The StatsMan

THE STATSMAN: Before you back an import first-up at Sha Tin today, read this

It pays to beware when backing "PPs" on debut, however good their previous form is, but can data analysis uncover the more likely winners?

By Sohil Patel

Privately Purchased horses or “PPs”, as they are referred to in Hong Kong, are horses that have been purchased privately from overseas and that have raced at least once before.  PPs must have a confirmed Hong Kong rating of 68 or higher at the time of import, which means that their first runs in Hong Kong will be in Class 3 or above.

PPs are differentiated from Private Purchased Griffins (or PPGs) in that PPGs have never raced in a race before coming to Hong Kong.  PPs are also differentiated from International Sales Griffins (ISGs) which are unraced horses that are sold during the Hong Kong International Sales.

Nine PPs face the starter on Sunday as shown in the table below:

PPs entered at Sha tin, November 3.

Looking at data from the beginning of the 2016-2017 season, out of the 589 PPs that raced, only 23 (3.9%) won on their first start in Hong Kong.  A flat bet on each of these 589 horses would have resulted in a loss of 26.5% – significantly more than the approximately 22% loss if one backed all the horses on the Hong Kong tote.

Can we look at slicing this data more granularly to find sub groups that show a better strike rate than the 3.9%?  Let’s look at some ways to slice the data and gain a better insight.

If we looked at the breakdown by season, we see a win percentage of between 3.1% and 4.8% for the past three seasons. Interestingly, there is a positive 6% return on investment (ROI) for the 2018-19 season; this is because five out of the eight winners were at longer odds (Star Performance at 65-to-1, Winning Delight at 50-to-1, Ka Ying Star at 28-to-1, Regency Legend at 14-to-1, Perfect Glory at 17-to-1).  The three others at shorter odds were Yee Cheong Baby at 1.4-to-1, Dan Control at 3.8-to-1, and Fat Turtle at 2.6-to-1. 

PP first-up stats by season.

Breaking the numbers down by class shows that debutants in Class 3 have a better strike rate than the ones who make their debut in higher classes.

John Moore, a buyer of some of the standout PPs over the last decade in Hong Kong, has had the most success with five (Dan Control, Solar Patch, Easy Go Easy Win, Magic Legend, and Eagle Way) winners.  Moore also has the highest win percentage at 11.1% and shows a profitability of 32.9% on flat bets.

But what about jockeys? Is there a guide there? Well, it is no surprise that last season’s champion jockey, Zac Purton – a rider who commands the greatest choice of debut runners and rides many promising horses in trackwork and trials – has ridden he most debutant PPs to victory.  His eight winners exhibit a high win percentage at 20.5% and show a profitability of 111.8% on flat bets.

First-up PP stats by jockey.

Most of the first-up PP winners were rated between 71 and 75.  This rating range also showed the highest win percentage (at 6.1%) and a positive return on investment (ROI) of 10.5% on the flat bets.

Debutant PPs who ran at net odds of 4-to 1 or lower won a disproportionately high 25.9% strike rate.  The other two groups that show a better than overall win percentage are the PPs that debut “Between 4-to-1 and 10-to-1” and “Between 10.1 and 20 to 1”.

First-up PP stats by odds range.

A horse’s country of birth is often cited as a major factor in early success in Hong Kong, but what do the stats say? Debutant PPs originated mostly from Australia which had a slightly higher win percentage (at 5.8%) compared to the overall 3.9%.

The age in the table below is the exactly calculated age (from the horse’s foaling date).  It shows that horses that are between 2.9 to 3.5 years of age win at a slightly higher percentage (at 5.7%) compared to the overall 3.9%.

So, after crunching the numbers we ran them over Sunday’s card. We looked at the debutant PPs and highlighted (in green) the sub-groups that show a win percentage that is higher than overall win percentage (which is 3.9%).


  • Enjoying, which runs in the last race on Sunday, qualifies in four out of the 6 sub-groups namely trainer, jockey, odds, and country of origin.


  • Island Shine, which runs in the fourth race, also qualifies in four out of the six sub-groups namely class, rating, odds and country of origin.


  • Two others, General’s Delight and Gayson, qualify in three out of the six sub-groups.


About the author:

Sohil Patel is a professional handicapper, writer and data analyst who focuses on Hong Kong racing. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, two teenage daughters and a westie called Benter and prides himself on knowing about all kinds of data related to Hong Kong racing. Follow him on Twitter @ @SohilRacequant

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