Musselburgh Draw & Pace Bias

Draw and Pace at Musselburgh

For this article we are back across the border to analyse draw and pace data from Musselburgh racecourse, writes Dave Renham. To help me with this piece I have used some of the tools available on the Geegeez website, those being the Draw Analyser, the Pace Analyser and the Query Tool.

I will be looking at race data going back to 2009 as my starting point but, as before, I will examine a more recent data set in detail, too (2015 to 2019), where appropriate. The focusas with all the other articles in the series, is on handicap races with eight or more runners.

Musselburgh Course Constitution

Musselburgh is a right-handed course roughly ten furlongs in circumference, with no notable gradients, and is generally considered to be fair. The 5f sprint trip is raced on a straight track while 7f races and above take place on the round course. (There are no 6f races).

 

Musselburgh 5f Draw Bias (8+ runner handicaps)

Since 2009 there have been 218 qualifying races over the past 11 seasons, a significant sample, and here are the draw splits: 

The general perception I think is that horses drawn next to the stands’ rail (high) have an advantage. There is a kink in the straight track after two furlongs and, in theory, that should aid those runners drawn high. However, the stats for 8+ runner handicaps do not especially back that up, such horses winning only as much as middle draws, and neither group performing distinctly better than low starting stalls. Now a look at the A/E values:

Middle draws seem to offer better value than higher draws despite their similar win percentages. This does imply, albeit only slightly, that maybe higher draws are slightly overbet due to the perception of draw bias.

However, when the field size increases a slight bias does start to appear. In handicap races of 11 or runners (90 races) we get the following splits:

Thus, in bigger fields, horses drawn out wider (lower stall numbers) definitely start to struggle. The A/E values back this up too.

Again middle draws offer the best value out of the three draw thirds.

Ground conditions do not appear to make any difference to the draw so let us move on to to looking at each draw position broken down by individual stall number.

For this distance I have needed to change the way I collate the data. The reason for this is that the higher draws are positioned next to the rail so in many respects analysing individual stall positions in the ‘normal’ way becomes irrelevant. What I mean by this is, that stall 8 could be drawn next to the rail (in an 8-runner race), but in a 17-runner race stall 8 is actually ten stalls away from the rail. Hence I am using a trick that Nick Mordin used many years ago in his book Betting For Living when he flipped the draw. I am reversing the draw figures if you like and looking at them in their relation to their position near to the stands’ rail. I still used the Geegeez Query Tool to give me the relevant data, but it took me more time to adjust and sort out the final figures:

These stats indicate there may be a slight stands’ rail bias as horses drawn 2, 3 or 5 stalls from the rail are all in profit. Also the each way percentages for those drawn within five of the rail are all over 30%. Having said that, it is not something that one could be too confident about. What I would be more confident in is that horses drawn ten berths or wider from the stands’ rail look at a disadvantage. This correlates with the 11+ runner draw splits mentioned earlier.

Onto a more recent data set looking at the past five seasons (2015-2019). Here are the draw splits for the 100 races that have occurred during this time frame.

No surprises here with an even looking split.

The A/E values correlate with long term figures shared earlier:

Again middle draws have offered the best value.

 

Time for the 5 year stats for individual draw positions with the same twist as discussed earlier (draw positions effectively reversed):

The slight rail bias that was mooted earlier is not displayed with this more recent data set. However, as you would have probably expected the stats indicate that horses drawn ten or further from the stands’ rail remain at a clear disadvantage.

Musselburgh 5f Pace Bias (8+ Runner Handicaps)

Let us look at pace and running styles now. The overall figures (2009-19) are thus:

As is often the case, front runners enjoy a decent edge – as 5f biases go it is around the overall UK course average. Hold up horses have a poor record and look best avoided unless the pace is likely to be frenetic.

The front running bias does seem to strengthen slightly the firmer the going. The stats for qualifying races on going described as good to firm or firmer is as follows:

Improvements in strike rate, A/E value and IV; also the each way placed percentage increases too.

In terms of field size there is no clear change in front running bias.

Finally in this five furlong section a look at draw / pace (running style) combinations for front runners over this minimum distance. Remember this is looking at which third of the draw is responsible for the early leader of the race (in % terms):

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Higher draws get the lead more often than any other third. You would expect this as they are drawn closest to the rail. I must admit that I had expected the high draw percentage to be a bit nearer to 50%.

The draw/run style heat map, sorted by Percentage of Rivals Beaten, again points to early leaders from a pace perspective and middle to high from a draw perspective. (Any score above 0.55 implies a bias to that section, below 0.45 a bias against that section).

 

To conclude, in terms of the draw, higher draws are at a disadvantage as the field size gets bigger, with draws ten or further away from the rail having a particularly poor record. Pace wise, front runners have the edge and this seems to strengthen on firmer ground.

 

Musselburgh 7f Draw Bias (8+ runner handicaps)

As mentioned, there are no six furlong races at Musselburgh, so the next distance we'll review takes in the round course and the seven furlong (seven-eighths of a mile) range. The 7 furlong trip has had 189 qualifying races from 2009 to 2019 which is another decent sample. Here are the draw splits:

The 7f trip sees low draws start closest to the inside rail. However, this does not appear to give them any concrete advantage.

Let’s look at the A/E values to see if they correlate with the draw percentages:

Similar A/E values offering no real edge.

Drilling into the stats when the going gets softer there is a suggestion that low draws have an advantage. The problem is that there have only been 19 races on soft or heavy ground. Having said that, 12 races have been won by low-drawn runners compared with just two for higher-drawn horses. The placed stats strongly favour lower draws, too, under such conditions, but 19 races is far too small a sample to take at face value.

Time to look at what the individual draw positions offer over the 11-year period between ’09 and ’19. We can view these in the normal way:

Nothing particularly significant here as one might expect looking at the other draw data. However, draws 1 and 2 clearly have the best placed strike rates which is interesting.

On that theme you could have made a 36 point profit backing the two lowest draws in one point reverse forecasts over the 189 races. There were enough winning bets to create a small profit. For tricast fans, perming the three lowest draws in full cover tricasts would have yielded a huge profit of just under 3600 points! There were only five winning tricasts, though, and the profit basically relied on one monster payout.

Onto the last five seasons for 7f handicaps at Musselburgh. There have been 94 qualifying races since 2015, with the draw splits as follows:

These are similar figures to the longer term ones. Higher draws have performed slightly worse in the last five years but it is likely not statistically significant.

Onto the A/E values (2015-2019):

Middle draws have been the best value of the three draw thirds in the last five seasons. However, there is no edge to really take advantage of.

Now a look at the individual draw figures for this latest 5-year period:

Again nothing clear cut and ultimately 7f races offer little interest for the draw punter (despite those aforementioned forecast and tricast figures). The PRB3 data - a rolling three-stall average of percentage of rivals beaten - suggests that the course constitution does slightly favour inner-drawn horses, though this has so far yet to manifest itself in bottom line profit. Nevertheless, it is worth being aware of.

I will be looking closely at any future races on softer ground, though, as it is possible that there could be a low bias under those conditions. Here is the same view, but on soft or heavy going:

 

Moving on the seven-furlong handicap pace data, here are the overall pace figures going back to 2009:

This makes much better reading and front runners have a very strong edge, even more so than over 5f. More recent data offers a similar picture so this is a bias that we must try and use to our advantage.

This front running edge looks to be stronger as the ground starts to soften. On good to soft or softer there have been 47 races giving the following splits:

There also seems to be a slight increase in front running bias when the field size grows. In races of 11 or more runners, front runners win 21% of the time with an A/E value of 1.85; in races of 8 to 10 runners the strike rate is still 21% but the A/E value drops to 1.50. It should be noted that mathematically it is harder to win in bigger fields so even though both win percentages are at 21%, it is clear that in effect front runners have been more successful in bigger field races.

Let us now look at the draw / pace (running style) combinations for front runners over 7f.

Lower drawn horses get to the early lead more often – they are positioned closest to the inside rail so this is what we should expect. Having said that I would have expected a higher figure than 40%.

The draw / run style heat map offers a perfect diffusion of green to dark orange when viewed on PRB; this is normally a strong indication of a repeatable bias:

To conclude, over 7f the draw in general is extremely fair, but possibly lower draws have an edge in soft or heavy conditions. Pace wise, however, front runners have a bankable edge in all conditions which seems to increase on good to soft or softer going.

 

Musselburgh 1 Mile Pace Bias (8+ Runner Handicaps)

I will start our mile handicap analysis by looking at the 2009-2019 data - 90 races during this period have given the following draw splits:

There is no clear draw bias looking at these stats, but when you break the data down into halves, the bottom half of the draw won 61.1% of races to the top half figure of 38.9%. Hence a slightly lower draw seems preferable.

Let us break the mile draw data down by stall position:

Draws 1 and 2 both have decent A/E values and, breaking the data down further, stalls 1 to 4 have been 2.1 times more likely to win than draws 10 or higher (A/E values of 0.93 versus 0.66). Hence taking all things into account a lower draw seems preferable over a very high one, as reflected in the below IV3* chart:

*more information on IV3, and all of our metrics, can be found here.

 

The last five seasons have seen a fairly even split draw wise when splitting into thirds; draws 10 or higher have continued to struggle winning just twice from 37 runners. A look now at the pace findings for this 1 mile trip going back to 2009:

As with the two shorter distances, front runners have a definite advantage over a mile. This is one of the strongest mile pace biases in the country and it should also be noted that exactly half of all front runners went onto finish in the first three. Horses held up at the back early do not have a good record once again. The bias is consistent across all going and field sizes, although you could argue that in smaller fields (8-9 runners) it has been slightly less potent.

Finally in this section a look at which part of the draw gets to the lead first:

Although lower draws are positioned next to the rail, they do not get to the lead the most. This is probably due to the fact that there is nearly 4 furlongs until the first (and only) turn and wider drawn jockeys are keen to get a more expedient trip.

Again, we can see the golden triangle when looking at draw / run style in concert, though this time it more a 'led' bias, with a mark up for low drawn prominent and midfield (ground saving) racers.

 

As with 5f and 7f handicaps, over one mile the front running pace bias offers the most interest and it is a strong one. Draw wise I would always prefer lower draws over higher but all in all I don’t perceive it to be a significant factor.

 

Musselburgh 1 Mile 1 Furlong Pace Bias (8+ Runner Handicaps)

There have been only 44 qualifying races at this distance but some interesting findings: 

Higher draws seem to have an edge and the A/E values strongly correlate:

My concern with these figures is that they are not easy to explain – if low draws had this advantage I would assume there was an inside rail bias; with higher draws having the edge it makes virtually no sense. The most likely scenario is simply down to variance as the sample size is not that big in reality. However, it may be that jockeys are able to play more of a waiting game by dropping high-drawn horses in at the back of the pack. All may be revealed shortly!

Let’s break the data down by individual draws to see if that helps:

It is difficult to make much of this either – the unusually good stats for stall eight reinforces my belief that the draw splits cannot be relied upon.

Onto pace now, and below is performance by run style.

Once again at Musselburgh we have a decent front running bias and hold up horses have an even worse record than the three shorter distances, so bang goes that theory about why wide-drawn horses have fared best!

This is surprising as normally the longer the distance, the harder it is for early leaders to make all the running; likewise longer distances normally see a much higher percentage of wins for hold up horses.

To conclude, there is a strong pace bias for the fourth consecutive distance over 1m1f. The draw stats suggest a high draw bias; but, as stated earlier, I am struggling to rationalise this in the overall context, even though the PRB data support the win and place tables above. Weird!

 

Musselburgh 1 Mile 4 Furlong Pace Bias (8+ Runner Handicaps)

This is the longest distance I have looked at in any of the articles but I would like to share one set of stats. The draw is fairly even and, over 12 furlongs where they start just before the winning post and make a full loop of the track, I do not feel it is worth going into too much detail.

But pace wise we continue to see that front running edge, even over this relatively long trip. Here are the 2009-2019 stats, taken from the geegeez Pace Analyser:

The figures suggest that this may be the distance where the front running edge is at its strongest. This is very surprising given the distance we are talking about. Maybe it is down to the fact there is additional sharp bend soon after the start at 1m4f and front runners get more of an advantage going the shortest route into that turn.

 

Musselburgh Draw and Pace Bias Summary

Although there is little out of the ordinary in draw terms, Musselburgh is a course of real interest when viewed from a pace angle. Looking for potential front runners at all distances from 5f to 1m4f is definitely a strategy worth considering. The draw is generally not a major factor but there are subtleties that one needs to be aware of.

Thanks, as always, for reading, and good luck!

- DR

Ayr Draw & Pace Bias

The lockdown is easing and racing will resume in Scotland from this week. Time for a trip north, then, to analyse the draw and pace data from Ayr racecourse, writes Dave Renham. As with previous articles in this series I have used some of the tools available on the Geegeez website, specifically the Draw Analyser, the Pace Analyser and the Query Tool. The main period of study goes back to 2009 but, as before, I will examine a more recent data set in detail too (2015 to 2019) where appropriate. I will be focusing once again on 8+ runner handicap races.

Ayr is a left-handed course roughly 12 furlongs in circumference and is generally considered to be a track that suits galloping types. The 5f and 6f races take place on a straight track, with longer races  using the round course. As can be seen from the course map below, there are a number of undulations in the back straight and a dip then a rise in the home straight. The five furlong course is largely uphill.

 

Let’s start with the sprint distances:

Ayr 5 Furlong Draw Bias (8+ runner handicaps) 

Since 2009 there have been exactly a hundred qualifying races so no need for a calculator to work out the draw percentage splits! Here are the 11 year stats:

 

High draws have been at a disadvantage looking solely at the win percentages for each third. Looking at A/E values, these show an excellent correlation with the draw win percentages:

 

At the minimum trip of five furlongs, both sets of data point clearly to high draws struggling.

However, before moving on, it is important to realise that Ayr is one of the rare courses where they use three different positions for the starting stalls. Here is the breakdown for each stall position:

 

Ayr 5f Draw Bias when stalls are in the centre (37 races)

With the stalls in the centre the figures are quite similar to the overall ones, although higher draws seem to struggle even more.

 

Ayr 5f Draw Bias when stalls are stands' side (39 races)

The stalls when placed stands’ side mean that higher draws are drawn against the near rail. It seems that higher draws are more competitive in this scenario, but as a general rule the ground next to that rail looks likely to be slightly slower than the centre or far side, as such horses still struggle.

 

Ayr 5f Draw Bias when stalls are far side (24 races)

Low draws are drawn right next to the far rail when the stalls are placed in this position and although the data is limited, those drawn on the far side seem to enjoy a decent edge. It will be interesting to see whether the six furlong data supports this (more of that later).

Ayr 5f Draw Bias (by going and field size)

There is no clear-cut going bias, and the same is true when analysing field size data.

