There is something special about floodlit racing. Horses look even more majestic than usual when galloping along beneath the lights. Yes, it is normally cold and usually wet, and if you get too close to the rails, the kick-back off the Polytrack will fly up and smack you in the face; but it is still an experience that every racegoer should experience at least once (maybe not the flying man-made sand bit!).
Kempton Park is one racecourse that has become synonymous with floodlit racing. From January 15 to February 2, the course will hold five floodlit meetings, including three in a matter of days. As punters get ready to battle the bookies at night, I’m going to use this article to outline the history of this great course, and provide an insight into the trainers and jockeys that perform especially well at Kempton Park.
A Brief History of Kempton Park Racecourse
Kempton is a course with over 140 years of history. A businessman by the name of Samuel Hyde was enjoying a ride in a carriage in the countryside when he spotted Kempton Manor and Park. He immediately fell in love with the place and was delighted to find it was on sale in 1872. Initially, Hyde leased the area and had the idea to build a racecourse on the site. His ambition was fulfilled six years later as on 18 July 1878, Kempton held its first race.
The course’s stock rose in 1889 when the Prince of Wales paid a visit. This led to the creation of a Royal Box in just three weeks. In the first half of the 20th century, Kempton Park suffered damages from an array of sources. In 1932, a fire started and caused carnage as the Tattersalls bar, Member’s Stand, restaurant, and Grandstand were all scorched by the flames.
Kempton was used as a military vehicle depot during World War I, and racing was abandoned. During World War II, the site held POWs and once again, there was no racing. A major renovation project was deemed necessary after WWII, and by 1947, Kempton was ready to operate once more.
In 1997, more redevelopment work was completed on the Grandstand, and in May 2005, Kempton was closed to enable the construction of an all-weather course. It took 11 months, but now, Kempton is a fantastic AW track and allows fans of the sport to witness high-class racing all year round.
The course also hosts National Hunt and Flat racing. The biggest races of the year at Kempton include the King George VI Chase and the Grade 1 Feltham Novices’ Chase; both races take place on Boxing Day.
It was recently announced that Kempton Park could close in 2021 to make way for a new housing development. It is likely to happen because the money raised would be reinvested in racing, and it would be another victim of the UK housing boom which has claimed courses such as Alexandra Park and Castle Irwell in the past.
Which Trainers & Jockeys Love Kempton?
When news of Kempton’s possible closure was made public, the likes of Nicky Henderson said that racing couldn’t afford to lose Kempton. It is clear that it is a much-loved venue, but which trainers and jockeys are good for our bank balance there? As usual, I am looking at data from the beginning of 2014. Kempton hosts A/W and National Hunt racing so I will look at both.
Best Kempton Trainers
Of all the All-Weather trainers, John Gosden is one of the very few who offer a decent win rate, plenty of runners and a profit. His win rate of almost 25% is excellent, and the A/E is 1.00. Overall profit is 16%, but that includes losses in 2014 and 2017 (just 0.52% to be fair).
Trainers such as Ralph Beckett and Keith Dalgleish are also profitable since 2014, but with low strike rates, long losing streaks are inevitable.
As for trainers worth avoiding at Kempton’s All-Weather track, take your pick! Sir Michael Stoute has won just 15% of his races and backing all of his runners would cost you to the tune of 34%. Marco Botti is little better with a win rate of 9.39% and losses of 27% if you backed all of his runners.
Other trainers to avoid include Sir Mark Prescott, Richard Hannon Jr., and Ian Williams among many others.
Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls have decent strike rates at Kempton, but their horses are usually overbet which means you don’t get value, and won’t earn a long-term profit by backing all their entries.
Nicholls is a little more effective in Chase races with 24 wins from 94 entries for a win rate of 25.53%. The profit is 12.6% although there were losses in 2014 and also in 2016 when Nicholls had zero wins from 19 races. 2018 was an excellent year for him in Chase races at Kempton with 9 wins from 23 races and a Betfair profit of 90%.
Chris Gordon is another NH trainer who likes Kempton. Since 2014, he has won 13 of his 69 races, and with an A/E of 1.41, it is not a surprise that backing all of his runners would have yielded a Betfair profit of 111%. Aside from a poor 2017, Gordon’s horses would have you in profit to the tune of at least 35% in the other four years.
Alan King has won just 13.66% of his races at Kempton and following his horses since 2014 would result in a loss of over 40%. Other trainers with poor records at this track include Daniel Skelton, Jonjo O’Neill, Gary Moore, and Philip Hobbs.
Best Kempton Jockeys
William Buick and James Doyle have the highest winning percentages at Kempton in A/W races since 2014 with 26% and 25% respectively. However, following both in all races would have resulted in heavy losses.
The same cannot be said for Andrea Atzeni who has won 53 of his 236 rides for a win rate of 22%. Had you backed them all, your Betfair Exchange profit would be 37%. There were losses in 2015 and 2017 however.
Richard Kingscote is another jockey with a stellar A/W record. Although he has only won 15% of his 294 rides, backing them all would have resulted in an Exchange profit of 73%. On the downside, 2018 was a year of heavy losses (41%) although it is the only bad year of the five.
As for jockeys to avoid, Adam Kirby and Jim Crowley spring to mind. Kirby has won just 13.58% of his 773 races, and with an A/E of just 0.78, your losses would be huge at 21%. Crowley’s strike rate is even worse at just 13.21%. Backing his 704 rides would have resulted in a loss of 19%.
Barry Geraghty and Nico De Boinville perform well at Kempton. Geraghty has won 30% of his 107 races for a profit of 21% and only one losing year in five. De Boinville has won 29% of his 103 rides for a profit of 14% although he has had two losing years in the last five.
Tom Cannon has a lower strike rate at 18% but following his horses would have yielded a profit of 127%; primarily due to an incredible A/E of 1.75. However, most of Cannon’s profitability came in 2014, 2015 and 2016 when he managed an ROI of 200% in all three years.
Sam Twiston-Davies is a big name and even though his strike rate at Kempton is 18%, following his rides would have resulted in a loss of over 31%. Noel Fehily and Wayne Hutchinson are also best avoided with losses of 31% and 20% respectively.
Final Thoughts on Kempton Park
It would be a terrible shame is Kempton Park was to join the growing list of UK racecourses to bite the dust. It is a favourite track for many racegoers and plays host to some of the most important races on the calendar. However, there is a real danger that it will close in 2021.
If you decide to go to Kempton, either during the day or to experience the magic of floodlit racing, take note of the jockeys and trainers mentioned above. For All-Weather races, John Gosden is a trainer to note, while Andrea Atzeni and Richard Kingscote are potentially profitable jockeys.
As for National Hunt racing, Chris Gordon is worth a look, as is Paul Nicholls in Chase races. Nico De Boinville, Barry Geraghty, and Tom Cannon have excellent Kempton records as jockeys.