Tag Archive for: draw bias

Draw Bias 2022: Part 4, Negative Bias

In this article I will discuss another angle that can be deployed in our betting, and that is negative draw bias, writes Dave Renham. I think the phrase was coined in the late '90s by Russell Clarke when he used to write regularly in betting magazines. [He has since contributed an excellent eight part series on the betting markets here on geegeez, which can be read here].

What is negative draw bias?

Negative draw bias highlights a horse or horses that have run well from a poor draw and, hence, in theory have run much better than their finishing position may have initially indicated. From there, one would potentially have a ‘horse to follow’ and worth backing soon afterwards when granted a more favourable position in the starting gates.

As with many things in racing, negative draw bias is not quite as simple as it sounds. There are potential issues with this idea – for example, once we have a ‘horse to follow’ we have the tricky decision of how long to continue supporting the horse in the future? One run? Two? Until it wins? What if it loses four or five races? There clearly is no ‘correct’ answer’ to this question.

We also need to think about under what circumstances we back the horse. Should we back it blindly? Or only under similar conditions? What if it is drawn poorly again the next few times it races?

A third question to consider is, "can we be completely sure the horse has actually run well against a draw bias?" If the horse has been beaten a neck over 5f at Chester from stall 14 then we can be as good as 100% certain. However, generally, races - especially big field affairs on a straight course - where one side of the draw seems to be strongly advantaged over the other. There is a case to say that biases that occur like this can be down to a pace bias (i.e. the fast horses were all congregated on one side of the track and therefore made that 'mini race' quicker) than a draw bias but, regardless of which, it is likely some form of ‘bias’ is in play.

Examples of negative draw bias

It's time to look at some examples of negative draw bias in action. I want to look first at a race at York over the 1 mile trip. This course and distance is in 7th position in my top 10 draw bias courses which I looked at in a previous article with low draws holding an edge over middle draws, and high draws at a big disadvantage. The race was run at the backend of 2021:

 

 

This race had a maximum field of 20 and, as can be seen, three of the five lowest draws filled the top three positions. Two middle draws in 9 and 12 came 4th and 5th and then the best of the high draws, Another Batt (drawn 20) and Ouzo (19) came 6th and 7th. This looks a solid example of Another Batt and Ouzo running well considering their negative draws. In fact, draws 19 and 20 are the worst of the lot being stuck ‘out in the car park’.

From a negative draw bias perspective, both Another Batt and Ouzo look to be horses to follow. So how did they fare after this good run? Well, next time out Another Batt went on to win at Donny:

 

 

He was joint favourite that next day, so clearly others noticed the good run at York from a poor draw. Even so, he won fairly comfortably and 9/2 are decent enough odds. Ouzo, meanwhile, has yet to run since but may be worth noting. He was bought for 62,000 guineas in the Newmarket Autumn sale and has moved to Jamie Osborne's stable.

Now, of course not all good runs from poor draws will produce next time out winners. So this goes back to the earlier question about what to do when you find one of these negative draw bias horses, and for how long do we support it, and under what conditions? I said earlier that there is no ‘correct’ answer. What we decide will simply be down to personal preference. From my perspective I tend to keep an eye on these horses for three or four more runs. That does not mean I will back them every time and, once they have won, I tend to cross them off my list. Why three or four runs?

Well, as mentioned, conditions in subsequent races will influence their chances. They may been drawn badly again; they may be in a highly competitive 20-runner race; the going may not ideal, and so on. Also, if they do not return to the track relatively quickly, as in the case of Ouzo, then that gives another potential cause for concern. So there are many factors that will make me think twice about backing the qualifying horse, even though sometimes I will miss a good winner by being more selective.

A system from the '90s

There is another reason I will keep the horses on my radar for a few subsequent runs and that is down to a system I used back in the 1990s. This system was based on negative draw bias and the optimum strategy for this particular approach was backing such runners on their next three starts, but stopping if/when the horse was a winner. It was very successful for a four or five year period, and it made me realise that these types of horses should not be immediately discarded if they ran poorly in the race following their negative draw bias run.

I mentioned at the beginning of this piece that big field races on straight courses can produce what seems to be a draw bias but may actually be a pace bias (which, I guess, is a sort of moveable draw bias). Ascot is one such course where this happens on a fairly regular basis. A good example can be seen in the Royal Hunt Cup of 2020:

 

 

High draws dominated this race as you can see in the result above. Maydanny, who finished 7th, was the only low drawn horse to finish in the first eight. Now normally your eye would not be drawn (excuse the pun) to a horse that had finished outside the top six. However, there clearly was a bias occurring here, and Maydanny was first home on the disadvantaged far side.

Maydanny did not follow the script next time when beaten into fifth as an odds on favourite. However, on his second subsequent run this happened:

 

 

From a plum draw (for a front-running type) in stall 1, he destroyed an 18-runner field at Goodwood, winning by five lengths at odds of 5/1.

Looking back to the Royal Hunt Cup, the in-running comments were insightful, too. Maydanny was the only horse to race on the far side out of the first eight finishers. Therefore, on a straight course especially, it is a good idea to look at the race comments in conjunction with the draw positions for the first few runners home in a race.

Here is another example, where I would argue the race comments are more clear-cut than the draw numbers. The first five home in the Britannia handicap at Royal Ascot in 2021 were as follows:

 

 

If we purely look at the numerical draw positions of the first five finishers, we can see that higher draws seem to have been favoured, but on first glance we may not think the draw bias was hugely significant. It may be a different matter if four of the first five home had been drawn 24 or higher and the other runner had been drawn 1; the numbers are shouting out as us in a case like that. However, if we read the ‘in running’ comments for this race we can see that fourth-placed Dubai Honour was the only one of the first five to race on the far side. The other four raced near side. This fact coupled with the draw positions make this look like a good run from a poor draw.

Dubai Honour was a horse that we could have added to our negative draw bias list and if we did, he would have rewarded our faith next time out, getting up to win by a head at 11/2. Indeed, he subsequently won a pair of Group 2's in France before running second in the Group 1 Champion Stakes back at Ascot on British Champions Day!

 

 

The next two home on the far side were Mithras (unraced afterwards in UK, renamed Turin Redsun and now racing in Hong Kong) and Qaader, who won at 8/1 two starts later.

Identifying negative draw bias horses (and a shortcut)

I have picked out three examples of negative draw bias but there are plenty more I could have shared with you. Not all will follow the winning script, but a reasonable proportion will win within three or four races.

Ultimately, to pick up on all potential negative draw bias qualifiers, we need to look at results on a daily basis and then keep a track of them, which can be done on Geegeez using the excellent Tracker tool. However, there is a possible shortcut for those of you who simply do not have the time to do that. It won’t likely be as accurate but it will be a quicker way to determine negative draw bias type selections.

What we can do is deploy a rule-based racing system. I discussed numerous racing systems in a recent set of articles so combining that approach with the draw provides some gratifying symmetry.

Here are the basic rules of the system:

  1. Last time out (LTO) race was a handicap with 10+ runners
  2. Horse must have been drawn 10 or higher LTO
  3. Horse must have finished 2nd, 3rd, or 4th LTO

This system is then to be used where the LTO course and distance was one of the following:

 

 

Now, for the eagle eyed reader, you may have noticed that my top 10 draw biased courses from 2016 to 2021 are in the list. In addition there are some of the 'near misses' I published with that top 10, as well as Dundalk over 5f. It is very difficult to win from stall 10 or higher at any of these course/distance combinations which is why I chose them.

