TRC Emerging Talent: stats show Murray looks set for global stardom

Callan Murray: the biggest leap in rankings points in the history of the TRC Global Rankings. Photo: zimbio.com

You have no doubt heard of the jockey they call ‘The Magic Man’. Now, perhaps, the world of racing has witnessed the arrival of ‘The Young Wizard’.

At the age of just 20, South African-born Callan Murray this week made the biggest leap in rankings points in the entire evolution of TRC Global Rankings – more than any fellow jockey, any trainer, any owner or any sire.

The lofty comparison with Joao Moreira – ranked #3 in our latest classifications – is not invoked stylistically or in any other way superficially but strictly numerically. For, as we will see shortly, Murray is one of the riders who profiles like Moreira by our numbers.

Murray goes up 31 rankings points and 160 places for his G1 treble on Champions Day at Turffontein. He landed the Premier’s Champions Challenge (1m2f, 2000m) on Deo Juvente, the South African Nursery (6f, 1200m) on Mustaaqeem, and the Computaform Sprint (5f, 1000m) on Rafeef. Two of the three came for trainer Mike De Kock and in the colours of Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, while Deo Juvente is trained by Geoff Woodruff and owned by the increasingly influential Mayfair Speculators.

So cool on Deo Juvente

Of course, a rider does not come without his book of rides. And a small sample can always just be a fluke. So, even if you are not convinced by Murray’s languid, relaxed, uber-cool ride on Deo Juvente, for instance, precedent suggests that winning three Group 1 races is a notable achievement, particularly in one so young.

The history of TRC Global Rankings goes back to 2014. On that day, we formed the initial rankings internally using the previous three years of results in Group and Graded races around the world. That window has shifted forward 174 times to this week’s classifications, and the system moves the competitors in each category of jockeys, owners, trainers and sires up or down in an attempt to minimise the number of future changes it has to make.

Strong and determined on Rafeef

In other words, TRC Global Rankings is equally forward- and backward-looking. It measures past accomplishment – like all world rankings systems try to do – but it is unique in doing so predictively. In the context of statistics, this means that the maths we use tries to strip out randomness from every competitor’s results, smoothing their change in rankings points by learning what each win or loss really means.

So, when the rankings points of a competitor show a sharp discontinuity, TRC Global Rankings is, in effect, reacting rapidly because it has learned that the results just achieved are meaningful. Remember, the more rankings points a jockey, owner, trainer or sire had last week, the less he or she is likely to improve because the system is learning less about them than when a rising star comes along.

To this end, consider the table of the Top Ten rankings points changes during the 175 weeks the rankings have been computed as they are now. Murray stands proudly at the top, his 31-point gain being the same distance clear of the #2 as the #4 is ahead of the #10.

TOP TEN BIGGEST WEEKLY CLIMBERS

 

Date

Category

Rank

Last week

Name

Modal Country

Pts

Change

Max pts

Highest rank

1

7/5/17

JOCKEY

109

269

Callan Murray

SA

918

+31

918

109

2

23/11/14

TRAINER

77

180

A S Cruz

HK

938

+27

986

13

3

22/6/14

TRAINER

73

178

Richard Hannon

GB

936

+26

1013

6

4

5/3/17

TRAINER

111

333

S bin Ghadayer

UAE

915

+25

917

104

5

30/3/14

JOCKEY

101

196

Joao Moreira

Australia

931

+24

1035

3

6

1/6/14

JOCKEY

105

184

Timothy Bell

Australia

931

+22

931

105

7

6/3/16

TRAINER

63

136

M Al Mheiri**

UAE

934

+22

942

52

8

6/3/16

TRAINER

101

248

Doug Watson

UAE

919

+22

937

60

9

6/7/14

JOCKEY

74

117

Adrie de Vries

Germany

948

+21

958

60

10

2/11/14

JOCKEY

62

103

Joao Moreira

Australia

959

+21

1035

3

You might also consider the names in the list. It is desperately sad to reflect that the career of Australian jockey Tim Bell was cut short by his death from falling from a high-rise flat in Singapore in 2015. Bell was only 22 at the time, and we would have been saying similar things about him then that we are doing about Callan now.

The other jockeys in the list, Moreira and Dutchman Adrie de Vries, are stars on the world stage and still very much on an upward curve.

The remainder of the list comprises five trainers: Hong Kong maestro Tony Cruz, Britain’s Richard Hannon (who went on to be champion trainer) and three UAE-based operatives, Salem bin Ghadayer, Doug Watson and Musabah Al Mheiri (alternative spelling Al Muhairi). The latter is serving a 12-month ban from the Emirates Racing Authority for administering cobalt. (Inactive competitors for whatever reason are denoted by a double-asterisk in our rankings.)

You will notice that Murray already stood at #269 in the rankings before his stellar successes. He had won just the one G1 race, the S A Classic, but had been placed a further four times in the highest grade from just 16 rides.

Dominant on Mustaaqeem

Hopefully, the flexibility and insight of the TRC Global Rankings is evident from this prescience. We introduced Murray to the classifications at #281 only as recently as April 2, but his results meant something to our algorithm.

We sometimes get asked why not simply aggregate Group and Graded wins to produce the classifications? And how can we rank competitors with fewer wins above more prolific rivals? The answer is that Group and Graded race performances must be placed in their proper context – how rare was the achievement in that part of the world? How good was the race independent of its grading? How much evidence is there that it is repeatable? – before the rankings can serve as more than an exercise in playing with numbers.

Less sophisticated rankings could not capture the brilliance of Moreira, or trainers like John Moore, if they merely used aggregation. And the system is betting heavily on South African Murray becoming a global star in the next few years.  

Check out this profile of Murray by Robyn Louw in South Africa’s Sporting Post.

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