Carlisle National Hunt Pace Bias

When discussing the word pace our primary focus is the initial pace in a race and the position horses take up early on, writes Dave Renham.

The running style of the horses is another way some pundits describe it. geegeez.co.uk includes a pace section (the Pace Analyser) where you may research this angle to your heart’s content.

Pace data on the site 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 section.

For this article I am again concentrating on data going back to 2009 with races of eight or more runners. My main focus when looking at pace will be handicap races, but for National Hunt racing I do also look at some non-handicap data. CARLISLE is the course under scrutiny today.

The course is a little over a mile and a half in circumference and is considered to be a stiff, galloping track. The hurdle course is shown below:

 

As you can see there are three flights in both the back straight and the home straight.

The chase course has nine fences of which two are open-ditches.

The fences are considered to be fairly easy at Carlisle.

 

Carlisle Handicap Hurdle Pace Bias

They run over three main distances in hurdles races at Carlisle namely 2m 1f, 2m 4f, and and 3m 1f.

N.B. it should be noted that on Geegeez the 3m 1f trip comes under the 3m 2f (26 furlongs) bracket for research.

 

2 miles 1 furlong – here is the handicap hurdle breakdown (8+ runners):

 

There is a definite edge toward runners that race up with or close to the pace. Below shows a graphical comparison of the A/E values, which helps illustrate the pace bias visually.

 

1 - Held Up / 2 - Midfield / 3 - Prominent / 4 - Led

 

Interestingly, of the 12 front-running winners, 11 had raced prominently or had led on their most recent start.

In non-handicaps, however, the picture is less clear cut as we can see:

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Front runners do well again while hold up horses look at a severe disadvantage. However, horses that have raced midfield fared surprisingly well. This gives us a slightly confusing picture so it seems best to concentrate only on handicap races therefore from a pace perspective over this 2m 1f trip.

 

2 miles 4 furlongs – in the past few years they have raced half a furlong either side of 2m 4f (so 2m 3 ½f and 2m 4½f) so I have lumped these similar trips together. Let’s examine the handicap hurdle breakdown (8+ runners):

 

A fairly level playing field here with no edge to any particular running style. Front runners though seem to have under-performed and it actually looks a disadvantage to lead early in such races.

Onto the non-handicap data:

 

In non-handicaps a pattern seems to emerge if we focus on the place percentages - they seem to suggest that in reality horses that race close to or up with the pace have had the advantage. The IV figures also suggest this, although the A/E values for hold up horses offers us conflicting evidence: they have won infrequently but occasionally popped up at a big price.

 

3 miles 1 furlong – at Carlisle there have been races of 3 miles ½ furlong up to 3 miles 1½ furlongs. On the Geegeez site you need to combine the 3 miles and 3 miles 2 furlong data to get all the relevant qualifying races. A look at the handicap data:

We see that hold up horses have the best record here – they have the best strike rate, too, which is rare, and by far the best A/E figure.

Below is a graphical representation comparing the A/E values for all pace scores across all distances:

 

1 - Held Up / 2 - Midfield / 3 - Prominent / 4 - Led

 

In general, we can see that in handicap hurdle races at Carlisle, as the distance increases the front running bias at the shortest distance (2m 1f) becomes a hold up bias at the longest distance (3m 1f).

The figures for hold up horses (1 / blue bar), prominent racers (3 / grey bar) and leaders/front runners (4 / yellow bar) all correlate in terms of the switching of the pace bias as the distance increases; horses that race mid division (2 / orange bar) don’t quite fit the same pattern but that is largely due to a slightly skewed performance (in my opinion) at 2m4f.

Non-handicap races over this extended 3 mile trip are rare – just nine in total going back to 2009 and only three of those had eight or more runners. Hence the data set is far too small to analyse!

 

Carlisle Handicap Chase Pace Bias

Over the bigger obstacles at Carlisle they race at 2m, 2m 4f, 2m 5f, 3m and 3m 2f. I will lump the 2m 4f and 2m 5f data together to give a bigger data set. I am also going to look exclusively at handicap data as there are very few non-handicap races at any distance where eight or more runners have taken part.

 

2 miles – 27 qualifying two mile handicap chases, so a relatively small sample:

 

Despite the smallish sample we can be fairly confident that front runners have a strong edge here. The closer you race to the pace the better and prominent racers have a decent record too. Hold up horses have struggled, shown by the poor strike rate and very low A/E and IV figures.

 

2 miles 4 furlongs to 2 miles 5 furlongs – there have been a decent number of handicap chases with eight or more runners combining these distances (55 races). Here are the stats:

 

Front runners enjoy a clear advantage over this distance, too, with figures that are very similar to the two mile data set. Horses that race midfield or at the back early again struggle, although hold up horses perform marginally better than they did at the minimum distance.

It seems that the pace bias may accentuate as the ground softens. On soft or heavy going, front runners have won over 25% of the races with an A/E value of 1.94 (IV 2.48). On good to soft or faster, this drops to under 17%.

 

3 miles – they generally race at 3 miles ½ furlong. Here are the handicap chase data (8 + runners):

 

For the third distance in a row we can see a strong front running bias. Hold up horses actually perform around par which is a clear improvement when compared with the two shorter trips.

 

3 miles 2 furlongs – the final distance to examine for handicap chases with 8 or more runners:

Again front runners have a good record, as do prominent racers. Hold up horses perform extremely poorly which surprised me considering the data from three-mile races.

Let us now look at all the handicap chase pace data graphically in terms of A/E values.

 

1 - Held Up / 2 - Midfield / 3 - Prominent / 4 - Led

 

This graph once again compares each distance pictorially, and the yellow bar (leaders) is clearly best overall, and at each individual race distance. At three of the four distances the grey bar (prominent racers) is clear second best.