However, in bigger field races (16 or more runners) there have been several occasions when individual races have apparently shown a draw bias. The difficulty lies in the fact that the bias is not consistent and has no clear pattern. Having said that, of the 19 races with 16+ runners since 2009, I believe that at least twelve have shown a significant bias. I won’t go through all of that dozen, but here is a flavour:

15/9/11 – a 17 runner race where low draws seemed in charge with horses drawn 4 and 1 filling the first two places and draw 2 was back in 5th;

21/9/12 – a 16 runner race where there was an even split with eight horses going far side (low) and eight coming stands’ side (high); 5 of the first 6 home raced far side;

19/9/13 – in this 20 runner race 14 horses raced stands’ side (high) and 6 raced far side (low). 11 of the first 12 horses home raced stands’ side with the first three horses home drawn 17, 16 and 18;

20/9/13 – a 24 runner sprint where there was an even split with 12 runners coming stands’ side and 12 staying far side; 7 of the first 8 home came from the stands’ side group (high);

19/9/14 – a 20 runner race where taking non runners into account the first 8 horses home were drawn 13, 15, 4, 12, 18, 17, 11 and 20.

15/9/16 – the first 8 runners home were drawn 1, 3, 7, 2, 8, 12, 6 and 4 in a 19 runner race;

13/8/18 – 5 of the first 6 home exited from double figure draws (16 ran).

 

For those interested in exotic bets, if you had hedged your bets in terms of not being sure whether low or high draws would be favoured, and permed both very high draws and very low draws in straight forecasts, you would have seen a huge profit across these 19 races. Perming the four lowest draws and also the four highest draws would have produced 6 winning bets from the 19 races. Assuming an outlay of £24 per race (2 x £12 perms) the outlay on these forecasts would have been £456; but the dividends would have combined to return a whopping £1074 giving a profit of £618. As I have stated before past profits are no guarantee to future profits, but selective draw focussed forecasts have served some punters very well over the years (including me).

It is time now to break down the draw by individual stall number. I use the Geegeez Query Tool to give me the relevant data:

Profits for draws 3, 4 and 6 which given their grouping suggests again lower rather than higher draws are often the place to be.

Ayr 5f Draw Bias (2015-2019)

Homing in on a more recent data set, looking at the past five seasons (2015-2019), below are the draw splits for the 37 races that have occurred during this time frame.

 

As can be seen, high draws have struggled even more in recent years but, interestingly, middle draws have performed particularly well. 37 races is a relatively small sample but it does seem that middle draws currently hold sway.

 

The A/E values correlate with the draw segment percentages above:

 

Below are the five-year stats for individual stall numbers:

A blind win profit for just draws 1 and 6, those two stalls book-ending the section to be: that six-berth segment has secured 27 of the 37 races with an A/E of 1.07. Their overall strike rate is 12.2%, whereas horses drawn 7 or higher have won 10 races with a strike rate of 4.4% and an A/E of just 0.54.

Ayr 5f Pace Bias (8+ runner handicaps)

Let us look at pace and running styles now. The overall figures (2009-19) are thus:

 

There is a clear edge for front runners and those racing close to the pace (prominent) – as we know from previous articles this is the norm over 5f at most courses. It is not the strongest front-running bias around but still significant enough.

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If we look at medium- to smaller-sized fields (8 to 12 runners) front runners seem to enjoy a slightly stronger edge:

 

I also had a look at the 19 races discussed earlier with big fields of 16 runners or more. Amazingly, 13 of the 19 races were won by horses that raced prominently (A/E 1.32).

I have checked ground conditions and there is nothing noteworthy to share.

Ayr 5f Draw / Pace Combinations

Finally in this 5f section a look at draw / pace (running style) combinations for front runners over this minimum distance. Remember this is looking at which third of the draw is responsible for the early leader of the race (in % terms):

I had expected this even split especially considering the variations in stalls positions.

Here is the draw/pace heat map, displaying Percentage of Rivals Beaten. A score of 0.55 or greater is material:

The image clearly shows the benefit of racing on or close to the lead, and ideally not being drawn too high.

Ayr 5f Draw / Pace Bias Conclusions

In conclusion, low to middle draws have the edge over five furlongs in handicaps of eight-plus runners. I highlighted draws 1 to 6 in the more recent 5-year data as having a definite edge over higher draws – looking at the full 11-year dataset this has been the case, too. Draws 1 to 6 have won 71 races from 600 runners (A/E 1.07); draws 7 or higher have won 29 races from 596 runners (A/E 0.56). Pace wise, front runners fare best followed by horses that race close to the pace (prominent).

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Ayr 6 Furlong Draw Bias (8+ runner handicaps)

The six furlong trip has had 171 qualifying races between 2009 and 2019 which equates to around 15 races per year, a decent sample. Here are the win percentages by draw third:

Low draws seem to have a small edge here and as with the 5f data high draws have had the worst of it. Having said that high draws have been at a bigger disadvantage over five furlongs than six.

Let’s look at the A/E values to see if they correlate with the draw percentages:

Low draws seem to have offered decent value overall – higher draws have a poor figure of 0.60 which is similar to their figure over the minimum (0.56).

Onto examining whether the position of the stalls have made any difference:

Ayr 6f Draw Bias when stalls are in the centre (72 races)

With the stalls in the centre it has been a very even playing field in terms of the draw over 6f.

 

Ayr 6f Draw Bias when stalls are stands' side (53 races)

The stalls when placed stands’ side (high) seem to put higher draws at a distinct disadvantage. This is surprising from a logic perspective, but again seems to highlight that the ground near to the stands’ rail tends to be slower than the rest of the straight track.

 

Ayr 6f Draw Bias when stalls are far side (45 races)

As with the 5f stats, the 6f results give those horses drawn next to the far rail (low) a decent edge. However, before we get too excited, in 2019 there were no races at all with the stalls placed on the far side over five or six furlongs. I am not sure why this was the case: what does seem to be happening is that, as the years go by, more races are seeing the stalls placed in the centre of the course. In 2019 over 5f and 6f just under 70% of all races had the stalls placed in the centre. I wonder if course officials are attempting to make sprint races ‘fairer’ in their eyes by trying to encourage horses to come down the centre of the track.

 

Time to look at how individual draw positions performed over the 1- year period between ’09 and ‘19:

As you would expect with so many races very few stalls show a blind profit; draws 26 and 27 are two of the three but from very small samples. Draws 1 to 4 have fairly decent A/E values which is worth noting.

It could be reasonably argued that a draw close to either rail is an advantage. To that end, field size does seem to have some impact – in smaller fields of 8 to 10 runners high draws have struggled, winning just 14 of 82 races (SR 17.1%) with an A/E of 0.43. In big field races (16+) higher draws have performed much better, winning roughly a third of the 38 races (13 wins).

In terms of ground conditions it seems that lower draws enjoy more of an edge when the ground eases. There have been 78 races on ground described as good to soft or softer over 6f since 2009, of which low draws have won 36 (SR 46.2%). The A/E value is positive, too, at 1.14.

One of the biggest sprint handicaps of the year occurs at Ayr over 6f - the Ayr Gold Cup - run towards the end of September. In addition to the Gold Cup, there are two consolation races – the Silver Cup and the Bronze Cup. Traditionally, the Gold and Silver Cups are raced on the Saturday with the Bronze Cup on the Friday.

Since 2009 there have been ten renewals of each race at Ayr (the 2017 Bronze and Silver Cups were not run due to the meeting being abandoned, while the Gold Cup was switched that year to Haydock). These races always have big fields (average field size is 25) and hence the draw can potentially play a big part. Looking at the races in detail I would estimate that 20 of the 30 races (66.6%) displayed a draw bias; be it one third strongly favoured, or one third being strongly disadvantaged. Earlier in the article it was noted with bigger field 5f races that draw biases had the potential to occur, and we are seeing a similar pattern here.

Unfortunately, just like the 5f races, it has not been easy to predict which part of the track, if any, will be favoured. Having said that digging deeper has uncovered a potential opportunity. Seven of the Bronze Cups seemed to show a draw bias; when this draw bias occurred, the same or a very similar bias occurred the same year in the Silver Cup in four of the seven corresponding races. In the four years where the Bronze and Silver Cups had similar draw biases, the Gold Cup displayed a similar bias in three of them and, it could be argued, in the fourth as well. The best example of this happened in 2016:

In the 2016 Bronze Cup it was clear high draws were at a disadvantage. Seven of the first eight horses home were drawn in single figures (5, 7, 8, 17, 6, 1, 9, 3) – 24 ran; in the Silver Cup the following day, low to middle held sway again with five of the first eight home drawn in single figures and best finish from the top third of the draw was 9th (25 ran). The Gold Cup which followed just over an hour later saw low to middle again in charge with draw 8 beating 6 with 7 back in third; draws 11, 10, 14 and 4 filled the next four places (23 ran). Again, there was no sign of a horse from the top third of the draw.

Ayr 6f Draw Bias (2015-2019)

Onto the last five seasons now for 6f handicaps at Ayr. There have been 79 qualifying races since 2015, with the draw splits as follows:

High draws have really struggled in recent years. Consequently, to some degree, low draws have had the best of it.

The A/E values (2015-2019) underpin that notion:

There is an excellent correlation between the draw third percentages and the A/E values which adds confidence to the data.

 

Now a look at the individual draw figures for this latest 5-year period:

Draws 2, 4, 5 and 6 have all shown a profit in the win market, again highlighting the low draw edge in recent years. Those drawn 21+ in very big fields have also performed well from a small number of qualifying races.

Ayr 6f Pace Bias

Below is a breakdown of pace and running styles. Here are the overall numbers going back to 2009:

These figures show that front runners have an edge and it is a similar edge to the one such forward-going types enjoy over five furlongs.

In big field races the edge for front runners is wiped out, and looking at the data for the Bronze, Silver and Gold Cups, horses that raced mid-pack have definitely over-performed albeit from a relatively small sample of 30 races.

When the going gets testing the front running bias has increased. There have been 40 races on soft or heavy ground since 2009 and here are the pace splits (NB. One dead heat):

The further you are from the early pace the worse it seems to be on soft or heavy going.

Ayr 6f Draw / Pace Combinations

A final table in the 6f section is a look at draw / pace (running style) combinations for front runners in 6f handicaps (2009 – 2019):

It is interesting seeing more low drawn horses getting to the lead over 6f. I'm not sure why that is and, as stated earlier, considering the fact there are three varying stalls locations, one would have expected a more even split.

Again, the heat map highlights the benefit of being forwardly placed, and the difficulty that high drawn later runners have experienced.

Ayr 6f Draw / Pace Bias Conclusions

In conclusion, lower draws have held sway over the last decade or so with the bias seemingly getting stronger in the past five seasons. High draws have really struggled recently except when the stalls have been placed in the centre. The shame for draw bias fans, as I noted earlier, is that more and more races seem to have the stalls placed in the centre over 6f at Ayr. Pace wise, it is again those racing on the front end who have the upper hand and this seems to strengthen as the ground gets softer.

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Ayr 7 furlongs Draw Bias (8+ runner handicaps) 

The seven-furlong trip takes in the round course with low draws positioned next to the inside rail. There is a sharp turn soon after the start where runners can get fanned quite wide into the home straight.

170 handicap races have been run with eight or more runners since 2009. Here is the draw breakdown: 

That is about as even a split as you could get! So low draws, despite potentially having the chance to take the shortest route around the turn, do not have any obvious advantage. Onto the A/E values:

A commensurately even set of figures, as might be expected. The market looks to have it pretty much spot on.

 

However, field size does seem to matter from a draw perspective as races with 12 or more runners illustrates:

As the field size increases so horses drawn wider start to be disadvantage. This makes sense as the widest drawn horses are likely to have to run further if staying out wide on the track, or risk trouble in running if making their way towards the inside rail. The A/E figures correlate with the draw percentages for these bigger fields.

 

Looking now at ground conditions, high draws also seem to struggle as the ground gets softer. On soft or heavy ground there have been 43 races with the following draw splits:

The A/E values correlate neatly once again:

 

So although the basic statistics suggested little interest from a draw perspective, we can see that in bigger fields and on soft/heavy ground high draws do seem at a disadvantage.

Combining 12+ fields on soft or heavy has seen only 20 races but the bias against high draws is clear to see with just two victories from that third of the draw (10 wins for low draws and 8 for middle draws).

Let us look at the individual draw positions next:

Little to report here as one might expect – just stall 8 in profit which essentially is down to chance.

It is time to check out the more recent subset of data, from 2015 onwards. There have been 97 qualifying races giving the following draw breakdown:

This correlates strongly with the 11-year full set, with an extremely level playing field in terms of the draw. The A/E values again match up with the draw percentage figures:

For what they are worth here are the individual draw positions:

Randomly, four stalls are in profit; but that is all that it is... random.

On soft/heavy ground in the last five seasons high draws have struggled, as they did when examining the 11-year stats – they've recorded just four wins from 22 races (18.2%). Low draws dominated this period winning 13 of the 22 races (59.1%). Likewise, in bigger fields (12+ runners) high draws have found it hard winning just six of the 34 races (17.6%).

Ayr 7f Pace Bias

A look at the overall pace data now (2009-2019):

Front runners seem to have a slightly stronger edge when compared to the two sprint distances. The 1.41 A/E value is above the average A/E for all UK courses over 7f which stands at 1.26, as is the IV score of 1.80 (UK course average IV for front runners in 7f handicaps is 1.63).

As a reminder, over six furlongs the edge for front runners seemed stronger on soft/heavy going, and that seems to be the case here, too. The sample size is 42 races:

1.82 is a noteworthy A/E value, and is coupled with a score above 2.0 for Impact Value. This is material.

Ayr 7f Draw / Pace Combinations

Finally over 7f a look at draw / pace (running style) combinations for front runners in 8+runner handicaps (2009 – 2019). One might have expected low draws to lead more often as they have the inside berths:

These figures surprised me – clearly for some reason jockeys drawn low are not taking advantage of the inside rail. This is also the case in bigger field races where low drawn runners only take the lead 30.8% of the time.

The heat map below - all 8+ runner 7f handicaps - shows clearly where you need to be: front rank and drawn low to middle.

Ayr 7f Draw / Pace Bias Conclusions

To conclude, over 7f the draw in general is extremely fair, but on soft/heavy ground or when the field size reaches 12 or more, higher draws then start to be at a disadvantage. Pace wise it is front runners who are clearly best. 

*

Ayr 1 mile Draw Bias (8+ runner handicaps)

With this article on the long side I am going to very briefly look at one more distance: the 1 mile trip. I will start by looking at the 2009-2019 data. There are 167 races in the sample, giving the following draw splits: 

There is no clear draw bias on the basis of these stats and, sadly, digging deeper unearthed no pleasant surprises like there were over 7f.

However, going back to the late 1990s, this mile trip had a significant bias to those drawn next to the inside rail (low). I will use the 5-year comparison data method I used in the second Chester article to illustrate how the bias has essentially all but disappeared.