I looked at results going right back to 2009 – essentially this was to get a bigger individual sample for each course and distance. Combining all of the qualifiers from all of those courses in their next starts we get these bottom line figures:

 

 

Considering this is a very raw type of system these combined results are impressive. It should be noted that I chose the course and distances before I checked the results so there is no back fitting here. Indeed, five of the 14 made a loss, so I could easily have manipulated the stats by ignoring those courses to improve matters – but that is not my style.

For the record, those that made a loss were horses that ran last time out at Chester 7f, Kempton 6f, Goodwood 7f, Goodwood 1m and Pontefract 1m. The other nine combinations were all profitable.

I then thought it would be a good idea to compare the strike rates of the negative draw bias system horses with ALL horses that finished 2nd, 3rd, or 4th last time out in 10+ runner handicaps (2009-2021); not just the win strike rate, but the placed strike rate as well (placed SR% being win and placed runners combined). Here is the comparison:

 

 

A better absolute strike rate of nearly 2% in terms of wins, which is almost 14% better comparatively; while the placed results show a similar pattern:

 

 

Over 3% absolute difference in the placed strike rates, and an 8% comparative improvement. It's satisfying to see increased strike rates in both groups, which adds confidence to the basic system concept and the results thereof.

This system approach should not be time consuming. There will be far fewer races to check over the course of a year compared with worrying about checking the results of all 10+ runner handicaps. Indeed you will only need to check the day’s results when one of these track and trip combo's has rnu a handicap with ten or more runners. Also the system is only concerned with the very next run which means once a horse has run again you simply strike it off the list.

Of course this method is easily adapted: for example, you may want to change last time out position of 2nd to 4th to a distance beaten figure (in lengths, or lengths per furlong - perhaps using the Geegeez Px coloured dots on the left side of the Full Form result rows); you may want to change draw 10 to draw 8; you may want to keep qualifying horses for more than one run, and so on. Ultimately, there is lots of scope to change the approach to suit your style.

Keep in mind (of course) that, as we know, a system is simply that – it is not a magic bullet and just because 2009 to 2021 produced a profit, it doesn’t mean results will continue to be positive in the future, or that there won't be losing runs. This system, however, does follow logical negative draw bias ideas so one would hope it has a sporting chance of repeating its past success in the near future at least.

I hope this article has sparked your interest in negative draw bias and please share your thoughts or personal experiences in the comments below. I'd love to hear from you.

- DR

p.s. The recent Victoria Cup, again at Ascot, saw the highest three (out of 27!) stalls combine for a £5208.10 trifecta dividend - keep an eye out for draw bias angles, both positive and negative!

Draw Bias 2022: Part 3a [Top 10 Biases, #10-6]

In the next two articles in this series on the draw, I will share what I believe to be the Top Ten current draw biases in the UK and Ireland, writes Dave Renham. In this first half, I will reveal positions 10 down to 6; the follow-up one will examine ‘the top 5’. Of course, I appreciate that there will be people who  disagree with my hierarchy, but ultimately all ten biases will be distinct and, with luck, profitable to deploy alongside more traditional form reading. As a bonus, I will also share some ‘near misses’ that just failed to make the top ten.

Now, just because a course and distance has a draw bias, that doesn't necessarily equate to a profit, as I have discussed already in the first two articles. However, having a fuller understanding of any biases does give us an edge over most other punters and enables us to factor this awareness into our wider considerations.

For each entry in the top ten, the plan is to begin by sharing the raw draw stats, and then to drill down into some interesting angles. These may be going considerations or larger field sizes. In all cases, I am looking at draw data from the last six full seasons (2016 to 2021) and, as ever, the initial focus will be 8+ runner handicaps. The profit and loss figures are calculated to industry SP, although where appropriate I will mention Betfair SP figures. With that said, let's begin the countdown...

10th position - Chester 7f

Ahead of the hugely popular May meeting on the Roodee, we go first to Chester and specifically the 7f trip. The draw breakdowns are as follows:

 

 

There is a distinct advantage here for those drawn low which may be little surprise given the tight configuration of the track. Lower draws have a definite edge here in terms of win %, placed % and Impact Value. In addition to this the PRB (percentage of rivals beaten) figure of 0.58 for low draws is strong. However, higher draws have actually proved to be the best value of the three sections despite lower draws winning nearly twice as often. Indeed, backing all high drawn horses would have made a profit to BSP to the tune of £48.61 (ROI +39.2%).

So why is this happening? Ultimately, Chester is well known for its low draw bias at various distances and the market naturally adjusts for this. It appears that at this distance it may have over-adjusted. The average SP of the lowest three draws has been 8.29/1; the highest three draws has averaged out at 22/1. This currently looks a case where it may pay to ‘go against the draw’ to find value.

I looked into whether perming lower draws in forecasts, tricasts, exactas or trifectas would have yielded any profit, but to no avail. In terms of possible profit routes, perming the lowest four drawn horses in trifectas came the closest, but would have lost 5% of overall stakes. However, if we had gone back an extra year and included 2015, this trifecta bet would have yielded an 8% profit. Exotic bets like these come with risk and low strike rates, so the odd decent payout can swing the balance.

9th position - Chester 7f 127 yards

This is the longer of two approximately seven furlong trips at Chester. With rail adjustments, from time to time this distance has been extended by up to 37 yards. For the record, when using the Geegeez Draw Analyser the distance to use is 1 mile (because of rounding, and to differentiate it from the flat 7f trip). Here are the raw draw splits:

 

 

Low draws once again hold sway as one would expect. However, it is not a profitable avenue backing lower drawn runners. Indeed there are similar losses across the board.

A similar pattern occurs over this ‘extended 7’ as we saw over 7f. Higher draws have proved slightly better value due to their inflated prices. In fact, the three ‘worst’ stalls in terms of the draw (the three highest draws), have combined to make a profit to BSP. They have produced a £34.95 profit to £1 level stakes which equates to returns of just over 21%.

Going back to the initial figures, horses drawn in lowest third of the draw have won 48.2% of all 8+ runner handicap races. This draw bias strengthens when the field size increases as the graph below shows:

 

 

There is a clear correlation showing lower draws perform better as the field size increases. Indeed, in handicaps of 12 or more runners the lowest three stalls have combined to produce a profit of £20.31 (ROI +52.1%) to BSP. At last some value it seems in backing lower drawn runners.

Chester’s low draw bias at various distances is clearly well known, and in general it is hard to make those low draws pay. However, in bigger fields over 7½f that might just be possible.

Finally a running style snippet for you: horses drawn low that lead early or race prominently win more than three times as often as all other draw and running style combinations put together.

 

8th position - Kempton 7f

I'm moving to the all-weather for #8. Kempton Park has a significant number of meetings each year with bundles of 7f handicaps. This gives us an excellent sample size to work with. All qualifying races give the following draw splits:

 

 

Horses drawn closest to the inside rail have the edge over middle draws, with middle draws out-performing higher draws. When we look at the individual draw positions we can see that once you get to stall 9 or higher, winning becomes more difficult:

 

 

Only horses drawn in stall 6 have proved profitable ‘blind’, which is entirely random; but it should be noted that, at Betfair SP, those drawn in stalls 1, 2 and 3 combined made a loss of just 1% (1p in the £).

The maximum field at Kempton is 14 and if we look at races with 12 or more runners, the bias strengthens:

 

 

In these bigger field races the lowest drawn horse, in stall 1, would have made a small 9.5% profit to BSP. Meanwhile, if you had backed the three highest drawn runners in handicaps of 12 or more runners, you would have seen a loss of £257.67 (ROI -50.5%) to SP; if using Betfair SP the figures improve a little but losses are still significant - £182.33 (ROI -35.8%).

