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Nursery Handicaps on the Flat

The start of July saw the start of the nurseries – these are handicap races for 2 year olds.

The month of September averages out as the month with the greatest number of these races, and there will be plenty more in October, November and December.

Hence my question is, nurseries are they a good betting medium?

I was told in my early days as a punter that the way to win money in nurseries was to back the top weight – my guess is that may have worked at one point in the past, but as we know making money from horse racing is not as simple as that.

 Let me look at some data – I am looking at UK Flat / All Weather race data going back to 2015 with profits and losses quoted to Betfair Starting Price (BSP) less 5% commission.

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The Market

The first port of call is the betting market. I am focusing on market position:

Favourites have an excellent record in these contests.

Returns close to 4p in the £ is well above the norm for favourites as a rule. Strong A/E index too of 0.99.

It is worth noting that favourites in nurseries have done particularly well when they have been on the All Weather.

The AW fav stats read 274 wins from 827 (SR 33.1%) for a BSP profit of £87.78 (ROI +10.6%).


Let us now look at weight rank:

There is a clear edge in terms of strike rate for the top two horses in the weights, but neither have proved profitable.

The second top weighted runners have got close to breaking even, but there seems no real edge when we look at weight.

Days since last run

Time off the track is a factor that is arguably over–bet these days, but in the past I have found that 2yos do not necessarily seem to conform to the norm.

Let us look at the results:

A bit of a mixed bag here.

Strike rate generally drops as the number of days number increases which one would expect, but there is no pattern to profit and loss figures.

It does look like very quick returners (5 days or less) perform poorly which is unusual.

LTO finishing position

Recent form is next on my list so let us take a look at the last time out finishing position stats:

Last time out winners have a very strong record and last time out runners up are not that far behind. It seems therefore that recent form is actually very important when it comes to nursery handicaps.

Any horse that finished first or second last time out definitely require close scrutiny. 


On to the key area of trainers. Here are all the trainers that have had at least 100 runners. I have ordered them by win strike rate:

It is quite amazing to see the top 13 trainers in terms of strike rate all making a BSP profit.

Ralph Beckett tops the list with some very strong looking figures, especially that A/E index standing at 1.29. He has been very consistent too year in year out which gives more confidence to his overall stats.

He also has done well with runners from the top three in the betting scoring 35 times from 101 runners (SR 34.7%) for a healthy profit of £48.03 (ROI +47.6%).

In fact, it is often a good idea to check out market driven trainer data as it can avoid big prices skewing the stats. Hence, here is a list of ALL trainers who have had at least 60 nursery runners start in the top three of the betting. Once again they are ordered by win strike rate:

Trainers from Evans upwards have all proved profitable and I will be looking out for these trainers for the remainder of this season in nurseries. One trainer I will be avoiding though is Tim Easterby – his stats are pretty dreadful.

Taking this piece as a whole, it is the trainer stats are the ones that stand out here; the other stat to note is the strong performances of last time out winners and runners up.

David Renham