Betting Knowledge

Spotting Hot Trainers

Although it isn’t the single most important aspect of profitable betting, there’s no question that some trainers are far better than others from our perspective. A ‘successful’ trainer is not always a good one to back. For example, Mark Johnston has earned over £14.7 million in prize money in Flat & All-Weather racing since January 2013.

In the same period, backing his horses at level stakes would give you a win rate of 15.05%, an ROI loss of 7.3% of Betfair and a painful loss of 504 points. In other words, backing all his mounts at £10 level stake would leave you £5,040 poorer and looking for a new place to live!

You might think that Charlie Appleby would fare better for your bank balance with a 21.92% win rate over Flat and AW since January 2013. After all, he has earned over £8.7 million in prize money. You would be wrong! He gives you a 0.5% loss (11% to SP prices), but at least you would only lose 11 units.

Are Trainers Creatures of Habit?

Obviously, only an idiot would back all of Appleby’s 2,200+ rides since January 2013, and profitable bettors know there are patterns and trends worth finding with all aspects of horse racing, including trainers.

You could argue that it isn’t so much about trainers being in ‘form’ as it about the horses that are in form. Top quality trainers know that when they run an in-form horse under the right conditions, it will perform well most of the time. Remember, no one knows more about a horse’s condition than its trainer. They know what their charges are capable of and when to enter them in a race where they are capable of beating the other runners.

If you find a trend where Trainer X has a 40% strike rate, it makes sense to back the next entry they have that fits the criteria regardless of whether the trainer is on a 30 run losing streak.

I was perusing The Racing Forum when I saw one poster discuss the propensity for certain trainers to perform well at certain times of the year. In 2016, John Gosden had an excellent Royal Ascot meeting but his 21% strike rate for the year dropped to 7% within a few months. As the Newmarket meeting in July approached, Gosden ‘suddenly’ started getting winners and his strike rate rose to 27.5% at one point.

It goes without saying then, that when a trainer has a strike rate of 20%+ for five years but is on a spell where he/she is winning less than 10% of the time, they are worth watching because a return to ‘form’ is inevitable.

A Caveat

Before you focus solely on a trainer’s recent win percentage, bear in mind that media pundits could impact a trainer’s entry by highlighting a trainer’s recent winning or losing streak. At the time of writing, the talented young trainer Harry Fry was on an excellent run with a 41% win rate in the last 14 days. However, his season win rate is just under 25% (still very good), so it’s clear that he will eventually hit the skids for a while. For now, however, there’s a danger that his entries could be overbet and underpriced.

On the flipside, Alan King is enduring a wretched run with just 3 wins from 36 (8.33% win rate) over the last 14 days (at the time of writing, the stats will have changed by the time this is published). However, his season rate is 20.68%, and his five-year win rate is over 18%. Clearly, he will go on a decent winning run at some point in the near future; whether you’ll get value for these selections is another matter entirely!

*** Then there is the situation where trainers load several horses in a race which can skew the statistics so bear that in mind!

The above is an extreme example at the 2016 Weatherbys Super Sprint where 7 of the 25 entries came from Richard Fahey! To make matters worse, he didn’t win!

Hot & Cold? Timing is Everything

Although you get the occasional Flat and NH race during the off-season, there are clearly defined ‘seasons,’ and it is worth checking out trainers at the beginning to see if they are looking to get a jump on the competition.

For example, the Flat season officially begins on April 1, and certain trainers like racking up the winners at the start. Here are three profitable Flat trainers in April (2013-2017):

Trainer Bets  Wins  Strike Rate ROI (BF)
Richard Fahey 554 96 17.33% 17%
John Gosden 227 59 25.99% 28.43%
David O’Meara 289 46 15.92% 18.05%

All three trainers have provided profit in four of the last five years. If you combine the three, you would have a profit of almost 20% and profit of at worst almost 5% in the poorest performing year (2016).

For the record, here is their win rate in the 2017 Flat Season:

  • Fahey: 11.36%
  • Gosden: 20.66%
  • O’Meara: 10.04%

Only Gosden performs relatively well overall, but all three have a win percentage of at least six points higher in April than overall. These particular trainers love getting off to a flyer.

How do the same three trainers perform in May?

Trainer Bets  Wins  Strike Rate ROI (BF)
Richard Fahey 968 118 12.19% -11.54%
John Gosden 349 60 17.19% 8.6%
David O’Meara 592 78 13.18% 14.74%

Gosden performs well, but that is mainly based on an excellent 2014 with a 51% profit. Two of the last three years have been a loss. O’Meara’s stats also look good, but that’s only because of a 71% profit in 2017.

The National Hunt season begins in earnest in November so let’s look at some trainers who perform well at the start (since 2013):

Trainer Bets  Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF)
Harry Fry 174 50 28.74% 11.53%
Philip Hobbs 376 78 20.74% 57.32%
Venetia Williams 317 56 17.67% 23.39%

We shouldn’t be surprised that Fry is on a hot streak because November is usually an excellent month. He is very consistent with four profitable years in the last five. Hobbs does well with three good years in five, but the profit is swelled by a remarkably good 2017.

Williams is faring poorly in 2017 which is a surprise since she would have earned close to 20% profit at worst in each of the previous four Novembers.

Trainer Bets  Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF)
Harry Fry 106 27 25.47% 2.15%
Philip Hobbs 288 60 20.83% 46.4%
Venetia Williams 266 43 16.17% -3.78%

Fry does okay on paper but is very hot and cold in December with two profitable years and two where punters suffer a loss. His strike rate is still very good, so perhaps his horses get overbacked in December after his usual November hot streak? Hobbs performs well with three profitable years in the last four and is an even better option than in November in terms of consistency.

Williams does perform well in December, but maybe a poor November (for once) will be the catalyst for a better December in 2017? We will have to wait and see.

Final Thoughts

By now it should be clear that trainers have very different ways of operating. While one Flat trainer may excel in April, another may take a few months to get into their stride. Not all trainers have a favoured month, but as you can see from the data above, some most certainly do!

Common sense dictates that trainers with inflated win rates over a relatively short period will come crashing down to earth sooner or later. Some focus on specific periods such as the lead up to a major festival like Cheltenham or Ascot. After fulfilling their goal, they give their lesser fancied horses a run. After all, not every horse in a stable is a winner!

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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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