There is some good news for those of you who like combining low draws in tricasts or trifectas. There have been 170 races with 12 or more runners at Kempton over 7f in the sample period. During those 170 races, the lowest three drawn horses have filled the first three places on five occasions. Now this may not sound many, just about 3%, but in reality this is quite remarkable given the huge number of possible three-stall combinations in each race. It is too complicated to go into the maths of it all, so let us look at the bottom line figures for perming the three lowest draws in tricasts or trifectas in these 12+ runner handicaps.

Let’s assume we had a 10p combination tricast on the lowest three drawn horses in these 170 races. Our outlay would be 60p per race (6 combinations / lines of 10p) and therefore an overall outlay of £102. Our returns would have been £345.11 giving a clear profit of £243.11. That converts to an ROI of 238.3%! The figures are even better for trifectas as the tote variant of the same bet would have yielded a clear profit of £311.50 (ROI +305.4%). As an aside, perming the three lowest draws in combination exactas would have made a profit too, with a modest but still eminently satisfactory 14% ROI.

From a running style perspective horses that lead early have a definite edge. Horses that race close to the pace (prominent) generally out-perform horses that run in mid-division or are held up. For those drawn in the lowest third here are the win percentages in terms of running style shown:

 

 

Leaders fare best and there is a sliding scale back to hold up horses from low draws which performed worst from the inside stalls.

To conclude, when betting at Kempton in 8+ runner handicaps, I would personally ignore horses drawn in stalls 9 or higher unless I could find a compelling reason not to, such as they had the early speed to get near the front (and they did not look to face too much early pace pressure inside). Bottom line: a horse drawn low that has early pace is the ideal type of horse we are looking for.

7th position – York 1m

Way back in the 1990s, York’s mile trip offered a strong draw bias and that remains the case today. As you can see from the racecourse map below, the 1 mile trip has a left turn that starts after about a furlong and a half, and the sweeping bend lasts for just over a furlong.

 

The result is that high draws can be forced wide, especially in big fields, meaning they have to run further. Alternatively they can take back and tack to the inside but then they will be faced with several horses to pass in the straight potentially needing luck in running. It should be noted that the finishing straight is quite long and therefore poorly positioned horses round the bend do have time to recover, but the draw stats illustrate the problem high stalls still have:

 

 

High draws have struggled across all categories, while the lowest draws have the edge over middle berths. In terms of wins, which essentially is key, the draw win percentages for each third can be nicely illustrated by a pie chart:

 

 

Nearly half of all 8+ runner handicaps between 2016 and 2021 were won by horses from the lowest third of the draw. Meanwhile, the highest drawn third won around one race in every seven (1 in 6.76 to be absolutely precise). Let's now look at the breakdown of individual stall positions as there are a few interesting patterns:

 

 

Firstly I note a cut off point at stall 6. According to the six-year data it is definitely an advantage to be drawn 6 or lower. That sextet of boxes have provided 33 winners from 282 runners (11.7%), while horses drawn 7 or higher have provided just 14 winners from 393 runners (3.6%). What this essentially means is that, since 2016, horses drawn 1 to 6 have been 3.3 times more likely to win than those drawn in stall 7 or higher. Also horses drawn in stalls 4, 5 and 6 have produced good returns to SP with excellent A/E values of 1.15, 1.59 and 1.36 respectively.

There also seems to be a second cut-off point at stall 14. The record of horses drawn 14 or higher has been dire – just 1 win from 111 runners. Backing all 111 runners would have yielded an SP loss of £102.00 – that means for every £10 bet you would lose £9.19. At BSP you would have been 1p better off (loss of £9.18 !!).

Why very wide draws struggle may be explained further by looking at how the stalls are set up at York. The picture below shows the stalls at York in a 20-runner 1 mile race. As can be seen, the stalls are split into blocks of ten which are joined together. In reality an extra two stalls width is added to the middle meaning that horses drawn 11 are effectively 13 stalls from the inside; those drawn 12 are 14 stalls from the inside, and so on.

 

 

On average, three to four races a year at York over 1m see fields of 16 or more; there have been 20 races during the period of study with this number of runners from which low draws have secured 12 wins (60%).

Sticking with races of 16 or more runners, there has once again been profit in certain tricast and trifecta perms. Knowing that the lowest six draws dominate these races, what would have happened if we had permed / combined these six stalls in tricasts and trifectas? The problem with six-horse perms, of course, is that there are a lot of combinations: 120 to be precise. Using 10p stakes once again, a combination tricast on the lowest six drawn horses would see an outlay of £12 per race with an overall outlay over the 20 races of £240. There were four winning bets and our returns would have been £361.20 giving a clear profit of £121.20 (ROI +50.5%). Trifecta returns, though, ‘win’ again; they would have yielded a huge profit of £417.72 (ROI +174.1%).

To conclude, York over 1 mile is a potentially playable bias, certainly in terms of narrowing the field down – in big fields I would ignore all horses drawn 14 or bigger. In all handicaps with 8+ runners my main focus would be on horses drawn in stalls 1 to 6.

6th position – Kempton 6f

Back to Kempton for our sixth best draw bias, this time a look at the 6f handicap draw statistics:

 

 

With the 7f trip showing a low draw bias, it is no surprise to see the same here. Indeed, this is an even stronger bias over the shorter distance and once more it comes from a large sample of races.

Looking at the win strike rate of individual stall positions the graph below has a clear trend:

 

 

As a general rule, win chance decreases as the actual stall position increases. We can see that horses drawn in stalls 1 to 3 have the edge over those drawn 4 to 6, who in turn have the edge over draws 7 to 12. Note that over 6f at Kempton Park, the maximum field size is 12, down from 14 for 7f races.

The placed percentage stats (win and placed combined) correlate extremely well as you can see:

 

 

When examining the 7f trip earlier, we saw the bias strengthening as the field size increased. This happens over 6f, too, as we get to near maximum fields (races with 11 or 12 runners):

 

 

For those tricast and trifecta fans out there, perming the three lowest drawn horses would have been profitable, although only just. Tricasts would have produced a small 2.6% return; trifectas a bit higher at 5.9%. The big winner from exotic bets would have been if you had backed the three lowest drawn horses in combination forecasts or exactas. If you had chosen the CSF (Computer Straight Forecast) for every £1 wagered it would have returned £1.30; exactas would have returned £1.38. Returns of 30p and 38p in the £ (30 and 38%) are certainly not to be sneezed at, and they occur more regularly than trifectas, too!

The Kempton 6f draw bias is a strong one and looks a playable one. The lowest four stalls always require very close scrutiny.

Finally a quick look at running styles combined with the draw. The heat map below shows the SR% for each draw/running style combination:

 

 

Front runners enjoy a good edge regardless of draw, although low drawn front runners are clearly the best of the bunch. Prominent racers from low and middle draws also perform above the norm. It definitely looks worth avoiding any high drawn horse that is likely to race mid pack or towards the back early.

So there we have the lower half of my top ten draw biases, #10 to #6... but I’m not quite finished yet!

Just outside the Top Ten...

Here are some biases that were close to the top 10 but just failed to make the cut.

Redcar 5f-1m (straight course) 14 or more runners

All the biases I have looked at so far have been round course biases, where the lower draws have the edge essentially due to the fact that they are in the best position to take advantage of the shortest route on the inside. But there are a few straight course biases as well, though - as I mentioned in a previous article - they are less prevalent these days due to better course management and watering systems.

