In my most recent article I combined my draw bias roots with a more recently acquired interest in pace / running styles to overview their collective impact at Pontefract, writes Dave Renham. This time I am going to look at another northern racecourse, York.
A picturesque Grade 1 track, York stands in the south west of the city on the Knavesmire. The racecourse is around two miles in length in the shape of what resembles a 'U', and it has a long run-in of nearly five furlongs. Over the sprint distances of five and six furlongs they race on a straight course; the seven-furlong distance starts from a ‘spur’ or chute and they do race around the tangent of the home bend; from a mile upwards they race on the round course. The 1m 6f distance starts with a two-furlong chute at the end of the back straight before they join the main course.
York has always been considered to be a fair track and when I was studying draw bias ‘24/7’ back in the late 1990's and early 2000's the mile trip offered a decent low bias but, other than that, there was little to report. The sprint trips in those days looked very even with little difference from wing to wing. However, I have noticed more recently that a sprint draw bias may have started to appear so I am hoping the stats back that perception up.
For this article, as with the Pontefract one, I am using tools available on this site, namely the Draw Analyser, Pace Analyser and the Query Tool. The initial period of study is a long one, going back to 2009, but I will examine more recent data (2015 to 2019) in detail, too, where appropriate. I will also check other variables including ground conditions and will focus once again on eight-plus runner handicaps only.
From a draw perspective, when analysing each handicap race, I divide the draw into three sections (low, middle, high). This how the Geegeez Draw Analyser does it and has always been my favoured method, too. In this way, a ten-runner race has three low stalls, four middle stalls and three high stalls; an eleven-runner race has four low, three middle and four high; twelve-runner races have four low, four middle, four high; and so on.
It should also be noted that I also adjust the draw positions when there are non-runners. For example, if the horse drawn 6 is a non-runner, then the horse drawn 7 becomes drawn 6, draw 8 becomes 7, and so on.
The differences in the percentages will help to determine the strength of the bias and, given a level playing field, one would expect the win percentages to be around 33% for each third. The more races in a sample the better: that may sound obvious, but with any data set, especially the type of small ones in which racing must habitually deal, there is an element of randomness.
Finally, in terms of framing what follows, I will reference A/E and IV stats throughout. More information on these can be found here.
Right, let’s crack on with the 5f data.
York 5 furlongs (8+ runner handicaps)
Since 2009, the period under review, there have been 105 qualifying eight-plus runner five-furlong handicap races. I have also included races over 5 1/2 furlongs of which there of which there were 21. Here are the overall draw splits:
These figures suggest a modest low draw bias over the longer term. The A/E values below back up this theory from a betting perspective:
For the record, if you had bet every horse from the bottom third of the draw at £1 per bet you would have roughly broken even – a loss to SP of 50 pence over 523 bets to be precise! [And, though it's not the main measure in this article, blindly backing those in the bottom quarter of the draw would have netted a £55.50 profit at SP!
Time to look at each individual draw position broken down:
Draws 2, 4 and 5 have made a profit to SP and all have A/E values above 1.00 again indicating a low draw edge. It is time to look at some more recent data; for this I will focus on the last five seasons (2015-2019). Here are the win percentages for each third over this more recent time span:
It is clear from these percentages that the low draw bias has strengthened in the last five years. These are the individual stall values:
Once again draws 2, 4 and 5 have proved to be profitable and if we combine the results of draws 1 to 5 they produce a positive overall A/E value of 1.09; compare this to draws 12 and above that combine for an A/E value of only 0.43. Low draws definitely have been in the ascendancy since 2015, although it should be said that the microcosm of 2019 was more even in terms of the draw.
It is unclear, having dug deeper, whether the going has any great significance. I cannot find a strong enough pattern to elaborate on and I don’t wish to further extend the article with relatively worthless stats as it is quite comprehensive as it is. Likewise the bias is consistent in terms of field size – low draws have had a similar edge in smaller fields of 8 to 10 as they have in bigger fields stretching across the track of, say, 17 runners or more.
