Posts

Ejtilaab Has Plenty In His Favour In Chester Handicap

Not the greatest line up for the ITV cameras this weekend ahead of next week’s Epsom classics but some decent enough handicaps, complicated slightly by how much the ground will be drying during what we can finally call ‘summer weather’. One of the more interesting betting races of the weekend could be run at Chester, their 7.5f handicap at 2.40pm features several in form contenders and as you’ll expect at Chester, there will be a strong draw and pace bias.

All of the data used below is available through a Geegeez Gold subscription. Click here to get your first 30 days of Geegeez Gold for just £1.

Draw

Everyone knows about the draw bias at Chester but it does vary depending on distance, how strong is it over this 7.5f trip?

A field of twelve go to post here (although a couple of high drawn withdrawals can never be ruled out at this venue) and we have a decent enough sample size on this sort of ground.

Unsurprisingly the low draws provide most winners but there is not as much between low and middle as you may think. Low draws have a win percentage of 11.18% compared to middle’s 9.72%. The place percentages are almost identical and there isn’t a massive amount between the PRB figures either (0.55 for low draws, 0.52 for middle).

The market clearly hasn’t reacted to the fact that middle draws perform only very slightly worse than low draws - middle draws have been profitable to back both win and each way and produce the best A/E figures.

What is also clear is that a high draw definitely is a disadvantage with a PRB of just 0.43.

There is bound to be a point at which a good draw starts becoming a bad draw so let’s take a look at the individual stall data.

Ignoring the data for stall 13 (small sample size and only 12 runners here), the best stalls appear to be 2, 6 and 8 when looking at the PRB figures. There is a massive drop off in performance when looking at stalls 9, 10, 11 and 12, which are the four worst stalls, and it looks like you certainly don’t want to be drawn any higher than 8. It’s interesting that stall 8 has a strong PRB figure of 0.55 yet has only produced a single winner from thirty-eight races. A horse can clearly run well from stall 8 but a place looks far more likely than a win from there.

Stalls 1 to 7 inclusive have generated 79% of the winners in this sample so unless you have found something you think could place at a big price or has a massive amount in hand of the handicapper you are best off concentrating on these seven stalls to find the likely winner.

Pace

Draw is rarely an underestimated factor at Chester but pace regularly is. How strong a pace bias is there over this trip?

The front running bias isn’t as strong as over some shorter distances here but it certainly still exists. Front runners have both the best win percentage (11.29%) and place percentage (38.71%). The success rate falls steadily for both win percentages and place percentages the further back in the field you go and it’s interesting that whilst there isn’t much between front running and racing prominently as far as win percentage goes, front running produces a far superior place percentage. Front running is the only style of racing that produces a profit here and it does so for both win and each way bets.

Pace Map

This is the pace map for this race, based on the last two runs of each runner.

Not a huge amount of pace in this one, with Ejtilaab looking a likely pace angle from stall 1. Alexander James and Hey Jonsey look likely to track the pace and be well placed from their favourable draws whilst the likes of Mission Boy, Another Batt, King’s Knight, Hayadh and even Azano would ideally want to be at least handy but the higher they are drawn, they better they’ll need to break to get their desired positions without being posted very wide.

With so many prominent racers in this field the higher drawn prominent racers risk going too hard to get to the front, being posted very wide if they race where they’d normally race or being positioned further back than they’d normally like.

A lot of Hayadh’s form is over further so whether he has the early pace to get across is open to debate. Azano would ordinarily try to lead, he missed the break a couple of starts back so had to settle for racing handily and he certainly won’t get near the lead if he misses the break here from stall 12.

Those in the rear are likely to struggle given the lack of likely breakneck pace around this course so the likes of Boardman, Tadleel, Via Serendipity and Gabrial The Wire are likely to be at a disadvantage.

Draw and Pace Combination

With such a strong draw advantage and pace bias it’s pretty likely the draw and pace combination heat map will show if these advantages and disadvantages are compounded when put together.

Unsurprisingly the combination of a low draw and early pace is very effective with a PRB of 0.60 for front runners from low draws. Being prominent from a low draw is also a big advantage but the advantage of being drawn low tapers off the more patiently a horse is ridden.

Being in mid division from a middle draw is surprisingly the best position according to these PRB figures, it’s also the third best place to be according to the win percentages. There aren’t any runners in this drawn in the middle that consistently race in mid division though.

A high draw can be overcome if the runner is able to reach the lead. Statistically the worst place to be is prominent from a high draw and there are definitely several contenders who seem likely to be stuck there.

The Runners

This is the full field, in early odds order.

Ejtilaab

A very obvious starting point given he ran well at Chester’s May meeting, over this course and distance, on this kind of ground. That run was better than it seems for several reasons. As discussed above, the very high stalls have a poor record here and he was drawn in stall 10. He was also ridden prominently, the worst kind of ride statistically for a high drawn runner.

The only two runners to finish in front of him from that race that have raced since have both won whilst the 6th and 10th have also won since and the 8th has finished runner up since. That’s extremely hot form.

