Can Punters Still Profit From Mick Appleby?
If there is one AW track which lends itself to statistical analysis more than the others, it’s Southwell, writes Rory Delargy. That’s partly because the difference between the demands of racing on fibresand and polytrack/tapeta is so stark, meaning there is a particular onus on the ability to handle the surface. And that ability can be established either through previous fibresand form, or by analysis of breeding, which is much more informative at this particular venue than it is for any other course in the UK. The unforgiving nature of the kickback also means that pace and draw analysis is more rewarding that it can be elsewhere, too.
In terms of trainers to follow, most people with more than a passing knowledge of the discipline will put Mick Appleby forward as one to keep on side, but while that was a hugely profitable ploy at one stage, even the most naïve of odds compilers now marks Appleby runners as “careful”, meaning punters find it hard to make a profit from the yard, despite the success rate largely improving over time.
Appleby’s career can be separated into two distinct periods – 2006-2011 and 2012-present. In the first period, he struggled as a new trainer to make any impact with poor horses, but things seemed to change in 2012 with an influx of new owners and an approach which consisted largely of acquiring physically sound but limited animals from other yards with a view to exploiting a programme of moderate handicaps, as produced by Southwell during the winter season. It’s interesting to see how the trainer’s runners at Southwell have performed during those distinct periods, as shown below.
All Races at Southwell (AW)
2006-2011 R: 54 W: 1 P: 12
2012-2015 R: 430 W: 90 P: 118
Backing Appleby runners since 2012 would have produced a tidy profit, and the temptation is to follow that strategy, but it’s interesting to see how much the market has caught up with that approach, as this analysis of P&L by year (based on Betfair SP) shows:
2012: R: 41 W: 6 P&L: 29.74
2013: R: 98 W: 26 P&L: 65.29
2014: R: 146 W: 31 P&L: (1.29)
2015: R: 145 W: 27 P&L: (4.58)
(Figs in brackets represent losses)
The table above shows that while there is still a steady flow of winners, it’s harder to find value in backing runners from the yard. One angle is to kick out everything running at the lowest class – Appleby is a shrewd buyer of others’ cast-offs, but for every diamond in the rough, there are several dog turds (to coin a phrase!), and even a brilliant trainer can’t polish everything he acquires. If we concentrate on just the runners at class 5 and higher in the last few years we get the following figures:
R: 245 W: 60 P&L: 101.15
Those figures can be improved by stripping out the juveniles, and while they are actually bettered by the inclusion of statistics for maidens, it makes sense to remove such races as they tend not to be targeted, and this gives us a better indication of performance. By doing so, we find that it remains perfectly possible to make a profit following Mick Appleby’s runners on fibresand, as long as we pick and choose which races to target. It’s dangerous to backfit any system in order to produce the biggest profits, and I am excluding maiden races on the basis that results, while positive, are not indicative of the overall approach of the yard, and they tend to produce profits only in races open to 4-y-o’s and older horses (which may in itself be worth pursuing of course).
One other angle to pursue is looking at those horses having their first or second runs for the stable, as such runners have a 50% strike rate over the past few seasons (this isn’t confined to fibresand, with all AW runners starting out for the stable producing a profit year on year at a strike-rate of over 30% in handicaps). It’s again easy to try to reduce risk by excluding sprinters, as such horses (runners at 5f/6f) have produced a level-stakes loss in recent seasons, but it usually pays to look at the wider figures, and the Appleby sprinters have performed above expectations when comparing total win and place statistics against those expected. Since 2012, twice as many runners have finished in the money as have won, and that is a strong indicator that the poor returns are more down to the rub of the green than any lack of talent.
The most surprising statistic I’ve found, however, is the poor AW record of horses from the yard who have raced exclusively on turf, or are unraced. From a sample of 107 runners without AW experience, only three have won on their AW debut, despite the notion that all runners under the trainer’s care are able to handle artificial surfaces. This is clearly untrue, and avoiding such runners will increase the profitability of following the stable. Here is the record of the yard’s runners in class 5 and better handicaps given the fact that such runners have already raced on an artificial surface:
R: 213 W: 57 P&L: 72.26
If we consider runners in December alone, we distil those figures to this:
R: 20 W: 8 P&L: 10.42
The above figures should not be the result of tinkering and backfitting to produce a winning system, but merely the application of common sense – we have excised runners in the lowest class of races, runners in maidens, juveniles, and those without previous AW experience, and there is every reason to believe that adopting a similar approach will enable followers of the Mick Appleby yard to produce a profit again over the next month, and indeed the next year.
– Rory Delargy
Rory is a regular guest on William Hill Radio, and has had stints at Betfair, Timeform and Ladbrokes in various guises. More recently, he writes a hugely popular weekly piece in the Irish Field and forms one half of the excellent Racing Consultants tipping service.
Rory can be followed on twitter at @helynsar