Lies, Damned Lies & Statistics

Posted by Paul Moon in Blog, Systems & Strategies | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Horse racing is an entity consumed by statistics inextricably woven into the fabric of the sport in an historical integration. When you add opinions that range from one extreme to another the unravelling becomes almost impossible but sometimes within the confusion there is an angle to exploit.


 We all use statistics to aid our decision-making process but especially when faced with complex situations. Here are a few quotations that have amused and accompanied my life:

  • Torture numbers, and they'll confess to anything - Gregg Easterbrook

  • 98% of all statistics are made up - Author Unknown

  • Statistics are like bikinis, what they reveal is suggestive but what they conceal is vital - Aaron Levenstein

  • Statistics can be made to prove anything, even the truth - Author Unknown

AP McCoy is the greatest jockey in National Hunt history. So far this season he has ridden 88 winners from 341 rides with a strike-rate of 26%. The maths tell us he has ridden 253 losers and had we backed all of his rides to a £1 stake we would be losing £70.80. He is an anomaly in that he has an abnormal affect on the betting market where the zombie masses follow him lemming-like! Clearly his mounts are over-bet and generally there is no value in backing him! Giving a bookmaker an extra commission on top of their overround means you cannot win money from betting in the medium to long-term.

To gain perspective we look at six of our top jockeys:

     Jockey         Wins     Rides     S/R     Loss £1 stake
1 A P McCoy          88       341      26%         £70.80
2 Richard Johnson    63       274      23%         £10.03
3 Jason Maguire      22       123      18%         £28.96
4 Tom Scudamore      24       216      11%         £99.84
5 Graham Lee         24       160      15%         £14.50
6 Paddy Brennan      24       130      18%          £7.33
    Totals          245      1244      20%        £231.46

From 1,244 rides our best jockeys have won 245 times with a strike-rate of less than 20%. To date they have ridden 999 losers. Obviously there were many occasions where these jockeys raced against each other in the same race so affecting the statistics.

As the National Hunt Jump season gathers momentum AP McCoy will be riding a better class of horse so how will that affect the statistics? The answer is simple - punters will lose even more money. Take a look at his record over the past five years:

              Year     Winners    S/R      Loss
             2009/10     195      22%     £138.67
             2008/09     186      22%      £78.29
             2007/08     140      22%     £129.95
             2006/07     184      24%     £122.15
             2005/06     178      21%     £137.57
             Totals      883      22%     £606.63

At the moment McCoy's strike-rate is artificially high and now is a great time to lay his horses. Using the grid as a reliable guide losses will be sustained between £78.29 and £138.67 to a £1 level stake resulting in a profit between £7.49 to £67.87. Clearly our greatest jump jockey creates wealth for bookmakers and for those that prefer to lay bets, there is little risk of big priced winners! Just one more statistic, here is the five-year record of Tom Scudamore:

              Year       Winners    S/R        Loss
             2009/10       73       13%       £71.69
             2008/09       62       11%       £238.48
             2007/08       51        9%       £220.74
             2006/07       59       10%       £264.83
             2005/06       35        7%       £253.72
             Totals       280       10%     £1,049.46

Scudamore has ridden 24 winners at an 11% strike-rate losing £99.84 to a £1 level stake so far this season. What are the statistics telling you, will he build on last season? Our best guess is he will be closer to his loss average than -71.69pts which means he is another jockey to lay.


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