Horses for Courses

By Todd Burmester Horses for courses…. it’s a saying that’s been around for as long as you can remember, but does it really ring true in the case of chasing a winner? On the surface, most punters would probably be of the opinion that having a good record at the venue of today’s race is an advantage. Most would also probably tell you that some horses just don’t handle a particular venue. One of those venues is Moonee Valley. Plenty of times you’ll hear in the post race analysis “he just didn’t handle The Valley”. This will become more and more topical over the coming weeks as we are about to head into the Moonee Valley night racing series for another season. I thought I would explore this a little further and see whether I can put some meat around the bones of whether “The Valley” really does bring runners undone. To have a closer look at the theory, I decided to source some data based on a sample of Moonee Valley winners, and see how many of those had won there before, and how many hadn’t. The next step was to compare and contrast this to another course, being Flemington. When you think about the two courses, they are very different in layout. Flemginton has the long sweeping bend that seems to go forever, prior to a lengthy home straight, where as “The Valley”, is a tighter turning course, and has the shortest of the home straights of all metropiltan tracks. I figured if the “The Valley” truly brings horses undone, comparing it to Flemington, would give me a fair gauge. From a sample of 2084 Moonee Valley race winners and 2155 Flemington race winners here is what I found: 41.5% of the Moonee Valley sample of winners had never started at the course before. Thie compares to 36.8% of the Flemington sample that had never started at that course before. Interesting that a higher percentage of the sample were able to take straight to Moonee Valley at their first go, than those starting for the first time at Flemington From those who had started at the respective course before, 56.7% had not won at Moonee Valley previously, 57.1% had not won at Flemington. This indicates that an almost identical amount of winners turned their previous losing record around at both courses. Maybe Moonee Valley is not such a specialist course after all. What about if we take the opposite tact and look at winners at the course that have won on multiple occasions? Of the Moonee Valley sample, 8.1% were multiple winners, which compares almost identically to 7.8% of the Flemington sample that were multiple winners The only statistic that I could find that indicated Moonee Valley was a specialist course, was that of the sample of 2000 odd winners, 7 of them had won 7 times or more at the venue, where as the most number of wins at Flemington in the sample as 6 wins, by two horses. In conclusion, I’d say writing a horse off due to a poor record at a particular track is somewhat a trap, and furthermore I would say that having a suspicion that a horse will not handle Moonee Valley is even more of a trap. Going after horses that have a specialist record at a particular track may produce winners in terms of strike rate, but it also may diminish value. It’s each to their own, but I am prepared to place “record at the track” low on my list of criteria when looking for a winner.