At Redcar on the straight course lower draws have generally held sway, more especially when the field sizes get quite big. There is a decent amount of straight course data with 14+ runner fields at Redcar because they race over four trips on it – 5f, 6f, 7f and 1m. Here are the draw splits:

 

 

These stats look strong and definitely could have made the top 10 cut. In fact it probably would have done, but while I was doing the research there was a 20-runner race at Redcar early this season that went completely against the low draw bias script. It was a 6f handicap on the 18th April. Here are the first five finishers:

 

 

Draw 17 beat draw 19 with draw 16 back in third: three of the five highest stalls filled the first three places. Not only that, look at the prices – 40/1, 50/1 and 66/1. The tricast paid over £30,000! Also draws 13 and 18 filled 4th and 5th with stalls 10 and 12 rounding out the first seven home - all double digit stalls. The best finishing position from a low drawn horse was 8th, Jems Bond, who was beaten 5 lengths.

Now this could have simply been a one-off but, if it was, it is still not easy to explain. This type of occurrence does sometimes happen on straight courses. Some pundits believe it is down to pace bias on the day rather than draw bias. This is difficult to prove one way or the other, but it is certainly possible. What I can say is that this handicap was a very low grade affair (a 0-55) which may have been a factor in what might turn out to be a freak result. Keep your eyes peeled on upcoming big field straight track handicaps at Redcar!

Before moving on to the next course, here are some more six-year stats from 14+ runner handicaps at Redcar on the straight course. It is looking at the PRB figures for each individual distance. To remind you, PRB stands for Percentage of Rivals beaten which is a key measure when looking at draw bias.

 

 

A consistency /correlation can be seen across all distances adding confidence in the overall data.

For me, I would just like to see how a couple more big field races this year pan out before completely ‘nailing my colours to the low draws mast’. The six-year data is far more important than the one race on the 18th April but sometimes it is best to be cautious, especially early in the season, because things may have changed over the winter. I know from experience that draw biases can reverse, having seen it happen too many times over the last 30 years. My gut feeling is that low draws will still have the edge in the future, but I have been wrong before.

Brighton 1m (7f 214yds)

I have never really considered Brighton to be a course of draw bias interest but the 1 mile stats are interesting:

 

 

There seems to be an edge to high draws with low stalls seemingly at quite a disadvantage. It is not an easy bias to explain when you look at the course map:

 

 

Low is on the inside so if there were to be bias here the expectation would be that low draws would be favoured. There is one plausible explanation that Matt suggested to me when we were discussing it. He thought it may be to do with lower drawn horses hanging into the camber against the far rail and not getting a clear run, while those drawn wider either go forward or come wide in the straight thus guaranteeing clear sailing either way. That certainly makes sense and is perhaps the reason for this counter-intuitive bias.

If there is a true bias here then it seems to get stronger in bigger fields, but with a caveat that the sample size is small – below shows the 2016-2021 data with 13 or more runners:

 

 

15 races is a very small sample, but it is still statistically unlikely that these figures are completely down to chance. My plan is to keep an eye on Brighton’s mile trip this season in the hope that this ‘bias’ is replicated.

Chelmsford 1m

The final near miss to share in this article (there will more near misses next time) is Chelmsford over 1 mile. We have an excellent sample size here with 277 races:

 

 

Here we have a noticeable edge to low in all areas. For the record draws 1, 2 and 4 have all made a ‘blind’ profit to BSP ranging from 9% to 19%, so the bottom four stalls may be worthy of focus (it would make no sense whatsoever to exclude draw 3 simply because it was unprofitable).

When we get to near maximum fields (15+) high draws seem to really struggle albeit from a modest sample:

 

 

There have only been 22 races with this many runners, but there is good correlation across all the key ‘markers’.

There is not a similar low draw bias at either 5, 6 or 7f at Chelmsford which begs the question, why? I think the answer can be explained when we examine the racecourse map:

 

 

Mile races start from a separate ‘chute’ and thus wider draws have to negotiate an extra bend, which comes up reasonably rapidly, compared with the shorter distances. Therefore, if high drawn runners stay wide early, they will be travelling a greater distance than those hugging the inside. The reason the bias is modest is that wide horses still have around six and a half furlongs to recover from a potentially difficult start. This course and distance seems to be simply a case of low is best, though a higher draw is not insurmountable.

 

And that's it for the first half of my top ten draw biases (and near misses). Tune in next week for the five most playable biases. Until then...

- DR

Draw Bias 2022: Part 2

In the first article in this series I looked at how the draw can influence the market and how the market can change over time to compensate, writes Dave Renham.

Occasionally the market still gets it wrong regarding draw bias but that is increasingly rare. This is because horse racing betting markets are usually extremely efficient (by the time the race goes off, at least), not just taking the draw into account, but multiple other key factors. In this article I am going to share more draw-based research that I hope you will find interesting and ultimately useful for your own betting.

For those Gold members of Geegeez, the good news is that you are able to research the draw in two places: the Draw Analyser and the Query Tool. How you use each to study the draw is partly personal choice, but I would suggest that best insights are obtained when deploying both, not just one or the other; I use both tools for my research. Essentially, if I am just looking at the draw and nothing else I will use the Draw Analyser, but if I want to use the draw in conjunction with other factors then I’ll use the Query Tool.

When using the Geegeez Draw Analyser the stalls are split into three sections or ‘thirds’ – low, middle and high. What this means is that in a 12 runner race for example, draws 1 to 4 would be in the low third, 5 to 8 in the middle, and 9 to 12 high.

TYPES OF DRAW BIAS

I want to start by talking about types of draw bias. I believe there are two types of bias. Firstly a bias that favours a particular section of the draw; secondly a bias against a particular section of the draw. Let me illustrate with a couple of examples using draw data from 2016 to 2021. Unless otherwise stated, in this article I am going to focus on 8+ runner handicaps during this six-year period.

Pontefract 1m 2f

It is rare to get effective draw biases at distances of 1m2f or more, but Pontefract is an exception. If we look at the track configuration we can perhaps see why this bias exists:

 

 

Low draws are positioned on the inside and with an early left turn this gives them the advantage of taking the shortest route assuming they break well. In contrast, higher drawn runners are either stuck out wide round the first turn or forced to tuck in mid pack or near the back, or they need to be rushed forward to get a position thus using energy very early in the race.

There is a second left hand turn after about another two furlongs cementing the early positional advantage for low drawn runners; and there is a third turn about a quarter mile from home which again favours those racing near to the inside rail. Let’s look at the most recent six-season data now:

 

 

The stats show a clear advantage to one section of the draw (LOW); there is a significant advantage in most areas. Low drawn runners win more often, place more often, have higher IV values and higher PRB figures, too. However, backing all such runners to SP would have made a small loss and the A/E index value is lower than the middle section’s A/E value. This factor was referenced in the first article: the market at Pontefract clearly appreciates there is a draw bias. Just because one section of the draw is clearly favoured, this not in itself a license to print money! For the record, however, you would have made a small profit  of £11.98 during this period backing low draws to Betfair SP.

Pontefract over 1m 2f is an example of a bias strongly favouring a particular section. With middle draws out-performing higher draws, this is an example of a fairly linear relationship: the lower the draw the better. Draw 1 is better than draw 6; draw 6 is better than draw 10 etc.

 

 

Now for an example of a draw bias against a particular section of the draw.

Musselburgh 5f

The sprint 5f trip at Musselburgh is essentially a straight five but there is a slight kink to the left at the 3f pole which can slightly hinder wider drawn runners. With Musselburgh being a right handed course at longer distances, it means horses drawn next to the rail are the higher drawn runners. Here are the stats:

 

 

This is far from being a strong draw bias, but there is a bias against lower drawn runners compared with high and middle drawn runners. Low drawn runners come out comfortably bottom in all of the parameters as shown in the breakdown above. Looking at 2009 to 2015 we get a similar picture which gives further confidence that this is likely to continue this season and beyond.

 

 

It does seem that the kink to the left at the 3f pole is enough to make life more difficult for the wide (low)-drawn runners.

 

Indeed if we ignore 8- and 9-runner races (the smallest fields), and look at handicap races with ten or more runners we get the following results:

 

 

All of the low drawn variables deteriorate further, and such horses are winning only just above half of the races they statistically should (IV 0.53, an Impact Value of 1.00 being on par). Consequently, both middle and high draws are winning more races than they statistically should. One would expect to see those wider draws (low) struggling more over 5f at Musselburgh as the field size increases. However, it is always good to see results in black and white - as per the image above - to back up a theory.

 

INDIVIDUAL DRAWS / STALLS

A question: when you look at draw biased course and distances, what do you focus in on? The so called favoured third of the draw only? The favoured half of the draw? Or do you go further and have a preference for specific draws / stalls?

There is an argument to back the horse that is in ‘pole position’ especially on a turning track. One would think that would be the horse housed closest to the inside (i.e. drawn 1). However, the stats I have uncovered suggest differently. The stats suggest the second closest horse to the inside (i.e. actual draw 2 - 'actual' draw being the real position a horse was drawn, after accounting for any non-runners) is generally most favoured.

To show this in more detail I have looked at all 8+ runner handicaps over 5f and 6f run around a bend (2016-2021). For the record there are 12 UK courses where 5f and/or 6f races occur round a bend (seven turf courses and five on the all-weather).

Firstly I want to compare win and placed strike rates (N.B. Place SR% includes winners with the placed runners).

 

 

The margins may look quite small but they are significant as the data set covers over 2400 handicap races over 5/6f. All other key stats also point in favour of 'actual' draw 2. Firstly A/E values:

 

 

Runners drawn 2 have been far better value than those drawn 1. This is a much bigger difference than I had expected.

Next a look at profit / loss figures. Firstly a comparison of traditional SP figures (to £1 level stakes):

 

 

Losses of nearly 26p in the £ if backing all horses drawn 1 are bankruptcy territory; a smaller 8p in the £ loss for all horses drawn 2 would see a far more protracted slide to the proverbial poorhouse. But, here's Betfair SP to save the day:

 

 

The flow of bleeding has been stemmed from stall 1 but there are still bank-destroying losses; whereas trap 2 is now in the black!

But... we already know that profit / loss figures can easily be skewed by big-priced outlier winners, especially using Betfair odds. So I thought it worth comparing stats for the two draws when the Betfair SP was no bigger than 16.0. Here is what I found:

 

 

We can now see that big priced winners are not skewing the stats. Draw 2 once again has a better strike rate (both win and placed), better returns and a much stronger A/E value.

So what is actually happening here to promote stall two above the notionally best-drawn box, stall one? That is something I have pondered for many years because I have seen this type of pattern repeating time and again.

One plausible theory is that it may simply be down to the fact that horses drawn right next to the rail have less room for manoeuvre. With a rail on their inside, if they break from the stalls poorly then they are very likely to be stuck behind one or more horses. Their options are compromised until they've completed the turn by which time it may be too late. Meanwhile, horses drawn 2 have a little more space either side of them and hence more options if they break slowly. Whether this theory is true or not I obviously cannot say, but there is logic there, and it is a pattern replicated in US dirt racing at sprint distances around a turn.

What is clear in terms of the stats: in 5-6f handicaps round a turn it is preferable to be drawn 2 rather than 1.

Before moving on, I mentioned that 12 courses were in that sample and, of those 12 courses, only Kempton saw a clear advantage to horses drawn 1 over those drawn 2. Two courses - Epsom (6f) and Wetherby 5½f - had limited data (just 16 and 15 races respectively), while the other nine courses all favoured horses drawn 2 over horses drawn 1, most of them fairly strongly.

 

 

GOOD DRAWS WITH PRICE CONSIDERATIONS

As we have seen, backing a specific draw / stall under certain conditions could produce a profitable scenario. However, this idea is full of risks as we are pinning our hopes on one stall position and nothing else. So, how about combining a good draw with market factors? This is what we are going to look at next.

I have taken six of the strongest draw biases from the past six seasons (these are Chester over 5f and 7f; Goodwood over 7f and 1 mile; and Pontefract over 1 mile and 1 mile 2 furlongs). From there I have focused on the four stalls closest to the favoured inside rail: actual draws 1 to 4. Then I have ordered them depending on price. My idea is to compare price position of these good draws to see if there are patterns to be found.

By way of an example, let’s imagine the following scenario:

 

 

That would mean an order as follows:

 

 

Here are the actual results for the six course/distances (profit/loss has been calculated to Betfair SP and we are again focusing on handicaps with eight or more runners):

Chester 5f 

 

Chester 7f 

 

Goodwood 7f 

 

Goodwood 1 mile

 

Pontefract 1 mile

 

Pontefract 1 mile 2 furlongs

 

Combining the six courses we get the following results:

 

It seems therefore the best value lies at either end of the price position spectrum. The shortest priced runners drawn 1 to 4 have made the biggest profit. They have also had a decent strike rate of 28.6%. The biggest priced runner from draws 1 to 4 have also made good profits although it would have been a bit of a rollercoaster with just 13 wins from 258 runners (SR 5%).

So is this the way to go? I'm not sure, but I believe the idea is worthy of more digging in the future. I’ll add it to my rapidly expanding research list!

- DR

 

Draw Bias 2022: Part 1

It has been a couple of years since I wrote some articles on the draw and, with the flat season hitting stride now, it is a good time to revisit the subject, writes Dave Renham. The draw will always have special place in my heart because it was essentially where my racing journey began.

Sprintline 2002: The Effects of the Draw - co-authored by Dave Renham

Sprintline 2002: The Effects of the Draw - co-authored by Dave Renham

While at university I became interested in horse racing stats and I soon realised that there was a potential betting edge in focusing on certain sections of the draw at a few specific courses. Back then, in the late 80s and early 90s, the courses and distances with the strongest biases were at Beverley over five furlongs, Thirsk over five and six furlongs (especially on firmer ground), Chester from five to seven furlongs, Lingfield (turf course) five to seven furlongs, and Sandown over five furlongs when the stalls were placed on the far side. The beauty back then for draw punters like myself was that there was a decent edge for those of us who considered ourselves ‘in the know’. I was able to find plenty of betting opportunities that represented good value.

Unfortunately, if predictably, it was not long before draw biases started to be shared in racing articles which were then followed by comprehensive books on the subject. Indeed, I co-authored one of them!

As with many things, when a good source of highlighting value bets is found, within a few years the edge starts to disappear. This is very much a horse racing trait: good ideas have their initial edge because the majority of people are not aware of that value finding approach. As time goes on, however, the betting public and the bookmakers catch up and, as a result, prices tend to contract and the value begins to erode. This has happened to some considerable extent with the draw over recent years.

Using Chester’s five-furlong trip as an example, let us examine what has happened to the prices of the ‘best’ two stall positions over the past several years. The stalls in question are draws 1 and 2, those closest to the inside rail. I am looking here at handicap races with eight or more runners where draw bias tends to be more consistent:

 

 

Chester’s tight track has long shown a bias to lower draws and this has generally been well documented and widely understood. However, nowadays your average punter has had more exposure to draw biases than they did twenty years ago which explains the diminishing price pattern. The graph above shows that horses drawn in stall 1 had an average decimal SP price of 6.58 from 2003 to 2007, dropping to 5.19 over the most recent five-year period. Likewise, we have seen the prices of horses drawn in stall 2 dropping from 9.06 to 6.46.