The ground would also have been soft enough for Ejtilaab that day with all his best form coming on good or better ground. By race time it should be at least good here.

Ejtilaab looks likely to go forward from stall 1, putting him in the ideal position, and he has another good run at this course to his name having finished 2nd to Wild Edric last September. That runner is a bit of a Chester specialist with two wins and two runners up places there whilst the 3rd was Baby Steps, a horse that has finished placed at Chester in all seven previous runs there. Ejtilaab is 7lbs higher here but he’s evidently still improving and even his last win off a 4lb lower mark shows he is still well handicapped – the runner up won on his next start and the 3rd has won since too.

The main concern here is the form of the Ian Williams yard. In handicaps in the past three months Williams has a PRB of 0.50 and that has dropped to 0.43 in the past 30 days. In the last couple of weeks the majority of runners have been well beaten but there have also been a few winners too.

Another Batt

A comfortable winner last time out at Thirsk on soft ground having been 1.75 lengths behind Ejtilaab at Chester the run before when better drawn. As a result of that win Another Batt is now 3lbs worse off.

His last two runs have come at Thirsk but he did win here as a 3yo and he has previously won a handicap off a 9lb higher mark at Meydan in 2019. He’s probably not as good as he was back then and drying ground is almost certainly against him but he’s just about okay drawn in stall 7 and is capable on a going day.

Boardman

An easy winner on his last two starts but now 10lbs higher than his last win. He was 2nd to Persian King as a 2yo and Tim Easterby seems to have finally found the key to him. He threatened to be a well handicapped horse last season, especially here when catching the eye when staying on from a hopeless position into 5th. That was off a 10lb lower mark and there is every chance he suffers the same fate here as he has been well suited by making headway on the bridle up long straights on his last two starts. Ejtilaab was over 4 lengths ahead of him in that race and is 3lbs better off in this.

King’s Knight

Lightly raced 4yo for Charles Hills who tends to race prominently. He’s only won one of his four handicap starts and that was in a class 4 Lingfield all weather race (3rd won since). He went up just 3lbs for that which seemed fair but has been raised 6lbs for finishing 2nd which seems harsh. It’s possible he’s improving enough to defy that but the yard’s horses seemed in better form the last time this horse ran. Charles Hills has a PRB in handicaps in the past 3 months of 0.59 but that’s dropped to 0.50 in the past 30 days. That's by no means poor form but it is a dip in form and since King’s Knight last ran Charles Hills has had twenty three handicap runners and just two winners at 5/1 and 13/8. Stall 8 isn’t ideal but he at least has the early pace to possibly get a good early position near the lead.

Azano

Was runner up behind Another Batt last time out, enjoying the soft ground, and although he’s 5lbs better off here that’s unlikely to be anywhere near enough to make him of interest from stall 12. He can be a touch slow from the gates on occasions and that would kill any chance he has of getting across from that draw early and the drying ground is against him too. Not badly handicapped but things have conspired against him here.

Hey Jonesy

The 2020 Wokingham Handicap winner hasn’t got closer than 6 lengths to a winner of his races in five starts since. He’s now just 1lb above his last winning mark but both his wins have come at 6f rather than this extended 7f and he’s surely being campaigned towards a repeat bid at Royal Ascot in a few weeks’ time. He can lead but more likely to be prominent from stall 3, especially with stamina concerns.

Mission Boy

He’s run some decent races since moving here from Italy during the winter but hasn’t been well enough handicapped to win a race and his handicap mark has only fluctuated by 1lb. If anything he needs to go up in trip on softer ground rather than down in trip on drying ground and it would be a small surprise if he had the tactical speed to land a serious blow in this contest.

Tadleel

Won a couple of 7f handicaps at Newcastle in the winter but was a big let down in the Lincoln Trial when poorly placed but not picking up at all. His best form has undoubtedly come on artificial surfaces although he seems to get on pretty well with Newmarket and York. His run style isn’t really best suited to this course and there is real proof of that as he’s finished 10th and 11th in two runs here off lower marks. Well enough drawn but plenty of question marks.

Via Serendipity

A better horse on the all weather but his split handicap mark reflects that. He’s won off a 7lb higher mark on turf in the past and certainly looks well handicapped again but his very best turf efforts have come at Ascot, unsurprisingly for a horse that is better on artificial surfaces. He’s raced handily in the past but tends to be held up these days and the booking of Jamie Spencer suggests those tactics will be employed again here. He was tried in a first time visor dropped back to an inadequate 6f last time out at Doncaster and he ran okay given the trip was too sharp, certainly suggesting he can win off this sort of mark over this sort of trip. Stall 9 and a hold up ride are pretty off putting here though and he’ll be more interesting elsewhere (preferably Ascot) on fast ground.

