Racing at Catterick racecourse dates back to the mid 17th century so this North Yorkshire circuit is steeped in tradition, writes Dave Renham. It is a left-handed undulating track that is considered quite sharp: its circumference is a mile and a furlong with a run in of around three furlongs. Races over five furlongs start from a separate chute with a shallow turn into the home straight; all other races are raced on the main round course.
As with previous articles in this series I am using some of the tools available on the Geegeez website, those being the Draw Analyser, Pace Analyser and Query Tool. The main data set covers 11 years from 2009 to 2019, but as usual I will also examine a more recent grouping (2015 to 2019) where appropriate. The focus is once again on 8+ runner handicap races.
Catterick 5f Draw Bias (8+ runner handicaps)
Since 2009 there have been 151 qualifying races over the minimum distance. Here are the 11 year stats:
An even looking split with lower draws faring marginally best. Looking at the A/E values, these show a correlation with the draw win percentages:
The 5f trip at Catterick did display a relatively strong bias around 15 years ago for five or six seasons. I will use the five-year comparison data method I used in recent articles to illustrate how the bias has changed over the years. To recap, using five-year datasets is a way to try and compare stats more effectively than simply looking at the figures for single years. This method also highlights whether/when patterns are changing, as well as giving more reliable sample sizes. So here are the Catterick 5f figures going right back to the first data set (1997 to 2001):
I have highlighted in green where the low draw bias seemed prevalent from 2004 to 2009. The bias coincided with a significant increase in the number of races and personally I did well during this period. During these six seasons, if you had permed the three lowest drawn horses in 6 x £1 straight forecasts you would have been in profit to the tune of £401. If just concentrating on the two lowest draws and having a reverse £1 straight forecast in each race (2004-2009) profits would have been £340 – not bad considering the outlay would only have been £124 and you would have got that £124 back too.
Perming favoured draws is something that can still make you money today but there are seemingly less opportunities. Having said that, despite low draws not dominating like they did 15 years ago, in the past eleven seasons you would have still made a profit by perming the two lowest draws in reverse forecasts, and quite a profit: £539 to be precise!
There were eight winning forecasts over the 11 years and four of the dividends were decent creating the sizeable returns. In addition, from 2009 to 2019 if you had also permed the three lowest draws in 6 x £1 tricasts you would have secured four winning bets producing a profit of £1160. Admittedly there was one winning tricast in excess of £1000, but that is what tricasts can pay. Exotic betting using draw positions is a patience game but with huge potential for relatively small individual race outlays.
Looking at the 2009-2019 data the most important factor in terms of the draw is ground conditions. The going does seem to make a significant difference to draw bias, so let us look at the results for races on good or firmer going. There have been 81 races which have provided the following draw splits:
Lower draws have a clear advantage when the ground rides good or faster with high draws at a fairly significant disadvantage. Draws 1 to 5 have been roughly 2.5 times more likely to win than draws 6 or wider.
The A/E values for these ground conditions correlate clearly too:
As you probably have guessed by now, the bias seems to switch when the going gets softer. There have been 70 races under softer conditions with the following draw results:
Under these conditions high draws have the edge. The A/E figures back up the draw stats:
What seems to happen when the going gets softer is that the ground closest to the far rail becomes slightly slower than the middle to stands side of the track. A good example of the high draw bias came on 19th August 2019 in a race won by The Grey Zebedee on soft ground. All the horses stayed away from the far rail and most made a beeline to the nearside and the stands’ rail. If you watch the race it is easy to understand why five of the first six home were drawn 11 (1st), 10 (2nd), 14 (3rd), 13 (4th) and 15 (6th). Watching races is important and as a statistician I do appreciate that numbers alone do not always tell the complete story.
One has to be careful, however, and we cannot blindly assume low draws have little chance in soft conditions, as there will be occasions when the far rail is not slower for whatever reason. Indeed in a race won by Count Dorsey on 19th October last year the far rail was actually quicker that day with the first four home drawn 3, 4, 2 and 1. Again, it is not just the numbers that suggest this; if you watch the race the ground next to the far side rail is clearly quicker.
