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Horse Running Style In National Hunt Racing

Most horses tend to exhibit a preference for a certain style of running.

You may for example have heard of horses being referred to as front runners or hold up horses.

Traditionally such thinking is applied more so to flat racing than National Hunt Racing. A classic good bet for example might be a front runner or a horse with proven early pace in a good draw at a highly biased sprint track where the bias is due to a tight bend. ie the horse has the early pace ability to maximise its draw advantage.

Such thinking of pace or running style is not often considered on National Hunt horses however.

Horse Racing Researcher Dave Renham from Racing Trends has put his nose to the grindstone and carried out some research.

Findings may surprise many.


Pace / Running Styles in National Hunt Racing

Over the past year or two I have explored pace and running styles in much greater depth than I used to. The reason for this is simple – I believe this is an area where hard work and research can still gain you a betting edge over the majority of punters. Let me explain this in more detail:

For this piece I am going to split all the winners of the races studied into three distinct categories – horses that ran from the front early on in the race (front runners); horses that ran close to the pace early in the race (prominent runners); and horses that raced in midfield or at the back early in the race (hold up horses). Essentially, the position a horse takes up early in the race, tends to remain virtually the same for a good proportion of that race. For example, if a horse takes up a prominent position just behind the pace in the first two furlongs of say a 1m2f race, there is a strong chance that the horse will still be in a very similar position after 6-7f. In contrast, you don’t often see a horse lead for 2 furlongs, then drop back to the middle of the pack for 2 furlongs, then race just off the pace for 2 furlongs, then drop back to the middle again, etc, etc. Hence from a research point of view, the fact that a horses’ running style tends to stay consistent for around 75% of the race makes life much easier.

Taking the year 2008 as an example there were just over 6000 races on the flat in this country – the winning splits for the three pace categories were as follows:

Front runners won 20.2% of all races;

Prominent runners won 45% of all races;

Hold up horses won 34.8% of all races.

At first glance, one might be thinking therefore that prominent runners have an advantage. Well they have won more races than every other group right? However, to give more meaning to these figures we need to know what percentage of all the runners were a) front runners; b) prominent runners and c) hold up horses. Here are the percentages:

Front runners accounted for 11% of all runners;

Prominent runners accounted for 39.4% of all runners;

Hold up horses accounted for 49.6% of all runners.

These figures now reveal a powerful statistic – that front runners win nearly twice as many races as they statistically should do. In this particular year, they won 20.2% of all races having provided just 11% of all the total runners. Being more precise, they have won 1.84 times more often than their expected probability – their expected probability being 11%. Hence, taking a very general view, the best value in flat racing in terms of running styles/pace clearly lies with front runners. I could have chosen any year in the last 10 and you would have seen similar results.

Conversely, although hold up horses win nearly 35% of all races, they provide roughly 50% of the total runners. Hence, once again taking a very general view, hold up horses are clearly poor value from a pace/running styles perspective.

When looking in much greater depth at these ideas, one will find that an even greater edge can be found when looking at certain distances, and also at certain courses. All of my research, and hence all of my articles for that matter, have looked at this in flat racing only. However, the main focus for this article is pace/running styles in National hunt racing so let me move onto National Hunt racing.

Let us take the year 2008 again as my example, and as before, let me split all the winners of the races studied into the three distinct categories – front runners; prominent runners; hold up horses. In 2008 there were 3368 National hunt races in this country – the winning splits for the three pace categories were as follows:

Front runners won 17% of all races;

Prominent runners won 45.7% of all races;

Hold up horses won 37.3% of all races.

As before, we need to know what percentage of all the runners were a) front runners; b) prominent runners and c) hold up horses. Here are the percentages:

Front runners accounted for 10.2% of all runners;

Prominent runners accounted for 38% of all runners;

Hold up horses accounted for 51.8% of all runners.

Once again we can see that front runners seem to be the best value – there advantage may not be a strong as it is on the flat but essentially front runners in National hunt racing win 1.67 times more often than they statistically should. In addition, as with their flat counterparts, hold up horses perform relatively poorly when judged from this pace perspective.

For me, these figures open up a new world of possibilities in terms of my National hunt betting. Up to now, as I have already intimated, 99.9% of my pace research has been on the flat. However, although the ‘edge’ looks less strong in National hunt racing, it still looks a strong enough edge to research in considerable depth. Indeed, for the record, if you had managed to predict the front runner in every National hunt race of 2008, you would have made a profit of £35,000 to £100 level stakes to SP. Of course, this would have been impossible, unless you are Mystic Meg … lol, but what if you had bet ‘in running’ on every front runner, placing your bet within the first 10 seconds of each race? My educated guess is that you probably would still have made a profit and my reasoning is thus: although front runners often shorten in price at the beginning of a race, this contraction is offset by the fact that the Betfair price at the off is likely to be 10 to 25% bigger than the eventual SP. Hence even if the price contracts 10 to 25% in the first ten seconds, then you are still effectively getting SP, or near as damn it, on the horse in question. I appreciate that there is commission to be taken into account, and that the contraction in price for each horse will vary in percentage terms, but hopefully you see my point.

