Ascot Racecourse aerial view from Google Maps. Round course is typified by tight bends which favour prominent racers

Royal Ascot 2020: Course Overview and Draw Bias

Royal Ascot 2020 will be the best domestic flat race meeting of the year so far, and perhaps of the year as a whole in this creatively concertinaed campaign. It will also be among the hardest from which to derive a betting profit.

With a meeting like Royal Ascot, especially the expanded version this season, it is imperative to have a game plan: this is a five-day fixture comprised in 2020 of thirty-six races (six more than normal), so let us attempt to know what we can know about the course and any nuances or biases it may have.

Ascot Course Characteristics

Ascot's course layout: straight up to a mile, with longer races on the round course. Also a round mile

Ascot's course layout: straight up to a mile, with longer races on the round course. Also a round mile

Uphill

The above graphic illustrates the stiff test that the Ascot racecourse represents, with the red triangle just past the winning post signifying the highest point on the course. Thus there is an uphill drag almost the whole way up the straight. On the round course, the lowest point is at the round mile (Old Mile) start, meaning that distance is also almost entirely uphill, too.

For more extended races on the round course, which is actually closer to being triangular than round, there is some early respite in the loop prior to the long climb for glory.

Tight bends

It is also worth noting that the bend into the home straight for round course races is tight and, being situated just two and a half furlongs from the finish, can cause trouble in running with horses either locked in a pocket or having to fan very wide on the turn to find daylight.

For round course races, then, it is often advantageous to be on or close to the pace: here, a horse and rider will have no traffic problems and, if the fuel has been burned proportionately, can slingshot into the straight and prove very hard to peg back.

The main focus of this article, however, is on the straight track, and will cover draw, pace and draw/pace composite analyses for each of five-, six-, seven-, and eight-furlong races.

Ascot Draw / Pace Bias

There may then be a pace bias on the round course, but what of the straight track? Races here are run at five, six, seven and eight furlongs, many of them big field handicaps or Group race sprints, and our Draw Analyser can help understand historical advantages.

Ascot 5f Draw Bias

The below chart shows something we call PRB3 for five-furlong races of 14 runners or more (good or quicker) since 2009, based on actual draw (i.e. after non-runners have been accounted for). PRB3 is the rolling three-stall average percentage of rivals beaten and it helps to better quantify the merit of a particular part of the track from a draw perspective. More information on PRB3 can be found here.

An average PRB score would be 50%, or 0.5, implying that a horse beat as many horses as beat it. Thus, any part of the track where the PRB(3) score is consistently greater than 0.5 implies a draw advantage. The converse is also true: a PRB(3) consistently below 0.5 implies a disadvantage in the starting stalls postcode lottery.

It can be seen, then, that, generally speaking, high numbers enjoy a slight benefit in big fields.

Ascot 5f Pace Bias

Horses racing from the front in big fields up Ascot's five furlong straight have fared best, as can be seen below. This information is derived from our Pace Analyser tool. The chart is based on place percentages, but the story is similar in the win context, too, as can be seen from the table and the coloured blobs above the chart.

 

The coloured blobs tell us that runners which led (or were very close to the pace, e.g. "pressed leader") in big field fast ground five furlong races at Ascot won nine races from 95 horses to adopt such a run style. That's a little under 10%, and was worth a profit at starting price of £20.50 to a £1 level stake. All other run styles were loss-making with win and place strike rates between half and two-thirds that of early leaders.

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That is not to say it is always easy to identify the early speed, nor that a one-in-ten hit rate will be plain sailing; but it is worth knowing that pace bias looks a little stronger than draw bias at the minimum on fast ground and in big fields.

Ascot 5f Draw / Pace Combinations

As might be expected, runners with early pace that were drawn high have fared best in big field five-furlong races at Ascot. Our Draw Analyser tool - and the Draw tab within any race in our racecards - contains a heat map illustrating the draw/run style combinations. Sorted by percentage of rivals beaten, it looks like this:

As can be seen, horses are able to run their race from anywhere on the track, with no big negatives. However, there does appear to be a 'green triangle' for pace pressers drawn middle to high, with high drawn leaders significantly outperforming the 0.5 benchmark.

Ascot 5f Draw / Pace Summary

High draws may have the best of it in big field fast ground five-furlong races. So, too, may pace pressers. And being a fast starter drawn high compounds those positives, with five from 20 such runners prevailing (+23.5 at SP), and another four making the frame.

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Ascot 6f Draw Bias

It's a similar story over six furlongs. If there is a stalls position bias, it might be slightly against low drawn horses, with middle to high persistently above the 0.5 mark as can be seen from this chart:

One important caveat to that is stall one, hard against the rail. That post position has secured seven winners from 58 to depart there, at a 12% clip (+44 level stakes at SP). It might be that the watering doesn't quite reach the innermost strip of turf and/or that the rail helps the runner there maintain its position. Either way, it looks material for all that it could be coincidental. [Stall one also outperformed its near neighbours, though to a lesser extent, over five furlongs.]

