I’m going to be changing the format of these ‘previews’ going forward, hopefully for the better. I’ll be doing a little less research on individual races each week and concentrating more on data and angles that can be useful for more than just one race a week.
If you have any feedback on the newer format, or any extra angles you'd like to be included, feel free to drop a reply below.
Doncaster is the feature meeting on Saturday with the highlight being the St Leger. I’m a bit more partial to some of the quality handicaps on offer there though, notably the Portland Handicap which is run over 5.5f.
Portland Handicap Draw Bias
On the subject of the Portland Handicap, is it best to be drawn low, middle or high?
In big field sprints (5f to 6f) on ground that ranges from good to firm to good to soft it appears there is a slight disadvantage being drawn on either of the flanks, whilst the very centre seems to underperform slightly too.
The line graph above shows the PRB3 data (PRB3 is a rolling three-stall average percentage of rivals beaten) spread across the track and is a great representation of where you might want to, and not want to be drawn. The main takeaway is that being drawn in the bottom five stalls is probably lower than ideal with the highest three stalls also seemingly the place not to be.
The draw and pace combination heat map is a great tool for showcasing any potential draw and pace combination biases. It looks as though leading from the middle is very effective, despite needing to dominate a large field, but the very best combination is racing in mid division from the centre third of the draw. You would think that there was a fair chance of not getting a clear run given that combination as there will likely be horses either side but whilst that will always be a possibility, it’s clearly not been a barrier to success with runners perhaps spreading out enough to allow clear runs through.
If drawn low, being held up is ideal but there is very little in the PRB figures for each run style with low draws. From the higher draws mid division does worst of all with almost nothing between the other run styles.
Overall this looks a very fair course and distance and it would be a bad idea to rule anything out completely based on draw or pace biases but it seems that the very low and very high draws do struggle a little whilst early leaders, or those that race in mid division, from middle draws should perhaps be marked up a little.
Both graphs are available in the draw analyser tool and also on the racecard draw tabs for each race.
Doncaster Pace Bias
A few major handicaps aside, you don’t tend to get too many huge field races at Doncaster meaning the draw can have less of an effect in many cases. Without draw biases it can be a bit more difficult to narrow fields down or find runners that may have an edge due to course biases.
It’s still worth being aware of any potential pace biases the course can throw up.
It’s not always wise to lump such a wide range of distances in together as pace biases can vary plenty depending on the distance of the race but it seems that the data is pretty similar at trips of a mile or further in mid sized fields run on good to soft or better ground.
In general this looks a very fair track in terms of pace as hold up horses are not at a disadvantage. Generally in racing it is an advantage to be nearer the pace and many courses can give an extra advantage to front runners but that is not the case at Doncaster. In fact it is the worst run style statistically for most of the distances involved in this sample.
A course not favouring front runners doesn’t necessarily mean you should only back hold up performers. That run style does marginally have the best place percentage here across all of these distances combined but prominent racers do almost as well. As with all races, the individual pace maps should always be considered and if there is likely to be a pace collapse than those that are patiently ridden will normally benefit whilst a lack of early pace will often suit those ridden nearer the pace.
As an example, there is a lot of early pace in the Portland Handicap this year, as you’d probably expect for a big field sprint. No fewer than eight of these runners have made the running on at least one of their last two outings.
With a possible burn up likely those ridden in the rear half of the field could be advantaged. We already know that it’s a bit of a disadvantage to be drawn very low or very high meaning those in the blue box on the pace map above could be in the sweet spot and are likely to be seen to best effect. It would be no surprise at all if the winner was to come from one of those runners and some quick form study should be able to narrow it down further. If you wanted to be kind you could add Hurricane Ivor into the mix – he’s drawn a little lower than ideal but has run well in several races this season that have worked out to be ‘hot form’.
At the other end of the pace scale there is the Park Stakes.
Here we have just one front runner so the progressive Danyah could get an easy time of things up front. Whilst front runners might not do as well in slightly bigger fields over longer distances here, the best place to be on good or faster ground in this field size over 7f here is on the lead. Front runners have the best win percentage (19.19%) and the best place percentage (36.6%).
Top Doncaster Trainers
If you’re looking for the best trainers at Doncaster racecourse here are the top Doncaster trainers who have had five or more winners in the past five years, sorted by IV (Impact Value). So we are seeing how often they win at this course relative to their counterparts.
Near the very top is John and Thady Gosden, who will have plenty of runners at the major meetings at Doncaster. They’ve enjoyed a very good 2021 as the metrics outperform the previous record for John Gosden before he was joined on his license by son Thady.
Owen Burrows is also amongst the top trainers here and it’s worth noting that his runner on Saturday is Danyah, previously noted as being the likely recipient of an easy lead in the Park Stakes.
Some other trainers to note, who are profitable across all metrics, include Andrew Balding, Ian Williams and James Fanshawe so pay particular attention to any entries at Doncaster, for all meetings, from those stables.
At the very top of the tree though is David Elsworth who has an IV of 3.38, followed by Martyn Meade with an IV of 3.04. Meade is also profitable across all metrics.
Top Doncaster Jockeys
Sometimes it can pay to look at A/E (Actual v Expected) when trying to find the best jockeys at Doncaster as this metric takes into account the market and as we know, not all jockeys are afforded the same opportunities.
Ignoring A/E for just a second, the jockeys most likely to have winners here, with the top IV figures, are Frankie Dettori followed by Jane Elliott, Ryan Moore and Andrea Atzeni.
The name that stands out from that list is Jane Elliott and she is the jockey with the top A/E figure of 2.32. That puts her well clear of the next best jockey Rowan Scott who has an A/E of 1.57. For whatever reason she appears to ride this course extremely well. The fact that she doesn’t get as many opportunities though means she won’t be seen at this racecourse as often as many others.
David Egan and Andrew Mullen are no strangers to this course and they both have very respectable A/E figures and both are profitable to follow here. The much criticised Jamie Spencer also seems to get on pretty well with Doncaster, the long straight giving him plenty of time to get his rides into contention.
Hot Form at Doncaster
One runner I have already mentioned above is Hurricane Ivor. He’s drawn a little lower than ideal, but only by a couple of stalls, and he has some pretty hot form to his name.
In July Hurricane Ivor was 2nd over 5f at Ascot and although the winner has somewhat let the form down since, both his runs have come on ground that was faster than ideal. The 3rd has won since and the 4th has won twice since so it’s clearly a decent form line.
However an even better run potentially, off this mark and crucially over this seldom used distance of 5.5f came last time out at York.
Hurricane Ivor once again ran to Ascot form by beating Mondammej who won his next start after this. Mondammej reversed form with Jawwaal next time out but only just and Jawwaal was a fast finisher. The fact that they both ran very well again next time out in the same race gives this form good perspective.
The winner of this race, Copper Knight, only narrowly went down to Mondammej in that next race too whilst Live In The Moment was 2nd next time in a listed race despite the ground being too fast and not being favoured at the weights.
Another factor to note when weighing up hot form is run styles and course biases. The first two home in that York race above were both up with the pace the whole way whereas Hurricane Ivor was held up, and he didn’t get a clear run. He can be marked up from that performance and should have an excellent chance on a track where hold up performers do better, as long as the draw doesn’t catch him out.
It's worth noting that Copper Knight, Mondammej and Jawwaal all reoppose here too. The two to concentrate on at the weights are probably Hurricane Ivor and Jawwaal given Copper Knight and Mondammej have gone up in the handicap since. It's very interesting that Jawwaal has Doncaster form figures of 321011. He was below par in this last year though and whilst Hurricane Ivor is drawn a little lower than ideal in this year's Portland, it has to be said that Jawwaal is possibly drawn a little too high.