Dave Renham


Dave Renham is a leading researcher into uk horse racing.

His RacingTrends service attracts thinking punters who can see the benefit of knowing more about horse racing cold hard facts and figures than the general crowds populating the betting Exchanges.

Saturday Racing Analysis from RacingTrends

Main Account Bets – Haajes (4.45 Ling) – take 6/1 (Corals, Sky bet, sporting bet) WIN

Firstly some 15 year trends for three of the big races today:

1.05 Ascot Reynoldstown Chase


Favourites: There have been 9 winning favourites from 15 and backing all selections would have produced a profit of £8.48 (ROI +56.5%).
Market: There were 4 winning second favourites, so 13 of the 15 came from the top 2 in the market.
Course LTO: Horses that raced at either Kempton, Wetherby or Exeter last time out have an excellent combined record with 9 wins from just 19 qualifiers. Backing all qualifiers would have yielded a profit of £11.68 (ROI +61.5%). Indeed, if you focus on last time winners at those courses the record improves to 8 wins from just 15 qualifiers for a profit of £12.68 (ROI +90.6%).
Price: Horses priced 7/2 or shorter have produced 13 of the 15 winners.
LTO winners: 14 of the last 15 winners won last time out.
Career wins: Horses with 4 or more career wins produced 11 of the last 15 winners.
Racing Post Ratings: The top rated horses fromRacing Post ratings (formerly Postmark) has found the winner on 7 occasions.


Price: Horses priced 10/1 or bigger have produced 0 wins from 32 qualifiers.
Position LTO: Horses that finished 4th or worse LTO have produced 0 winners from 20.


Age: 5 year olds have produced 1 winner from 2 qualifiers (SR 50.0%); 6 year olds

have produced 4 winners from 15 qualifiers (SR 26.7%); 7 year olds have produced

8 winners from 38 qualifiers (SR 21.1%); 8 year olds plus have produced 2 winners

from 37 qualifiers (SR 5.4%).

Trends analysis: the Reynoldstown offers trends followers some very strong positive pointers. 13 of the last 15 winners have been one of the top two in the betting market so this is a definite starting point with preference to favourites who have an outstanding record. From there look for last time out winners, although it is likely that the top two in the market would have won LTO. Horses that raced at either Kempton, Wetherby or Exeter last time out would be the next port of call considering their excellent record. Finally, it should be noted that the last 28 horses aged 8 or older have lost, so it is best to concentrate on younger horses (7yo or younger with slight preference to 5 and 6yos).

Conclusion – Breedsbreeze the favourite at a best priced 5/4 looks a solid trends horse.

2.55 Haydock Rendlesham Hurdle


Days since last run: Horses that return to the track within 2 weeks have a good record with 5 wins from 23 qualifiers. The winners included all 3 horses that won the race at 10/1 or bigger (10/1, 12/1, 100/1).
Race type LTO: Horses that ran in a handicap last time out won 7 races, and last time out winners from handicaps have won 3 from 10.
Price: 10 of the last 15 winners were priced 4/1 or bigger last time out.
French breds: 5 of the last 7 winners have been French bred.


Course LTO: Horses that raced at Cheltenham last time out have a surprisingly poor record with 1 win from 17 for a loss of £13.50 (ROI -79.4%).


Favourites (inc. joints): There have been 6 winning favourites (including joints)

from 16 qualifiers showing a loss of £1.87 (ROI -9.8%).

Market: The top 3 in the betting provided 10 of the last 15 winners.
Price: Horses priced 16/1 or bigger have won just 1 from 23, but the price of the

winner was 100/1.

Class LTO: 7 of the 15 winners raced in a lower class LTO. 8 of the 15 winners raced

in a higher or the same class LTO.

Age: 5 year olds have produced 1 winners from 8 qualifiers (SR 12.5%); 6 year olds have produced 3 winners from 18 qualifiers (SR 16.7%); 7 year olds have produced 3 winners from 17 qualifiers (SR 17.6%); 8 year olds have won 4 from 24 qualifiers (16.7%); 9 years olds plus have produced 4 winners from 29 qualifiers (SR 13.9%).

