How Important is Past Run Style?

With the night’s drawing in, my thoughts are firmly on the winter racing scene.

Although I prefer to watch National Hunt racing, from a betting perspective I favour the flat. This is simply because I have fared better on the flat than the jumps over my betting career. Hence, at this time of the year, I am starting to think about the upcoming all weather winter season, as well as looking further ahead to the start of the turf flat in 2024.

I like trying to get ahead of the game by doing new research well in advance of when I will hopefully be able to make most of it. That is the theory at least!

For this article I am going to discuss run style in a race – some people may also use the term ‘pace’ in a race.

When I talk about run style my main focus is the initial pace in a race and position the horses take up early on.

Generally, within the first furlong the race settles down with horses/jockeys taking up their preferred early position. Nothing too drastic tends to change in terms of positions until nearer the end of the race.

It should be noted that a horse that is deliberately held up at the back after the first furlong is unlikely to make a move quickly up the field in the second furlong.

The chances are it will wait to near the end of the race to ‘make their move’.

A decent percentage of horses seem to have a preferred run style – you can get habitual front runners, horses that try and get to the lead early in every race.

At the other end of the scale, you can find horses that prefer to be held up near the back of the field early in the contest; these horses may have a good turn of foot which they can try to exploit late in the race when they make their challenge.

It is unusual to get a horse that mixes extremes of run style; for example, in 10 races leads early in 5 and then is held up at the back in the other 5.

Several websites now give you some type of run style data that you can research and try to take advantage of. The run style data is taken from the “in running” comments you see in the press.

Here is an example of these comments taken from a race run at Ripon on August 8th earlier this year:

1st   Latin Five – fly leapt start, raced wide, soon close up, headway over 1f out, ridden to lead inside final furlong, ran on

2nd   Albegone – went right start, disputed lead, ridden to lead over 1f out, headed inside final furlong.

3rd   Glory Hallelujah – towards rear, pushed along halfway, wide and headway inside final furlong, nearest finish.

4th   Imperial Khan – disputed lead until ridden over 1f out, kept on same pace final furlong.

5th   High Opinion in touch in rear, pushed along 2f out, ridden and headway inside final furlong, running on when not clear run towards finish.

6th    Spanish Angel – tracked leaders, pushed along 2f out, ridden and weakened inside final furlong.

7th    Malham Tarn Cove     – in touch, soon pushed along, ridden and weakened over 1f out.

From these comments you can build a picture of the race in terms of how the race was run.

Imperial Khan and Albegone both went to the front early, Spanish Angel and Latin Five raced behind these two, Malham Tarn Cove raced next and then High Opinion and Glory Hallelujah were the two at the back of the field.

Certain websites are able pull in this “in running” information and convert it in some way.

Some horse racing sites that share in running / run style data assign points to certain run styles.

Giving horses a numerical value is useful from a research perspective – working with specific numbers rather than a huge number of different “in running” comments is far easier to manipulate and test.

When I ran my own tipping service back in the early 2000s, I assigned numbers to past run style data. I used the last six races and worked out run style averages for each horse. That information would help me build up an idea of how the early part of the race may pan out. I am going to use the same points system I used then, in this article.

I used a sliding scale of 5 (for early leaders) down to 1 (for hold up horses that raced at, or near the back early).

Here is a breakdown of some of the different comments and the numbers I assigned to them:

5 points – for comments like “made all”, “made most”, “led for 4f”, “soon led”, “disputed lead” etc.

4 points – for comments like “tracked leader”, “pressed leader”, “prominent”, “raced in second” etc.

3 points – for comments like “chased leaders”, “tracked leaders”, “in touch”, “close up” etc.

2 points – for comments like “raced in midfield”, “raced mid pack early” etc.

1 point – for comments like “behind”, “raced in last”, “held up in rear”, “outpaced in last” etc.

Later in this article I am going crunch some past run style data using these same numerical values.

So why is understanding run style so important?

Essentially it is important because in certain races front runners have a big edge over their rivals. This is more especially true in shorter distance races, especially the sprints.

For example, if you had been able to predict the front runner pre-race in every all weather UK 5f handicap race going back to 2016, you would have profited by over 55 pence for every £1 staked!

And those profits are to Industry SP – to BSP it is nearer 75p in the £.

Front runners over 6 and 7f in all weather handicaps would have also secured you big profits in the past few years. This data can be verified using the Query Tool on the excellent website.

Hence if you can predict the front runner in these shorter distance handicaps then you have found outstanding value and long term profit.

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