Stable transfers looking an even better bet than usual with a new trainer in town
Freshman trainer Jimmy Ting couldn't have made a much better start to his career than he has in the first four meetings, and this season is also shaping up to maintain a curious statistic that punters might find helpful as the campaign goes on.
One of the underrated factors in Hong Kong racing is the change of trainers and, as I pointed out recently on the HKJC multimedia show, The Winning Factor, especially with particular trainers.
There are others who do a good job as well, but Tony Millard, Tony Cruz, Caspar Fownes and John Moore have excelled over the years in getting results with first-time runners for the yard coming from other trainers.
So, what's in a stable change? We've thought about this often.
Although the trainers named above are clearly in the top half of the table and you might suggest that it's a positive trainer change in action, we've also seen good results when horses move from a so-called better trainer to a lesser one as well.
In fact, just having a simple, flat bet the first time out on every horse with a new trainer is almost a break-even proposition since 2004. Over thousands of events, that is a rare angle for very little work that can be improved to profitable by pruning some of the trainers who don't have a good record with them.
Recently-retired trainer Gary Ng, for example, was often a go-to trainer for transfers of horses which had got too old, too high in the ratings or had developed problems. As a result, he won just twice in the last 14 years of his career with a first-time transfer runner from 103 occasions.Ironically, one of those wins came with Har Har Charms at 85-1, having his first run for Ng after moving from John Size. Very few horses indeed win first time after moving from Size to any other stable.
Anyway, there is more going on than simply looking at the trankings.
In Hong Kong, trainers mostly train in the same place, so a change of scenery seems an unlikely reason (although that is something we'll be watching now with Conghua).
One theory is that simply a change of routine, style of work, feeding has a lot to do with freshening a horse's mind and, with it, their attitude.
Sometimes there are other reasons for a change but more often a transfer is a horse which is failing to meet expectations and attitude has a strong connection to that, so the change of routine theory has credibility.
Another view we've entertained is a practical consideration of the animal's health.
Presumably, the first thing most trainers would do on receiving a new horse that hasn't been firing somewhere else is to get the vet to look him up and down. The new trainer is looking for something, anything, which he can use to improve performance and a fresh look at possible simmering leg, foot, joint or back issues is a first resort.
Why the change of trainer is a solid betting angle comes down more on the human side of the move. The new trainer usually wants to make a point so there's an incentive not to produce the horse until he's ready to race well and that does show up very clearly in first-run stats of some stables.
But something we have noticed with stable transfers in the past, too, is that they seem to perform better in seasons when there are new trainers.
Obviously, a new trainer's runners are largely fix 'em ups from other yards so most of what they achieve will be with transfers, but there seems also a rise in transfer performance from all the other yards as well.
We're not going to pretend we know why that might be but, historically, the strong 'change of trainer' angle in Hong Kong racing becomes even stronger.
So Jimmy Ting has started very well with his transfers and they will command plenty of attention in the betting for the rest of the term, but keep an eye on how the other trainers are going with them, too, as they have also begun the right way.