David McCormack supplies a wealth of Ebor information
David Cormack looks at one of the season’s biggest handicaps
The Ebor Handicap is the centrepiece of York’s four-day August meeting and is invariably one of the toughest races of the year for punters to solve, as befits Europe’s most richly endowed handicap.
I’ve taken a look at the last 10 renewals of the race when run at York (I’ve excluded the Newbury running in 2008 so the analysis is for York renewals from 2007 to 2017) to try and identify patterns that may help to narrow down the field and help you highlight those horses running this year whose profiles most closely match those of the most recently successful.
Before going on I should point out that the sample size (10 races involving 188 horses) is far too small to derive any statistically meaningful conclusions and, even if it did, there is of course no guarantee that the future will resemble the past. But it is possible, I believe, to develop some ideas about what may have been the most influential factors and to examine angles that have proven profitable in the past with a view to understanding the nature of this particular race.
Let’s start then by looking at the betting market. In the table below (which I hope is largely self-explanatory) I’ve looked at five different price bands which yield a similar number of runners in each range. Areas which are marked in green or red are values that provide positive or negative encouragement (green or red respectively).
Backing those at the head of the market (starting price of <10/1) has been an unprofitable strategy. Although the 37 runners whose starting price fell within that range have yielded three winners the resultant 8.1% win probability is lower than the average expected probability suggested by the starting prices of this subset. However, with three winners, horses starting at less than 10/1 should not be completely ignored.
The 10/1 to 14/1 grouping have performed pretty well, also yielding three winners but, obviously, at better prices. In fact this group broke even, suggesting that runners in this price range are definitely worthy of scrutiny.
16/1 to 20/1 was not so good, yielding a loss of 20 pts (based on 1pt level stake on each runner).
The eye-catching group here is the horses that set off with an SP of between 22/1 and 33/1 inclusive. They yielded as many winners as the group containing the horses that started less than 10/1 with a winning probability of almost double that of their average market expectation. A healthy 41pts profit (betting to 1pt win level stakes) and a profit against turnover per-
centage of 91.1% indicate that this price range is one to take very seriously indeed.
The 24 horses starting at longer odds than 33/1 did not provide a single winner and only managed 3 places (I’ve used first four finish to denote a placed effort although it is likely that you’ll find a bookmaker offering place odds on the first five in the Ebor if you look around). However, given that there have been several winners at >20/1 I’d be reluctant to completely write off the possibility of a complete outsider popping up at some stage.
Plenty four year olds have been prominent in the market and two of them (Tiger Cliff and Purple Moon) have won but they are by some distance the most numerically represented group, accounting for almost 40% of the runners. Those two winners were both short prices and the overall profitability of the four year old group is poor. Putting a line through them would have taken plenty of fancied runners out of the equation for you and would have been a good strategy.
Five, six and seven year olds, conversely, have a strong record. Backing any of those ages blindly would have resulted in good profits. Together, they account for eight of the 10 winners and have yielded 58% profit on turnover. They are an age grouping to focus strongly on when making your selections.
10 horses aged eight and over have had a go and only one (the eight year old Arch Villain in 2017) has made the frame so they need treating with caution.
The three year olds are interesting. Four of them have run and three of those were trained by Aidan O’Brien, a trainer who can often have a surfeit of unexposed young stayers in his yard. All three of O’Brien’s three year olds have run well and two, Honolulu in 2007 and Changingoftheguard in 2009, finished second, both beaten narrowly. Going further back in time, he won it with a three year old, Mediterranean, in 2001 so if O’Brien did decide to send a three year old over to contest this notice should be taken.
The Ebor draw is always subject of great debate and stroking of chins.
Dividing the runners into four groupings shows that the prospects of those drawn five and lower have been stark. Not a single winner has emerged from the group of 50 runners drawn five and below.
Those drawn six to 10 inclusive have fared better due to Litigant’s 33/1 success from stall six in 2015 and Moyenne Corniche’s 25/1 triumph from the 10 stall in 2011. Those successes ensure a profitable outcome for this range.
The next subset, those drawn 11 to 15 inclusive, have been on a really hot streak. Those five stall positions have yielded seven of the 10 winners along with an extremely healthy profit from backing them blindly.