Alexander The James

Makes his debut for Mick Appleby having spent the first part of this year running poorly in France. He’d previously raced in this country for several trainers, often running on softish ground over a little further. He hasn’t shown much since September so a lot depends if Appleby can revitalise him. Appleby used to be a trainer to follow first time out when getting runners from other yards but he's had just one winner from his last thirty-eight qualifying runners according to the Trainer Change report. Appleby has had a further thirteen 2nd or 3rd places from those runners so he does still often have them firing. This runner looks likely to track the pace from stall 2 so has plenty in his favour if back to form and the market could enlighten us as to what kind of form he is expected to be in.

Gabrial The Wire

Owned by Dr Marwan Koukash so unsurprisingly knows his way around here. He’s gained three wins here and a further two places from fourteen runs, the most recent of those wins coming over this trip off a 2lb lower mark. He seemed to lose his form in August last year though and the fact he ran in September, then not again until November and then has been absent since suggests he’s had some training issues. He’s gone okay fresh in the past but form and well being are taken on trust and stall 11 is a big negative too.

Hayadh

Ran well off this sort of mark in 2018 over course and distance (only try here) and can be competitive off marks in the high 80s. Most likely didn’t stay when well beaten over 10f last time out and better judged on form at this sort of trip which includes close 4th in an average looking race at Redcar and a well enough beaten 7th when well placed in the Thirsk Hunt Cup. This trip is a little shy of his best though and he’s likely to be caught wide from stall 10 so whilst he’s likely to pop up in his next few runs it will probably be when his sights are slightly lowered and when he is better drawn.

Verdict

This looks one of those races where we're not looking for anything wildly well handicapped, it’s a case of finding the runner with the least amount of negatives. Another Batt looked good last time out but he’s largely inconsistent and seemed to improve last time for very soft ground. Boardman is capable of defying his new mark but he’ll do well to win this and Chester’s tight turns won’t allow him to make up ground on the bridle as he’d probably like which could leave him poorly placed again when the inevitable sprint for home begins. King’s Knight is capable but is drawn wide than ideal and could find several lower drawn runners also wanting to race prominently. Jim Crowley would probably be best off trying to get the lead rather than tracking the pace.

The ground and draw are going against Azano, Hey Jonesy is wildly out of form and probably won’t stay, Mission Boy isn’t brilliantly handicapped and will probably find this test too sharp, Tadleel has run poorly twice here before, Via Serendipity is well handicapped but is likely to be poorly placed and likes very fast ground, Alexander James has been out of form, as has Gabrial The Wire, whilst Hayadh is poorly drawn and prefers a little further.

That leaves a slightly unoriginal choice of EJTILAAB. He’s happy leading but doesn’t have to lead and he should be close to ideally placed in this. He can hold the rail regardless, saving ground, and the bulk of his form gives him an excellent chance of winning this. Richard Kingscote has ridden the horse twice, when winning at Chelmsford and when finishing 5th from an almost impossible draw here last time in that hot handicap. He’s run well on both starts here and even the drying ground is in his favour too. He’s not a bad price at 4/1 when you consider all of this, even if the bookies do overreact to stall 1 around here. The stable form is a slight concern but Ejtilaab did run well just three weeks ago. King's Knight looks next best.

Chester Draw & Pace: Part 2

This is a follow up article to the Chester piece I wrote in April, writes Dave Renham. In that article I concentrated on sprints of between five and seven furlongs; here I am will look in detail at the extended 7f trip and the 1m 2f distance.

As I am writing this (on May 4th), I feel sad because this week would have signalled the Chester May Meeting which is one of my favourite meetings of the year. The signs are, however, that racing may be back quite soon with Germany and France hopefully set to start again in the near future. When it resumes here, racing will be behind closed doors but for everyone involved in the sport I am sure they will just be glad to get going again.

Since writing the first three articles in this draw/pace series there has been a useful addition to the Draw and Pace Analyser tools whereby you can now narrow down your query by year range. In the past it showed all years going back to 2009 and in order to look at more recent data I needed to use the Query Tool as well. This speeds my draw and pace research up especially when wanting to research time sensitive data.

 

 

What the new addition also means is that I can look at the data in a slightly different way using a method I first saw in Nick Mordin’s excellent book, ‘Winning Without Thinking’. He looked at data in five-year batches which is a good way to try and compare things more effectively. This method also potentially highlights whether patterns or biases are changing, and offers more reliable sample sizes.

Below is an example of this method based on 7f handicap data from Goodwood, which I hope illustrates his idea neatly. Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s Goodwood’s 7f trip provided me with plenty of winning bets, many of them forecasts and exactas on horses drawn closest to the rail; but the officials got wise to the bias and managed to even it out a little for some years. However, back in 2015 or so I started to notice that the low draw bias was beginning to reappear.

Here is a table using five-year batches of data with percentages for each third of the draw as well as A/E values. The full 11-year data is shown at the top of the table for long term comparison:

 

I have highlighted in green the low draw data which shows a big change from the first five years (2009-2013) in terms of the low draw bias gradually getting stronger. Having said that I know that 2018 and 2019 have both seemingly started to show a decline again in the strength of bias - this is just beginning to be shown in the 2015-2019 data. The next couple of years may well determine whether Goodwood are increasing efforts once again to level out the ‘draw playing field’. Hence I really think splitting year data in this way is a useful tool for comparisons and I will aim to use it in articles where it is appropriate. 

