The U.K. turf flat season is in full swing with the major meetings coming thick and fast and the 1000 & 2000 English Guineas winners already crowned. Royal Ascot is on the horizon and with the Royal meeting in mind our focus in this article will be looking at turf handicaps which have proven to be a source of future winners in the past.
Turf handicaps in the early part of the flat season, particularly those restricted to 3 year olds are of interest especially those at the big meetings as the form tends to be reliable and worth following.
With the hope of unearthing some handicaps worth keeping an eye on as the season unfolds, using the excellent HorseRaceBase I conducted an exercise searching for turf flat handicaps (not just restricted to 3yo’s) which have produced the most subsequent winners in the past year or so.
I ran the research to cover races from the beginning of March 2021 to include the start of last year’s turf flat season and initially covered runners on their next two starts (in the U.K. & Ireland).
These were the top 12 handicap races producing the most winners:
Looking at all twelve handicaps there are some decent numbers in the “Win” & “Place” columns. Four are top ‘Heritage’ status events and eight feature among the major festivals:
- 3 x Royal Ascot (June)
- 2 x York Ebor (August)
- 1 x York Dante (May)
- 1 x Newmarket (July)
- 1 x Glorious Goodwood (July)
The list emphasises the high quality and competitive nature of these handicaps, and from a betting perspective any disappointment of maybe not finding the race winner on the day turns to optimism in that we have a source of future winners (hopefully!) at our disposal.
Hambleton Stakes, York, Thursday 12th May
The Hambleton Stakes at York’s May Dante Festival is in our top 12 races. It may be worth putting this year’s runners in your trackers as the race last year produced 8 wins from 26 bets following runners on their next two starts and continued to produce winners (14 from 86 bets, £54 profit to £1 stakes) including at Group 3 and Listed class:
Five of the twelve races are restricted to 3yo’s only and the four listed below take place at major festivals:
Britannia Stakes, Class 2, 1 Mile (Royal Ascot, June)
Palace of Holyroodhouse Stakes, Class 2, 5 Furlongs (Royal Ascot, June)
Each Way Extra At Bet365 Heritage Handicap, Class 2, 6 Furlongs (Newmarket, July)
Melrose Handicap, Class 2, 14 Furlongs (York Ebor, August)
Out of curiosity I conducted a similar search over the same period, but this time asked for turf handicaps producing the most winners from runners on their next start only which gave us:
Royal Ascot’s Britannia Stakes Heritage Handicap (for 3yo’s only) now tops the list (2nd spot on original search) and interestingly just six of the original twelve races from the first search are listed.
Four handicaps restricted to 3yo’s still show, however just two remain from the first search:
Britannia Stakes (Royal Ascot, June)
Each Way Extra At Bet365 Heritage Handicap (Newmarket, July)
The two new 3yo handicaps being:
Ulster Derby, 12.5 Furlongs (Down Royal, June)
Bet365 Heritage Handicap, Class 2, 10 Furlongs (Newmarket, July)
The important point from the new search (next start only) is not so much the change in pecking order and races but the improved stats when comparing the figures to the first search (next two starts).
A check of the races appearing on both searches painted a similar picture with a better ‘wins to runs’ ratio following runners on their next start only compared to their next two starts.
Using Royal Ascot’s Britannia Stakes as an example:
- Next start: 8 wins from 22 starts
Betting all runners (Win only) from the Britannia Stakes on their next start would have returned 8 wins from 22 bets showing a 21 point profit to level stakes at Betfair SP (before commission).
2. Next 2 starts: 9 wins from 40 starts
Had we followed all runners from the Britannia Stakes on their next two starts to level stakes at Betfair SP we would have had 9 winners (1 more) from 40 bets (18 more) and a smaller overall profit of 13 points.
To be fair 8 of the 17 runners who did not win on their second start did make the frame and one or two at double digit odds so a case can be made for betting all runners each way especially if you prefer each way bets.
From a ‘wins’ to ‘runs’ perspective though, following future runners from these competitive handicaps on their ‘next start only’ has a greater appeal for WIN only punters.
Other races of note from the second search are the two bet365 sponsored handicaps at Newmarket’s July meeting, York’s John Smith’s Sprint Handicap run in July which returned impressive stats of 7 wins from 17 runs, Glorious Goodwood’s Stewards Cup and the Nursery at York’s Ebor Festival, races we will cover in future articles but for this edition it’s…
Very apt with Her Majesty the Queen celebrating her Platinum Jubilee a week or two before the Britannia Stakes is scheduled to take place at Royal Ascot on Thursday 16th June.
Hopefully the 2022 Britannia Stakes will point us towards future winners as it did last year in heading our search for runners winning on their next start.
First, let’s see if we can find some likely candidates for the Britannia Stakes using previous race trends.
Being an enthusiast of the systematic approach to horse race betting, I enjoy using previous trends particularly for the major handicaps (Flat & National Hunt) and find them a useful resource in our quest for finding those big race winners.
