar tomorrow.
For big races like this you will often hear talk of 10 year trends and how they can help you pinpoint some value. Quite how anyone thinks a sample size of 10 is enough to draw any worthwhile conclusions I’ve no idea, and I don’t take much they say seriously. They often just use winners, when while still of limited use, including places, or % of horses beaten would provide more insight. Proper research is a different story though, and it is possible to establish if there is any truth in certain assumptions, about what it takes to win a competitive handicap chase like the Hennessy.
One assumption I had, and I’m sure many others share, is that these big handicaps go to unexposed chasers a higher percentage of time than the market suggests they should. I used Proform Professional to run the numbers, and instead of just using the last 10 running’s of the Hennessy, which would tell you the sum total of nothing, I used all handicap chases, from the last 4 years, that had at least £30,000 on offer to the winner. I only used races in the UK, as the Irish Handicapper might treat unexposed horses differently.
|Hcp Chase Runs||Runners||Wins||Win SR||Expected||A/E||Win & Place SR|
|0 to 2||510||41||8.04||42.56||0.96||24.9|
|3 to 6||650||40||6.15||40.81||0.98||21.54|
|7 to 10||422||24||5.69||21.36||1.12||20.38|
|11 to 15||272||7||2.57||11.11||0.63||14.71|
|> than 15||208||10||4.81||7.2||1.39||15.38|
As you can see from the table the horses who had less than three runs in handicap chases prior to the race in question did have the highest strike rate. 8.04% of them won, and they also placed the most with 24.0%. They didn’t however prove profitable to back blind. The expected wins is arrived at from Betfair Win Sp’s, which means if you staked to return 1 unit on each horse you would have staked 42.56, but with only 41 winners, you would have made a loss.
Horses who had between 7 and 10 previous handicap chase starts fared quite well, with an Average over Expected figure of 1.12, meaning you’d have made a profit following these blind. Its hard to explain why the horses in the 11 to 15 bracket did so poorly, but yet those with more than 15 starts do well, with an AE of 1.39. The poor performance of the 11 to 15 bracket is probably just a sample size issue. They had 7 winners, when 11.11 was expected. If you look at the place strike rate of 14.71% it shows those horses probably hit the crossbar a bit more than expected.
The horses with more than 15 prior handicap chase starts do much better than the market expects though. Both their win and place strike rates are higher than the 11 to15 bracket, as stated previously that’s probably just a sample size issue, but another plausible explanation could be that the handicapper gives the more exposed horses a chance by dropping them in the weights quite quickly after a few poor runs, giving them the chance to become well handicapped again. They don’t win as much as the lightly raced horses, but then they don’t have to as the market seems to write them off.
What does all this tell us about the race tomorrow? Well not that much, except that my prior assumption that you want to be with a lightly raced horse is probably bogus. It also should show you how utterly useless 10 year trends that use just win strike rates are. In the table above we have to deal with the effects of variance despite the fact that thousands of races were analyzed. 10 year trends offer little more predictive value than sticking a pin in the paper.
Tomorrow’s race is tricky. Lord Windermere and Rocky Creek head the market, and both of these are having their 1st handicap chase start. Of the pair I’d much prefer Lord Windermere, and he is not only unexposed in the sense that this is his first handicap chase, but he is also 1 from 1 over trips in excess of 3 miles, and the extra few furlongs tomorrow will surely suit, as he’s always looked a real stayer.
Invictus is next in the market, and I’ve heard claims that he’s ‘thrown in’ on the form of his last start, which was back in February 2012. That day he won a grade 2 novice chase at Ascot, beating Bobs Worth into 2nd, with Silviniaco Conti back in 4th. Considering that pair are now rated 180 and 173 respectively, and were only giving Invictus 3lb that day, a simplistic view of the form would lead you to believe Invictus is extremely well in off 145 tomorrow. Its not that simple though, Bobs Worth didn’t jump at all well that day, and seems much better left handed. He was also coming back after a soft palate operation, so beating him didn’t amount to that much. The 3rd horse was Alfie Spinner, beating less than 6l, he is now rated just 127 over fences and never looked any better than the 135 he was rated that day. Invictus gave him 4lb but it still doesn’t make 145 look a gift, and he has a long absence to overcome too. Silviniaco Conti clearly didn’t run his race, so the form is not all that it appears. Invictus is still unexposed though, so if his lay off hasn’t effected him he still has plenty of scope off his mark.
Katenko is interesting as he was very progressive last season, but it is a worry that he hasn’t been seen since January, having missed a few targets. He could still be well handicapped off 157 though. The horse that interests me at the prices is the Nicky Henderson trained Triola D’Alene. With 8 previous starts in handicap chases he falls within the 7 to 10 bracket that do quite well, while he’s also progressive enough to think there’s more to come. He has to prove himself at this trip, and his first two starts at further than 3 miles were disappointing, but it wasn’t the trip that beat him, and when he won what seemed a well run race at Haydock last season over 3 miles, an extra few furlongs didn’t look like it would be a problem for him.
In his first run back this year he traveled through the race quite well, over 3 miles at Ascot, but after looking like he might challenge off the last bend his effort petered out in the straight. He ran like a horse who needed it, and while Nicky Henderson generally does very well with horses after a break, with a win strike rate of 27%, and placed 50% in the past four years, this season his horses have tended to need a run, with a win strike rate after a break of just 18% and only 43% placed. Triola D’Alene runs off the same mark tomorrow, and with plenty of scope to improve he looks a cracking each way bet at 20/1 with