A top day of racing on Saturday and I’m spoiled for choice with choosing which live race to cover. From a betting perspective it’s the big field handicaps that grab my attention which makes it a choice between York’s Sky Bet Dash and Ascot’s International Stakes. I’ll probably be having a stronger wager in the latter but Ascot are due thunderstorms on Saturday so it’s going to be a waiting game to see how the ground turns out. York is set to be dry according to early forecasts so previewing the Sky Bet Dash should be a bit more straight forward at this stage.
The race is due off at 2.40 and unless the weather forecast changes it is set to be run on fast ground.
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A pretty good sample size here and the data suggests an edge towards those drawn lower. The win data is pretty evenly matched but the place percentages favour low heavily, followed by middle and then high. This is backed up with the PRB data, low draws having a PRB of 0.53, middle draws 0.49 and high draws 0.48.
When you watch the sprints at York the winners nearly always seem to finish in the middle of the track so it seems slightly surprising that middle draws don’t come out best. If anything more runners seem to race along the near side rail (high) than the far side rail (low) so again it’s a bit surprising low numbers seem to outperform high by so much.
Perhaps the individual stall data can shed more light on this.
Ignoring stall 21, which has only been used once, the top four individual stalls as far as PRB are concerned are 2, 6, 4 and 3 in that order. Some of the higher stalls have performed well but the worst five stalls individually using PRB as the metric are 9 or higher which certainly suggests lower is better overall.
Determining a draw advantage isn’t just about showing that some stalls perform better than others, how much better they are is the really important aspect. Looking at the PRB3 figures the majority of the lower to middle stalls are around 0.53 and the majority of the middle to higher stalls are around 0.49 so whilst it looks a bit of an advantage to be lower it’s clearly not a huge disadvantage to be amongst the higher stalls.
I’m fairly certain we’ll some some strong data here.
Anyone who bets fairly regularly on the York straight track will know it favours speed. More winners than any other run style come from the rear but they provide a much bigger sample. In terms of win percentages, a big looking 11.54% of early leaders triumph compared to 4.59% for prominent, 4.68% for mid division and 5.24% for held up. That’s a big advantage for front runners as far as winning is concerned, but is it the same for place percentages?
Once again the top place percentage is with front runners (34.62%) whilst prominent racers have a 21.62% place strike rate. It’s 18.3% for mid division and 20.27% for held up. The main difference between the data seems to be mid division is second best for win purposes but worst of all for place bets. The figures are closely matched though and it does look as though the front is the place to be where possible with prominent a bit of an advantage over the remaining run styles but perhaps not as advantaged other them as expected. I certainly thought prominent which be far more favoured than held up.
Sky Bet Handicap Pace Map
So which of these are most likely to lead early on?
There are four main pace angles in this, spread fairly nicely across the track. The low pace should come from Giogiobbo and Manigordo with central pace provided by Muscika and high pace from Flying Pursuit.
There seems to be a lack of prominent racers with Streamline, Admirality and Blind Beggar likely to track the above mentioned quartet.
The remaining runners look as though they’ll be played fairly late.
Draw and Pace Combination
I’ve mentioned before how much I value this part of the draw data in Geegeez Gold, it gives an extra layer of insight into draw and pace, especially when there are strong draw or pace biases.
A real standout advantage for those who make the running from a middle draw. That’s a big tick for Muscika who just happened to win this last year.
The worst place to be is mid division from a middle draw, that would be the area where you are most likely to find yourself surrounded by rivals with nowhere to go so that makes perfect sense.
If you are drawn low you are generally best off being close to the pace and performance tails off very slightly the further back in the field you are. Those drawn high see less fluctuations in performance based on run style.
Here are the main contenders, in early odds order.
He's run in some tough handicaps this season, often well fancied, but has been beaten on his last six starts, placing in four of those. His worst performances came at Chester on good to soft and York on soft, both over 5f, and this will be a very different test over the extra furlong on much better ground.
He is running out of excuses though. The ground will have been against him several times and at Newcastle when runner up to the progressive Ejtilaab he did best of those held up and best of those in the centre of the track. Last time out seemed to be as good as he is but to be fair he was only beaten half a length and the ground might still have been a little softer than ideal. He stayed on as though another furlong will suit and we may see Significantly and/or Tis Marvellous frank that form on Friday afternoon.