This race actually is important to mention from another draw angle, something I first read about back in the 1990s. The angle is ‘negative draw bias’, a phrase I believe was coined by none other than new Geegeez writer, Russell Clarke. Negative draw bias looks to highlight horses that have run well from a poor draw with a view to possibly backing them next time, or certainly within the next three races.
In this race dominated by low draws the horse who finished fifth, Teruntum Star, was drawn 12 and did best of the horses that raced in the centre of the track. Not only that, but the race was dominated by horses which raced close to the pace, and he was 13th heading into the final two furlongs. Moreover, he lost momentum and ground when having to switch around three horses in the final furlong. Thus, Teruntum Star was a horse that had run well having been disadvantaged by the draw, but also by how the race was run. Six days later Teruntum Star hosed up at Newbury, winning by two lengths at a tasty price of 14/1.
It is time now to look at each five furlong draw position broken down by individual stall number for the 11 seasons. I use the Geegeez Query Tool to give me the relevant data:
As you might expect given the shifting ground-dependant nature of bias there are no real patterns here, so actually it makes more sense to look at this individual draw data by splitting it into good or firmer results and then good to soft or softer results. Let’s look at the individual draw figures for races run on good ground or firmer:
A blind profit for draws 1 and 2, and the A/E values for draws 1 to 5 help to further demonstrate the low draw advantage on faster ground. This is a definitely a better way to the view Catterick’s 5f individual draw stats.
The individual draw positions on slow ground (good to soft or softer) are below:
Again this paints the picture I was hoping it would: profits for draws 12, 13 and 14 backing up the fact that in general higher draws are favoured under these softer conditions. For the record the three highest stall numbers (not necessarily 13, 14 and 15 of course) won 2.25 times more races than the bottom three draws.
Onto a more recent data set looking at the past five seasons (2015-2019). Here are the draw splits for the 70 races that have occurred during this time frame.
These figures match the 11 year data very closely, as do the A/E values which are all within 0.01 of the long term stats.
Splitting by going over the past five seasons also matches the long term figures:
Catterick 5f Draw Bias, 8+ Runner Handicaps, Good or firmer (2015-2019)
Catterick 5f Draw Bias, 8+ Runner Handicaps, Good to Soft or softer (2015-2019)
So, from what appeared to begin with when looking at the initial 11 year draw stats to be a course with little interest, Catterick’s five-furlong trip is of clear note to the draw punter. I did investigate whether field size made any difference but the data is virtually identical for when comparing smaller fields to bigger ones.
Catterick 5f Handicaps (8+ Runners) Pace Bias
Let us look at pace and running styles now. I have always considered the 5f trip at Catterick to offer a strong front running advantage so let’s see if the stats back up the theory. The overall figures (2009-19) are as follows:
In terms of UK turf courses, 5f handicap races at Catterick show one of the strongest front-running biases of all. from an A/E value and win percentage for front runners perspective, it comes out as the sixth highest; and the IV figure sees it as the fourth highest (for more on A/E and IV, read this post). In addition to that, hold up horses have one of the worst records amongst all UK courses too: hold up horses at the Yorkshire track have the fourth worst win percentage, the fourth worst A/E value and the fourth worst IV figure.
If we look at the effect of going it seems that softer ground (good to soft or softer) slightly increases the win prospects of front runners:
Conversely, on good or firmer ground front runners have fared slightly less well, though they retain a very clear edge:
One cannot be 100% confident that softer going increases the front running bias, but such ground conditions are at least unlikely to negate the front running edge. What is clear is that, regardless of going, you’d rather be watching the race having backed the horse that has taken the lead early than a horse racing in rear.
Looking at field size data there seems to be little or no evidence that number of runners makes any difference to the pace bias.
