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Richard Hoiles: Getting ahead of the curve with 4 Saturday picks

17 Feb | BY Richard Hoiles | MIN READ TIME |
Richard Hoiles: Getting ahead of the curve with 4 Saturday picks

The horse racing broadcaster has four selections from Ascot and Haydock on Saturday, along with three runners from his stable of tracked horses.

“The secret of good statistics is to find a number that means something and then to prove it means what you think it does.” – Edward Tufte

“Statistics: the only science that enables different experts using the same figures to draw different conclusions.”Evan Esar

These two rather differing views of the power – or confusion – statistics can provide will be put to the test this weekend. Quite often both presenters and pundits can glibly quote that a stable’s horses are running well, when the numbers can provide a strong suggestion that this is not the case.

While calling over the last couple of weeks, there have appeared to be a number of instances when Venetia Williams horses were in trouble from an unusually early stage. Cepage, Pink Legend, Valleres and, to a lesser degree, Frero Bambou all being cases in point. A more detailed inspection shows that in 2024 the stable are just 5/71 against an expected number of winners of 12.19 for a very low Actual/Expected Ratio of 0.41. The percentage of runners beaten by the stable’s horses in February is just 32 per cent, the lowest monthly figure for nearly five years. 

The issue with statistics is they need a significant sample size to prove their relevance, by which time they are obvious to all and factored in by the market. For those like myself who like to try and use stats to back up gut feelings and prove perceived truths, it requires a leap of faith well before true mathematical certainty can be established. A few dead ends hopefully outweighed by more being ahead of the curve.

Venetia Williams’ stable has many chances this weekend with horses very prominent in the market, and while this could be the week that sets the ball rolling for 2024, until that is proven to be the case it seems right to be cautious about taking any at a short price.

One of those five 2024 wins came from L’Homme Presse in the Fleur De Lys at Lingfield, and as a result he is favourite for the Grade 1 Ascot Chase, the feature race of the day. Given he takes such a big share of the market and has the potential to bounce off the back of that return, PIC D’ORHY / (15:36 Ascot) appeals more. No match for Shishkin twelve months ago, he goes well here and but for a mistake at the last would have run Banbridge closer at Kempton last time. 

Add in Victtorino, Chambard and Fontaine Collonges, who appear in other ITV races, and with seven runners in total it will be interesting to see how the day progresses for the Venetia Williams stable.

It is likely the 2m 3f Handicap Hurdle has been on the agenda of last season’s winner IRISH HILL / (14:25 Ascot) for some time. He lost his form afterwards to such a degree that he lines up off a 3lb lower mark here, and has signalled a return to form on his last two runs when second at Newbury and then being too close to the pace in the Lanzarote.

IWILLDOIT / (15:15 Haydock) should be suited by a slog in the mud in the Grand National Trial, and has the very promising Dylan Johnston taking a handy 5lb off his back.

In the following race, LORD SNOOTIE / (15:50 Haydock) is back over the course and distance which saw him finish an excellent to Slate Lane in a race that has worked out really well here in November. Subsequent Grade 1 winner Crambo was third. He ran well below that last time at Wincanton, but this stable had a few run better in the last week or so after a quiet spell and, given recency bias, Lord Snootie looks over the odds.


A busy week with several jockeys in action at tracks where they have a historically high return compared to the prices of the horses they have ridden.

Ascot – Charlie Deutsch (18/72, A/E 1.78, so a 78% greater return than market expectations)
Haydock– Sean Bowen (15/61, A/E 1.52)
Newcastle – Tommie Jakes (10/32, A/E 2.65)
Wincanton – Daryl Jacob (83/454, A/E 1.27)
Wolverhampton – Rossa Ryan (133/679, A/E 1.28)

Some well-known names in this List, showing that even the best riders can at some tracks be significantly under bet.


A busy weekend with three horses from the tracker in action to follow a couple of runners up at Wolverhampton last night. You can view the latest tracker update here stable as it stands in full here.

JUVENTUS DE BRION (13:15 Ascot) A big step up in grade from his Exeter debut third, where he raced wide and looked in need of the experience. He has been taken out of a couple of races in the last couple of weeks, including a Listed race last Sunday, so it seems likely he has progressed significantly from his debut. The Skelton team are in form and however he fares here he can win races.

KING’S THRESHOLD (15:07 Wincanton) Has looked a potentially nice handicap chaser, travelling strongly last time but not picking up after a 10-week absence. Hopefully it was lack of a run that found him out that day and he has placed in a bumper on heavy. The main concern would be that the stable has once again just hit a quiet patch.

SISTERS IN THE SKY (Sunday 18:00 Kempton)

As part of a sectional timing project I have been specialising in Wolverhampton races, and Sisters In The Sky was too close to an overly strong pace and entitled to weaken. He had been in freefall prior to that, but Rossa Ryan is sticking with him and the yard has had a welcome winner since his last run. Drawn to get a nice trail into the race off the back of Porfin, I am really expecting a decent showing from one of the most interesting runners of the weekend.


IRISH HILL  / (14:25 Ascot)

IWILLDOIT  / (15:15 Haydock)

PIC D’ORHY  / (15:36 Ascot)

LORD SNOOTIE  / (15:50 Haydock)

COLUMN PERFORMANCE 2024 (Actual Winners/Expected Winners – Par = 1.00)

Selections: 3/4.25, A/E 0.71

Jockeys For Courses: 6/6.89, A/E 0.87

Stable Tracker: 3/2.31, A/E 1.30

Total: 12/13.45, A/E 0.89

Visit Betway’s horse racing betting page.

Richard Hoiles

Richard Hoiles

Richard is a horse racing broadcaster and commentator who has been involved in the sport since 1992.

Richard Hoiles

Richard Hoiles

Richard is a horse racing broadcaster and commentator who has been involved in the sport since 1992.