To recap, using 5-year data sets is a good way to try and compare any shift more effectively than simply looking at single years. This method highlights where patterns or biases are changing, as well as giving more reliable sample sizes. So here are the Ayr 1 mile figures going right back to the first data set (1997 to 2001):

As the table shows, low draws completed dominated until about 2005; since then the advantage gradually began to level and, for a while, low draws actually produced the lowest percentage of winners. In the last two or three seasons there has been a slight resurgence but, essentially, the days when I used to make money from the draw at this particular course and distance are long gone.

The reason? Difficult to say unequivocally but, interestingly, the maximum field size changed in 2006 from 20 to just 14. That might well be the material factor.

Ayr 1 Mile Draw / Pace Combinations

A quick look pace wise at the 1 mile trip but the front running edge seen at 5 to 7f is no longer prevalent.

Prominent runners arguably have a slight edge while front runners find it far harder to win over this extra furlong.

The draw / pace heat map confirms the generally fairer distribution of performance in terms of stall location and run style in Ayr mile handicaps.

*

I hope this article offers some helpful pointers now racing resumes at Ayr; I will be eagerly awaiting the 3 day September meeting which is one of my favourites, but there could be plenty of benefit between now and then, especially if the weather turns wet!

- DR

Chester Draw & Pace: Part 2

This is a follow up article to the Chester piece I wrote in April, writes Dave Renham. In that article I concentrated on sprints of between five and seven furlongs; here I am will look in detail at the extended 7f trip and the 1m 2f distance.

As I am writing this (on May 4th), I feel sad because this week would have signalled the Chester May Meeting which is one of my favourite meetings of the year. The signs are, however, that racing may be back quite soon with Germany and France hopefully set to start again in the near future. When it resumes here, racing will be behind closed doors but for everyone involved in the sport I am sure they will just be glad to get going again.

Since writing the first three articles in this draw/pace series there has been a useful addition to the Draw and Pace Analyser tools whereby you can now narrow down your query by year range. In the past it showed all years going back to 2009 and in order to look at more recent data I needed to use the Query Tool as well. This speeds my draw and pace research up especially when wanting to research time sensitive data.

 

 

What the new addition also means is that I can look at the data in a slightly different way using a method I first saw in Nick Mordin’s excellent book, ‘Winning Without Thinking’. He looked at data in five-year batches which is a good way to try and compare things more effectively. This method also potentially highlights whether patterns or biases are changing, and offers more reliable sample sizes.

Below is an example of this method based on 7f handicap data from Goodwood, which I hope illustrates his idea neatly. Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s Goodwood’s 7f trip provided me with plenty of winning bets, many of them forecasts and exactas on horses drawn closest to the rail; but the officials got wise to the bias and managed to even it out a little for some years. However, back in 2015 or so I started to notice that the low draw bias was beginning to reappear.

Here is a table using five-year batches of data with percentages for each third of the draw as well as A/E values. The full 11-year data is shown at the top of the table for long term comparison:

 

I have highlighted in green the low draw data which shows a big change from the first five years (2009-2013) in terms of the low draw bias gradually getting stronger. Having said that I know that 2018 and 2019 have both seemingly started to show a decline again in the strength of bias - this is just beginning to be shown in the 2015-2019 data. The next couple of years may well determine whether Goodwood are increasing efforts once again to level out the ‘draw playing field’. Hence I really think splitting year data in this way is a useful tool for comparisons and I will aim to use it in articles where it is appropriate. 

So time to delve back into Chester’s stats. As before I am using some of the tools available on the Geegeez website, those being the Draw Analyser, the Pace Analyser and the Query Tool. The main period of study goes back to 2009, but as before I will examine a more recent data set (2015 to 2019) in detail, too, where appropriate, as well as using the new 5-year comparison method.

I will be focusing once again on 8+ runner handicap races and, as stated in the first paragraph, looking mainly at the extended 7f trip and 1m2f. The draw will be divided into three equal sections or thirds (low, middle, high) and non-runners have been taken into account with draw positions adjusted accordingly. The pace data is split into four groups: led, prominent, mid division and held up.

Chester 7 1/2 furlongs (8+ runner handicaps)

When analysing this trip on Geegeez Draw Analyser you need to look at the 1 mile distance to get this extended 7f data. Otherwise if you key in 7 furlongs you will get the 7f data from the last article. This is because the actual distance is 7f 127 yards, which is closer to a mile than seven furlongs.

Since 2009 there have been 115 races that have qualified which is a decent sample. Here are the 11 season overall draw splits:

There appears to be a slight edge towards lower draws but, compared with the 5 – 7f data, we can see that this 7½f distance offers low draws far less of an advantage.

The A/E values are shown below for this period:

A fairly even playing field here so, despite the small low draw edge in terms of percentage wins, it looks like the bookmakers have that well factored into their prices.

It is time now to look at each draw position broken down by individual stall number:

 

Perhaps no real surprises here given the draw thirds data. There does seem to be something to be gleaned from looking at the each way placed percentages: combining the figures for horses drawn 10 or wider they have made the frame (i.e. won or placed) just 16% of the time. Their combined win A/E value is also low at 0.55. Compare this with horses drawn 1 to 9 who have placed 30% of the time with an A/E value of 0.88. It seems the long term data suggests that horses drawn 10 and above are at a fairly significant disadvantage to those drawn lower.

Onto a more recent data set looking at the past five seasons (2015-2019). Here are the draw splits for the 58 races that have occurred during this time frame.

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This tells a similar tale to the ’09-’19 figures but with a slight increase in the low draw win percentage. This small increase is not statistically significant and the A/E values again indicate a relatively level playing field in terms of potential profitability as shown below:

The five-year stats for individual draw positions are below:

Again it is only the each way percentages that catch my eye, mirroring the long term data (draws 1 to 9 with 32% of placed runners; draws 10 and above with 11.4% of placed runners).

Let us break down the draw figures using rolling five-year batches to compare the data in another way:

Looking at the table we can see that the low draw bias has been very consistent from 2011 onwards and it seems that in 2009 and 2010 for whatever reason low draws slightly under-performed.

Ultimately this is a course and distance where there is a slight low draw edge and, as indicated earlier, draws 10 and above look to be at a fairly significant disadvantage. Hence it should not come as a surprise that as the field size grows the bias towards low draws increases as does the bias AGAINST higher draws. Here are the data for fields with 12 or more runners for 2009 – 2019 (44 races in total):

In bigger fields I would be very wary of backing anything drawn high unless I felt the horse had a huge edge over the rest of the runners, or that its price more than justified the risk. The A/E values correlate neatly as we can see:

It looks therefore that we have a potentially playable draw bias when we get to 12+ runners. Indeed the bias does seem to strengthen when we increase the field size further, but of course the number of races becomes smaller and less reliable from a statistical point of view.

In the first Chester article I pointed out how exotic bets (forecasts, exactas, etc) over 5f would have proved profitable under certain circumstances. Once again I have delved into this area for this distance when the field size has been 12 or more. There are some interesting ideas that would have proved highly profitable during the period of study for these bigger field races:

a) perming the bottom four draws in 12 x £1 straight forecasts would have seen an outlay of £528 and produced returns of £627.49 meaning of profit of £99.49. The exacta paid more (potentially increasing profit by a further £130 to be precise), but exactas being pool bets are not always a good vehicle for draw-based bets: they can easily be ‘overplayed’ and the dividend suffers as a result;

b) perming the five lowest draws in 60 x £1 tricasts would have seen a significant outlay of £2640 but produced huge returns of £4845 meaning a healthy profit of £2205, and an ROI of 84%.

Of course, past profitable results are simply that – past results. However, I have made most of my profits over the years using these exotic bets on draw biased races and the profits quoted are not unusual.

Let us look at pace and running styles now. The overall figures (2009-19) are thus:

A very even playing field here, although hold up horses seem at a slight disadvantage.

I have checked ground conditions and there is nothing clear cut; however, field size does seem to make a difference as it did with the draw. If we look at 12+ runner races again we get the following pace results:

In bigger fields front runners have the best record and have an edge; meanwhile, hold up horses seem to really struggle.

Now a look at draw / pace (running style) combinations for front runners in these 7½f races. Remember this is looking at which third of the draw is responsible for the early leader of the race (in % terms):

Lower draws are more likely to take the early lead but with a run of around 1½ furlongs to the first bend horses drawn wider find it easier to contest for the lead should they wish too. What is noteworthy is that early leaders from low draws go on to win a far bigger percentage of races than those who led drawn in the middle or out wide (high). 58 horses have led from low draws with ten going onto to win the race (17.2%); 81 horses have led from middle or high draws with only six managing to go on to win (7.4%). It should also be noted that prominent runners from a low draw have a decent record, scoring more 15% of the time.

In conclusion, lower draws do have an edge but it is only when we get to bigger fields (12+) that the bias looks playable. Not only do bigger fields increase the edge for low draws, they decrease the chances of high drawn horses. Pace wise the only bias seems again to occur in bigger fields where front runners have an advantage while hold up horses find it very difficult to win.

 

Chester 1 mile 2 1/2 furlongs (8+ runner handicaps) 

There were 94 qualifying races at this distance from 2009 to 2019. The 1m 2f 70 yards distance has been shortened by 5 yards since 2009, not that that would make any difference. Here are the draw splits:

 

Low draws definitely have had an edge over the 11 seasons, while there seems little in it between middle and higher draws. Let’s look at the A/E values to see whether this bias is appreciated by bookmakers:

 

No real edge it seems from a punting perspective with an extremely level set of A/E values. Let’s see what the individual draw positions offer:

The lowest six draws seems the natural cut off point in terms of win strike rate, and the A/E values for draws 1 2, 5 and 6 are decent. However, only draw 5 has made a ‘blind’ profit.

Look at the going data there have only been 20 races on good to firm or firmer, but my impression is that any low draw bias is less potent under such conditions. The win percentages are more even and the win and placed figures see just 2 more placed efforts for low draws compared with high. Such a small number of races means it is simply a hypothesis, however.

Onto the last five seasons now. There have been 43 qualifying races since 2015, with the draw splits as follows:

A more even set of figures in the more recent past with low draws only marginally best in win percentage terms.  And the A/E values:

Low draws have proved to be poor value over the past five seasons despite still winning more races. The individual draw figures for 2015 to 2019 look like this:

Draws 1 and 2 have a really poor record in the more recent past and checking back from 2009 to 2014 both stall positions actually made a blind profit. This illustrates how religiously backing individual draw positions can be a real roller coaster and in general too risky long term.

Let us now look at the draw figures for 1m 2f using the five-year comparison method discussed earlier:

The five year batch data seem to back up what the 2015 to 2019 figures had suggested: that the low draw bias has been gradually diminishing. I am not sure why this has been happening – it may just be down to chance and it will be interesting to see what results the next couple of seasons bring.

A look pace and running styles now. Here are the overall figures going back to 2009:

These figures show that front runners have a significant edge which, considering the distance, is unusual. In general in flat races, the longer the distance the less successful front runners are. But Chester's very tight, always on the turn, configuration does make it harder for horses to pass without travelling further and using up more fuel.

A win percentage for front runners of nearly 20% really caught my eye. To illustrate this pace bias more clearly, the average win percentage all UK courses over the 1m 2f distance (8+ runner handicaps) stands at 12.8% (A/E 1.09; IV 1.39). Only Beverley and Wetherby have a better win strike rate for front runners at this trip than Chester; and we can probably ignore Wetherby because there have been so few races (just 11) on their recently opened flat track. At the other end of the scale, front runners at this distance at both York and Epsom have won a meagre 5% of races.

As the field size gets bigger the pace bias strengthens a little: in races of 11 or more runners, front runners have won just over 25% of them (12 wins from 47 runners). Meanwhile, in terms of ground underfoot conditions, as with the extended 7f trip, it is difficult to pinpoint whether the going makes any real difference.

Now a look at draw / pace (running style) combinations for front runners in 1m 2f Chester handicaps (2009 – 2019):

It is easier for lower drawn horses to take the early lead but, in terms of these runners going onto win, strike rates are similar: low drawn front runners win 21.8% of the time; those who lead early from middle draws have won 20% of the time, high drawn front runners 19.2% of the time.

Chester longer distance races (8+ runner handicaps)

Looking very briefly at distances beyond 1m2f:

1m 4f - front runners over 1m4f do have an edge, winning around 16% of the time (A/E 1.50), but there is no draw advantage for any ‘third’ (47 races in total)

1m 5f – only 23 races at this trip and from the limited data front runners have a slight edge. There is no draw bias.

1m 7f 195yds or more – front runners have an edge even at this trip winning over 15% of the time (A/E 1.57) while hold up horses really struggle (3 wins from 125) producing an A/E of just 0.30. As the field size increases hold up horses find it even harder winning 0 races from 74 in races of 12 or more runners. In terms of the draw low draws actually seem to have a small edge which seems to increase in big fields. There have only been 30 races in total though so it is impossible to fully confident about these findings.

That concludes our investigation into draw and pace at Chester racecourse. As has been shown, there is a generally strong bias towards low draws and/or front runners, with the bias being emphasised in bigger fields.

- DR

Dave Renham: Chester Draw & Pace Part 1

This is the third in my series of articles on draw and pace bias at UK courses, writes Dave Renham. Pontefract and York were the first two to come under the spotlight, and now it is the turn of arguably the most draw biased track in the country, Chester.

Chester is by all accounts a lovely place to go and watch racing and, as I write this piece entering the fourth week of lockdown due to the coronavirus, the Roodee is a course that I will make every effort to visit in the future. It lies close to the River Dee and is officially the oldest racecourse in the world, dating back to 1539.

Chester Racecourse is a very tight track only just over a mile in circumference, which means that it does not suit long striding horses because the runners are so frequently on a left-hand lean. The home straight is only 240 yards in length - barely more than a furlong - which tends to help horses close to or on the pace. Traditionally, lower drawn horses near to the inside rail have had a decent edge at most distances. This bias is well understood across the racing fraternity, though, so whether we can actually get a worthwhile betting edge constitutes the purpose of what follows.

 

Chester Racecourse Map

Chester Racecourse Map

 

As with the last two articles, I am using some of the tools available on the Geegeez website: Draw Analyser, Pace Analyser and the Query Tool. The main period of study is a long one, going back to 2009, but I will also examine a more recent (2015 to 2019) data set in detail where appropriate. I will be focusing once again on 8+ runner handicap races only and looking exclusively at the distances from 5f to 7f.

When looking at each race I will be dividing the draw into three equal sections (low, middle, high). This is how the Geegeez Draw Analyser does it and has been the way I have generally done it for 25 years. Draw positions are also adjusted when there are non runners to make the data as accurate as possible. For a strong draw bias I am looking for a figure of over 50% for one ‘third’ of the draw, and I am looking for this starting point to ideally correlate with other metrics such as A/E values.

