Ayr Cups: Luck of the Draw?

Ayr Gold Cup

Ayr Cup Draw

Over the next couple of days as many as 81 horses will contest three races, all over the same three-quarters of a mile strip of Ayr's straight course. Commentators and punters alike will be trying to fathom the effect of the draw, and making bets based on decisions to exclude vast chunks of the runners as a consequence.

Is this really a prudent strategy and, if it is, where is the draw bias? Let's look to history to unearth some possible pointers...

With the Bronze Cup now offering five years of data, we'll begin with the 2009 renewals.

Bronze Cup Draws (first four home)

2013 - 27/15/18/20 (Middle to High) Soft

2012 - 10/14/11/15 (Middle) Heavy

2011 - 3/15/9/19 (Low to Middle) Good to Soft

2010 - 25/22/12/26 (High) Good

2009 - 4/2/1/7 (Low) Good

Silver Cup Draws (first four home)

2013 - 26/20/27/15 (High) Good to Soft

2012 - 20/13/24/22 (Middle to High) Heavy

2011 - 21/24/14/15 (Middle to High) Soft

2010 - 7/8/25/6 (Low) Good

2009 - 2/3/11/5 (Low) Good

Gold Cup Draws (first four home)

2013 - 19/18/22/16 (Middle) Good to Soft

2012 - 8/19/13/2 (Middle) Heavy

2011 - 12/16/9/15 (Middle) Soft

2010 - 17/24/8/11 (Middle to High) Good

2009 - 15/6/9/3 (Low) Good


So far, we have nothing but a pile of data. Bear with it, though, for within that numerical haystack may emerge a golden needle just yet. A couple of views of the data might prove instructive. Below are the draw positions of the first four home aggregated by  year, and by going.

Ayr Cup Draws (first four home), by Year

2013 - 27/15/18/20/26/20/27/15/19/18/22/16

Average 20.25 (High)

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2012 - 10/14/11/15/20/13/24/22/8/19/13/2

Average 14.25 (Middle)

2011 - 3/15/9/19/21/24/14/15/12/16/9/15

Average 14.33 (Middle)

2010 - 25/22/12/26/7/8/25/6/17/24/8/11

Average 15.92 (Middle)

2009 - 4/2/1/7/2/3/11/5/15/6/9/3

Average 5.67 (Low)

Ayr Cup Draws (first four home), by Going

Good - 27/15/18/20/26/20/27/15/19/18/22/16/4/2/1/7/2/3/11/5/15/6/9/3

Average 10.8 (Low to Middle)

Good to Soft - 26/20/27/15/19/18/22/16/3/15/9/19

Average 17.42 (Middle)

Soft - 27/15/18/20/21/24/14/15/12/16/9/15

Average 17.17 (Middle)

Heavy - 10/14/11/15/20/13/24/22/8/19/13/2

Average 14.25 (Middle)


Hmm, the plot thickens. Or, at least, the data densens. Looking at the year by year performance across the three races, we could say that low was strongly favoured in 2009, and high reasonably favoured in 2013. In between, horses came from all parts of the track to make the frame, leading to a 'Middle' average.

Now here's the thing. Although the Bronze Cup is run the day before the Silver and Gold Cups, it seems curious - and dare I say it, spurious? - to suggest that a draw bias can change in 27 hours, let alone within the space of 70 minutes.

That would be the conclusion arrived at by track bias fans when looking at the respective finishes of Silver and Gold Cups of the past five years, and it is logically unsound.

The reality is that, though there may be a slight middle to high bias, it is far more likely that PACE plays the core role in dictating which side of the draw is favoured. As such, attempts to definitively 'nail' the draw advantage to one side or the other - or the middle - are wide of the mark.

Rather, we need to understand where the early pace in the race is berthed. This is not true just for Ayr and its trio of precious metal Cups, but for almost any big field straight track event run almost anywhere.