Carlisle, in terms of handicap chases, seems to have a reasonably strong pace bias across the board – there is significant value in handicap chases at Carlisle in front runners and to a lesser extent prominent racers.

*

Before closing, I want to share one more graph with you. This looks at the performance of prominent runners and leaders combined in terms of field size in handicap chases across all distances. I have noticed before that quite often a pace bias gets stronger as the number of runners increase. That again seems the case here. I have plotted both A/E and IV figures to illustrate this:

 

 

As can be seen there is a steady rise in performance from smaller fields (8 to 9 runners) through to bigger fields (12+ runners).

 

Carlisle National Hunt Handicap Pace Bias Summary

To conclude, handicap chases offer the pace punter the biggest edge at Carlisle. In hurdle races the picture is less cut and dried, although there is definitely a front running bias in handicap hurdles at the shortest range, while over 3m 1f hold up horses fare best in the handicap sphere.

Newton Abbot Pace Bias

As we move into the Autumn it is time to switch attention to pace angles and biases in National Hunt racing and specifically at individual National Hunt courses, writes Dave Renham.

As I have noted many times before, when I talk about pace my main focus is the initial pace in a race and the position horses take up early on. The racecards on this site have a pace map for each race, as well as a tool to research pace bias, and the stats I am sharing with you in this article are based on the site’s pace data.

The pace data on Geegeez are split into four groups – Led (4), Prominent (3), Mid Division (2) and Held Up (1). The number in brackets is the pace score assigned to each group.

For this article I am concentrating on data going back to 2009 and, unless otherwise stated, on races of eight or more runners. Again the main focus will be handicap races, but often I will dip into non-handicap data too. Newton Abbot is the first course to be coming under the spotlight.

The course is a tight 1m2f oval with longish straights and is considered to be sharp in nature. The hurdle course has five obstacles, two of them in the home straight. One of the five hurdles is jumped on the first circuit only:

 

The chase course has seven fences with three flights quite close together in the back straight and 2 further flights in the home straight.

 

Newton Abbot Hurdle Pace Bias

They race at four distances over hurdles at Newton Abbot: 2m 1f, 2m 2½f, 2m 5½f and 3m 2½f.

Our first port of call is the shortest of the four distances.

Newton Abbot 2 miles 1 furlong Handicap Hurdle Pace Bias

Here is the handicap hurdle breakdown (8+ runners):

We have a level playing field here: hold up horses (the '1' group) are a slight disadvantage, but it is relatively minor.

 

Newton Abbot 2 miles 1 furlong Non-Handicap Hurdle Pace Bias

In non-handicaps the picture is slightly different as we can see:

Front runners have a much better record in terms of win percentage and Impact Value, but before we get too carried away the A/E values across the board suggest there is no real value in front runners. This is because generally such races are less competitive and often those at the front tend to be the more fancied runners. This simple graph shows a pictorial comparison of A/E values in non-handicap races. The pace values are on the horizontal axis.

 

 

I have looked in more detail at these non-handicap races in terms of ground conditions. When the going is fast (good to firm or firmer) things look like this:

 

There are only 19 races in the sample but there emerges a pace bias, with front runners clearly doing best. Prominent racers have a reasonably good record also, while horses positioned mid-division or held up early seem to struggle. Despite the sample size being small, there is good correlation between the SR%s, EW%s, A/E and IV figures which gives me more confidence in the hypothesis.

When we look at the data on softer ground (good to soft or softer) the picture is quite different:

We have 25 races with softer underfoot conditions and it points to the complete reverse of the fast ground output. The bar chart below offers a pictorial comparison of the A/E values. The blue bars represent firmer ground, the orange softer ground.

 

In summary, the most interesting pace angle in non-handicap hurdles at 2m1f seems to be connected with the going. Firmer ground seems to favour pace horses; softer ground seems to favour horses that are patiently ridden, more especially those that race midfield (though the place percentages mean the softer ground arena is less concrete).

 

Newton Abbot 2 miles furlongs Handicap Hurdle Pace Bias

It should be noted that when analysing this trip on Geegeez using either the Pace Analyser or the Query Tool, you need to set the distance parameters to 2m2f to 2m4f. This is because within those tools races beyond two miles are grouped together in quarter mile distance brackets.

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Here is the handicap hurdle breakdown (8+ runners):

 

As with the minimum distance handicap hurdles, we see a fairly even spread of run styles with no edge to any particular group.

 

Newton Abbot 2 miles furlongs Non-Handicap Hurdle Pace Bias

In non-handicaps the pattern is similar with no clear edge to any pace section; however, hold up horses have really struggled as the table below shows:

 

A 2.1% strike rate for hold horses with a very low A/E value of 0.35 suggests we want to avoid these runners at all costs. The place percentage is also well below other run style groups.

 

Newton Abbot 2 miles 5½ furlongs Handicap Hurdle Pace Bias

There have been 113 races over this trip since 2009, so this represents the biggest sample to date:

 

A bigger sample and a very consistent set of results: the A/E values range between 0.81 to 0.87, while the strike rates - both win and place - are similar also. There is little to report then pace wise, although when the going gets soft or heavy, (which is rare at Newton Abbot as the vast majority of their meetings are run between April and September), hold up horses have won 6 of the 14 races.   

 

Newton Abbot 2 miles 5½ furlongs Non-Handicap Hurdle Pace Bias

Non-handicap races over this trip are less prevalent (49 in total) and here are the pace stats:

 

In such races there seems to be a slight edge for front runners, but it is not a potentially profitable angle. Those coming from the latter half of the field have a poor record which, as previously stated, may be at least in part to do with a relative ability limit.