Trends analysis: the market has been a fairly good guide to this race over recent years with favourites winning 5 of the last 9 races. However, any horse returning to the track within 2 weeks is worth close scrutiny, and with 3 fairly decent priced winners from this stat, this is where some value may be found.Horses that ran in a handicap last time have a better record than one would think and the handful who won that handicap LTO have definitely been worth noting. Horses that were 4/1 or bigger last time out have provided 66.7% of the winners – statistically this figure is normally only 40% in this grade type/grade so this is a stat worth checking out. French breds have a good recent record and any such runner demands respect. In terms of age there are no clear patterns.

Conclusion – nothing really stands out trends wise and from a form perspective the race does look at match between the top 2 in the market.

2.40 Wincanton – Kingwell Hurdle


Course LTO: Horses that ran at Sandown last time out have a good record with 5 wins from 23 qualifiers. Backing all runners would have produced a small profit of £2.13 (ROI +9.3%).
Age: 6 year olds have a good record with 7 wins from 29 qualifiers including 4 of the last 5 winners of this race. 7 years old have a fairly good record also with 4 wins from 23.
Racing Post: Racing Post Ratings (old Postmark) have had their top rated horse win 6 times out of the last 11 races. Topspeed in the Racing Post has an even better recent record with 7 wins from the last 11 top rated horses.
Recent win: 11 of the last 15 winners won at least once in their last three races.
Position LTO: 9 of the last 15 winners won or finished 2nd LTO. They have provided 60% of the winners from 38% of the total runners.


Favourites: Only 1 out of 7 “odds against” favourites has won (Inglis Drever at 11/10 in 2005).
Age: Horses aged 8 or older have produced just 1 winner from 28 for a loss of £11.00 (ROI -39.3%).
Price: Horses priced 20/1 or bigger have provided 0 winners from 29.
Headgear: Horses wearing blinkers or visors, or horses that have worn them at some stage in their career have produced 0 winners from 19.
Beaten favourites: Beaten favourites last time out have a poor record with just 1 win from 10.


Favourites: There have been 7 winning favourites from 15, but a loss would have been made backing all of them to the tune of £2.57 (ROI -17.1%).

Trends analysis: from the positive stats perspective, preference should be for 6yos, then 7yos. Also monitor closely the selections of Racing Post Ratings and Topspeed. When they have agreed on the top rated selection they have provided 5 winners from just 9 runners. A recent win is a plus (last three starts), while it is best to ignore any runner that is or has done in the past worn blinkers or a visor.

Conclusion – not a particularly strong trends race but Whiteoak looks to fit the trends best.Having said that it looks a tough ask after a long break on not ideal ground.

Other races

1.55 Haydock – good competitive contest this.

Miko De Beauchene – Did well last season, following up Welsh National success with win in this race from a 8lblower mark. Could go well at decent odds on ground he handles.

Opera Mundi – Has a mixed record, but on soft / heavy it reads: 21112163. Solid chance.
Mon Mome – Back to his best this season when winning at Cheltenham in December. Seemed to have put last season which was poor behind him. Excuses in Welsh National next time (race probably came too quick); handles ground and a player. Record on soft/heavy reads 2U3612114224382.
Cornish Sett – in good form last 2 starts including runner-up in Welsh National from this handicap mark.

Nenuphar Collonges – record on soft/heavy reads 61212217. Should go well with a good round of jumping.

Rambling Minster – Won for eighth time in career at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day. Up in the weights in a stronger race is the concern.

CharacterBuilding – decent chance on best form. Cheekpieces may help; McCoy will help more.

Eric’s Chram – Front-runner who has fair form but his jumping can be sloppy and that will be a problem.
Glasker Mill – slight concern about the trip but should not be dismissed.
Sherwoods Folly – fifth in Welsh National last time and should be on the premises if able to reproduce that sort of effort here.
Beat The Boys – won 4 times as a novice last year. Form of the yard still a bit suspect so passed over.
D’Argent – stable second string but trip will suit.
Nadover – potentially well weighted and goes on heavy. Soft/heavy record reads:

5421113P713737. Not out of it.
CarnivalTown – handicap mark looks a bit harsh at present.
L’Aventure – quirky type who I’d always rather be against than for.

Conclusion – very open race. My two against the field would be Mon Mome and Opera Mundi.

Onto the all weather:

3.30 Kempton – Wotashirtfull is around even money in this 3 runner sprint. He should win.

3.35 Lingfield – Majuro looks the value option here in an open little affair.

4.05 Kempton – Millfield and Tous Les Deux head the market and these definitely look the two most likely winners. Tous Les Deux would just get my vote.

4.10 Lingfield – Quick Single at around 5/1 may be a bit of value in this maiden.

4.45 Lingfield – Haajes looks overpriced in this good sprint. He is nearer a 4/1 chance on my tissue and so at 6/1 he rates as a bet.