Let us now look at pace and running styles. Here are the overall figures (2009-19) by early run style:
There is a clear edge for front runners here, a pace bias that seems marginally stronger on ground conditions of good or firmer. Looking only at big field (16+ runners) 5f handicaps, the IVs suggest a decent strengthening of the front running bias and a commensurately tougher time for hold up horses:
Now a look at draw / pace (running style) combinations for front runners in these 5f races:
For a straight course to see a single third of the draw (low) with an early leader figure of over 50% is unusual. Only Sandown over the straight 5f sees similar stats – the average % for all straight courses for low drawn runners taking the early lead is around 36%.
This 'early leader' by course table illustrates the point. (Note that a race can have more than one 'leader' where two or more horses contest closely).
You would expect 5f races around run a bend to have high figures like this for the bottom third leading early, as lower drawn runners should find it easier to get to the inside rail. But on the straight track at York, I cannot really explain the figures. Any suggestions welcome!
York 5f Handicaps (8+ runners) Summary
A low draw, ideally coupled with good early pace, or at least the ability to hold a position early, looks extremely important.
York 6 furlongs (8+ runner handicaps)
There have been 112 qualifying six-furlong races going back to 2009. Here are the overall draw splits:
The ten-year picture shows a very even split which does not correlate with the 5f stats, both distances being run on the same straight piste.
The A/E values are what one would expect given the win percentages, with no-brainer profit angles conspicuous by their absence:
A look again at individual draw positions and how they have fared over this time frame:
This table is a good example of how random draw data can actually be, and how individual draw positions often show this randomness. Stall 3 is a complete outlier with 15 wins and a £93 profit; in the context of neighbouring stalls there is no other explanation than that it's the confluence of happenstance in a small data set.
Given the ostensible long-term fairness of the six-furlong trip in terms of draw thirds, I wanted to see if there might be a draw bias when studying more recent handicap data at the distance. Here are the draw splits for 2014-2019 seasons where have been 51 qualifying races:
Interestingly, the recent data points to a very strong-looking low draw bias, with high draws having really struggled. When we split by draw we see confirmation of that in less ‘random’ looking data:
Draws 2 to 5 have all been profitable to SP and all have very positive A/E values. This adds confidence in terms of there being a robust bias.
Let us now look at A/E values in a slightly different way – I am going to split the data by draws 1 to 5, then 6 to 10 and finally 11 or higher:
This really accentuates the low draw edge and I am fairly confident this is a bias we can exploit when the season gets started again. Before I move on to pace data, I want to share with you the result of the last qualifying handicap race, run on 12th October 2019.
It was the Coral Sprint Trophy with 22 runners; the first eight finishing positions were drawn as follows: 1st (5), 2nd (4), 3rd (10), 4th (3), 5th (2), 6th (1), 7th (8) and 8th (7). Seven of the first eight home were drawn in single figures and all were drawn in the bottom half of the draw. For record the last five horses’ home (placed 18th to 22nd) were drawn 22, 19, 14, 17 and 18 respectively.
This race demonstrates how strong the bias can be. Now, not all races fit this pattern, and high draws will have their ‘day’, more than once, but in recent years it is clear that lower drawn horses have enjoyed a significant edge.
As with the 5f races, I found that the going makes little or no difference to the above. Field size does have a small effect, however, with large fields (17+) increasing the low draw win percentage slightly to 59%. However, with only 22 races included it is a limited sample.
Now a look at York 6f handicap (8+ runners) pace and running styles now. Here are the overall figures going back to 2009:
There is a really significant edge for front runners, much stronger than over 5f which is unusual. Normally, as the distance increases, the edge for front runners decreases. This pace bias has actually been even stronger in the last five years – front runners have won around 30% of all races from 2015 with an IV of a whopping 4.06 and an A/E value of 2.92.
Now a look at draw / pace (running style) combinations for front runners in 6f handicaps (2009 – 2019):
These are virtually a carbon copy of the 5f figures. Once again lower drawn horses lead far more than you would expect. Again, this is difficult to explain and unfortunately I can’t.