So time to delve back into Chester’s stats. As before I am using some of the tools available on the Geegeez website, those being the Draw Analyser, the Pace Analyser and the Query Tool. The main period of study goes back to 2009, but as before I will examine a more recent data set (2015 to 2019) in detail, too, where appropriate, as well as using the new 5-year comparison method.

I will be focusing once again on 8+ runner handicap races and, as stated in the first paragraph, looking mainly at the extended 7f trip and 1m2f. The draw will be divided into three equal sections or thirds (low, middle, high) and non-runners have been taken into account with draw positions adjusted accordingly. The pace data is split into four groups: led, prominent, mid division and held up.

Chester 7 1/2 furlongs (8+ runner handicaps)

When analysing this trip on Geegeez Draw Analyser you need to look at the 1 mile distance to get this extended 7f data. Otherwise if you key in 7 furlongs you will get the 7f data from the last article. This is because the actual distance is 7f 127 yards, which is closer to a mile than seven furlongs.

Since 2009 there have been 115 races that have qualified which is a decent sample. Here are the 11 season overall draw splits:

There appears to be a slight edge towards lower draws but, compared with the 5 – 7f data, we can see that this 7½f distance offers low draws far less of an advantage.

The A/E values are shown below for this period:

A fairly even playing field here so, despite the small low draw edge in terms of percentage wins, it looks like the bookmakers have that well factored into their prices.

It is time now to look at each draw position broken down by individual stall number:

 

Perhaps no real surprises here given the draw thirds data. There does seem to be something to be gleaned from looking at the each way placed percentages: combining the figures for horses drawn 10 or wider they have made the frame (i.e. won or placed) just 16% of the time. Their combined win A/E value is also low at 0.55. Compare this with horses drawn 1 to 9 who have placed 30% of the time with an A/E value of 0.88. It seems the long term data suggests that horses drawn 10 and above are at a fairly significant disadvantage to those drawn lower.

Onto a more recent data set looking at the past five seasons (2015-2019). Here are the draw splits for the 58 races that have occurred during this time frame.

This tells a similar tale to the ’09-’19 figures but with a slight increase in the low draw win percentage. This small increase is not statistically significant and the A/E values again indicate a relatively level playing field in terms of potential profitability as shown below:

The five-year stats for individual draw positions are below:

Again it is only the each way percentages that catch my eye, mirroring the long term data (draws 1 to 9 with 32% of placed runners; draws 10 and above with 11.4% of placed runners).

Let us break down the draw figures using rolling five-year batches to compare the data in another way:

Looking at the table we can see that the low draw bias has been very consistent from 2011 onwards and it seems that in 2009 and 2010 for whatever reason low draws slightly under-performed.

Ultimately this is a course and distance where there is a slight low draw edge and, as indicated earlier, draws 10 and above look to be at a fairly significant disadvantage. Hence it should not come as a surprise that as the field size grows the bias towards low draws increases as does the bias AGAINST higher draws. Here are the data for fields with 12 or more runners for 2009 – 2019 (44 races in total):

In bigger fields I would be very wary of backing anything drawn high unless I felt the horse had a huge edge over the rest of the runners, or that its price more than justified the risk. The A/E values correlate neatly as we can see:

It looks therefore that we have a potentially playable draw bias when we get to 12+ runners. Indeed the bias does seem to strengthen when we increase the field size further, but of course the number of races becomes smaller and less reliable from a statistical point of view.

In the first Chester article I pointed out how exotic bets (forecasts, exactas, etc) over 5f would have proved profitable under certain circumstances. Once again I have delved into this area for this distance when the field size has been 12 or more. There are some interesting ideas that would have proved highly profitable during the period of study for these bigger field races:

a) perming the bottom four draws in 12 x £1 straight forecasts would have seen an outlay of £528 and produced returns of £627.49 meaning of profit of £99.49. The exacta paid more (potentially increasing profit by a further £130 to be precise), but exactas being pool bets are not always a good vehicle for draw-based bets: they can easily be ‘overplayed’ and the dividend suffers as a result;

b) perming the five lowest draws in 60 x £1 tricasts would have seen a significant outlay of £2640 but produced huge returns of £4845 meaning a healthy profit of £2205, and an ROI of 84%.

Of course, past profitable results are simply that – past results. However, I have made most of my profits over the years using these exotic bets on draw biased races and the profits quoted are not unusual.

Let us look at pace and running styles now. The overall figures (2009-19) are thus:

A very even playing field here, although hold up horses seem at a slight disadvantage.

I have checked ground conditions and there is nothing clear cut; however, field size does seem to make a difference as it did with the draw. If we look at 12+ runner races again we get the following pace results:

In bigger fields front runners have the best record and have an edge; meanwhile, hold up horses seem to really struggle.