 

Chester 5 furlongs (8+ runner handicaps)

Since 2009 there have been 86 races that have qualified. I have also included races over five and a half furlongs, of which there of which there were 29. Here are the overall draw splits:

As can be seen, very strong bias exists which has been consistent year in year out. Below I have split out the 5f data and 5½f data for interest:

The low draw figures mirror each other, but the middle and top thirds seem to ‘reverse’. Possible reasons could be that high draws really don’t have enough time to recover over 5f, whereas the extra half furlong gives them more of an opportunity to get back into it. It could be that middle draws get ‘squeezed' somehow over 5½f. Of course it could perfectly conceivably be down to random results as there were only 29 races in total for the 5½f stats.

Onto A/E values now (5 and 5½f races) and low draws have actually offered value over the longer term:

In terms of breakdown, the five-furlong races produced a low draw A/E value of 1.05, whereas races over 5½f had a slightly better value of 1.14.

It is time now to look at each draw position broken down by individual stall number (5f and 5½f):

As we can see, stalls 2, 3 and 4 have all made a blind profit to SP, and stalls 1 to 4 have provided 63 of the 86 winners which equates to 73.3% of all races. Horses drawn 11 or wider have provided just two winners from 74 runners with only three others getting placed. The huge advantage to low draws is clear.

We can consider that macro picture in context by looking at a more recent data set covering the past five seasons (2015-2019). Here are the draw splits for this shorter time frame (total races 42):

Low draws have been consistently winning at greater than the 60% mark so on the face of it the bias seems as strong as ever. For those who like exotic bets, doing a reverse forecast on the two lowest drawn horses would have netted you an amazing ten winning bets in 42 races. Now the dividends varied greatly as they are dependent on the prices of the horses that fill the first two places. Three of the dividends paid under £10, but two paid between £50 and £70. If you had placed a £1 reverse forecast on all 42 races going back to 2015 you would have been in profit by an impressive £182.41. For any tricast punters out there, if you had permed the three lowest draws in 6 x £1 full cover tricasts, you would have won 4 times and netted a profit of £189.85. I cannot guarantee such returns in the future but it is certainly food for thought.

Here are the 5 year stats for individual draw positions:

In this shorter snapshot, 71.4% of all races have been won by horses drawn 1 to 4, which correlates with the 11 year figure of 73.3%.

Despite everything looking very rosy still for low drawn horses and amazingly still producing some profitable angles I do have a word of caution: I think there are signs that the bias is getting less strong, more notably in the past two seasons. If you look very closely at the 2018-2019 results as a whole, the low draw bias seems less pronounced. Now there have only been 15 races during these two seasons so it could simply be an anomaly due to an extremely small sample.

However, there is a reason why I think this might be the case rather than simply hypothesising over a set of numbers. In the last two seasons 12 of the 15 qualifying races (80%) have been run with the inside rail having been moved. This is almost certainly an attempt by the course to try and nullify the bias as best they can – indeed rail movement has risen from 22% in 2016 to 50% in 2017 to this new figure of 80% during the past two seasons. The rail movement is also not consistent from meeting to meeting having moved different distances ranging from a minimum of 10 yards to a maximum of 33 yards.

Digging deeper into these very recent results, in the three races when the rail was not moved in 2018/19 all three races were won by low drawn horses – in fact both 1st and 2nd were filled every time by horses drawn either 1, 2 or 3. In the 12 races where the rail was moved, less than half of the races (five) were won by the bottom third of the draw and generally the races looked far more even when looking at placed positions too. As mentioned above, the data set is far too small to be anywhere near confident, but it will be interesting to see if this emerging pattern continues in the near future.

Let us consider pace and running styles now. For the pace section I am going to study just the overall figures (2009-19):

A significant edge has been to front runners which win roughly three races in every ten while, in contrast, hold up horses are at a huge disadvantage here. That is almost solely due to the tight turning nature of the track, especially at this trip, coupled with the very short straight. Hold up horses just haven’t got enough time to pass the many runners that would be in front of them as they straighten up for home. The figures are very similar for both the 5f distance and the extended 5 furlongs (5½f). Front runners also produce an impressive A/E value of 1.84.

In terms of whether the going makes a difference, the figures are fairly even across the board although on good ground (34 races) the win percentage for front runners edges up to just over 34% with an IV of 3.79. I don’t personally believe the front running bias is stronger on good ground – the place data is no stronger for example - but I felt it was worth mentioning.

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In terms of field size and the number of runners, the front running bias seems strong across the board; it is possibly slightly stronger in smaller fields but when you split the data up some of the sample sizes are a little small to confidently make that inference.

Now a look at draw / pace (running style) combinations for front runners in these 5f races. Remember this is looking at which third of the draw is responsible for the early leader of the race (in % terms):

As one would expect, the early leader comes from lower draws more than half of the time; it is clearly difficult to lead early from a wide draw which makes perfect sense given the appeal of such a position and the topology of the course. It is also easier to win having led early from a low draw rather than from a middle or high draw. Low drawn early leaders have gone onto win 37.2% of their races (23 wins from 61) – an impressive stat.

Having said that the figures are still solid from middle and higher draws: middle draws have won eight times from 35 (SR 22.9%) when leading early, and high draws have won four from 14 (SR 28.6%). Digging deeper, horses that take the early lead from stalls 1 and 2 do lead more often than any other draw and go on to win around 40% of the time.

Below is the draw/run style heat map, displaying place strike rate, for 8+ runner five- or five-and-a-half furlong Chester handicaps since 2009:

The summary is that the combination of a low draw coupled with good early pace, or at least the ability to lead, is extremely important at Chester over 5f.

 

Chester 6 furlongs (8+ runner handicaps) 

The 6f distance is run less regularly than the 5f / 5½f one, with 66 qualifying races going back to 2009. Here are the overall draw splits:

 

The strong low bias seen at 5f does not occur in the same way here with middle draws being almost as successful as low draws. What is clear however, is that there continues to be a strong bias AGAINST high draws. The A/E values illustrate that middle draws have definitely been the value:

 

A look again at individual draw positions and how they have fared over this time frame:

 

Although the lowest third of the draw did not totally dominate the win percentages, draws 1 and 2 have been very successful in terms of wins: 25 wins out of the 66 races equates to just under 38% of all races won by the two lowest boxes. Both have made a blind profit – draw 1 having performed particularly well. It should be noted, not unexpectedly of course, that double figure draws have provided just one winner from 118 runners!

Looking at ground conditions it is possible that firmer ground accentuates the bias against higher draws a little, which seems logical also. On good ground or firmer the top third of the draw have won just 4 races from 38; on good to firm or firmer they have won 0 from 12 races with only 5 horses placing. Limited data, yes, but something to bear in mind I feel.

Onto the last five seasons now. Although there have been only 30 qualifying races since 2015, I believe it is still worth sharing the draw splits:

High draws have continued to struggle in the more recent past, while middle draws have performed slightly better, and the centre is where the value seems to be once again. Double figure draws have secured zero wins and just four places from 46 runners. For A/E values I am going to split the data by draws 1 to 4, then 5 to 8 and finally 9 or higher:

Again, it appears that draws 5 to 8 have been the value stalls in the past five seasons.

Let's break down the individual draw figures for the last five seasons, 2015 to 2019:

With only 30 races in the past five seasons the individual stall data is rather limited and I personally would not read too much into it. Stall 1 has performed well as one might expect in the context of the 11 year data shared earlier.

Below are the running style figures for 6f 8+ runner handicaps at Chester, going back to 2009:

These figures show that front runners have a decent edge while horses that track the pace also perform above the expected ‘norm’. Horses that race mid pack or at the back early are at a clear disadvantage for the same reason that they are over 5f: the short straight makes it very difficult to win when coming from off the pace. Horses held up in the back are worse off than horses that race mid-division.

This pace bias AGAINST hold up horses strengthens as the field size increases. The table below looks at the 11 year splits for the 32 six-furlong handicap races with 11 or more runners:

As can be seen, there were no wins at all for hold up horses, whereas 26 of the 32 races were won by horses that raced close to or up with the early pace. The majority of races (18 of 32) were won by prominent runners, though there were, naturally, more prominent races than race leaders and their peer group strike rates are very similar.

Now a look at draw / pace (running style) combinations for front runners in 6f handicaps (2009 – 2019):

Over 60% of the races have seen the early leader come from the bottom third of the draw (low), a percentage that is even higher than the 5f data. This is a very high figure and worth noting.

The 6f trip does not give low draws the edge, however, as it does over 5f. Rather, only the two lowest stalls as noted earlier have managed to win consistently more than might be expected, taking roughly 38% of all races.

Horses drawn 10 or higher have had little or no chance of winning throughout the eleven-year sample period.

Pace wise, early leaders and prominent runners are clearly most favoured.

The graph (sorted by IV3, the average Impace Value of a stall and its immediate neighbours) and heat map (displaying A/E) below both illustrate this:

 

Chester 7 furlongs (8+ runner handicaps)

There are two 7f distances at Chester, one over 7f and the other over 7½ furlongs. In this article I am going to look solely at the shorter distance of the two. I plan to look at the extended 7f trip in a subsequent 'Part 2' article. Since 2009, over 7f there have 75 qualifying races.

Low draws have had a strong edge having been responsible for just over half the winners. The A/E values look like this:

The market definitely factors in the advantage that lower draws generally have here, an A/E figure of 0.94 implying that there is a slight negative expectation from backing such runners. Having said that there may still be some value in backing selected lower drawn runners.

Let us now look at each individual draw and its associated stats since 2009:

36 of the 75 races were won by one of the three lowest stalls, but only draw 1 has shown a blind profit during the long period of study.

When checking the data for specific ground conditions the stats suggest that on softer ground the low draw bias increases. On good to soft or softer there have been 37 races of which 22 (SR 59.5%) have been won from the bottom third of the draw (low). The A/E value nudges up to 1.09, and backing all low drawn horses would have secured a small profit to £6 to £1 level stakes at SP.

Time now to switch attention to more recent results and the past five seasons. Here are the draw splits for 2015 to 2019 (total races 33):

The bias has been similar in this shorter time frame although in medium to bigger size fields the results have been quite even. Low draws have dominated in 8 and 9 runner races, but as I have said before it is generally not smart be too dogmatic about results when looking at very small samples.

Let us look at the individual draw figures for 2015 to 2019 (33 races):

Horses drawn 3 have done well, but although very low draws have had an edge, when looking closely at this table I am starting to think that the bias has not been as strong in recent years. My main reservation is that the place percentages for draws 1 to 7 are relatively similar and also the A/E values for draws 7 to 10 are higher as a group than draws 1 to 4, suggesting that any value that might exist is in that counter-intuitive area of the stalls.

The great thing about statistical research is that different individuals will interpret the data in different ways. This is simply my view: I could be wrong and once again it needs to be said that 33 races is still a very small data sample in which to have any real confidence.

Onto to 7f handicap running styles now. Here are the overall stats going back to 2009:

Front runners have had a fair edge with hold up horses again at a disadvantage. However, the bias is not as strong over 5 and 6f, with later runners having greater opportunity to get into a challenging position.

We actually have a reverse pattern to 6f in terms of field size. Over 7f front runners have had a huge edge in smaller fields: in races of 8 to 10 runners, (43 races in total) they have secured an impressive strike rate of over 28% with a huge A/E value of 2.24. I cannot explain why - perhaps it is because they are better able to stack the field up in behind and control the race - but the strike rates and A/E values do correlate strongly.

Finally let us examine the draw / pace (running style) combinations for front runners in 7f handicaps:

Low draws are once again more likely to lead as they are closest to the inside rail and thus have the least distance to travel. High drawn runners manage to get to the early lead in just one race in six on average. In terms of early leaders that have gone onto win the race, lower drawn front runners win more often (24.4%) than middle drawn ones (17.2%) who in turn go on to win more than high drawn front runners (13.3%).

It is also worth noting that hold up horses drawn low have won just once in 58 runs.

Combining the 5 to 7f data

Before I finish I wanted to combine all the data for the 5 to 7f distances at Chester (2009-2019). Firstly the draw splits:

Over half all of races in the full eleven-year study period were won by the bottom third of the draw; middle drawn runners have been roughly twice as successful when comparing them to higher draws.

Now the individual draw by draw data:

This table neatly demonstrates that despite the very well known low draw bias the very lowest draws continue to offer some value. Both draws 1 and 2 have made a blind profit to SP and both have A/E values in excess of 1.00, from a strike rate of almost 19%. The table also illustrates neatly that in general the higher the draw the lower the chance of winning: stalls 11+ have a collective win record of just six from 215 (2.8%).

The table below shows the combined pace data for 8+ runner 5 to 7f handicaps:

Looking at these figures, why on earth would you not try and get to the front at Chester over distances of 7f or less? Jockeys who hold up their mounts here by choice are either not trying to win or they don't know how to!

I hope this article has given you plenty of positive angles from which hopefully we can profit sooner rather than later.

- DR

Dave Renham: York Draw & Pace

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.

York Racecourse map

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.

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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:

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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).

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

- Dave

Punting Pointers: Pontefract Draw & Pace

The draw and potential draw biases is where my interest in horse racing began, writes Dave Renham. Back in the late 1990's I remember reading some excellent draw articles by Russell Clarke in a magazine called Odds On and I was hooked. Within days I was doing my own research using my Superform Annuals and pen and paper. This progressed to putting data into computers using excel.

I dread to think how much time I spent collating data. My main memory is working on my computer from 10pm to 2am on a regular basis. However, in those days the hard work was worth it because it was still a very under-researched area and draw biases were quite strong at certain courses. In addition to that, it was at a time before racing computer programs were commercially available.

It is over 20 years since I wrote my first book on draw bias and how things have changed since those ‘good old days’. At this juncture, it needs to be pointed out that many of the draw biases that were around 15 or 20 years ago are either not as strong as they were, or have disappeared completely. For many years draw biases provided punters with money spinning opportunities, me included. Virtually all my decent winning bets from around 1997 to 2006 were influenced by the draw in some way.

However, as with most things, when a good source of highlighting winners is found, within a few years the edge starts to disappear. This is very much a horse racing trait - good ideas gain an initial edge because the majority of people do not use that winner finding approach. As time goes on however, the betting public and the bookmakers catch up, and as a result the prices tend to contract and the value begins to disappear. This has happened with the draw, and to confound the problem course officials started using other means of negating potential draw bias. Running rails are now moved in order to keep horses off the fastest strip of ground, and better watering and drainage systems mean that most straight courses are far more even than they were back then.

The draw has had massive exposure in the past, and with people realising the edge is disappearing, the subject is beginning to assume less importance. However, before we begin to write off the draw completely, I still believe there is an edge for the educated draw punter. I maintain that at certain tracks a poor draw can still all but wipe out the chance of a horse, while a good draw increases one’s chances considerably. The trick perhaps is to find biases that may be more subtle, or at least which most punters are less aware of.

