In the previous article I shared my personal views regarding some of the top draw biases in the UK and Ireland, focusing there specifically on the 10th ‘strongest’ to the 6th, writes Dave Renham. In this follow-up piece, I will reveal my top 5.
It’s important to say that these thoughts are mine and mine alone and, of course, there will be people who disagree with my order. That is how it should be; if we all had the same opinions as regards to horse racing it would be pretty boring! Also, how would we get an edge over other punters if we all thought the same?!
It was noted last time that just because a course and distance has a draw bias, there is no guarantee that the favoured section of the stalls will produce long term profits. Indeed, sometimes there may be value in the ‘worst’ section of the draw. This can happen when the market shortens up the better drawn horses too much. When this happens the prices of other runners get bigger to compensate. Ultimately a 3/1 shot will win more often than a 20/1 shot, but if 3/1 shots win 20 races in every 100, and a 20/1 shots wins 6 races in every 100 then you’d only make a profit on the horses priced 20/1. Successful betting is about value; backing horses that have a better chance of winning than their odds imply.
For each course and distance I will share the raw draw stats, and then dig deeper looking for other angles such as the going or when the number of runners gets close to the maximum. The draw stats data comes from the last six full flat seasons (2016 to 2021) and, as ever, the initial focus will be 8+ runner handicaps. The profit and loss figures are calculated to industry SP. I will also share Betfair SP figures when they make a significant difference. As with last time, as a bonus, I will share some ‘near misses’ that just failed to make the top 10. In fact, let’s start with those near misses:
Gowran Park 7f (good or firmer)
The first Irish course to be discussed is Gowran Park. This seven furlongs course and distance has shown a low bias for some time. More recently, ground staff at the track have introduced a false rail which may change things a little over time. At this point, it is too early to say how much of an affect it will have.
Let me first share the win percentages on all going for each third of the draw. Firstly a look at all races from 2016 to 2021:
Low draws have a definite edge during this overall time frame. They are drawn on the inside so no surprises there. This is not a huge bias, but it is significant. Here's what happens if we split this into 'three-yearly' chunks:
The more recent trio of seasons - the false rail was introduced in 2020 - does not seem to have affected the lower draws, but it seems that higher draws are now becoming more competitive against the middle. The PRB figures for each period give us more useful information:
These figures seem to re-affirm that low draws are enjoying the same sort of advantage they have in the past.
The bias, though, does seem to be stronger on better ground. Here are the splits for 8+ runner handicaps raced on good ground or firmer (2016-2021):
Horses drawn in the lowest stalls have won 50% of these races compared with just 13.9% for those drawn high. The place percentages show a very strong edge also, as do the A/E, IV and PRB figures.
Also going back further the 2009 to 2015 stats look as strong:
There is excellent correlation with the more recent data set which adds confidence to what we have uncovered so far.
It was noted in my previous piece that at some draw-biased courses exotic bets such as tricasts or forecasts can prove profitable. This is the case here, too. If you had permed the four lowest drawn horses in full cover tricasts you would have made a small profit of around 6p in the £. The tote trifecta variant would once again have been a far better option as you would have more than doubled your money! An ROI of 120% to be precise. Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing?
To conclude, Gowran Park was close to making the Top 10 and one could make a sound case for it actually being in there. For the Top 10, though, I wanted to stick to what I perceived to be the strongest pure biases without any extra considerations such as going.
A second Irish course in the 'near miss' squad is Tipperary over 5f. The stats are shown below:
It is a small data set but all areas correlate strongly in terms of high draws having a good edge. The period 2009 to 2015 is equally supportive of high draws.
Clearly opportunities will be limited, but that is certainly a bias to be aware of.
Catterick 5f (good to soft or softer)
Catterick is final stop off on my 'near miss' list. When the going gets softer, higher draws start to take control. Here are the figures for races on good to soft or softer ground:
The reason high draws tend to do well is that on softer ground jockeys often make a beeline to the stands side rail which appears quicker than the far rail under these conditions. A good example of this was seen in the 15 runner 5f handicap on 26th October 2021:
On this occasion, the jockeys headed towards the near side and, as can be seen, five of the six highest drawn runners filled the first five places.
Looking at all the races run on good to soft or softer, the three highest drawn runners have all made blind profit to not only BSP, but industry SP as well.
These are excellent returns across the board. In addition, combining the three highest draws in £1 combination straight forecasts would have yielded a profit of £62.37 (ROI +31.5%). Tricasts / trifectas with the highest four draws combined also would have produced a profit.
