Understanding Race Tactics – Riding Style

Aside from the jockey’s overall strike rates, outlined in the first article in this series, it is also important to try to understand their riding style, which can be crucial when it comes to looking at race tactics.

The UK’s leading data and content provider Timeform has produced a handy guide to help you decide what type of horses and which jockeys you should be looking out for at various courses.


Early Position Figures (EPFs)

Since late 2012, Timeform’s team of race reporters have been recording Early Position Figures (EPFs) for every runner in every race. Recorded at the same or similar point in each race, EPFs are another piece of data that can be used to assess not only the horses, but jockeys too, as they can be used to build up a riding style profile.

All other things being equal, the best place to be in the early part of a race is either in front or at least to be prominent (an EPF of 1 or 2). The further back in the field, the more a hostage to fortune the jockey becomes as they battle against others who are all trying to maximise their horse’s chance of crossing the finish line first.

For example – with 24.7% of rides recording an EPF of 5 and a further 24.8% recording a 4 – there is no doubt that leading jockey Jamie Spencer has a preferred style of riding.

One jockey who is quite different to Spencer is Richard Kingscote. He is usually found towards the front-end of races he’s in, with 21.7% of his rides recording an EPF of 1 and 33.1% an EPF of 2, both of which are higher than the average jockey.


Jockey Riding Style Radar

The riding styles of Spencer and Kingscote are visualised below in the form of a radar which represents Timeform EPFs. Leading jockey Ryan Moore is also plotted, along with the “average” jockey profile (in grey). The Ryan Moore radar shows a remarkably average riding style distribution, perhaps representative of his ability to react better to developing circumstances than some others.


Radar Correlation With Typecasting

But how does this help when it comes to looking out for different types of jockeys and horses at particular racecourses? The table below show the top 5 Flat courses which suit horses ridden from the front (EPF 1).

Top 5 Courses For Front RunnersPercentage Of Winners With An EPF Of 1
1. Clonmel30.91%
2. Chester30.85%
3. Beverley30.15%
4. Ripon28.14%
5. Catterick Bridge27.98%

The first table illustrates the importance of a prominent position on a variety of different types of course, however all of the top 5 have at least one tight bend, or, in the case of Chester, one continuous turning circuit. Digging deeper into the numbers, the table below shows the top 5 Flat courses for horses ridden prominently in sprints (6.5 furlongs or less). The message? Back front-running sprinters at Chester.

Top 5 Courses For Front Runners Over 6.5f Or LessPercentage Of Winners With An EPF Of 1
1. Chester45.00%
2. Windsor42.68%
3. Bellewstown42.31%
4. Chelmsford City41.04%
5. Epsom Downs40.00%

At the other end of the spectrum, the table below shows the top 5 Flat courses for horses who are held up and ridden off the pace (EPF 4 and 5) over all distances.

Top 5 Courses For Hold Up HorsesPercentage Of Winners With An EPF Of 4 or 5
1. York31.83%
2. Ascot30.82%
3. Doncaster29.66%
4. Newbury27.48%
5. Haydock Park27.40%

The General Rule

As you can see, the percentage of winners is similar to those with an EPF of 1, however the crucial difference is that these percentages are for two categories: EPF 4 and EPF 5. Therefore, as a general rule and much to the disadvantage of jockeys like Jamie Spencer who have a hold-up style of riding, horses that are held up are around half as likely to win as those ridden much more positively.

That isn’t of course, to say that horses can’t win from different positions at the courses listed in the tables above, however it’s far more important to be in a prominent position at Chester than it is to be held up at York, for example. The ‘top 5 Flat courses for horses who are held up’ table illustrates that those tracks are among the fairer in the UK, with York, Newbury and Haydock also among the flattest courses in the country. It’s also worth noting that they, along with Ascot and Doncaster, host some of the highest-quality racing in the country, again increasing the likelihood that the best horses will often find a way to win, even if disadvantaged by track position.


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