Two of the most critical figures in horse racing betting are the jockeys and trainers. They can dramatically alter your betting decisions. Behind every racehorse, horse trainers are getting them ready to run at the track. Without horse race jockeys on board to ride them, they can’t win. It’s a partnership between trainers, riders, and the equine athletes themselves, which brings about success. Let’s take a look at how horse trainers and jockeys can make an impact on the betting, what to look out for before you make your choices, and how vital their form is.
How horse trainers affect a race
Precisely who trains a racehorse can shape how the bookmakers rate its chances of winning events on the track. Some horse racing trainers and their stables have a much higher profile than other yards. It is worth knowing that horse trainers target particular tracks for their horses. This may be because they feel that the course is suitable for individual horses. The trainer may also have a good record with runners at that course in the past. It could also have to do with the proximity between their stables and the venue for racing.
When trainers don’t have to send their horses far cooped, that’s an obvious plus. A lengthy and challenging journey to run in a race is a negative, and bookmakers are also aware of this. They are likely to put horses running at their local track, at shorter prices in the market than other animals who have traveled further. After a horse has done well, the trainer will nominate their next target. This information is also acted on by the bookies. They react to performances on the track that are a stepping stone to higher-profile races by altering the price of horses.
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The importance of horse trainers form
It’s vital that you, as a bettor, keep your eye out for horse racing trainers in form. Several horses from the same stable might not be running well, or are running below what they achieved on past performances. The reasons for that may be more than just a coincidence. It could indicate that there is a sickness bug in the yard, or the horses there have been eating bad feed. Betting on a trainer who is not in form simply will not make for a successful strategy. You want to be gambling on horses that are from a yard where runners are being seen to best effect.
Stables go in and out of form all the time, so catching hot trainers at the right time is one of the gambling skills you need to develop as a punter. Don’t forget the old saying that form is temporary, but class is permanent, though. Just because other horses from a stable are not winning or running well doesn’t automatically mean that one of interest to you cannot buck the trend and run well. All trainer form is simply a guide to how their yard has been doing at recent horse racing meetings.
You should be able to easily find how a handler has been doing with their runners over the last 14 days. All top horse racing websites will record and regularly update these statistics so you can see who the hot trainers are, and what their strike rate of winners to runners in that period is. Some sources will even break things down over the current year or season. You can look at stats for a trainer’s runners by age group or track in the previous 12 months.
What to keep in mind when considering horse trainers
First of all, consider what their reputation is. Is a trainer regarded as one of the best in the country, and are they producing previous winners of a particular type of race? Do they have a history of winning big races more than once? Do they target such races with horses year in and year out? If the answer to these questions is yes, then betting on the horses trained by them could pay off. Looking at who owns the racehorses at a trainer’s stable can also be worthwhile.
If there are influential, high profile owners that have a horse in training at a yard, then they may expect big race success. Some owners only use particular trainers because of a longstanding relationship. If a handler has a track record of having the same owner sending top horses to their stable, then you know that they have confidence in them. Bookmakers will make major owners’ and leading trainers’ horses a shorter price than others as a result. It is all about the connections.
How jockeys influence horse race betting
A high-profile jockey booking for a race suggests that connections (the owner and trainer) expect big things. Sometimes, the rider is changed from previous races just to freshen things up or try something new. Owners may be disappointed with the ride a jockey gave their horse. If they think the performance was poor, they may look for someone else. Most trainers have stable jockeys who ride their horses. However, other riders may be retained by certain owners to ride regardless of who trains the horse.
Some horse race jockeys operate as freelancers and use agents to get them bookings. These are not tied to any particular yard. If a rider has ridden winners earlier on the same card of a race meeting, then bookies always slash the odds of other subsequent rides. They see this as evidence that the rider is in-form in the saddle and thus try to protect their liabilities if that jockey goes on to ride doubles, trebles, and even multiple winners throughout the day. This ties in nicely with jockey form.
Why is jockey form crucial
Jockey form matters because, if they have winners, that suggests they are riding well. Some jockeys are all about quantity. They are interested in riding the most winners to be crowned champion jockey. Others care about quality and getting to ride the best horses in the biggest races. Raw numbers don’t interest them, only their share of big prize money.
If jockeys aren’t riding winners, or at least running into places on racehorses, then they cannot be said to be in-form. It may be worth avoiding betting on jockeys who are not at their peak. Again, as with trainers, the form is never permanent, and a good rider will eventually be back in the winners’ enclosure even if they are having a hard time at a particular moment.
As with trainers, you can see how jockeys have performed on their previous mounts in the last 14 days. Some horse racing websites even list a jockey’s strike rate (winners to horses rode ratio) when teaming up with a specific stable in the last 12 months. These jockey stats allow you to identify trainer-jockey combinations that can be worth betting on, as you can see who is in-form.
Types of jockey
There isn’t just one jockey definition, but several different types of rider that horse trainers can book for their horses. The type depends on multiple aspects: the type of race in hand, the experience a jockey has and even gender. You need to be familiar with all kinds if you are considering betting on a jockey:
Professionals: These are people who ride horses for a living full-time and travel around the country and even the world. Often shortened to pros, these are the top jockeys in the business.
Amateurs: Jockeys that don’t turn professional are called amateurs. They may ride horses on the point-to-point circuit or hunter chases in National Hunt racing. There is also a history of military personnel riding in certain races, and they are classed as amateurs too.
Apprentices: These are young riders attached to specific stable learning their trade-in horse racing. They will claim a large weight allowance (starting at 10lb and going down to 7lb). After riding a certain number of winners, their apprenticeship is over.
Conditional: More experienced than apprentices, but not yet entirely professional riders. They may still claim a weight allowance (5lb down to 3lb). The claim is reduced when they reach a certain number of winners.
Flat: Jockeys who ride in Flat races only. They will need to be able to cover a weight range from 10st down to 8st since speed is of the essence.
Jump: Jockeys who ride in National Hunt races only. They ideally need to be able to do a weight range from 12st to 10st. It is a little higher than Flat Racing because stamina and skill are more important.
Ladies: Female jockeys can claim a gender allowance in certain countries (for example, about 3lb in France). About 10% of the riders are women.
What can a jockey booking tell you
A jockey booking can be very revealing about a horse’s chances. Using an amateur, apprentice, or conditional jockey to ride a horse in a handicap will take the weight off its back. That suggests that a trainer doesn’t think the horse is capable of winning the race of its current rating. However, reducing the weight a horse carries on the track has to be considered an advantage even if the rider lacks experience.
Sometimes, horse trainers will be loyal to the jockey whatever type and stage of career they’re at if they have ridden a horse well in the past. Many yards are small, modest-sized operations that don’t have significant owners with several horses in the stable. It’s always worth noting any jockey changes from a horse’s previous race before betting on it, and considering why the switch has been made.
What to keep in mind when considering jockeys
As well as taking into account a horse jockey's height and weight, it is also essential to take notice of jockey changes. If a rider gets injured and stood down by the doctors at a track, perhaps after a fall, then another jockey is needed to take the spare ride. Sometimes, this results in the horse winning. Look out for eye-catching jockey bookings. A high-profile jockey on a high-profile horse in a big race suggests it has a good chance of winning. Have they teamed up with the stable before? Does the racehorse owner like to book them? If so, then you know connections trust the jockey.
Inexperienced jockeys in big field handicaps are something to avoid. Although apprentice and conditionals take the weight off a horse’s back, they may not know how race ride and judge the pace with so many horses around them. Jockeys switching codes between Flat and National Hunt is another thing to be wary of. There are different styles because, in the latter, you have to clear obstacles.
Avoid trainers who are sending runners to faraway tracks. If they couldn’t find a race for the horses nearer to home, it’s a concern. Jockeys just back from injury, meanwhile, may be rusty. Trainers who haven’t had winners for an extended period, or several horses running below form, should be avoided too. Also, don’t bet on trainers who have just vaccinated their horses, because it takes time for them to get over it.
We have looked at the importance or jockey and trainer form, what to look out for, and what to avoid. A careful study of stats and trends around handlers and riders, in both general terms and for specific races, can increase your chances of finding winners. But there are too many variables when you select particular trainers or jockeys that can change at the last minute. There are people with a lot of success in horse racing. You should definitely take them into account, but maybe you are better off assessing each race individually and not always bet on your favourite trainers or jockeys.