Although trends evolve and just because ‘X’ happened multiple times in the past does not mean it will happen again, I believe previous race trends if they have a logical explanation are a very useful tool in providing a short list of potential winners.
Or can be used to fine tune a short list already compiled from an individual’s preferred selection process, form study, speed ratings, expert tips etc.
I try to stick with the ‘Less is More’ approach with no more than half a dozen key factors (preferably less) which when looking at previous years have eliminated the most unsuccessful runners.
Using too many factors can become just a ‘back-fitting’ exercise to find the winner and in some cases may eliminate the whole field in turn becoming a head scratching exercise!
Britannia Stakes Ten Year Trends
The Britannia Stakes is restricted to 3yo’s only and is run over the straight mile at Royal Ascot. The race was first run in 1928, we won’t be delving that far back for trends! …
I like to focus on the previous ten years results, not going too far back thus keeping trends relevant and particularly for the big turf flat handicaps like the Britannia Stakes where a stalls bias is a factor to consider and may have changed over many years.
Using results from the last ten years also ensures we have a decent amount of data to crunch via the HorseRaceBase trends resource.
Hopefully the following factors will point us towards this year’s Britannia Stakes winner. The table below shows our starting point, there have been 280 runners tackle the Britannia Stakes since 2012.
All 10 winners finished in the 1st five in their previous run, those who failed to finish in the top 5 last time are 0 wins and four placed from 61 runners.
Prior to 2011, Haydock’s Silver Bowl Handicap in May had been the prep run for three Britannia Stakes winners however over the last ten years 43 Britannia Stakes runners had their prep at the Lancashire venue, but all failed to make the winners enclosure at Ascot with just 5 making the frame.
The record of Britannia Stakes runners who had their prep run at Epsom (totally different test), Sandown or Kempton (AW) is a combined 0 wins and 2 places from 43 runners.
Those that had their prep at Ascot are 0 wins and places from 11 runners, not great but hard to justify using as a useful trend when the Britannia Stakes is held at Ascot.
Under The Official Handicapper’s Radar
3. All 10 winners had not previously won a Class 2 race or better.
The record of Britannia Stakes runners who had already won in this class 2 company or better is 0 wins, 8 places from 51 runners.
4. 9 of the 10 winners previously ran in no more than two handicaps.
The exception being 2021 winner Perotto who had contested six handicaps including three Nurseries in his juvenile season. He is the only winner from 63 runners to have contested more than two handicaps.
5. 9 of the 10 winners had previously won no more than one handicap.
The exception again being 2021 winner Perotto who was the only winner (and just 4 placed) from 38 runners to have won more than one handicap.
No Royal Ascot ‘Fashion Accessories’
6. Runners wearing cheek pieces or blinkers are 0 wins and just 5 placed from 33 runners (2 winners wore a hood).
From the above figures we are possibly looking at an average short list of 9 to 10 runners which if the case we would ideally need more fine tuning and taking a close look at the stalls position of our trend’s qualifiers should help us.
Stalls Position – Draw Bias
I do not like using the stalls position in the initial key trends as this immediately eliminates a large proportion of runners which could include the eventual winner who may have passed the other trends. Using the draw to reduce our short list I feel is a better approach.
If we look at the stalls position broken down into the following four segments for the last ten Britannia Stakes, we can see the results in the table below:
- Quarter 1 = Stalls 1 to 8
- Quarter 2 = Stalls 9 to 16
- Quarter 3 = Stalls 17 to 24
- Quarter 4 = Stalls 25 to 32
The table shows the 2nd Quarter (stalls 9 to 16) have provided most wins (4) and the A/E (Actual to Expected) figure of 1.16 shows horses running from stalls 9 to 16 have performed better than expected. The other three quarters have produced two winners apiece and a similar number of placed (top 4) horses.
Here’s a table showing the stall numbers of the first five horses in the Britannia Stakes over the last ten years:
Handicaps with 20+ runners on the straight course at Ascot (not just the royal meeting) in recent seasons appear to favour horses drawn middle to high (stand side) and the above results for the Britannia generally confirms that opinion with just two single figure stalls winning.
The ground conditions (good to firm, soft and good to soft) for the last three Britannia Stakes indicate the draw bias is not ground dependant.
Worth noting the other four 20+ runner handicaps at the Royal meeting last year produced these winning stall numbers:
Stall 10: Wokingham Stakes (6f), the last three Wokingham winners were drawn in stall 10.
Stall 4: Royal Hunt Cup (1m), the placed horses were drawn 11, 21, 22.
Stall 31: Buckingham Palace Stakes (7f) placed horses were drawn 18, 24, 29.
Stall 16: Sandringham Handicap (1m), placed horses were drawn 11, 32, 13.
Hopefully we will unearth the Britannia Stakes winner in our race trends and best of luck with your selections!