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Cesarewitch Draw and Pace Bias Plus The Effect Of The Ground On Front Runners At York

Some very interesting betting races at both York and Newmarket this weekend and the most interesting of all has to be the Cesarewitch Handicap at Newmarket. As usual there are 34 runners plus 2 reserves entered and some course biases would be extremely handy in narrowing down this field, so let’s take a look at what might prevail here.

Cesarewitch Draw Bias

The general consensus is you want to be drawn low in this, but how strong is the bias over 2m2f at Newmarket?

The Cesarewitch Trial doesn’t tend to attract big fields so we are fairly limited with our data here as most of it is only provided by the renewal of this race each year. The good news is that with some massive field sizes a huge amount of runners have contributed to the PRB data here and that is going to be by far our most reliable gauge of a potential draw bias at Newmarket.

The PRB data seems to favour low and middle over high with a low draw PRB of 0.54, a middle draw PRB of 0.53 and a much poorer PRB for the highest third of the draw of just 0.44.

The win data isn’t totally reliable given a relatively small sample of races since 2009 but it’s worth noting that only one winner since that data has come from a stall higher than 23 and that was when Frankie Dettori made all on Never Can Tell in 2011. His stall number was 36 but with non runners and reserves not making the cut he effectively came out of stall 33. It’s worth noting that not only was he able to get a good early position from his ‘bad’ draw, Dettori also explored a completely different part of the straight than the rest of the field which probably gave him a big advantage that day - negating the disadvantage of his draw.

That win certainly looks the exception to the rule and it seems that for win purposes we probably want to look at the bottom two thirds of the draw.

For a more detailed look at the draw we should check out the individual stall data.

Both the table and the graph are sorted by PRB3 (PRB3 is a rolling three-stall average percentage of rivals beaten) to give us the best indication of the best and worst places to be drawn in the Cesarewitch.

First of all though, we’ve established that winning is very difficult from the top third of the draw but what about placing? Higher drawn runners do place, and it’s easy to then suggest the draw bias can’t be very strong because of it, but that isn’t wise. Of the top eleven place percentages for individual stalls, nine of those come from stalls 11 or lower. The only other stalls to break into that top eleven are stalls 19 and 27.

Stall 33’s sole place came when Dettori found the quickest ground and if you were willing to ignore that, which admittedly is slightly selective use of the data, it could be said that the highest seven stalls are all in the bottom fourteen stalls as far as place percentages are concerned.

A total of seventeen stalls have placed more than once and fourteen of those were stall 16 or below. The other three stalls to have two places or more are 19, 22 and 27.

Based on the win and place data, I’d suggest that the winner is very likely to come from stall 23 or lower and the placed horses are very likely to be dominated by stalls 27 and lower. That potentially rules out eleven runners for win purposes and seven runners for place purposes.

As mentioned previously, the most reliable data in this sample is the PRB data as every runner is contributing to that.

Again, this is selective use of the stats as Stall 33 has won the race before, but we’ve established that he probably didn’t really win completely on merit so I’m willing to largely overlook that anomaly. If you did ignore that win the top twenty-two individual stall PRB figures would belong to the lowest 28 stalls and any stall higher than that would have a PRB of 0.46 at best. The top six PRB figures include five stalls that are 10 or lower.

For some reason there is a slight dip in performance as far as PRB3 is concerned from around stall 9 to stall 18. There is no obvious reason why that might be the case and perhaps that line will be smoothed further in future years. It certainly seems as though being drawn 11 or lower is absolutely ideal according to many of the individual stall metrics.

All of the above data is based on the actual stall the runners emerged from, which is impacted by non runners, rather than the racecard stall numbers. It’s worth noting that the reserves this year are drawn in stalls 23 and 3. Assuming neither gets a run stalls 4 to 22 will effectively break from one stall lower than their racecard draw and stalls 24 and above will effectively come out of two stalls lower than their racecard draw. So if you were using stall 23 as the cut off for where you might be able to win from, stall 25 would actually qualify as that will effectively be stall 23.

