The Darling Buds of May – Which Flat Trainers Should You Follow in May?

Once the drama of Aintree has unfolded, the focus of horse racing in the UK tends to fall on Flat racing. By the beginning of May, racing lovers begin anticipating major summer events such as Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood. However, trainers know these festivals are a long way off and they have to get their top horses in prime condition first.

As a result, May can be a strange time of the season because we don’t know if certain horses are ready to rumble or whether they need a run or two to shake the rust off. As such, I decided to take a look at the performances of trainers to see if any make hay in May. We’ll also look a little at when it pays to lay certain trainers during May.


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Brian Meehan

With around 1,100 entries since January 2014, Meehan is not one of the busiest trainers on the circuit but he seems to enjoy May because almost one-sixth of his entries run during that particular month, and he has an excellent record. By the way, all stats are from May 2013 to May 2017 unless specified.

Bets WinsStrike RateROI (Betfair)
1972412.18%16.02%

His low strike rate combined with a positive ROI suggests that most of his winners come at relatively high prices. Aside from a terrible 2017 where he only won one race from 36, Meehan in May yields a profit.

However, I recommend focusing on non-handicap races only because this is what happens:

Bets WinsStrike RateROI (Betfair)
1221512.3%50.86%

Marginally better strike rate, much higher profit. Just be wary because he has actually recorded losses in two of the last five years.

Ralph Beckett

About 20% of all Beckett’s Flat turf entries occur in May and like Meehan, it is a great time of year for him and for his backers.

Bets WinsStrike RateROI (Betfair)
2665319.92%21.21%

While 21% is already an excellent return on investment, it gets even better when you focus on handicap races only:

Bets WinsStrike RateROI (Betfair)
1192621.85%46.63%

Not only would you earn a profit of 46% over the last five years, but it would also be 24% or more in four of the last five years. Even in the poorest year, 2016, you would earn a profit of 5% on Betfair.

Here are some other trainers to watch out for in May:

  • Saeed Bin Suroor: 21.27% profit in all Flat turf races in May.
  • D. R. C. Elsworth: 46.95% profit in all races, 57.04% in handicap races.
  • Richard Guest: 41.67% profit in all handicap races.

Does it Pay to Lay in May?

There are some trainers with truly horrific records at this time of year and rather than ignoring them altogether, you can earn a steady profit by backing against their horses.

Richard Fahey

Fahey is a prolific trainer with almost 7,000 entries on Flat and AW since January 2014, but May is clearly little more than a month for testing horses for Fahey.

Bets WinsStrike RateROI (Betfair)
96811812.19%-11.54%

That’s a pretty terrible record, and it is even worse when you focus on handicaps only!

Bets WinsStrike RateROI (Betfair)
627629.89%-24.36%

As over 90% of his May handicap entries fail to win, surely there is value to be had in laying all his entries? The answer is ‘yes’! If you blindly laid all of his horses for the last five Mays, your ROI would be 16.4%. To be fair, this is bolstered by an exceptional 2016 where laying his horses would yield a profit of over 50%. Even so, you would have profited in four of the last five Mays.

Pay special attention to handicap Class 6 events because he hasn’t won such a race in May since 2012 and is 0/33 since. Fahey also fares exceptionally poorly in Class 3 events with a win rate of just 6.04%. Laying all his horses in these races would yield a profit of 58% and a minimum 18% profit in each of the last five years.

Mick Channon

Channon is another trainer who really struggles in May:

Bets WinsStrike RateROI (Betfair)
464388.19%-35.1%

If you laid all his horses, your profit would be 27.5%. Unlike Fahey, Channon performs poorest in non-handicaps. Laying all his entries in these events would result in a profit of 34.11%. Laying his horses in all May Flat races would give you at least 15% in four of the last five years.

Pay special attention to Class 5 races where he has a win rate of just 6.92%. Lay bets there would result in a profit of 48.59%.

Here are some other trainers for whom it pays to lay in May:

  • Tim Easterby: 40.9% profit laying his non-handicap entries.
  • Aidan O’Brien: 17.5% profit laying all entries despite a 23%-win rate.
  • Andrew Balding: 35.11% profit laying all non-handicap entries.

Final Thoughts on Horse Racing Trainers in May

There is a lot to be said for analysing the performance of horse racing trainers during specific times of the year. On occasion, you will find a handful of useful trends and data which suggests that they take certain periods more seriously than others. While the likes of Aidan O’Brien are clearly gearing up for big events such as Ascot, trainers such as Brian Meehan appear to view May as an opportunity to get some winners on the board.

Meehan, Beckett, Bin Suroor, Elsworth, and Guest are all trainers worth following in May. In contrast, the likes of Balding, Easterby, Channon, and Fahey all perform poorly during the month. In the days before Betting Exchanges, it would have been impossible to use this information for anything more than a reason to avoid backing their horses. Now, you can bet against their horses and make a significant profit. Put it this way: if a trainer such as Channon fails to win almost 92% of the time, you’ll need to be very unlucky to miss out.