York 6f Handicaps (8+ runners) Summary
Six-furlong handicaps at York in recent years have strongly favoured lower drawn runners from a draw perspective. In addition front runners seem to have a very strong edge, too, and horses appear far more likely to lead if drawn low (though I am struggling to find a reason for this).
York 7 furlongs (8+ runner handicaps)
There have been 94 qualifying races over 7f. Remember this distance is run around part of the home bend starting from a chute:
Middle draws have had the highest percentage of winners but the figures in reality are quite even especially when I share that lower draws have the best win and placed combined record. Ultimately this looks a very fair C & D in terms of the draw. I think some people may have expected lower draws to have a slight edge but I am not sure the initial chute plays they some might imagine.
The A/E values do suggest though that for win purposes middle draws have offered some value during this 11 year period:
The last five seasons have seen a similar pattern with a fairly even playing field; again, middle draws have arguably fared best, winning around 44% of all races.
Let us now look at each individual draw and their stats since 2009:
A few stalls have proved profitable, but it is highly unlikely this will be replicated in the future as there is no real pattern to it. It is interesting to note that the very highest draws (16 to 20) have provided just 1 winner from 121 runners. Hence in big field contests it looks best to avoid those with 'car park' berths.
In terms of going it seems that higher draws struggle when the going gets on the easy side. On good to softer or softer the draw splits are as follows:
The A/E values for those same good to soft or softer races correlate thus:
It should be stated that there have been only 28 races on this softer type of going, far too small a sample about which to be completely confident. However, the win and placed stats are also very poor for higher draws suggesting that it is certainly possible that this trend towards low to middle will continue.
York as a course rarely gets soft or heavy and only eight qualifying races have been run on that going in the last 11 years. However, worth sharing is that of the 28 win and placed horses, only three came from high draws (11 from low, 14 from middle).
From a draw perspective then a middle draw maybe optimal with both middle and low readily preferable to high: higher draws seem to struggle on going softer than good, and very high draws struggle all the time.
Onto to pace and running styles now. Here are the overall stats:
Front runners have a very slight edge but ultimately there seems no strong pace angle here over 7f. As the ground softens it seems that front runners and horses that track the pace start to have more of an edge but, as mentioned above, the limited sample of 28 races on good to soft or softer would temper confidence in the figures.
Finally let us examine the draw / pace (running style) combinations for front runners in 7f handicaps:
Low draws are more likely to lead as they are closest to the inside, and therefore have least distance to travel around the part-bend. However, whilst I alluded to the starting chute may help lower draws, it may also be that occasionally horses not well away from low draws get snatched up on the inside as wider-drawn rivals attempt to cut the dogleg.
We can see from this draw/run style heat map, which shows place percentage for 8+ runner 7f York handicaps, that those drawn low and held up have the poorest place rate of the waited-with participants.
York 7f Handicaps (8+ runners) Summary
To conclude 7f seems to offer draw and pace punters no significant edge, though exercising caution around high draws may be prudent.
York 1 mile (8+ runner handicaps)
Onto the 1 mile trip – a distance at which I am hoping to see a relatively strong low draw bias as historically was the case during my 'draw fever' days. The configuration of the track, with a shortish run to two sharp left-hand bends in close proximity to each other. Horses trapped out wide can forfeit a lot of ground.
There have been 71 qualifying eight-plus runner mile handicaps going back to 2009:
The raw stats clearly favour lower drawn horses. Middle draws are next best and, in turn, have an edge over higher drawn horses who look to be quite disadvantaged. In spite of this quite well known - and indeed obvious when one looks at the course configuration - advantage, the A/E values help back up the raw win percentages and imply a small profit to be had from backing low draws indiscriminately:
This increases confidence in the bias.
Looking at the going the bias is less strong on very fast ground (good to firm or firmer), but on good ground or softer low draws have prevailed in 27 of the 45 races (SR 60%).
So to the individual draw data now:
Looking at the lowest six draws as a whole they paint a relatively strong picture. Clearly not all six stalls were going to be profitable but you only have to look at wins, strike rate and A/E values to see these figures are strong in terms of their grouping. Combining all these stalls would have seen a small 3p in the £ loss backing all 426 runners ‘blind’, and their combined A/E value is an impressive 1.15. Compare this to draws 7 to 12 whose A/E value is just 0.35 and where backing all runners ‘blind’ would have lost you over 61p in the £.
Focusing on more recent data to see whether the bias has been as strong over the past five seasons (2015-2019) remains a smart ploy. There have been 34 qualifying races giving the following draw stats:
These stats mirror the 11 year data so the inside bias seems as strong as ever. Below is the constituent draw data for those last five seasons:
Again stalls 1 to 6 are the group of stalls that we are drawn to (pardon the pun!). Their combined A/E value stands at 1.20 and you would have made a small profit backing all runners drawn 1 to 6 to the tune of 7p in the £.
For real system punters out there backing horses drawn 1 to 6 that were also in the top six in the betting would have yielded 22 winners from 111 runners for a profit of £46.96 (ROI +42.3). Now I am not personally an advocate of systems but this illustrates how some punters could theoretically have made money over this track and trip in recent years. There is enough logic supporting the angle to suggest it has at least a fighting chance of continuing to pay its way.
The going stats noted earlier in the 11 year data are essentially the same with the more recent data subset. 59% of races on good or softer ground have been won by the bottom third of the draw (low).
A look at the pace / running style figures in mile handicaps (8+ runners) next:
A small edge for front runners and generally the closer to the pace you are the better. Front runners seem to enjoy a stronger edge as the ground gets firmer as the following table shows:
Data is limited which we must take into account of course; that is why I have added the placed stats too, which support the general direction of travel.
So onto the draw performance for front runners in mile handicaps:
Higher draws lead less often as one might expect, but I am surprised middle drawn horses have led slightly more often than lower draws. Perhaps some jockeys have the desire to overcome an ostensibly poor middle stall by gunning from the gate; if that is true, it would make it commensurately more difficult for the widest riders to execute the same strategy.
The Draw Analyser image below shows - for qualifying races run on good or firmer ground - first a draw table by IV3 (average Impact Value of a stall and its immediate neighbours), and secondly, a draw/run style heat map by Impact Value (IV). The benefit of a low draw and or pace pressing early position is clear, as is the difficulty faced by wider drawn runners, especially if held up.
York 1 Mile Handicaps (8+ runners) Summary
The mile trip shows a strong low draw bias and, from a punting perspective, it gives us a potential edge. This is underscored by very strong A/E values. The betting market has not taken the bias fully into account yet, and long may that continue!
York 1 mile 1 furlong (8+ runner handicaps)
The final distance I wish to look at, but only briefly as there have been just 26 qualifying races in the last 11 years. With data so limited I am simply going to share the very basic stats. Here are the draw splits:
Low draws seem to have a very strong edge. My guess is that it would not be this strong with a much bigger sample of races, but as the distance is only a furlong more than the mile races we just reviewed, one would expect low draws to still comfortably hold sway. Here are the A/E values:
These correlate with the draw percentages as one might expect. For the record, stall 3 has provided ten of the 26 winners!
Pace wise, only two of the 26 races have been won by front runners with an A/E value of 0.93. Prominent racers have enjoyed the most success from the small data set and have won 13 races with an A/E of 1.55.
For the record, and mindful that there are just 26 races in this data set, here is the draw/pace heat map by place percentage:
York 1m1f Handicaps (8+ runners) Summary
I think it may make sense to group this distance with the 1 mile data in the future, but low draws and a prominent run style looks optimal, albeit from an unreasonably small sample of races.
York Draw / Pace Summary
In summary, York is a course where the draw clearly has a role: knowing where these biases potentially exist ought to help us with our battle to make long-term profit.
Pace wise, the sprint distances of 5f and 6f appear to offer a solid front running edge, especially when combined with a low draw.
And at a mile and nine furlongs, the value of being draw away from the outside, ideally close to the inner, should not be understated.
Hopefully you have found this article useful; now it’s time to look at the next course!