During this period of racing inactivity I plan to look at a few individual courses in depth, focusing primarily on draw bias but looking at pace aspects as well. The first course that will be put under the microscope is Pontefract.

 

Pontefract is located in West Yorkshire and is a left-handed track that is undulating with a stiff uphill finish in the home straight. Indeed the lowest point on the track is around the six-furlong start while the finishing post is the highest point, meaning both the five- and six-furlong sprints are testing.

The course is around two miles in length and, something I didn’t realise, is that originally it was around four furlongs shorter. Being left-handed one would assume that lower draws may have the advantage over high drawn horses at some distances, but the proof of the pudding, as always, will be in the eating!

For this article I am using key tools on Geegeez: namely the Draw Analyser, Pace Analyser and Query Tool. The period of study is a long one – going back to 2009, but I will examine more recent data in detail too.

My draw research has always focused on handicap races only. My belief is that handicap races give a better and fairer data set as such races are generally competitive affairs. When analysing each handicap race, I divide the draw into thirds - those drawn in the bottom third (low), those drawn in the middle third, and those drawn in the top third.

It should also be noted that I also adjust the draw positions when there are non runners – for example if the horse drawn 3 is a non runner, then the horse drawn 4 becomes drawn 3, draw 5 becomes 4 and so on. On a completely fair course the winning percentages for each "third" of the draw should be around 33% each. The differences in the percentages will help to determine the strength of the bias. The good news is that the Draw Analyser on Geegeez makes exactly the same splits, and is also capable of calculating draw by the advertised stall in your racecard and the actual stall, accounting for non-runners.

In my experience, I consider there to be two types of draw bias. Firstly, clear bias towards one specific section of the draw; this is the strongest possible bias. Secondly, one can get a bias against one specific section of the draw.

Another key factor to take into account is field size: for potential draw bias to exist I maintain there needs to be a reasonable number of runners in the race, and eight or more runners is the figure I have chosen. Draw bias is far more likely to be prevalent in larger fields as horses will either be forced to run wide (hence having further to travel), or be forced to run on a part of the track where the ground may be slightly slower. If the data set is big enough I will look at bigger field data where I feel it is appropriate.

OK time to crunch some numbers.

 

Pontefract 5 furlongs (8+ runner handicaps)

There have been 89 qualifying races - five-furlong handicaps with eight or more runners - during the period of study. Here are the overall draw splits:

Despite the track being left handed and the 5f distance having a bend to run round, low drawn horses do not dominate. The A/E values below suggest that the low drawn horses are overbet and are essentially poor value:

For the record, if you had bet every horse from the bottom third of the draw at £1 per bet you would have lost £136.34; backing all middle draws would have lost just £9.62 at starting price.

In the following table individual draw positions have been broken down for 5f 8+ runner handicaps at Ponte:

A few individual stalls made a profit but clearly there is no pattern to this so I would not be advocating backing certain draws in the future.

Field size seems to make no difference in the draw figures, but I was keen to look at whether the going made a difference. Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s when the going got testing in sprint races at Pontefract, horses tended to head towards the near rail in the straight giving higher draws an edge. Unfortunately for the minimum distance we only have 15 handicap races that have occurred on soft or heavy going; but, interestingly, lower draws have won 9 of the 15 (66.66%). That's far too small a sample from which to make any concrete conclusions; however, the 6f stats may give us more data to work with and may hopefully will show correlation.

Regarding 5f soft or heavy ground runners, you would make a very small profit backing lower drawn horses each way (£3.03 to £1 level stakes).

Let us look at pace and running style now. Here are the overall figures:

An notable edge for front runners can be observed. Moreover, better than 52% of horses that took the early lead went on to finish in the first three. This implies a strong front running bias.

On good ground or firmer the front running bias gets even stronger – early leaders win 20.48% of these races with an IV of 2.15. On good to soft or softer, conversely, front runners have failed to win any of the 22 races. It will be interesting to see if a similar pattern emerges over 6f.

Lastly for the five-furlong range, a look at draw / pace (running style) combinations for front runners in these 5f races:

Due to the left handed nature of the course/distance one might have expected more leaders to have come from the lowest draws. Interestingly, though, those horses that led from the bottom third of the draw (low) only managed to win three races from 39 attempts (SR 7.69%); A/E 0.51.

Horses that led early from middle draws went on to win over 25% of the time giving a positive A/E of 2.66. One additional stat is worth sharing: horses drawn in the bottom third of the draw (low) that were held up early have a dreadful record, winning just 2 races from 98 with an A/E of just 0.17.

Pontefract 5f Handicaps (8+ runners) Summary

The draw seems to be fair with no bias, while from a pace perspective front runners do have an edge.

Early pace is generally far more material than stall position.

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Horses held up from a low draw have a terrible record.

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Pontefract 6 furlongs (8+ runner handicaps)

 There have been 153 qualifying races over six furlongs during the period of study. Here are the overall draw splits:

There seems to be a small advantage for lower draws here. It may not be hugely significant but is worth further investigation. The A/E values correlate to a certain extent as shown below:

A look again at individual draw positions and how they have fared over time:

Stalls 1 to 3 have decent individual A/E values and stall 2 has secured a long term profit. However, backing this draw blind in the future looks a less than robust way to produce a profit. I would be encouraged, however, if a horse I fancied was drawn in the bottom three stalls – this would be an extra tick in the box as it were.

This graph, which shows IV3 (the average Impact Value of a stall and its closest neighbours, e.g. 456), helps to visualise the table above from a 'likelihood of winning' perspective:

Looking at field size, low draws have the strongest edge in smaller fields (races of 8 or 9 runners). There have been a decent number of these races – 62 in total. The draw split for winners as follows:

The A/E value for low drawn horses edges up to 1.06 here. It seems therefore that a lower draw is more preferable in smaller fields. It is nothing to go ‘crazy’ about but a lower draw under these circumstances does look preferable.

What about the impact of the going in Ponte handicaps over six furlongs? It was noted above that, on soft or heavy ground in 5f handicaps, low draws seemed to have an edge albeit from limited data. In handicaps over a furlong further, the soft or heavy draw stats look as follows:

Again this data set is quite small (21 races), but a look at the win and placed data - table below - strongly suggests a lower draw is preferable:

For the record, backing all low-drawn horses EACH WAY on soft or heavy ground would have secured a profit of £19.57 to £1 level stakes.

Next follows a table illustrating the effect of pace and running style:

An edge for front runners again, while hold up horses have a relatively moderate record. When looking at 5f races earlier it was noted that front runners did better on firmer going and had struggled in testing ground. Unfortunately, from a statistical point of view at least, the complete reverse is the case here with front runners having performed far better on testing ground: indeed from the limited sample they have won over three times more than would be expected statistically. So one potential theory goes out of the window!

Again, we'll close out the distance review with a look at draw / pace (running style) combinations specifically for front runners in 6f handicaps:

As with the 5f range, horses which are drawn high are less likely to get to the early lead - in this case approximately half as likely as those drawn middle or low. There is little to choose between low and middle drawn horses in terms of getting to the early lead.

However, it should be noted that higher drawn horses that got to the lead have managed to go on to win almost 20% of the time.

Pontefract 6f Handicaps (8+ runners) Summary

To conclude, the 6f trip seems to offer low drawn horses an advantage which appears to increase in smaller fields.

The bias towards lower draws has been stronger on softer ground where, conversely, higher draws have struggled more.

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Pontefract 1 mile (8+ runner handicaps)

Most people focus their draw attentions at sprint distances, but a mile for me has always been the key distance at Pontefract in terms of the draw. From my previous research, lower draws traditionally had a decent edge over a mile so let’s look at the current data. There have been 142 qualifying races which gives us a really good chunk of information:

As expected the low draw bias is strong, with the A/E values not surprisingly following a similar pattern:

And here is the performance of each individual draw since 2009:

Draw 2, as it did over 5f and 6f, shows a blind profit. The A/E values for draws 1 to 3 are good as one would expect. This table does show quite neatly the draw bias in operation – several columns show this such as the win% column, the ew % column and the A/E column.

Once more, the IV3 chart brings the point home:

As this mile trip indicates a strong bias it is worthwhile checking a more recent subset of the data to confirm the long-term perspective. Focusing on the last four seasons (2016 to 2019), during which time span there were 54 races, gives the following splits:

These are similar results albeit a slightly lower win percentage for the bottom third of the draw. However, it ratifies the bias which has been around for years remains alive and kicking.

A  solid footnote is that in the past four seasons 23 of the 54 mile handicap races with eight or more runners were won by horses drawn 1 or 2 (SR 42.6%). Compare this with just eight wins achieved by the two highest drawn horses.

In addition, for those who like ‘exotic’ bets, you would have made a small profit if you had permed the lowest two drawn horses in every race in £1 reverse exactas: £14 profit from a £108 outlay. Of course an exacta is a pool bet so it is difficult to exploit potential draw biases in this way as such ideas, if overbet, would contract the returns. Having said that I have personally had much success in the past perming certain draws at certain tracks.

Back to the complete data set (going back to 2009) and a look at mile handicaps by number of runners - specifically looking at fields of 8 or 9 runners - there have been 53 races with the following draw splits:

A stronger bias it seems for lower drawn horses in small fields. The A/E values back this up as is shown below:

There also is a strengthening of the bias in bigger fields albeit from a relatively small sample. In races of 14 runners or more, 19 of the 30 races (SR 63.3%) have been won by the bottom (low) third of the draw.

Turning attention to the state of the turf, the win percentages for low drawn runners are extremely uniform and I have found nothing of note there.

However, with regard to pace and running styles, there are some factors to keep in mind. Here are the overall stats:

In racing in general, as the race distance increase so front running biases start to diminish. However, at Pontefract there is a stronger front running bias over a mile than at 6 furlongs. I found nothing of interest when delving into going considerations and field size, so nothing extra to report there.

Finally over this mile trip this is how the draw / pace (running style) combinations look for front runners in 1 mile handicaps:

These stats demonstrate that it is much easier - or at least more common - for a horse to lead from a low draw over a mile at Pontefract. Having said that, high drawn early leaders have gone on to win slightly more often in percentage terms. Horses that race mid division or are held up when drawn in the top third of the draw (high) have won just 7 races from 285 runners.

Geegeez Draw Analyser has a heat map to help visualise this, here displaying IV:

Pontefract 1 Mile Handicaps (8+ runners) Summary

The mile trip at Pontefract shows a significant draw bias to lower drawn horses. It is one of the strongest mile biases in the UK, if not the strongest.

From a pace angle, it is preferable for a horse to lead or track the pace.

*

Pontefract 1 mile 2 furlongs (8+ runner handicaps)

The final distance to be examined in this article is a mile and a quarter. The configuration of the track means that there is an extra bend at this distance as compared to the mile trip and hence one would expect low draws to again have a decent edge. There have been 107 qualifying races from which to find angles:

On first view this looks a very strong bias with lower draws dominating and higher draws seemingly at even more of a disadvantage than they were at a mile. The A/E values back up the raw win percentages as a measure of profitability:

Indeed backing every horse drawn in the lowest third over ten furlongs at Pontefract (8+ runner handicaps) would have returned £39.90 to a £1 level stake.

Individual draw data next, and can stall 2 make a blind profit yet again??!!

Yes! Stall 2 has made a blind profit again - meaning it has been profitable at every individual distance up to 1m2f - as have stalls 3 and 4. Again, this table helps one visualise the strength of the low draw bias. Would I consider backing draws 1 to 4 ‘blind’ in the future? No, but it is clear that these draws must be the primary focus when analysing these races. Here is the IV3 chart to bring that home:

Time to check out more recent data to see whether the bias has been as strong over the past four seasons (2016-2019). There have been 33 qualifying races during that time, giving these stats:

Whilst it is not quite as strong, that could simply be down to the smaller - less reliable - sample size. It still indicates that low draws have a substantial advantage over higher ones.

Moving back to the complete data set (2009-2019) the low draw bias seems to strengthen considerably as the field size grows. This makes sense as the extra bend potentially helps lower drawn runners and impedes higher drawn runners who have to race wider. In races of 12 runners or more, 20 of the 31 races (SR 64.52%) have been won by the bottom third of the draw (low). The A/E value stands at a very healthy 1.25.

Indeed moving the goalposts up further - to 13+ runners - low draws have totally dominated, winning a huge 17 of the 22 races (SR 77.27%). The A/E value for low drawn runners is an uber-impressive 1.53.

Looking at going data there is something which stands out albeit from a limited sample. Races on soft or heavy seems to increase the strength of the low draw bias. From 21 races 15 were won by a horse in the lowest drawn third of the field. That equates to over 70% and an A/E of 1.55. Of course with limited data one cannot be too dogmatic, but these figures are still highly promising.

A look at the pace / running styles figures next:

Front runners have a stronger edge than I had expected, winning twice as often as most other run styles: maybe that extra bend near the start helps.

And finally, the draw / pace (running style) combinations for front runners in 1m2f handicaps:

Lower drawn horses as expected lead more often and roughly four in seven of them go on to finish in the first three. High drawn horses tend to struggle when racing mid division or when held up. This was also the case over 1 mile as we saw; over 1m2f such runners have won only five races from 207 runners.

 

Pontefract 1m2f Handicaps (8+ runners) Summary

The 1 mile 2 furlong distance shows a similarly strong low draw bias to that at a mile, and it seems that bigger fields may accentuate this.

Soft or heavy going may also strengthen the bias but that notion is based on limited data and so a watching brief is recommended.

*

Fingers crossed, in the near future we will see race meetings start again at Pontefract and, when they do, I hope these stats will help point you in the right direction in the ‘fight’ against the bookmakers.

- DR

Dave Renham: A synopsis of 6f and 7f AW Draw/Pace

In my last article I examined draw and running style combinations in five-furlong handicaps on the all-weather, with the main focus on front runners (those horses that take the early lead).

That article showed that on turning AW courses over the minimum trip (8+ runners), it was much easier to lead early from a lower draw compared to a higher one. That much is simple geometry: horses drawn low are closest to the rail and hence have less distance to travel to the first corner than their wider-drawn counterparts. It is worth noting that the positioning of the first bend can make a difference, as can the tightness of the turn.

However, the most surprising finding from the first article was that higher drawn horses that take the early lead actually go on to win more often than early leaders drawn low. I still cannot quite get my head round why this may be the case. As stated in that previous piece, I have always assumed that it is likely to have been quite an effort to pass so many horses to get to the lead from a wide draw. In addition to this, these runners probably would have had to run slightly further to achieve this.

Since writing the article I have tried to come up with a logical explanation for why higher-drawn horses have been able to win more often when leading early. Perhaps once these wide drawn runners get to the lead, the jockey on board tries to slow the pace down slightly in order to give his horse a breather, knowing that it would expended more energy than is ideal over that first half furlong or so.

