GRACIOUS JOHN (2nd right, Fran Berry) beats ENCORE D'OR (centre) in The Betway Hever Sprint Stakes Lingfield 24 Feb 2018 - Pic Steven Cargill / Racingfotos.com

I have discussed pace angles in numerous Geegeez articles – see this list – and once again I would like to revisit this key area, this time in conjunction with draw, writes Dave Renham.

I have noted before that if you were able to predict the front runner in certain types of races it would amount to a license to print money. For example, going back to 2011, if you managed to correctly predict the front runner in every all-weather UK 5f handicap race with 8 or more runners, you would have profited by over 60p for every £1 staked!

Indeed at Kempton Park the profit would have been £1.04 for every £1 staked. For the record, in 6f handicaps on the sand you would have also profited from front runners to the tune of 33p for every £1 staked, while in 7f handicaps you still would have made 17p per £1 staked.

Naturally, and unfortunately, predicting who will lead in all-weather sprint handicaps is not as easy as all that.

In the past I have looked at different ideas to help increase the chances of predicting the front runner. For example, looking for horses that had led LTO, or looking for horses that have the highest pace score average over the past four races. I have also studied going conditions, the effect of field size etc.

One area though that I have yet to look at in real depth is the position of horses in terms of the draw. For this piece I have collated some all-weather handicap stats from the draw analyser on Geegeez, which also contains draw / run style data.

The draw can have a significant effect at some courses in both a positive and negative way. Races where the first bend is close to the start should offer lower drawn horses some advantage as they are berthed closest to the inside. At the tight turning course of Chester for example, this low draw bias is well known and documented.

Just as there can be a potential draw bias due to being drawn closest to the inside rail, one would assume that these horses have a greater chance of leading early. This is simply due to the fact that they have less distance to travel to the rail at the first corner than horses drawn wider. Of course, not all horses will try to lead early, but I felt it was time to crunch the numbers as I believed the data would back up my theory.

For the record, I have included Irish course Dundalk along with the six UK all weather tracks.

All weather 5f handicaps (8 + runners)

Let us begin by looking at draw / run style combinations over 5f. The draw is split equally in three – low, middle and high - and hence one would expect, given a level playing field, that the ‘led early’ percentages would hit around 33.3% respectively from each section.

It should also be noted that 5 of the 7 course and distances are run round a bend with only Newcastle and Southwell run on a straight course. A look at Newcastle and Southwell first:

wdt_ID Course & Distance Low drawn led% Middle draw led% High draw led%
1 Newcastle aw 5f 41.67 39.81 18.52
2 Southwell aw 5f 29.55 38.64 31.82

The Southwell figures are relatively even which is what I would have expected. However, the Newcastle stats are interesting with higher drawn horses far less likely to lead than those drawn low to middle. I cannot give a reason why this is the case, but it will be interesting to see if this pattern continues in the coming years.

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Onto the other five courses and for the remainder of this article I will just focus on these as all distances are on a turning strip:

 

wdt_ID Course & Distance Low drawn led% Middle draw led% High draw led%
1 Chelmsford 5f 43.65 37.30 19.05
2 Dundalk 5f 45.74 37.98 16.28
3 Kempton 5f 41.45 35.53 23.03
4 Lingfield 5f 46.12 33.47 20.41
5 Wolverhampton 5f 44.14 35.67 20.20

 

This table shows that at all five courses the early leader is more likely to come from the lowest third of the draw – those drawn closest to the inside rail. I am pleased the stats seem to back up my original theory. In addition, horses from the middle stalls lead more often than those drawn high, suggesting there is a correlation between draw position and likelihood of leading.

The following table gives another way of illustrating how much more likely low drawn horses are to lead than high drawn ones – this has been very simply calculated by dividing the low draw led% by the high draw led%:

wdt_ID Course & Distance Low% / High%
1 Chelmsford 5f 2.29
2 Dundalk 5f 2.81
3 Kempton 5f 1.80
4 Lingfield 5f 2.26
5 Wolverhampton 5f 2.19

This table illustrates the bias to lower drawn front runners quite neatly with four of the five featured tracks’ minimum distance handicaps seeing lower drawn horses more than twice as likely to lead early as higher drawn ones. Dundalk seems to have the strongest low drawn front running bias and it is also worth sharing that horses drawn 1 and 2 at the Irish venue have provided the early leader 31% of the time.

