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Trainer form – what does it really mean?

We’ve all heard, and read, people who say so-and-so’s in form, his or her horses are running well. The Racing Post’s ‘Hot Trainers’ list reflects trainer form. But what are the benefits of spotting a trainer in form – is it, as the group Imagination sang in 1982, just an illusion?

James Willoughby writes some great stuff in the Kingsley Klarion, the monthly magazine of Mark Johnston Racing. June’s edition contains another such gem. He says: “Most people who analyse racing believe that the performance of a trainer’s horses is governed by some magical factor called ‘form’.” He then goes on to debunk some long-held myths.

“The problem with trainer form is that, in most cases, it simply has no predictive value in isolation,” he writes. Furthermore, he argues, “when a trainer is perceived to be ‘in form’ because a sequence of previous results have been favourable, there is no way of knowing whether the sequence will be extended or come to an end.”

James includes three tables in his article, all of which provide complex analysis. Another problem, he points out, is that the trainer form sample is based on just a handful of results. If a tossed coin comes down heads five times running it is just coincidence. In the long run, say over 100 tosses, it should be roughly 50-50.

Factors that can influence trainer form

James points to certain criteria that can affect trainer form.

  1. The trainer having more runners at a certain time of the year.
  2. The average field sizes being smaller.
  3. The tendency for a trainer’s horses being more effective on a particular type of surface.
  4. The ratio of wins to seconds, with photos going against them.
  5. The quality of the horses in his or her yard at that time.

James’ advice is to beware of trainer form, or at least not to take it at face value. It may not be all it seems.

About Chris Pitt

Chris Pitt is a racing historian and freelance journalist. He has written three books including 'A Long Time Gone', chronicling Britain's lost racecourses, and 'Go Down to the Beaten', stories of jockeys who didn't win the Grand National. He founded the Midlands Racing Club and was formerly racing correspondent for BBC Radio WM.

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