Tag Archive for: negative draw bias

Gold Nuggets: Negative Draw Bias

In this week's episode, we look at the value of identifying horses that have run well from a poor draw; and how to spot these horses and add them to your Geegeez Tracker.

The video was inspired by an article published this week on site, which can be viewed here.

00:00 Intro
04:20 Looking at historical races
13:15 How to research negative draw bias using QT
15:00 Example 1
18:00 Adding to Tracker
22:20 Example 2
24:45 Example 3
27:45 Video Recap

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 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