More likely, though, is the impact of physics. As can be seen from the crude mock up below, a horse drawn inside has the best chance to get to the turn in front because it has the least distance to travel; but, once it gets to the turn the horse may need to decelerate in order to navigate around. Conversely, although a wider drawn runner has less chance to reach the turn in front - due to the potential of other horses inside to show early speed - on the occasions that a wide-drawn horse faces no pace contention, that horse can negotiate more of the turn at greater speed due to the angle at which it approaches the bend.

This of course depends on the location of the bend in relation to the start of the race. There is also a rule about jockeys staying in lanes for 100 yards, which might be described as 'loosely observed'. Regardless, hopefully it is clear how the less frequent wide drawn leader might win more often.

The impact of stall position on speed into the first turn

The impact of stall position on speed into the first turn

 

This is simply conjecture but in certain cases this could be what is happening. It might another day be worth looking at the new sectional timing data on Geegeez and matching it to those races where wide drawn runners had led early and gone onto win.

In this article I am going to look at six- and seven-furlong handicaps to see if similar patterns emerge in terms of draw / front runner combinations. Newcastle will be ignored as these distances are raced on a straight track there, but I will include Southwell this time as the six and seven furlong trips are raced around a bend there. Thus, we have six courses to look at: Chelmsford, Dundalk, Kempton, Lingfield, Southwell and Wolverhampton.

All-weather 6f handicaps (8 + runners)

Let's start by looking at draw / front runner combinations over six furlongs in handicaps. I only ever use handicap races for this type of research as non-handicap data is far less reliable. As mentioned in the first piece, 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.

wdt_ID Course & Distance Low drawn led% Middle draw led% High draw led%
1 Chelmsford 6f 40.23 33.20 26.56
2 Dundalk 6f 53.13 28.13 18.75
3 Kempton 6f 40.32 32.66 27.02
4 Lingfield 6f 41.16 32.43 26.40
5 Southwell 6f 42.30 36.39 21.31
6 Wolverhampton 6f 34.53 30.55 34.92
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For five of the six courses we see that once again the early leader is more likely to come from the lowest third of the draw – those drawn closest to the inside rail. Only Wolverhampton bucks the trend and this is probably because the first bend is more than a quarter mile from the start. That presents less of a positional advantage to the inside stalls and, essentially, the quickest horse from the gates should lead regardless of draw position. Dundalk seems to favour lower drawn horses the most with the bottom third of the draw producing more than half of all early leaders under these conditions.

The following table is another way of illustrating how much more likely low drawn horses are to lead than high drawn ones – I used this approach in the previous article and have replicated it for this range. It has been calculated by dividing the "low draw led%" by the "high draw led%".

wdt_ID Course & Distance Low% / High%
1 Chelmsford 6f 1.51
2 Dundalk 6f 2.83
3 Kempton 6f 1.49
4 Lingfield 6f 1.56
5 Southwell 6f 1.98
6 Wolverhampton 6f 0.99

Compared to the five furlong data these figures are not as high, but nevertheless if you are keen to predict the front runner, which we know is potentially a profitable angle, then horses from lower stalls do lead early significantly more often than higher drawn ones.

If we take Wolverhampton out of the equation and focus on the other five courses at six furlongs, when we increase to 12 or more runners the front running bias to lower draws does increase:

wdt_ID Low drawn led% Middle draw led% High draw led%
1 45.80 34 20.20

Under these circumstances the lowest third of draw is around 2.3 times more likely to produce the early leader of the race. This stronger bias mirrors the data we saw when analysing five-furlong handicaps. With higher draws starting further away from the inside rail in bigger fields, it is even harder for such horses to get to the early lead.

For the record here are the figures for Wolverhampton, where there have been over 300 qualifying races:

wdt_ID Low drawn led% Middle draw led% High draw led%
1 33.79 34.47 31.74

A very even split – with that long run to the first bend it seems that bigger fields do not make it more difficult for high drawn horses to lead early.

Moving on, let us now look at win percentages for the early leaders from each third of the draw at the six courses. Here is the six-furlong handicap data for eight or more runners:

wdt_ID Course & Distance Low drawn leaders race win% Middle draw leaders race win% High draw leaders race win%
1 Chelmsford 6f 20.39 17.65 20.59
2 Dundalk 6f 17.65 12.96 16.67
3 Kempton 6f 13.50 16.67 15.67
4 Lingfield 6f 16.67 17.95 25.20
5 Southwell 6f 18.60 18.92 23.08
6 Wolverhampton 6f 10.39 13.97 12.78

I mentioned at the beginning of this article that in five-furlong handicaps (at Chelmsford, Dundalk, Kempton, Lingfield and Wolverhampton), wider/higher drawn horses that take the early lead rather surprisingly go onto win more often than horses leading early from low draws. Over this extra furlong we can see that the courses give us a more even profile in terms of eventual win percentage. Having said that higher drawn horses that lead early still win on average slightly more often than lower drawn leaders. At Lingfield and Southwell, for example, higher drawn horses that take the early lead go onto win roughly one race in every four.

This even looking playing field is replicated when we combine all the 12+ runner data. Merging all courses together we get these win percentages:

wdt_ID Low drawn leaders race win% Middle draw leaders race win% High draw leaders race win%
1 13.26 14.64 12.92

As I have already alluded to, before researching and writing the five-furlong article I had expected that five- to seven-furlong races run around a bend would give horses that led early from a low draw much more chance of winning than those from a high draw. I had expected this bias against higher drawn horses to get even stronger the further the horses had to travel. It seems that for this theory I was right at least – it is harder over six furlongs than five furlongs for higher drawn early leaders to win. However, I had not expected higher drawn horses to still be more successful, in 8+ runner races at least, than lower drawn ones.

 

All weather 7f handicaps (8 + runners)

Now let's look at draw / front runner combinations in seven-furlong all-weather handicaps:

wdt_ID Course & Distance Low drawn led% Middle draw led% High draw led%
1 Chelmsford 7f 40.97 26.87 32.16
2 Dundalk 7f 55.43 25.72 18.84
3 Kempton 7f 42.18 34.73 23.09
4 Lingfield 7f 41.18 28.88 29.95
5 Southwell 7f 48.01 31.13 20.86
6 Wolverhampton 7f 49.74 27.37 22.88

All six courses this time show that the early leader is more likely to come from the lowest third of the draw. Dundalk once again provides the strongest bias, while at Southwell and Wolverhampton it is significant too. To perhaps illustrate this more clearly I have once again created a table showing the figure that is calculated by taking the low draw led% and dividing it by the high draw led%:

wdt_ID Course & Distance Low% / High%
1 Chelmsford 7f 1.27
2 Dundalk 7f 2.94
3 Kempton 7f 1.83
4 Lingfield 7f 1.38
5 Southwell 7f 2.30
6 Wolverhampton 7f 2.17

Interestingly it seems that in general lower drawn horses find it easier to lead over seven furlongs than at six. Again, on some tracks, notably Wolverhampton where the seven furlong start is in a chute on the brow of a bend, geometry plays its part.

Increasing field size to twelve or more runners enhances the front-running bias of lower drawn horses (as it does, too, over five- and six-furlongs).

wdt_ID Low drawn led% Middle draw led% High draw led%
1 49.31 29.29 21.40

Once again bigger fields give lower drawn horses a better chance of leading early.

The below shows the win percentage of early leaders from each third of the draw at the six courses over seven furlongs (8+ runner handicaps).

wdt_ID Course & Distance Low drawn leaders race win% Middle draw leaders race win% High draw leaders race win%
1 Chelmsford 7f 19.35 16.39 10.96
2 Dundalk 7f 12.42 12.68 11.54
3 Kempton 7f 14.48 10.44 10.74
4 Lingfield 7f 12.55 17.90 17.26
5 Southwell 7f 15.86 18.09 14.29
6 Wolverhampton 7f 11.50 13.81 11.16

This is quite an even set of figures when looking at the courses as a whole. Nevertheless, we still see that higher drawn horses which lead early are not at any real disadvantage. Those general themes are still true when we combine all the 12+ runner data from seven-furlong all-weather handicaps. Grouping the six turning courses we get these win percentages:

wdt_ID Low drawn leaders race win% Middle draw leaders race win% High draw leaders race win%
1 13.22 11.60 13.30

 

Summary

The above contains some interesting insights which may be combined with what we learned about five furlong handicaps on the all weather last time.

Like with races at the minimum, it may be easier to get to the lead from a lower draw over six and seven furlongs, but don’t be put off by a potential front runner drawn high. If your wide-drawn horse does lead, it has just as much chance of going onto win as a front runner drawn low.

Although these are not quite the startling statistics from the five-furlong article, to my eyes some of the findings are still surprising.

Personally, I am still shaking my head not quite believing what I have discovered over the past two articles. I just wonder how many bets I have ignored over the years due to a potential front runner being drawn high. Far too many!

- DR

Dave Renham: A Synopsis of 5f AW Draw/Pace

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.

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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.

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 >

An Overview of NH Jockey Pace Profiles

In my last article I examined pace in general in National Hunt racing, writes Dave Renham. I looked at some overview stats for all race types before focusing on chases, as the figures suggest these races offer the strongest front running edge. In this article I am going to focus on jockeys to see if there are any noteworthy patterns or trends from which we may be able to take advantage.

For new readers, when looking at pace I’m looking at the initial pace in a race and the position that horses take up early on. In National Hunt races I am generally focusing on the time between the start and the completion of the first obstacle, though it may be a slightly longer section than that sometimes. The pace section on geegeez.co.uk is the basis for my number crunching, and that can be found within any racecard in the PACE tab, as well as in its own tool, the Pace Analyser. The data is split into four run styles – Led (4), Prominent (3), Mid Division (2) and Held Up (1). The number in brackets is the pace score that is assigned to each run style. Hence the higher the score the nearer to the front a horse has been in the early stages of a race. I think it is important to note that these early positions tend to remain fairly similar for the first half of the race at least.

The data set I am going to use is the same as I used in my last article – I am looking at all National Hunt races in the UK from 1/1/16 to 31/8/19.

In terms of the position a horse takes up early in the race one could argue that the most influential factor is the jockey. In National Hunt races there are no starting stalls and hence it is up to the jockey how near to the front he/she is when the flag falls and the race starts. They also have a key influence in the first furlong, in terms of how quickly they want their horse to run and what position they want to be in the field. Now of course the trainer may have given the jockey instructions as to how they want the horse to be ridden so this can be a factor as well. Also, we need to appreciate that certain horses do have a preferred running style, and this will be taken into account by both trainer and jockey.

My starting point in terms of data is a look at the figures for all runners during the period of study (these are the same figures that were used at the start of the previous article). They give us base figures from which to work:

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The advantage of racing up with or close to the pace is clear to see. However, I believe that this front running bias is still not fully recognised or appreciated by many trainers and jockeys.

Baseline established, I now want to look at jockey performance in more detail. As a starting point let us see which jockeys took the early lead the most (in % terms). I have included only jockeys who had at least 200 rides (all running styles) during the time frame specified. (For comparison purposes the average percentage figure for all jockeys is just under 16%.)

Matt Griffiths heads the list – he has ridden most for trainer Jeremy Scott and, when they team up together, he takes an early lead just over 30% of the time. Now these percentages are interesting and useful for betting / trading purposes, but it is also important to appreciate how successful a jockey is when going to the front early. It is no good taking your horse to the front a significant proportion of the time, if you rarely go on to win the race.

Going back to Griffiths riding for Scott, of these front runners, 25% have gone on to win. Compare this to a 7% success rate on horses that are held up for this jockey/trainer combination. Hence it makes sense to look at the jockeys who have secured the highest win percentages on their respective front runners:

Harry Skelton has an exceptional 36.5% success rate on front runners. His win strike rate on front runners is similar across chases (37%), hurdles (36.1%) and bumpers (36.8%). In lower class races his strike rate increases further – in races of class 4 or 5 Skelton has produced a front running win percentage of 43.6%. For the record, Skelton rides primarily for his brother Dan and it seems this combination really appreciate the potential advantage front runners have.

Moving back to jockeys and how often they take the early lead, let us look at the jockeys who have led early less than 10% of the time (well below the average).

Top jockey Barry Geraghty, retained by leading owner JP McManus in Britain, has remarkably low figures – he has led early in just 11 races from a total of 533. I find that staggering. Of those 11 he won on 4 of them (36.4%). He does have an excellent strike rate on prominent runners (34.9%) and perhaps he just prefers tracking the pace rather than setting it. For the record, his win strike rate on horses that race mid pack is 14.2% and on hold up horses is 18.7%.

And finally for this article, I have created average pace figures for jockeys. Essentially, I have added up the pace scores of each jockey and then divided by the number of races they have ridden in. The higher the average score the more likely a jockey is to ride up with or close to the pace. The table below shows the top 40 jockeys in terms of average pace figure:

Danny Cook tops the list and is a jockey that I think is worth keeping an eye on if riding a horse that is likely to front run. He has a decent win record on front runners, and has even won from the front on 33/1 and 50/1 outsiders.

Of course, this type of article can only scratch the surface, but the Geegeez platform really allows you to go into much greater detail should you wish to. If you are keen to dig further, using Query Tool, expect it to really help your long term betting success; and it would be great if readers were happy to share their findings with other members on the forum or even in the comments below.

- Dave Renham

More on Pace in NH Racing

With the National Hunt season soon to spring fully into action, I thought I would look further to see if there were any pace angles we could take advantage of, writes Dave Renham.

In the past I have written two articles for Geegeez on this topic focusing on handicap chases over 2m 1½f or less and from 2m 6f – 3m 2f. This article looks more generally at pace in National Hunt races to begin with before focusing on all chases at all distances.

I know many of you reading this would have read some or all of my previous articles, but for new readers it is important to explain what pace in a race means here, and how we measure it. When I look at pace my main focus is the initial pace in a race and position the horses take up early on. www.geegeez.co.uk has a really useful pace tool and the stats I am sharing with you in this article are based on the site’s pace section data. The pace data on Geegeez is split into four – Led (4), Prominent (3), Mid Division (2) and Held Up (1). The number in brackets are the pace scores that are assigned to each section.

The first set of data I’d like to share with you shows overall pace stats for all National Hunt races in the UK from 1/1/16 to 31/8/19, just over three and a half years’ worth:

 

Across all races there is a front running bias – an A/E index of 1.06 for front runners is positive, as (more so) is an Impact Value of 1.66.

Also if we simply compare strike rates we can see that the figures correlate with early leaders out performing prominent runners who in turn out perform those who run mid pack, while horses held up at the back have the poorest strike rate. (Plenty of horses with no chance at all spend the majority of their race at the back of the field, something which is worth keeping in mind whilst not detracting markedly from the general point about early race position and its impact on finishing position).

Of course it is important to remember that the number of runners in each pace group varies – there are far more runners in the prominent and hold up categories. Hence more important than the raw strike rates are the Impact Values (IV) and the A/E index (Actual winners/Expected winners).

