Wednesday 2nd September 2020
We welcome back All-Weather specialist Dave Bellingham today. Dave is arguably the UK’s foremost analyst on All-Weather tracks, having worked for Raceform and the Racing Post from 1997 until 2018. He now writes his own blog Sandform and continues to develop the speed ratings that made his name and reputation.
Over to Dave…
Finding An Edge – why specific track form is vital in All-Weather racing by Dave Bellingham
When All-Weather (AW) racing started in this country back in 1989, it was suggested then that you wouldn’t be able to rely on turf form being replicated on artificial surfaces, which soon became obvious. However, I would also argue that you can’t rely on form being replicated between all-weather tracks with the same surface, let alone a different one.
Being right-handed, Kempton form may not work out at Lingfield, Chelmsford or Dundalk even though they are all Polytrack. Horses may enjoy Newcastle, but not show similar form at Wolverhampton despite also being a Tapeta surface, while Southwell Fibresand form is of limited value anywhere but back at Southwell. Some horses can produce their best at more than one track, but I would certainly give priority to form shown at the same venue first.
Chelmsford is a specialists’ track which does make things a bit easier as I always look to see if a horse has proven his or her worth at the Essex venue first. Not all punters appreciate this though, and if you can identify such individuals it can be profitable. Take three horses trained by Derek Shaw named Dynamo Walt, Loyalty and Welliesinthewater. Their records at Chelmsford are 7-41, 6-25 and 4-16 respectively which seems ok if not spectacular, but their level-stake profits to £10 are +£123.30, +£118.80 and +£213.30.
Why is this considering their strike-rates? Well looking at their records it seems to me that many punters don’t look closely enough at the circumstances under which they recently ran to see if there were mitigating circumstances. In other words, they may have run at a track (or on a surface) that doesn’t suit them and are now returning to one that does. This often means that these horses go off at longer prices than they should, hence the generous profits shown above. This sort of approach in identifying course-specialists is well worth looking into at all seven all-weather tracks in the British Isles, not just at Chelmsford.
As far as the track itself is concerned it does appear to be a disadvantage to stick to the inside rail in the home straight at this venue. Often the runners fan wide on turning in with the main action unfolding down the centre. In races from 5f to 1m a low draw and prominent early position are an advantage.
Another area worth exploring is how well, trainers, jockeys and sires fare at each track. Although the data for the first two groups is widely available it’s a bit more complex when it comes to sires, but it’s well worth the effort as certain sires have impressive strike-rates with their progeny on particular tracks. These are the top five sires at Chelmsford in the past five years based on percentage of winners to runners. A sire must have had their offspring run at least a total of 20 times at the track within the period in order to qualify.
At Dundalk there isn’t a major draw bias, but a prominent early pitch is an advantage over 5f to 1m while it’s tough for front-runners over 1m2f-plus. These are the sire stats.
Kempton has two tracks, the inner one for races over 5f and 1m2f and the outer for all other trips. There isn’t a draw bias over 5f, but early speed is key while from 6f to 1m a low draw and prominent early position are positives, and also over 1m3f where the first bend comes up quickly. It’s worth keeping an eye out for a track bias, as at some meetings switching to the inside rail after the cutaway at around the 2f pole can be an advantage, while at other meetings the opposite is true. Kempton is a specialists’ track with some horses clearly suited by going right-handed.
At Lingfield one place you don’t usually want to be is against the inside rail in the home straight, so the performance of any horse that either wins or goes close having taken that route can be marked up. Over 5f to 7f a prominent position is an advantage, but the only distance with a notable draw bias is 1m2f where a low berth is vital.
Newcastle has a straight mile on which there is no draw bias at any trip. Front-runners have a good record over 5f, but over 1m4f and 2m on the round track they have a hard time of it.
Southwell is the proverbial specialists’ track being the only Fibresand venue in the country. It used to be the kiss of death to stick to the inside rail in the straight, but I’m not sure that’s true nowadays. There is no draw bias, except over 5f where a low stall and early pace are an advantage. Sire statistics are particularly worthwhile here.
At Wolverhampton a low draw and prominent early position are an advantage over 5f and 6f, but it’s difficult for front-runners in races over 1m4f-plus.
Lookout for more from Dave and our team soon.
Publisher, Oxfordshire Press