Ripon racecourse is located in North Yorkshire and they began racing at the current location in 1900, writes Dave Renham. Ripon is a right-handed flat track that is considered quite sharp - its circumference is 1m5f with a run in of 5f. Races over 6f start with a separate chute giving two distances on the straight track.
As with previous articles in this series I have used some of the tools available on the Geegeez website, namely the Draw Analyser, the Pace Analyser and the Query Tool. The main data set covers the period from 2009 to 2020, and there is the option to examine a more recent subset where appropriate. I will be focusing once again on 8+ runner handicap races.
Ripon 5f Draw Bias (8+ runner handicaps)
Since 2009 there have been 63 qualifying races over the minimum distance. Here are the stats:
Higher draws are positioned next to the stands’ rail and seem to have a nominal edge. Looking at the A/E values, these show a good correlation with the draw win percentages:
Looking at the 12-year data it seems that the stands’ rail does offer runners some advantage in smaller fields. In races of 8 to 11 runners we have the following draw splits:
The A/E value for the highest third stands at a promising 1.14 which adds credence to the theory. Recent evidence (2015 onward) gives similar stats in smaller field contests with 11 of the 20 races (55%) being won by high drawn horses.
Ground conditions do not appear to make any difference to the draw so let us move on to looking at draw broken down by individual stall position.
In terms of individual draw figures I am reversing them as I did with the 5f data in the Musselburgh. I am looking at them in relationship to their proximity to the stands’ rail as highest draws are drawn next to that rail. I used the Geegeez Query Tool to give me the relevant data:
There is nothing particularly clear cut here. However, what should be noted about Ripon’s straight track is that as the fields get to around 14 or 15 runners, higher draws tend to make a beeline for the far rail. There have been very few races with big fields in 5f races, but from very limited data those drawn closest to the far side (very low draws) may have a slight edge. One race where this seemed to be the case was back in 2013 (6th August) where the first three draws home in a 15 runner handicap were drawn 2, 1 and 3. The Exacta paid £256.30 and the tricast £768.91.
Ripon 5f Handicaps (8+ Runners) Pace Bias
Let us look at pace and running styles now. I have always considered the 5f trip at Ripon to offer a front running advantage so let’s see if the stats back up the theory. The overall figures (2009-20) are as follows:
As courses go Ripon’s figures for front runners are around the UK course average for 5f handicaps – not the strongest bias, but still a decent enough one. The strongest pace bias in reality is the one against hold up horses: they have been at a massive disadvantage, winning just five races from over 200 runners (A/E 0.27). Only Chester and Epsom over 5f have worse figures for hold up horses.
Ground conditions seem to make a slight difference in terms of front runners with better going (good or firmer) seeing their strike rate edge up to 19.7% and their A/E value at 1.54.
Let me look at field size now. As the field size increases the front running edge seems to get stronger. Here are the stats for races of 12 or more runners:
Admittedly this sample is just 24 races so we need to appreciate that we cannot be over confident that bigger fields increase the bias. However, what I would say is that the placed percentage for front runners over these 24 races stands at 55.6%, which is a positive.
Finally in this 5f section a look at draw / pace (running style) combinations for front runners over this minimum distance. Remember this is looking at which third of the draw is responsible for the early leader of the race (in % terms). I would expect the early leader to be drawn near to the stands’ rail more of the time (high).
As expected horses drawn closest to the stands’ rail tend to get to the early lead. Front runners drawn towards a flank generally prefer a rail to run against and of those high drawn runners that led early over 1-in-5 went on to win.
A look at the draw/run style heat map reveals a ready diffusion of green to red - good to not good - from led to held up:
Ripon 5f Summary
The 5f distance does offer interest from both a draw and pace perspective. There seems to be a slight high draw (stands’ rail) bias in smaller fields, while in bigger fields there is a hint of a slight low draw (far rail) bias. Pace wise there is a good edge for front runners which potentially strengthens as the field size increases. Meanwhile hold up horses have an absolutely dreadful record regardless of field size or going.