Some statisticians may observe that despite the relatively solid sample sizes average prices can be skewed by an occasional bigger-priced runner. That would certainly be possible, so it make sense to compare the median prices as well. To remind you of your school maths class, median is the middle value when all are ordered from lowest to highest. This gives us another type of average, the findings of which are here:

 

 

Once again we see the same pattern: the prices for both draws 1 and 2 have dropped quite significantly over the period of study.

A further measure to illustrate how the draw affects the prices at Chester is if we look at all stall / draw positions from 2017 to 2021 and compare their average prices. We already know that the average for horses drawn in stall 1 has been 5.19 and stall 2 is 6.46. I have graphed the average prices for each stall over 5f at Chester, although due to small sample sizes in higher drawn runners I have combined those drawn in stall 8 or higher:

 

 

As we can see, despite a slight ‘blip’ with stalls / draws 6 and 7, the average price increases as the stall position increases (and is thus further away from the favoured inside rail). Looking at these data, we could confidently argue that at Chester over 5f the draw impacts on price more than any other factor.

 

I briefly want to go back to discuss the price reduction we saw earlier in the lowest two stall positions when comparing 2003-2007 average SP prices with 2017-2021. This has actually not coincided with the draw bias getting stronger; in fact, the draw bias has stayed roughly the same. This can be illustrated when breaking our draw data into three time frames between the years 2003 and 2021. The actual draw positions are also split into three: low third, middle third and high third.

 

 

As can be seen, low draws have continued to dominate in each time frame. This is further evidence of the fact that the price reduction is almost certainly down to more punters being aware of how fundamentally important the draw is to the business of finding winners at Chester over this minimum 5f trip. From a betting perspective, therefore, much or all of the value in lower drawn horses has now evaporated. This can be illustrated in terms of percentage returns (ROI%) if backing all horses from the bottom third (low) of the draw over different time frames.

 

 

I still find it remarkable that up to 2015 you could have made a blind profit at SP by backing all low drawn horses in 8+ handicaps over five furlongs at Chester. All good things come to an end, however, and that has not been the case in recent years. In the five year period 2016 to 2021, losses accrued were 13.7% of stakes. Ouch.

Appreciating and therefore deploying draw bias is not merely about looking at the performances of different sections of the draw; no, we also have to be acutely aware of how the market adjusts for such factors.

Being able to exploit the draw to one's advantage has also been affected in recent years by racecourse officials using other means of negating any potential bias. One way this can be done is by moving running rails which potentially changes part of the ground over which races take place as well as sometimes subtly changing the race distance by a few yards. The other, more notable, fly in the ointment has been the change in watering systems that most tracks now use. Some 20 or 30 years ago many course watering systems were badly affected by wind speed and direction, and hence certain parts of the track remained drier - and therefore quicker - giving rise to draw biases. Nowadays, though, the equipment has become more sophisticated and the water is spread much more evenly.

I mentioned earlier that Beverley over five furlongs used to be one of the strongest draw biases back in the day, and this can be seen when you look at the data. From 1998 to 2003 in 8+ runner handicaps the low third of the draw housed the winner 63.3% of the time, while the highest third won just 10% during that period. From 2004 to 2009, the strength of this bias appeared to dip a little but the low third still accounted for 53.4% of all the winners (high won a still dismal 15%). However, from 2010 to 2015 the low win percentage dropped to just under 42%, while high had narrowed the gap with 23.1% winners; and, from 2016 to 2021 it dropped to 40.8% low and 26.5% high. Over time, that's quite a big change. Yes, low draws are still favoured but the huge edge that there once was is no more.

Exactly why this has happened I cannot be sure; it is probably down to better watering and maintenance of the track. However, what is interesting is the fact that the prices on the best drawn horses have not changed much. Comparing the 2003 to 2007 segment with 2016 to 2021 here are the average prices for stalls 1 and 2:

 

 

Horses drawn in stall 1 have, on average, started at slightly shorter prices in the last five seasons (12 versus 11.42); stall 2 has seen an increase but a modest one when you consider the draw bias is nowhere near as potent these days. The median prices back up the raw average data as the table below shows:

 

 

What seems to be happening here therefore is the market at Beverley is still assuming the draw bias is as strong as it was back in the early 2000s. Unlike the Chester market, which has adapted as one might expect, this Beverley market has not: in reality, the odds should on average be higher than they currently are. The bitesize takeaway is that lower draws are generally poor value.

Another thing that has changed markedly in the past few years is the general appreciation that draw bias does not only occur over sprint trips. Pontefract, for example, over a mile and a mile and a quarter, boasts two of the strongest draw biases currently in play. Looking at 8+ runner 1 mile handicaps at Pontefract, it can be seen that this is a case of the betting market now cottoning on to the draw bias. This is in stark contrast to data gathered in 5f handicaps at Beverley.

Let’s compare once again the same two time frames - 2003 to 2007 with 2017 to 2021. Here are the average prices for stalls 1 and 2:

 

 

The average price of horses drawn in stall 1 has nearly halved; the figures for horses drawn in stall 2 have also contracted quite noticeably. Once again the median prices correlate strongly:

 

 

What this means, therefore, is that although low draws hold a significant edge over 1 mile at Pontefract the current prices on offer are so low on average, that they too are now generally poor value. We can see this in black and white when I share the fact that from 2009 to 2013 backing all low drawn horses at Pontefract over 1 mile in 8+ runner handicaps would have yielded a 13% profit; from 2017 to 2021 this flipped to a 22% loss.

This Ponte pattern mirrors the change we saw earlier in the Chester 5f prices and subsequent poorer value of low drawn runners in recent seasons.

In order to fully make the most of draw bias, or indeed perceived draw bias, it is clear we need to be aware of market factors, not just the raw draw data splits. Let us close with a look at Catterick over six furlongs – again focusing on 8+ runner handicaps. Because this six-furlong trip is contested around a bend there is a perception that lower draws have a slight edge. This is borne out when we compare the combined average prices of the three lowest drawn runners with the three highest drawn runners going back to 2016.

 

 

A difference on average of two and a half points. That may not seem much of a difference but over several races it can make a critical difference to our bottom line. During this time frame both sections of the draw have won virtually the same number of races (26 versus 27), implying that there is no bias to lower drawn runners at all. At least partly as a consequence of this perception, backing the three lowest drawn stalls would have produced crippling losses of 45.8% to SP, while blindly supporting the top three stalls would have produced a profit of 10.5%.

One observation when comparing odds over time might legitimately be that field sizes truncating has had a bearing on prices. While that impact should be spread across the full range of stalls anyway, this final chart also helps to imply that field size is likely not the main factor at play here.

 

 

It is a little 'busy', but essentially we have two lines which we might expect to be correlated - perceived win chance (expressed as SP) and actual strike rate (expressed as win %). Although the win strike rates jump around a bit, the blue dotted 'trendline' shows no advantage; compare that, however, with the orange trendline for average win odds which rises from low to high.

 

*

The aim of this article is to illustrate the important links between draw position and price, and to highlight the changing nature of some draw biases. Profitable betting is about getting value – well drawn horses only offer us value if the price is right. Also, we need to be aware that 'poorly' drawn horses can also offer value, but again only if the price is right.

- DR

Racing is Back! 1st June Video Preview

Racing is back! My, how we've missed it. And, to celebrate its return, as well as the return of plenty of subscribers old and new, I've recorded a video preview of the opening contest.

Regardless of how long you've been a Gold subscriber - perhaps you're still not - I hope you'll find some value in the video, which is designed to highlight a process rather than a tip... though as you'll discover I found a few reasons to like a 20/1 shot!

In the video I refer to a post talking about our metrics, which you can find here.

And here's a quick link to the Newcastle Punting Pointers article.

And, finally, if you're not a Gold subscriber, here's the link to sign up. Get your first month for just £1.

 

Gold Updates: Cosmetics and PRB

As well as providing bundles of top class thought-provoking editorial during this interminable lockdown, we've also been beavering away on generating some new bells and whistles on our racecards. Actually, we've been mostly cosmetically enhancing our existing features. Let's start with those...

Blue is the new grey

First up, you'll see a lot more blue about the place and a lot less grey.

The card tab now looks like this:

 

Full Form, with its collapsible blocks, now looks like this:

In the above example, for a geegeez.co.uk syndicate horse, I've collapsed the Race Form and Race Entries blocks.

 

Perhaps the biggest change is to Instant Expert where we've inverted the colour blocks. So, where previously the outlines and numbers were in the colour (green, amber, red), now the block is that colour with the number font in white. It looks like this:

 

 

Similar cosmetic amendments have been made to the result, pace, odds and draw tabs, which leads me nicely on to...

 

New Draw Metric

We've introduced a new metric on the Draw Analyser and in the draw tab, called Percentage of Rivals Beaten, or PRB. I've explained more about it in this post, which I very much recommend you read if you haven't already.

The value of PRB over, say, win or place percent is that every runner in every race receives a performance value, with only the last placed horse getting 0. So, for example, in a six horse race, there would be a winner, one additional placed horse (as well as the winner), and four unplaced horses.

In the win percentages, that race would produce a breakdown of 100/0/0/0/0/0 (100% win for the winner, 0% win for the rest of the field).

Place percentages would have 100/100/0/0/0/0 (two placed horses, four unplaced '0' horses).

But the third horse has performed better than the fourth, fifth and sixth horses; and the winner has performed better than all of its rivals. PRB aims to more accurately place a value against finishing position. So the percentage of rivals the winner beats will always be 100%, and the PRB of the last placed horse will always be 0%, but in between there will be a sliding scale. In this six-horse race example, the second horse has beaten 80% of its rivals (four out of five rivals), and the fourth placed horse has beaten two home, which is 40% of rivals.

In a fair draw each stall, or group of stalls, would see a PRB score of 50%, or 0.5. And many stalls are within one or two percentage points of that. If a draw location has a PRB of 55%+ (0.55+) it is probably favoured; the converse is also true: if a stall has a PRB of 45% or less it may be somewhat unfavoured. Here's how it looks on the draw tab:

The table columns to the right hand side list PRB and PRB2. In this case we can see that high is favoured to a small degree and low commensurately unfavoured.

PRB2 is simply the PRB score multiplied by itself. What this does is accentuate the percentages: in practical terms it rewards those finishing closer to the winner than those finishing further down the field, recognising that horses may not be ridden out for the best possible placing if that placing is going to be eighth of 20, whereas they virtually always will if that placing is third of 20. There is more on how that works in the horse racing metrics post.

When looking at individual draws, I've introduced a metric called PRB3. Similar to IV3, it takes a rolling three-stall average PRB of the stall in question and its immediate neighbours. So, for example, the PRB3 of stall six would be the average PRB of stalls five, six and seven. It is, in exactly the same way as IV3, a means of smoothing the curve and making sense of draw data distribution. Here it is in action:

 

PRB has lots of potential applications in horseracing datasets, and we've started our adoption in the draw space. It will be especially useful when, as in the examples above, there is not a lot to go on in terms of runs, wins and places. There is still not a great deal in the PRB dataset but, by scoring every horse in each race in the sample, there is more data depth in which to fish.

That's all for this update. Very soon we'll be able to get stuck back into one of our favourite pastimes: messing around with racing data! And Geegeez Gold will have it well covered.

Matt

The Draw Analyser Challenge

Sadly, for those of us who love the UK and/or Irish racing, it looks like we're in limbo until at least June 1st. The good news, relatively at least, is that the odds of a restart on that date are shortening all the time. Assuming nothing untoward occurs during these next few weeks, we ought to be ready to get cracking just 20 days from now. Everything crossed, of course.

In the meantime, it's time to further tool ourselves up, and so I've come up with another challenge!

So that everyone can play I've made our absolutely awesome, best in breed, Draw Analyser tool available to all registered users; so if you have a geegeez account, free or paid, you can join in. This is for the duration of the challenge - one week - only.

Here's what I'd like you to do:

Step 1 - Visualisation

The first thing to do is to bring some logic to the party. It is all too easy to walk straight into the data without thinking about the problem at hand. That casual approach lends itself readily to back-fitting, because you're not trying to prove - or disprove - a theory. Rather, you're looking at the numbers and trying to work back from there. Whilst such an approach is not completely without merit, it is less rigorous than beginning with a notion of what you're hoping to find.

A way to do this when considering potential draw biases is to first look at the track layout. Let's use an example, York racecourse in this case.

1a. Go to our UK racecourses page and choose a course.

I've linked to it there, and you'll find it in the top menu under Courses/Fixtures.

Hint: try to avoid obvious ones like Chester; we're looking for angles that might not be over-exposed

In the top right corner of the racecourse page, you'll see a course map. Clicking on it will expand it and display the locations of the race starts.

 

1b. Scan for possible draw-affected race distances.

I'm immediately drawn to the mile (1m) and 1m1f distances because of that sharp bend at the top of the home straight that comes up fairly quickly. I wonder if, in bigger fields, that might inconvenience wide/high draws and, therefore, favour low to middle stalls.

So that's the assumption I'm going to test. (I think it's possible that in bigger-field two mile races there might be a similar bias for a similar reason given the number of left-handers the field takes, but we'll save that for another day).

Step 2 - Set up the tool

So now we need to set up the Draw Analyser. We're going to do this in a specific way so we test apples against apples, as it were.

The Draw Analyser has a series of options at the top of the page to allow us to configure things as we'd like.

 

So we're going to use a standard set of parameters, shown above and ignoring course and distance for now, as follows:

- Set 'Draw' to Actual - this will review the data based on the actual stall positions of the horses, removing any non-runners from consideration (so, for example, the horse drawn six would have an actual draw of five if one of the horses drawn inside him was declared a non-runner, and so on).

- Set 'Going' to Hard to Heavy (you could use Firm or, at most courses, Good to Firm, but we'll do this for now).

- Set 'Runners' to 10 to 16+

- Set 'Races' to Hcap (so we're only looking at handicaps)

- Set 'Dates' to 2009 to 2020

Once these are set up they will only change when we change them, as all data below the options area updates auto-magically 🙂

Now select your course and distance combination from the dropdowns.

Step 3 - Review the data

If we've performed steps 1 and 2 correctly we should have some data in the tool which may or may not support our theory. Let's review that to see if it is starting to tell us anything.

3a. Consider the course and distance draw 'all going' data

We can see from the chart that there's a lovely linearity - a straight line - from low to high. That is a very good start and normally things will be less cut and dried at this stage. N.B. Do make sure you check the left hand scale because you might see a line like this with very few percentage points from the top of the scale to the bottom.