One final point to note on the Cesarewitch draw advantage is that as of 2020, you have to go all the way back to Sergeant Cecil’s victory from stall 9 in 2005 to find a renewal of this race where a horse drawn 7 or lower didn’t finish in the first four. So it might not be a bad strategy to simply back your favoured horse drawn 7 or lower to place - there are plenty of runners at very big prices amongst those draws this year.

Cesarewitch Pace Bias

So we certainly seem to have a Cesarewitch draw bias, what about a Cesarewitch pace bias at Newmarket?

The win percentages suggest the closer you are to the early pace the better but sixteen races is too small a sample to be reading too much into the win data when we can also look at the place data.

The place percentages suggest there really is much in it at all. The top place percentage of 15.91% belongs to prominent whilst front runners have a slightly inferior place percentage of 15.71%.

The best two place percentages do belong to the most aggressive run styles but with mid division place percentage coming in at 12.5% and held up providing a place percentage of 14.21% there really isn’t much between the data.

If there aren’t many front runners in the field I’d probably slightly favour something that is likely to be ridden in the front half of the field but granted an even pace or better I’d have no hesitation in going for something a bit more patiently ridden if they have the right sort of draw and a strong level of form.

Cesarewitch Draw and Pace Combination

Draw and pace are both extremely important factors in most races. In combination they can be hugely influential and the draw and pace combination heat map on the Draw Analyser helps give extra insight into potential course biases.

Despite Newmarket often being a front runner’s track, the data points to a front running ride from either low or middle to be a disadvantage in this race with extremely poor PRB figures for each of those combinations. The only reason front running from a high draw comes out okay is the victory of Never Can Tell in 2011 and that probably shouldn’t be taken at face value. More runners have led early from low, than middle and high combined, so it’s clear that it’s much easier to get the lead from a low stall as those higher drawn runners are likely to track across.

Racing prominently is rarely a bad thing at Newmarket and that’s certainly the case if a runner is drawn low or middle in this with impressive PRBs of 0.58 and 0.64 respectively. Things get drastically worse for this run style from high draws though with a PRB of just 0.31. Nineteen runners have raced prominently from a high draw since 2009 and only one of those even managed to place.

Racing in mid division is possibly just about the best place to be if drawn low but things get steadily worse the higher you are drawn for this run style. The place percentages for middle and high for mid division are extremely poor (less than 4% compared to 24.25% for mid division for low).

The draw seems to make the least amount of difference for those held up with not a massive amount between the draws for that run style. On balance, if you are backing a high drawn runner then it is probably best that the horse is dropped out from the start. If you are a hold up performer then there isn’t much between a low and middle draw as far as PRB is concerned, although place percentage data very slightly favours middle.

This heat map is very informative and my reading of the data is that prominent runners from low or middle draws should be marked up, as should those racing in mid division from low draws, whilst I wouldn’t be completely put off hold ups from low or middle.

Cesarewitch 2021 Pace Map

This is the pace map for the 2021 Cesarewitch Handicap, based on the last two runs of each participant.

I have added two blue boxes which may well be the most advantageous draw and pace combinations. There is of course no guarantee that those runners will reproduce those run styles, or that runners outside of the boxes won’t be ridden differently this time around.

Overall there is a fair amount of pace in this contest, particularly drawn very low although Aleatoric is second reserve and unlikely to run. There is also pace middle and high and those runners are going to have to use up plenty of early energy if they are to compete with Putting Green and Land Of Winter for the early lead.

Only a couple of the low drawn runners appear likely to be dropped out early, potentially forfeiting some of their draw advantage, and one of those includes the well fancied Buzz.

Given there is a decent amount of early pace in this on paper I wouldn’t rule out the more patiently ridden runners from low and middle draws although they might be at a slight disadvantage against some other draw and pace combinations (mainly the two marked in the blue boxes on the pace map).

Cesarewitch 2021 Preview

It's not impossible to build a case for many of these but I had four runners, all relatively well found in the betting, in mind for this from an early stage.

I’m never quite sure what to do with the Willie Mullins runners in these races. He’s won this for the past three years and runs five this year. In general they are difficult to weigh up from a form perspective but you know they should usually be respected because of the powerful yard they represent.