 

Newton Abbot 3 miles 2½ furlongs Handicap Hurdle Pace Bias

On to the longest distance for hurdle races at Newton Abbot and at this range there have been just handicap races (48 with 8+ runners in total). Again due to the use of distance range brackets when looking on Geegeez you need to select races of between 3m2f and 3m4f to catch all the qualifying races:

 

At this longer trip, front runners have a clear edge and you would have made a small profit if backing them blindly at SP. The A/E value of 1.3 is a decent one, although we need to be slightly careful as the place percentage is less impressive/consistent.

 

Newton Abbot Hurdle Pace Bias: Summary

At Newton Abbot over hurdles you generally have to dig a little bit to find pace angles. In my opinion these are the four most promising:

  1. In non-handicap hurdle races over 2m1f, front runners have the advantage on good to firm or firmer going.
  2. In non-handicap hurdle races over 2m1f, horses coming from off the pace have the advantage on good to soft or softer ground, more especially those that race mid division.
  3. In non-handicap hurdle races over 2m2½f, horses that are held up are at a big disadvantage.
  4. In handicap hurdle races over 3m2½f, front runners have a solid advantage.

 

Newton Abbot Chase Pace Bias

They run over three distances the shortest of which is just more than two miles:

Newton Abbot 2 miles ½ furlong Handicap Chase Pace Bias

There are not many races in total but here is the breakdown for handicap races with 8 or more runners:

 

From this small data set it appears that horses that race up with or close to the pace have an edge. This is a common trend across most courses for handicap races over a shorter distance. Hold up horses have a very poor record  with a win strike rate of just 3.45% and an A/E of just 0.28).

Before moving on I thought it would be interesting to compare the A/E values in 2m1f handicap hurdle races with 2m ½f handicap chases. The blue bars are handicap hurdle, orange are handicap chases:

 

The upward sloping nature of the orange bars helps to illustrate the much stronger pace bias that  exists to front runners in handicap chases than hurdlers at this shorter distance.

At Newton Abbot, handicap races over this distance often see smaller fields so below are the handicap data for seven runner or less handicaps too.

 

We see a similar trend here, though the pace edge is not as strong in races with fewer runners.

 

Newton Abbot 2 miles ½ furlong Non-Handicap Chase Pace Bias

In terms of non-handicaps at this distance there have only been 2 races with 8 or more runners. Instead, below are the data for 7 runner or less races:

 

Front runners enjoy a strong edge here and have proved profitable to follow. Of course, as mentioned elsewhere previously, predicting the front runner is not an exact science so making blind profits from front runners is not as straight forward as first appears.

 

Newton Abbot 2 miles 5 furlong Handicap Chase Pace Bias

A decent number of handicap chases have been run with 8 or more runners at this distance since 2009. Here are the stats:

 

An edge again exists for horses that race up with or close to the pace. Hold up horses have a poor record again and l would steer clear of horses that have tended to rate further back in recent races.

 

Newton Abbot 2 miles 5 furlong Non-Handicap Chase Pace Bias

As with the shorter distance there have been a limited number of non-handicap chases at 2m 5f so I have lumped all the data together without the usual field size threshold:

 

Front runners have a fairly good record, but when looking at the A/E values things seem relatively even across the board.

 

Newton Abbot 3 miles 2 furlong Handicap Chase Pace Bias

The longest trip at Newton Abbot now (8 + runners / handicap chases):

Front runners and those racing prominently have the clear advantage at this distance and, in general, you want to be handy. There is a good correlation across win and place strike rates, profitability, A/E and IV values.

All 11 wins from front runners have occurred in races on good going or faster and the bias is clearly stronger on better going. The A/E value for front runners confirm the strengthening of the bias as it stands at a very impressive 1.87 on quicker turf.

 

Newton Abbot 3 miles 2 furlong Non-Handicap Chase Pace Bias

For non-handicap races there have been only eight races with 8 or more runners so I will again look at all non-handicap races at this distance, without the field size restriction:

28 of the 30 races (93.3%) have been won by horses that raced close to or up with the pace. However, it should be noted that these runners have provided just under 70% of all the runners. All in all though it looks far more preferable to lead early or race prominently.

 

Newton Abbot Chase Pace Bias: Summary

For chase races at Newton Abbot the four strongest findings pace wise are:

  1. In handicap chases over 2m½f, front runners have a fair edge, while hold up horses are at a big disadvantage.
  2. In non-handicap chases over 2m½f (all races – no restriction on number of runners), front runners have enjoyed a strong edge.
  3. In handicap races over 3m2f, front runners enjoy an advantage and in general the closer to the pace the better.
  4. In non-handicap chases over 3m2f (all races – no restriction on number of runners), being up with or close to the pace bestows an advantage.

 

Some Context for the Newton Abbot Pace Bias Data

What is seen when researching pace in National Hunt racing is that there is normally a stronger front-running pace bias in chases when compared to hurdles. This is the case here at Newton Abbot.

Before I finish, stats in isolation - for example, just one racecourse - often benefit from the painting of a bigger picture. In this case, it is  useful to know where Newton Abbot’s figure sit in relation to all UK courses.

Below is a graph which compares the A/E values for for front-runners in handicap chases at Newton Abbot against the overall front-runner A/E averages at all UK chase courses. The three distances are compared in the same graph:

 

As we can see Newton Abbot’s figures for the shorter and longer distance are around the average figure for all UK courses. The 2m5f trip, however, shows front runners perform below average at the South Devon track.

I have also compared the each-way strike rate figures between Newton Abbot and all UK courses to help further build an overall picture. The A/E figures deal with winners and it is worth looking at all horses who have managed to win or be placed:

 

In term of win and place runners combined we can see that, over 3m2f, Newton Abbot front runners perform well above the UK average. Once again they perform notably below the average at 2m5f, while at 2m, they are marginally below the average.

