Marco Ghiani wins aboard Real World in the Royal Hunt Cup

Statistical Guide to Royal Ascot 2024 Mile Handicaps

By the time you read this, Royal Ascot will be just days away, writes David Renham. It is one of my favourite meetings of the year, and I am guessing that will be the same for many readers. In this article, I will delve into Royal Ascot data going back 15 years (2009-2023) in preparation for the upcoming festival. Any profit/loss has been calculated to Industry SP, but I will quote Betfair SP where appropriate. My focus will be exclusively on Royal Ascot's mile handicap races.

There are four one mile handicaps scheduled for this year’s meeting: the Royal Hunt Cup, Britannia, Sandringham, and the relatively new Kensington Palace. The first three are run on the straight course; the Kensington Palace transpires on the round course. These races tend to have big fields, especially the straight-track ones. Going back to 2009, 41 of the 49 mile handicaps at the Royal meeting have seen at least twenty runners go to post. Only one of these took place on the round course.

Market Rank

Firstly, let us look at the performance of different positions in the market. Any ‘joints’ have been combined, so when it says ‘favourites’, it includes joint favourites. I have added each way percentages as many punters bet each way in big field handicaps:

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It is interesting to note how well favourites and second favourites have fared, scoring in 17 of the 49 races. This equates to winning 34.7% of the races from just 8.7% of the total runners. If you focused on clear favourites, their results improved to 9 wins from 43 (SR 20.9%) for a profit of £6.75 (ROI +15.7%). Betting to BSP would have slightly improved matters to +£10.02 (ROI +23.3%). From a place perspective, it certainly looks worth considering putting either the favourite or second favourite in any placepot perm.

Horses outside the top ten in the betting have a poor record, as you would expect. Big-priced winners will occasionally pop up, but losses of over 65p in the £ for these outsiders do not inspire me too much to look beyond the more obvious. The biggest-priced winner has been 40/1 (Rising Star in the Kensington Palace in 2022), and she is the only winner from 357 horses that have started 40/1 or bigger.

Race Type Last Time Out (LTO)

Looking at the type of race these runners ran in last time out has uncovered a potential edge as the table below shows:



Horses that contested a handicap last time have a much better record than those who raced in a non-handicap. Regarding Betfair SP returns, LTO handicap runners lost less than 1p in the £, while LTO non-handicap runners lost a whopping 53p in the £.

Beaten Distance Last Time Out

My next port of call is to look at LTO performance, focusing on how far horses were beaten. The graph below looks first at the win strike rate (LTO winners are grouped with horses that were beaten less than a length):



Winners/horses beaten less than a length LTO have certainly got the better of the ‘battle’ from a win strike rate perspective. How does that equate to returns to SP? Here are those findings:



We see a good correlation here with the previous graph—losses of around 13p in the £ for LTO winners/horses beaten less than a length. In fact, at BSP, this 13% loss became a 12.5% profit. In contrast, there have been enormous losses for horses that were beaten one or more lengths in that most recent spin.

Finally, for this section, a look at the A/E indices:



There is a further positive correlation here, and all the data gathered points to keeping a close eye on any LTO runner that won or ran the winner to less than a length.

Market Rank LTO

Whenever I am interested in backing a horse, I always look back at their last run's price or market position. Indeed, personally, I often look at their previous three or four races in terms of odds/market rank. Hence, I thought seeing what I could find for these Ascot races would be worthwhile. Here are my findings:



As you can see, the percentage play is to be backing horses in the top five of the betting LTO rather than those 6th or higher on their most recent outing. They are better value; they have more chance of winning and more chance of getting placed. Regarding BSP returns, horses first to fifth in the betting last time would have lost you 13p in the £, and those 6th+ would have stung you for 41p in the £.

Draw Position

The draw in big field straight course races at Royal Ascot has been discussed in past articles, including this one. Arguably, it can be the most important factor, especially if one section of the track seems to be at a significant disadvantage. Here is some draw analysis of the last nine Royal Ascot straight track mile handicap races, covering the years 2021 to 2023:



Taking all nine races in combination, a draw in the top half (middle to high) has tended to be favoured.

There are other big field handicaps run at the meeting, including the Wokingham over 6f and the Buckingham Palace raced over 7f. Last year, both these races displayed a higher draw bias, so taking these two races in conjunction with the three mile straight track handicaps, you have to conclude that higher draws generally held sway at the 2023 Royal meeting.

What will happen this year? Well, that is the 64-million-dollar question. Only time will tell...

Running Style

Onto an area that is finally starting to get more attention from the racing press, and it is one I have been championing and studying for a long time. For this section, I have focussed on the forty 1-mile handicaps with the most extensive fields (20+) run on the straight course, contested between 2009 and 2023.

21 of the 40 races (52.5%) were won by a horse that was held up early in the race. Hold-up horses account for 36% of all the runners, so they have won around 1.45 times more than they statistically should. It should also be noted that hold-up horses have been twice as likely to get placed compared to prominent runners.

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I thought comparing the Percentage of Rivals Beaten (PRB) for all running styles in these 20 runner+ straight course races would be useful. Here are the splits:



Based on the data shared previously, it is no surprise to see hold-up horses comfortably doing best.

As we have already seen, these races contain plenty of big-priced runners/outsiders, so below I have narrowed down the run style data and homed in on those runners that started at 20/1 or shorter. Did the PRB figures project a similar trend? Here are the splits:



We see the same pattern as before. Hence, looking at both sets of figures, the ‘ideal’ type will be a horse that comes from off the pace and delivers a challenge late, be it from a position near the back early or from a more midfield sit.



These big field mile handicaps certainly seem to have some general trends that we can apply to all four races. This is even though all four have differences (e.g. sex of runners, age restrictions, etc). In terms of the general trends, favourites and second favourites perform above expectations; last time winners or those beaten less than a length have proved much better value than those beaten LTO by one length or more; horses that ran in a handicap LTO have outperformed those that ran previously in a non-handicap; horses that were in the top five of the betting LTO are better betting propositions than those who were 6th or bigger in the betting.

As regards the big field straight course handicaps, we can add that a higher draw has been preferable recently, but it is important to keep an open mind. In terms of run style, the winners will typically race mid-pack or towards the back early.


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2 replies
  1. Russ
    Russ says:

    Great work Dave. An essential calling point for anyone contemplating a bet in these races. Your efforts save a lot of labour for those reading this article.

    I can add an extra helpful hint. I keep statistical data on run style based on comments in running that goes well beyond early race position. Some of it is tactical and some of it relates to the type of horse. There’s no question that over the straight 1m course at Ascot (in these types of handicaps) that strong travelling, free going (keen) horses are significantly advantaged. Avoid horses that often attract the comment ‘pushed along’ in their past comments in running.

    Good luck to all who take the plunge!


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