I Would Walk 500 Miles for a Winner

One of the most intriguing things to analyse is the distance a trainer travels to a course. You can easily find information on the longest travellers of the day on a betting or racing site. For instance, I was able to find two horses who had travelled 250+ miles for a race on the day I wrote this article.


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If you check out the Signposts section of the Racing Post (which looks like this), you can find out how far each trainer has journeyed.

For example, AW specialist Karl Burke had to travel 246 miles to Kempton for a recent race whereas Michael Atwater only travelled 10 miles. Does this mean Burke’s horses were more or less likely to win?

On one hand, you would assume that a trainer who brings a horse 250 on a wet and miserable morning thinks it has a good shot of victory. After all, transportation of horses is not a quick, easy or inexpensive process.

However, there is no way of knowing how accurate the figures you read online really are. In our example race, two horses were listed has having travelled 250 miles. One of those arrived from France and one from Ireland. There is every chance they were stabled overnight close to the track. Alternatively, a trainer could be running from a satellite yard which could totally throw off the distance travelled figure.

There’s even a chance the horse’s trainer may be at the course entertaining guests. As a result, the trainer has been asked to bring the horse regardless of its chance of victory.

Furthermore, the old days where horses could be transported in relatively poor conditions are long gone. In 2007, EU regulations were implemented such that horses travelling more than 40 miles need air conditioning among other things.

Even with all of the above in mind, I decided it was worth finding out if you should back trainers who travel a long way – especially if they have a good record at a course.

Should You Back Trainers That Travel a Long Way to Tracks at Which They Have Previously Won?

As per usual, I am looking at data featuring UK horse racing only since 2014. I think we can all agree that 200 miles is significant distance for a horse to travel so I am using that as my minimum journey for the duration of the article. First and foremost, let’s look at the general record of horses that travel specific distances.

Distance TravelledBetsWinsStrike RateROI (Betfair)
200 - 299 Miles27,3093,60513.20%-10.78%
300 - 399 Miles3,25455717.12%-0.56%
400+ Miles65513120%15.37%
Overseas6,36687513.74%4.78%

You would make a small profit by laying all horses in the 200 – 299 miles range. Interestingly, the win rate increases significantly in the 300 – 399 miles range, almost to the point of breaking even.

The strike rate goes up to 20% for horses that travel more than 400 miles, and you would earn a profit of over 15%. Furthermore, you would see a profit in four of the last five years; including an ROI of almost 55% so far in 2018. It seems as if there is some credence to the distance travelled theory after all!

Strike rate wise, overseas horses don’t do much better than those that travel 200 – 299 miles, but you do receive a small amount of profit.

The next step is to check out the performance of these horses when their trainer is a previous course winner. The following relates to trainers with at least one win at the track in the previous two years.

Distance TravelledBetsWinsStrike RateROI (BF)
200 - 299 Miles18,7712,62513.98%-9.21%
300 - 399 Miles1,75533819.26%2.17%
400+ Miles3858822.86%13.01%
Overseas3,17250415.89%2.72%

As it transpires, there isn’t a seismic difference. In fact, you are better off focusing on trainers without a win for horses that travelled 400+ miles. Not only is the ROI smaller, but it is also less predictable with losses in three of the last five years.

Next, I will look at performance where the horse is a previous course winner:

Distance TravelledBetsWinsStrike RateROI (BF)
200 - 299 Miles3,27546314.14%-6.57%
300 - 399 Miles3015518.27%1.78%
400+ Miles911213.19%-26.86%
Overseas75814519.13%11.94%

There is nothing to write home about here. Only overseas previous course winners make much of a dent, and that is due to an exceptional 2017.

For the last section, I am going to look at horses travelling long distances which are also the clear favourites; this means removing the record of trainers and horses from contention.

Distance TravelledBetsWinsStrike RateROI (BF)
200 - 299 Miles3,7951,36535.97%-4.47%
300 - 399 Miles70126738.09%-4.69%
400+ Miles1436142.66%0.28%
Overseas94936738.67%2.39%

Once again, there is nothing here that will cause you to focus on a horse primarily due to the distance travelled. While horses travelling 400+ miles do have the highest strike rate, it appears as if the bookmakers account for this fact in their odds.

Final Thoughts

Overall, it is only worth your while to focus on horses that have travelled 400 – 550 miles to reach the course. As I said in the introduction, there is no way of knowing how far the horse travels on the day, but the data indicates nonetheless that horses officially listed as having travelled 400+ miles perform the best from an ROI perspective.

Otherwise, there is no good reason to look at overseas horses or trainers that travel 200 – 399 miles as they do nothing for your wallet. You might find the occasional gem here and there, but ultimately, there is no betting advantage. As per usual, it is best to analyse a horse on its merits rather than succumb to the temptation of placing a bet simply because its trainer decided it was a good idea to travel 423 miles that day!