As a pace biased course, Newton Abbot lies somewhere in the middle when compared to all courses in Britain. Despite it not having the strongest edges, this article has still highlighted a few angles worth keeping a close eye on.

Good luck when having a bet at the next Newton Abbot meeting.

- DR

 

Ripon Draw & Pace Bias

Ripon racecourse is located in North Yorkshire and they began racing at the current location in 1900, writes Dave Renham. Ripon is a right-handed flat track that is considered quite sharp - its circumference is 1m5f with a run in of 5f. Races over 6f start with a separate chute giving two distances on the straight track.

 

 

As with previous articles in this series I have used some of the tools available on the Geegeez website, namely the Draw Analyser, the Pace Analyser and the Query Tool. The main data set covers the period from 2009 to 2020, and there is the option to examine a more recent subset where appropriate. I will be focusing once again on 8+ runner handicap races.

Ripon 5f Draw Bias (8+ runner handicaps) 

Since 2009 there have been 63 qualifying races over the minimum distance. Here are the stats: 

Higher draws are positioned next to the stands’ rail and seem to have a nominal edge. Looking at the A/E values, these show a good correlation with the draw win percentages:

Looking at the 12-year data it seems that the stands’ rail does offer runners some advantage in smaller fields. In races of 8 to 11 runners we have the following draw splits:

The A/E value for the highest third stands at a promising 1.14 which adds credence to the theory. Recent evidence (2015 onward) gives similar stats in smaller field contests with 11 of the 20 races (55%) being won by high drawn horses.

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

In terms of individual draw figures I am reversing them as I did with the 5f data in the Musselburgh. I am looking at them in relationship to their proximity to the stands’ rail as highest draws are drawn next to that rail. I used the Geegeez Query Tool to give me the relevant data:

 

There is nothing particularly clear cut here. However, what should be noted about Ripon’s straight track is that as the fields get to around 14 or 15 runners, higher draws tend to make a beeline for the far rail. There have been very few races with big fields in 5f races, but from very limited data those drawn closest to the far side (very low draws) may have a slight edge. One race where this seemed to be the case was back in 2013 (6th August) where the first three draws home in a 15 runner handicap were drawn 2, 1 and 3. The Exacta paid £256.30 and the tricast £768.91.

Ripon 5f Handicaps (8+ Runners) Pace Bias

Let us look at pace and running styles now. I have always considered the 5f trip at Ripon to offer a front running advantage so let’s see if the stats back up the theory. The overall figures (2009-20) are as follows:

 

As courses go Ripon’s figures for front runners are around the UK course average for 5f handicaps – not the strongest bias, but still a decent enough one. The strongest pace bias in reality is the one against hold up horses: they have been at a massive disadvantage, winning just five races from over 200 runners (A/E 0.27). Only Chester and Epsom over 5f have worse figures for hold up horses.

Ground conditions seem to make a slight difference in terms of front runners with better going (good or firmer) seeing their strike rate edge up to 19.7% and their A/E value at 1.54.

Let me look at field size now. As the field size increases the front running edge seems to get stronger. Here are the stats for races of 12 or more runners:

 

Admittedly this sample is just 24 races so we need to appreciate that we cannot be over confident that bigger fields increase the bias. However, what I would say is that the placed percentage for front runners over these 24 races stands at 55.6%, which is a positive.

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 would expect the early leader to be drawn near to the stands’ rail more of the time (high).

As expected horses drawn closest to the stands’ rail tend to get to the early lead. Front runners drawn towards a flank generally prefer a rail to run against and of those high drawn runners that led early over 1-in-5 went on to win.

A look at the draw/run style heat map reveals a ready diffusion of green to red - good to not good - from led to held up:

Ripon 5f Summary

The 5f distance does offer interest from both a draw and pace perspective. There seems to be a slight high draw (stands’ rail) bias in smaller fields, while in bigger fields there is a hint of a slight low draw (far rail) bias. Pace wise there is a good edge for front runners which potentially strengthens as the field size increases. Meanwhile hold up horses have an absolutely dreadful record regardless of field size or going.

 

Ripon 6f Draw Bias (8+ runner handicaps)

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Here are the draw splits for the straight six furlong course at Ripon (170 races):

Fairly even looking figures though middle draws have fared slightly worse. Let’s see if the A/E figures offer better pointers:

There is strong correlation here and in general these figures suggest that there looks little in the draw, albeit that a middle gate might not be ideal.

Looking at the statistics for the going, the figures remain similar regardless of ground conditions. This is the same for field size so there does not seem a far rail / low draw bias when the field size starts to stretch across the track. Hence my theory that there was a hint of a low draw bias over 5f in big fields may just have to remain a theory!

There is a glimmer of hope for draw fans over 6f as when we combine softer ground with bigger fields a possible pattern starts to emerge. Data though is extremely limited which is important to note once again. On softer going (good to soft or softer) in fields of 14 runners or more, it seems that middle draws may be at a disadvantage. Under such conditions there have been just 13 races, but they have produced a solitary win for horses drawn in the middle. The middle draw placed stats are poor also with just 9 placed runners from 47 (15 places for high; 23 for low), and middle draws beat just 38% of rivals, as can be seen in the PRB column below.

 

Now 13 races is far too small a sample in reality and in essence one can legitimately argue that we should take these figures with a pinch of salt. However, I felt it worth sharing it with you.

A look now at individual draw positions in six-furlong eight-plus runner handicaps at Ripon – reversed once again in terms of their position in relation to the stands’ rail:

 

As might have been expected, there is nothing clear-cut here.

