I am planning to look at a few Cheltenham-related stats this week to throw some light on next week’s events. The first in the series is a look at the record of Cheltenham bankers. There are an unusual number of short-priced favourites at Cheltenham this year including Master Minded, Dunguib, Big Buck’s, Quevega and Kauto Star who are all odds-on or close to it. Should four of the five start at less than evens, it will be the most number of odds-on favourites at Cheltenham for at least ten years. This prompted me to take a look at the record of Cheltenham bankers over the period.
There have only been nine odds-on favourites since 1999 and two of those were Istabraq in 1999 and 2000. He won both of those Champion Hurdles but was beaten in 2001 starting at 2/1. After that, there were no odds-on favourites until 2004 when, like London buses, three came along at once. Baracouda was shocked by Inglis Drever in the stayers’ hurdle, Moscow Flyer came crashing down in the Queen Mother Champion Chase and Best Mate was the only one of the three to win in the Gold Cup. The next odds on favourite was not until 2008 when Kauto Star was beaten by his stablemate, Denman. Last year, of three such favourites, only Master Minded obliged in the Queen Mother Champion Chase with Voy Por Ustedes and Kasbah Bliss failing in the Ryanair and the Stayers’ Hurdle respectively. The overall record of odds-on favourites is four wins from nine runs for a 2.9 point level stakes loss (-32.5%).
That is a pretty poor record and might put people off backing this year’s odds-on shots. However, it is a very small sample size and has little statistical significance. By extending the price bracket up to 5/2 we get a much more representative sample of 73 runners over the period. The statistics for this group are much more encouraging with 29 winners and a level stakes loss of 11p in £73, which is as near to break even as you could wish for. This assumes that you only got the industry SP and taking a Betfair price would have undoubtedly yielded a profit. Even last year, despite the high profile odds on failures, you would have gained a healthy 15% profit with Cooldine, Kauto Star and Quevega supplementing meagre profits from Master Minded. Looking at the overall statistics for runners by price bracket, I would have to say that backing runners at shorter prices has been more favourable than backing longer priced runners.
|Prices||Wins||Runs||Level Stakes Profit||% PL|
|Evens or more and less than 5/2||25||64||£2.83||4.4%|
|5/2 or more and less than 5/1||40||200||-£6.67||-3.3%|
|5/1 or more and less than 12/1||77||821||-£165.00||-20.1%|
|12/1 or greater||77||3,117||-£1,216.00||-39.0%|
Table 1: Profitability at Cheltenham by price bracket
However, it is possible to argue that price should not be the sole determinant of whether a horse should be considered a banker. Is it possible to improve on these stats by only looking at horses who were top-rated? At this point, I only have the Raceform Interactive ratings upon which to base my analysis and I am looking at a horses rating coming into Cheltenham based on any of its previous runs over the same obstacles, so there is some scope for using better/different ratings and a different approach, but this should give an indication. I have ignored joint top-rated in this analysis. The record of top-rated horses by this definition is 29 wins from 195 runs giving a level stakes profit of £44.67 (22.9% of stakes), which is quite an impressive return. Breaking this down by price band gives an interesting result.
|Prices||Wins||Runs||Level Stakes Profit||% PL|
|Evens or more and less than 5/2||11||28||£0.08||0.3%|
|5/2 or more and less than 5/1||8||31||£5.75||18.5%|
|5/1 or more and less than 12/1||2||51||-£38.50||-75.5%|
|12/1 or greater||5||79||£79.00||100.0%|
Table 2: Record of Raceform top-rated selections at the Cheltenham Festival by price bracket
So, although concentrating on the top-rated gives an improved return, it does not improve the return of short-priced selections. In fact, the roughly break even return on all short priced runners deteriorates to a 5% loss if you back only top-rated short-priced runners. Looking at the top-rated helps for longer priced selections though. Following top-rated selections (by our definition) priced at 12/1 or greater has yielded an impressive 100% level stakes return but profits come from only five winners in 79 bets, so you are going to have to kiss a lot of toads to find a prince. For the record, the winners were Earthmover (2004), Dabiroun (2005), Hairy Molly (2006), Massini’s Maguire (2007) and Mister McGoldrick (2008) at prices between 14/1 and 66/1.
All of which tells us little about the record of Cheltenham bankers. What my analysis seems to indicate is that the price of these short-priced runners will reflect their chances. It would not pay to be put off by the recent record of odds-on favourites but neither is there any support for the view that this year’s short-priced favourites can be followed blindly. You will need to work harder than that to earn your Cheltenham winnings.