Nicky Henderson is a special trainer. From over 5000 runners in the last 10 years, he has produced an unrivalled 24% strike rate. With so many runners, his record really is impressive. And Henderson has high class horses too, not runners who just mop up in low grade, uncompetitive contests. Notable Henderson horses in recent years include the exhilarating 2 mile chaser Sprinter Sacre, and slick Champion Hurdle winner Binocular. In this article we take a look at Henderson’s runners across all disciplines, identifying where he excels and the areas where his strike rate isn’t quite up to his lofty average.
Juvenile, novice and maiden hurdle contests are races where inexperienced horses start their career over timber. As there are horses of wide ranges of ability competing against each other, these contests can often be quite one sided. It is no surprise then that Henderson does very well in these races:
Juvenile, Novice and Maiden Hurdle Runners by Month
*A/E denotes actual number of winners divided by expected number of winners. A figure over 1 represents good value, anything under 1 is poor value.
He does especially well in the months of December and January, where the strike rate hovers around 34% and his A/E is well over 1 in both months. From February to the end of the jumps season his win rate reduces somewhat, but is still very good in its own right, and his runners in February to April tend to offer value.
Naturally handicap contests are more difficult to win that novice and maiden affairs and Henderson’s strike rate is lower than 24%. With that being said, his handicap hurdlers produce A/E’s of over 1. His performance does however vary across the year:
Henderson does better from July onwards. Many horses racing at this time of year are returning from absences, so perhaps Henderson is just better at getting his horses fit for their racecourse returns? Let’s have a look;
Off for 90+ days:
Henderson’s runners returning from an absence in July-December have a high strike rate, a great profit and very positive A/E. They are clearly straight for their return and always need to be respected.
Henderson’s success in handicap hurdles is dependent on how much rest his runners are given between their races. It would be common sense to assume that his horses would do better when turned out quickly as they are in form and can strike while the iron is hot. That is, however, not the case;
Last Time Out Winners in Handicap Hurdles
Last time out winners off for 3 weeks or less have a moderate record; 11/89 (12.36%) for loss of £-40.20, A/E 0.60. Those off for over 6 weeks do well.
Typically, horses tend to start their career over timber in the hurdling sphere. Some then progress to chasing once experience has been obtained and they have shown an aptitude for jumping. Henderson’s chasers don’t really demonstrate any bias in terms of the time of the year, nor how long they have been off the track. There is however, some discrepancy in their performance based on age:
Chasers by Age
Very few trainers have 4 year old chasers, and Henderson is the same. However, when he has run these younger horses, they have an outstanding record (7/13). His 5 year olds (most likely to be novices) have a reasonable record in terms of strike rate, but are slightly over bet. Punters are likely to do best backing Henderson’s 6-8 year old chasers. They provide the best value. His 9 year old+ runners have a moderate record; 31/313 (9.90%) for loss of £-158.93 for A/E 0.82
Handicap Chasers by Course
Henderson has the best strike rate in handicap chases at Kempton. He produces a healthy profit and a good A/E at the course. His runners at Stratford and Haydock are yet to win in handicap chase company in the last 10 years.
Nicky Henderson has a great record with his bumper runners. Most of his horses who run in bumpers are National Hunt bred and have not seen the racecourse before. In fact he has had just 6 runners transfer from the flat in the UK to bumpers in the last 10 years, and has had 4 winners. Overall his record with debutants is a highly impressive; 111/321 (34.58%) for £32.54 LSP, giving an A/E of 1.13
When his bumper runners did not win on debut, their success very much depends on how long a break they are given between races:
Bumper Runners Did Not Win on Debut
Those runners that did not win on debut and are turned out within 4 weeks do very poorly; 2/33 (6.06%) for a loss of £-26.06, giving an A/E of 0.28. Conversely, horses typically making their seasonal reappearance (off for 150+ days), do very well.
Inexperienced jockeys are able to reduce the burden on a horse’s back by taking off weight. Some trainers use their claimers and apprentices on their outsiders just to get experience, whilst others utilise the value weight reduction, spotting talented jockeys who provide good value for their claim. Henderson’s record with claimers is interesting:
Although his runners have a higher strike rate when there is an experienced jockey on board, the profit and returns are better when he utilises an apprentice. They may go on the bigger priced runners, but they have to respected.
As a top stable with runners who are usually to the fore of the market, it is worth exploring those of Henderson’s runners who are less fancied in the betting:
Runners Who Are 12/1+ in the Betting by Race Class
Class 1 contests are all the top races and although his horses produce a hefty loss, they win marginally more often than they should do based on odds (A/E 1.04). It Class 2 and 3 company (typically high grade handicaps), Henderson’s longer priced runners provide good value, winning quite a bit more often than they are entitled to based on odds. It is in the lower grade races, where his outsiders have a poor record. Their strike rate is low and the returns are poor. Henderson’s less fancied runners can clearly go well in classy company, but if they are not fancied in the betting in weaker contests, they should probably be avoided.