Tracking Willie Mullins Hurdlers After They Win On DebutNovember 13th, 2023
By Paul Fitzgerald
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Between 2018 and the 07/11/2023, 733 Graded and Listed Hurdle races have been run in the UK and Ireland.
Using the Proform System Builder, a list of trainers and the number of horses they ran in these races can be found quickly and easily. Analysis of this list shows that whilst 393 trainers had runners in these contests, just 11 trainers won over 66% of them (486 race wins from 733 races). It’s quite startling to think that during this time period, over two thirds of all top level hurdle races were won by just 2.8% of the trainers that contested them. Lets call them the Elite 11. They are listed next…
The table below shows that in the period 2018-2023, the Elite 11 have won 1.36 times their fair share of top level hurdle races, whilst the rest are langishing on just 0.66 of their fair share. The concentration of power in terms of which trainers have disproportionate numbers of good jumpers is very obvious.
Willie Mullins leads the way with 155 wins in Graded and Listed races in the period. Clearly his stable is a rich source of quality hurdlers, with many of his horses repeatedly competing successfully at the highest echelons of the sport season after season.
Using the Proform software I was interested to explore if there were any markers from a Willie Mullins hurdle debutant that might be predictive as to what the horse would go on to achieve when stepped up to Graded/Listed level as its career progressed.
Willie Mullins had 433 horses make their hurdles debut in the period concerned. As can be seen in the table below, with a strike rate of 33.72%, he clearly has plenty of horses ready to be competitive first time up.
Of those 433 debutantes, the vast majority (396 horses) began their hurdling careers in Ireland in what are grouped as Class 4 non handicap races in Proform. Mainly Irish maiden hurdles, with a small minority alternatively contesting novice and juvenile hurdles.
Given the vast experience of Willie Mullins and the team he has around him, his son Patrick and former top jockeys David Casey and Ruby Walsh, as well as current star Paul Townend to name but a few, it’s fair to say there is a lot of collective wisdom available to Willie Mullins in the assessment of the potential ability of his hurdlers ever before they hit the track. Lets see if that wisdom is reflected in the prices of the horses on their hurdles debut.
Over 82% of all Non Handicap Class 4 hurdles run at Irish racecourses during the same 2018-2023 period were won by horses at an SP of 5/1 or less. So lets start by dividing the Mullins hurdle debutants into two groups by Starting Price. Using the starting price as a measure of expected winners, then dividing those by actual observed winners, gives us the AE stat. Basically any AE value over the value of 1 has won more races than expected (good), with an AE of less than 1 doing worse than expected (bad). The AE number can be called up on any report produced by the Proform System Builder.
Looking at the Mullins runners that started at 3/1 or shorter - in terms of AE - his horses are overperforming both in the win and place markets, granted not by much. In contrast his runners that started at greater than 3/1 have underperformed significantly, returning AE values of 0.53 and 0.60 in the win and place markets respectively. Bearing in mind that none of these horses had run over hurdles in public before, it does seem the market is a good indicator of their merit on debut. Team Mullins evidently have a good idea of what they have got.
The temptation at this stage may be to further examine the SP <= 3/1 cohort in the Proform System Builder to search for angles which may prove profitable when backing these hurdlers on debut. Performance by various parameters such as courses, distances, times of year etc. could all be looked at.
However given the disparity in performance by both cohorts, the knowledge of connections, the prices paid for many of these horses, the expectations of wealthy owners to have these horses competitive in top grade races at big meetings relatively quickly in their jumping careers, I was particularly interested to see how the winners in the SP <=3/1 group got on in their subsequent careers. In theory Mullins has the staff, resources, facilities and expectation levels that should enable many of his horses to maintain high performance levels right throughout their career at the stable.
A query can be quickly built and reported on in the Proform System Builder, that will report back all horses that match the criteria we are looking for…
Winners where Trainer is W P Mullins – Class 4 Non Hcap Hurdle – IRE course – Hurdles Debut – SP <= 3/1 – 2018 to 2023
After doing so, 133 horses that match those criteria are output by the System Builder. Another really useful feature here is the List Builder, where all 133 horses reported by the System Builder can be easily copied back into it for further analysis. Shown in both pictures below.
Another quick query can then be run in the System Builder. It will return the entire career record for those 133 winners output by the software. The returns in the graphic below initially provide much encouragement. Those 133 winners ran in 1213 races between them, achieving a strike rate of over 35% and a BFSP profit of +381.56 (31.46% ROI). However it must be borne in mind that we are only interested in the performances of those 133 winners after their hurdles debut. The numbers returned below will also contain all runs before hurdle debut, as well as hurdle debut itself. We must remove those runs to allow a true picture of what was achieved subsequent to hurdles debut. This involves some very basic spreadsheet work and using the System Builders very useful User Rating Import functionality, details of which come next.
Those 1213 runs from the previous graphic are easily drilled down into using the System Builder, and the columns required for our spreadsheet can be selected and either copied or exported into our spreadsheet in seconds as shown below.
Our spreadsheet looks like this (see below). The data from the Proform System Builder has been copied and pasted into Columns A-G and sorted by Horse and Date (ascending). Two new columns are added, Columns H-I. These new columns contain two easy formulas that can be copied and pasted down through the data. Column I with its formula will calculate either the number 3, 4 or stay blank. Blank is returned if it’s the horses Hurdle Debut. 3 is returned if it’s a race the horse ran in before making its Hurdle Debut. 4 is returned for all runs that were made subsequent to Hurdle debut. Runs with 4 in Column I are what we are interested in. Ashroe Diamond in the example below illustrates this. The formulas required for COL H-I are located in the Proform Members Group.
Once this is completed Columns A-D and Column I can be copied and pasted onto a new spreadsheet (see below) and saved as a csv file, ready to be imported back into the Proform System Builder through the User Rating Import function, for final analysis in the software. In the example below the file for import has been named “Proform Willie Mullins Hurdle Debut (UR4)”.csv and saved on the desktop. There is space within the Proform software for up to four sets of your individual ratings or figures. They can be easily imported into the System Builder where they can be analysed and reported on using the multitude of tools contained there.
The software includes four importers, one for each User Rating set. In this case we will import our file into User Rating 4 as shown below.
After that it’s just a case of opening the Ratings (Speed and User) Tab in the System Builder and entering =4 into “User Ratings By Value” for User Rating 4. Remember 4 is the figure we put beside each run after the horse had made its hurdles debut, so that’s the figure we enter here now as well. Doing this ensures only those runs made subsequent to hurdles debut are analysed by Proform.
The performance of Wille Mullins horses subsequent to winning their hurdles debut at SP <= 3/1 can now be analysed using the full power of the Proform System Builder.
Lets start by taking an overall look. By taking a slightly alternative view of a cohort of W P Mullins horses, the market is already giving us back a profit of over 18% at BFSP, backing them blind.
As these horses moved up through the ranks their market performance in Class 1 races was particularly impressive…
Those classes can also be drilled into further. Take a look at the Graded and Listed runs in particular…
The performance of these horses under both main stable jockeys at present, Paul Townend and Danny Mullins was very strong…
A lack of a recent run was no impediment to success, with very good numbers returned for qualifiers after at least 6 weeks off the track…
Performances can also be split by Handicaps and Non Handicaps. The AE number remains good in handicaps, although the suppressed strike rate in such races is at least partly explained by the handicapper allotting extra weight to some horses in a race, in an attempt to theoretically equalise the ability of all runners in these types of races (handicaps).
Some of the Mullins horses that started out by winning Class 4 hurdles on debut at short prices in recent times include Energumene, El Fabiolo, Blue Lord, Gentlemen De Mee and Klassical Dream. Since the National Hunt season began again in earnest in late September - Easy Game (3/1), Williamstowndancer (15/2) and High Class Hero (8/15) have already won at Graded Level, having started out in hurdles under the same circumstances.
Incidentally taking a look at the SP > 3/1 on hurdles debut cohort, the returns for all subsequent runs with Mullins returned a loss of -12.13% at BFSP. Runners from this group doing particularly badly against the market when competing in Class 1 company.
Below is a list of the horses that won on hurdles debut for W P Mullins since 01/10/2023 at an SP <=3/1. It will be interesting to see how their careers develop.
These are just a small example of the options available to you in the Proform System Builder. Similar analysis could be carried out on any other trainer, Aiden O’Brien readily comes to mind. Horses that ran above par speed figures in Newmarket novice or maiden races, 3yo’s that ran well in Royal Ascot Handicaps, Novice Chasers that started out at a Northern racecourse etc., there are countless options, your limit is your imagination.
Finally, Proform also contains a Horse Watcher, where you can easily enter any horses of note. The software will track those horses and alert you to them as soon as they appear in the declarations.
By Paul Fitzgerald
Age 53. Live in County Clare, Ireland.
Followed racing most of my life since watching Red Rum win the 1977 Grand National.
Prefer flat racing.
Been with Proform for more years than I care to remember at this stage, so pretty familiar with the software and its functionality.
Mainly data-based approach to racing. Build my own models, which I combine to calculate a base probability. Adjust that base probability with my own subjective opinion to form a final price, which I then take to the market.
Use Betfair only.