Combining the data for all round-course 5f handicaps on the all-weather, and increasing the field size to 12 or more runners, there is an even stronger bias to low draws leading early. There are over 170 qualifying races which is a decent enough sample:

 

wdt_ID Low drawn led% Middle draw led% High draw led%
1 49.13 36.99 13.87

 

Under these circumstances the lowest third of draw are around 3.5 times more likely to produce the early leader of the race. This stronger bias makes sense as higher draws start even further away from the inside rail in bigger fields.

Another assumption I wanted to validate was that when higher drawn horses lead early they are less likely to go onto win: the reasoning behind this is that I perceived it to have generally been quite an effort to pass so many horses to get to the lead from a wide draw, as well as the fact that such runners would probably have had to travel slightly further to achieve this. Combining these factors, it would be logical to deduce that the horse might tire late on due to its earlier exertions in getting to the lead.

However, the stats do not back this up. Below are the win percentages for early leaders from each third of the draw at the five round-course all-weather tracks, firstly focusing on 8+ runner handicap data:

 

wdt_ID Course & Distance Low drawn leaders race win% Middle draw leaders race win% High draw leaders race win%
1 Chelmsford 5f 18.18 25.53 37.50
2 Dundalk 5f 15.25 12.24 28.57
3 Kempton 5f 28.57 22.22 28.57
4 Lingfield 5f 24.78 24.39 16.00
5 Wolverhampton 5f 18.08 15.53 18.55

 

Horses that lead from high draws at Chelmsford manage to go on to win three races in eight; those at Dundalk and Kempton prevail better than one in four. Only at Lingfield does it seem a negative to lead early from a high draw.

A similar pattern emerges when we look at the 12+ runner handicap data. Combining the courses we get these win percentages:

 

wdt_ID Low drawn leaders race win% Middle draw leaders race win% High draw leaders race win%
1 12.94 12.50 20.83

 

I concede these stats have really surprised me. However, in many respects this is good news if you like backing front runners. In the past I may have been put off by a potential front runner drawn wide as I would have assumed if they did manage to lead they were less likely to win. This is not the case –over 5 furlongs at these courses anyway!

Conclusions

This article has shown that in all-weather 5f handicaps contested on a round course, it is easier to lead from a lower draw than a higher one, BUT… in terms of winning the race you may prefer your potential front runner to be drawn high!

Food for thought I hope, and if you have enjoyed this piece you will perhaps be pleased to know that I plan to look at 6f handicaps in a follow-up article.

  • DR

p.s. if you want to understand the impact of draw and pace in combination, Geegeez Gold's new Heat Map underlay within the pace tab does just that, for the specific course/distance/field size/race type combination in question - example below. Click here to join Geegeez Gold >

6 replies
  1. Richard
    Richard says:

    Another interesting article Dave, thank you.

    At least part of the reason the high drawn front runners are not so disadvantaged in my opinion is this. Imagine driving your car at speed into a left handed bend, the arc that you make if you are tight to the left side of the road means you need to slow down to get round safely. The wider you take the bend the less the requirement to ease down and therefore less momentum is lost.

    Reply
  2. hillsy945
    hillsy945 says:

    Very useful analysis Dave. I guess the only missing piece of this puzzle is the assessment of the general profile of the pace across the card of runners. If a likely high-drawn leader is going to face competition for the lead from those drawn (probably) on his or her inside, then this (to my mind at least) increases the probability of a pace collapse at the end of the race.

    Reply
  3. dohertym22
    dohertym22 says:

    I have another theory. It is markedly more difficult for a higher drawn horse to reach the lead than a lower drawn horse. When this does happen it may be inferred that it was easier to do so because of.a slower pace. In such circumstances the wide drawn leader is more likely to enjoy an uncontested lead and of course having used comparative less speed at the start, means he is less likely to tire at the business end of the race.
    Just a theory.

    Reply

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