Forgiving a Forlorn Run: Should You Risk Money on Horses That Failed to Finish Their Last National Hunt Race?

Admit it: You have dismissed horses in the past because they failed to finish their last National Hunt race. In some cases, it is a dangerous omission because there are a variety of reasons why a horse doesn’t complete a race. Perhaps the Going was all wrong, or the jockey misjudged a fence. 

Did you know that over 18% of horses that ran a National Hunt race since the start of 2016 had failed to finish their previous race? Therefore, you can expect an average of two horses from a nine-runner field to have failed to finish their last race. Do you automatically dismiss them? 

Of course not! You need to check what happened to the horse during the race. There is a BIG difference between being brought down and being outclassed to the point where the horse gets pulled up. A horse can fall due to a simple mistake, or else it could have turned in a poor overall jumping performance where it blundered at several fences before the inevitable fall.

In this article, I am going to see if we can forgive a forlorn run depending on the circumstances surrounding the race, and the recent form of the horse.

How Do Fallers Fare?

Anyone who has ever made a few bets on a National Hunt race has experienced the agony of seeing their chosen horse make a mistake at a fence or get brought down. It is especially galling when the horse was pulling clear heading to the last. You know it was the right call, but unfortunately, bad luck was on your side. 

Here is the general performance of horses in a National Hunt race that had fallen, unseated its rider, or was brought down in the previous race. All data is from the beginning of 2014 in UK National Hunt races unless otherwise stated.

Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF)
5705 605 10.6% -11.36%

It is a relatively rare occurrence it seems, and the strike rate is pretty low at under 11%. You would lose over 11%, and the A/E value is 0.84, 16% below average. Horses competing in Hurdle races with a previous fall are best avoided as they produce the following set of results:

Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF)
2812 242 8.61% -19.68%

That’s a grim set of figures. In contrast, your loss is ‘only’ 2.5% if you focus on Chase races. Indeed, you make a sliver of profit at 0.96% if you back all Chase favourites with a fall (or brought down/unseated rider) in their last race. 

Let’s go back to our original set of figures. Remember, the loss was over 11%. However, if the last race was a Chase event, the loss falls to 3.65%. If you only bet on favourites, you earn a profit of 1.36%. Sadly, there are only 300 such bets in five years, hardly worth waiting for!

Let’s return to the initial set of figures once again. If you look at horses that had fallen, been brought down or unseated the rider in its last race, and won its second last race, the outcome is pretty terrible:

Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF)
800 103 12.88% -23.24%

The main reason is the lack of value in such horses; the A/E is a paltry 0.74 which means the value is pretty abysmal. Focus on Hurdles races only, and you end up with a loss of 37%! On the plus side, laying such horses provides you with a profit of almost 30%, including a profit in four of the last five years. 2018 has been especially good with just 3 winners from 53 races. 

What About Horses That Were Pulled Up?

There is always a danger that a horse was pulled up because the pace was too hot to handle, or else it couldn’t deal with the ground. However, like humans, horses also have bad days. The question is: Are these merely ‘bad’ days, or is the horse out of its league?

Here are how horses that were Pulled Up in their last race perform in their next run:

Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF)
13347 942 7.06% -10.07%

Check out that terrible strike rate! True, there are often races with more than one qualifier, but even so, only 10.96% of races are won by a horse that Pulled Up in its last run. If you only look at Hurdle races, it gets even worse as just 8% of these races are won by horses that had Pulled Up in their last race. The low A/E value also means you only make a profit of 6% from laying these runners, despite such bets winning 92% of the time.

When we go back to the figures from the table above, let’s see if we can improve matters by looking at horses that Pulled Up in their last race which was also a Chase event.  

Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF)
6771 564 8.33% -10.35%

Unfortunately, there is no sign of improvement. The final step is to look at horses that Pulled Up in their last National Hunt race but had won their second last race. 

Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF)
1195 116 9.71% -23%

A truly dreadful set of figures! 

Final Thoughts

It seems as if horses that fail to finish their last race are not the best bets after all. The main issue is value with the A/E figure way below average. You would have made a profit of 30% since the beginning of 2014 by laying horses in UK NH races that meet the following criteria: 

  • Brought down, fell, or unseated rider in the last race.
  • Won their second last race.
  • Are running in a Hurdle race today.

Aside from that opportunity, there is little to be said for horses running immediately after failing to finish a race. It also seems as if such horses with a win in their second last race are even worse for your bank balance. As always, it is best to look at a horse’s overall form and quality in relation to the rest of the field because this is not a system worth following. 

Patrick Lynch

Patrick graduated from the National University of Ireland, Galway with an MA in Literature and Publishing but decided he would rather have the freedom of a freelance writer than be stuck in a publishing house all day. He has enjoyed this freedom since 2009 and has written thousands of articles on a variety of topics but sports betting is his passion. While his specialty is finding mismatches in obscure football leagues, he also likes to use his research skills to provide punters with detailed winning strategies in horse racing. You can check out his personal blog on or Twitter @pl1982 where he writes content to help small businesses achieve success.
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