First String Runners. Maybe Not?

This month we are going to look at value from a trainer / jockey combination perspective and it is something that I do quite a lot when making selections for the Betting School members. But are the first string runners the most profitable?

Most punters, especially the casual weekend ones, often row in with a few hefty bets on jollies, or outright favourites to the rest of us. That often means taking a short price favourite from a powerful yard such as Aiden O’Brien, Willie Mullins, Nicky Henderson, John Gosden and so on. These yards have a huge string of horses in training which means they often enter multiple horses in the same race. The one the stable fancies the most, or the apparent first string, will be ridden by the stable’s top jockey who will have a choice to ride any one of the entered runners. Punters often take this as gospel that the chosen horse if the one to be on. Whilst this often turns out to be the right choice, a flood of money for the first string runners will shorten the price and that means value prices for the stable’s other entries.

We all know that value bets are the key to successful betting and long term profits. So, should we back the first string or the value runners who appear to be the second, third or even fourth string?

The way to find out is to look at the overall performance of the trainer / top stable jockey against the trainer / other jockey performance.

I am going to crunch the numbers over the last few years (2014 to 2018) to see which combinations we really should be backing.

This will be the first of several such articles and we kick things off with the leading jumps trainer that is none other than Willie Mullins.

Willie Mullins

Top jockey in recent years has been Ruby Walsh. He gets to choose who he rides amongst the multiple entries and by default that runner becomes the stable first string. We know this combination is lethal, especially at the Cheltenham festival, but is it a profitable one?

Below is a list of jockeys that have had more than 100 rides for Willie Mullins since 2014:

Ruby Walsh has ridden 378 winners in that time from 1056 rides and that equates to a strike rate of 36%. Note, however, that the overall P/L at Betfair SP is in the negative. In other words, you would have made a loss of £125.75 by backing all Mullins / Walsh runners to £1 win bets since 2014 to industry SP. Nothing new there, as most people that take their betting seriously, will understand how overbet this combination is at the best of times.

Looking at the table above we find that David Mullins (DJ) has the lowest strike rate (16%) yet incurs less serious losses compare to Ruby Walsh.

Patrick (PW) Mullins has a near identical strike rate to Ruby Walsh, which may surprise a lot of you, and his rides more or less break even at industry SP.

Danny Mullins (DE) has a similar strike rate to David Mullins (DJ) at around 18%, yet his rides incur fewer losses in terms of P/L.

That leaves us with Bryan Cooper who has the fewest rides and Paul Townend who has the second largest number of rides.

Both are profitable to follow if you back all their mounts blind. Bryan Cooper has a similar strike rate to Ruby Walsh and Patrick Mullins.

We don’t ever advocate backing runners blind, so we need to dig deeper into the numbers behind the Patrick Mullins, Paul Townend and Bryan Cooper rides to see when and where we should be backing them.

For now, the rides of Ruby Walsh should be treated on a runner by runner basis as to whether you back them or not. Backing all his rides blind will leave you pretty skint so weigh up the chances of his rides in the context of the race, and more importantly in the context of the price. If he is riding an even money shot that should be odds-on, then back it. It is still value.

Now, back to the other jockeys:

Bryan Cooper

The problem here could be the number of rides.

Bryan Cooper has only ridden 8 times for Willie Mullins in 2018 compared to 52 in 2016 and 66 in 2015. He was announced as retained rider for Gigginstown stud in 2015 but was subsequently sacked from that role last year. In 2016, Michael O’Leary removed his Gigginstown string from Willie Mullins’ yard and that goes a long way to explain the lack of rides for the Mullins / Cooper combination in 2018 and the fact they did not team up at all in 2017. The fact that they did team up for 8 rides in 2018 offers encouragement that they will do so again this season.

I can crunch the numbers to see where previous profits lie but in light of the Gigginstown events of recent years for both stable and rider, a watching brief is advised until we get a clearer picture of how this combination will progress in the future.

49 of the 51 winners have come in races from 2 miles to 3 miles and that increases the strike rate and P/L slightly.

Second, 45 of the 49 winners racing over 2 to 3 miles came in fields of 5 to 18 runners.

Those simple filters push the strike rate up to near 40% and the P/L at Betfair SP up to a respectable £48.24 to £1 level stakes. The return on investment at Betfair SP is over 40% which is good, to say the least.

Best to leave it there and sit back and wait to see if and when this combination team up again in the 2018/2019 jumps season and if they do, whether these race conditions are still profitable.