Ripon 6f Pace Bias (8+ runner handicaps)

Let’s see if pace / running styles offers us an edge. Here are the overall figures going back to 2009:

 

There is a strong front running bias here – slightly stronger than the 5f bias. Once again hold up horses have a very poor record.

In races with bigger fields, the general bias seems to strengthen with front runners and pace trackers (prominent racers) having a huge edge over horses that race mid pack or at the back early. Here are the data for races with 14 or more runners:

 

33 wins for horses that raced in the front half of the pack early in the race compared with just seven for those running in the back half, from a roughly even 50/50 split of horses. This is something as punters that we can use in our favour.

The big sprint of the season at Ripon is the Great St Wilfrid Handicap held in the middle of August. It is a Class 2 handicap over 6 furlongs with an average field size since 2009 of just over 18 runners (max field size now is 20). In the last 11 renewals of this race (going back to 2009), five of the 11 winners led from the start and made all the running, while another winner disputed the lead early before asserting in the final two furlongs. This is a remarkable front running bias for such a competitive and big field sprint. Indeed the last four winners have ‘made all’. Of those four winners, three of them had led last time out and two of them were top of the geegeez pace section (i.e. had the highest pace total from its last four races). This is one of the many reasons to upgrade to Geegeez Gold if you haven’t already.

The final table in the 6f section takes a look at draw / pace (running style) combinations for front runners in 6f handicaps (2009 – 2020). I would expect higher draws get to the lead more often as they did over 5f for the same reasons as explained earlier:

The splits are as expected – those runners drawn high that did lead early have gone onto win roughly one race in four – another stat worth knowing.

As intimated by the previous comments, the draw/run style heat map shows the value of being close to the front; and the difficulty of being waited with from a middle to high draw.

Ripon 6f Summary

To conclude, 6f handicaps at Ripon offer no real interest from a draw perspective, but the pace angle is a very strong one. Front runners enjoy a good edge while hold up horses really have a very poor time of it.

 

Ripon 1 Mile Draw Bias (8+ runner handicaps) 

The mile trip is raced on the round course with low stalls positioned next to the inside rail. 102 handicap races have been run with eight or more runners since 2009. Here is the draw breakdown:

Low draws seem to have a very small edge, but it is not a bias we could confidently ‘play’.

The A/E values back this up further:

Low draws seem to be overbet slightly with a lower A/E value compared to the high draw figure. This makes sense to me as, going back 15-20 years, the perceived ‘wisdom’ was that low draws did have an edge here over this distance. That perception more than likely remains.

Field size potentially makes a difference as runner numbers increase. Looking at races of 11 or more runners we can see that low draws enjoy an edge when looking purely at win percentages:

There have been 57 races with 11+ runners so this is a fair sample size. The A/E value for low drawn horses improves to 0.97, although this figure still indicates that the low draw bias is factored into the bookmaker’s prices. I would prefer to be drawn low under these circumstances but you need to be selective when trying to evaluate value.

Ground conditions offer no edge so we move on to the individual draw positions for all 8+ runner handicap races. I'm reverting to traditional draw numbers for this distance, as stall one is next to the inside rail:

 

Stall 4 has clearly over-performed but that is simply down to chance.

Ripon 1 Mile Pace Bias (8+ runner handicaps)

On to pace now – time to look at the overall pace data now (2009-2020):

 

The 1 mile distance does have a pace bias and prominent racers have the best record. Horses that race in the back half of the field in the early stages of mile races are at a disadvantage once again.

At this juncture I want to briefly discuss the non-handicap pace stats over this trip. Although I tend to avoid non-handicaps for this type of research, the data for this track and trip did catch my eye. There have been 32 non-handicaps races over a mile at Ripon since 2009 and, of those, 29 were won by horses that raced front rank early (led / prominent); just three wins went to horses that raced mid-division, and horses that were held up were 0-from-114. There has been a huge pace bias in these races so I felt it was worthwhile pointing it out.

Back to the 1m handicap data - this pace bias occurs regardless of field size, but in terms of ground conditions, it seems to get even stronger on better going. On good ground or firmer the pace figures read as follows:

 

Hence, on good or firmer we definitely want to be siding with horses that are up with or close to the front rank, while avoiding hold up horses like the plague. On good to soft or softer the bias evens out a bit, and although you still want to be nearer the front than the back early on, the edge is much reduced.

Now let us take a look at draw / pace (running style) combinations for front runners in mile handicaps (2009 – 2020).

Horses drawn closest to the inside rail (low) get to the lead in roughly half of all races. You would expect to see to this due to the configuration of the track.

The draw/run style heat map - displaying percentage of rivals beaten (PRB) again shows the difficulty of coming from off the pace, and the strong advantage of racing front rank.

Ripon 1 Mile Summary

In conclusion, lower draws may have a slight edge and certainly do as the field size increases. However, it is not going to be easy profiting from this. From a pace perspective, over this mile trip you definitely want to be on a ‘pace’ horse and want to avoid runners who are likely to be held up.

For the remainder of this article I am going to focus on pace only as the draw data at longer trips is unsurprisingly very even. However, there still seems a pace bias at 1m2f and 1m4f, especially on better ground (mirroring the mile data).

 

Ripon 1 Mile 2 Furlongs Pace Bias (8+ runner handicaps)

For the record, they also race over 1m1f at Ripon but there have only been four handicap races with 8+ runners since 2009. Over 1m2f there have been 78 races giving the following pace splits:

 

A slight edge for front runners with hold up horses again the worst of the four pace styles. When we narrow the results down to races on good or firmer ground the bias against hold up horses strengthens again as it did over 1 mile:

Horses that race mid-division cannot be dismissed over this trip and going, but hold up horses continue to really struggle.