Now a look at draw / pace (running style) combinations for front runners in these 7½f races. Remember this is looking at which third of the draw is responsible for the early leader of the race (in % terms):

Lower draws are more likely to take the early lead but with a run of around 1½ furlongs to the first bend horses drawn wider find it easier to contest for the lead should they wish too. What is noteworthy is that early leaders from low draws go on to win a far bigger percentage of races than those who led drawn in the middle or out wide (high). 58 horses have led from low draws with ten going onto to win the race (17.2%); 81 horses have led from middle or high draws with only six managing to go on to win (7.4%). It should also be noted that prominent runners from a low draw have a decent record, scoring more 15% of the time.

In conclusion, lower draws do have an edge but it is only when we get to bigger fields (12+) that the bias looks playable. Not only do bigger fields increase the edge for low draws, they decrease the chances of high drawn horses. Pace wise the only bias seems again to occur in bigger fields where front runners have an advantage while hold up horses find it very difficult to win.

 

Chester 1 mile 2 1/2 furlongs (8+ runner handicaps) 

There were 94 qualifying races at this distance from 2009 to 2019. The 1m 2f 70 yards distance has been shortened by 5 yards since 2009, not that that would make any difference. Here are the draw splits:

 

Low draws definitely have had an edge over the 11 seasons, while there seems little in it between middle and higher draws. Let’s look at the A/E values to see whether this bias is appreciated by bookmakers:

 

No real edge it seems from a punting perspective with an extremely level set of A/E values. Let’s see what the individual draw positions offer:

The lowest six draws seems the natural cut off point in terms of win strike rate, and the A/E values for draws 1 2, 5 and 6 are decent. However, only draw 5 has made a ‘blind’ profit.

Look at the going data there have only been 20 races on good to firm or firmer, but my impression is that any low draw bias is less potent under such conditions. The win percentages are more even and the win and placed figures see just 2 more placed efforts for low draws compared with high. Such a small number of races means it is simply a hypothesis, however.

Onto the last five seasons now. There have been 43 qualifying races since 2015, with the draw splits as follows:

A more even set of figures in the more recent past with low draws only marginally best in win percentage terms.  And the A/E values:

Low draws have proved to be poor value over the past five seasons despite still winning more races. The individual draw figures for 2015 to 2019 look like this:

Draws 1 and 2 have a really poor record in the more recent past and checking back from 2009 to 2014 both stall positions actually made a blind profit. This illustrates how religiously backing individual draw positions can be a real roller coaster and in general too risky long term.

Let us now look at the draw figures for 1m 2f using the five-year comparison method discussed earlier:

The five year batch data seem to back up what the 2015 to 2019 figures had suggested: that the low draw bias has been gradually diminishing. I am not sure why this has been happening – it may just be down to chance and it will be interesting to see what results the next couple of seasons bring.

A look pace and running styles now. Here are the overall figures going back to 2009:

These figures show that front runners have a significant edge which, considering the distance, is unusual. In general in flat races, the longer the distance the less successful front runners are. But Chester's very tight, always on the turn, configuration does make it harder for horses to pass without travelling further and using up more fuel.

A win percentage for front runners of nearly 20% really caught my eye. To illustrate this pace bias more clearly, the average win percentage all UK courses over the 1m 2f distance (8+ runner handicaps) stands at 12.8% (A/E 1.09; IV 1.39). Only Beverley and Wetherby have a better win strike rate for front runners at this trip than Chester; and we can probably ignore Wetherby because there have been so few races (just 11) on their recently opened flat track. At the other end of the scale, front runners at this distance at both York and Epsom have won a meagre 5% of races.

As the field size gets bigger the pace bias strengthens a little: in races of 11 or more runners, front runners have won just over 25% of them (12 wins from 47 runners). Meanwhile, in terms of ground underfoot conditions, as with the extended 7f trip, it is difficult to pinpoint whether the going makes any real difference.

Now a look at draw / pace (running style) combinations for front runners in 1m 2f Chester handicaps (2009 – 2019):

It is easier for lower drawn horses to take the early lead but, in terms of these runners going onto win, strike rates are similar: low drawn front runners win 21.8% of the time; those who lead early from middle draws have won 20% of the time, high drawn front runners 19.2% of the time.

Chester longer distance races (8+ runner handicaps)

Looking very briefly at distances beyond 1m2f:

1m 4f - front runners over 1m4f do have an edge, winning around 16% of the time (A/E 1.50), but there is no draw advantage for any ‘third’ (47 races in total)

1m 5f – only 23 races at this trip and from the limited data front runners have a slight edge. There is no draw bias.

1m 7f 195yds or more – front runners have an edge even at this trip winning over 15% of the time (A/E 1.57) while hold up horses really struggle (3 wins from 125) producing an A/E of just 0.30. As the field size increases hold up horses find it even harder winning 0 races from 74 in races of 12 or more runners. In terms of the draw low draws actually seem to have a small edge which seems to increase in big fields. There have only been 30 races in total though so it is impossible to fully confident about these findings.

That concludes our investigation into draw and pace at Chester racecourse. As has been shown, there is a generally strong bias towards low draws and/or front runners, with the bias being emphasised in bigger fields.