System: Back Willie Mullins runners when ridden by Bryan Cooper when racing between 2m and 3m and where there are 5-18 runners.

Patrick Mullins

Patrick Mullins has ridden over 200 winners for Willie Mullins since 2014 at a strike rate of 36%, the same strike rate that Ruby Walsh has when he rides for the trainer.

The first thing we can do is remove the chase runners. When these two team up over the larger obstacles they have a record of just 9 wins from 64 runners (14% strike rate) and incur some pretty heavy losses even at exchange prices.

That leaves us with the hurdlers and bumper runners, who have the following record:

193 of those winners have come over trips from 2 miles to 2m 4 ½f and that pushes the strike rate up to 40% and we see a profit of £93.12 at Betfair SP. This is in comparison to the more or less break even scenario by backing all the Willie Mullins / Patrick Mullins runners.

Now we come to the tricky part and it all depends on your way of betting – either plenty of short priced ones or taking the bigger prices and seeing out the odd long losing run.

The bumper runners have gone in 176 times since 2014 but realise profits of just £13.48 at Betfair SP. So, with a strike rate of 40%, you will get 2 winners in 5, but you won’t make much money. You can increase profits slightly if you stick to those running over 2m to 2m 1 ½f whilst maintaining a strike rate over 40%.

With such a consistent strike rate, a progressive staking plan would be the way forward to maximise profits with the bumper runners.

An alternative approach is to back those that do not go off as the outright favourite.

So, taking a runner that is co or joint-favourite or not the favourite at all gives the following results:

That would be my preferred approach as you would still get a fair few bets and the P/L and ROI is a lot healthier.

The hurdlers are few and far between but have a record of 19-63 (30% strike rate) for a profit of £70.19 since 2014. 17 of the 19 winners have come in non-handicap races but the handicappers are 2-10 and should not be ignored.

Sticking to all hurdles races we find that 18 winners were aged between 4 and 8 and 16 of the winners from those age groups were racing over 2m to 2m 4 ½f.

Adding those filters in leaves us with:

Not many qualifiers but a 218% ROI at Betfair SP is pretty impressive!

System: Back Willie Mullins runners on NHF (Bumpers) when ridden by Patrick W Mullins going off NOT clear favourite.

System: Back Willie Mullins hurdle runners aged between 4 and 8 years when ridden by Patrick W Mullins and racing over 2m-2m4.5f.

Paul Townend

Paul Townend is a fantastic jockey and is worth following whoever he rides for. If Ruby rides the first string, then Paul Townend almost certainly rides the second string when they line up in the same race. However, their respective P/L is markedly different as you can see from the first table we showed you.

Basically, the exchange is your friend here and it turns a £15.34 profit into a £134.85 profit.

They do not team up in many bumpers where their record is 0-8 so we will ditch those.

The most striking statistic is race distance.

Sticking to races from 2m 1f to 3m 1f we see an improved set of results in terms of ROI and P/L. We sacrifice a few winners, but it is unlocking the profits that concern us most.

It still leaves us with 149 winners in the last 5 years and we can squeeze a bit more profit out by sticking to the 5yo to 10yo runners. The 4yo’s tend to run in bumpers and are ridden by one of the Mullins boys and those over 11yo do not win often enough.

From here on I would advise going with the non-handicappers:

Both sets of races realise a profit but the strike rate of 12% in handicaps means some hefty losing runs will come into the equation. The non-handicappers come in at a 36% strike rate and £177.91 profit at Betfair SP.

Amongst the non-handicappers it is those at the highest level where the profits are.

Backing Paul Townend’s rides in Grade 1, 2, 3 and Listed races over 2m 2f to 3m 1f, aged 5yo to 10yo, would have resulted in 52 winners from 168 runners (31% strike rate) for a profit of £166.50 since 2014.

System: Back Willie Mullins Non Handicap Chase and Hurdle runners aged between 5 and 10 years when running in Class 1,2, 3 and Listed races when running over 2m1f-3m1f and ridden by Paul Townend.

For Gold members, this month Nick gives takes a look at a further four jockeys who have been known to team up with Willie Mullins and turn a healthy profit.

You can upgrade to On Course Profits Gold here…

If you'd like to bet alongside Dr Nick at all the big meetings this year, check out his Big Race Tips service which made 692 points profit since January 2016 – Click Here.


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