Finally in this 5f section a look at draw / pace (running style) combinations for front runners over the minimum distance. Remember, this is looking at which third of the draw is responsible for the early leader of the race (in % terms). I would expect the early leader to be drawn lower more often rather than higher:
As expected horses drawn further away from the far rail struggle to get to the lead early. Having said that, of the 23 who have managed it nine went on to win with another eight managing to place. Hence, it seems that it is possible to lead all the way from a wide draw given the chance. For hold up horses it seems an even worse scenario if you are drawn low – just 3 wins from 140 runners (SR 2.1%). Indeed only a further 13 managed to hit the frame which means over 88% of all low drawn hold up horses finished 4th or worse.
Here is the draw/pace heat map sorted by percentage of rivals beaten:
So the Catterick 5f distance is extremely interesting from both a draw and a pace perspective. Considering the even looking draw data shared at the beginning of this piece, I think several useful pointers have been uncovered.
Catterick 6f Draw Bias (8+ runner handicaps)
The six furlong trip is on the round course, starting halfway down the back straight, and from 2009 to 2019 there had been 133 races. Here are the draw splits:
Some even looking figures with middle draws doing slightly better than the rest. Let’s see if the A/E figures offer better pointers:
There is reasonably good correlation here, but it does seem that lower draws are slightly overbet. This makes some sense as the nature of the track being left handed would theoretically offer inside draws (low) a slight edge. For whatever reason this is not the case.
Looking at statistics for the going, the figures remain constant regardless of ground conditions. On softer ground, as with 5f races, the near side generally rides quicker than the far side. Horses more often than not come middle to stands’ side in the straight in these easier conditions, but the higher draws seem unable to take advantage of it due to the turning nature of the trip.
In terms of field size, the maximum number of runners is just 12 so there is nothing to add on that score.
A look at the individual draw positions now:
I must concede that I had not expected the individual draw data to be of much interest, but draws 6 to 8 are all in profit coupled with decent looking A/E values. This table does suggest there may be some value in that area of the draw. Draws 10 and 11 have also proved profitable, while draws 1 and 2 have both incurred significant losses (roughly 44 and 51p in the £). Those profits are backed up by increased win and place percentages.
It is unlikely the more recent data will paint a different picture but here are the stats from 2015 to 2019:
76 races is a decent sample and middle draws are best once again with a slightly higher win percentage in the last five years compared to the last 11 years.
Onto the A/E values for 2015-2019:
The middle third once again boasting a value figure of 1.00 or more which is a positive.
Now a look at the individual draw figures for this latest five-year period. It will be interesting to see how stalls 6 to 8 have fared over the shorter time frame:
Draws 6 and 7 have proved profitable in the win market over the past five seasons, while stall 8 has essentially broken even (did make a small each way profit). Once again draws 1 and 2 have lost decent sums, as have draws 3 and 5.
Catterick 6f Pace Bias (8+ Runner Handicaps)
Let us now turn to pace and running styles. Here are the overall figures going back to 2009:
These figures show that front runners have an edge of a similar degree to the one enjoyed by pace setters over 5f, albeit slightly less potent. However, we know that front running pace bias is generally stronger at five furlongs than six, and essentially this bias is a strong one for the distance. In terms of win percentage, Catterick’s front runner figures rate as the third strongest amongst UK turf courses (6f), while the A/E value puts this course and distance in fourth overall.
In terms of going, there does seem to be more of an edge for front runners on better ground. Let us examine the stats for 6f handicaps run on good going or firmer:
These are some impressive figures for front runners, which win close to one in every four races; meanwhile, hold up horses are at the opposite end of the scale winning less that 5% of the time on quick ground.
Onto good to soft or softer going now:
Prominent runners have an equally good record to front runners on this easier ground, but it should be noted that it seems even more difficult to win if racing mid-pack or at the rear early.
The penultimate tables in this 6f section looks at draw / pace (running style) combinations for front runners in 6f handicaps (2009 – 2019). I would expect lower draws to lead more often than higher ones simply due to the left handed configuration:
Higher draws do lead least often, but it is interesting to note that middle drawn horses have got to the lead slightly more often than lower drawn horses closer to the inside rail. It is also worth noting that hold up horses drawn low, just like at 5f, find it virtually impossible to win – just 4 have prevailed from 146 such runners.