 

Ripon 1 Mile 4 Furlongs Pace Bias (8+ runner handicaps) 

There have been 68 handicap races over 1 mile 4 furlongs in the sample period – here are the stats:

 

Prominent racers have the best record followed by front runners. Hold up horses again have a very poor record. Moving to races on good or firmer going, the same pattern emerges as it did over 1 mile and 1m2f.

 

As we can see front runners and prominent racers have better records on better ground while horses that race mid division or are held up do worse.

 

Ripon Draw and Pace Bias Summary

Taking "the garden racecourse" as a whole we have little to get stuck into draw wise – over 5 furlongs in smaller fields it high draws seem to have a reasonable advantage; over 1 mile in bigger fields low draws seem to have an edge (and very high draws are commensurately unfavoured).

Looking at the track from a pace angle, across all distances from 5f to 1m 4f, hold up horses have a dreadful record. In sprints, front runners have a good record especially over 6f. Meanwhile, from 1 mile to 1 mile 4 furlongs, better going conditions accentuates the bias against hold up horses; it also gives horses that race front rank an increased chance.

- DR

Catterick Draw & Pace Bias

Racing at Catterick racecourse dates back to the mid 17th century so this North Yorkshire circuit is steeped in tradition, writes Dave Renham. It is a left-handed undulating track that is considered quite sharp: its circumference is a mile and a furlong with a run in of around three furlongs. Races over five furlongs start from a separate chute with a shallow turn into the home straight; all other races are raced on the main round course.

 

As with previous articles in this series I am using some of the tools available on the Geegeez website, those being the Draw Analyser, Pace Analyser and Query Tool. The main data set covers 11 years from 2009 to 2019, but as usual I will also examine a more recent grouping (2015 to 2019) where appropriate. The focus is once again on 8+ runner handicap races.

 

Catterick 5f Draw Bias (8+ runner handicaps)

Since 2009 there have been 151 qualifying races over the minimum distance. Here are the 11 year stats:

An even looking split with lower draws faring marginally best. Looking at the A/E values, these show a correlation with the draw win percentages:

The 5f trip at Catterick did display a relatively strong bias around 15 years ago for five or six seasons. I will use the five-year comparison data method I used in recent articles to illustrate how the bias has changed over the years. To recap, using five-year datasets is a way to try and compare stats more effectively than simply looking at the figures for single years. This method also highlights whether/when patterns are changing, as well as giving more reliable sample sizes. So here are the Catterick 5f figures going right back to the first data set (1997 to 2001):

I have highlighted in green where the low draw bias seemed prevalent from 2004 to 2009. The bias coincided with a significant increase in the number of races and personally I did well during this period. During these six seasons, if you had permed the three lowest drawn horses in 6 x £1 straight forecasts you would have been in profit to the tune of £401. If just concentrating on the two lowest draws and having a reverse £1 straight forecast in each race (2004-2009) profits would have been £340 – not bad considering the outlay would only have been £124 and you would have got that £124 back too.

Perming favoured draws is something that can still make you money today but there are seemingly less opportunities. Having said that, despite low draws not dominating like they did 15 years ago, in the past eleven seasons you would have still made a profit by perming the two lowest draws in reverse forecasts, and quite a profit: £539 to be precise!

There were eight winning forecasts over the 11 years and four of the dividends were decent creating the sizeable returns. In addition, from 2009 to 2019 if you had also permed the three lowest draws in 6 x £1 tricasts you would have secured four winning bets producing a profit of £1160. Admittedly there was one winning tricast in excess of £1000, but that is what tricasts can pay. Exotic betting using draw positions is a patience game but with huge potential for relatively small individual race outlays.

Looking at the 2009-2019 data the most important factor in terms of the draw is ground conditions. The going does seem to make a significant difference to draw bias, so let us look at the results for races on good or firmer going. There have been 81 races which have provided the following draw splits: 

Lower draws have a clear advantage when the ground rides good or faster with high draws at a fairly significant disadvantage. Draws 1 to 5 have been roughly 2.5 times more likely to win than draws 6 or wider.

The A/E values for these ground conditions correlate clearly too:

As you probably have guessed by now, the bias seems to switch when the going gets softer. There have been 70 races under softer conditions with the following draw results:

Under these conditions high draws have the edge. The A/E figures back up the draw stats:

What seems to happen when the going gets softer is that the ground closest to the far rail becomes slightly slower than the middle to stands side of the track. A good example of the high draw bias came on 19th August 2019 in a race won by The Grey Zebedee on soft ground. All the horses stayed away from the far rail and most made a beeline to the nearside and the stands’ rail. If you watch the race it is easy to understand why five of the first six home were drawn 11 (1st), 10 (2nd), 14 (3rd), 13 (4th) and 15 (6th). Watching races is important and as a statistician I do appreciate that numbers alone do not always tell the complete story.

One has to be careful, however, and we cannot blindly assume low draws have little chance in soft conditions, as there will be occasions when the far rail is not slower for whatever reason. Indeed in a race won by Count Dorsey on 19th October last year the far rail was actually quicker that day with the first four home drawn 3, 4, 2 and 1. Again, it is not just the numbers that suggest this; if you watch the race the ground next to the far side rail is clearly quicker.

This race actually is important to mention from another draw angle, something I first read about back in the 1990s. The angle is ‘negative draw bias’, a phrase I believe was coined by none other than new Geegeez writer, Russell Clarke. Negative draw bias looks to highlight horses that have run well from a poor draw with a view to possibly backing them next time, or certainly within the next three races.