- DR

Dave Renham: Chester Draw & Pace Part 1

This is the third in my series of articles on draw and pace bias at UK courses, writes Dave Renham. Pontefract and York were the first two to come under the spotlight, and now it is the turn of arguably the most draw biased track in the country, Chester.

Chester is by all accounts a lovely place to go and watch racing and, as I write this piece entering the fourth week of lockdown due to the coronavirus, the Roodee is a course that I will make every effort to visit in the future. It lies close to the River Dee and is officially the oldest racecourse in the world, dating back to 1539.

Chester Racecourse is a very tight track only just over a mile in circumference, which means that it does not suit long striding horses because the runners are so frequently on a left-hand lean. The home straight is only 240 yards in length - barely more than a furlong - which tends to help horses close to or on the pace. Traditionally, lower drawn horses near to the inside rail have had a decent edge at most distances. This bias is well understood across the racing fraternity, though, so whether we can actually get a worthwhile betting edge constitutes the purpose of what follows.

 

Chester Racecourse Map

Chester Racecourse Map

 

As with the last two articles, I am using some of the tools available on the Geegeez website: Draw Analyser, Pace Analyser and the Query Tool. The main period of study is a long one, going back to 2009, but I will also examine a more recent (2015 to 2019) data set in detail where appropriate. I will be focusing once again on 8+ runner handicap races only and looking exclusively at the distances from 5f to 7f.

When looking at each race I will be dividing the draw into three equal sections (low, middle, high). This is how the Geegeez Draw Analyser does it and has been the way I have generally done it for 25 years. Draw positions are also adjusted when there are non runners to make the data as accurate as possible. For a strong draw bias I am looking for a figure of over 50% for one ‘third’ of the draw, and I am looking for this starting point to ideally correlate with other metrics such as A/E values.

 

Chester 5 furlongs (8+ runner handicaps)

Since 2009 there have been 86 races that have qualified. I have also included races over five and a half furlongs, of which there of which there were 29. Here are the overall draw splits:

As can be seen, very strong bias exists which has been consistent year in year out. Below I have split out the 5f data and 5½f data for interest:

The low draw figures mirror each other, but the middle and top thirds seem to ‘reverse’. Possible reasons could be that high draws really don’t have enough time to recover over 5f, whereas the extra half furlong gives them more of an opportunity to get back into it. It could be that middle draws get ‘squeezed' somehow over 5½f. Of course it could perfectly conceivably be down to random results as there were only 29 races in total for the 5½f stats.

Onto A/E values now (5 and 5½f races) and low draws have actually offered value over the longer term:

In terms of breakdown, the five-furlong races produced a low draw A/E value of 1.05, whereas races over 5½f had a slightly better value of 1.14.

It is time now to look at each draw position broken down by individual stall number (5f and 5½f):

As we can see, stalls 2, 3 and 4 have all made a blind profit to SP, and stalls 1 to 4 have provided 63 of the 86 winners which equates to 73.3% of all races. Horses drawn 11 or wider have provided just two winners from 74 runners with only three others getting placed. The huge advantage to low draws is clear.

We can consider that macro picture in context by looking at a more recent data set covering the past five seasons (2015-2019). Here are the draw splits for this shorter time frame (total races 42):

Low draws have been consistently winning at greater than the 60% mark so on the face of it the bias seems as strong as ever. For those who like exotic bets, doing a reverse forecast on the two lowest drawn horses would have netted you an amazing ten winning bets in 42 races. Now the dividends varied greatly as they are dependent on the prices of the horses that fill the first two places. Three of the dividends paid under £10, but two paid between £50 and £70. If you had placed a £1 reverse forecast on all 42 races going back to 2015 you would have been in profit by an impressive £182.41. For any tricast punters out there, if you had permed the three lowest draws in 6 x £1 full cover tricasts, you would have won 4 times and netted a profit of £189.85. I cannot guarantee such returns in the future but it is certainly food for thought.

Here are the 5 year stats for individual draw positions:

In this shorter snapshot, 71.4% of all races have been won by horses drawn 1 to 4, which correlates with the 11 year figure of 73.3%.

Despite everything looking very rosy still for low drawn horses and amazingly still producing some profitable angles I do have a word of caution: I think there are signs that the bias is getting less strong, more notably in the past two seasons. If you look very closely at the 2018-2019 results as a whole, the low draw bias seems less pronounced. Now there have only been 15 races during these two seasons so it could simply be an anomaly due to an extremely small sample.

However, there is a reason why I think this might be the case rather than simply hypothesising over a set of numbers. In the last two seasons 12 of the 15 qualifying races (80%) have been run with the inside rail having been moved. This is almost certainly an attempt by the course to try and nullify the bias as best they can – indeed rail movement has risen from 22% in 2016 to 50% in 2017 to this new figure of 80% during the past two seasons. The rail movement is also not consistent from meeting to meeting having moved different distances ranging from a minimum of 10 yards to a maximum of 33 yards.