The table above the chart tells us a number of things:

- There have been 65 races that match our criteria (wins column, 32 + 21 + 12) so a reasonable sample

- The win percentage drops as we move from low to middle to high; so, too, does the place percentage

- The A/E and IV figures for low are both above 1.00, a strong sign

3b. Consider going subsets

At some courses the favoured sector of the draw/track can change markedly on differing ground. For example, at Epsom and Brighton, jockeys will chart a course to the polar opposite side of the home straight on soft or heavy ground due to the way the camber leans and, therefore, the way the rainwater drains (it is always softest at the bottom of a hill or incline).

So we must check for any variance of going. I divide things into two simple subsets, fast and slow. Fast is 'Good or quicker', and slow is 'good to soft or slower'. [For all-weather, I include all AW going in a single range]

N.B. When using going ranges, the faster going must go in the top box or you will get no data returned.

Let's bisect our York mile data in this way:

Fast:

Slow:

In this case there is very little of note: the slow group has only a few races in it and it appears progressively tougher for high drawn horses to prevail, but there is not really enough evidence to be categorical about that.

What we can say is that the bias is 'going agnostic', that is, it manifests largely the same regardless of the state of the ground.

3c. Retest on date range subsets

Racecourse husbandry is an extremely complex business. I, and many others who value data in their wagering decisions, have given clerks of the course a hard time on occasion for their misleading reporting, but there is little doubt that all of them operate to a high level of skill in their field (pun intended!). Advances in irrigation (watering) and drainage, as well as tactical rail movements, have reduced or eliminated many historical biases and so it is important to check our data against different periods of time.

Dave Renham, our main resident draw expert (along with Jon Shenton, who takes a broader sweep in his course analyses), has recently taken to following the Mordin approach of rolling five-year subsets (e.g. 2009-2013, 2010-2014, 2011-2015, etc) and that is a great way to go if you have the time and inclination. For now, though, we'll break the data into two groups, 2009-2014 - the oldest six years in our database - and 2015-2019, the most recent five years. Again we're looking for any material change in the bias.

Hint: Remember to reinstate the full going range

2009-2014

2015-2019

While the sample sizes are quite small, the general principle is the same: low favoured, middle less favoured, high unfavoured. So we appear to have a bias that is consistent against both time and going. These are rare birds so do not fret if you don't find such a clean and consistent relationship with your chosen course and distance combination; after all, mine was cherry-picked for example purposes!

Step 4 - Fine Tuning and Scoring

The last step, assuming there is anything of note to this point, is to fine tune and score your course/distance combination. Actually, there is value in noting that there is little or no bias over a course and distance. No knowledge is bad knowledge and knowing that draw is not a factor in certain races enables an unencumbered focus on other aspects of the puzzle.

4a. Fine tuning

The fine tuning comes first; it's not really fine tuning as such, because we are working within the fixed parameters of field size, going and date ranges to resist accusations of convenience fitting.

But... it is sometimes the case that, for instance, very wet (heavy) ground or the biggest fields accentuate a bias, and it is worth noting that alongside the 'fixed parameter' work.

For my mile handicaps at York research, I wanted to see if a bigger field would emphasise the advantage to those drawn inside and the disadvantage to those drawn highest.

This is really interesting: in the 30 qualifying races, low has readily outstripped middle and high. But looking at the constituent draw data we can see that stalls six and thirteen, on either cusp of the middle draw section, have kept that group afloat. It does appear that either the inside stalls 'get away' or the wider drawn horses sweep around the outside to prevail. Those berthed in the middle have had a tough time being neither one nor the other of those things: not getting first run, and being potentially trapped behind horses in the straight preventing them getting the late run also.

That is conjecture on my part to some degree, but it's credible enough. Of course, I welcome alternative theories!

The IV3 chart at the bottom of the image above (IV3 being the average Impact Value of a stall and its immediate neighbours) demonstrates the middle drawn hinterland as well as the low-draw safe haven for punters.The constituent draw table reveals that ten of the 30 races in the sample were won by horses drawn 1, 2 or 3: that's a third of the winners from less than a fifth of the runners.

4b. Scoring

The last part of the process is to try to score the utility of any observed bias. It may be useful from an elimination perspective - that is, avoid high draws unless their form/value case is irresistible - or, more generally, from a 'mark up' perspective: in other words, bonus points to the case for a horse optimally housed.

The score should be more than a mere number, because there is normally a qualitative element to our observations as well the quantitative component.

For example, in my York mile example, I will score the bias as a solid 7 at this stage. When I've worked through a few more course/distance combinations, I might revisit that score and nudge it up or down a bit, but 7 feels about right for now.

The fact that it's somewhat 'feel-based' - we could use percentage scoring bases, but this challenge is not intended to be too academic in its rigour - adds ballast to the need for the quantitative element: some commentary on what we've discovered.

In this example, my final comments are thus:

York, 1m - 7/10 LOW

Strong linearity from low to high, the widest-drawn runners unfavoured. Bias has been consistent over time and on all going, and is accentuated in bigger fields (8/10 in 16+ runner handicaps), where the bottom three stalls have won a third of the 30 races in review.

 

5 The Challenge

This challenge may be considered a little more in-depth than the horse profiling one from last week, but it's actually about the same once you get into a rhythm. It would be easy to go through all of the distances at a given track in 30-40 minutes, and to select and review the most likely distance(s) in 15 minutes or so.

I'd very much welcome readers of a curious bent taking up the challenge and adding a comment below in the style of my York 1m note and score. I'll add it to the comments as an example, and hope it's not a lone comment!

Good luck,

Matt

New and Improved: Draw / Pace Display

We're at the start of a busy period of development within Geegeez Gold just now, and an early part of this work is to bring a couple of rather clunky elements of the visuals into the 21st century.

Specifically, we've smoothed our draw and pace chart curves; and we've made the pace heat map a bit less 'blocky'.

There is also a new view on the Pace tab - and a very interesting one at that.

Gold users can now see which parts of the draw are favoured by the respective run styles, as well as which horses sit where against that draw / run style underlay. It's quite difficult to explain, so have a look at the short video below and see what you think.

Plenty more coming soon!

Matt

p.s. the user guide has been updated accordingly and you can download the latest version from your My Geegeez page.

The (Occasional) Influence of Draw

In today's video post, I've looked at the paucity of meaningful draw information on horse racing websites.

Naturally, geegeez.co.uk is an exception - in fact, I strongly believe we have the most detailed and user-configurable draw tool for British/Irish racing.

But as punters, we have to be careful around draw data, because much of it is half-baked or plain wrong.

Take a look at this short video...

 

 

Register for Geegeez Gold £1 Trial

Updated User Guide, including Draw and Query Tool 'how to'

 

NEW: Draw Analyser Tool

We've added a new tool to the Geegeez Gold arsenal. It's called Draw Analyser and its layout will be familiar to those of you who already use our cards for flat race purposes.

Within each flat race card is a 'DRAW' tab. The data in this tab relates specifically to the course and distance of the race in question, and is broken down by draw thirds, constituent stalls and, most interestingly (perhaps), by draw/run style combination.

Well, we've taken the race specific draw tab, and created a more generic tool that can be used to view draw information for any course/distance combination. You can also group distances together (make sure you do it sensibly, so you're comparing apples with apples!), change the going range, view by advertised or 'actual' (i.e. after non-runners) draw, and by all races or handicaps only.

We think it's pretty neat. Much more than that, Gold subscribers are telling us they think it's very useful. Here's a short video showcasing what it can do for you...

 

The Draw Analyser can be found here and it is available to Geegeez Gold subscribers. If you've never tried Gold before, you can take a 30 day trial for £1 here.

Matt