Which jumping coaches have the best results after long breaks?

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Who is best at preparing horses for their return to action?

Most of the field for Sunday’s Greatwood Hurdle arrived in Cheltenham with a recent race of one kind or another under his belt. But not the first three, who were all on their way back from breaks to varying degrees.

It was the first race of the season for second-place Adagio, which had not run since Aintree in April, while No Ordinary Joe in third place started its first start since a couple of excursions very early in the current season in May.

Winner West Cork, however, defied a much longer break and returned from 631 days off the track since his last race in the pre-pandemic days of February 2020.

As the length of his absence from the track suggests, West Cork had a setback – “a freak little injury” – according to his rider Harry Skelton, who revealed that the plan to bring him back to Greatwood had only been hatched about five weeks before run.

West Cork’s victory was a fine training performance from Brother Dan, but it got us researching the Timeform database to see which other jumping coaches have the best results when it comes to winning with horses returning from a longer break. .

The rule of six (months)

Let’s first look at trainers with horses that return from six months or more off the field. In many cases, this does not necessarily mean that something unfortunate has happened to the horse in the meantime, but it can simply constitute a summer break between the end of one campaign and the beginning of the next.

Tops the list here are Willie Mullins who over the last five seasons has had more qualifiers than any other coach for this category, but also achieves the best strike rate (691 runners, 235 winners = 34.01%), giving a £ 43-level level surplus, 52 to £ 43.52 1 bet. Mullins has constructed some of the best training performances at the Cheltenham Festival in recent years.

Arctic Fire came back with a 418-day absence, after cutting a bone, to win the 2017 County Hurdle under topweight, and the following season, Penhill won the Stayers’ Hurdle on its first start in 323 days since Punchestown the previous April.

We return to Mullins below, but the next on the list is his nephew Emmet Mullins which also has an excellent strike rate, however, from a much smaller sample (27/8 = 29.63%). A good recent example for his farm came last month when Noble Yeats won a rookie hunt at Galway on its first start in seven months (213 days).

The best UK-based coach at this measure is Jedd O’Keeffeagain with a small sample (22/6 = 27.27%). Stable star Sam Spinner returned from a absence of 224 days and 193 days, respectively, when he made successful debuts over hurdles in Newcastle in November 2016 and then over fences in Wetherby in October 2019. Stable mate Mr. Scrumpy, a fairly useful hurdles runner, won on his season debut at. Wetherby in both 2019 and 2020 after absences since the previous spring 201 and 214 days.

Another minor Irish coach that comes out well on this list is Matthew Smith (40/10 = 25%), best known for the smart hurdler Ronald Pump, who made his winning debut over fences at the Fairyhouse in November 2019 after 203 days off. However, the coach’s most notable success after a break was probably Prince Garyantle’s 25/1 victory in a 24-run handicap hurdles at the 2018 Punchestown Festival when he returned from 188 days off. The same horse had also had success on its first start on the farm the previous spring after an even longer absence (263 days).

As one might expect, Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls are doing well on this scale and have very similar numbers. But unlike Mullins, both Henderson (519/121 = 23.31%) and Nicholls (549/123 = 22.4%) would return a significant loss if they backed their runners blindly.

Other coaches with greater strings and good strike rates after an absence of 180 days or more are i.a. Anthony Honeyball (21.58%), Noel Meade (20.88%), Fergal O’Brien (19.75%), Olly Murphy (18.97%) and Kim Bailey (18.18%).


500 club

But which coaches do best when it comes to really long absences of the West Cork type wins horses that have been off the track for 500 days or more?

As the Greatwood result suggests, Dan Skelton has a good record with runners after prolonged absence. While he is sixth on this list by strike rate, he has coached more winners after 500+ days of absence than any other UK-based coach in the last five years (57/8 = 14.04%).

Interestingly, five of these eight winners were also making their first start at the yard. West Cork owner Mike Newbould got his patience rewarded with another of his horses when his helpful chaser Yorkist returned from 538 days off to win at Aintree in November 2018.

The longest absence despite one of Skelton’s winners was 783 days when Horseshoe Bay landed the odds on his stable / hedge debut at Worcester in August 2017 more than two years after his last race at the Flat in Group 3 Bahrain Trophy for Sir Michael Stoute .

But it is once again Mullins who has overwhelmingly the highest number of runners – and winners – after a long absence (109/33 = 30.28%), and his strike rate holds up remarkably well under the circumstances. Douvan is perhaps the highest rated horse Mullins has trained, but he also proved to be hard to keep healthy in his final years and had his first start since his shock defeat in the same race a year earlier when he fell in the 2018 Queen Mother Champion Chase .

He was put on the sidelines again after finishing second in Punchestown later that spring, but achieved the last success of his career, which should also prove his last start, as he braved an even longer absence – 569 days – to win the Clonmel Oil Chase in November 2019.

Faugheen was a more enduring star for the Mullins and Riccias, though he also had a longer hiatus from his career after winning the Irish champions in January 2016, and did not return until 665 days later when he continued where he left off. to win Morgiana Hurdle. in Punchestown in November 2017.

Mullins often likes to give his French imports plenty of time to acclimatize before their first run for the yard, though one who had to wait longer than most for his Irish debut was Chacun Pour Soi, who finally showed up in a beginner hunt at Naas in March 2019 almost three years ago, he last ran in France. He was worth the wait and has since proven he’s yet another top-drawer chaser for Douvan’s connections.

The only trainer who comes close to Mullins’ strike rate with horses that have been free for 500 days or more is Harry Fry (21/6 = 28.57%). His remarkable training performance was to bring nine-year-old Jolly’s Cracked It back from nearly two years on the sidelines (706 days) to win a handicap hurdle at Ascot in November 2018.

Venetia Williams can match Frys number of winners but with more horses (39/6 = 15.38%). The helpful chaser Burtons Well had his problems judging by his light campaigns and some long absences between them, but he returned from 664 days off to win a veteran handicap at Aintree in October 2019.

The other coaches over Dan Skelton after strike-rate in this table are James Ewart (20/3 = 15%) and Nicky Richards (21/3 = 14.29%), with the latter taking advantage of winning a virgin hurdle at Ayr in January 2020 with the Mayo Star after 833 days of absence on its first start for the stable, which is worth mentioning.


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