Royal Ascot Notes: Handicaps vs Non-Handicaps

Royal Ascot stats

Royal Ascot stats

We begin our Royal Ascot prep with six days to go, and the desperately sad news that Sir Henry Cecil (known on this blog as ‘Sir’ Henry long before the knighthood finally arrived) has passed after a long and difficult battle with the other big ‘C’. Condolences go to his family and friends. My heartfelt thanks go to the man for all the memories. He is the reason I got into this sport in such a big way.

As they say, though, the show goes on. With a heavy heart, duty turns to the Royal meeting, and our prep kicks off with a look at the handicaps vs. non-handicaps.

Royal Ascot Handicap Stats

There are thirty races at Royal Ascot: 21 non-handicaps and just nine handicaps. Let’s look at the handicaps first, covering the last five Royal Ascot’s, and therefore forty-five races in this sample.

The average number of runners in Royal Ascot handicaps between 2008 and 2012 was 21.6. Ostensibly, winner-finding in that context will not be easy.

The average win odds in Royal Ascot handicaps between 2008 and 2012 were 12.68/1. The highest was 66/1 Cosmic Sun (King George V Stakes, 2009), while the lowest was Rainbow Peak at 13/8 (!) (Wolferton Handicap, 2010).

The median win odds in Royal Ascot handicaps between 2008 and 2012 were 9/1. That is the mid-point in the range of winning odds from the 45 Royal Ascot handicap winners since 2008, and it suggests that – actually – it may not be so hard to find winners as field size implies.

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Indeed, 31 of the 45 handicap winners were priced at 12/1 or shorter.

Only one horse aged older than six has won a Royal Ascot handicap since 2008. And only five horses older than five have prevailed. There were 96 horses aged older than six: one won. There were 215 older than five: five won.

Nine clear favourites have won Royal Ascot handicaps since 2008, and they recorded a level stakes profit. From the 40 horses to be sent off clear favourite, nine won, recording a 7.63 unit profit.

Simple Royal Ascot handicap system

Based on the above, backing horses aged three or four, and priced at 12/1 or shorter would have won you 24 of the 45 handicaps (53%) for a level stakes profit of 5.13 points at SP. Focusing on those which finished in the first three last time out would reduce the number of bets while still winning 21 of the 45 handicaps (47%), and returned a profit of 34.13 units at level stakes.

In Royal Ascot handicaps, back 3 or 4yo’s priced 12/1 or shorter, which placed 1-2-3 last time out.

Royal Ascot Non-handicap Stats

There are 21 non-handicaps at the Royal meeting, meaning a sample size of 105 races over the past five years.

The average number of runners in Royal Ascot non-handicap races between 2008 and 2012 was 13.5. That’s around eight less runners on average than the handicap races.

The average win odds in Royal Ascot non-handicap races between 2008 and 2012 were 8.05/1. Flashman’s Papers memorably won the Windsor Castle Stakes at 100/1, and even more memorably the great Frankel was 1/10 when winning the Queen Anne Stakes last year. They were the highs and lows in odds terms.

The median win odds in Royal Ascot non-handicaps between 2008 and 2012 were 9/2. Wow. Out of those 105 races, 53 of them returned a winner priced at 9/2 or shorter. This game’s easy, surely! Alas, no. That 50% of winners priced at 9/2 or shorter compares unfavourably with the 65% of non-handicap (and non-maiden) winners priced at 9/2 or shorter in the last five years.

89 of the 105 winners (85%) returned at 12/1 or shorter. This compares with 91% of flat non-handicap races over the last five years, which have been won by horses priced 12/1 or shorter. In other words, shock horror, Royal Ascot races are more competitive than average. Who knew?! 😉

Ten Royal Ascot non-handicap winners since 2008 were aged six or higher. But, of those ten, six of them ran in one of the staying races: three each in the Gold Cup and the Queen Alexandra Stakes. At distances of less than two miles, just four horses older than five have won.

Favourites and joint-favourites have won 42 of the 105 Royal Ascot non-handicaps since 2008. That’s a 40% win rate and, what’s more, it has shown a profit of 19.38 units for level stakes backing.

Simple Royal Ascot non-handicap system

Taking the best of the above leads me to horses aged five or less, which were sent off as market leader, or joint market leader.

This group of 99 nags has returned 38 wins (38.38%) and a profit to level stakes of 23.53 units.


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