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Ascot and Redcar Straight Course Draw Biases (Plus More Chester Hot Form)

Take your pick this weekend when it comes to top racing – there is Group 1 action from Newmarket in the form of the Sun Chariot Stakes, Ascot hosts a couple of Group 3s and some class 2 handicaps and even Redcar has two listed races including their well funded Two Year Old Trophy.

We saw last week at Newmarket that the near side rail was once again the place to be but the stalls will be on the far side for this meeting which will nullify that bias in most races.

I’m going to look at a couple of draw biases this week, at both Ascot and Redcar, with a couple of handicap races in mind.

Ascot Straight Course Draw Bias

Let’s first take a look at data from the straight course at Ascot on ground that is between good and soft.

A huge sample size as we include a variety of distances and the data implies a slight advantage to being drawn middle to high rather than low.

High performs best for win purposes, middle is narrowly ahead of high for places and middle and high both have a PRB of 0.51, compared to 0.48 for low. The lower draws come out the worst across every metric.

From spring to summer I’d nearly always prefer a high draw on anything I’m backing but things begin to change at this time of year. One factor that affects the draw now is a false rail is used at this meeting to save the ground for Champions day. This results in reduced field capacity this weekend and slightly different parts of the track being explored for some runners.

At this meeting in the past there seems to have been various draw biases, or perhaps no draw bias depending on which way you look at it.

We lost this meeting to the weather last year so the last time we had this meeting was back in 2019 and Kynren won the big 7f handicap from stall 17. That same stall was successful in 2018 when Raising Sand won and 16 was the winning stall in 2016. Accidental Agent won this from stall 8 in 2017. These recent wins seem to suggest the high stall bias remains for this meeting.

Just as important as simply looking at where the winners came from is to watch the races back and to see what parts of the course were explored and where on the track the placed horses were. In 2019 they came middle to near side in the ‘Challenge Cup’ and near side seemed to dominate. In a 5f handicap later on in that card they explored the same part of the track and although stalls 1 and 3 both placed, they actually passed the line on the same part of the track (near side) that Kynren won on earlier that day.

Although this is only two races worth of evidence, it does suggest two things. The first is that there seemed to be an advantage to racing near side (high numbers). The second is that without massive, 30 runner fields at this meeting the lower drawn numbers are still able to get over and race on the better ground. So whilst a high draw might be an advantage of some sort again this year, it doesn’t mean you can rule out the low numbers.

What about other recent years? In 2018 high numbers dominated the Challenge Cup but the winner largely raced in the middle of the pack and there didn’t seem as much of an advantage as the placed stall numbers would suggest. There was also a big field that year in the 7f listed race and again the winner came down the middle.

In 2017 the winners were coming middle to far side but then in 2016 they were coming middle or near side.

The overall point here with the draw at this meeting is that if there is a draw bias it’s not the easiest to predict and if you can predict it’s almost certainly not as strong a draw bias as you often see earlier in the season, partly because the field sizes as smaller.

If I could pick the ‘perfect’ draw here I’d probably go for something just on the high side of middle as it’s almost certain you’ll have an excellent chance of winning from there, if good enough. I’d prefer not to be drawn very low but I wouldn’t rule anything out solely because of it.

Challenge Cup 2021 Thoughts

First of all, a note on the ground/weather. Judging by the weather forecast the ground will be just on the soft side of good when racing on Friday finishes and the ground come race time on Saturday (3.50pm) depends very much on how early the heavy rain comes. At the time of writing heavy rain is forecast to hit the course an hour or two before this race. If it comes earlier than that the ground will almost certainly be soft, or if the rain is delayed this could be run on something closer to good to soft.

So it might be an idea to hold your bets unless your bet has no fears on anything the soft side of good.

Ascot is generally a fair course in terms of pace and the most important thing to consider is the individual pace setup in each race.

There really isn’t a lot of likely pace in this race which is automatically going to draw me towards something that likes to race prominently and something that is a bit more speed over stamina.

