Spadework - this weekend's Classic Handicap Chase....

Last Updated: 06.01.2020

Monday, 6th January 2020….

Spadework - this weekend’s 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, at this early stage of the week, 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 a 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....

  • 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 23 French-bred horses to go to post aged 9 or younger produced 3 wins and 4 places....

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….

Ten of the last 13 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 13 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 13 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. Eleven of the last 13 Classic winners had won no more than a single handicap over fences....

Ten of the last 13 winners had already won over a trip of at least 3-miles….         

Paul Nicholls has won three of the last 14 renewals of the race – from 12 runners. That’s an excellent record....

Alan King has been an effective player in this race too with his last 12 runners producing 2 wins and 3 places....

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….

It’s early in the week and there are no entries posted for Saturday’s race at this stage. But when they come, certain players are worth looking out for....

Dan Skelton, for example. He’s the trainer with by far and away the best record over fences at the track over the last 4-years....

His 53 qualifying runners have produced 16 winners at 30.2%. Focus solely on the handicappers and you’re looking at figures that read 10 winners from 37 runners at 27%. Skelton is a player....

Paul Nicholls is 4 from 22 at the track with chasers over the same period – but o from 11 with handicappers....

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 4 years have certainly benefited from the relationship – he’s 15 from 47 at 31.9%....

The other rider I’d mention is Aidan Coleman. He’s 7 from 39 at 17.9% over the 4-year period....

Oh, and Bryony Frost is worth a mention too. Only 11 rides over fences at Warwick – but she won on 3 of them (including the winner of this in 2018)....

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 14 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 with more handicap-focused insight and analysis....

Until then. Stay tuned.

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd