The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) tries to ensure racing in the UK is as evenly matched as possible; hence the use of a handicapping system. Another facet to this evenhandedness is the practice of giving claim allowances to jockeys at the start of their careers to make up for their lack of experience.
They receive a weight reduction when competing against professional jockeys and the amount of weight they can remove relates to the number of winners they have ridden:
- 0-19 Race Wins: 7-pound allowance.
- 20-39 Race Wins: 5-pound allowance.
- 40-74 Race Wins: 3-pound allowance.
Once a jockey reaches 75 career wins, they receive no further allowance. In National Hunt racing, these jockeys are called Conditional riders while they are known as Apprentices in Flat and All-Weather events.
All you have to do is look at the racecard, and you’ll spot the claim number in parentheses following the jockey’s name.
Here’s an example from a race card for the 2:30 at Bath on July 18, 2017. This particular race has four jockeys with claims:
- Charlie Bennett: 3-pound allowance.
- George Wood: 3-pound allowance.
- Finley Marsh: 7-pound allowance.
- Rhiain Ingram: 7-pound allowance.
Given the information we now have, we know that both Bennett and Wood have between 40 and 74 career wins while Marsh and Ingram have fewer than 20 career wins apiece.
When it comes to betting on jockeys with claim allowances, you have to ask yourself:
- Are they high-quality jockeys?
- Does the horse they are riding have a realistic shot at winning?
While it is tempting to take a chance on a horse because it has a jockey with a 7-pound claim, you must remember that the jockey is extremely inexperienced and could make a mistake that costs the horse the race.
If we look at Silver Springs; it carries 14 pounds less than the favourite and has an extra 7 pounds of a claim. However, it’s OR is 25 points lower so even with the huge disparity in weight; the horse appears to have little or no chance which is why it is 66/1. Add in the inexperience of the jockey on board, and you have an outsider to be avoided.
In contrast, Coronation Cottage has a 3-pound claim, so the jockey has already notched up a few wins in his career. The horse’s OR is 6 points lower than the favourite but it is carrying 6 pounds less and has the bonus 3-pound claim. All of the above makes Coronation Cottage a realistic contender hence the 3/1 odds. (Note: Coronation Cottage ended up winning the race).
Incidentally, Bennett had 13 season wins before the race and backing all of his mounts this season would yield a profit of 38.99% on Betfair and 9.85% if you used SP. This is, however, a red hot streak for Bennett because if you backed all of his career rides (he has won 60 races from 713), your Betfair loss would be -17.68% while your SP loss would be over 30%!
Now let’s see if you should look at 3, 5 or 7-pound allowances if you decide to bet on jockeys with claiming allowances.
7 Pound Claims
As tempting as it is to focus on 7-pound claims, you can’t ignore the lack of experience. Here is what would happen if you backed all 7-pound claimers since 2013. Bear in mind that there is an average of 2 such jockeys per race.
The standout feature is the extremely low win rate. The ROI loss is pretty constant across the board, so it doesn’t matter if you focus on Apprentices or Conditional jockeys, the results remain the same.
Your loss goes down to -6.44% if you look at non-handicap races only and if you check out Class 6 races only, your ROI hits a tiny profit of 0.98% on Betfair. Narrow it down again, this time to races with 1-10 runners, and the profit increases to 3.8%. Interestingly, the profit rises to 8.93% in races with 1-9 runners. Oddly enough, the profit increases to 11.11% for jockeys with 0-5 wins in the previous year.
However, these statistics relate to the last 5 years. In 2016 and 2017, you would sustain heavy losses following the above criteria. Instead, you are much better off laying these horses. In fact, laying horses with the following data yields a profit of over 23% since the start of 2016:
- 7-pound claim.
- 1-9 runners.
- Non-handicap races.
- Class 6.
- Jockey has 0-5 wins in the previous 12 months.
5 Pound Claims
Using the same table as above, let’s see how 5-pound claimers fare overall since 2013.
It is abundantly clear that National Hunt is the best code for 5-pound claimers with an ROI of over 2.5% straight away. However, it also equates to a loss of over 7% since the start of 2016 so recent stats are not on the punter’s side.
Once you focus on non-handicap races only, things take a substantial turn for the better with an ROI of 23.16% and profit in each of the last 5 years. 2017 is the worst year so far with a profit of 4.61%.
The All-Weather code is interesting for punters who like laying horses. If you focus on non-handicap races, laying all 5-pound claimers equates to a profit of 17.46%.
3 Pound Claims
Finally, let’s find out if 3-pound claims can be profitable. Here is a table relating to stats since the start of 2013.
While 3-pound claimers have a higher win percentage than 5 and 7-pounders, the ROI is not good across the board. At this stage, jockeys have at least 40 wins under their belts, so bookies tend to respect them a bit more. All-Weather appears to be our best chance of finding profit with an initial loss of 1.38%.
When we narrow it down to 1-10 runner races, we get a small profit of 1.84%.
Non-handicap races see a profit of 17.42% but a big loss of over 68% this year so far. In fact, if you laid horses with the criteria above (which I will recap below), your profit would be a quite brilliant 62.43% as only 6.57% of horses have won this calendar year:
- All –Weather
- 1-10 Runners
- 3-pound claim
Overall, National Hunt non-handicap races with 5-pound claimers are by far the best way to make money by backing horses to win. When it comes to inexperienced jockeys with claims, however, the most likely way to make money is lay bets because few Apprentice or Conditional jockeys win over 10% of their races.
The only worthwhile bookmaker that accepts lay bets is Betfair.com, where you can be the bookie and name your own odds.