It's York's Ebor meeting this week, and talk will inevitably focus on the form of Aidan O'Brien and Mark Johnston, among many other things. But with what general info should punters at York arm themselves? This article, revised since first publication for the Dante meeting, should help.
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. There is more information on our York course info page.
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 August (Ebor meeting)
You may well have seen lists of trainers to follow elsewhere, and fair play to the publishers. Here I want to look at trainer performance overall, and by race type.
York Ebor Meeting: Overall Trainers, 25+ runners, 2013-2017
There are some interest headlines here. First, if Mark Johnston still needs a winner to get to his 'most winners trained' landmark, it may happen at a place other than York: his record of four winners from 101 runners on the Knavesmire in August is extremely moderate. The 23% place rate suggests there may be some variance in there but even allowing for that Johnston normally hits the frame at around 35%.
Next, Aidan O'Brien. Tony Keenan has established chapter and verse on the Ballydoyle Ebor efforts in this excellent post, and it can be seen from the below that York's meeting is not a hugely successful one for the Coolmore head handler: five wins from 45 runners, 0.72 A/E.
Richard Fahey, Brian Ellison, and Richard Hannon are others about whom to be apprehensive in the general context, though further digging below may shine a more favourable light on some sections of their entry.
On a more positive front, William Haggas, famously a Yorkshireman exiled in Newmarket, relishes the opportunity to plunder pots at his home racetrack; and he does so regularly. His 12 winners in the last five years is almost double the next best haul, with Haggas even managing to chisel out a profit and a positive A/E for followers.
To a lesser degree, and on greater volume, both Kevin Ryan and David O'Meara can be expected to challenge more than once during Ebor week. Their seven winners apiece from 80-odd runners each, as well as their 25% place strike rates (20 placers each) are very similar.
And it's been a good meeting for Godolphin, both Charlie and Saeed recording positive punting figures from ten shared victories. Look out for the blue boys again this week.
York Ebor Meeting: Handicap Trainers, 15+ runners, 2013-2017
Specifically in handicaps, there is little of value to be gleaned from this table, except perhaps that the place records of David Barron, Richard Fahey and notably William Haggas - whose overall record is so strong - suggest that caution is advised.
Ebor meeting handicaps are notoriously difficult to win and, as such, Kevin Ryan's four victories, supplemented by a 31% place strike rate, mean his 'cap runners are generally worth a second squint.
York Ebor Meeting: Pattern (Listed or better) Race Trainer performance, 10+ runners, 2013-2017
In the good races at the Ebor meeting, we see from where a clutch of Haggas's winners have emerged: six from 26 in Pattern races is an excellent haul, and with 50% of his Pattern runners making the frame for a decent each-way profit, this is a headline takeaway.
Charlie Appleby, too, has fared very well in this subset of races, albeit on a smaller sample to date.
On the downside, Mark Johnston's one from 20 is poor, but 25% placing is less so. I'd still rather be against them, but wouldn't blanket discount. Aidan O'Brien has an overall win rate in UK Pattern races of 18.24% (1st August 2013 to present), which makes his 12.2% Ebor meeting hit rate unsatisfactory. Allied to concerns about the health of some of the team, they have to be swerved just now, notwithstanding that some will probably win: it is simply that the market has yet to account for the negative factors surrounding the yard at this time. [Of course, that could change].
York Ebor Meeting: Class 2 or lower Non-Handicap Trainer performance, selected, 2013-2017
Here we are essentially talking about maiden and/or novice races, and we can see that Haggas again sits top of the tree. Richard Hannon's otherwise poor record at the meeting is solid if not bankable in this race type. Luca Cumani's two from two came in 2014/15 with 25/1 White Lake and 12/1 Beautiful Morning. It may be asking a lot for lightning to strike thrice but any entries should be noted.
Local lads Ryan and Fahey look to be largely entertaining owners at their marquee home fixture and their entries can be pretty much overlooked in this context.
Ebor Trainer Summary
The main trainer takeaways for me are:
- Beware Johnston and Fahey, who will hurl a huge amount of clay onto the Ebor meeting wheel, most of which will spin off
- William Haggas is da man, but not in handicaps
- David O'Meara and Kevin Ryan must be kept onside in Ebor handicaps, though it is unlikely to be as simple as blindly supporting them
- Godolphin trainers ought to go well
- Aidan O'Brien is on the 'handle with care' list and his runners may make for better prices elsewhere as current issues are not seemingly factored into APOB entry odds
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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