Winning systems: Two-Year-Old Racing – A Few Pointers

In his latest column for attheraces.com, Dr Peter May crunches the number in races involving two-year-olds, using data on sires and price to potentially exploit the betting markets.

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The return of turf flat racing also means the welcome return of two-year-old racing.   Unlike non-juvenile flat racing, the 2yo programme is not dominated by handicaps which makes it far more interesting for punters.  Just a few quality races in a sea of run of the mill handicaps gives the 21st century non-juvenile programme a distinctly stale feel.  Whilst the pattern events do offer punters an occasional alternative, they are too few and far between, and other non-handicap races make up just 13% of all non-juvenile contests.  Consequently punters are now fed a diet of handicaps in non-juvenile races; four out of every five races, in fact, is now a handicap. 

For juvenile races these proportions are, thankfully, very different.  Handicaps, or nurseries, make up around 17% of all events with stakes races now accounting for over half of all juvenile races run on turf in Great Britain.  This may explain why so many punters I have spoken to have deserted non-juvenile flat racing completely.

Whilst there may be more interesting races in the 2yo programme, this does not mean it is necessarily that much easier to make a profit.  So, here are a few pointers that may help you during the 2019 season.

In some cases, it is worth noting the historical credentials of the juvenile’s sire.  Over the last few seasons the win rate for all two-year-olds has been around 11%, however the progeny of Frankel, the best non-juvenile I have seen for many years, have so far won at a rate of 26% (turf and all weather).  Unfortunately, this exceptional win rate has not translated into a profit.  In fact, following these horses would have resulted in a significant loss due to the under-pricing associated with them. 

Other sires worth noting include Galileo, 18% win rate and a 3p/£ profit at exchange prices, Shamardal 19% and +9p/£, Teofilo 18% and 44p/£ (a profit inflated by a 50/1 winner that paid well over 100/1 on the exchanges), and Dubawi whose progeny have produced a 22% win rate and a profit of 2p/£.

The win rate drops for debut runners, and over the last few years stands at 8%.  The offspring of Shamardal have won at a rate almost double this average (17%) and returned a decent profit of 37p/£ from over 100 races.  Dubawi again has a good win rate with 14% of his progeny winning first time out (heavy losses though for punters) and Kodiac is worth noting since his offspring have a 13% win rate and have made a 6p/£ profit at exchange prices.

Although linked with race distance, it can be worth analysing the performances of sires’ offspring by time of year.  For example, Kodiac is associated with an 18% win rate for his progeny that run between March and end May.  These also made a decent 22p/£ profit at exchange prices.  Acclamation also has a good early season win rate, but a heavy loss, whilst Showcasing’s juveniles have recorded at 16% win rate and 13p/£ profit. 

At the other end of the scale, the offspring of Poet’s Voice have only won three races from 55 attempts before end May, Piccolo is zero from 40, Sleeping Indian 0/21 and Big Bad Bob’s progeny didn’t score in the early season from twenty attempts during the period of analysis.

Some sires pass down a liking for a certain type of going, but just as importantly some have clear patterns relating to the type of surface they struggle to handle.  For example, the offspring of Frozen Power, Montjeu, Rail Link, Singspiel, Stimulation, Zamindar and Swiss Spirit have exceptionally poor records on soft and heavy ground, whilst the juveniles sired by Norse Dancer and Pour Moi seem to find fast going a difficult proposition.

Whilst pointers such as these can be useful in the conventional race analysis process they are even more important when generating detailed forecasting models.  But for day-to-day bettors who are time limited, the best single piece of form available is possibly the market position of the juvenile on his/her debut run.  Given the plethora of data available nowadays this may seem to be almost irrelevant information, but to me it is critical and it is something I have relied on to shape my betting since the late 1980s. And fortunately it is just as important now as it was all those years ago. 

For example, taking the last few seasons as a guide, we see that juveniles that started as clear favourite for their first race would have returned a profit of 6p/£ if they had been backed on every subsequent run during the season.  In total this would have produced almost 1,700 bets.  Clearly this type of variable is time limited and as the career of the horse develops it does lose impact, as would be expected. 

Consequently, I limited my betting to the three runs after the debut race.  Whilst this reduces the number of bets, the profit increases to more than offset this loss.  In fact, looking at recent years the profit for these next three runs stands at 9p/£ from over 1,200 bets.  

If you want to be a little more selective then subsequent runs on the all weather could be omitted.  Although a high win rate is maintained for these horses (26%), the profit is significantly reduced probably because of the under-pricing that is associated with potentially top-class juveniles running in much lower grade races.

Historically there were clear classifications of “first track” which could be used to highlight the more profitable runners.  For instance, a debut favourite running at Newmarket was always worth following, but in recent years this has become more blurred probably due to the changes in the race programme.  Newmarket is no longer the best “first track” for this method.  Despite a high win rate, the 5p/£ profit is well under the 9p/£ average. 

Over the last few seasons, if the juvenile started his/her first run as favourite for an all-weather contest then the profit over the next three races, regardless of track, reached 47p/£ from over 200 bets.  By omitting subsequent runs on artificial surfaces increased this to 77p/£ from 150 bets.

So, if you choose to focus on two-year-old racing this Summer (something I strongly recommend for many reasons) then give the sire data a little consideration but don’t forget to check the market confidence of the horse on its first start.

Winning systems: Two-Year-Old Racing – A Few Pointers
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