Ripon 6f Draw Bias (8+ runner handicaps)
Here are the draw splits for the straight six furlong course at Ripon (170 races):
Fairly even looking figures though middle draws have fared slightly worse. Let’s see if the A/E figures offer better pointers:
There is strong correlation here and in general these figures suggest that there looks little in the draw, albeit that a middle gate might not be ideal.
Looking at the statistics for the going, the figures remain similar regardless of ground conditions. This is the same for field size so there does not seem a far rail / low draw bias when the field size starts to stretch across the track. Hence my theory that there was a hint of a low draw bias over 5f in big fields may just have to remain a theory!
There is a glimmer of hope for draw fans over 6f as when we combine softer ground with bigger fields a possible pattern starts to emerge. Data though is extremely limited which is important to note once again. On softer going (good to soft or softer) in fields of 14 runners or more, it seems that middle draws may be at a disadvantage. Under such conditions there have been just 13 races, but they have produced a solitary win for horses drawn in the middle. The middle draw placed stats are poor also with just 9 placed runners from 47 (15 places for high; 23 for low), and middle draws beat just 38% of rivals, as can be seen in the PRB column below.
Now 13 races is far too small a sample in reality and in essence one can legitimately argue that we should take these figures with a pinch of salt. However, I felt it worth sharing it with you.
A look now at individual draw positions in six-furlong eight-plus runner handicaps at Ripon – reversed once again in terms of their position in relation to the stands’ rail:
As might have been expected, there is nothing clear-cut here.
Ripon 6f Pace Bias (8+ runner handicaps)
Let’s see if pace / running styles offers us an edge. Here are the overall figures going back to 2009:
There is a strong front running bias here – slightly stronger than the 5f bias. Once again hold up horses have a very poor record.
In races with bigger fields, the general bias seems to strengthen with front runners and pace trackers (prominent racers) having a huge edge over horses that race mid pack or at the back early. Here are the data for races with 14 or more runners:
33 wins for horses that raced in the front half of the pack early in the race compared with just seven for those running in the back half, from a roughly even 50/50 split of horses. This is something as punters that we can use in our favour.
The big sprint of the season at Ripon is the Great St Wilfrid Handicap held in the middle of August. It is a Class 2 handicap over 6 furlongs with an average field size since 2009 of just over 18 runners (max field size now is 20). In the last 11 renewals of this race (going back to 2009), five of the 11 winners led from the start and made all the running, while another winner disputed the lead early before asserting in the final two furlongs. This is a remarkable front running bias for such a competitive and big field sprint. Indeed the last four winners have ‘made all’. Of those four winners, three of them had led last time out and two of them were top of the geegeez pace section (i.e. had the highest pace total from its last four races). This is one of the many reasons to upgrade to Geegeez Gold if you haven’t already.
The final table in the 6f section takes a look at draw / pace (running style) combinations for front runners in 6f handicaps (2009 – 2020). I would expect higher draws get to the lead more often as they did over 5f for the same reasons as explained earlier:
The splits are as expected – those runners drawn high that did lead early have gone onto win roughly one race in four – another stat worth knowing.
As intimated by the previous comments, the draw/run style heat map shows the value of being close to the front; and the difficulty of being waited with from a middle to high draw.
Ripon 6f Summary
To conclude, 6f handicaps at Ripon offer no real interest from a draw perspective, but the pace angle is a very strong one. Front runners enjoy a good edge while hold up horses really have a very poor time of it.
Ripon 1 Mile Draw Bias (8+ runner handicaps)
The mile trip is raced on the round course with low stalls positioned next to the inside rail. 102 handicap races have been run with eight or more runners since 2009. Here is the draw breakdown:
Low draws seem to have a very small edge, but it is not a bias we could confidently ‘play’.
The A/E values back this up further:
Low draws seem to be overbet slightly with a lower A/E value compared to the high draw figure. This makes sense to me as, going back 15-20 years, the perceived ‘wisdom’ was that low draws did have an edge here over this distance. That perception more than likely remains.