MC Muldoon is one of the easier ones to work out because he ran in the Ascot Stakes in June. He was runner up in that contest, and an unlucky runner up at that. I was really impressed with how he made up ground that day, going from around five or six lengths off the pace turning for home to about two lengths off the pace by the time they reached the 2f marker. This long straight will allow him to make up the ground in his own time and his draw in stall 15 is more than fine. He’s up 4lbs and the form of that Ascot Stakes race could certainly have worked out better so there are negatives but he’s clearly been campaigned with this in mind all season and has to be the one to beat.

Elysian Flame was one place behind him that day on ground that would have been plenty fast enough. He then did best of those held up at Glorious Goodwood over a similar trip. He stays all day and would have preferred more rain but what rain they’ve had will suit, as should the long straight. He’s entitled to push MC Muldoon close from a similar draw, with a similar run style, but you get the impression that MC Muldoon is the classier rival.

The horse that finished ahead of Elysian Flame at Goodwood was Calling The Wind, who has been extremely progressive over staying trips this season. He was runner up in the Queen Alexandra Stakes in June but it’s not always best to take that form at face value. He came out of that and won at Goodwood though, cruising through that contest and only needing to be shaken up in the final furlong to win comfortably. He was put up 6lbs for that but probably put in his most remarkable effort to date last time out over just 12f. Despite that distance looking far too short for him based on this season’s exploits he once again cruised through the race, showing more speed than any other rival, only to go down by a head to a well handicapped winner. His performance needs to be watched to be appreciated and he has looked well ahead of his mark on his last few runs. The problem here is stall 27, which admittedly will effectively be stall 25 assuming the two reserves don’t make the cut. That stall would make him slightly higher still than the preferred cut off for win purposes but just about within the cut off for placing.

If Calling The Wind had been granted a much lower draw I don’t see how this horse would have finished out of the places and would have backed accordingly. As it is he still has a fair chance of placing at least but the market hasn’t reacted enough to his draw (meaning he should have drifted more) so I’ll have just a small each way bet on him instead.

Platform Nineteen was four places behind Calling The Wind at Goodwood and followed that up with a strong 3rd at York over two miles.

What is interesting about that form is the 2nd, 5th, 6th and 7th have all won since making Platform Nineteen look well handicapped still off a 1lb higher mark. Unfortunately he has fared just as badly as Calling The Wind when it comes to the draw having been handed stall 28. From very similar draws I’d expect Calling The Wind to finish maybe a couple of lengths ahead of Platform Nineteen but Calling The Wind is only around 8/1 at the time of writing whereas Platform Nineteen is around the 25/1 mark. I’d much rather back Platform Nineteen to place at around 6/1 than Calling The Wind to place at around 2/1!

I think this quartet will all run well in this race and begrudgingly admit that MC Muldoon is the most likely winner but he offers no value, nor does Calling The Wind who the draw has hindered. I’m reluctant to get too involved in PLATFORM NINETEEN given the draw but he has to be considered the value play in this for all his draw has probably cost him a winning chance, making a place only bet the most appealing wager – you’d still get paid at similar odds as you would on MC Muldoon winning.

Coral Sprint Trophy Preview

From eighteen furlongs to six. Over at York, at 3.15pm, another extremely tough handicap will be run - the Coral Sprint Trophy.

The draw advantage at York probably isn’t what it used to be, they largely come up the middle and that seems to be just about the best place to be, making it a pretty level playing field as far as stalls are concerned.

Pace still has a huge bearing on York sprints though. It’s often a huge advantage to be on the speed over both 5f and 6f but is that still the case on testing ground?

The above shows the pace bias in big field York sprints on good or good to firm ground.

Meanwhile this is the pace data for sprints on good to soft or soft ground.

Front runners actually do marginally better in softer conditions for both win and place percentages. With front runners doing even better on testing ground we see a slightly poorer performance from those that are held up.

In this year’s race Gulliver will be going for a hat trick having won this in both 2019 and 2020. Despite being held up more often than not, which isn’t a great run style for this venue, all four of his turf wins have come at York. For 99% of the race in 2019 he looked like an also ran having been first off the bridle but he kept responding and got up late. A year later things were far more straight forward. Despite being settled at the back of the field he made up ground more comfortably this time, winning by over 2 lengths against a runner up that would be rated 10lbs higher within 6 months.

He also ran in a 6f handicap this season, on good to soft ground, but it appears the ground wasn’t quite soft enough as he was never going quick enough and finished a never nearer 6th. He did second best of the hold up performers that day and it’s worth noting that the best of those hold up performers was Mr Lupton who won the race. Mr Lupton is 3lbs better off with Gulliver in this having beaten him by 4.75 lengths so even though Gulliver looks likely to run well again off the same mark he carried to victory last year, it’s difficult to argue he is any sort of value against Mr Lupton who is the complete outsider of the field whereas Gulliver is the favourite. Like Guilliver, Mr Lupton also has four wins on the Knavesmire so is just as much of a course specialist.

You do have to forgive Mr Lupton four poor runs on the bounce, which is why he is such a big price, whereas Gulliver looks much more likely to run his race.

I do like Gulliver’s chances but the ground isn’t going to get any softer there now and that might count against him.

There are some interesting Irish runners in this race. Laugh A Minute was rated as high as 109 when with Roger Varian and placed twice here (good previous York form is always a huge bonus in any of these races). He comes here rated 92 having gone close last time despite never really getting a clear run. His better form has generally come on better ground though and he was well beaten in this last year.

Verhoyen could be the most interesting Irish raiders though. Three of his four wins have come over 6f but he’s been running over 5f recently. Last time out he got within half a length of the now 100 rated Strong Johnson, off level weights, meaning he’s feasibly handicapped here off 92 with the step back up in trip looking likely to suit.

Magical Spirit looks overpriced at 16/1 with most bookies. He ran a solid 4th in the Ayr Silver Cup last time out despite the ground not being soft enough and he was also 4th in this last year off a 5lb higher mark.

Magical Spirit ran very well over a slightly inadequate 5f on his penultimate start at Ascot’s Shergar Cup meeting but what is interesting about that race is he was 2nd in the near side group and the other runners who came near side have let that form down repeatedly since.

However the race that took place on the far side is far more interesting. The winner of the entire race, and therefore first home on the far side, was Tis Marvellous who has won two listed races since and placed in a Group 3 since. The runner up on the far side, beaten 2 lengths, was King Of Stars who has won two handicaps subsequently. Then third home on the far side, beaten a length by King Of Stars, was Snazzy Jazzy who is now a massive 7lbs lower and runs here. On that form alone he is 8lbs better off with Magical Spirit.

That was one of three strong efforts Snazzy Jazzy put in during the summer over 5f and the other two came here at York. The first of those was a 4th in a listed contest won by subsequent Nunthorpe winner Winter Power. The runner up has finished 2nd in a Group 3 since and the 3rd placed in a listed race next time out.

Snazzy Jazzy was also 7th in the above race, that I highlighted as hot form ahead of the Portland Handicap a few weeks ago. The 3rd and 5th have both won twice since and the 1st and 2nd have both finished as runner up since giving that form a really solid look. Snazzy Jazzy was only beaten 3 lengths in this race and is now racing off a 5lb lower mark.

His two subsequent runs haven’t been quite so good but he was held up in the centre of the course in the Ayr Gold Cup which was absolutely not the place to be from both a draw and pace perspective. He was then outclassed in a listed race last time out. His runs at 5f on good or good to soft ground in the summer read very well given all his best form previously had come on soft ground at 6f, the scenario he faces on Saturday.

He could easily bounce back to form back at York, pitched into more suitable company on a lenient handicap mark, and although his hold up style isn’t tailor made for this course, he’s already run well here against pace biases. There is also plenty of pace likely in this (four habitual front runners) which will boost both his, and Gulliver’s chances. SNAZZY JAZZY looks far more interesting than Gulliver though given the 33/1 on offer.

Good luck whatever you are backing!