Before moving on, it should be pointed out that the bias gets stronger as the going gets softer (soft or heavy ground), although sample is quite small:
So keep an eye on the weather before racing at Catterick. This draw bias to high stalls on good to soft or softer looks a very playable one.
From the near misses - drumroll, please - it’s time for the top five!
5th position – Goodwood 1m
Goodwood over a mile has long been considered a track and trip where draw bias can play a major role. The shame from a punting perspective is that there are very few qualifying races each year. Hence we have a small sample but one with a clear edge to lower draws:
Low draws have a positive edge in all categories and I now want to look at the individual stall positions and how they have fared:
Normally with small samples I tend not to look at individual draws / stalls, but these data set show a cut-off point at stall 5. Horses drawn 1 to 5 have won 18 races from 115 runners (SR 15.7%); horses drawn 6 or higher have won just five races from 181 runners (SR 2.8%). This strongly suggests that horses drawn 1 to 5 have been massively favoured.
To conclude, while there are not many qualifying races each year, clearly when there are they are definitely worth a few minutes of our time.
4th position – Goodwood 7f
We drop a furlong at Goodwood to see a similar low draw bias to the mile trip. One advantage of the 7f distance is there are many more races each year as these stats show:
We can see strong figures across the board here for low draws. This low draw bias has been evident at Goodwood for most of the last 30 years!
It is worth noting the bias has looked less strong in the most recent three seasons although the PRB figure is still 0.54 for low versus 0.44 for high during that time. That might be down to the fact that the going has been a bit softer in more recent seasons. In general, Goodwood biases over the years have been less prevalent on softer going. The stats back this up when we look at the good or firmer data from 2016 to 2021. Under faster conditions it can be seen that the low draw bias does seem to get stronger:
All categories (win%, place%, A/E, IV, PRB) see an improvement for low draws on better ground as compared with the 'all races' data; and, all categories deteriorate slightly for high draws.
In terms of wins, which essentially is key, the draw win percentages for each third on good ground or firmer can be nicely illustrated by the following pie chart:
Six in every 10 races have been won by the lowest third of the draw under these firmer going conditions.
The 7f bias also seems to strengthen as the field size increases. In fields of 14 or more runners (all going), the draw stats for each third read as follows:
Once again we see a 60% win strike rate for low draws, but higher draws perform very poorly. We have seen this before when analysing round course biases. In big fields high draws are likely forced wide meaning they have to run further. Alternatively they can track to the inside, but then they will be faced with several horses to pass in the straight potentially needing good luck in running. It should also be noted that tracking to the inside early on losing ground also. Goodwood has a camber in the straight off which many hard luck stories are founded.
In conclusion, Goodwood over 7f has traditionally seen lower draws having the advantage. This seems to get more potent on good ground or firmer, and when the field size gets to 14+. Unsurprisingly, combining firmer ground and a bigger field accentuates the low advantage and the high disadvantage:
3rd position – Pontefract 1m
Moving into the top 3 and we travel north to Pontefract and its 1 mile trip. This is another round course bias where low draws dominate:
This is a very strong bias but, as I noted in my first article in the series, punters and bookmakers alike are much more aware of the strength of the inside edge now. Consequently, prices on the lowest drawn horses have contracted considerably in recent years. Nevertheless, the two lowest stalls have both made a profit to SP (combined profit of 15p in the £, and 21p in the £ at BSP). This is due to the fact that the two lowest drawn runners have won a remarkable 31 races between them. That means nearly 44% of all races have been won by the two stalls closest to the inside rail.
Races with big fields are rare but when we get to 13+ runners the bias seems to strengthen further:
Yes, I appreciate the sample is only 18 races, but low draws have won or placed four times more often than high draws (31 to 8). This is an eye-catching stat, as is the 0.62 to 0.40 PRB advantage to low draws over high. I think one can be fairly confident the bias does indeed gain potency in big field races.
Moving onto ground conditions, and for races on soft or heavy going, low drawn runners have won 13 of the 22 races, with high draws claiming a single solitary score. Again it's quite a small sample but the trends are clear. A similar pattern can be seen from the data between 2009 and 2015.
Having reviewed all 71 handicap races over 1 mile with 8+ runners, I can report that the exotic bets have once again proved a winner. If you had backed the two lowest drawn horses in £1 reverse forecasts you would have earned a profit of £34.06 (ROI +19.9%). The reverse Tote Exacta returns were even better with £66.50 profit (ROI +46.8%). Perming the four lowest drawn runners in combination tricasts would have yielded a small 2.2% return, while the trifecta would have harvested a very impressive 52.8% return.