He ran well here in May on good ground, with the 5f looking inadequate and overall he looks very likely to run his race and run well. This could be last chance saloon for backers though if he doesn't get his head in front.
Rated 103 when he came to England two and a half years ago but after a winless two seasons he dropped to a mark of 67. He’s taken full advantage of that this season winning all three starts (all at Doncaster) and although he’s never run here at York, his front running style will be ideally suited to this venue.
He’s still 'only' gone up 11lbs this season for his three wins which is reasonable, putting him on a mark of 78. It’s a complete stretch to suggest he’s still got the best part of 20lbs in hand given his rating two years ago as he’s an 8yo now but he could have a bit more left in the tank. This is a much tougher race than those he’s contested this season though.
Having his 14th run here on Saturday. He generally runs well here but often finishes just outside of the places. He’s run into form in his last couple of starts, a little unlucky not to grab a win in either.
He was 2nd in this race last year off a 3lb higher mark, 4th two years ago off a 2lb higher mark and 2nd off a 6lb higher mark three years ago. Three of his four places here have come in this race, the other coming when winning the hot 3yo handicap run in June the previous year. This course and distance, at this time of year, clearly suit him. In fact 11 of his last 13 places have come in either June, July or August so he clearly just takes a little warming up each season.
Not the easiest to win with (only one win in the past two seasons) but did get his head in front at Pontefract this season and is generally consistent. He was 7th in this last season off a 3lb lower mark but goes into the race in better form this season having been beaten just a nose in the Scottish Stewards’ Cup last time out at Hamilton. He’s possibly slightly better with an uphill finish though and he did flop here just a couple of weeks ago.
Won this in 2017 and 2018 and was 5th in 2019, all with plenty of cut in the ground. He hasn’t even managed to place on ground that was good or better since 2017. He’s presumably been entered in the hope of thunderstorms but as things stand he looks far more likely to be scratched than to get near the places.
Goes well here, in fact all four of his turf wins have come on the Knavesmire. He has won over course and distance on fast ground but that was in 2019 and he seems better with cut in the ground these days – his last two wins here came on soft ground in October. He looked far too slow here in May in a similar race on good to soft off a 2lb higher mark and is likely to be making up late ground at best here. One to watch out for here in October chasing the hat trick (assuming soft ground at that meeting).
Lightly raced 4yo who has mostly featured on the all weather but he won on debut on turf and ran to a fair level here as a 2yo in a listed race, ticking the important course form box. His only poor run came at Kempton in March and he subsequently missed three months of action but made a satisfactory return behind Mondammej and he’s now 5lbs better off for a length defeat.
The sole 3yo in the line up and ran well in the big 3yo handicap over course and distance last month, finishing a better than the bare result 6th on fast ground. His best form before that had come on softer ground and it’s entirely possible he’ll prove even better when there is a bit more dig. A reproduction of that 6th could see him go close here though. The 2nd and 7th have both won since and he was ridden with more restraint that day than is normally the case so could improve with a more prominent ride.
Only 10th last time at Newmarket but that was also on fast ground in a hot 3yo handicap and he wasn’t beaten much further than at York. Looks capable of running well but might need rain before he can win a race of this nature.
Consistently running well but finishing just outside of the places at the moment, a strong sign that he probably isn’t well handicapped. He’s not far off his career high turf mark and is 12lbs higher than his last turf win. Most his wins are at 5f but an easy 6f is within his range. He stayed on from a poor position here in May and has run several good races here but he’ll do well to get into the places in this for all he shouldn’t run at all badly.
Not always the most consistent with slow starts often hampering his chances and this isn’t a course where you want to forfeit ground early. He did win a similar race to this by 6 lengths here in 2017 but he’s never gone close to matching that sort of form here again, managing no better than 5th in seven course and distance runs since. Capable on his day but not one to put too much faith in.