Digging deeper into these very recent results, in the three races when the rail was not moved in 2018/19 all three races were won by low drawn horses – in fact both 1st and 2nd were filled every time by horses drawn either 1, 2 or 3. In the 12 races where the rail was moved, less than half of the races (five) were won by the bottom third of the draw and generally the races looked far more even when looking at placed positions too. As mentioned above, the data set is far too small to be anywhere near confident, but it will be interesting to see if this emerging pattern continues in the near future.

Let us consider pace and running styles now. For the pace section I am going to study just the overall figures (2009-19):

A significant edge has been to front runners which win roughly three races in every ten while, in contrast, hold up horses are at a huge disadvantage here. That is almost solely due to the tight turning nature of the track, especially at this trip, coupled with the very short straight. Hold up horses just haven’t got enough time to pass the many runners that would be in front of them as they straighten up for home. The figures are very similar for both the 5f distance and the extended 5 furlongs (5½f). Front runners also produce an impressive A/E value of 1.84.

In terms of whether the going makes a difference, the figures are fairly even across the board although on good ground (34 races) the win percentage for front runners edges up to just over 34% with an IV of 3.79. I don’t personally believe the front running bias is stronger on good ground – the place data is no stronger for example - but I felt it was worth mentioning.

In terms of field size and the number of runners, the front running bias seems strong across the board; it is possibly slightly stronger in smaller fields but when you split the data up some of the sample sizes are a little small to confidently make that inference.

Now a look at draw / pace (running style) combinations for front runners in these 5f races. Remember this is looking at which third of the draw is responsible for the early leader of the race (in % terms):

As one would expect, the early leader comes from lower draws more than half of the time; it is clearly difficult to lead early from a wide draw which makes perfect sense given the appeal of such a position and the topology of the course. It is also easier to win having led early from a low draw rather than from a middle or high draw. Low drawn early leaders have gone onto win 37.2% of their races (23 wins from 61) – an impressive stat.

Having said that the figures are still solid from middle and higher draws: middle draws have won eight times from 35 (SR 22.9%) when leading early, and high draws have won four from 14 (SR 28.6%). Digging deeper, horses that take the early lead from stalls 1 and 2 do lead more often than any other draw and go on to win around 40% of the time.

Below is the draw/run style heat map, displaying place strike rate, for 8+ runner five- or five-and-a-half furlong Chester handicaps since 2009:

The summary is that the combination of a low draw coupled with good early pace, or at least the ability to lead, is extremely important at Chester over 5f.

 

Chester 6 furlongs (8+ runner handicaps) 

The 6f distance is run less regularly than the 5f / 5½f one, with 66 qualifying races going back to 2009. Here are the overall draw splits:

 

The strong low bias seen at 5f does not occur in the same way here with middle draws being almost as successful as low draws. What is clear however, is that there continues to be a strong bias AGAINST high draws. The A/E values illustrate that middle draws have definitely been the value:

 

A look again at individual draw positions and how they have fared over this time frame:

 

Although the lowest third of the draw did not totally dominate the win percentages, draws 1 and 2 have been very successful in terms of wins: 25 wins out of the 66 races equates to just under 38% of all races won by the two lowest boxes. Both have made a blind profit – draw 1 having performed particularly well. It should be noted, not unexpectedly of course, that double figure draws have provided just one winner from 118 runners!

Looking at ground conditions it is possible that firmer ground accentuates the bias against higher draws a little, which seems logical also. On good ground or firmer the top third of the draw have won just 4 races from 38; on good to firm or firmer they have won 0 from 12 races with only 5 horses placing. Limited data, yes, but something to bear in mind I feel.

Onto the last five seasons now. Although there have been only 30 qualifying races since 2015, I believe it is still worth sharing the draw splits:

High draws have continued to struggle in the more recent past, while middle draws have performed slightly better, and the centre is where the value seems to be once again. Double figure draws have secured zero wins and just four places from 46 runners. For A/E values I am going to split the data by draws 1 to 4, then 5 to 8 and finally 9 or higher:

Again, it appears that draws 5 to 8 have been the value stalls in the past five seasons.

Let's break down the individual draw figures for the last five seasons, 2015 to 2019:

With only 30 races in the past five seasons the individual stall data is rather limited and I personally would not read too much into it. Stall 1 has performed well as one might expect in the context of the 11 year data shared earlier.

Below are the running style figures for 6f 8+ runner handicaps at Chester, going back to 2009:

These figures show that front runners have a decent edge while horses that track the pace also perform above the expected ‘norm’. Horses that race mid pack or at the back early are at a clear disadvantage for the same reason that they are over 5f: the short straight makes it very difficult to win when coming from off the pace. Horses held up in the back are worse off than horses that race mid-division.

This pace bias AGAINST hold up horses strengthens as the field size increases. The table below looks at the 11 year splits for the 32 six-furlong handicap races with 11 or more runners:

As can be seen, there were no wins at all for hold up horses, whereas 26 of the 32 races were won by horses that raced close to or up with the early pace. The majority of races (18 of 32) were won by prominent runners, though there were, naturally, more prominent races than race leaders and their peer group strike rates are very similar.