Finally a look at the draw/pace heat map for Catterick's six furlongs, again sorted by percentage of rivals beaten (PRB).
The messages already shared are underscored by this image. Front runners have a solid edge almost regardless of draw, though those drawn middle to wide fare best of the trailblazers. Hold up horses have a lot to do, especially when drawn inside.
In summary, 6f handicaps at Catterick offer real interest from a pace perspective. Front runners enjoy a powerful edge which is strongest on good or firmer ground. Hold up horses have a very poor time of it. In terms of the draw one could argue there is some value in horses drawn in the middle with stalls 6, 7 and 8 seemingly best.
Catterick 7f Draw Bias (8+ runner handicaps)
The seven furlong trip is raced on the round course with low draws once again positioned next to the inside rail. 209 handicap races have been run with 8 or more runners since 2009. Here is the draw breakdown:
Clearly 7f is a very level playing field in terms of the draw. Onto the A/E values:
As with the 6f figures, A/E suggests that low draws are marginally overbet.
Field size potentially makes a small difference with very high draws finding it slightly harder to win. Races of 13 or more runners give these figures:
In truth however, it is nothing to write home about.
Ground conditions also offer no notable edge so let's move on to the individual draw positions:
Nothing clear cut although draws 7 and 8 have again secured a blind profit.
Time to check out more recent data, from 2015 onwards. There have been 88 qualifying races since the start of 2015, giving the following draw breakdown:
This shows a very similar perspective to the 11 year stats with a level playing field in terms of the draw. Below are the A/E values, which correlate well with the draw figures:
Onto the individual draw positions for the past five seasons:
Again, there is nothing clear cut although both draws 8 and 9 have secured a profit. Ultimately, it is probably fair to say that there is little interest from a draw perspective over Catterick's 7f trip.
Catterick 7f Pace Bias (8+ Runner Handicaps)
Onto pace now, and first a look at the overall pace data now (2009-2019):
The 7f distance does has a decent front running bias which, considering the lack of draw bias interest, is pleasing to report. As with the 5f and 6f trips, hold up horses really struggle.
Looking at how the going affects the results, and as with the 6f trip it seems that front runners over 7f do better when going gets firmer. Let me look at the stats for 7f handicaps run on good going or firmer:
The win percentage for front runners is again high, edging close to 23%.
As expected, on good to soft or softer front runners perform less well:
There is still a small edge for front runners but it is essentially only moderately significant.
A quick look at the impact of field size in 7f handicaps: in smaller fields over 7f (8 to 10 runners), the front running win percentage is 23.3% (A/E 1.62); in races of 13 or more runners the win percentage is 13.9% with an A/E of 1.37. So smaller fields are slightly better from a front running point of view.
Before closing, a look at draw / pace (running style) combinations.
First, the split for front runners in 7f handicaps (2009 – 2019):
Lower drawn horses are more likely to get to the front early. As with 5f and 6f races, low drawn horses that are held up have a poor record, this time notching just 10 wins from 259 runners (SR 3.8%).
Here is the draw/pace heat map through the prism of PRB:
The seeming irrelevance of draw is matched only by the consistently gradual impact of run style, from led (best) and prominent to mid-division (no edge) and held up (notably under-perform).
Catterick is a strongly pace-orientated track where handicap races from five- to seven-furlongs see front runners having much the best of it. Hold up horses really struggle and this is accentuated if they happen to be drawn low.
Indeed, of the 548 horses held up from a low draw in 8+ runner handicaps over seven furlongs or shorter since 2009, just 17 (3.1%) managed to win.
Specifically at five furlongs, the going is key from a draw perspective, with low dominating on good ground or firmer, and high faring best on softer ground. Over six furlongs, middle draws may have a slight edge, while over 7f there is no draw bias - though still a pace bias - under any conditions.