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Claiming Jockeys – Does the Weight Off a Make a Difference?

There are an estimated 750 jockeys in the United Kingdom. You may be surprised to learn that approximately 300 of them are amateurs while the other 450 are professionals. At the start of their career, all professionals are licensed as either Conditional (National Hunt) or Apprentice (Flat and All-Weather racing) jockeys. 

Initially, inexperienced jockeys receive a helping hand in the form of a weight allowance or a ‘claim.’ Apprentice jockeys must be between the ages of 16 and 25 while Conditional jockeys have a maximum age of 26. When both types of jockey begin their respective careers, they receive an initial 7-pound allowance to compensate for their lack of experience. Conditional jockeys can claim an extra three pounds in certain races when they have ridden four or fewer winners.

Once a Conditional or Apprentice jockey reaches 20 wins, their claim falls to five pounds. A Conditional jockey’s claim falls to three pounds when they win 40 races; it is 50 races for Apprentices. Once a Conditional jockey reaches the 75-win mark, he loses his claim. For an Apprentice, this doesn’t happen until they have 95 wins. Both types of jockey also lose their claims once they reach the maximum age. Six months after they ride out their claim, they have to apply for a professional license.

It is an interesting scenario which leads me to wonder, is it possible to make a profit from these inexperienced jockeys, or is it a waste of time and money to focus on these ‘green’ riders? Let’s find out.

Conditional Jockeys

At the time of writing, James Bowen was miles ahead in the Stobart Conditional Jockeys Championship 2018/19 with 35 wins. No one else has more than 11 wins this season. Of the top 10 jockeys, only three would provide you with a positive ROI. Moreover, only two of the Conditionals have a strike rate of 20% or more. 

A low strike rate is expected from inexperienced jockeys which means you can find some winners at nice prices. This is clearly the case with Dale Irving who has won just 7% of his races this season but still provides an ROI of 72%. I am going to take a look at the overall ROI for Conditional Jockeys, dividing the table into 3, 5 and 7-pound allowances. All data is from the beginning of January 2014.

Claim Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF)
3-Pounds  17192 1816 10.56% -10.65%
5-Pounds 14071 1357 9.64% -12.57%
7-Pounds 16522 1502 9.09% -12.25%

The results are dreadful across the board. Even worse is the fact that you make less than 1% profit by laying on Betfair. Conditional jockeys with a 3-pound allowance perform especially badly in non-handicap races with a loss of over 23%. At least in this instance, you will make a profit of 15.65% by laying all of their entries. What’s more important is the fact that you would have earned at least a 5% profit in each of the last five years. You have to go back to 2010 to see a loss. 

Apprentice Jockeys

The top 10 Apprentice jockey list for 2018/19 makes even worse reading for punters. Jason Watson leads the way with 56 wins at the time of writing but backing him every time would lead to a substantial loss. In fact, only Poppy Bridgwater offers a slight profit with a 20%-win rate so far this season. 

To analyse Apprentice performance, I once again divided data into 3, 5 and 7-pounds allowances. On this occasion, I also elected to provide separate Flat and All-Weather tables. Once again, all statistics come from January 2014 onward.

Flat

Claim Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF)
3-Pounds  16043 1585 9.88% -8.63%
5-Pounds 13507 1328 9.83% -5.78%
7-Pounds 8454 698 8.26% -10.13%

All-Weather

Claim Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF)
3-Pounds  9878 882 8.93% -2.9%
5-Pounds 8134 763 9.38% -8.67%
7-Pounds 6828 554 8.11% -9.96%

As you can see, there isn’t a single instance where the win rate touches 10%. All-Weather Apprentices with a 3-pound allowance are by far the most interesting, but when you focus on handicap races only, your loss increases to over 14%.

This obviously means they perform well in non-handicap races as you can see here:

Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF)
2061 181 8.78% 40.19%

That is quite a difference from everything else we have seen so far. The strike rate is still very low, but a 40% profit is not to be sneezed at! In the last five years, 2017 is the only time where you would experience a loss, but it is a big one at 39%. In 2018 so far, almost 13% of Apprentices with 3-pound allowances have won All-Weather races for a profit of almost 125%!

You won’t be surprised to learn that lower grade races offer the best opportunity. When you focus on Class 6 events only, the profit increases to 67%, but there have been heavy losses in the last two years. In contrast, the 29% profit on Class 5 AW races has also seen a profit of 120% so far this year. 

Final Thoughts on Claiming Allowances

It is clear that Conditional and Apprentice jockeys have an extremely low strike rate. As an overall strategy, backing horses based on claiming allowances is NOT a profitable one. You can make money by laying Conditional jockeys with 3-pound allowances in non-handicap races. However, the most interesting option is to look at Apprentice jockeys with 3-pound allowances in All-Weather races, with a focus on Class 5 and Class 6 races.

As always, I have to urge common sense and make sure you analyse the chance of the horse! For example, when I was writing this article, I checked to see if there were any 3-pound claims in All-Weather Class 5 races. I found one in a race, but the horse was the 200/1 rank outsider with no hope of winning. In another race, I found a horse at 10/1 with a decent chance of success (but it didn’t win). Since claiming jockeys often come with horses at decent prices, there could be some mileage in this tactic but tread carefully.

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Patrick Lynch

Patrick graduated from the National University of Ireland, Galway with an MA in Literature and Publishing but decided he would rather have the freedom of a freelance writer than be stuck in a publishing house all day. He has enjoyed this freedom since 2009 and has written thousands of articles on a variety of topics but sports betting is his passion. While his specialty is finding mismatches in obscure football leagues, he also likes to use his research skills to provide punters with detailed winning strategies in horse racing. You can check out his personal blog on www.lynchthewriter.com or Twitter @pl1982 where he writes content to help small businesses achieve success.

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One Comment

  1. Many years ago there was a system based on backing claiming jockeys in handicaps at tote odds which threw up huge profits due to the discrepancy between Tote and SP prices. This stopped working due to the narrowing of the odds and certain trainers retiring! You do find streaks of winners for claiming jockeys from a few yards but they dry up very quickly, presumably once the horses are re-handicapped up to their ‘correct’ marks.

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