I’d have concerns over Al Rufaa and Arastus if the ground softens at all. Al Rufaa won a maiden on soft as a 2yo but ran flat last time he encountered cut whilst Arastus was pulled out because of good to soft ground in July.

Fresh is a horse I have a lot of time for, I fancied him strongly in the Wokingham here in June when 2nd to Rohaan. He’s only 2lbs higher now and seems to get on well with cut in the ground  and enjoys this course so clearly isn’t handicapped out of things at all. I just have reservations about this distance. He’s been strong at the finish on recent starts but he’s also a smooth traveller and whilst a muddling 7f won’t be the strongest test of stamina, this will be run at a very different tempo to what he’s used to and he’s unlikely to be ideally placed. There are enough negatives to put me off.

Escobar is another who likes it here and he too is feasibly handicapped. He was 3rd over course and distance behind River Nymph in May in a race that wasn’t strongly run and he found that a bit too much of a speed test. He’s 3lbs higher here and prefers a stronger gallop so he appeals more as one for the Balmoral Handicap later this month, a race he won in 2019.

River Nymph is only 1lb worse off with Escober for that win and has already proved he can operate over course and distance, on soft ground, in a relatively slowly run race. He’s still only raced 12 times and should still have some improvement left in him. There was nothing wrong with his listed 4th last time out when he was given plenty to do and it would be a surprise if more prominent racing tactics aren’t employed here. There is lots to like except the price. He’s shortened plenty since the ante post markets were put up but he should still be a fairly safe each way play with stall 7 not looking too bad.

Aldaary is one that has plenty of experience here. He’s been running in the big 7f handicaps here this summer and hasn’t been getting his ground so he promises to improve on his 5th in both the Buckingham Palace Stakes and the International Stakes now that he does get his ground. He’s a strong stayer at 7f though so whilst he’s one I like from a form and ground perspective, the pace make up here might not suit him and stall 2 probably isn’t the perfect draw.

It’s impossible to put that pace map up and not talk about Tomfre, who could get his own way out in front. He completed a hat trick on very testing ground towards the end of last season, wins that took him from a rating of 93 to 105. You could argue that rating has found him out this season but he was runner up in a listed race on seasonal debut when conceding race fitness to the rest of the field and then he was runner up in a York handicap when far more patiently ridden than usual. His 9th on very fast ground in the Buckingham Palace Stakes here was a fair effort considering he is an out and out mudlark and after that he missed 92 days, presumably due to the dry spell we had. On his return he was 1.75 lengths behind River Nympth at Newbury, admittedly that horse shaped better and was also returning from a break, but again Tomfre would have appreciated softer ground that day. If the ground turns soft Tomfre would rate a good each way bet at around 16/1 and if it managed to come up heavy he'd be a strong bet – although those odds would probably be long gone.

A drastic softening of the ground would also suit Ascension, who will appreciate this drop back in trip and his racing style could be well suited to this race, as well as Young Fire who was 2nd here over a mile at the Shergar Cup meeting in a race that has worked out well enough. He doesn’t really get on with York so he’s forgiven his effort last time out but he appreciates a good gallop as well as plenty of rain and he’s unlikely to get the former.

No prizes for suggesting River Nymph and Aldaary are the most likely winners of this. The former is a bit more versatile tactically speaking so is preferred from the pair however if the heavy rain comes early afternoon it should get into the ground pretty quickly and that would make TOMFRE great value. His draw in stall 11 could be just about perfect too.

Redcar Draw Bias

There seems to have been a huge shift in draw bias at Redcar this season. Here is the data for straight course handicaps in larger fields between 2009 and 2020.

Then here are the same filters just for this season.

Low drawn runners are winning more often, placing more often, and beating more rivals home than ever before.

Now I’m not sure why this is the case but on Saturday we have the 14 runner 2yo listed race and a 15 runner sprint handicap where low draws are likely to be advantaged in a way the bookies don’t quite appreciate and I also think it will have an impact on the 12 runner mile handicap, due off at 4.45.

Straight Mile Series Handicap Final Thoughts

This is the series final and it’s attracted a good field of runners with plenty of course form that has got them into this race.

The pace map shows that Delgrey Boy is likely to get an uncontested lead and if his jockey has much sense he’s going to pop out of stall 1 and head over to the far side rail. There is very little between him, Copper And Five and Sucellus on their course and distance clash a couple of weeks ago and the first two of those are both drawn low but Sucellus is drawn in 11 so the latter could come off worst of the trio this time. Neither Delgrey Boy or Copper And Five look particularly well handicapped anymore so whilst both should enjoy the run of the race, both from a draw and pace perspective, they could be vulnerable to other low drawn runners.

Those two runners may be Give It Some Teddy and Scottish Summit. The latter continues to outrun his odds but is frustrating in that he struggles to get his head in front. He’s only 1lb higher than when 3rd at York, not getting the run of the race, behind two subsequent winners, so he’s well handicapped and should go very well but he may be the bridesmaid yet again.

Give It Some Teddy has won this race for the past two renewals (no race last year) and has managed to turn up this year 2lbs lower than his last win here.

From 11 runs here he has a record of 5 wins and 7 places so he’s very much the course specialist in the field and trainer Tim Easterby could hardly be in much better form – his win strike rate in the past year in handicaps is 11.88% and in the past 14 days that has risen to 15.18%. It’s also worth noting that as well as winning this with Give It Some Teddy in the previous two renewals, he’s actually won four of the last five runnings of the race. He admittedly runs three others here (Delgrey Boy, Perfect Swiss and Al Erayg) but Give It Some Teddy holds those first two runners on recent course form and Al Erayg is 5lbs out of the handicap.

Give It Some Teddy, despite being 2lbs lower than his last win here, comes into this race in good form. He won comfortably at Thirsk in August, beating a next time out winner, and he followed that up with a narrowly beaten 3rd here off a 1lb lower mark than he races off here. That race has also worked out well with the runner up winning by 6 lengths on his next start and the 4th and 5th going on to win soon after too.

Give It Some Teddy has an excellent chance of making it three in a row in this with Scottish Summit feared most.

Hot Form At Chester

Last week at Chester I highlighted some hot form, which admittedly didn’t translate to such good performances on the day for a variety of reasons, but there is a good chance on Saturday for one of those strands of form to receive another boost.

I shared the above form line as a reason to why Muntadab might run well last week. As it was he doubled in price throughout the day and didn’t run to form but there is enough evidence to suggest The Kodi Kid could run a big race on Saturday in the opening race at 1.55pm.

The 2nd and 3rd both came out of that above race and won, as did the 7th, and it was The Kodi Kid who very much emerged from the race as the one to follow. He was weak in the betting, wide throughout and ultimately shaped as though he’d come on for the run – his first for two months and his first for Charlie Fellowes having previously raced for Andrew Balding.

The Kodi Kid has a previous course and distance success to his name on good to soft ground, where he beat a subsequent triple winner, and he still seems to be well handicapped off a 5lb higher mark here. There is a fair bit of rain forecast at Chester and it’s worth also noting that whereas the formbook says his last effort, shown above, came on good ground but the ground was actually changed to soft immediately after that race so it seems plenty of cut suits.

Master Zoffany has won two from two at Chester this season, both wins working out well, and he’d rate the main danger on ground he’ll likely enjoy but he does have to bounce back from a poor effort last time out at Goodwood (he’s been off for two months since).

Good luck with whatever you are backing this weekend.

Ejtilaab Has Plenty In His Favour In Chester Handicap

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

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

Draw

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pace

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

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

Pace Map

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

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

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

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

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

Draw and Pace Combination

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

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

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

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

The Runners

This is the full field, in early odds order.

Ejtilaab

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

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

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

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

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

Another Batt

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

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

Boardman

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

King’s Knight

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

Azano

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

Hey Jonesy

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

Mission Boy

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

Tadleel

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

Via Serendipity

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

Alexander The James

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

Gabrial The Wire

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

Hayadh

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

Verdict

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

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

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