Now a look at draw / pace (running style) combinations for front runners in 6f handicaps (2009 – 2019):

Over 60% of the races have seen the early leader come from the bottom third of the draw (low), a percentage that is even higher than the 5f data. This is a very high figure and worth noting.

The 6f trip does not give low draws the edge, however, as it does over 5f. Rather, only the two lowest stalls as noted earlier have managed to win consistently more than might be expected, taking roughly 38% of all races.

Horses drawn 10 or higher have had little or no chance of winning throughout the eleven-year sample period.

Pace wise, early leaders and prominent runners are clearly most favoured.

The graph (sorted by IV3, the average Impace Value of a stall and its immediate neighbours) and heat map (displaying A/E) below both illustrate this:

 

Chester 7 furlongs (8+ runner handicaps)

There are two 7f distances at Chester, one over 7f and the other over 7½ furlongs. In this article I am going to look solely at the shorter distance of the two. I plan to look at the extended 7f trip in a subsequent 'Part 2' article. Since 2009, over 7f there have 75 qualifying races.

Low draws have had a strong edge having been responsible for just over half the winners. The A/E values look like this:

The market definitely factors in the advantage that lower draws generally have here, an A/E figure of 0.94 implying that there is a slight negative expectation from backing such runners. Having said that there may still be some value in backing selected lower drawn runners.

Let us now look at each individual draw and its associated stats since 2009:

36 of the 75 races were won by one of the three lowest stalls, but only draw 1 has shown a blind profit during the long period of study.

When checking the data for specific ground conditions the stats suggest that on softer ground the low draw bias increases. On good to soft or softer there have been 37 races of which 22 (SR 59.5%) have been won from the bottom third of the draw (low). The A/E value nudges up to 1.09, and backing all low drawn horses would have secured a small profit to £6 to £1 level stakes at SP.

Time now to switch attention to more recent results and the past five seasons. Here are the draw splits for 2015 to 2019 (total races 33):

The bias has been similar in this shorter time frame although in medium to bigger size fields the results have been quite even. Low draws have dominated in 8 and 9 runner races, but as I have said before it is generally not smart be too dogmatic about results when looking at very small samples.

Let us look at the individual draw figures for 2015 to 2019 (33 races):

Horses drawn 3 have done well, but although very low draws have had an edge, when looking closely at this table I am starting to think that the bias has not been as strong in recent years. My main reservation is that the place percentages for draws 1 to 7 are relatively similar and also the A/E values for draws 7 to 10 are higher as a group than draws 1 to 4, suggesting that any value that might exist is in that counter-intuitive area of the stalls.

The great thing about statistical research is that different individuals will interpret the data in different ways. This is simply my view: I could be wrong and once again it needs to be said that 33 races is still a very small data sample in which to have any real confidence.

Onto to 7f handicap running styles now. Here are the overall stats going back to 2009:

Front runners have had a fair edge with hold up horses again at a disadvantage. However, the bias is not as strong over 5 and 6f, with later runners having greater opportunity to get into a challenging position.

We actually have a reverse pattern to 6f in terms of field size. Over 7f front runners have had a huge edge in smaller fields: in races of 8 to 10 runners, (43 races in total) they have secured an impressive strike rate of over 28% with a huge A/E value of 2.24. I cannot explain why - perhaps it is because they are better able to stack the field up in behind and control the race - but the strike rates and A/E values do correlate strongly.

Finally let us examine the draw / pace (running style) combinations for front runners in 7f handicaps:

Low draws are once again more likely to lead as they are closest to the inside rail and thus have the least distance to travel. High drawn runners manage to get to the early lead in just one race in six on average. In terms of early leaders that have gone onto win the race, lower drawn front runners win more often (24.4%) than middle drawn ones (17.2%) who in turn go on to win more than high drawn front runners (13.3%).

It is also worth noting that hold up horses drawn low have won just once in 58 runs.

Combining the 5 to 7f data

Before I finish I wanted to combine all the data for the 5 to 7f distances at Chester (2009-2019). Firstly the draw splits:

Over half all of races in the full eleven-year study period were won by the bottom third of the draw; middle drawn runners have been roughly twice as successful when comparing them to higher draws.

Now the individual draw by draw data:

This table neatly demonstrates that despite the very well known low draw bias the very lowest draws continue to offer some value. Both draws 1 and 2 have made a blind profit to SP and both have A/E values in excess of 1.00, from a strike rate of almost 19%. The table also illustrates neatly that in general the higher the draw the lower the chance of winning: stalls 11+ have a collective win record of just six from 215 (2.8%).

The table below shows the combined pace data for 8+ runner 5 to 7f handicaps:

Looking at these figures, why on earth would you not try and get to the front at Chester over distances of 7f or less? Jockeys who hold up their mounts here by choice are either not trying to win or they don't know how to!

I hope this article has given you plenty of positive angles from which hopefully we can profit sooner rather than later.

- DR