Trends Analysis: Royal Hunt Cup

Sandagiyr can win for Saeed Bin Suroor

Simon Rowlands tipped Julienas in 2011, Prince of Johanne in 2012 and he aims to complete the hat-trick in 2013...

Sandagiyr will likely have to run to a Timeform rating of 116 or higher to win this, as against a previous best of 113, but that does not seem out of the question for a horse that won a Group 3 in Dubai in 2012...

Complete the following sequence: Julienas (2011), Prince of Johanne (2012), xxxxxxxxx (2013).

The answer is Sandagiyr. The first two were identified for the Royal Hunt Cup by trends analysis in their respective years - and managed to win at good prices - and Sandagiyr is the one entrusted with maintaining the good work this time round. 

As in past years, data was looked at from 2006 onwards, with performance measured by average lengths beaten, with those lengths capped at three times the distance of the race in furlongs and then translated into pounds. The repeated message is that trends which are measured by winners alone, and what's more with no reference to how many winners could be expected, are fundamentally flawed. 

The three criteria used were: age; handicap mark; and draw (though the last-named is less a "trend" than a feature of basic analysis). 

A recurring theme with Flat handicaps is that "younger is better". That is true with the Royal Hunt Cup, but with one condition: five-year-olds (+4.1 lb) have out-performed four-year-olds (0.0 lb). Horses older than five have performed progressively worse with age in the Royal Hunt Cup in recent years. 

Handicap mark conclusions are complicated by the fact that this year's race is of higher quality than usual: the minimum mark will be 96, whereas it varied between 86 and 91 from 2006 to 2012. Horses running off BHA marks of 101 to 105 inclusive have done better than those running off lower and higher, but not to a large degree (just under 3 lb). 

However, by some way the most important factor over the years has been the draw (remembering that the draw was recategorised prior to the 2011 meeting, and also that non-runners will lead to the draw being shuffled across). Low draws have done poorly, while high draws have done well, with stalls 1 to 4 nearly 8 lb worse than par and stalls 25 to 30 nearly 12 lb better than par. 

Four of the seven winners have been drawn the equivalent of 25 or higher and 17 of the 28 placed horses have been drawn the equivalent of 20 or higher, which is nearly three times and nearly two times expectation respectively. 

Draw biases can be fickle on straight courses and sometimes more a manifestation of pace bias than draw per se. Encouragingly, the two horses with the lowest Timeform EPFs (early position figures, established from the horses' run styles in recent races), indicating a forward-racing style, are Spa's Dancer, drawn 30, and Moran Gra, drawn 33. Sandagiyr himself has a tracking/midfield EPF of 2.7 and is drawn 32 (29 in reality after reserves are removed). 

Sandagiyr, as a five-year-old off a mark of 103, scores highly in each department and comes out with a +20.4 lb expectation. Next in are Two For Two (+17.3 lb) and Navajo Chief (+14.5 lb). The ante-post favourite, Stirring Ballad, has a -6.6 lb expectation. 

Sandagiyr will likely have to run to a Timeform rating of 116 or higher to win this, as against a previous best of 113, but that does not seem out of the question for a horse that won a Group 3 in Dubai in 2012. His stable - that of Saeed bin Suroor - could not be in much better form now, either. 

Recommendation:
1 pt win back Sandagiyr
Place lay Stirring Ballad to lose 2 pts.  

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