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Runners or Riders? Making Money From Jockeys

(Last Updated On: August 15, 2016)

It isn’t unusual for a punter, especially a casual one, to make the mistake of backing a horse solely because there is a ‘big name’ jockey on board. While the likes of A. P. McCoy, Ruby Walsh and Frankie Dettori are unquestionably outstanding jockeys, they are not magicians. If they are riding a complete lemon, they are not going to wave a magic wand and turn a horse with poor stamina into Red Rum!

Bookies love it when top jockeys ride mediocre horses because this often gives them an easy payday. Very occasionally, a jockey on a red hot streak may gain an unlikely triumph and give you a mid to long odds win but such instances are rare.

If you’ve read any of the previous articles on RaceAdvisor, you’ll know that detailed statistical analysis is the name of the game. In this article, I will show you why backing big name jockeys without research is a mug’s game while looking at two top jockeys to find ways of making long-term profit.

The Folly of Backing Blindly

A.P McCoy is often regarded as the greatest National Hunt jockey of all time. He retired in 2015 after winning 20 consecutive champion jockey titles. He has won over 4,300 jump races and is miles ahead of his nearest rival. Yet if you backed him blindly since 2003, you would be down over 1,588 units with a ROI of -14.9%.

In fact, if you go through the statistics of numerous top jockeys (again all since 2003), you’ll find a similar pattern:

  • Ruby Walsh: -975 units & -12.06% ROI.
  • Richard Johnson: -1237.05 units and -10.59% ROI.
  • Frankie Dettori: -845 units & -14.12% ROI.
  • Luke Morris: -2906 units & -26.55% ROI.

I could go on and on with this list and the results will always look very bad for the punter. Obviously, the trick is to try and find the criteria that boost a jockey’s win rate.

For the purposes of this article, I will focus on Richard Johnson (#1 jump jockey in terms of wins so far in 2016) and Luke Morris (#1 Flat jockey in 2016).

Richard Johnson

As you can see above, backing all of Johnson’s mounts would result in a miserable ROI loss of over 10% despite his undoubted talent. What we need to do is discover the set of criteria that turns Johnson’s mounts into long term profit makers. As per usual, I’m focusing on statistics from 2012 onwards.

Courses

The obvious place to start is with courses so I checked out 5 courses to see how Johnson performed. For the record, here is his overall National Hunt record since 2012:

Bets WinsStrike RateP/LROI
413577718.79%-511.54-12.37%

 

It certainly shouldn’t be hard to improve on a 12.37% loss overall!

CourseBets WinsStrike RateP/L ROI
Bangor941920.21%13.7114.59%
Cheltenham2483514.11%-72.02-29.04%
Kempton1342216.42%-36.78-27.45%
Newbury 1392719.42%88.9163.96%
Stratford1784223.6%26.8215.07%

 

As you can see, his record at Cheltenham and Kempton is poor for the punter but he does extremely well at other tracks. One of the reasons for the low Cheltenham win rate is because over half of these races are ultra competitive Class 1 events.

While his highest win rate is at Stratford, his rides have returned a remarkably good profit at Newbury despite having a strike rate below his overall average. This obviously suggests a significant number of high priced winners. For the record, Johnson also turns a good profit at Sandown and Towcester.

Class

The above findings interested me so I wanted to see how Johnson fared from 2012-2016 in terms of race class.

ClassBets Wins Strike Rate P/LROI
14015212.97%-97.74-24.37%
23395415.93%-72.26-21.32%
379915719.65%109.7613.74%
4162633520.6%-235.3-14.47%
567911617.08%-173.69-25.58%
62786021.58%-49.92-17.96%

 

Backing all Johnson rides in Class 3 events since 2012 would yield a very nice 13.74% ROI. So in summary, your best course of action is to look at Johnson mounts in Class 3 events or in races at Bangor, Newbury, Sandown, Stratford and Towcester.

Luke Morris

The top flat jockey’s overall record from 2012-2016 looks like this:

Bets WinsStrike RateP/LROI
618281211.92%-1988.75-29.19%

 

The ROI loss of over 29% is very poor for the punter and is hardly a surprise given the strike rate of under 12%. Once again, we take a look at see if Morris has any preferred courses.

CourseBets WinsStrike RateP/L ROI
Bath1972814.21%-56.73-28.8%
Chelmsford City2613413.03%-113.14-43.35%
Goodwood11276.25%-36.75-32.81%
Haydock961313.54%10.0510.47%
Wolverhampton154121213.76%-333.22-21.62%

 

As you can see, his strike rate is very low across the board and you would only make profit from Haydock Park. The strike rate of under 14% suggests that Morris has managed to ride a few high priced winners.

I broke his rides down into distance and found that he has a much higher strike rate in races of 1m 3f+.

DistanceBets WinsStrike RateP/LROI
5f-10.5f555660410.87%-1805.99-32.51%
11f+125620816.56%-182.76-14.55%

 

Then I decided to see if Morris does better on horses of a certain age over races of 11f+

Horse AgeBetsWinsStrike RateP/LROI
3YO45910823.53%1.270.28%
4YO3194514.11%-86.03-26.97%
5YO173179.83%-80.17-46.34%
6YO+3053812.46%-17.83-5.85%

 

You only make a sliver of profit by looking at 3YO horses ridden by Luke Morris in races of 1m 3f or longer. However, if you go a little deeper on 3YO races and only bet on the favourites he rode, you’ll end up with an ROI of 4.9% which is reasonable.

Things get even better if you look at horses Morris rode that had an SP of 2.00 or lower. He wins almost 69% of the time for an ROI of 14.46%.

Conclusion

You’re probably wondering why I haven’t looked at the jockey/trainer relationship in this piece. That’s because I will be covering that crucial betting angle in a future article which will look at the possibility of making profit from trainers.

From the above you can see that relatively simple analysis can quickly narrow the field with regards to making profits with certain jockeys. In some cases, you’ll find that jockeys have preferred courses and failing that they perform well in specific Class events as we found with Richard Johnson. In the case of Luke Morris, it was necessary to go even deeper to find profitable criteria but I eventually did find something.

You can also look at jockey performances in Handicap and Non-Handicap events, Hurdles, Chases, Surface, Age Groups etc. The further you dig, the more likely you are to come up with gems.

However, the main take home point is that you shouldn’t back a horse you have grave doubts over just because a big name jockey is on board. Of course you should include the jockey when making a decision because they can obviously make a difference. However, they won’t transform a plodder into a superstar! Don’t be swayed by hype and always look at the evidence or else you’ll just be throwing your money away.

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.

2 Comments

    1. Hi Ronald,

      It does seem as if Johnson is Vaughan’s ‘go-to’ guy with the combination notching up almost 900 mounts in the last 5 seasons. However, the overall 115-774 record (stats courtesy of the RacingPost) would see you at a -251 point loss. In other words, you would need to do a lot of digging to find the best Vaughan/Johnson combinations.

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