Ascot 6f Pace Bias

It is harder to lead all the way at six furlongs than it is at five, as can be seen by comparing the image below with the equivalent for the minimum trip above. Nevertheless, early leaders still have the best win and place strike rates, and an impact value of greater than 1.5. Those held up have also fared well relatively, with prominent and midfield runners collectively faring only as well as held up horses, from an almost 50% bigger sample.

Ascot 6f Draw / Pace Combinations

The combination of a high draw and early speed is again seen to good effect in the below 6f draw/pace heat map. But note also the performance of middle-to-high draws which are waited with. Any score of 0.55 or above can be considered meritorious in the general context of percentage of rivals beaten (PRB).

Ascot 6f Draw / Pace Summary

Over the six furlong range at Ascot, it is a similar story to the five furlong summary: early speed and a high draw are seen to best effect. But note the improved performance of hold up types, who are often exhilarating to watch if generally exasperating to wager!

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Ascot 7f Draw Bias

The picture becomes less clear still when we move up in range to Ascot's straight seven furlongs. Although those berthed highest have fared best, in percentage of rivals beaten terms, the scale on the vertical axis of this chart is narrower: there is a less pronounced draw bias, indeed arguably there is nothing worth noting.

Ascot 7f Pace Bias

It is a long way home in a big field cavalry charge up the stiff straight seven furlongs, and those waited with have performed clearly best. The chart below is sorted by place percentage for the sake of consistency with previously discussed distances, but the win percentage line would have been even more striking.

Indeed, perusing the table reveals that held up runners have won more seven-furlong Ascot races than the other run styles combined! Numerically, they've prevailed at 6.73% compared with all other run styles' combined 3.72%. It is clear that patience is a virtue in this particular trial.

Ascot 7f Draw / Pace Combinations

The heat map again ratifies the individual considerations of draw and pace, with those draw away from low and held up generally performing best, in PRB terms.

As an indicator of how difficult it is to win at Ascot over seven furlongs from the front, I've included the same heat map sorted this time by win percent:

Just two of the 90 horses to have vied for the early lead in the sample managed to get home. Middle to high and waited with achieved significantly more.

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Ascot Straight Mile Draw Bias

In fuller fields on the straight mile course, close to a wing has been better than up the middle, perhaps providing greater assurance of 'a run' away from the density of what can be a highly populous centre pack:

Ascot Straight Mile Pace Bias

From a pace perspective, the pendulum swing has completed its arc, with held up runners now not only ascendant in win strike rate terms but also profitable to back. Indeed a £1 e/w bet on all such runners over Ascot's straight mile would have yielded a surplus of £83.60. Hold up types have won as many races as all other run styles combined from slightly more than half as many runners.

Those racing prominently have a horrible record, winning at not markedly better than 1% of the time.

Ascot Straight Mile Draw / Pace Combinations

This is a classic heat map image, with a clear diffusion of colour: greens at the back, oranges and reds at the front. There is little of note in terms of stall position but a stonewall takeaway from a run style perspective.

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Ascot Straight Track Draw and Pace Summary

As with all tracks, it is a very solid starting point for your wagering considerations to understand the constitution of the course and any general principles which may assist. Our racecourse pages, including this one for Ascot, will help in that regard.

Based on what has been shown above, there is a pleasingly clean pattern to proceedings:

- Pace pressers perform best in five and six furlong sprints, more so at the shorter trip.

- It is much harder to hold on to the lead at seven furlongs and a mile, where waited-with types have the best of it.

- Generally speaking, middle to high is better than low at up to seven furlongs on the straight track, while...

- It may be preferable to be drawn closer to one rail or other in big field straight mile races, particularly if you like a hold up type.

It is unlikely that any of the above will help find winners by itself, but it ought to steer generally in the right direction. Naturally, Geegeez Gold has many more tools to assist the elimination process, and you can find out more about them here. Good luck!

Matt

11 replies
  1. russsmithgg
    russsmithgg says:

    Hi Matt,

    Some quality information as always. Help is always needed for this meeting!

    I’ve recently completed an analysis of the points at which handicap winners typically hit the front across every course and distance in the country (using Excel filtering across comments in running from 20 years worth of UK data). The most significant stat at Ascot is over 7f which deviates sharply from most other 7f courses in terms of tactical advantage. I can endorse what you say about patience being a virtue but punters should be wary of horses who habitually leave it very late, ie striking the front inside the final 100 yards. The stats show that 75% of winners here hit the front between over 1f out and 100 yards out (the norm across all tracks is almost 49%) with just 12.5% succeeding later than that (compared to 18% which is the average across all tracks for very late pouncers). The most advantageous angle is finding a horse who has shown a tendency to take it up inside the first half of the final furlong (38% of winners over this C&D).

    This all might sound a little anal but when sorting out a cavalry charge, these extra factors are well worth knowing about alongside the myriad of other factors we all need to consider!

    Cheers
    Russ

    Reply
    • Matt Bisogno
      Matt Bisogno says:

      Great insights, Russ, thanks for sharing. Out of interest, how did you pull that intel together?

