Win in Hunter Chases

Champion Hunter, Agus A Vic in a field somewhere...

Champion Hunter, Agus A Vic in a field somewhere...

They’re much derided (often by me), dear reader, and for good reason. They bimble around like they know what they’re doing, make shocking errors when presenting themselves at the fences, and generally go such a dawdle that races end up as a sprint to the finish after a ‘last man standing’ competition. And that’s just the horses!

I am of course talking about hunter chases, and I am of course being – at least partially – unfair.

Long term readers will know of my disdain for betting on amateur riders’ races. But I must admit that recently I’ve found I’m developing a soft spot for them. Have I gone mad? Why this sudden, and most unexpected, change of heart?

Well, it is quite simply a betting profit thing. I’ve actually realised a few angles into these races that can make the most unappetising event a punting delectation.

First up, and I won’t elaborate on it today, there’s the riders. Now in my preamble I might have implied (or even explicitly stated!) that the horses were also an amateur mob. This is far from true. Indeed, many are either heavily schooled in point to point fields the length and breadth of our fine connected nations, or they’re ex-handicap chasers (or Graded chasers in some cases) who have lost that bit of speed.

My point is that they are generally far more experienced than their pilots. Generally, but not always. Let me cut to the chase, as I have no data to support this at this time. Back the best jockeys in amateur riders’ races. If you see a good horse with a bad jockey atop, consider laying it if the price is right.

I will bring some numbers to this most unscientific of angles another day, but today I wanted to share with you a simple system that I developed for the Irish Field.

[Non-Irish readers may not be aware that the Irish Field is the equivalent of the Racing Post Weekender combined with Equestrian Plus magazine. It’s a weekly paper with a circulation of around 15,000, and I was lucky enough to be asked to write a weekly column for them. If you live in Ireland, go buy it!!! 😉 ]

OK, so back to the chase, and – specifically – the hunter chase.


From the start of February until early Summer, it’s hunter chase season. Lest you didn’t know, hunter chases are races specifically confined to amateur riders and horses which have been hunting and have been confirmed as such by the Master of Hounds.

Because of the minutiae of the rules, which allow formerly high class chasers to race against up and coming privately owned point-to-pointers, it can prove challenging to assimilate this convergence of disparate form.

Such a situation is a prime candidate for systematic study, as this is agnostic in terms of where the horse previously raced. Rather, we need only focus on the exact rule set of those qualifying horses.

So what are the nuances of hunter chases, and how can we apply those to our betting?

Well, firstly, hunters are often ‘family pets’ and, as such, the percentage of horses pulled up in hunter chase races is higher than normal steeplechases. In the last five seasons, 76% of hunters failed to complete in one or more of their last six starts. Compare this with 66% of non-hunters in chases who failed on the same count.

So, it stands to reason that we’re looking for a horse that generally gets round the course. Those that habitually don’t finish, habitually don’t win!

In my research, I found the optimum was to look only at horses whose completion record was two-thirds or better of their last half dozen races (i.e. four or more completions from last six runs).

And I took that a step further by insisting that the hunter did complete last time out and, not only that, but also finished in the first five in that previous race. Recent form is a key consideration in hunter chases.

Allied to the recent form of a horse – in fact, implicit within it – is the importance of a recent run. This particular parameter is not peculiar to hunter chases. All horses tend, as a collective, to perform better if they’ve had the benefit of a recent run. With my hunter chase research, I found that those who’d raced in the last seven weeks performed at a higher level – and won more often – than those rested for longer than that.

Tying this all together from a systems perspective is a reflection on the betting market. It’s not especially that the betting ring is abuzz prior to the tapes going up on these amateur rider races. Rather, most hunter chases have a higher proportion of horses that are unlikely to be competitive than say a handicap chase.

Thus, despite sometimes quite large fields for these contests, we can arbitrarily pare the field down to a far more manageable size, by excluding any runner whose odds are greater than 15/2.

But therein lies a conundrum. The betting market, when used as a guide to winner identification, may not present a profitable opportunity. What I mean is this: although the vast majority of hunter chase winners come from the first few horses in the betting, the odds offered on such horses mean that we would still make a loss backing them.

In other words, the percentage of winners is high, but not sufficiently high to compensate for the returns on our cumulative investment.

When looking specifically at hunter chases, however, an interesting pattern emerges. Below is a table showing the performance of horses in odds groups from long odds-on up to 15/2:







< 1/2






1/2 – 20/21




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1/1 – 11/8






6/4 – 15/8






2/1 – 7/2






4/1 – 15/2






If we look at the strike rate percentage (STRIKE%) column, we can clearly see here a reduction in the strike rate as the odds get longer. That’s hardly surprising, because we’d expect a 4/1 chance to win less often than, say, a 4/6 chance.

But now look at the level stakes profit (LSP) and level stakes profit as a percentage of investment (LSP%) columns, and things get significantly more interesting.

Those horses sent off at odds shorter than 2/1 would have lost us 10.23 points profit over five years. Hardly dramatic, and actually that could probably be turned into a profit using a betting exchange as the percentage loss equates to just 6.47% of stakes.

However, those horses who started between 2/1 and 15/2 managed to return a healthy profit, despite the lower strike rate.

Overall, backing horses under those conditions would have given you 102 winners from 444 bets over the last five seasons, which is a strike rate of 23%. Betting at SP, you’d have seen a 54.07 points profit on those wagers. That’s a 12.18% return on investment at starting prices.

Given that you could expect a return of around 10-15% more on the exchanges for that odds range, the ROI could be as much as 25%, even after paying the commission.

Better yet, the system was profitable in every one of the last five seasons, and the strike rate broadly consistent:





































So, to recap, how do we hunt and chase down a hunter chase winner?

Follow these four rules:

1. Must have run in the last seven weeks

2. Must have finished in the first five last time out

3. Must have had no more than two non-completions (Fell / Unseated rider / Pulled up / Brought down / Refused / Slipped up) in last six starts

4. Must be 2/1 – 15/2 in the betting

Happy Hunting!


p.s. Latest from Betfair Conspiracy is here. Two easy winners yesterday bring us virtually back to parity.

Today, there’s loads of action: Southwell 2.40, 3.40; Taunton 2.50, 3.50; Ludlow 2.30, 5.00; Wolverhampton 7.50

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