Spadework - the Classic Handicap Chase....

Last Updated: 08.01.2019

Tuesday, 8th January 2019….

Spadework – the Classic Handicap Chase….

The stamina-taxing Classic Handicap Chase – run at Warwick on Saturday – generally attracts a good-sized field and has produced a few winners at decent prices over the last decade or so….

The race represents an obvious target for our contrarian betting purposes this weekend….

We will get to the specific picks on Friday. For now, it is strictly about the prep-work – the digging and the due diligence that might lead to the bet....

In the first instance, before I get into specifics, I want to know what kind of horse tends to do well in the race – which is where the historic statistical record comes into its own….

  • The stats as a starting point….

Ultimately, every bet I place is based on an assessment of individual horses....

Each horse is different. Each has its own unique quirks and characteristics. Each horse is in a specific time and place on the curve….

And each horse must be taken on a case-by-case basis within the context of the individual race, the conditions the race presents and the unique set of circumstances surrounding it....

The historic record is a useful and informative starting point – an initial route into a race. That’s how I use the stats – as a starting point. No more. No less....

The statistical record can tell you a great deal about the type of horse that tends to win a specific contest and why. It can point you to horses of interest that are worthy of further and more detailed investigation....

But there are limits to what the stats can achieve….

  • Know the limits....

The statistical record can tell you that younger horses have a far better record in a specific race than older horses. Or that horses that have met a specific form-based yardstick are traditionally of most interest....

But beyond that type of thing, the stats are silent....

They can’t tell you if an individual horse is fit. Or if it will go on the ground. Or that it isn’t suited to a specific track. Or that its yard is out of form. Or if it is opposed by something on insurmountable terms....

The stats act as a guide. They can offer clues and pointers on which you can base a deeper investigation into a specific horse....

They are a starting point – as opposed to an out-and-out selection tool....

Ultimately, wherever the stats point, you must come back to the individual horses. There is no getting away from that – unless you are happy to bet mechanically (and there’s nothing wrong with that if that’s the way you choose to play).

I don’t look at stats as some kind of winning formula – a case of A+B+C+D+E = winner. The game is a little more complex and idiosyncratic than that....

Instead, I approach the stats merely as another piece in the information puzzle – one that might lead to horses which are worth looking at more closely....

Earn a £20 free bet – the hard way....

Fancy a FREE £20 bet with Betfred?

You might try earning one by tackling a crazed knifeman in one of Fred Done’s many betting shops....

That’s what 69-year-old Neil Gilson did in Betfred’s Abbey Hulton shop in Stoke-on-Trent....

When a lunatic came into the shop and threatened staff with a knife, Gilson placed himself between the knifeman and the Betfred counter staff – eventually talking the offender into leaving the shop without attacking anybody....

His reward for putting his personal safety to one side, looking out for Betfred’s staff and de-fusing a potentially lethal situation?

Not a single word of thanks from the Betfred Head Office (at least until the story got out) and a £20 free bet courtesy of the individual shop....

A £20 free bet. For risking life and limb! And they say life is cheap....

Fred Done, rampant egomaniac and multi-billionaire, hang your head in shame....

  • Key statistical pointers….

Getting back to the specifics of the Classic Handicap Chase at Warwick....

The younger French-bred horses have a decent record in this race. And whilst what has happened before is no guarantee of what is going to happen in the future, it is something to be aware of....

The last 21 French-bred horses to go to post aged 9 or younger produced 3 wins and 3 places.... That’s a stat that very much supports the claims of Calett Mad, Ibis Du Rheu, Allysson Monterg and Ange Des Malberaux – all of whom still retain entries as of this morning....

All that said it is worth noting that there has only been a single actual winner of the race under the age of 8 since the 2005 renewal. A little experience in combination with some physical maturity is the preferred option....

Solid recent form has been a relatively significant component in the profile of previous winners coming into the race….

Nine of the last 12 winners had finished in the first 3 on their last completed start. Another – 2017 winner, One For Arthur – had finished 5th in a 22-runner Becher Chase....

All the previous 12 winners had posted Racing Post ratings of 132 or bigger in one or both of their last two completed starts….

Look for the last run on a track to have been produced at some point in the last six weeks. None of the last 12 winners had been absent from the track for longer than that....

Serial handicap chase winners don’t have the best record. If it comes down to a choice between a horse that has already shown plenty of his hand to the handicapper and one that hasn’t, go with the latter. Ten of the last 12 Classic winners had won no more than a single handicap over fences....

Ten of the last 12 winners had already won over a trip of at least 3-miles….           

Paul Nicholls has won three of the last 13 renewals of the race – from 11 runners. That’s an excellent record....

Alan King has been an effective player in this race with his last 12 runners producing 2 wins and 3 places – but he has nothing entered this time around....

As I said, these stats don’t represent a winning formula. But they will serve to highlight well-qualified horses worthy of additional investigation….

  • The track record….

Of the trainers still with horses entered in Saturday’s races, Dan Skelton is by far and away the man with best record over fences at the track over the last 3-years....

His 42 qualifying runners have produced 15 winners at 35.7%. Focus solely on the handicappers and you’re looking at figures that read 10 winners from 29 runners at 34.5% - producing a 5.9-point profit to level stakes. Skelton is a player....

Paul Nicholls is 6 from 23 at the track with chasers over the same period – just 1 from 12 with handicappers. Nigel Twiston-Davies is 11 from 56 overall and 8 from 49 in handicaps....

If you’re keeping an eye on the jockey bookings as they unfold over the net few days, there are a coupe of names worth looking out for....

No doubt Harry Skelton will be riding for brother. His figures over fences at the track over the last three years have certainly benefited from the relationship – he’s 14 from 133 at 42.4%. If you’d backed them all, you’d be 12.8 points to the good now....

Noel Fehily is a name to keep in mind. He rides the Warwick chase track well as performance figures of 8 winners from 27 rides at 29.6% since the start of 2015 attest to. Neil Mulholland (2-entered on Saturday) provided 3 of those winners....

The other rider I’d mention is Aidan Coleman. He’s 9 from 40 at 22.5% over the 3-year period. Jonjo O’Neill and Venetia Williams provided 5 of those winners between them. Neither has anything in Saturday’s race....

Oh, and Bryony Frost is worth a mention too. Only 5 rides over fences at Warwick – but she won on 3 of them (including the winner of this last year). She was claiming on each winner, but I certainly wouldn’t let that put me off her. Harry Cobden appears to be the intended rider of the one Paul Nicholls entry on Saturday. But it’s still early in the week and that could change....

The historic record is great at telling us what happened in the past. It doesn’t necessarily tell us for sure what will happen in the future. Nevertheless, it does produce potentially interesting lines of inquiry....

  • The last word….

One more thing....

The Classic Handicap Chase has been good hunting ground for contrarians in recent times....

Just one of the last 13 favourites won and the last two winners were returned at 12s, 14s and 20s with placers in behind at 25s, 14s (twice) and 16s....

We’ll be looking to capitalize on more of the same on Saturday....

That’s all from me for today. I’ll be back in your inbox tomorrow....

Until then. Stay tuned.

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd

P.S. It was business as usual last week – with the bookies coming out on top against the fav-backers. Get the lowdown in our Crowd Report column – onsite now....