Last year’s winner is ideally drawn to attack in the middle here and is only 1lb higher than when taking this twelve months ago. He’s been inconsistent this season but got within a neck of beating Ejtilaab (won next time out) at Epsom in June off a 1lb higher mark and although 7th of 8 last time out, he was only beaten 2 lengths off a 2lb higher mark.
The case for a good run possibly relies on a switch in headgear and a return to this venue. He wore blinkers when winning this year but wasn’t in as good form in the two runs either side of that in the same headgear. There is no obvious correlation between what headgear works for Muscika and it’s probably just that he’s quite an inconsistent horse. He has been more consistent here though producing form figures of 221010 on his last six runs at York.
Difficult to win with and has struggled for much consistency this season. Fast ground suits well and he's run well here before but he’s probably better over 7f and even at his best he tends to finish as the runner up – he’s finished 2nd on six occasions since his last victory.
Returned to form last time out at Redcar (2nd) after a couple of lesser displays and his run style is suited to this course for all he has run poorly twice here this season in two attempts. The race he ran well in on Sunday was a much lesser event than this but he did push a potentially very well handicapped runner close.
This might be a bit too hot and his course form is a worry, for all it might just have been a couple of off days (ran just as poorly at Thirsk last month having won there in April).
Surprise Epsom Dash winner and although he has run many times over 6f his best form seems to come at the minimum trip. Has seemed badly handicapped since winning at Epsom and his best chance of defying this sort of mark may come at that venue again, he’s two from three there.
A bit unlucky to not get his head in front this year given he’s been beaten both a nose and a short head. His sole turf win came off a 2lb lower mark at Windsor and he doesn’t look to have the form to land a race this competitive.
Won here over 5f last year off a 1lb higher mark and ran okay in the Ayr Gold Cup last season when 6th off a 4lb higher mark. His run style does leave him with plenty to do here but he has a fair course record, although not quite running up to his mark last time out in listed company here. Capable of outrunning his odds but would need to bounce back to his best to be in the shake up.
An amazingly difficult puzzle to figure out and it’s much easier to list the runners that I think are least likely to place than to finish in the money. For the record they are Music Society, Flying Pursuit, Gulliver, Venturous, George Bowen, Admirality, Manigordo, Mokaatil, Typhoon Ten and Lahore.
The above is based on good to firm ground. I’m not expecting the ground to soften but if it did get really testing Gulliver could be the one, whilst on good or softer I’d be far keener on Blind Beggar than on good to firm. If you can get as many as six places in this I wouldn’t at all be opposed to backing Blind Beggar each way, even on fast ground, but I think he’ll struggle to win this on good to firm so he only makes so much appeal.
I can’t rule out Giogiobbo but this is a big step up and all his form this season is at Doncaster - this could just be too tough for him.
As long as the ground stays fast, Blind Beggar is reluctantly passed over for win purposes leaving the shortlist as Mondammej, Golden Apollo, Streamline and Muscika.
Golden Apollo has a great record in this race, is in form and well handicapped. It all seems a bit too obvious doesn’t it? He’s probably at his best at this time of year and in big fields. He’s maybe drawn a little higher than absolutely ideal but looks guaranteed to run a big race. My feeling is he’ll find one or two too good again but he should be a safe each way bet once again.
Muscika would probably win this if able to reproduce Epsom form from last month but he’s just too inconsistent. He’s not really an each way proposition given that inconsistency, even at 16/1, but given his run style, draw and course record he's worth a win only saver whatever you fancy to win this.
That leaves Mondammej and Streamline. Mondammej is another that looks nailed on to run his race in what are probably pretty much ideal conditions (has raced on softer ground most of this season, and over shorter) but he’s very well found in the market and he’s drawn very wide in 15. If Flying Pursuit is pulled out because of the ground he’ll lose a pacemaker on his side and it could be another case of close but no cigar.
At around twice the price I’d rather side with STREAMLINE. He’s handicapped to beat Mondammej on their recent meeting and although most of his form is on artificial surfaces he has run to a good level on turf and has even placed in listed company here at York. He races far more prominently than Mondammej so is less of a hostage to fortune. He too is drawn a bit higher than ideal but he’ll go forward so may find it easier to get a better, more central position and is likely to be less reliant on the other pace around him to take him into the race.