In this race dominated by low draws the horse who finished fifth, Teruntum Star, was drawn 12 and did best of the horses that raced in the centre of the track. Not only that, but the race was dominated by horses which raced close to the pace, and he was 13th heading into the final two furlongs. Moreover, he lost momentum and ground when having to switch around three horses in the final furlong. Thus, Teruntum Star was a horse that had run well having been disadvantaged by the draw, but also by how the race was run. Six days later Teruntum Star hosed up at Newbury, winning by two lengths at a tasty price of 14/1.

It is time now to look at each five furlong draw position broken down by individual stall number for the 11 seasons. I use the Geegeez Query Tool to give me the relevant data:

As you might expect given the shifting ground-dependant nature of bias there are no real patterns here, so actually it makes more sense to look at this individual draw data by splitting it into good or firmer results and then good to soft or softer results. Let’s look at the individual draw figures for races run on good ground or firmer:

A blind profit for draws 1 and 2, and the A/E values for draws 1 to 5 help to further demonstrate the low draw advantage on faster ground. This is a definitely a better way to the view Catterick’s 5f individual draw stats.

The individual draw positions on slow ground (good to soft or softer) are below:

Again this paints the picture I was hoping it would: profits for draws 12, 13 and 14 backing up the fact that in general higher draws are favoured under these softer conditions. For the record the three highest stall numbers (not necessarily 13, 14 and 15 of course) won 2.25 times more races than the bottom three draws.

Onto a more recent data set looking at the past five seasons (2015-2019). Here are the draw splits for the 70 races that have occurred during this time frame.

These figures match the 11 year data very closely, as do the A/E values which are all within 0.01 of the long term stats.

 

Splitting by going over the past five seasons also matches the long term figures:

Catterick 5f Draw Bias, 8+ Runner Handicaps, Good or firmer (2015-2019)

Catterick 5f Draw Bias, 8+ Runner Handicaps, Good to Soft or softer (2015-2019)

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So, from what appeared to begin with when looking at the initial 11 year draw stats to be a course with little interest, Catterick’s five-furlong trip is of clear note to the draw punter. I did investigate whether field size made any difference but the data is virtually identical for when comparing smaller fields to bigger ones.

Catterick 5f Handicaps (8+ Runners) Pace Bias

Let us look at pace and running styles now. I have always considered the 5f trip at Catterick to offer a strong front running advantage so let’s see if the stats back up the theory. The overall figures (2009-19) are as follows:

In terms of UK turf courses, 5f handicap races at Catterick show one of the strongest front-running biases of all. from an A/E value and win percentage for front runners perspective, it comes out as the sixth highest; and the IV figure sees it as the fourth highest (for more on A/E and IV, read this post). In addition to that, hold up horses have one of the worst records amongst all UK courses too: hold up horses at the Yorkshire track have the fourth worst win percentage, the fourth worst A/E value and the fourth worst IV figure.

If we look at the effect of going it seems that softer ground (good to soft or softer) slightly increases the win prospects of front runners:

Conversely, on good or firmer ground front runners have fared slightly less well, though they retain a very clear edge:

 

One cannot be 100% confident that softer going increases the front running bias, but such ground conditions are at least unlikely to negate the front running edge. What is clear is that, regardless of going, you’d rather be watching the race having backed the horse that has taken the lead early than a horse racing in rear.

Looking at field size data there seems to be little or no evidence that number of runners makes any difference to the pace bias.

Finally in this 5f section a look at draw / pace (running style) combinations for front runners over the minimum distance. Remember, this is looking at which third of the draw is responsible for the early leader of the race (in % terms). I would expect the early leader to be drawn lower more often rather than higher:

As expected horses drawn further away from the far rail struggle to get to the lead early. Having said that, of the 23 who have managed it nine went on to win with another eight managing to place. Hence, it seems that it is possible to lead all the way from a wide draw given the chance. For hold up horses it seems an even worse scenario if you are drawn low – just 3 wins from 140 runners (SR 2.1%). Indeed only a further 13 managed to hit the frame which means over 88% of all low drawn hold up horses finished 4th or worse.

Here is the draw/pace heat map sorted by percentage of rivals beaten:

So the Catterick 5f distance is extremely interesting from both a draw and a pace perspective. Considering the even looking draw data shared at the beginning of this piece, I think several useful pointers have been uncovered.

 

Catterick 6f Draw Bias (8+ runner handicaps)

The six furlong trip is on the round course, starting halfway down the back straight, and from 2009 to 2019 there had been 133 races. Here are the draw splits:

 

Some even looking figures with middle draws doing slightly better than the rest. Let’s see if the A/E figures offer better pointers:

 

There is reasonably good correlation here, but it does seem that lower draws are slightly overbet. This makes some sense as the nature of the track being left handed would theoretically offer inside draws (low) a slight edge. For whatever reason this is not the case.

Looking at statistics for the going, the figures remain constant regardless of ground conditions. On softer ground, as with 5f races, the near side generally rides quicker than the far side. Horses more often than not come middle to stands’ side in the straight in these easier conditions, but the higher draws seem unable to take advantage of it due to the turning nature of the trip.

In terms of field size, the maximum number of runners is just 12 so there is nothing to add on that score.

A look at the individual draw positions now:

I must concede that I had not expected the individual draw data to be of much interest, but draws 6 to 8 are all in profit coupled with decent looking A/E values. This table does suggest there may be some value in that area of the draw. Draws 10 and 11 have also proved profitable, while draws 1 and 2 have both incurred significant losses (roughly 44 and 51p in the £). Those profits are backed up by increased win and place percentages.

It is unlikely the more recent data will paint a different picture but here are the stats from 2015 to 2019:

76 races is a decent sample and middle draws are best once again with a slightly higher win percentage in the last five years compared to the last 11 years.

Onto the A/E values for 2015-2019:

The middle third once again boasting a value figure of 1.00 or more which is a positive.