(There are exceptions where drainage comes into play, but with developments in agricultural technology, track irrigation has been regulated far better than even three or four years ago. As such, a number of historical biases no longer remain, and those outmoded perceptions are expensive to 'fixed mind' punters).

At geegeez.co.uk, whenever new features are requested from Gold subscribers, draw analysis always crops up. There will never be more than a page dedicated to this, because I think it's hugely misleading. Low draws in Chester sprints, and inside draws at Pontefract, are where I'd begin and end my personal adherence to draw bias on turf tracks. And in both cases, I'd still want a horse with a front-running or prominent pace profile.

I'm not saying there aren't others, but I think it far more prudent to focus on where the fast horses are housed. Or, to use my preferred phrase, where the 'pockets of pace' are.


To understand this, we first need to look at the overall pace profile of the race to confirm there is a strong pace expected. At geegeez.co.uk, each runner is scored on its last four UK starts, as follows:

4 - Led, or pressed leader
3 - Prominent, close up, chased or tracked leaders
2 - Midfield, or in touch
1 - Behind, in rear, or held up

Thus a horse can have a total score between 4 (held up x 4) and 16 (led x 4). Horses with scores of 14+ are perennial pace pressers, whereas horses with scores of 4, 5 or 6 generally need a true gallop and luck in running.

[As a personal rule of thumb, a horse has to have an otherwise very compelling profile if it's a hold up type in a big field sprint, simply because so much has to go right for those types even if they're good enough to win.]

Here is the pace view for the Bronze Cup, sorted by score (i.e. 4-16)

The Ayr Bronze Cup is chock full of early pacers

The Ayr Bronze Cup is chock full of early pacers

We can see that there are ten horses with pace scores of 13+. This means it is likely to be a very fast run race: little more than one would expect for such a big field sprint in any case.

Next, we'll sort by draw, which will give us an indication as to whether there is an even distribution of the fast early horses, or if there is likely to be a skew to one area of the track. As we'll see, the picture is very far from clear:

Pace spread across the track

Pace spread across the track

This is as unclear a picture of pace as I've seen and, in my opinion it would be reckless to make anything remotely resembling a definitive judgement as to which side might be favoured. As close to an opinion as I have is that the lowest stalls - focused around the early dash of Cruise Tothelimit, Galvanize and Baron Run - could influence a move from middle draws to that side. That would bring in the likes of My Name Is Rio (stall 11) and perhaps even Ralphy Boy from 18.

Were the split to be as high as that, it could compromise the middle draws and leave the high draws marooned in a slower group, despite the presence of Mishaal and Searchlight in the bigger stall numbers.

Such flaky conjecture has no place in the fashioning of a moderately confident wager..!

Unless a horse emerges with a super solid profile, this is not a race I'd be playing with any more than 'action' stakes. And, as you can see from the below Instant Expert view (sorted on place, and by going), there's an equivalent lack of clarity in the profiles as well [click the images to enlarge them, by the way] :

The Instant Expert adds little colour despite its traffic lights...

The Instant Expert adds little colour despite its traffic lights...

If I've read things right, and there's absolutely every chance I have not(!), then I'd be leaning a single degree from vertical in the directions of Cruise Tothelimit, Jack Luey and Gold Beau. Fitz Flyer at a huge price may also be worth a second look. I'd be betting win only too, and prepared to wear it if that list contains the second, third, fourth and fifth (on which any sane bookmaker is paying out a place dividend).

Saturday's Silver and Gold Cups promise to be more divisive when it comes to using pace to inform a post position bias, so stay tuned for a further bulletin on that pair of races as well as some of the other TV fare. And might I close by suggesting a pin or a crystal ball for deciphering the Bronze Cup?!


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11 replies
    • Avatar
      Matt Bisogno says:

      Best place for it, Geoff, I suspect. There will be more winnable ‘impossible’ handicaps tomorrow!