Things take a downturn again once
we get to the higher draws. Those drawn 16 and higher are slightly less well numerically represented than the other three groups but have only managed one winner, Dirar, at 14/1 from stall 20 in 2010.
The clear message is to concentrate on those drawn in the middle (stalls six to 15 inclusive).
42% of the runners carried between 9st and 9st 4lbs inclusive but this weight grouping provided no fewer than eight of the 10 winners and half of all the placed horses.
Alternately, carrying 9st 5lbs and higher seems to be enough to stop those higher in the handicap (plenty good, fancied runners among them). 63 have tried to carry those weights to victory and none have succeeded in achieving a win, or even a runners up slot, with four 3rd places and four 4th place finishes the best they could muster.
Those lower in the weights (<9st) have yielded a small profit courtesy of two winners, Sesenta in 2009 and Moyenne Corniche in 2011.
One feature of the past ten renewals has been the success enjoyed by claiming jockeys. Five of the last 10 winners have been ridden by claimers, four of whom claimed 5lbs with the other claiming 3lbs. Don’t ignore 7lb claimers either, they’ve ridden three placed horses from only five starts, including two runners up.
Backing the 28 runners who have been ridden by a claimer would have yielded an impressive 66.5pts profit along with that high strike rate so the clear message is to give such runners plenty attention when you are looking to narrow the field down.
RUNNING WITH A PENALTY
While those who have had some weight taken off their backs courtesy of a claimer have done well, the same is not true of those who have been burdened with a penalty (additional weight applied if a horse has won certain races after the original Ebor weights have been announced). 22 runners have carried a penalty and only one, Purple Moon, managed to defy the extra burden to win. They can be appealing to the market as that penalty usually implies good recent form and plenty have started in the top half dozen in the betting so they are a useful category to discount from calculations
Irish trainers are to be feared in the Ebor. From only 27 runners they’ve won four times. Not only that their runners have a 44% strike rate at getting into the frame, with 12 of the 27 placed in the first four and nearly 30% of them finishing either 1st or 2nd. Apart from the well backed Heartbreak City the Irish winners have all started at good double figure prices resulting in a very healthy profit from blindly backing every Irish visitor.
As stated at the outset, 10 races is a small sample to go on and there are no guarantees that the patterns in the future will be the same as those that have occurred in the past. There is a strong element of ‘back-fitting’ in the type of analysis I’ve conducted above but hopefully there is a logical explanation supporting the patterns seen in most of the variables explored and I think they are all worth at least bear-
ing in mind when completing your Ebor bet selection (s).
I would certainly be paying close attention to the draw and would be avoiding those in stalls one to five. I’d also be looking to tread warily with four-year-olds and would look outside that age group and would also swerve those aged eight and above.
Horses ridden by claimers are worthy of special note while avoiding horses running with a penalty has been a good strategy.
The weight range between and including 9st to 9st 4lb seems to be a sweet spot for this race while any more weight seems to be a difficult burden to overcome.
Horses can win from any price range and the market leaders do not have the race to themselves by any means. Don’t be put off if your selection appears to be unloved in the market and if you fancy a short one at a single figure price make sure that you are certain it has plenty going for it as they are generally unprofitable.
My suggestion would be to apply the following criteria (easy to apply from your paper or racecard within seconds)
Drawn 6 to 15 inc. Age 5 to 7 year olds inc. Weight 9st to 9st 4lb inc. Running without a penalty
This strategy would have involved backing just under two horses each year (total 18 bets) but would have yielded five winners for a substantial profit (at 1pt win level stakes) of 71.5 pts and a strike rate of just shy of 28%.
Three of the five in that group who were ridden by a claimer won as did two of the four Irish trained representatives so if you were looking to be even more selective only backing claimer ridden or Irish trained runners from our 27 would have reduced the number of bets to seven of which three would have been winners.
For the super-selective among you, only backing Irish trained AND claimer ridden from the 27 runners in our filtered list would have meant only three bets, all three of whom would have won.
We could hardly expect to sustain those type of returns over a longer period but I’d highly recommend having at least some of those strong stats onside for the 2018 renewal of York’s landmark handicap.
Oceane beats Nakeeta in the 2016 Ebor