These types of bets are not for everyone and they come with a low strike rate coupled with a potentially big bookmaker’s margin, but for small stakes the potential returns can be worth it. One good pay-out can really boost the bank.
Pontefract over a mile has a strong low bias where the focus should be primarily on the two lowest drawn runners. Personally, I would avoid horses drawn 9 or higher – these runners have combined to produced just 6 winners from 199 runners, a measly 3% strike rate.
2nd position – Pontefract 1m 2f
Staying at Pontefract we move up two furlongs to the mile and a quarter trip. I looked at this bias briefly in my second article in this series using the racecourse map below to show readers there is an extra left handed turn at this trip helping low draws further:
The draw stats are strong as one would expect:
At this distance compared to mile range, the market is not quite as aware of the edge low draws have, so finding past profitable angles ought to be possible. For a start, you would have made a blind profit to Betfair SP backing all four lowest drawn horses in the 39 races in the sample. Those 156 runners would have produced a profit of £23.73 to £1 level stakes equating to returns of just over 15p in the £. Amazing when you think about it really – backing four horses in every race for 39 races, and you would have made good money. The bottom four stalls accounted for 24 of the winners from 156 runners; stalls located five or more away from the inside rail accounted for 15 winners but from 242 runners.
Earlier, it was noted that the stats indicated that over a mile on soft or heavy ground the bias seems to get stronger. That theory is given extra confidence when we see the same pattern over this 1m 2f distance. It should be said there have only been 10 qualifying races on soft or heavy since 2016 but just look at the win percentages for each third of the draw:
Nine of the ten races in this small sample were won by low draws. In addition to that, the win and placed stats combined correlate strongly as we can see:
I am confident that on soft or heavy ground the bias gets more potent.
Moving back to the ‘all races’ stats, one remarkable fact is that the lowest five draws filled the first three places on no less than 11 occasions, two of which happened within an hour and a half of each other!
It should come as no surprise therefore that perming these five draws in tricasts and trifectas would have landed favourable returns. Perming five horses in all possible combinations of 1st, 2nd and 3rd amounts to a chunky 60 bets per race, so using small stakes of 10p per line (bet) makes sense, bringing in the 'per race' cost at £6. If we had done this perm using the tricast in all 39 races there would have been an outlay of £234, with £281.96 returned, giving us a profit of £47.90 (ROI +20.5%). As we have seen thus far, the trifecta tends to outdo the tricast bet, and it does it here - in style. Trifecta returns would have been £529.13 giving us a whopping profit of £295.13 (ROI +126.1%).
Pontefract over 1m 2f is a course and distance on which to keep a close eye from a draw perspective this year. It will be interesting to monitor the prices of the lower draws in the next couple of seasons; if they contract more, then profits will be harder to come by.
And, finally, it’s time for my number one draw bias in Britain and Ireland...
1st position – Chester 5f
Yes, I fully appreciate this is not a huge shocker, but I am confident about its status as the number 1 spot: the award goes to the minimum trip at Chester. This is despite the fact that they are moving the inside rail from time to time in an attempt to negate the bias. The rail movement seems to affect this shortest trip the least, and draw bias fans should stick to the minimum 5f trip and not include the extended 5½f range in considerations.
Here are the stats:
As I've said, yes, the bias is well known, but as far as draw biases go, it is still the strongest. The problem, of course, is making a profit from this widely held awareness. I discussed in the first article in the series how the prices at Chester on low drawn runners have contracted in recent years. Ultimately, this is why it is hard to make profits at Chester any more. That is, low still wins as often as it ever did (give or take - see below), but the available prices are tighter these days.
Going back to how the rail movement may be affecting this minimum 5f trip, if we compare the PRB figures from 2016 to 2018 with 2019 to 2021, we can start to see a slight weakening of the bias.
High draws seem to struggle just as much as ever, but middle draws are a little more competitive as a result of the false rail. All in all, though, low draws continue to enjoy a very significant edge.
In terms of running styles, a low draw coupled with a prominent run style, be it leading or tracking the pace, is a potent combination here as the image below illustrates.
We can see that the advantage of a low draw disappears if you race near the back early. Low draws that led early or raced prominently have been responsible for 16 winners from 59 runners (27% strike rate), which compares very well next to middle or high draws that raced mid division early or were held up – they have provided just 3 winners from 126 runners (2.4% strike rate).
The evidence is clear: combine a low draw with early pace over 5f at Chester and then you have a very effective combination.
With these five top draw bias courses, then, I've demonstrated my personal top ten UK and Irish draw biases, as well as a few 'bonus' also ran's. Please share your thoughts in the comments, especially if you think I’ve missed one. Thanks as always for reading, and good luck.