Now a look at the individual draw figures for this latest five-year period. It will be interesting to see how stalls 6 to 8 have fared over the shorter time frame:

Draws 6 and 7 have proved profitable in the win market over the past five seasons, while stall 8 has essentially broken even (did make a small each way profit). Once again draws 1 and 2 have lost decent sums, as have draws 3 and 5.

Catterick 6f Pace Bias (8+ Runner Handicaps)

Let us now turn to pace and running styles. Here are the overall figures going back to 2009:

These figures show that front runners have an edge of a similar degree to the one enjoyed by pace setters over 5f, albeit slightly less potent. However, we know that front running pace bias is generally stronger at five furlongs than six, and essentially this bias is a strong one for the distance. In terms of win percentage, Catterick’s front runner figures rate as the third strongest amongst UK turf courses (6f), while the A/E value puts this course and distance in fourth overall.

In terms of going, there does seem to be more of an edge for front runners on better ground. Let us examine the stats for 6f handicaps run on good going or firmer:

These are some impressive figures for front runners, which win close to one in every four races; meanwhile, hold up horses are at the opposite end of the scale winning less that 5% of the time on quick ground.

Onto good to soft or softer going now:

Prominent runners have an equally good record to front runners on this easier ground, but it should be noted that it seems even more difficult to win if racing mid-pack or at the rear early.

The penultimate tables in this 6f section looks at draw / pace (running style) combinations for front runners in 6f handicaps (2009 – 2019). I would expect lower draws to lead more often than higher ones simply due to the left handed configuration:

Higher draws do lead least often, but it is interesting to note that middle drawn horses have got to the lead slightly more often than lower drawn horses closer to the inside rail. It is also worth noting that hold up horses drawn low, just like at 5f, find it virtually impossible to win – just 4 have prevailed from 146 such runners.

Finally a look at the draw/pace heat map for Catterick's six furlongs, again sorted by percentage of rivals beaten (PRB).

The messages already shared are underscored by this image. Front runners have a solid edge almost regardless of draw, though those drawn middle to wide fare best of the trailblazers. Hold up horses have a lot to do, especially when drawn inside.

In summary, 6f handicaps at Catterick offer real interest from a pace perspective. Front runners enjoy a powerful edge which is strongest on good or firmer ground. Hold up horses have a very poor time of it. In terms of the draw one could argue there is some value in horses drawn in the middle with stalls 6, 7 and 8 seemingly best.

 

Catterick 7f Draw Bias (8+ runner handicaps)

The seven furlong trip is raced on the round course with low draws once again positioned next to the inside rail. 209 handicap races have been run with 8 or more runners since 2009. Here is the draw breakdown:

 

Clearly 7f is a very level playing field in terms of the draw. Onto the A/E values:

As with the 6f figures, A/E suggests that low draws are marginally overbet.

Field size potentially makes a small difference with very high draws finding it slightly harder to win. Races of 13 or more runners give these figures:

In truth however, it is nothing to write home about.

 

Ground conditions also offer no notable edge so let's move on to the individual draw positions:

Nothing clear cut although draws 7 and 8 have again secured a blind profit.

Time to check out more recent data, from 2015 onwards. There have been 88 qualifying races since the start of 2015, giving the following draw breakdown:

This shows a very similar perspective to the 11 year stats with a level playing field in terms of the draw. Below are the A/E values, which correlate well with the draw figures:

 

Onto the individual draw positions for the past five seasons:

Again, there is nothing clear cut although both draws 8 and 9 have secured a profit. Ultimately, it is probably fair to say that there is little interest from a draw perspective over Catterick's 7f trip.

Catterick 7f Pace Bias (8+ Runner Handicaps)

Onto pace now, and first a look at the overall pace data now (2009-2019):

The 7f distance does has a decent front running bias which, considering the lack of draw bias interest, is pleasing to report. As with the 5f and 6f trips, hold up horses really struggle.

Looking at how the going affects the results, and as with the 6f trip it seems that front runners over 7f do better when going gets firmer. Let me look at the stats for 7f handicaps run on good going or firmer:

The win percentage for front runners is again high, edging close to 23%.

As expected, on good to soft or softer front runners perform less well:

There is still a small edge for front runners but it is essentially only moderately significant.

A quick look at the impact of field size in 7f handicaps: in smaller fields over 7f (8 to 10 runners), the front running win percentage is 23.3% (A/E 1.62); in races of 13 or more runners the win percentage is 13.9% with an A/E of 1.37. So smaller fields are slightly better from a front running point of view.

Before closing, a look at draw / pace (running style) combinations.

First, the split for front runners in 7f handicaps (2009 – 2019):

Lower drawn horses are more likely to get to the front early. As with 5f and 6f races, low drawn horses that are held up have a poor record, this time notching just 10 wins from 259 runners (SR 3.8%).

Here is the draw/pace heat map through the prism of PRB:

The seeming irrelevance of draw is matched only by the consistently gradual impact of run style, from led (best) and prominent to mid-division (no edge) and held up (notably under-perform).

*

Catterick is a strongly pace-orientated track where handicap races from five- to seven-furlongs see front runners having much the best of it. Hold up horses really struggle and this is accentuated if they happen to be drawn low.

Indeed, of the 548 horses held up from a low draw in 8+ runner handicaps over seven furlongs or shorter since 2009, just 17 (3.1%) managed to win.

Specifically at five furlongs, the going is key from a draw perspective, with low dominating on good ground or firmer, and high faring best on softer ground. Over six furlongs, middle draws may have a slight edge, while over 7f there is no draw bias - though still a pace bias - under any conditions.

- DR

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. 

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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.

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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.

*

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.

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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.

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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%
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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%

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%

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%

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: