Trainers for Courses – Finding a Trainer’s Preferred Track

If you have had an interest in horse racing betting for any length of time, you’ve probably heard the phrase “horses for courses” a time or two by now.

The adage relates to particular horses having a preferred track or running conditions where they excel. When it comes to trainers, the same principle applies. I have performed an analysis on dozens of UK-based trainers and found that a few have racecourses where they perform exceptionally well.


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Even the most successful trainers have bizarrely wretched records at one track, yet can’t stop winning at others. In August 2018, Mark Johnston became the most successful trainer in British racing history as Poet’s Society won at York to give him his 4,194th win.

In some ways, it was a surprise it happened at York because Johnston has a 9% win rate there from over 1,100 races since 1988! In contrast, he has a win rate of 20% or more at Beverley, Bath, Hamilton, and Chepstow.

This doesn’t necessarily mean good news for the punter. Backing all his horses at Chepstow, Hamilton, and Bath would result in a loss, whereas you would make money on his Goodwood runners even though he only wins there 14% of the time.

In this article, I aim to find three trainers who have provided consistent profit at specific courses over the last few years. As usual, all data comes from the beginning of 2014 unless stated and involves UK races only.

Neil Mulholland: National Hunt

Mulholland is a fairly prolific NH trainer in the UK, and while his overall win percentage is nothing to write home about, he offers a profit if you know where to look. Here is his record in all National Hunt races since the beginning of 2014:

BetsWinsStrike RateROI (Betfair)
2,03030715.12%1.99%

Straight away, we are met with profit if you backed all 2,000+ of his horses blindly. I managed to find three courses where he provides punters with joy:

CourseBetsWinsStrike RateROI (BF)
Fakenham481531.25%26.41%
Fontwell1583723.42%10.73%
Sedgefield381744.74%51.21%

Sedgefield is of particular interest because it is a course to which he is sending more entries. Last year, he sent 22 horses out at Sedgefield and had a 50%-win rate. As the National Hunt season is now beginning once again, I am interested to see how many runners he has over the next few months.

Even the most prolific NH trainers don’t provide many betting opportunities. Nicky Henderson is one of the best-known in the industry, and he performs very well at Aintree and Sandown with a combined ROI of 27%. However, he has 287 total entries in almost five years across both courses but wins almost 25% of these races.

Mark Johnston: Flat

I was always going to include Johnston after mentioning him in the introduction! I mentioned certain courses where he has fared well over a 30-year period but have things changed? Here is his overall Flat UK record since January 2014:

BetsWinsStrike RateROI (BF)
4,84975315.53%-5.28%

Johnston is a busy man as he sends out almost three runners a day on average! As you would expect, you would sustain a loss if you were silly enough to back all his runners. During the last five years, Johnston suffered a spell where he didn’t win for 60 consecutive races!

In fact, he had seven further cases of 30+ winless races; and 33 spells of 20+ losses! He even had two spells of 22+ races with no place. In contrast, he had one 5-win streak and one 4-win streak. As it happens, he has two courses that potentially mean winnings for punters:

CourseBetsWinsStrike RateROI (BF)
Goodwood3074815.64%40.30%
Yarmouth731520.55%105.49%

Johnston loves Goodwood, and while you would be losing this year, you would be significantly in profit in each of the previous four years. This is despite the fact that Johnston has never had more than two consecutive winners at the track. Yarmouth looks great until you discover that most of the profits are from 2014 and 2016.

Other notable trainer combinations are John Gosden at Haydock and Newbury, and Charlie Appleby at the Newmarket Rowley Mile course.

Ralph Beckett: All-Weather

It is a little harder to find trainers with a good AW record because there are only six tracks in total. It is also a fact that the majority of trainers are not as prolific as their National Hunt and Flat counterparts.

First, let’s consider All-Weather contender Karl Burke. While Karl Burke doesn’t send out hundreds of runners a year, he does have an enviable record at one All-Weather course in particular:

CourseBetsWinsStrike RateROI (BF)
Southwell1252822.40%194.06%

With Burke, it is a case of feast or famine. You would have recorded a big loss in 2015 and minimal profit in 2017. However, the other three years have seen a profit of 200%+, including this year to date where he has won 8/30 for a Betfair profit of 251%. He has two sequences of 11+ losses and only one spell where he won three in a row.

Yet it is Ralph Beckett who steals the AW show. You would have made a profit on all six All-Weather courses by backing his entries blindly! His complete AW record is spectacular:

BetsWinsStrike RateROI (BF)
69513920%34.04%

You would earn a profit in all of the last five years although Beckett has had 11 streaks of 11+ losers and only one occasion where he offered four consecutive winners. He is most prolific at Kempton with 277 runners and a profit of 41%.

Final Thoughts

One of the most important things I discovered during the creation of this article is just how bad a trainer’s losing streak can get. It is incredible to think that a top trainer like Johnston can have two or more spells where he loses 30+ times in a row.

This fact neatly illustrates the folly of blindly devoting yourself to any single betting system. If you’re relying on a system with a strike rate of 30% to provide long-term profits, you’ll need a strong will and a big betting bank.

Neil Mulholland does well at Sedgefield among other courses while Aintree seems to bring the best out of Nicky Henderson. Mark Johnston is one of the most successful Flat trainers around, but you should only really follow him at Goodwood in the long-term. Karl Burke can boost your bank balance at Southwell’s All-Weather course, but few trainers are as reliable as Ralph Beckett on every single AW track.