Ayr's Western meeting is headlined by the Gold Cup, a very high class six furlong handicap. Such is its popularity that the meeting also hosts not one but two consolation races, the Silver and Bronze Cups.
What that means is a reasonable body of big field evidence from which to conjecture about the draw. Geegeez Gold also has some pretty neat tools to support those ruminations.
First, we need to establish the likely going. With a largely dry forecast, the ground should be somewhere between good and good to soft by Saturday, when the Silver and Gold Cups are hosted. Today, the official going is soft, good to soft in places. We'll use the history of all big field six furlong sprints since 2009 at the track.
Ayr 6 Furlong Draw (Overall)
Here's how the high/middle/low split looks in six furlong races of 16 runners or more since 2009 at Ayr:
As you can see, low is marginally favoured over middle, which in turn is favoured over high. That's based on place percentages across a sample of almost 600 runners.
Ayr 6 Furlong Draw (Good, Good to Soft, Soft only)
Because we have a reasonable (relative to other course/distance combinations) sample size, we can restrict our going range to something closer to this weekend's reality. In this image, I'm looking only at soft to good ground:
Here we can see that low is still favoured, though not by as much, with high some way behind. All of these views show the place percentage, which allows for a slightly largely sample of placers than winners. Focusing only on winners would show a similar 'low and middle dominating high' perspective.
A More Granular Look...
So that's cut and dried then, no? Low to middle favoured. High can win but historically not so much. Sadly, it's not quite as simple as that. Look at this race-by-race breakdown of the draw positions of the placed horses in 16+ runners six furlong races run at Ayr on ground ranging from good through to soft, since 2009.
What is striking - to me - is how 'random' the spread of stall positions is. But look more closely and you might be able to discern a 'cluster' effect: groups of proximitous stalls appearing in the same result.
Holy Clusters, Batman!
Last year, the Gold Cup first four were in stalls between four and nine; and the Silver Cup saw three of the first four home in adjacent boxes two to four. Indeed, in the image below we can see how prevalent this place clustering actually is.
Note the red comments, where three or all four placed horses came from a small portion of the draw. This starts to look anything but random. And yet, we still have the challenge of establishing, ahead of time, where these 'pockets of success' might be. The crucial thing is that, over the course of seven years, they have - on different occasions - been spread across the track.
What About Pace?
So perhaps there is no discernible draw bias. Is that possible? In the below table, I've added some early pace information. Below the table, I'll explain what it means.
This was somewhat labour intensive, and is a little bit subjective, in terms of using pace comments to determine those with early dash in the races. However, as a totality, I think there are some interesting findings.
The green numbers in the placing boxes are placed horses that had early pace in the race. The stall positions, quantity, and placed quantity, of early pacers are in the three right hand columns.
Of the 460 runners to contest these 19 races, 76 filled out the first four placings (16.5%). The 131 early pacers (28.5% of the runners) managed to claim 29 of the 76 top four placings (38%), which is a third higher than random.
So we can be reasonably confident that early pace is generally favoured in these races, something borne out by Gold's pace tab:
The table below the blobs shows a clear linear relationship, especially on place percentage, by run style. Early leaders are almost twice as likely to win than random, while those held up perform significantly below expectations. Of course, the 'tail end Charlie' group includes a lot of no-hopers in open race company, which over-emphasizes the point but, nevertheless, a prominent/front rank early position is generally advantageous.
Although the data are far from unequivocal - sadly, pigeonholes rarely work effectively when trying to solve the biggest racing puzzles - it would seem that pace is a more important commodity than draw, although being drawn close to some 'community pace' looks a solid advantage.
Who's going to win? Bronze Cup
This is the bit where I put my money where my mouth is. Using the info above, as well as the Instant Expert and various other bits and bobs, I'll offer a suggestion or two. Keep in mind that the scope for egg on face here is high, so caveat emptor!
Pretty much all of the early zip looks to be low, as you can see here:
Here's what the Instant Expert makes of the form in the book:
Ocean Sheridan, drawn nine, and a fan of softish ground, has shown he can handle big fields and is a distance specialist. He represents a northern trainer who targets the meeting, and should run a big race at around 10/1.
Giant Spark has an obvious chance, one which is very well accounted for in a quote of 5/1.
At bigger prices, Marjorie Fife's Best Trip could blaze a trail for a long way, and come out best of her three entries. 25/1 should give a run for your money at least.
A good egg on face avoidance strategy is to take one from 'the other side' just in case (!), and Adrian Keatley's Anonymous Lady has plenty of juice in her quote of 25/1. Keatley showed yesterday he's in fine fettle, and has a belting overall record at the track.
Who's going to win? Gold and Silver Cups
Here at geegeez, we try to teach people to fish, as the old adage goes, and we have top of the range rods and bait inside Geegeez Gold. So it is that, with a nod of encouragement, I invite you to do your own angling for a tasty fish supper in Saturday's races. If you come up dry, don't carp about it though (groan)!
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