      Matt

      Reply
  2. russsmithgg
    russsmithgg says:

    Hi Matt,

    I already had a database of race data of my own covering 1999-2007 and I supplemented this with race data from 2008 onwards from another vendor. Having combined the key fields from all of this data (ie, course, distance, going, horse, comment in running), I set about categorising the call points as follows :-

    – Last 100 yards
    – Inside final furlong (but not less than 100 yards out)
    – At the final furlong
    – Over 1 furlong out
    – 2 furlongs out
    – 3 or more furlongs out
    – Made all/most of running

    I assembled all the data in Excel and worked through all the various comment permutations (including some very tricky ones!) filtering on things like ‘Led 1f out’, ‘Led close home’ etc. On pinning down such comments, I colour coded the cell containing the comment to fit the above so each one was in the right bucket (ie, call point). Any comment that was ambiguous was discarded. I concentrated handicaps of 8+ runners and kept turf and AW data separate to each other. This took about 2 weeks to do.

    I then wanted to understand the frequency with which winners led at the various call points across ALL courses at EACH distance to establish a standard baseline expectation per distance. So I filtered this data by each course and distance and used the Excel ‘Filter By Colour’ function to give me the subsets of data (ie, winners) for each call point. The total row counts were easy to find using Excel and I converted these into percentage breakdowns (for that C&D). This allowed a simple comparison against the overall standard for any given distance. I’m now establishing impact values based on these (Excel makes this an easy task).

    There is admittedly a degree of inaccuracy when using comments in running but it’s possible to establish broad guidance. Horses often have repeatable run styles so it’s a useful tool. Sectional timing could take this science onto a much more accurate footing of course and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if someone exploited that technology to this same end. Food for thought, Matt?!

    Cheers
    Russ

    Reply
    • Matt Bisogno
      Matt Bisogno says:

      Thanks for sharing, Russ. Sounds like a very interesting project.

      Again, if you don’t mind my asking, how do you use the data for betting purposes?

      Matt

      Reply
  3. russsmithgg
    russsmithgg says:

    I’ve not had a bet yet this season since pulling the main stats together in truth, Matt (am busy finalising some trainer stats before putting my betting boots on!). I note today also an anomaly in my baselines which I need to address (doesn’t change what I said about Ascot 7f but the numbers will likely be a bit different once tuned). I also need to look at going influences in more detail.

    The plan is to look for horses who have recurring run styles and look to support or oppose them dependent on what the C&D bias reveals. Some C&Ds favour a horse who can sustain a lead from well over 1f out (eg, Yarmouth 1m3f) and some favour those who can be produced to win in the dying strides (eg, Lingfield AW 5f). Every day we see horses who are ridden to be produced at approximately the same points each time they’ve put in a past competitive effort. Some horses take a long time to do things, some have gears, some can sustain an extended late effort. I’m really no expert – it’ll be a case of scrutinising comments in running on your site.

    I don’t plan to allow this to dominate my approach though as other factors are too important to ignore. It will be interesting though to have this extra factor to hand though as it goes a degree further than the pace biases that your site admirably exposes. Besides I had to do something with my time during lockdown :-).

    It might all prove a complete folly of course and I’m prepared for that outcome too!

    Cheers
    Russ

    Reply
    • Matt Bisogno
      Matt Bisogno says:

      Thanks again for the explanations, Russ. Fascinating project, and I hope you’re able to derive the utility your efforts deserve when the boots go on!

      Best,
      Matt

      Reply
  4. gormers
    gormers says:

    Thanks Russ for posting
    It’s sparked my aged brain cells into life thinking about your comments

    Matt ….. offer this chap a job

    Reply
  5. Paul
    Paul says:

    Great article and fascinating discussion. On a more prosaic level, does anyone know the stall position for the straight course as relating to stands side or far side. I know low numbers are on the inside on the round course. I can’t find the answer for the straight course. Following through from the round course logic it would suggest low is on the far side.

    Paul

    Reply
  6. Craig
    Craig says:

    Trainer angles is my preferred route into the Royal Meeting, Roger Varian does extremely well with his runners after a long break…certainly a trainer to bear in mind over the next few days.
    Interesting comments from Russ, I would be interested on any thoughts on trainers stats for the coming months…

    Best of Luck

    Reply
    • russsmithgg
      russsmithgg says:

      Hi Craig,

      I’ve been collecting stats on trainers in terms of their profitability when raising and dropping horses in class and distance in handicaps. This is a fantastic site for gathering stats but at present it only flags up significant stats for trainers moving their horses up in trip. There are some really talented trainers out there like Karen Tutty, Dean Ivory, Karen McLintock, Tony Newcombe, David Menuisier, Charlie Fellowes and many others who have some very significant records in this respect. I’d like to gather stats on exposure of various trainers inmates when they first strike in handicaps. Again this site offers some insights like 1st and 2nd start in handicaps but it doesn’t give the bigger picture unless you’re prepared to embark on a lot of manual work. One interesting angle you can exploit on this site is use of claiming riders by using Query Tool – a pursuit well worth spending some time on.

      Good luck with your own trainer angles.

      Cheers
      Russ

      Reply

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