Horses New to Trainers – Who Performs Best?

Every so often, you will hear about a horse winning its first race with a new trainer. Does this mean the trainer has produced racing alchemy to boost the performance of a hitherto underwhelming horse? Perhaps the horse’s former trainer didn’t know how to get the best out of the animal. Alternatively, maybe the new trainer simply picked the right race.

In general, a trainer change is perceived as a negative in racing circles. It has been suggested that horses new to trainers are poor value for money whether they complete in sellers, handicaps, sprints or long distance events. 

You will see ‘selling’ races throughout the season where the winner is sold at an auction. The horse’s owner can even place a bid! In any case, the purpose of this article is to determine which trainers are best at getting a tune out of a new horse.

Is It Profitable Overall?

Before I dug into the research, I knew the answer to this question was ‘unlikely,’ but it was necessary to prove it. Ultimately, I was surprised to learn that horses having their first run for a new trainer since the start of 2010 won 19.08% of their races which is a reasonable win rate. Moreover, backing all of them resulted in a Betfair profit of 1.39%, even though some races had more than one horse having its first run with a new trainer.

With this information to hand, let’s take a look at the records of nine trainers when entering a horse in a race for the first time; three in each code. All data is from the beginning of 2010. 


Trainer Bets Wins Strike Rate  ROI (BF)
Mark Appleby  201 25 12.44% 150.09%
Mark Johnston  805 114 14.16% -15.39%
Ian Williams 155 17 10.97% 36.53%

Appleby’s statistics look gaudy but are bolstered by a couple of big priced winners back in 2010. You will have made at least a 94% profit in six of the last nine years, but with such a low strike rate, you’re relying on long odds. Mark Johnston doesn’t have a great record, and, despite what the data says, neither does Ian Williams.

Sure, there is overall profit with Williams, but it is based on three very good years. A strike rate of just over 10% does not breed confidence. He is 4/17 this year, but in 2014, 2015 and 2017; he didn’t win a race from 43 attempts.


Trainer Bets Wins Strike Rate  ROI (BF)
Ian Williams  125 8 6.4% -53.33%
Marco Botti 299 37 12.37% 21.09%
Keith Dalgleish 85 13 15.29% 88.75%

I elected to include Williams again in AW races because his record is truly awful. A win rate of 6.4% means you can safely lay his first-time entries on all-weather as you would earn a profit of over 46% and success in seven of the last eight years. Botti’s ROI of 21% looks good until you see the 12% strike rate and an A/E value of just 0.91 which shows that you don’t get value for his horses. His win rate has been below 10% in each of the last five years.

Dalgleish’s strike rate is better than the others but is still fairly low considering you earn a profit of over 88%. His recent record is very good from a punting perspective as he would have earned you a profit of at least 33% in each of the last four years. 

National Hunt 

Trainer Bets Wins Strike Rate  ROI (BF)
Dan Skelton  448 102 22.77% 10.77%
Keith Dalgleish  52 18 34.62% 78.52%
Gordon Elliot 749 130 17.36% 12.42%

Although Dalgleish’s profit is lower in NH races, he performs much better overall with an excellent strike rate. He has been more prolific in this field recently and won 8 from 12 races in 2017! Skelton’s stats come from 2013, and although his strike rate is decent, he is hit and miss on an annual basis.

Gordon Elliot’s win rate is the lowest of the three, and while he shows a profit since 2010, he has only been profitable in one of the last four years. 

The Racing Post has made it easy to find horses running for the first time with a new trainer. If you go to its website, you will see a small number ‘1’ on the left-hand side of the trainer’s name.

In this race, for example, we can see that this is the first race where Amy Murphy has trained Esprit De Baileys. Notification that Murphy was taking over as the trainer came just a week before the race. Before this event at Yarmouth, she was 0/23 with new horses, but Esprit De Baileys won at odds of 9/4. 

This is a clear sign that we shouldn’t always look at a trainer’s record with new horses. It is more important to analyze whether the horse has any potential. Esprit De Baileys was described as ‘useful’ by the Racing Post, and the market suggested that it had a decent chance.

Final Thoughts on Horses New to Trainers

When a trainer decides to take on a horse, there has to be a reason. They are professionals after all, and when a busy trainer such as Mark Johnston either claims a new horse at a seller or agrees to take one on, it is clear that they see something in the horse. Perhaps the trainer sees a juicy upcoming opportunity or is aware of an aspect of the horse that the previous trainer was not.

Successful trainers are not in the habit of wasting money and time so if a prominent trainer is entering a new horse in a race, look at the horse on its merits. Does it have any kind of form to suggest that an uptick is on the way? Is the horse being run over a brand new distance? Does it have blinkers? If you get it right, picking a horse to win in its first run with a new trainer could result in some high-priced winners. 

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.

One Comment

  1. continued……..from earlier mail stating my latest profitable ploy is to select races before horses & is not time-consuming. Check daily cards and tick races with 8,9 0r 10 runners. Select from these, only the races in which three horses dominate the betting forecast – the remainder being at significantly longer odds. From the 3 animals select the horse according to your own criteria (mine is referring to the RP Naps Table to check if one or more of these is tipped). Or check your favourite tipster or toss a coin. Further refinements e.g. excluding handicaps, or top weighted horses, or favouring top 10 trainers or jockeys or increasing stakes on non-handicaps etc etc…..Obviously customise it and the better your racing knowledge the better it works….the reason that it is not time-consuming is that the number of qualifying races is not excessive with some blank days even in high season.

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