  1. Avatar
    andy... says:

    hi matt I think you’ve over looked the chances of layla`s hero…it will be up with the pace and will be staying on at the finish.. if its to cut and thrust up front ..can snatch the race…good form.. fair draw good jockey/trainer combo..and sitting right in the betting…

    • Avatar
      Matt Bisogno says:

      Hi Andy

      I haven’t overlooked the chance of anything, as I don’t have an opinion even remotely worthy of the name!!

      Best of luck with your fancy,

  2. Avatar
    chris says:

    Well, Matt, I’ve already backed Stonefield Flyer in the hope that Tom Eaves can get a clean break from this middle stall. A quick six is the right fix for this re-rated (down from 103 to 80) h’capper and both wins have come when able to front run.

  3. Avatar
    Leedscol says:

    Excellent analysis Matt.My pin is on Dissent.It wins every other race and guess what?

  4. Avatar
    Ben Aitken says:

    Fiendishly tricky race from a draw perspective this. Looks like pace across the track, possibly just (only very slightly) swaying towards low to middle. Possibly one of those races, if you are punting, where it’s best to have cover on both sides.

    Drawn to Galvanize and Chester Aristocrat at minute…

    Best of luck all

    Ben (NTF)

  5. Avatar
    paul mccarthy says:

    Hi Matt thanks for analysis just wondering about your thoughts on Graham Lee’s ride On Orient class on Wednesday at ayr who was drawn 18 of 18 raced on his own (made own pace) and won by 2 lengths. ( better/different ground out wide ? Because I looked back through the form of this horse and prefers soft ground)
    Regards paul

  6. Avatar
    Brian says:

    With so many potential front-runners the pace should be fast and they could set it up for a horse with plenty of stamina coming from off the pace. GATEPOST fits the bill for me as he stays 7f and was 5th in last year’s Silver Cup off 12lbs higher.

  7. Avatar
    heavypaul says:

    Taking an alternative look at the draw I conclude the winner will be drawn in single figures, what I did was split the draw into thirds and take the average odds in each section and for the last 4 years the lowest average SP had the winner, the only year this did not happen was 2009 when 7 of the first 8 were drawn in the first 8.
    2009 draw 1-8, top 4 finished Average SP 23.12 lowest SP 6/1.
    2009 draw 9-16 top 4 finished 8,10,13,15 Average SP 24 lowest SP 11/1
    2009 draw 17-24 top 4 finished 9,11,12,14 Average SP 22.5 lowest SP 8/1
    201 draw 1-9, top 4 finished 5,7,10,11 Average SP 29.44 lowest SP 14/1.
    2010 draw 10-18 top 4 finished 3,6,8,14 Average SP 29.22 lowest SP 16/1
    2010 draw 19-27 top 4 finished 1,2,4,9 Average SP 17.05 lowest SP 6/1
    2011 draw 1-8, top 4 finished 1,3,10,11 Average SP 17.5 lowest SP 8/1.
    2011 draw 9-17 top 4 finished 2,4,7,8 Average SP 28.5 lowest SP 13/2
    2011 draw 17-25 top 4 finished 5,6,9,16 Average SP 21.56 lowest SP 8/1
    2012 draw 1-8, top 4 finished 2,5,7,9 Average SP 24.65 lowest SP 6/1.
    2012 draw 9-17 top 4 finished 1,3,4,6 Average SP 16.47 lowest SP 5/1
    2012 draw 18-25 top 4 finished 10,12,17dh,17dh Average SP 23.75 lowest SP 8/1
    2013 draw 1-9, top 4 finished 6,7,8,12 Average SP 23.77 lowest SP 8/1.
    2013 draw 10-18 top 4 finished 2,3,5,9 Average SP 32.55 lowest SP 12/1
    2013 draw 19-27 top 4 finished 1,4,10,16 Average SP 20.94 lowest SP 11/2.

    This year the average SP of horses drawn 1-9 is currently 18.55, 10-18 is 28.8 and 19-26 is 21.9, I know these can change with market movers but I conclude the winner will not be drawn in the middle,

    Regards heavypaul

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