See this post for more on what A/E and IV mean.

Impact of Run Style in NH Races, by Field Size

Let us break these data down by number of runners in a race. Here are the breakdowns:

2 to 5 runners

6 to 8 runners

9 to 11 runners

12+ runners

 

You should notice that the strike rates correlate once again across all groups, while the strongest front running bias seems to be in races with 12 or more runners (highest A/E index and IV figure), notwithstanding that the overall strike rate is the lowest – simply because there are more horses in these races.

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On that face of it this is counterintuitive as one would assume that with more runners, there would be more challengers to eventually pass the front runner(s). From a betting perspective if you had magically been able to predict the early leader (front runner) in races of 12 or more runners you would have made a profit of £231.62 to £1 level stakes. This is based on SP returns, using Betfair SP this figure would be considerably bigger.

Sadly, such a magic predictor is not yet available; however, Geegeez Gold pace tabs provide a closer approximation than I’ve seen anywhere else.

Impact of Run Style in NH Races, by Race Code

Now it is time to split the races into codes: chases, hurdles and NH flat races.

Steeplechases

 

Chase races are where front runners have the greatest edge in terms of National Hunt races. They have the highest A/E index and IV figures. Again if your crystal ball could predict the early leader in each such race you would have been over £1100 better off to £1 level stakes to SP.

 

Hurdle races

 

Leaders have the edge in hurdle races too, but the edge is less strong. In addition you would not have made a profit backing all front runners even if you could predict them unfailingly!

NH Flat races

 

Again early leaders have the edge, but the bias is not quite strong enough to give us, as punters, a strong edge. Moreover, nearly all horses in such races have little or no form on which to base early pace assessments.

 

Cherry Picking

Now if we combine chases with decent size fields (12+ runners) the front running figures look very strong:

 

Being able to correctly predict the front runner in these races is probably the place to focus attention as if we had been able to accurately back every front runner, we would have returned a profit of 55p in the £ to SP. Handicap chases with bigger fields do have more of a front running edge than non-handicaps, but in general there are very few non handicap chases with such big fields.

Focusing on Chases

Chases clearly offer punters a front running edge so for the rest of this piece I am going to concentrate on all chases (all field sizes), starting with a review by course.

Front Running Bias in NH Chases, by UK Racecourse

Below is the record of horses that led early in chases at UK racecourses, ordered by market value (A/E). Any score over 1.00 is generally deemed to be positive, and the higher the score the better:

 

Only 8 courses have A/E indices under 1.00. The courses highlighted in red are the courses I would personally focus on as it seems the front running bias is at its strongest. Having said that it is worth checking a similar data set from say 2012 to 2015 to see if the course data correlates. This is a similar method that systems guru Nick Mordin used to employ when analysing time specific data.

This research is easily done using the Query Tool on Geegeez and I would recommend readers doing this to increase confidence and familiarity with the data. I have checked the 2012 to 2015 data and 14 of the 20 courses highlighted in red are in the top 20 in terms of A/E index in that time period too. In addition two other courses are positioned in 21st and 22nd spot.

Front Running Bias in NH Chases, by Going

A look now to see if the going makes a difference for front runners in chases:

 

Data for good to firm or firmer is limited so best not to read too much into those figures; it does seem that front runners on heavy ground have an increased edge, although personally I would have preferred to see stronger figures in the soft ground data to corroborate the heavy numbers. Again, as stated above, it is always worth checking another data set, and the 2012 to 2015 figures show heavy ground front runners have the same sort of edge (A/E 1.27; IV 1.74).

Front Running Bias in NH Chases, by (Selected) Trainer

Time to look at trainers now and their performance with front runners in chases. I have included all trainers that have sent at least 50 runners to the front – again the list is ordered by A/E index:

 

Readers will have their favourite trainers or at least a group of preferred ones. This table does indicate that certain trainers outperform others when it comes to horses that front run.

Staying with trainer data, here are the trainers who send out the highest percentage of front runners compared with all their runners:

Trainer Neil King is definitely a man to note – his is a huge percentage of horses which are sent to the lead early; in addition if you look at the previous table he has a decent performance record with them. Charlie Longsdon is another trainer to keep an eye on.

Selected NH Trainer Pace Tendencies

Finally on trainers, and finally for this article, I want to try and give an overall pace tendency for each trainer. To do this I have created trainer pace averages as I have done in some of my previous pace articles. I create trainer pace averages by adding up the Geegeez pace scores of all the runners for a particular trainer and dividing it by the total number of races run. The higher the average score, the more biased the trainer is to sending out horses that lead early or race close to the pace.

Here are the trainer pace averages for chases:

 

I hope this post will prove useful as the season moves forward, and I recommend you use the Geegeez pace tool to do your own research. Front running bias in racing is still an area where one can profit, as long as you put in a little research. Geegeez has the tools to make that both easy and fun.

Next time I will begin to focus on jockeys culminating in a final article on trainer / jockey combinations (similar to this flat article I wrote earlier this year).

 - Dave

Dave Renham: Top jockeys’ pace profiles

In this article I will revisit my love of pace in horse racing, focusing again on jockeys – more specifically the top 10 jockeys in terms of strike rate, writes Dave Renham. My first article on jockeys focused mainly on how they had performed on front runners – this article is a broader piece looking at all running styles. The data presented herein were produced from the excellent Query Tool, a part of Geegeez Gold.

 

Recap

To recap, on the Geegeez website the pace data is split into four categories - Led, Prominent, Mid Division and Held Up. Here is a breakdown on what they essentially mean:

Led – horses that lead early, usually within the first furlong or so; or horses that dispute or fight for the early lead;

Prominent – horses that lay up close to the pace just behind the leader(s);

Mid Division – horses that race mid pack;

Held up – horses that are held up at, or near the back of the field.

On Geegeez these running/pace styles have a number assigned to them – led (4), prominent (3), mid division (2) and held up (1). This helps number crunchers like me when it comes to research.

 

Overview

For this article I have looked at a large period of data (1/1/14 to 6/7/19) including both turf and all weather racing (UK only). I have initially looked at all races and all distances (handicaps and non-handicaps).

The jockeys in focus are shown in the table below alongside their overall record in all races and with all running styles combined. They are listed in alphabetical order:

Top 10 UK Jockeys, Overall Performance 1st Jan 2014 - 6th July 2019

Top 10 UK Jockeys, Overall Performance 1st Jan 2014 - 6th July 2019

 

Below are are some base figures from which to work and to use as a comparison when breaking the jockey data down. In this table are the aggregate figures for all jockeys in terms of their record with different pace/running styles*:

*NB The difference between the 36,467 runs in the first (jockey) table and the 35,792 runs in the second (pace) table is accounted for by runs which are deemed not possible to score from the in-running comment. Geegeez Gold's database currently has around 96% coverage of pace scores overall, whereas in these samples the coverage is a little over 98%.

Aggregate performance of top ten jockeys, by run style, all scored flat runners 1/1/14-6/7/19

Aggregate performance of top ten jockeys, by run style, all scored flat runners 1/1/14-6/7/19

 

Those who have read previous articles on pace will know both that more races are won from the front than any other position, and that it is much easier to win from the front over shorter distances. The pace results for all jockeys clearly indicate that the nearer to the front they ride the more likely they are to win. It is much harder in general to win from the back half of the field, a point worth taking away from this piece if it was not already ingrained in your betting thoughts.

 

Front Runners

Let us now look at how these jockeys fared individually when they took the early lead:

Top 10 Flat Jockeys, performance when leading, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Top 10 Flat Jockeys, performance when leading, 1/1/14-6/7/19

 

Very good records for all riders as one might expect, but the higher A/E values for Atzeni, Buick, de Sousa and Tudhope catch the eye. In addition their strike rates and returns on investment are all above the average figure for the ten jockey superset. Let us break down their front running figures by distance. Firstly Andrea Atzeni:

Andrea Atzeni, Front Runners 1/1/14-6/7/19

Andrea Atzeni, performance on front runners, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Andrea Atzeni, performance on front runners, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Atzeni has stronger figures over sprint trips, as would be expected from what we know from previous pace articles on this site, but he is very solid at any distance (limited data over staying trips) - a good and successful jockey from the front, and a candidate to 'mark up' when riding a probably pace setter you like.

William Buick, Front Runners 1/1/14-6/7/19

Now William Buick:

William Buick, performance on front runners, 1/1/14-6/7/19

William Buick, performance on front runners, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Very strong figures from 5f up to 9f, more especially at sprint distances; but rock solid over any range.

 

Silvestre de Sousa, Front Runners 1/1/14-6/7/19

Onto de Sousa:

Silvestre de Sousa, performance on front runners, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Silvestre de Sousa, performance on front runners, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Personally I’m a big fan of de Sousa – I think he is a great rider from the front and to me he is an excellent judge of pace. His figures support that: very consistent across all distances and impressive A/E.

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Danny Tudhope, Front Runners 1/1/14-6/7/19

Finally onto Danny Tudhope:

Danny Tudhope, performance on front runners, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Danny Tudhope, performance on front runners, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Tudhope’s figures are much better at shorter distances (9f or less), although the data for 10f+ is fairly limited.

 

A Frankie Snippet

Before moving on from front running data there is one more stat to share and that concerns Frankie Dettori. He seems a particularly good judge of pace in small fields when leading early.

In races of 6 or less runners, when Dettori has taken the early lead he has won just under 50% of the time (33 wins from 67 rides; A/E 1.28). Compare that with the overall figures for all top ten jockeys whose combined strike rate is 35% with an A/E index of 1.

 

Prominent Runners

Let us next review prominent runner data. Firstly for all ten jockeys side-by-side:

Top 10 Flat Jockeys, performance when racing prominently, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Top 10 Flat Jockeys, performance when racing prominently, 1/1/14-6/7/19

 

Frankie Dettori, Prominent Runners 1/1/14-6/7/19

Again, that man Frankie Dettori’s figures are extremely solid when it comes to racing prominently. Solid but not profitable from a punting perspective. However, one area where Dettori seems to excel, when he races close to the pace, is in better class races, as the table below clearly shows:

Frankie Dettori, prominent runners by race class, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Frankie Dettori, prominent runners by race class, 1/1/14-6/7/19

 

I suspect Frankie's strong record in Group and Listed races is due to the fact that he knows the horses he is riding at this higher level extremely well. Hence he is able to judge when to challenge from his pace tracking position. Noting these figures, it should also come as no surprise that Dettori has a much better record in non handicaps compared to handicaps as shown:

Frankie Dettori, prominent runners by handicap or non-hcap, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Frankie Dettori, prominent runners by handicap or non-hcap, 1/1/14-6/7/19

 

Jim Crowley, Prominent Runners 1/1/14-6/7/19

Jim Crowley has the best A/E index as well as strong stats all round when he races his mounts prominently. Crowley seems to do best at middle to longer distances in this context: focusing  on races between 10 and 14 furlongs his record reads an impressive 103 wins from 419  rides (SR 24.6%) with an A/E index of 1.28. It is also worth mentioning that Crowley has a remarkable record when racing prominently at Nottingham, scoring 46% of the time (24 wins from 52 rides). Limited data yes, but interesting to note nonetheless.

 

Midfield Runners

Time to switch to the mid-division data for our top jockeys:

Top 10 Flat Jockeys, performance when racing midfield, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Top 10 Flat Jockeys, performance when racing midfield, 1/1/14-6/7/19

 

As would be expected from our understanding of pace position and its impact on win prospects, there is significant drop for all riders; but Dettori, Moore and Tudhope retain reasonable records. Dettori remarkably scores over 24% of the time in races of 10f or more (23 wins from 94 rides; A/E 1.12); meanwhile Ryan Moore has done well when riding for Aidan O’Brien - shock, horror - with 19 wins and 18 places from 66 runners.

 

Held Up Runners

And so to the top ten jockey records when their horses have been held up off the pace. Here are the base figures:

Top 10 Flat Jockeys, performance on hold up horses, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Top 10 Flat Jockeys, performance on hold up horses, 1/1/14-6/7/19

 

As with the midfield data these figures are relatively moderate. Rather than calling out our top riders, this highlights the difficulties jockeys face when riding waiting races. Not only have they got ground to make up on the front rank, but often they have to negotiate traffic problems when trying to do so. It should also be said that, within the 'hold up' dataset are horses who may be green/unfancied in their early starts or for whom it is a case of 'not today'.

It is interesting when looking at bigger field data for these jockeys with all running/pace styles considered. In races of 16 or more they still win 18.1% of the time on front runners, but on hold up horses this drops to just 6.7%. William Buick has a particularly poor record in these big field races on hold up horses scoring just 3 times in 77 attempts (SR 3.9%).

 

TJ Combo by Run Style

Finally in this piece I have looked at trainer / jockey combinations – reviewing the relationships with specific trainers for which each jockey has ridden the most. I have two columns which show the breakdown by pace/running style and the relevant pace percentages for each pace/running style. For example if a jockey had ridden 200 times for the trainer and led in 46 of the races this would equate to 23%.

 

Andrea Atzeni / Roger Varian 

Atzeni/Varian Combination, by run style, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Atzeni/Varian Combination, by run style, 1/1/14-6/7/19

 

It may be interesting to note that the Atzeni / Varian combination do not seem great fans of sending horses out into an early lead, with little more than 10% of their partnership being asked to dictate. They seem to be much happier tracking the pace.

 

William Buick / Charlie Appleby 

Buick / Appleby Combination, by run style, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Buick / Appleby Combination, by run style, 1/1/14-6/7/19

 

The Buick / Appleby pairing has an excellent record when sending out their runners to the front early on – over 40% have gone onto win. It comes as no surprise therefore that they have taken an early lead in just under 1 in every 5 races, almost twice as often as Atzeni/Varian by contrast.

 

Jim Crowley / Charles Hills 

Crowley / Hills Combination, by run style, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Crowley / Hills Combination, by run style, 1/1/14-6/7/19

 

I wonder if the data connected with hold up horses for this combination is known to either Crowley or Hills. Surely if they saw these stats they would NOT hold up 33.3% of their runners! Having said that, there's a strong possibility that many of these are immature types running for experience: an A/E of 0.53, while pretty mediocre, suggests that not a huge amount more of these are expected by connections to win. Nevertheless, it's a big red light for such runners.

 

Frankie Dettori / John Gosden 

Dettori / Gosden Combination, by run style, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Dettori / Gosden Combination, by run style, 1/1/14-6/7/19

 

Check out these two masters of their respective crafts: strong stats throughout as one might expect. Johnny G front runners with Frankie on board will keep the wolf from the door!

 

James Doyle / Charlie Appleby

Doyle / Appleby Combination, by run style, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Doyle / Appleby Combination, by run style, 1/1/14-6/7/19

 

As with the Buick / Appleby combination we see a decent percentage of runners that take an early lead (20.56%). In addition, a very high percentage race prominently for this combination (44.24%). However, the profit/loss figures are less impressive, making them avoidable if not necessarily opposable. 