Field size potentially makes a difference as runner numbers increase. Looking at races of 11 or more runners we can see that low draws enjoy an edge when looking purely at win percentages:
There have been 57 races with 11+ runners so this is a fair sample size. The A/E value for low drawn horses improves to 0.97, although this figure still indicates that the low draw bias is factored into the bookmaker’s prices. I would prefer to be drawn low under these circumstances but you need to be selective when trying to evaluate value.
Ground conditions offer no edge so we move on to the individual draw positions for all 8+ runner handicap races. I'm reverting to traditional draw numbers for this distance, as stall one is next to the inside rail:
Stall 4 has clearly over-performed but that is simply down to chance.
Ripon 1 Mile Pace Bias (8+ runner handicaps)
On to pace now – time to look at the overall pace data now (2009-2020):
The 1 mile distance does have a pace bias and prominent racers have the best record. Horses that race in the back half of the field in the early stages of mile races are at a disadvantage once again.
At this juncture I want to briefly discuss the non-handicap pace stats over this trip. Although I tend to avoid non-handicaps for this type of research, the data for this track and trip did catch my eye. There have been 32 non-handicaps races over a mile at Ripon since 2009 and, of those, 29 were won by horses that raced front rank early (led / prominent); just three wins went to horses that raced mid-division, and horses that were held up were 0-from-114. There has been a huge pace bias in these races so I felt it was worthwhile pointing it out.
Back to the 1m handicap data - this pace bias occurs regardless of field size, but in terms of ground conditions, it seems to get even stronger on better going. On good ground or firmer the pace figures read as follows:
Hence, on good or firmer we definitely want to be siding with horses that are up with or close to the front rank, while avoiding hold up horses like the plague. On good to soft or softer the bias evens out a bit, and although you still want to be nearer the front than the back early on, the edge is much reduced.
Now let us take a look at draw / pace (running style) combinations for front runners in mile handicaps (2009 – 2020).
Horses drawn closest to the inside rail (low) get to the lead in roughly half of all races. You would expect to see to this due to the configuration of the track.
The draw/run style heat map - displaying percentage of rivals beaten (PRB) again shows the difficulty of coming from off the pace, and the strong advantage of racing front rank.
Ripon 1 Mile Summary
In conclusion, lower draws may have a slight edge and certainly do as the field size increases. However, it is not going to be easy profiting from this. From a pace perspective, over this mile trip you definitely want to be on a ‘pace’ horse and want to avoid runners who are likely to be held up.
For the remainder of this article I am going to focus on pace only as the draw data at longer trips is unsurprisingly very even. However, there still seems a pace bias at 1m2f and 1m4f, especially on better ground (mirroring the mile data).
Ripon 1 Mile 2 Furlongs Pace Bias (8+ runner handicaps)
For the record, they also race over 1m1f at Ripon but there have only been four handicap races with 8+ runners since 2009. Over 1m2f there have been 78 races giving the following pace splits:
A slight edge for front runners with hold up horses again the worst of the four pace styles. When we narrow the results down to races on good or firmer ground the bias against hold up horses strengthens again as it did over 1 mile:
Horses that race mid-division cannot be dismissed over this trip and going, but hold up horses continue to really struggle.
Ripon 1 Mile 4 Furlongs Pace Bias (8+ runner handicaps)
There have been 68 handicap races over 1 mile 4 furlongs in the sample period – here are the stats:
Prominent racers have the best record followed by front runners. Hold up horses again have a very poor record. Moving to races on good or firmer going, the same pattern emerges as it did over 1 mile and 1m2f.
As we can see front runners and prominent racers have better records on better ground while horses that race mid division or are held up do worse.
Ripon Draw and Pace Bias Summary
Taking "the garden racecourse" as a whole we have little to get stuck into draw wise – over 5 furlongs in smaller fields it high draws seem to have a reasonable advantage; over 1 mile in bigger fields low draws seem to have an edge (and very high draws are commensurately unfavoured).
Looking at the track from a pace angle, across all distances from 5f to 1m 4f, hold up horses have a dreadful record. In sprints, front runners have a good record especially over 6f. Meanwhile, from 1 mile to 1 mile 4 furlongs, better going conditions accentuates the bias against hold up horses; it also gives horses that race front rank an increased chance.