The big handicap this weekend has to be the Cesarewitch. It’s going to be a real test this year on soft ground but who is going to come out on top in this cavalry charge?
The Cesarewitch draw is much talked about and the general consensus is a low draw is best but how strong a draw bias is there over this marathon trip?
It can be a common misconception that just because a high draw is a negative, that a low draw must be better than a middle draw. Looking at the above stats there have been almost twice as many wins from middle draws compared to low draws with the place figures neck and neck between the two. High draws though compare miserably with just a solitary win and on average high draws are producing less than one place per race which means all but the very well handicapped high drawn runners can possibly be ignored, even for a place.
The A/E and IV figures favour middle draws much more so than low draws but the PRB can barely be separated between low and middle draws. So in terms of chances of winning or placing there probably isn’t much between a low draw and a middle draw but it seems clear the bookies overreact to those drawn low and offer better value on those coming from the middle stalls.
Over the years this race has been run on a variety of going conditions, will softer ground amplify the draw bias or negate it?
Looking at races on soft or good to soft, we have far less data so we should tread with caution slightly, but what we seem to be seeing here is a slightly stronger focus on low draws compared to middle. The PRB figures give us the most data and low draw PRB goes from 0.54 to 0.57 on softer ground, whilst middle drawn PRB drops from 0.53 to 0.52. High drawn PRB also decreases from 0.43 to 0.41. So the data is very similar and it’s possible the going doesn’t make any difference but if softer ground does affect the draw bias it makes a lower draw more important rather than less important.
In such a big field plenty of runners fall into the category of low, middle and high and it can be of benefit to find a cut off point for where a good draw becomes a bad draw.
Looking at the individual draw figures, sorted by PRB3, on all but fast ground, gives us some interesting figures. Stalls 1-10 fill ten of the best eleven results with only stall 19 crashing the party.
It’s worth noting that stall 27 has a 30% place strike rate but the only other stall that is 20 or higher to manage even a 15% place strike rate is stall 22 (20%). So given that twelve of the fourteen best place strike rates belong to horses drawn 19 or lower that seems a good cut off point for where a good draw starts to become a bad draw. Five of the best six place strike rates remarkably belong to horses drawn in bottom six stalls so away from fast ground a very low draw is clearly of benefit to each way punters.
Front runners have an advantage at most distances in horse racing but generally speaking the further you go, the less of an advantage it becomes.
It’s a common theme in horse racing that those ridden nearer the pace will offer better value and out and out front runners have a good strike rate here with two winners from just eighteen runs. As horses are given more to do here over this trip they produce more places but from more runners. So just because more placed horses are held up than any other run style, that doesn’t mean they are advantaged. They certainly aren’t disadvantaged either though with only prominent racers having a better each way strike rate.
The going can affect pace bias so let’s have a quick look at the same data on ground that is good to soft or softer.
We have less data here so win percentages seem less relevant but there is a decent amount of place data on offer and it looks as though front runners are only advantaged on faster ground - their record in softer conditions isn't good. The majority of placed horses are coming from nearer the back but there isn’t a massive difference between the place percentages whether you are prominent, mid division or held up. What is noteworthy though is the huge IV of those coming from mid division so that does look the ideal race position on this kind of ground.
In terms of this race, with so many runners the pace map is rather large.
There is guaranteed pace in here from Mukha Magic and potentially another 5 or 6 who could easily try to force the pace or dispute it – this should be run at a good gallop and stamina is likely to be well tested. Those who are settled somewhere around mid division are likely to be seen to best effect.
Draw and Pace Combination
One of the best visuals on Geegeez Gold for me is the draw/pace heat maps. They give such a good snapshot of where you might want to be placed depending on your draw.
Showing data for PRB on course and distance races run on good or softer, this gives a strong indication that low drawn horses that don’t lead are well served. If you are drawn in the middle racing prominently can be advantageous and extremes of rides suit those that are drawn much wider.
You often hear that you need a jumps trainer/horse for this kind of test so let’s see if that’s actually the case.
The last two winners of this race were saddled by Willie Mullins so both had of course previously run over hurdles. In 2015 Grumeti won for Alan King and the previous year Big Easy was the winner for Phillip Hobbs. That’s four of the last six winners having previously jumped a hurdle.
In 2017 the 2nd and 3rd were hurdlers and in 2016 the 5th and 6th were jumpers so it does seem that the proven stamina of those that have national hunt experience comes in handy.
Was impressive in the Melrose last time and has been saved for this since but there has only been one 3yo winner of this race this century and he’s as yet unproven over further than 14f. Add stall 34 to the mix and he is going to have to improve plenty for this step up in trip to figure. That’s possible but the draw makes it easy to put a line through him.
Great White Shark
She was a late plunge in this race last year (11/1 into 7/1) but seemed to run a bit flat, finishing 10th. She’s now 3lb lower this time and her latest flat effort, when a close 7th to Princess Zoe at Galway when better than the bare result, makes her a leading contender. Stall 20 is just about okay but she doesn’t always translate her Galway form elsewhere and needs to step up massively on last year’s effort. No surprise to see her go well but it’s not guaranteed and that’s not really reflected in the price.
Form figures of 211 since joining David Pipe – he’s clearly found the key to this one. He’s up 8lbs for an impressive win last time out on good to soft but that form has been let down a few times and not only does he have stall 29 to contend with, he’s only won once from seven attempts on soft ground and that was when winning by a nose at odds of 4/6. He’s proven over this far both as a flat horse and a jumps horse but is a little risky on this ground.
Not So Sleepy
Clearly laid out for this with just one run since March which was an easy victory over just 12f at Pontefract in a 4 runner handicap. He’s 2lbs well in under a penalty and goes very well in soft ground. He’s got experience over hurdles and was a good 4th in this last year under similar conditions. Stall 4 looks great and there is an awful lot to like about this horse. He’s likely to be somewhere between mid division and prominent which will be fine. The only nagging doubt is he’s 4lbs higher than when beaten over 6 lengths in this 12 months ago. That was arguably a deeper renewal though so no surprise if he at least places once again.
He can be difficult to catch right (fairly well beaten on four of his six starts this term) but he’s well suited by a massive test of stamina, as was demonstrated when he won the Goodwood Stakes this summer over 2f further. Most of his best efforts have come on faster ground but many of his poorer runs on softer ground have been followed up with a poor run on a faster surface so it wasn’t necessarily the ground that held him back on those occasions. He won on good to soft as a juvenile and did run well at Chester on soft ground last year. A quick look at the Profiler tool for the sire’s offspring suggests soft ground shouldn’t be a problem and it will certainly help bring out his stamina. Stall 17 is fine.
Hasn’t taken much racing but the result of that is he’s still unexposed at the age of 5. He’s a winner here and shaped as though he might stay further when staying on well over 14f at Salisbury last time out but he’s never encountered ground softer than good and has stamina to prove so whilst he has potential he’s a very risky proposition.
**Didn’t get in**
First reserve at the time of writing and will only get a run if there is a non runner before 1pm on Friday. This comment will be left in even if he doesn’t make the cut - it will make a nice ‘what if?’!
Lightly Squeeze seems to have an absolutely ideal profile here. He’s been progressive over hurdles since joining Harry Fry - his hurdle rating has risen from 108 to 137. His last run over hurdles was when falling at the last, in the lead, in the Betfair Hurdle. He’s had just the one flat run since then and that was a very interesting run indeed. He drifted from 3/1 to 5/1 before the off (suggesting this was a prep or the run would be needed) but he ran really well. He moved smoothly into contention and was disputing the lead a furlong out before tiring slightly into 3rd. The winner has won again since and the 4th has won both starts since so that was clearly decent form.
The 14f of that race was the furthest he has gone on the flat but his sire (Poet’s Voice) has a 100% place record with progeny over this trip on the flat and he’s also won over a furlong further over hurdles. All his best form is with plenty of cut in the ground and to top it all off he’s drawn in stall 1.
He would have to run from 3lbs out of the handicap but he was due to go up 2lbs for his recent run anyway so is effectively only 1lb wrong.
What a shame it will be if he misses the cut by one place!
He's officially the best in here with his 4lb penalty still leaving him 3lbs well in. He’s pretty much proven at the trip having won at 17.5f last time out at Ayr. In fact his record at 2m or further reads 1121 whereas his 14f record reads 3255589442 so stamina definitely appears his forte. It looks as though he’s been ridden with a little more restraint in recent starts (as opposed to front running) which is probably a good thing given front runners seem to have struggled in his race on softer ground and stall 19 is fine but there is a slight question mark over the ground, he seems to have run his best races on good or good to soft ground (beaten 5+ lengths in three starts on soft). He’s also been running in much weaker contests than this recently so there has to be a doubt about how well handicapped he is for this. He has a definite chance if okay on the ground though.
Best of the Rest
Couer De Lion would have been very interesting on this ground but he’s been drawn in stall 35 and doesn’t have too many secrets from the handicapper so that’s him ruled out. Dalton Highway is quite interesting on some of his form with Great White Shark and he’ll enjoy the ground but stall 27 makes his task even harder. Diocletian will like the ground and shapes as though he may get further but he’s run relatively poorly in all four starts over 2m or further so he can’t be backed with any confidence for all he’d be capable of running very well if he did stay.
True Destiny loves having his stamina tested and runs well in good staying handicaps but he’s difficult to win with and the ground has probably gone against him. Cleonte is well drawn and fairly handicapped but has been in poor form on his last three runs.
Perhaps most interesting of the rest is Gold Arch who could offer some value at a very big price. He’s not the easiest ride and can be awkward under pressure but he’s had a more consistent profile this season for William Knight, finishing in the first four in all five starts. On his first run at 2m he had to be hard ridden half a mile from home and he stayed on well into 2nd. It was a similar story next time out over the same trip at Ripon, a course that wouldn’t have suited his running style. On that occasion he ran on into a never nearer 4th. He then ran over 16.5f at Wolverhampton on his latest start and once again stayed on late behind two rivals who were more forwardly ridden. He made up a lot of ground again late that day to finish 3rd (True Destiny who is a shorter price here was just a short head in front) and although it could be argued that he’s better on all weather than turf (very possibly true) he’s yet to have his stamina fully tested on turf and may well enjoy the softer ground.
Obviously this is a wide open race and it’s more a case of finding a few runners who have been underestimated by the bookies than looking for the most likely winner. Those at the head of the market look too skinny for a variety of reasons and there is definitely value to be found elsewhere.
With Lightly Squeeze not getting a run the shortlist is going to be:
Not So Sleepy
Not So Sleepy is perhaps the most solid of the of the quartet having run well in this last year. He’s well drawn, stays the trip and comes here in form and fresh. It’s a concern that he’s 4lbs higher this time around but perhaps being a fresher horse this year will make the difference. He’s a solid each way at 12/1, especially with as many as 8 places on offer, but the suspicion has to be he’ll find a couple too good.
Just Hubert still looks fairly handicapped and whilst the ground is a slight concern he’ll absolutely adore this stamina test. There is a bit more risk involved compared to backing Not So Sleepy but he’s as big as 18/1 so he could be slightly more rewarding too.
Similar sentiments apply to Mondain. He’s technically well handicapped here and seems well suited to a real stamina test but he hasn’t really finished amongst well handicapped horses this season so could find this too competitive. There is also a small worry about the ground conditions suiting, for all he is proven on good to soft.
Now Gold Arch is riskier than the other three but at 50/1 (including with SkyBet who are offering 8 places) he looks the value play here. He can be a difficult ride, he needs reminders, riding along early and often carries his head high. However the further he goes, the stronger he gets and this long straight and extra distance could well be the making of him. He’s been a consistent horse this season in a visor so should be a decent each way bet despite not having yet registered a win on turf. It’s just a shame they don’t run the Cesarewitch at Wolverhampton as he’d be a near certainty there!