It's York's Dante meeting this week, and talk will inevitably focus on Derby and Oaks clues from some of the biggest races. But with what general info should punters at York arm themselves?
York Racecourse Configuration
The track at York features a six furlong straight down which races up to that distance are run. There is a dogleg start from a chute for seven furlong races, and a pretty tight bend into the home straight for races longer than that.
York Draw Information
So what impact, if any, does the shape of the racetrack - and indeed drainage - have on draw positions? The weather is set fair for the week and the going is currently good to firm, good in places - the clerk has stated that he will water to ensure broadly that ground. Using geegeez.co.uk's Draw Analyzer tool, offers the following insights:
Five furlong draw at York
Looking only at bigger field fast ground handicaps, we can see that there is a slight bias towards lower drawn horses. It is important, however, to check for an even spread of pace across the track: if high numbers have the early dash, that could well be enough to overcome any implied bias in the data.
Six furlong draw at York
At the longest range on the straight course, the higher numbers have seemed to have the best of it; but that's counter-intuitive when compared with five furlongs. Looking at the place data reveals a more even distribution and it may simply be that the place to be is where the pace is. I'd certainly be wary of calling a high draw bias based on the five- and six-furlong data herein.
Seven furlong draw at York
On the dogleg, there is an advantage to be drawn middle to high. Looking at the constitution of the track, that makes perfect sense as such runners have less distance to travel around the dogleg. Again, though, it won't make the difference between a horse winning and losing, it's just a mild negative for those drawn low.
1m/ 1m1f draw at York
The mile and nine furlong trips take in that sharp bend quite soon after the start of races, which can make life challenging for those trapped out wide. As a jockey, do you use up petrol trying to get handy, or take back and ride for luck? This is borne out in the data, which shows those on the outside winning far less often - and placing less often - than those drawn inside (low).
Although typically we should be a little wary of ostensible draw inferences at longer race distances, the shape of the racecourse helps to explain this particular - genuine - bias.
Draw at longer trips at York
We then get into the middle distance realms where, generally speaking, we would not expect to see a draw bias. And that is the case: although low is ostensibly unfavoured, there is very little in it in place terms. That said, it is probably not ideal to be drawn low, as the jockey has to choose between being at the head of the peloton and not benefitting from drafting behind other horses, getting subsumed within the pack as wider-drawn horses congregate around. The former is ineffiicent, the latter requires luck as well as judgment.
York Pace Information
So that's draw, but what of pace? Are particular run styles favoured on the Knavesmire?
As with most courses, the front is the place to be in sprint handicaps: front runners at York in big field fast ground 5f handicaps win more than two-and-a-quarter times as often as random, and are profitable to back blindly. Of course, the problem there is that we don't know which horse will lead until the race is underway. However, we can project that fairly accurately based on historical run styles. Naturally, Geegeez Gold will inform you of what you need to know with a couple of mouse clicks.
At six furlongs, the advantage to trailblazers is less pronounced but still present. Specifically, they win at an Impact Value of 1.86, a strike rate of 10%, and a modest SP profit. But you might go a long time between drinks with that overall hit ratio.
Those at the front still win most often at seven furlongs in big field fast ground handicaps, but they are not profitable to back blindly and nor will a strike rate of one-in-nine keep you from insanity!
It's worth adding that hold up horses at both six and seven furlongs fare better than those racing either prominently or in mid-division in general run style terms.
Over a mile, slipping the field is tricky - just three of 33 front runners in the studied context managed to achieve it - but it remains better than 8%, 4% and 5% respectively for prominent, midfield and held up runners. Here, those looking to come from off the pace are the most inconvenienced, perhaps because of the impact of that sharp bend.
There are no nine furlong races at York's Dante meeting, and at ten furlongs there is no discernible pace bias. But at a mile and a half, it pays to be played late: those which led or raced prominently in big field fast ground twelve-furlong handicaps are a collective 7-222 (3% strike rate) for a starting price loss of £161.50 (73% of stakes!). Compare that to midfield or hold up racers, and their 8% strike rate and 1.31 impact value.
Top York Handicap Trainers in May
You may well have seen lists of trainers to follow elsewhere, and fair play to the publishers. Here I want to look only at handicap runners in the last five years at this three-day meeting.
At the top of the pile are two very different operators, David O'Meara and Sir Michael Stoute. The former fires plenty of bullets, and as can be seen from the 20.75 point profit at SP, he lands some of his longer-priced entries. Meanwhile, Sir Michael is more selective, having saddled just 16 such runners in the last five years. Five of them won, for a profit of 12.14 points, so they're to be taken seriously.
Elsewhere and surely everyone knows how much Willie Haggas, a Yorkshireman exiled in Newmarket, loves a winner here. His three-from-sixteen in Dante meeting handicaps in the last five years is respectable, the 43% ROI very much so.
At the other end of the scale, beware Richard Fahey. He can win, and has won, with handicappers at this meeting, but a two-from 104 record - both short prices and both with the same horse, Dusky Queen - is lamentable, even if the place rate implies a degree of misfortune in not converting at least a few more runners-up into winners.
The Easterby's, Mick and Tim, get winners here, but not as often as many (including me!) remember: just five from 99 between them for a loss at SP of 54 points. And Kevin Ryan and John Quinn are 0 from 61 between them in recent years, though both head to the Knavesmire in blistering form this time around.
York Big Race Trends
Andy Newton, our big race trends guy, has pored over the data and come up with some pointers for the bigger races. You can find his work here:
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