As a brief reminder B2yoR covers 2yo races in Britain during the Turf Season which in 2007 ran from March 29th to November 10th. With the closure of Doncaster for redevelopment the first 2yos races were at the all-weather tracks but are included as part of the 2yo races covered. The season started much later this year and went on longer into November and this should be borne in mind where data on the site is broken down by month.
It is also worth a mentioning the unusual weather pattern during the season. It began with a dry, warm spell in April to May with firm going, wet weather through much of mid-summer when the majority of race abandonments occurred and finished with another lengthy dry period through late September and October. This had an effect on how trainers approached the season, for example not being able to work on grass gallops during the Spring.
The number of 2yo races run during the season was at a (probable all-time) record of 1,030 up from 960 in 2006 and 998 in both 2004-5. The level of individual 2yos declared during 2007 was also at a recent high of 3,128. It is interesting to compare this growth to the general complaints about lack of prize money and poor returns for trainers and owners in British Racing. You might conclude the low prize money levels are suppressing an even greater increase and/or that pure monetary 'Return On Investment' isn't what drives the majority of owners.
The second point about the owner's motivation is a definite issue for the trainer. When a syndicate of owners turn up, every time, on drab evenings to watch a horse rated 45 struggle to be competitive in an appalling quality race for £2,000 they are in it for the experience primarily. A lot of trainers clearly understand this and ensure a welcoming approach at the stable and at the track. Many have not and if you spend a lot time on-course you will see a lot of the 'uncomfortableness' between the 'horse' and the 'bill paying' sides. As an owner you don't have to put up with this and, since you are probably seeking enjoyable involvement, need to find a trainer who doesn't treat you as an annoying distraction on raceday.
During the season 327 trainers had at least one declared 2yo runner. This is also an increase with the 2003-6 level bumbling around between 313 to 316. It may be a 'hard game to make pay' but there doesn't seem to be any shortage of trainers who are happy just to be 'involved' either. For those that are interested the following links go to lists of :-
The other 242 (74%) trainers accounted for only 13% of race wins with a total of 171 of them not registering a success. Which is something to think about - 52% of trainers did not have a winner at all and the payback from studying the methods of the majority of them are moderate. A small number of trainers in this second, much larger, group did hint at real progress and are covered in the later sections.
Before moving on to highlight some of the stories amongst the trainers in 2007 the next two parts of the review consider two related issues :-
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When we consider the 'Strike Rate' (i.e. the percentage of wins to runs) achieved by a trainer how seriously should we take it? Is it a good indicator of the overall ability of the trainer or does it vary because of external factors beyond their control?
If you looked through the yearly records with 2yos of the trainers on
this site you would almost certainly be struck by how consistent the Strike
Rates achieved are. Confining the research to stables with more than 10
runners in each year would confirm that view more strongly. When a normally
consistent trainer gets a notably higher or lower figure in a year the
reason for the change can usually be identified and the returns for the
next year are likely to go back to their usual range. The Strike Rates achieved
often survive a major change in the number of runners a trainer has.
2.1 The R. Hannon story
Let us take the example of Richard
Hannon and look at his record over the last 6 years :-
|Year||2yo Runners||Strike Rate %|
His average Strike Rate across the six 2yo seasons is 13.4% and his final result each season doesn't vary greatly, it isn't 8% one year and 18% the next. When he has a good set of better 2yos he can get the figure above 13.4% because the best 2yos can manage multiple wins. This year he lacked the higher quality 2yos and didn't manage to win a British Group Race with three successes at Listed level by Cake, Sweepstake & Fat Boy (all debut winners) as the best results. So he achieved 12.6% and a little below his average. He usually gets a figure for 'Wins per Winner' around 1.5 whereas it was down to 1.28 in 2007.
This is a key point to grasp, here is a trainer running 100 juveniles a year against around 320 other trainers all with different approaches. The horses are mostly bought at auction in competition with a changing cast of other purchasers and are different individuals each season. The sires represented change each year, the race structure and classification has developed over that period and so on. But the Hannon stable sails on through the ever changing background producing similar results each year with minor adjustments to the average figure depending upon the particular quality of a small group of, more able, individuals.
A big point to remember here is that Mr Hannon implements the same strategy and tactics each year. He buys roughly the same number of yearlings each season using the same team and they will be similar physical types every year. You can tell a typical 'Hannon 2yo' by looking at it as you can with a range of other trainers. The owners who provide the funding are mostly longstanding friends which means his budget is similar each year. He has said in interview his one real regret is that he has never had a strong Arab backing to lift him up to a higher level of purchasing power and 2yo quality to see what he could achieve then.
The consistency continues because he prepares the 2yos in the same way each year and selects individuals to to run in certain races to fit a particular type of career. It was predictable before his debut in April (as the Preview on this site did) that Fat Boy was likely to be his best sprint 2yo and compared closely with Godfrey Street (Group 2 winner in 2005) & Gilded's (Group 2 winner in 2006) opening runs. This isn't an accident and the Hannon team probably have as full an understanding of the range of 2yo races available through the season of various types and how to place their horses as any other stable.
The 'Hannon 2yos' also make up a large group in a 'Closed System' that is the '2yo Season'. The earlier paragraph in this sub-section made the point that Mr. Hannon achieves his result against a changing background of other trainers, sires, horses, etc. This is true but the overall system is 'Closed' in the sense that there is only so much variation in results that can occur because of the boundaries that apply.
At the root of this we have the Thoroughbred horse which is notably inbred and is has been honed through evolution, and some later human selection, to be a natural athlete in a relatively small range of ability. A pool of around 10,000 to 20,000 horses is bred each year and only a relatively small number are available to you. Once you remove the ones that do not make it to the racecourse or are not available to you because they are owned by their breeders you are left competing with everyone else at a small set of public sales.
Given that the thoroughbred is a natural athlete there is only so much a trainer can do to produce a better prepared runner than any other trainer (leaving aside illegal additives & methods). A major part of the trainer's job is in mental preparation of the horses in their care and bringing them to peak physical condition to match their race targets given the events that are open to them. This is an area that Mr. Hannon does well in and his team's knowledge of the range, and strength, of 2yo races available to them during the year can give a notable edge. [Through mid-August and into September in 2007 it was notable how he got 'tidy up' wins with a number of 2yos who had been struggling to win. Given a break, brought to their physical peaks which showed in Paddock Review, and placed in weaker events that occur in after mid season with the increase in races the successes came.]
The outcome of the previous discussion is that you can infer a lot from a Strike Rate figure what type of trainer you are dealing with. Once they have settled into a routine they are running through a similar preparation and training regime with a standard group of horses each year. They are interacting with the strings of around 90 other trainers over a 'course' of about 1,000 races set out in basically the same arrangement. Remember that the large majority of horses are with these established trainers and they account for 90%+ of race wins.
Other constraints on acquiring horses and limitations on how improvable the thoroughbred is by novel training regimes (studies have shown that 'Interval' methods don't bring the same gains that they do with humans, for example) also apply. Which mean this upper group of interacting trainers do produce a pretty comparable set of results each year. This is a very good thing for those, like B2yoR, who study the patterns in the methods and results because there are interesting nuggets to find and the knowledge gleaned is applicable in following seasons.
Which means that being a trainer with a 3%, 6%, 10%, 15% or 20% Strike Rate really does characterise the individual quite well. A major point to note is that the Average trainer ought to be able to manage a Strike Rate of around 9.8% over the 2yo season. If a trainer is doing better or worse than this figure then study will reveal why the discrepancy is there.
Going back to Mr. Hannon he is about a "14% Trainer" and clearly above the average. The best figures tend to be at 20% or above but these are normally with trainers who are less targeted on juvenile racing and compete less fully through the season. An extreme example of this would have been David Loder back in 2000 with Sheikh Mohammed's 2yos and a remit to have limited numbers of runs. A full preparation before debut and a stop-on-a-win policy unless the horse could compete well in higher class races produced better than a 40% Strike Rate. Saeed Bin Suroor has been in charge of the Godolphin juveniles recently and his figures for the last four years have been 27.9, 22.4, 23.8 and then 27.6% in 2007. So he's a '25% type' trainer but his 2yos made an average of around 2 outings compared to Hannon's 4.41.
To pull out a few examples - N. Tinkler is a '3% trainer', JW Hills is about a '6% trainer', AM Balding is around a '10% trainer' but with more dips into single figures than you would like and the feeling he ought to do a little better, RM Beckett has developed into a '15% trainer' after some wrong turns since he got his licence in 2000 & MR Stoute approaches being a '20% trainer'. These figures aren't accidents or caused by opportunity alone, they reflect real ability to 'get the job done'. For example, if B2yoR were asked to rate how confident they would feel strongly backing a 2yo trained by these five trainers the numbers are a solid reflection. Although a good rule is actually to avoid below average trainers and it would take something remarkably positive to show up in Paddock Review to support a JW Hills 2yo and there probably isn't any circumstance that would lead to putting money on an N. Tinkler one.
There are a couple of points that are worthwhile making at this juncture. Firstly that new trainers should be allowed a little time to settle into their 'signature' Strike Rate. Mr. Beckett didn't arrive as a '15% trainer' and recorded a 5.8% figure in his worst development year. A much bigger issue to grasp is that the Strike Rates covered so far are across a whole season. At certain times during the season or at different race distances, for example, a trainer may record better or worse figures. These variations may show up consistently year on year and provide the basis for an extra edge in the betting. Richard Hannon may be an overall '14% trainer' but he achieved 19.9% with his 5 furlong runners between 2003-6 and 16% this year when, as noted above, he lacked a stronger sprint crop.
With any trainer it is always worth posing yourself the question 'Why
do they get the Strike Rates that they achieve?' because the Closed System
they are working in helps to ensure that the reasons are discoverable.
The next sub-section covers a simple approach to thinking about this question.
Regular readers of the B2yoR site will know that while you can make a problem as detailed and complicated as you wish an awful lot of progress can be made by reducing it to a few, important, factors. An acquaintance of B2yoR's repeatedly quotes a Scandanavian Engineer who says that "..whenever you think there are lots of things interacting in a system there aren't, there's usually only two, three at most." B2yoR doesn't quite agree with this but the approach to simplifying the problem is sound. There probably are lots of things interacting but the majority you can ignore and concentrate on the few that make most of the difference.
This is just a version of the 80/20 or 90/10 rules, of course. 20% of the trainers account for 80%, or more, of the 2yos and winners. Boil those down to a few 'types', perhaps by Strike Rate and pull out the factors that really matter and you will have 80%, or more, of what matters. The vast majority of trainers you can mostly approach with the simple question - 'Given a horse with the ability to win can they convert that to success or not? - an issue considered in the next section on 'Knowing how to win'.
So, in the spirit of the site here is another simple relationship of factors to helps us get a handle on on the factors that go into producing a trainer's Strike Rate performance.
Equine Recruitment + Training Ability + (Race Placement & Career Development) = Final results and Strike Rate
The most important Factor of the three before the equals sign is undoubtedly Equine Recruitment. This has to be right because if it isn't you can be Henry Cecil, Michael Stoute and Andre Fabre rolled into one and you struggle to reach even the 9.8% average Strike Rate. Conversely, you can be no good at the second two factors but have some reasonably competent people working for you and still better the average comfortably - so long as you have the friends and contacts to bring some good raw material through the yard doors. If we go back to Richard Hannon again he understands this fully and in interview he has said "... I like to do the buying because if there are mistakes there, it is curtains for the whole year."
The second factor of 'Training Ability' is the one which tends to get the headlines, for example when the phrase "terrific training performance" is used when an older horse comes back to win after a long lay-off. However, it is probably an area where it is most difficult for a trainer to differentiate themselves in terms of performance. As noted before the thoroughbred is a natural athlete and most trainers can get a horse fit enough to race and keep it in presentable condition. Keeping the horses mentally 'sound' and timing the training so that it peaks for the race days and the key periods to match whatever tactics have been chosen (assuming they have been) for the horse's career development are as important as anything.
The above equation links well to the old phrase about "Keep yourself in the best company & your horses in the worst". If you maintain yourself in the company of people who can provide you with the right resources and your horses facing the least able competition they can then the bit in the middle (i.e. training ability) doesn't have to be that good, you will still beat the average.
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The previous section consider some of the issues involved in assessing how good a trainer is. With many of the trainers who have only a few 2yos each year they can slip through this assessment and get away with a "What do you expect given the horses.." type appeal. They may get a consistent Strike Rate, but it is at zero so they can feel they shouldn't be judged because they haven't really entered the game. But, if you are betting on 2yos you need to know which of these smaller stables you need to take seriously and which you can fruitfully ignore. Which of them can turn that apparent debut promise by one of their juveniles into a win and which you can use to downgrade the form of the debut race given that one of their runners appeared to perform quite well.
We'll use this section to consider a few examples of those who know how to win and those that don't. Let us start with a few that do not appear to know. J Akehurst has run 16 juveniles in the period 2002-7 and none of them have managed to win. While most have been cheaper buys there have been some more expensive purchases such as Hat Trick Man (22,000 guineas = 22k), Bijli (30k, sold for 6k as a 3yo), Spirit Of Arosa (€42k), Scot Love (85k, sold 20k as a 3yo), Divalini (58k, sold 2.5k as a 3yo) & Choisky (42k, sold for 7k as a 2yo). A number have shown glimpses of placed form although nothing better than third in the period. Think about that record, many of these are horses that have been targeted at 2yo races and made plenty of runs. Choisky had 11 goes in 2007 before the sale and Sheik'Nknotstirred had 8.
In 2008 when you are looking at a nursery and wondering whether his runner that finished third last time is the one for your money, what's the answer? We can probably put that question away 10 months before it arises with a little thought.
JR Auvray operates at a lower level but has run 10 juveniles in the same 2002-7 period and has managed a single place. The majority of those have run at long SPs so it is clearly no secret that the market doesn't rate him highly and knows that he probably doesn't know. But it is worth mentioning him here because when we come to some of the trainers who do know the same longer SPs show up. Lumped together in the 25/1s and 33/1s you will find runners from trainers of both types so it as well to know the difference yourself.
JM Bradley only had a single 2yo runner in 2007 but over the period 2002-6 he has run 30 and run them a lot when he has them. He goes down the 'buy a lot of cheap ones & get them pinking fit early in the season' route with a notable lack of success and a single win in an appalling race. This approach has proved notably unsuccessful for M. Brittain in 2007 (covered in the 'Poor' section) and also for A. Berry. So, perhaps it is the approach that's the problem? Well, strategy and tactics are part of the trainer's job and if they can't vary it to make it work they don't know how to win.
On the other side it is an approach which has been used with at least some success by other trainers even if they do not get up to average Strike Rate levels. Bryan McMahon could make it work before he retired and in the present group of trainers PD (David) Evans & WGM (Bill) Turner can make it work to some extent. At the root of the issue they are doing a few things differently to Mr Bradley, for example, and the reason why they do know to the same extent.
J. Gallagher has run 17 juveniles in the period 2002-7 and has managed a single winner. Four others have placed and a number have shown mild promise of the type that would have a TV luvvie like Nick Luck babbling about 'eyecatchers' and fancying they will find a 'small nursery'. Pretty much all tosh, of course, and Mr. Gallagher doesn't appear to know how to turn that promise into wins. B2yoR would 'fancy' that if you gave those 17 horses to Richard Hannon he would have got close to his normal 45% individual winners to runners out of the deal. The difference is real and one trainer can be relied on to 'know' and the other one to be wary of.
It is also possible to find fault with the sole juvenile winner he has managed. After Mac Gille Eoin had made his debut at Bath the Paddock Notes B2yoR got back included a bit about ".. he must be able to get a win with this one.." because he was clearly a good enough physical type to win at 2yo. Well, he did win with him but it wasn't a neat story of 'nice debut', place STO and convert third up. He won on his sixth outing at 25/1 after his Official Rating had reached a low of 61, not exactly indicating the trainer knew what he was dealing with and how to turn it into a success. Four more runs at 2yo left Mac Gillie Eoin with a rating of 67 and as a 3yo he won like a good thing off 70ish and ended the year competing strongly off OR90. Why all that scrambling about to win a modest Auction race with him at 2yo?
GA Kelleway hasn't targeted 2yo racing much but had seven runners in 2007 and her highest number to date. She has had 2 winners from 17 runners between 2003-7 so perhaps she does know how to win? An equivocal answer to that one. Her two winners have been with runners claimed from other trainers and both won on their third run for her, at Wolverhampton, after their Official Rating had declined to 61. None of the 2yos she has brought through herself have been successful and they produced two third places between them in 2007.
The two that placed - All In The Red & Meydan Dubai - missed as many races as non runners as they ran in and the second followed a promising debut third with a run in the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes. Both got positive Paddock Reviews and and left the feeling they might both have won during the season under the care of a 'does know' trainer.
GG Margarson gets one win each year but his Strike rate is consistently around the 4% level and a real hint that the wins come along in an inconsistent way. If you study his record the handling of career development isn't sure. The horses either seem to win on debut by natural ability and then don't develop much or he manages to get late season wins with runners in nurseries who find a race they can win through persistence. He doesn't show an ability to turn promise into wins and the lack of a win for any one of Magical Speedfit, Woolfall Treasure, Danamight and perhaps even Priceless Speedfit in 2007 can be taken as examples.
If being able to judge the ability of your horses so you can place them appropriately is part of the trainer's job Mr. Margarson seems too much of an optimist. If you read his 'Stable Tour' type comments and post race quotes he can be ludicrously gushing about his juveniles. After Magical Speedfit had finished second on debut you would have thought that winning the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot with him was just a matter of filling in the right paperwork and faxing it off. That horse finished the season as a maiden with an Official Rating in the late 70s and struggling to compete well off that. Either he was never up to the level Mr. Margarson thought or he hadn't brought him through to his full potential, either way it's symptomatic of a 'not sure' or 'don't know' trainer.
It can be simple to pick out bad records because it's much easier to fail in this world than to succeed for the basic reason that there are so many more ways to lose than to win. So, let's consider a few trainers, most with smaller strings who do seem to know how to convert ability and promise into wins.
WM Brisbourne is a trainer who had developed a way to get wins and then seemed to lose it for a while. Between 2002-3 he managed 4 individual winners from 9 runners at an above average strike rate. These were all cheap horses, the three winners in 2002 cost less than 8,000 guineas in total to obtain, but he had a plan to get wins. In 2003-4 he seemed to have lost the plan and produced a single winner from 14 runners although the successful filly won three races to keep the Strike Rate good in 2003.
The last three seasons have seen him on track again with 6 individual winners of 9 races from 20 juveniles. In two of those years the Strike Rate has been 13% and a good indicator of his overall ability. In 2007 the two winner's backgrounds were a 5,000 guineas yearling purchase and owner bred out of a NHF mare. Three of the other four 2yos to make more than one outing for him made places. As many as five of his 8 runners in this season ended up running for other trainers - RM Beckett, S Curran, HJL Dunlop amongst them - and none of that group won. Perhaps another indicator that Mr. Brisborne gets what ability there is to find out of the 2yos.
The most notable factor about his approach is the '3TO Peak'. Both winners in 2007 won on the third outing and this is typical for the stable with runners above seller level. If the horse is running outside seller company on it's third run it is always worth paying extra attention. Secret Asset was a good example this year beating Captain Gerrard and Godolphin's Wolgan Valley at 16/1 third go. That runner was another advertisement for First Season Sire Clodovil who had a good season all round.
DJ Coakley was 0 for 3 in 2007 but two of the three placed following promising debuts at long odds (2nd at 25/1 and 6th of 14 at 66/1). In the period 2002-6 he had 6 winners from 19 and of the five successful ones that made their debut for the yard three placed on debut (at 33/1, 16/1 & 14/1) and another was fourth at 20/1. The 'Market' doesn't know which are the good ones in his case and a '...check in the market' as the Spotlight type summaries might suggest will send you down the wrong road.
Mr. Coakley is a solid trainer who can assess at home which are the competitive 2yos and prepare them well enough to show up well first time. He can usually convert that promise to wins, although 2007 is obviously a slight niggle, over the next 2-3 runs. Another smaller stable in the 'Does know' category.
WS (Stuart) Kittow has run between 3-5 juveniles in each of the last four years and managed a winner in each of 2003-6 and two winners from four runners this year. The Strike Rate has improved each year in that period with to a high of 14.3% in 2007. His style seems to be developing and like Mr. Coakley his 2yos capable of winning now tend to make the first three on debut. In 2004-5 the later winners finished 6th on debut at 33/1 and 25/1. In 2006 Carsons Spirit won on debut at 20/1 and this year the later winners made places FTO at 20/1 including an each-way punt on Rash Judgement which might well have succeeded but for some interference during the race. Both converted that promise 3TO after further places on their second runs.
On limited evidence a trainer who seems to buy well at the sales and can also prepare and place his horses to win if enough ability is there. Also an interesting trainer to consider with his debut runners in 2008 to see whether 'They' (whatever that is if it exists in any meaningful form...) have caught on enough to affect the 'Market'.
G. S. Rees has a better record than B2yoR expected when preparing this article. She was on the 'Seems to know' list but the figures are better than that. 2007 was the third year in four that she has managed 2 winners from 4-5 individual runners and the fourth year in five that the Strike Rate has been above average. In 2005 she had no winner from 6 runners and it would be interesting to know what went wrong then.
Her last four winners between 2004-6 had included one debut win and one debut place so like the previous two trainers the preparation before a debut means that the ability will show up there. Her two winners this year included a FTO one at 100/1 which was a silly price for a trainer with her record and especially so if you had access to some Paddock Review info. Her other winner failed on the fibresand at 100/30 in a very weak race on debut but came back after a month's break to win STO, at 33/1. A trainer who 'Does know' and whom the 'Market' doesn't take seriously.
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No trainer had such a strong, progressive year in 2007 that it stood out as being an unusually good breakthrough in the way that Jamie Osborne and Kevin Ryan have in recent years. This section covers a set of more restrained but noteworthy performances from various areas of the training ladder, including new starters making an impact, developing trainers progressing their Strike Rates and the old old timer showing they haven't 'lost it'. The section considers these in alphabetical order.
RM Beckett's record has settled down in the last three seasons to a very creditable Strike Rate around 15%. He did well in 2007 to maintain this with the number of runners up to 40 from 23 in 2006. Going back to the earlier discussions this suggests a good trainer who has got the pieces in place with recruitment, training and career development to ensure a future maintained at this level. The bulk of the 2yos come from auction purchases in the, very competitive, 8,000 to 50,000 guineas range which confirms he hasn't 'bought' success. He has maintained his good winning record with cheaper purchases and the sureness with debut runners (12.8% Strike with FTOs compared to the 6% average). The odd issues with knowing the ability of runners and their distance requirements noted in 2005 were also absent. An overall good performance.
HRA Cecil has had his problems over the last ten years including that stuff about Fallon, his wife and the shower & accidentally hitting pensioners with his car. However, the biggest effect on his professional career has been the break with the Maktoum's and the decline of the supply of quality 2yos from his longstanding group of owner breeders. The impact on his record reached a nadir in 2005 with just nine juvenile runners for one winner at a 7% Strike Rate when he was a 20%+ trainer at his height.
In that respect he was a good example of the effect of 'Equine Recruitment' on the final performance figures for a trainer. We could assume he still knew how to train a horse and had a solid grasp of how to place them but he had become a '10% Trainer' in an ordinary year below that at worst. The last two years have seen a turnaround with the number of runners up to 23 in 2007 and the Strike Rate at 21%. Two of his owner breeders (K. Abdulla & the Niarchos family) provided three of his winners in 2007 but four came at the sales including three double winners in the range 34-50,000 guineas.
The really interesting point with his record in the last two years is that he does seemed to have been able to change his approach to work with the quality he had. In the days when he had a raft of better 2yos they would be close to their peak on debut and either win or place and those that placed would win Second Time Out (STO) if they were good enough. If they didn't then they probably weren't very good and you wouldn't expect improvement. Not many of the 2yos would run more than twice and then usually because they were progressing to Group races.
In the period 2001-5 he did not have a winner later than STO in line with his normal approach. 2006 hinted that he was adapting with three wins 3TO (2 by runners who hadn't won before) and Lady Lily won her fifth & sixth outing having developed with racing. This season was similar with another three wins at 3TO and Jack Dawkins developing to win his fourth and fifth runs having not placed previously.
At the other end of experience we have TG Dascombe who was in his second season in 2007 having achieved a good start with 3 winners from 7 runners in 2006. This season saw him have the best record of any of the 242 trainers with ten, or less, individual juvenile runners. His record produced 6 winners from the ten runners with three double winners including one at Listed level and a 20% Strike Rate. Two of the wins came with runners claimed from other trainers who were maidens at the time and won their third run for him (Adam Eterno from BJ Meehan and What's For Tea from TD Easterby). This is not typical and runners are usually claimed when they are already showing good form and win soon afterwards before the form tails off.
An interesting start by a trainer who seems to get debut winners and development types and one to watch for how his third season develops.
A. Duffield is another trainer who has taken time to learn how to win and to settle at a typical Strike Rate. The last three seasons the Strike Rate has settled above average and at 13.8% in two of the years. She used to struggle to turn promise in early runs into wins although always had a solid record in getting horses to run consistently across a series of runs. Thinking back to the factors above the issue was probably with bringing horses to a peak and placing them in the right races. 2007 saw the results maintain their good recent levels with an increase in runners and a big highlight with four time winner Lady Rangali successful in the very valuable Watership Down Sales Race for fillies' at Ascot. [That this was a notably moderate race for the money and that it distorts sire, and other, statistics is not the trainer's problem, she did well to win it with a very willing, but limited athlete.]
PC Haslam is one of the more difficult trainers to characterise. Unlike many his Strike Rate has varied widely over recent years and he followed up two poor seasons in 2005-6 (with figures at 1.2% & 2.9%) with a good 2007 and the Strike Rate up at 14%. Prior to 2002 he didn't take 2yo racing very seriously and had a well below average record and it was a decade since he had a debut winner. Then he had two good years 2002-3 and got the odd solid debut performance with useful and/or notably precocious types.
But after 2003 it was back to the the below average performance and the last two years would have made you thought he was giving up on the 2yo racing idea. Whether the good 2007, which included 3 FTO wins which were the shortest debut SPs and four other places, was another move back to taking the 2yos seriously is hard to say but one to watch in 2008.
Mr. Haslam has his son now fully involved in the yearling purchases and training and it's possible the change reflects this. ES McMahon is the son of a trainer (Bryan) who in later years made most impact with his handling of 2yos and it wasn't unusual for him to win a majority of the very earliest events each year. The father had long trained horses for owner John Fretwell (lime green silks) who built his own purpose built training establishment at Averham Park and installed E. J. O'Neill as the trainer in residence. The older McMahon is still assisting Mr. Fretwell with the yearling purchases.
Meanwhile his son is in his third year and put up another improved performance in 2007 with the Strike Rate up to 20% from 9.7% and 16% in the first two seasons. He still relies strongly on Fretwell support who supplied eight of his 2yos (4 winners) and another two were family owned (one winner). His record would have been better had Newly Elected remained in the stable after a taking debut win rather than being sold to go to Hong Kong (all the Fretwell 2yos are 'For Sale' for the right price as he tries to make his ownership something closer to a 'business').
His approach is different to his father in that he hasn't tended to get going until mid-summer and the earliest debuts can be notably inexperienced. The debut wins had tended to come after mid-season and the one exception (In Honour in May this year) turned out to be a useful horse in a duff race that couldn't avoid winning. The competitive 2yos seem to be identified early, the progression from debut to suitable races seems sound and he gets second wins in nurseries and Novice races with suitable horses. If he can hit 20% during a development year can he manage to maintain that level and can he become less reliant upon the Fretwell patronage?
GL (Gary) Moore isn't a trainer that had ever really registered on the B2yoR conscious. He has relatively few runners and reasonably rare winners at a below average Strike Rate. He doesn't get debut winners and wins tend to come through persistence with moderate to average quality horses. A typical trainer where you get by with an instinctive reaction of whether they can get the job done given a usable juvenile.
The 2007 season saw him have a good set of relatively expensively purchased horses to build on hints of the same in 2005-6. Most notably this was for Art Dealer Richard Green who had four Breeze-up purchases (i.e. bought in the spring as 2yos at sales where the horses can be seen galloping prior to sale) for between 45,000 to 70,000 guineas. These four included three solid winners in Sporting Art, Art Sale and Hitchens with the first named providing his first debut winner ever - at 66/1 at Ascot. As an aside it is interesting to note that Sporting Art was sold to race in the US for 220,000 guineas in the Autumn sales and Hitchens was left unsold for a bid of 190,000 guineas. A successful season all round for the team although it is worth noting that the fourth horse - Art Collector - who cost 56,000 guineas finished last on his only outing and didn't manage to attract any sort of bid at the Autumn sales.
A solid performance from the trainer given the better quality horses without being anything remarkable and of interest to track what stable strength he has next year. In general it would be unlikely that he could repeat his 2007 performance and be more likely to drop back to his normal levels in 2008..
D. (Dandy) Nicholls is another trainer who has wrestled with juvenile racing in various ways over the last decade without ever really convincing that he's got matters totally in hand. He doesn't have a consistent results output in the way that Mr. Hannon does for example and he seems to still be developing his approach despite the length of time he's had a licence. He made his name with older sprinters after all. But, you look at his record in the last five years and his Strike Rates read 18%, 6%, 22%, 9% and then 22.2% this year. Hard to get a handle on what his 'signature' rate is because his average of 15% isn't that close to most of his recent figures.
However, if you can get around 22% from a smallish string in three years out of five you must be doing something right. His purchasing power is clearly one factor with two of his winners this year cost around 80,000 guineas for example. The most notable feature of his 2yo handling is that he appears to take extra time with his better types and run them later in the year. This is the opposite to many handlers who identify their competitive 2yos and run them in the earliest batches of debuts. Mr. Nicholls record is better from August onwards in the last two years and that is when the better 2yos capable of debut wins have run. In 2006 his overall Strike rate was 9% but above 14% after July. This year the overall 22.2% figure gets pushed up to 36% from August 1st forward.
In 2002 JA Osborne made a plan to concentrate on 2yo racing and made changes to his training regimes and brought in assistance to buy the right yearlings for him. This brought immediate returns with a terrific season with a 22% Strike Rate and a Group 1 success in the Dewhurst by Paul Dixon's owner bred Milk It Mick. The three seasons that followed didn't really confirm that progress with a decline in the number of runners from a high in 2004 of 44 to 23 in 2006 and the Strike Rate either side of average. In those three years he had just one win above Conditions level with Moth Ball's Listed event win in 2004.
The original assistance he got with buying yearlings has moved on and bloodstock agent D. Redvers reported in early 2007 that Mr. Osborne had a plan to win 10 juvenile races by Royal Ascot. In this context Mr. Redvers was given a brief to find the trainer a group of precocious types to run early as 2yos to help fulfil that plan. Perhaps Mr. Osborne needs a plan to focus on to get the results? Anyway, his tenth winner came by June 6th and the eleventh at Royal Ascot when Drawnfromthepast won the Listed Windsor Castle Stakes. That period included a spell on six consecutive winners between April 21st to May 7th with the Strike Rate at 50% for the season to that point.
The rest of the season was less good and the final, good, Strike Rate of 14.7% owed a lot to a late run of wins in claimers. A good season but one which seemed to take a lot of spending and targeting to produce. He has an interesting record in that his 'Winners to Runners' figures don't tend to be that good - around 25% in 2005-6 and 94th and 77th places on the overall trainers' lists. He raised that to 35% and 52nd place in 2007 but with a lot of planning, expenditure and targeting.
On the positive side he ranks very highly for getting multiple wins with 2yos. In 2007 he was in 7th place on the overall list but the six in front of him were small stables with just a single winning individual. The closest, larger, stables to his noteworthy 1.71 figure were BR Millman and MJ Wallace who both share his approach of targeted early season wins with precocious types.
If you put all of this together and think back to the equation in section 2 you could conclude that Mr. Osborne has enough training ability to get wins with suitable types. His ability to get multiple wins and to put his horses in appropriate races suggest he is sure enough in the 'Race Placement' area. Which leaves 'Recruitment' as the area which still perhaps need some attention. Mr. Redvers, one of the agents he uses, has a good reputation in the industry but even a top man will still buy more 'failures' than successes. That's the nature of a business where judging untried horses is 'best guessing' or 'estimating'.
Remembering back to the brief he was given by the trainer here's a list of the horses he bought at auction for the stable [given he works for others it is possible he advised on the purchase of some horses but didn't do the bidding. The 'buyer' will be recorded by the sales company as the person who signs the docket immediately after the sale.]. In order of decreasing expense - Little Wing (€225k, unplaced), Dream In Blue (€140k, non runner, Oasis Dream), Mr Keppel (85k, 3 time winner, sold for 155k at the Autumn sales), Snow Bounty (80k, non runner, Bahamian Bounty), Hawk Eyed Lady (€80k, unplaced), Tense (€70k, unplaced), Fernlawn Hope (€62k, unplaced during the season), Rockfield Lodge (€62k, minor winner, retained 15k in the Autumn), Tension Mounts (€60k, placed), The Riddler (38k, winner, retained 47k Autumn sales), Media Stars (35k, unplaced), Ten Down (35k, early winner, retained for 1.5k at the Autumn sales), Group Therapy (30k, dual winner), Ten Spot (€45k, seller winner, sold 5k), Run From Nun (28k, unplaced), Bertha (26k, non runner, Bertolini) plus three other non runners.
You can no doubt form your own opinion but that seems like a lot of 'goes' to get Group Therapy, the expendable Ten Down and Mr Keppel given the background.
And lastly to B. Smart who operates at a similar level to Mr. Osborne in terms of stable size and strength. The four years between 2003-6 had seen him settle into a Hannon style consistency with around 25 runners each year, 6 winners, a 10% Strike Rate and a notably good record for getting multiple wins from his winners. 2007 saw a step forward in all areas with more runners, more winners, a better winner to runner ratio and a Strike Rate up to 15% from his average level. He has done better than Mr. Osborne in recent years with major race wins with 3 Listed successes in 2005 (different horses), Hellvelyn's Group 2 win in 2006 and 2007 saw three more individual Listed winners (another Royal Ascot win with Maze) and five time winner Captain Gerrard going on to success at Group 3 level. The last of those probably illustrates the feature of his training - his ability to get the horses to run consistently over a period and peak for the the target races. If his horse had the right class to win B2yoR would consider his name as the trainer to be a real positive in assessing how likely it was to run to that level on the day.
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Did JR Best have a Good season or not? The stable gets lots of publicity because of his media friendly approach and the links with punter D. Nevison. This allows them to get their message across about how well they do in the 'Equine Recruitment' department and how successful the 'Hucking' horses are. 2007 saw an obvious highlight with Kingsgate Native winning the all-aged Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes but was that enough on it's own to make a good season? The answer would be 'No' but he has the added positive of finally getting his Strike Rate up to the average level.
His recent approach has been to target some early wins with expendable 2yos and then bring the later debuts on slowly for the AW winter season which has led to Strike Rates below the average and unexciting for a stable of his size. With more money to spend he bought some better types, including at the US sales but didn't show a particularly sure handling of these. A number were overtried and didn't win the maiden, or set of races, they might have done with a different approach. The better Strike Rate relied on some tidy up successes in later season after his Strike Rate stood at under 5% in early August. In summary, some good elements but not a convincing 'whole' yet and not a trainer B2yoR trusts completely to get the horses to run to a consistent level and convert promise.
KR Burke would have got into the 'Good' section except for the fact that his Strike Rate dipped to 11.5% with an increase in runners from his recent 14-15% range. However, he had his first Group winner with Philario and overall produced another solid performance with his usual reliability. The really interesting feature about his approach is the pattern that has shown up in the last three years in early season.
Like many trainers he selects a few precocious and/or expendable 2yos to run early in his season. Unlike many trainers the early runners don't tend to win and the successes start from later May with these early types finding their form and level. Soon after that he will introduce his best 2yos in late May and early June and the better ones will win FTO, often at longer SPs. In 2007 he produced three consecutive debut winners between May 31st to June 5th at 12/1, 11/ & 9/1 and all three were later declared for Group races. A good, reliable trainer, with an interesting and consistent approach that it pays to understand but he gets the wins he ought to from the raw material.
P. Grayson was in his third season in 2007 after two season where he has looked like a man learning his trade. Two wins from 28 individual runners in 2005-6 at a poor Strike Rate with one win in a seller and one in a poor nursery with a runner claimed out of a seller. He has managed to get wins over the winter on the all-weather and it is obviously creditable to find the opportunities to be successful. But the win-on-the-AW-in-the-winter approach also tends to apply to trainers who are finding it too tough during the turf season so take their balls away to compete in an easier league.
Given that background the headline figures for 2007 suggest some progress - a Strike Rate of 12.5% and 40% winners to runners. But, it is unconvincing below the surface with two wins from Rio Taffeta after claiming it from MR Channon along with another 5TO seller win. Ocean Glory won FTO for him but had been transferred to him from another trainer and that runner didn't manage better than 10th in four later starts. The other win was in a poor nursery and assisted by a big draw bias at Folkestone. His last four debut runners, who all cost at least €25k, didn't manage a positive [Estimate] in eight runs between them so were either useless or being groomed for a bit of 'Sunday Park Football', or is that 'Fun Runs' on the all weather.
Improving, but not 'Good' yet.
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Not the place to list the majority of trainers who had some form of typical season but to consider any story which might not be apparent just from the numbers. Let us consider M. Johnston who moved into clear top position by number of individual 2yo runners in 2007 with 119. This has built up from a level of 60 in 2002 and had grown to 102 by 2006.
Below that top line figure his statistics were in his normal range although
his Strike Rate was the lowest since 2002 at 15.3%. The figure would have
been down below 15% but for 5 wins in maiden races in the last three days
of the season. In general the quality at the upper end was limited with
only McCartney's win in a Listed race to show in Britain. So, just a slight
downturn due to natural variation or perhaps some lessening of quality
with the increase in the size of the juvenile string? In this context it
is interesting to consider where these extra 2yos came from, the table
below summarises the Maktoum family input :-
|2006||5 (all Owner bred)||3 (2 OB)||6 (all OB)||0||15 (11 OB)||29 (28.4%)|
|2007||44 (35 OBs)||7 (4 OB)||13 (all OB)||6 (all OB)||0||70 (58.8%)|
To fill in a bit of background 'Gainsborough' covers the, recently deceased, Maktoum Al Maktoum horses and 'Jumeirah' was a sort of second team for Sheikh Mohammed. Horses could be promoted or demoted between the Sheikh Mohammed & Jumeirah colours depending upon the performances they gave on the track. In an average year the headline then becomes that Mr. Johnston has close to 60% of his juvenile runners from Maktoum, mainly owner bred, sources and the question is whether his performance can survive that change of balance. EAL Dunlop used to cite the number of duff owner bred horses he had to run as Maktoum Al Maktoum's retained trainer as part of the reason for his below average returns in some years.
The Godolphin organisation was back running 2yos in slightly better numbers in 2007 but seems to have settled into being a quality-not-quantity outfit so there needs to be some outlet for the other horses. Mr. Johnston perhaps needs to be a little wary he isn't that function. The 44 Sheikh Mohammed runners produced 14 winners, including McCartney. At least 9 of the group where sold off in the Autumn with the best price being a lowish 20,000 guineas.
It is also interesting to consider the debut run performance of the stable. Five years and more ago the debut runners were not that strongly prepared and he had above the average amount of 'lost debuts' where the 2yo ran well below it's real ability. In those days a debut win was an almost certain indication of a Group quality 2yo that you could follow with some confidence into it's next race just on the basis of the FTO success. That isn't the case anymore and lost FTOs are uncommon and debut winners can turn out to be just solid maiden winners and nursery types.
Having averaged a FTO success rate of 14.3% between 2002-6 it was down to 10% in 2007 with twelve debut wins. Seven were for Sheikh Mohammed (5 in maidens and 2 in Novice races) and two others for Maktoum sources. However, it was interesting to note how some of the Maktoum horses made debuts in races which would have led you to believe they were better types when it wasn't the case. Battlecruiser started out in an Ascot Conditions race but never placed and was sold off for 3,800 guineas in later season (an interesting horse in that he seemed to get smaller through the season, like air being let out of a balloon). Important names for the major owners can often be saved for a known better type but Sheikh Mohammed's Arab League began in an important Newmarket maiden to set off an undistinguished career that saw him offloaded for 3,000 guineas.
The up side of this arrangement is that the owner breds will include a number of better types but the requirement to deal with a set of limited horses comes along with them. One to keep an eye on in 2008 to see whether the balance in recruitment stays the same and whether the stable performance figures remain at the usual level.
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The rise of JS (Stan) Moore's stable strength and quality has been noted on the site a number of times in recent years. After many years of being a trainer who knew how to win with cheap horses he had linked up with Dubai based backers and was training at their refurbished stables in Lambourn. He had more money to spend at the sales and could buy a better type of horse. 2005-6 saw an increase in the number of runners for the stable and the number of wins improved with it as did the Strike Rate up to a healthy 15% in 2006.
In that context 2007 was disappointing and a step back in the progress. The number of runners increased again and they made a typical number of runs but the winners were down and the Strike Rate at a moderate 7%. The winners mostly showed the trademark develop-with-racing style and 10 of the 12 successes cam with horses on their fourth, or later, outings. The exceptions, as they have previously been, were in very early season or in targeted seller wins.
During the season a possible reason for the downturn came to B2yoR and it links to Equine Recruitment and the type of horse Mr Moore buys. In his 'cheap' days he used to buy bigger and/or heavily built horses where possible. Because they were cheap this meant that they were often peculiar shapes and dreadful movers and so on. However, if you are competing in poor races a bigger horse, even with defects, might well be able to win against lightweight rabbits. Since he also ran horses over hurdles it also meant they had some chance of competing there later.
The horses he buys now, at a higher price level, still often have good size about them and have got positive reviews from the Paddock work. Two got put up as horses to follow in the Previews on this site that never won. When considering the likes of Jasmines Hero, Ezthegeeza, Deckguard and even Paveroc (who could run in any company at any distance and get outpaced at some point) to some extent they are bigger horses but lack the snap to be more speedy types and the athleticism to make the most of their size and strength at these shorter distance. When he gets a bigger one that can shift itself adequately like Dubai Dynamo or Solent Ridge it can develop with racing and win more than once. But too many of the purchases proved unable to compete to win in 2007. One to follow in 2008.
M. Botti apparently came to Britain from Italy to train partly because he could never hope to equal his father and uncle's records there (they have been Champion trainer around 30 times). To make his mark he perhaps felt he needed to prove himself in a bigger arena which British racing is. He made a good start in 2006 with one winner, from five runners, who managed three wins including a Group 3 race. As a results of the good impression he made he received more horses including some from the Maktoum family associates behind the new Rabbah Bloodstock set-up.
2007 saw 14 runners but just two winners and the Strike Rate just below average. The Strike Rate figure doesn't tell the whole story with Mr. Botti because he doesn't run his horses very often. Only 5 of the 14 ran more than twice and he does seem to need everything to be 'just so' before he runs a juvenile. There is some excuse in that a number of the horses made late season debuts over 8 furlongs or more but equally there were a range of horses we didn't see at all including any of the Rabbah owned ones.
The, perhaps too pernickety, pre-debut preparation shows up in that all three of his juvenile winners have won on debut and as a good general rule what you see on debut is what you have. Of the other runners in 2007 only one managed to place (3rd of 7 in a dreadful Wolverhampton event) and he hasn't really proved he can win with a horse unless they are good enough to beat up the opposition on debut. On the plus side he again had a Group 3 winner with Raymi Coya but disappointing in that he couldn't show a bit more variety in the approach and tactics.
C. Brittain is a "6% trainer" at heart and below average. Despite this he has had a long career, has a large, Arab backed, string to command and won some of the major races around the world. When you know only a little about racing and he has a 500/1 place in the Derby with a horse like Terimon you think "Well done Mr. Brittain, the little man getting some reward for tilting at the giants.." and the like and think he's doing a good job. As you get to know more you realise this was the wrong approach and the right one more on the lines of "How on earth did you manage to develop a horse with Terimon's ability in such a manner that he ended up at 500/1?". You also learn that the gap between being a useful horse and placing in the Derby isn't as wide as you might think. Either way, Clever, or a form of incompetence?, yours, is the choice to make.
With 2yos his record has long been, err, individual. Despite having a relatively expensive and well bred set most years he turns out below average results. In a typical year he only manages wins with the very best and a number with ability will be left maidens because he didn't know how to win with them. At one extreme this will involve running maidens in unsuitable higher class races. Does the odd, long priced, place make him a good trainer? B2yoR would prefer to deal with trainers who get the wins on the board in the right races before trying to 'steal some black type'.
2007 saw the number of runners back up to 40 and the Strike Rate back down to 6.4% and the 7 winners, typically, the best horses he had. Surely someone like Mr. Brisborne would have found a way to get some success from the other 33, you feel. The wins came in a burst around early August and he had one winner from around 90 runs after August 16th at a woeful Strike Rate. Oh dear, probably time to stop.
By comparison, B2yoR holds H. Candy in better than average regard. His laid back demeanour covering up a shrewdish operator with a good record of buying good 2yos at the sales for decent prices. He also used to have a number of interesting features to his record, such as longer priced debut wins, that could be usefully studied. However, 2007 became his third consecutive year with a below average Strike Rate and again there was no debut winner. The stable has been trying to resolve an issue with 'a bug' affecting the horses wellbeing for some time and in interview in 2007 Mr. Candy said they had tried a variety of measures but were not sure the problem was solved. A disappointing year in the sense that a good trainer hasn't manage to shake off the problems and get back to his normal, well above average, Strike Rates and results.
Occasionally, the importance of something you have 'sort have known' for some time can become a real eyeopener. TD Easterby would count as a 2yo oriented stable and usually makes the Top Ten by number of individual runners (9th in 2007). At the end of the 1990s he was getting average, or better, Strike Rates and headline wins at Royal Ascot with fillies like Romantic Myth. With that background floating in your mind it is instructive to look at his recent record with Strike Rates ranging from 4-8% in the period 2003-6 and back down at 4% this year. Hang on, he's not that much of a '2yo Trainer' after all.
Going back to the list of trainer by Number of Runners only one other trainer in the Top Ten has a single figure Strike Rate - CE Brittain at 6.4%. So he couldn't even match Mr Brittain which is a poor show. The next worst is Kevin Ryan at 11% (well down from the last two years). Extending this to the Top 20 the other below average figures are JL Dunlop (9.2% in a moderate year for him) and RA Fahey at 8.3%. The message being that if you are running that many juveniles and know how to target them then 4% returns will not do.
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Amongst the more usual members of this section was a more surprise entrant in the '"What was all that about?" file. Perhaps it should be titled "Brittain's Straight Flop.". For many years M. Brittain had just occasional 2yo representatives and did manage to get odd winners with the right horse. 2007 saw the number of runners leap to 25 with the majority owned by the trainer or by some form of 'Northgate Poker' and carrying his stable's name. The majority of the trainer owned 2yos were bottom end buys at less than 5,000 guineas and the 'Northgate' horses were mostly a little more pricey but still cheap.
So, what was the plan here? Get a range of low end wins to advertise the stable? Use the 'Northgate' horses to promote some Poker business? Whatever it was it is hard to see from outside how it can have been anything but a failure. The 25 runners produced one accidental win assisted by the Ayr rail bias at a Strike Rate of 0.9%. The horses may have been cheap buys but how much money did this cost?
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The first trainer to consider is A. Berry who produced an indifferent performance in 2007 with his Strike Rate at 4.7%. In the context of his previous decline it would be possible to pain this as a good improvement given the decline of his fortunes through to 2005-6 levels. However, the wins depended on two for cheap buy but useful filly Look Busy and one from a claimed runner. The number of representatives and quality was at more typical recent levels and it seems more likely that the recent season was more of a 'dead cat bounce' than a turnaround in the strength of the yard..
At a different level GA. Butler used to be one of those younger trainers with a good Strike Rate around 15% and the downturn in his recent record is an object lesson for the likes of Mr Beckett. He was backed by a range of important owners including the Sangsters and The Thoroughbred Corporation and got examples of better winners, amongst them Group winning juvenile Elusive City and the useful filly Sumora. The number of runners has dwindled from a high of thirty in 2004 to fifteen in 2006 and just this season and no winner.
Four of the runners were relatively expensive sales buys and he still receives some support from major owners such as M. Tabor and A. D. Spence. However, he clearly needs to turn the situation around to get back to the levels of support and success he used to enjoy.
For a relatively small stable PN (Nerys) Dutfield used to have a good level of results with juveniles. In the best years between 1998 to 2002 she managed to find a number of examples of useful fillies bought for low amounts at Irish sales such as Smittenby, Mizillablack, Misty Eyed & Lady Dominatrix (dam of 2007 Listed winner Janina). Somewhere along the way this ability to find cheap winners was lost and the number of runners has decreased steadily to reach a low of six in 2007. This was the second year that the stable didn't have a 2yo winner and the level of spend on the eight runners in 2007 doesn't suggest an early reverse in the process.
What to make of NP Littmoden? He never really seemed to get 2yo racing and in his best years he could force a relatively strong string up to average performance levels. In a normal season the result were well below average and he was notable for his debuts runners often being pretty incompetent. In 2003 he made a plan to target 2yo racing in the way that Mr. Osborne had the previous year. This produced his best season in 2004 in terms of Strike Rate (13%) and, unusually, debut winners better class race successes. However, there was the niggling feeling that season that he had stumbled onto three useful 2yos in Chateau Istana, Salsa Brava & Polly Perkins, plus support from the claimed Nova Tor (one of PC Haslam's rare debut winners) and the horses had carried the game themselves.
It has been downhill in the three seasons since and reaching a low point in 2007 with only eleven runners, one win (on 6TO) and the Strike Rate down to 2%. He has hinted at retirement and his 2yo performance in recent years might convince you the determination to continue isn't quite what it was.
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A number of trainers have retired during the year and the most important in 2yo terms would be NA Callaghan who has passed his stable and licence on to his son Simon. A shrewd trainer who had a number of tactics which he used with different types of horse. If a 2yo was good enough to win early and on debut then it would be prepared properly and would normally complete the job successfully. Hopefully his movement to the background at his stable wont mean the end of the 'Furlong Pole' system. If you saw Mr. Callaghan stood at the furlong pole, on his own with his binoculars braced for action you knew his 2yo in the race was a good one and 'expected'.
If a juvenile would benefit from a few quiet runs to get a usable official handicap mark then that could be arranged. The final wrinkle with an expensive one for an important owner when it was struggling to win was to send it to Brighton (13 from 33 at a 39% Strike Rate with all runners at the track in the period 2002-6), stick on a top apprentice and perhaps some headgear and 'what else can you do?'.
The final season brought a couple of good examples with firstly Sirjoshuareynolds, a 60,000 guineas purchases for the Green family. His first three runs made him look very moderate and then fourth go, send him to Brighton with a 5lb apprentice on. Tell the jockey to stay far side when the rest of the field go stands' side and chalk off the win. He then sent him to Italy to finish fourth in a Listed race which in form terms probably wasn't much different to Brighton and then ran him unplaced in a low quality Sandown Listed race. Finally, send him to the sales in the autumn and get 72,000 guineas for him because he has a hint of 'black type' about him. All that and he never really did prove he was much good. The second example was High Standing who looked entirely clueless when making his debut as the stable second string. Three more poor runs followed, the last at 150/1 before he blossomed into a dual nursery winner (both comfortably) in his final two outings.
Heroic. Let's hope the son doesn't change things too much.
Amongst the trainers with relatively few juvenile runners CA Cyzer retired and sold off much of his race & breeding stock (complaining about prize money level); BJ Curley announced a break in training while he put more time into his DAFA charity following the windfall it received from the sale of the Racing Post courtesy of Sheikh Mohammed's foresight; PL Gilligan, GA Huffer & P. Mitchell also announced the end of their training careers.
Alan King has had some success with his 2yos since he started with them, as an alternative to 'Summer Jumping', in 2002. One of the first batch of juveniles - Howle Hill - is still performing well for them. After put more emphasis in this area his record with juveniles has declined in the last three years. In early 2007 he said he thought his "..2yos are the nicest bunch I have had." Two minor wins at a 5% Strike Rate followed and the notable readiness on debut that his 2yos used to show has gone. In later season his assistant suggested the stable may not have any 2yos for 2008 because the yard was full for NH commitments.
I. Semple has been a salaried trainer to owner G. MacDowall for ten years and announced he would be handing in his licence because he was drained and needed a rest from the pressure. He noted that the uncertainty over whether he might have any legal liability over a parade ring accident had also affected his decision.
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In general trainers settle into recognisable patterns with their handling of 2yos - how ready they are on debut, their development through the season, what types of races they run in and so on. This section covers a selection of trainers to assess whether they showed their expected patterns.
Trainer PD (David) Evans has his own approach to 2yo racing and this includes getting his runners fit and ready for debut and capable of winning if they have the ability. Like a range of trainers (a good subject for an article itself) the 'Market' wont give you much of a clue as to which are the good ones and this can often lead to his debut runners showing a profit in a season. 2007 gave further examples of this with Vhujon winning well at 33/1 FTO and Bere Davis being a little fortunate to stumble into a duff race for his 25/1 success.
Vhujon, by a sire in Mujadil notable for getting precocious runners, looked as good as he ever was on that taking debut on April 11th. However, Mr Evans has another trait in that he can usually find a second race for them to win later in the season. Vhujon won his second race on his fourth start on July 11th at 8/1. These second wins for the best early runners are a feature to look for and in recent years the following - Bazroy (2006, FTO win Mar 24, second win Sep 7 8TO); Diamond Hurricane (2006, May9 2TO, 4TO 10th Aug); Danjet (20005, Mar 29 STO win, won 8TO Jun 26th); Waterline Twenty (2005, May 26th FTO win, won Jul 27 4TO).
JR Fanshawe hadn't had a winner in the period 2003-6 who had not made the first six places on debut and 9 of the 13 had made the first three with 5 FTO wins. As noted in the previews during the year here is a trainer who doesn't like wasting runs - Mr. Botti could perhaps look to Mr. Fanshawe for some hints on being careful but still actually running them.
In a good year in 2007 he had six individual winners with two winning on debut, three others were placed and the other finished 6th. The 'Market' does appear to know what to expect from his runners and his full home preparation presumably helps this. He had 12 debuts that were 10/1 or less which included all six season winners and five placed and ten made the first six places.
Conversely, 13 debuts were at 11/1 or longer and none of them were winners during the season. None of that 13 managed to place FTO and the best were two fifths by horses who then placed at shorter SPs in maidens STO (i.e. the debut indicated a good trainer could find them a weak race to place in later but not win). Overall, an interesting trainer to judge the ability of his 2yos from the circumstances of their debut. The SP and the B2yoR [Estimate] they achieve seem to be good indicators.
BW Hills had another good season without any great surprises. He typically debuts a set of good 2yos in early June and the best of these win FTO and go the Royal Ascot. The warmer spell in the Spring seem to move these into May with three debut wins in a row with Feared In Flight, Monaazalah and Bob's Surprise through to June 1st from May 17th. He also gave us an example of a 2yo capable of competing at Group level winning a Nursery (off a relatively lowly OR84 by his standards) with Royal Confidence.
But he is worth including here because it is a good chance to consider his Group 1 winner Dark Angel. Although a top level winner he never really was a top class athlete and won a weak edition of the Middle Park without having to improve on his previous performances. He then ran in the 7f Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes and was 25/1 for that - a Group 1 winner running just two weeks later when he should be at his prime at 25/1! Even the general view was that his Middle Park win wasn't up to much. He was unplaced there and soon after it was announced that he would be retired to stud and not race at 3yo. This seems like a negative development if you believe that horses should prove themselves before going to stud .That should include racing after 2yo if the horse isn't injured.
The B2yoR view would be that if Dark Angel had raced as an older horse his lack of real class would have been demonstrated and he'd probably have ended as a 95-100 sprint handicapper and not the sort of horse that would get to stud.
Owner Paul Dixon removed one develop-with-racing trainer from his Haygarth House Stables in 2006 (MJ Polglase) and replaced him with AJ McCabe. That trainer then produced a very similar performance. The early runs were very mixed and the wins started to come after August 10th with the final 10% Strike Rate achieved with 3 wins in the last ten days of the season. One wonders what Mr. McCabe's standing is with Mr Dixon. In the season we saw a similar arrangement terminated with W. MacKay replacing TJ Pitt at his stables the position of a salaried trainer can be a tricky one. It is interesting to compare this to the Arab owners like the Maktoums and their associates who seem to allow their trainers much more opportunity to, err.., vary their performance.
BJ Meehan doesn't target strong debuts and a FTO win before very late season usually indicates a Group quality horse. The earlier debuts are usually successful in May and through into June and then just odd successes in later season. In 2007 Mr. Meehan hadn't had a debut winner by the end of June and you might of thought that he lacked some better runners. He ended the season with 10 FTO wins and by far his best returns. Part of that increase was due to a 'bug' in the stable which caused to have have less runs through May and into June. The delay of the debuts of some of the better types may have helped them be ready to win FTO.
However, it may be that he just had a good group of 2yos in 2007 and the debut winners he did get in mid season still fit well the better quality model. In July he had debuts wins with Sharp Nephew (later Listed winner, 8/1), Fast Company (Group 2 winner, 11/2) & City Leader (Group 2 winner, 33/1) along with Queen Scarlet (Ok type in soft race (14/1) and Cat Junior (Evens favourite in soft race and only ran once). The later season debut wins came from Hurricane Hymbook (STO nursery second to a later Group1 winner), Classic Legend (winner of a moderate Listed event). The latest season debut wins which are less unusual and can just be ok types came from from Masada (unplaced in a Listed race STO) and Hilbre Court (in a weak race and the third debut winner from three goes for US first season sire Doneraile Court record).
So the headline '10 FTO wins' might suggest a change to the trainer's methods but the details suggest that is probably not the case.
What can H. Morrison
have made of Dark Angel going to stud so soon? While he was developing
his stable through to 2003 he used to get above average Strike Rates but
since then they have dropped back to being around the 4-5% mark. With many
trainers this is a sign that they aren't up to the job but Mr Morrison
had already proved he was and his general results tell you that he still
is. The change has come in that he has strong views on bringing his horses
along slowly and seeing 2yo racing just as an education for their 3yo,
and older, careers. He still gets the odd winners but they tend to be among
the earlier debuts and he has a long tail of development types running
in later season which can be pretty much ignored unless they look to be
J. Noseda had another solid season achieving a pretty typical 19% Strike Rate. Over the last three seasons he has given us a new game to play with spotting the debuts of the "Pre Ascot Fillies". Looking at Mr Noseda's recent record in the late May to early June period in 2005-6 these are the horses he has run on debut were :-
Right at the end of the period the colt Strike The Deal won on debut before going to Royal Ascot shortly afterwards to finish fifth in the Norfolk Stakes. He also won at Group 2 level before placing in the Group 1 (in name anyway) Middle Park Stakes. If only all trainers would package up their best 2yos and start them out at such a predictable time of the season. In 2008 start checking the declarations from late May through to early June and get to the course to see his debut runners if you can.
M Prescott was back running his usual range of 2yos and typically the earliest debuts included most of those that could make some sort of impact. The later runners included more of the 'Staying 3yo Handicapper' set-ups. You know the recipe - take a gawky and gormless 2yo with a staying pedigree, run it three times in a short period (probably less than two weeks) over 6-7 furlongs and put it away to let it develop. It'll start the 3yo season on something like an official rating of 54 which will be well short of what it actually is capable of. Stick it in a 3yo 10-12f handicap and make sure the jockey only wins by one length so you can run up a sequence of wins.
Looking at his later season debuts in 2007, Master Of Arts looks a classic example with the stout sire Swain likely to slow him up despite the fact his dam won over 6f at high level. Other probables are Rough Sketch, General Ting, Iron Cross and perhaps Reclamation, Aleatricis and Astrodome. Let us see how that group go in 2008. [B2yoR was at Kempton when Aleatricis made it's second run and the tame pundit was tipping it based on it's terrific pedigree and top trainer. All it needed to do was "..come on a bit for it's debut... run well at a bigger price...". Well, no actually, you may be a pundit but you haven't done your homework and you don't understand the rules of the game the participants are playing.]
GA Swinbank is still developing his style with 2yo racing. For many years he had just a few runners each season but was definitely a trainer who knew how to win and often got good returns from a small group. The last two years have seen the number of runners go up from the 3-7 range to 12 in 2006 and 24 this year. He used to be a real develop-with-racing type trainer and he didn't get debut wins and runners would be at their best from 3TO onward. In the period 2003-6 as many of the 20 wins were on 4TO or later (not a typical distribution with 2yo trainers) and the four STO wins were in 2006 with none before then.
The change of methods to having runners more ready on debut continued in 2007 when the stable had 8 wins during the year by 8 different horses. Four of those successes were on debut and his first of that type. The other four wins were split equally between second and third runs and none were 4TO or later. That's quite a change for a trainer in a two year period and certainly caught B2yoR out during the year. The four debut wins were at, in date order, 25/1, 8/1, 10/1 and 12/1 so the indication that the general view hadn't caught up with the change yet either. Given the increase in runners and what a good trainer he appears to be this is one to track closely in 2008.
TP Tate didn't have a winner in 2003-4 from eleven 2yo runners but seems to have learnt in the last three seasons how to win. The later seasons have seen 10 winners from 25 individual runners and Reel Buddy Blaze also won in 2007 after moving to another trainer. The Strike Rates have been 20%, 13% and down to 11.4% this year and the decrease this year is indicative of an unusual season. Mr. Tate went in the reverse direction to Mr. Swinbank in that in 2005-6 he was notable for having runners ready to win FTO. Those two years saw 6 individual winners of which 4 won on debut and another won STO after a strong second place on it's first run. The one exception was a more limited ability filly who had three runs at 5-6 furlongs before winning her fourth outing in her first Nursery and up in distance to 7.5 furlongs.
The market had not seemed to catch up with the readiness of his debut runners and three of the four wins were at 20/1 (twice) and 33/1. So, more of the same perhaps in 2007 and perhaps a profitable time following his debut runners? The first hint of a possible change was that the debut runners started much earlier than in the previous seasons and they ran less well including one that refused to race. His only place with a FTO juvenile was in a claimer with Reel Buddy Blaze who was promptly bought by another yard and won an Auction race for them next time. Three of the wins then came in late season with one 3TO and two 5TO.
What to expect in 2008? If he went back to later debuts which were more ready and had a solid crop of 2yos (he seems to buy well from foreign sales, often with 7f+ types) we might get back to the profits following his debut runners. If 2007 were an indication of a real change of style then it would still be worth following the progress of his early debut runners. Three of his first four runners in 2007 went on to be the later, development, successes.
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