 

Adam Kirby / Clive Cox

Kirby / Cox Combination, by run style, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Kirby / Cox Combination, by run style, 1/1/14-6/7/19

 

A first mention for Adam Kirby, who has demonstrated strong ability aboard front runners, particularly for Clive Cox with whom a high A/E index of 1.39 is bankable. Kirby is a hard man to pass on the front end!

 

Ryan Moore / Sir Michael Stoute

Moore / Stoute Combination, by run style, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Moore / Stoute Combination, by run style, 1/1/14-6/7/19

 

A good strike rate for hold up horses, but this is probably more down to the fact that Sir Michael has numerous top quality horses that could win regardless of running style (as well as Ryan Moore being a superlative jockey). Only 1 in 9 horses are sent  into an early lead, despite the impressive 35.9% strike rate from this approach.

 

Oisin Murphy / Andrew Balding

Murphy / Balding Combination, by run style, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Murphy / Balding Combination, by run style, 1/1/14-6/7/19

 

The Murphy / Balding combo have done very well when taking the early lead or racing prominently. When backing a horse from this pairing I would want to be fairly sure that the horse was likely to race up with or close to the pace. 

 

Silvestre de Sousa / Mark Johnston

de Sousa / Johnston Combination, by run style, 1/1/14-6/7/19

de Sousa / Johnston Combination, by run style, 1/1/14-6/7/19

 

Anyone familiar with the Mark Johnston modus operandi will not be surprised to see the high percentage of front runners – just under 1 in 3 have been sent to the front early. This is far more than any of the other nine 'top pair' combinations in the sample. He is a trainer who understands the importance of racing up with the pace and, with his fit horses and a top pace judge in de Sousa, they are a front end dream team.

 

Danny Tudhope / David O’Meara

Tudhope / OMeara Combination, by run style, 1/1/14-6/7/19

Tudhope / OMeara Combination, by run style, 1/1/14-6/7/19

 

Excellent front running stats once again here, with supportive A/E and IV figures. Horses expected to adopt any other run style will not be marked up on the basis of pace, though they do still consistently more than might be expected (see IV column).

 

Summary

I hope some of the data / thoughts shared in this article will prove useful in your punting. My personal betting revolves around pace more than any other factor; be it for straight betting or in-running plays.

I firmly believe pace offers an edge that is difficult to find anywhere else these days, and readers are encouraged to acquire as many pace angles to support their betting as is practical. The Geegeez Query Tool (QT) is ideal for this, and angles such as the above can be saved within the QT and flagged both in a daily report and within the racecard.

[Editor's note: when using QT for pace, it is - of course - not possible to know which run style a horse will deploy before the race has been run. As such, angles should be set up with a note in the title, e.g. 'when leading', and the pace maps consulted for such potential qualifiers]

- DR

Dave Renham: More Thoughts on 2yo Sires

In my last article I examined some data pertaining to sires in 2yo races, writes Dave Renham. In this article I'd like to share more sire stats with you with a view to identifying both positive and negative angles from which we can potentially take advantage. The data once again cover the last six seasons including the first few weeks of the current flat season.

As with the first article in this series, I am comparing sire strike rates under different circumstances; in the first article I compared turf SR% with all weather SR%; debut run SR% with 2nd start SR% and I also compared colts with fillies. I called this the Comparison Strike Rate (CSR), the idea being that the CSR would help to show any significant differences in performance (according to the relative strike rates). Once again I will be using the CSR concept at points during this article.

Before I start in earnest, I stated in my first article that when ’drilling down’ in an attempt to pinpoint positive (or negative) angles it can sometimes feel a bit 'convenience fitted'. This needs to be flagged again as there are some stats below that one could argue fit into that category. It is for the reader to decide which, if any, of the information presented is of utility.

2yo Sire Performance by Race Distance

To begin with let us compare sire performance in terms of race distance. I am going compare performance in juvenile sprint races (5-6f) with longer distance contests (7f+). I have looked at sires that have had at least 70 runs in each category and the first table, below, highlights sires who have better records over sprint distances:

 

It is perhaps no surprise to see considerably more runs in the 5-6f range as compared to 7f+ for most of those in the list. Trainers do know a little bit about breeding (!) and hence they are more likely to enter runners by ‘speedier’ sires over shorter distances.

Showcasing is a sire that I would like to expand on a little. Backing ‘blind’ all of his 2yo runners over 5 & 6f (637 in total) would have yielded a small profit at SP and a 30%+ profit at Betfair SP. I would not advocate backing future runners ‘blind’ but it was something worth pointing out considering the decent sample size. Showcasing’s A/E index stands at 1.00 and over 5f it is slightly higher at 1.06; over 6f the A/E index is 0.96. Showcasing's 5f SR is 18.1% compared to 12.5% over 6f.

Camacho, Equiano and Dandy Man are others sires who have a higher SR% over 5f as compared to 6f. Camacho’s 5f figure stands at 14.3% as compared to 8.9% over 6f; Equiano has a 5f SR% of 13.3% while his 6f figure drops to 8.7%; Dandy Man is 13.9% v 8.7%.

Now a look in reverse at the sires of 2yos that perform significantly better over 7f+ as compared to 5-6f:

 

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The data is quite limited for some of these sires and that is important to appreciate. There is no ‘ideal’ sample size but clearly the more runs to compare the better. Unfortunately when dealing with sire stats, sample sizes are sometimes less than ideal. For the record, Sir Prancealot has an A/E index over 7f+ of 1.29 which I believe is also worth noting.

 

2yo Sire Performance by Going

Let us move on to look at how the turf going affects the SR%'s of sires. The following table is in a slightly different format to the others – it looks at the relative strike rates across four types of turf going: Good to firm or firmer; Good; Good to soft; Soft or heavy. For the record, if the sample run size is less than 50 runs on the particular type of going I have highlighted the SR% in red (I will continue to highlight smaller samples in red for the rest of the article). These figures additional caution due to the small sample size.

From this initial table I will delve deeper into the more interesting findings:

Horses with similar strike rates across the board are clearly versatile in terms of ground conditions, and hence when the progeny of these sires run you can be fairly optimistic that the going will not be a hindering factor in their performance. There are others, however, who do seem to display a going preference.

Let us first consider sires who seem to prefer firmer conditions, at least according to their win SR%s. There are seven that catch my eye – Captain Gerrard, Compton Place, Dutch Art, Equiano, Havana Gold, Makfi and Sir Percy. I have pulled up the relevant stats from the original table. It should be noted that I have added a column using a Comparison Strike Rate (CSR) in relation to good to firm or firmer going SR% versus all runs SR%:

 

Let us now look at the A/E indices of these sires in terms of good to firm or firmer going:

 

Makfi’s good to firm data are limited, but the other six sires have very positive good to firm /firm stats.

Soft/heavy data are limited for some sires so this needs to be taken into account. The following table looks at the sires whose softer ground stats look positive even if some of the sample sizes are relatively small. Again I have pulled these stats from the original table and added the CSR figure for soft/heavy SR% versus all runs SR%:

 

Let us now look at the A/E indices of these sires in terms of soft/heavy going in 2yo races. The figures in red again are from samples of less than 50 runs:

 

The majority of A/E indices are above 1.00 which can be taken again as a positive, but it is important to dig a bit deeper especially if the sire one is interested has limited data with which to work. Looking at the soft/heavy ground performances with 3yo runners and above may be a sensible starting point.

2yo Sire Performance by Race Class

For the final part of this article I am going to share some sire SR%s and A/E indices connected with race class. I have ignored the lowest class of race (6) and elected to focus on class 1 to 5 contests. The first table examines class 1 to 3 races; the second table classes 4 and 5. The sires in the following tables are all sires that have had over 600 runners in total in all 2yo races during the period of study. I have highlighted potentially positive A/E indices in green and as earlier, those smaller samples of less than 50 qualifying runs are coloured in red (highlighted in relevant SR% column):

 

The progeny of Dutch Art have struggled in class 1 events with just 1 win in 42 starts. Only 4 others placed and with exactly half of the runners starting 12/1 or shorter I would be wary of backing Dutch Art runners at this level, despite it clearly being a small sample. The progeny of Kodiac on the other hand are worth a second glance. They have provided 27 winners in total from 240 runners and the A/E index of 0.98 is decent enough. What is interesting is Kodiac’s performance improves as the distances increases. At 5f his SR% in class 1 races stands at 6.6% (6 wins from 91 starts); when we combine his 7-8f figures we get 8 wins from 35 (SR 22.9%). Small sample? Yes. Worth being wary? Yes. But it should also be noted that a further ten runners were placed meaning over 50% of his runners won or placed.

Onto class 4 and 5 races now. The data set is very decent for these runners – all sires have had at least 185 runners in class 4 races, in class 5 races this increases to 250+ for all.

 

Dandy Man, Equiano, Exceed And Excel, Kodiac, Kyllachy and Poets Voice have positive A/E indices in class 4 events and all are worth closer scrutiny. Dandy Man’s progeny should be noted over the minimum trip of 5f in Class 4 events – SR% is just under 20% with an A/E index of 1.33. Likewise, Exceed And Excel has an excellent record in 5f Class 4 events – an even more impressive SR% of 25.8%; A/E 1.20. Kodiac has notable figures on easy ground: in Class 4 races on good to soft or softer his progeny have won 28 races from 134 (SR 20.9%); A/E 1.29.

I hope you have found both articles interesting and potentially useful. Sire stats are undervalued still and although the data is by no means ‘perfect’, it does offer punters some extra stats to potentially use to their advantage.

Dave Renham: Some Thoughts on 2yo Sires

In this article I have moved away from pace research and will instead be focusing, for the first time on the virtual pages of geegeez.co.uk, on 2yo races, writes Dave Renham.

2yo races are contests where horse form is extremely limited and many punters shy away from them for that reason. Indeed, 50% of all 2yo runners are either making their debut or just having their second career run (see prior runs table below). Thus, we need to look at additional information if we are going to bet on such contests. One avenue is to look at sire data.

Number of prior 2yo starts, January 1st 2013 to April 14th 2019

 

Sires are the fathers of the respective horses and many sires have a strong influence on their offspring. Why certain racehorses cost more money than others before they have even raced is almost exclusively down to their breeding and the sire is the strongest influence in that genetic makeup.

Taking a human example may help explain why some punters feel sire stats are important. Picture a mythical 100m sprint race between the offspring of Usain Bolt and the offspring of someone else of the same age living in the same town as Usain. Without having seen either child run before, where would you put your pound at even money? Most likely you would asses that Usain Bolt’s son had the stronger sire stat, and that is where your money would be likely to go. That would be especially the case if the two fathers had had children a year earlier, and the son of Bolt had won against the son of A N Other.

This article will look for positive and negative angles using sire stats from UK 2yo races. The data have been taken from 1st January 2013 to 14th April 2019 and all profits/losses have been calculated to Industry Starting Price.

 

2yo sires by strike rate

Firstly let us look at the sires with the highest strike rates in all 2yo races during the period of study (minimum 100 runs):

 

As one can see backing sires blind is the proverbial quick way to the poorhouse. Of course these figures could be improved by using Betfair SP, but as we know with Betfair SP, the occasional huge-priced winner can skew the stats. The key stat to look at in the table is the A/E index: the higher the A/E index the better things may be from a backing perspective; any figure above 1 suggests a positive scenario. Archipenko stands out with not only an A/E of 1.31 but, with over 300 runs, this is a decent sample size too. Interesting, Archipenko roughly breaks even if backing all runners ‘blind’.

 

Now a look at the sires with the lowest strike rates:

 

Not surprisingly these results produce dreadful returns for backers and in general also have very low A/E indices.

These raw stats indicate a huge discrepancy across the spectrum of sires. Having an appreciation of sire data should help inform our betting considerably in 2yo races so let's dig a bit deeper.

 

Top Turf 2yo Sires (compared to AW performance)

Firstly let us look at turf versus all weather and a look at sires of 2yos that perform significantly better on the turf compared to the all weather. The table below compares the turf strike rate (SR%) with the all weather SR%. In the final column I have divided the turf SR% by the all weather SR% to give us a type of Impact Value. It is not a ‘true’ IV so I’ll call it a Comparison Strike Rate (CSR). The higher this figure the stronger the sire’s liking for turf over the sand.

 

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The two sires at the top, Piccolo and Gregorian, have not had one winner on the all weather in the UK in the study period; however their turf strike rates are both also low and that should be taken into account. Sixties Icon and Dream Ahead are the two sires that initially catch my eye; mainly due to decent sample sizes. Those two, along with Dutch Art, are sires worth further exploration. If we look at the respective A/E indices for turf 2yo races there are some sires in the list that achieve a score of 1 or more:

 

It is promising to see Dutch Art and Sixties Icon in this table; for the record Dream Ahead’s A/E stands at 0.86. Delegator has an impressive figure and also looks worthy of closer scrutiny.

 

Top AW 2yo Sires (compared to Turf performance)

Now a look in reverse at the sires of 2yos that perform significantly better on the all weather compared to the turf.

 

Once again there are some eye catching figures in the table. Dragon Pulse has an impressive record on the sand albeit from a relatively modest sample of 73 runs. However, if we focus on his runners that had previously run at least three times his record reads an impressive 13 wins from 46 (SR 28.3%) for an SP profit of £44.26 (ROI +96.2%); A/E index 1.62. Lethal Force is another interesting sire on the sand especially when you compare his male runners to female runners – male runners have won 22.9% of their races (11 wins from 48), while female runners have won just 6.9% (4 wins from 58).

A look at the A/E index for these runners on the all weather makes for positive reading:

 

Just Lethal Force slips below the 1.00 figure, and even then only just. It is clear that these sires are a group to keep an eye on in 2yo all weather races.

 

2yo 1st vs 2nd start

Let us move on to look at the difference between horses making their debut compared to those having their second career start. It will come as no surprise to see a big improvement in strike rates from first to second career start. Looking at all 2yo runners the debut SR% is 7.07% and the 2nd start SR% is 11.81%. Dividing the second percentage by the first we get a CSR. of 1.67. This is our baseline CSR for comparing the figures in the table below.

I have used a minimum of 50 debut runs to give us enough data to work with and the sires in this list have the highest CSR. figures:

 

 

These sires clearly improve markedly between first and second career starts. There is also some more positive news when we examine the A/E index of their second career starts. There are several sires who have achieved a score 1.00 or more:

 

Approve (0.99), Iffraaj (0.98), Rip Van Winkle (0.97), Medicean (0.96) and Sir Percy (0.95) were all close to the 1.00 figure. Only Galileo has a poor A/E (0.70), primarily because he's such a very well known 'mega stallion' which filters into the betting markets.

 

There are a handful of sires that buck the trend in terms of 2nd run improvement and have a higher SR% on debut compared to next time out. Such sires are few and far between but the five in the table below are worth sharing with you: