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Sky Bet Dash Preview: Lightly Raced Streamline Looks Value Play

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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Draw

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.

Pace

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.

The Runners

Here are the main contenders, in early odds order.

Mondammej

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.

Giogiobbo

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.

Golden Apollo

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.

Music Society

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.

Flying Pursuit

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.

Gulliver

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).

Streamline

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.

Blind Beggar

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.

Venturous

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.

George Bowen

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.

Muscika

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.

Admirality

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.

Manigordo

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).

Mokaatil

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.

Typhoon Ten

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.

Lahore

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.

The Verdict

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.

John Smith’s Cup 2021 Preview: Take Pride To Emerge On Top

Plenty of very competitive races to get stuck into on ‘Super Saturday’ but the main race of interest is surely the John Smith’s Cup at York (4.05pm). This is one of my favourite races of the season and it’s often won by a horse capable of mixing it at Group level.

All of the data used below is available through a Geegeez Gold subscription. Click here to get your first 30 days of Geegeez Gold for just £1.

Draw

A massive field of 22 set to go to post for this one, one of the biggest fields you’ll see go around a bend all season, so is there a draw bias?

According to the data above, there isn’t much between low, middle and high. Middle draws have produced the most winners (13) whilst there is little between low and high from a win perspective (9 and 10 respectively).

There isn't much between the place percentage data either. Middle draws once again have a very slight edge with a 20% place strike rate but low comes in at 21.94% with high draws not far behind at 20.41%.

The PRB data also backs up the suggestion that there isn’t much of a draw bias with low draws producing a PRB of 0.50, middle draws at 0.51 and high draws 0.49.

Looking at the individual stall data, there isn’t a huge amount between a lot of the stalls again. The main thing that stands out is the extremely high stalls tend to perform relatively poorly but there is very limited data for these. Stalls 17, 18 and 19 do have a decent sample size and they are amongst the poorer stalls for place percentage and PRB but stall 17 has won this twice on ground that is good or softer and stall 22 has won before on faster ground.

Given the data I’d prefer to be drawn between 3 and 16 inclusive but very high draws look a slight disadvantage rather than a reason to rule out a runner.

Pace

York tends to be a pace track over sprint distances but is it fairer over this extended 10f?

This course and distance looks pretty fair from a pace perspective on easier ground. Not many winners manage to make all, with a relatively poor win percentage of 4.17% but the place percentage doesn’t perform too badly at 18.75%, even if it is statistically the least successful run style for place purposes too.

The best win percentage belongs to prominent, followed by held up whilst the place percentages suggest mid division is very slightly favoured over prominent. The place percentage backs up the win percentage data in front runners doing least best and hold ups doing next least best but there is very little in the figures suggesting you shouldn’t be put off any run style unless the pace map shows an extreme likely pace outcome.

John Smith’s Cup Pace Map

This is the pace map for the 2021 John Smith’s Cup, based on each runner’s last two runs.

Very interesting that there is a ton of likely early pace in this contest. A huge eight of these runners led early last time out and three of them have led early on at least their last two starts. There is so much pace that you’d probably think twice about even backing anything that races prominently as they could be too close to a pace collapse.

Judging by the likely pace in this race, preference would be for runners who should be held up in mid division or in the rear.

Draw and Pace Combination

One more data view before we look at the runners.

This heat map shows the likely best run styles for each draw in this race. Historically higher drawn front runners have performed better than their lower drawn counterparts whereas the best draw for prominent racers has been low.

We are probably more interested in the best draws for mid division and held up given the likely strong pace and the data from previous races suggests a middle draw is slightly preferred for both of those run styles. There is very little between low and high draws for the more patiently ridden runners.

The Runners

Here are the main contenders for this year’s John Smith’s Cup, in early odds order.

Astro King

Progressive this season in top handicaps and was runner up in the Royal Hunt Cup on his latest start. He’s gone up 4lbs for that run but gets to run off the same mark here so is 4lbs well in. Connections have often said he’ll be better going back up in trip (raced exclusively at a mile this season but ran over 10f last year) and several of his runs back that up but the ground has to be a slight question mark here. His poorest run to date came on soft ground over this trip and any rain that falls on Saturday is likely to decrease his chances of winning. He’d have been a solid contender on fast ground but he’s opposable on good to soft or worse.

Surrey Pride

Boasts rock solid claims after a course and distance win here in May. He won pretty comfortably that day, looking to have improved since a successful 3yo campaign, and a 6lb rise surely underestimates him given how that form has worked out. The 2nd, 4th, 5th, 7th and 8th have all won since which is extremely hot form and I’m a big fan of course form when betting at York, especially when there is some cut in the ground.

One common misconception in racing is that horses that don’t want fast ground automatically want soft ground and vice versa. Surrey Pride is one of those horses that doesn’t want extremes of going. He finished 4th on his only run on good to firm, his form on soft or heavy ground reads 5557 and his form on good or good to soft reads 61111, with the only defeat coming on debut (in a maiden that worked out well). If the ground doesn’t soften beyond good to soft on Saturday (there is a bit of rain forecast) he’s the one to beat. The one question mark is being drawn in the highest stall. It’s probably a disadvantage, but not a massive one and not one that hasn’t been overcome before (Farraaj won from stall 22 in 2014).

Aaddeey

I gave this horse a good write up for the Old Newton Cup on Saturday only for the ground to soften and for him to be withdrawn. It’s unlikely the ground is going to be perfect here and the drop in trip has to be considered a pretty big negative. He did run well over 10f at Newbury on seasonal debut in what was a warm race but he’s 15lbs higher here courtesy of improving for running over 12f. A strong pace will help him but he’s probably going to get 14f this season and on ground that is softer than ideal he’s worth taking on.

Dawaam

Owen Burrows’ runner is four from five on the all weather but yet to reach the places in three efforts on turf. You couldn’t say he doesn’t go on turf as he was only beaten 5 lengths in the Wolferton at Royal Ascot last time and he’s technically 8lbs well in here. However he did fail to beat a rival home on his only run on good to soft ground and that came off a lower mark than this so he’s a bit of a punt in this and surprisingly short in the betting, the fact that he’s 8lbs well in probably largely determining that.

Ascension

Happiest when the mud is flying so his run on fast ground in the Royal Hunt Cup last time out is easily forgiven. He was a comfortable winner before that on good to soft ground at Newbury in a fair handicap but probably flattered by running on the favoured near side rail on that occasion and not necessarily the best runner in that race. This is his first run over further than a mile and he hasn’t looked to be crying out for this test to date but his sire has winners at all trips and the dam stayed 10f so there are possibilities.

Fishable

A Ripon specialist (form figures there of 1141) but does have York form too. He was runner up over course and distance last season on soft ground and then although only 8th in first time cheekpieces here behind Surrey Pride in May, he missed the break by about 5 lengths that day and was badly squeezed up when in the process of running a big race. He has gone up 3lbs since for winning again at Ripon.

He looks to have a major form chance but he did make all last time and trying those same tactics here would probably be a mistake. He has also been held up plenty of times though and it might just be a case of connections choosing to ride him more prominently when he goes to Ripon, tactics that are suited to that course. Stall 18 is probably slightly higher than ideal but not the end of the world.

Al Zaraqaan

Progressive on the all weather over the winter but hasn’t run to the same level on any going type since on turf. He did run better on turf at Group 2 level on fast ground than he did on soft ground in a listed race but he’s not going to get fast turf here and he’s yet to prove he’s capable of winning a big handicap off a mark of 107 on turf. He does have further progression left in him though.

Good Birthday

Won the Zetland Gold Cup at Redcar this season and it’s a race that has worked out very well. He was well placed that day though and probably not the best horse in the race and he didn’t back it up next time out at Newmarket when well beaten. The ground might have been more to blame that day than a 4lb rise and easier ground will undoubtedly suit more here. He’s been well beaten in two runs at York and isn’t always the most reliable so although he’s capable of running well if on a going day, others look better handicapped.

Nicholas T

Not many horses win the Northumberland Plate before coming here but he does have plenty of form over this trip and is on a roll having put together back to back wins. He’s taken his form to a new level this season over trips further than this and it’s likely he could struggle off a career high mark now.

Bright Start

Probably been better on all weather surfaces to date and his only win came on dirt in Meydan over the winter. He has run well on a variety of going types on turf and can’t be completely ruled out having finished a nose runner up to a progressive type last time out but his turf form does leave him needing to step up and he could be ridden too close to the pace here.

Johnny Drama

Took his form to a new level over the winter on all weather surfaces and if he translates that improvement back to turf he’s well handicapped considering his turf mark is 9lbs lower than his all weather mark. He has been runner up over course and distance off this sort of mark twice so he’s not completely ruled out even if he hasn’t improved. His turf form last season requires a step up though and he could be a bit too close to the early gallop for comfort here.

Lucander

An interesting one at the price. He won over course and distance last season on soft ground which gives him a 100% record at York from two runs. He was runner up in last season’s Cambridgeshire off a 1lb lower mark on good ground and returned in good form this season, finishing 2nd at Newmarket behind an enterprisingly ridden rival. The third in that race has won since. Only beat one home last time in the Royal Hunt Cup but a mile on fast ground wouldn’t have suited. He’s often held up in mid division which should be perfect from his middle draw and the easier ground and return to York should help him improve from a poor effort last time out.

Data Protection

Tends to run his best races at Newmarket or Epsom and was well below par when favourite on his only try at York. Likely to help set a strong pace and has work to do off a career high mark.

Cockalorum

In the form of his life at the moment although this is a big step up from the class 4 handicaps he’s been winning. He made all for both recent wins too and those tactics are unlikely to see him to best effect here.

Dark Pine

Proved his recent improvement wasn’t just down to all weather surfaces when winning at Chester before finding heavy ground over further at Royal Ascot too much. Not handicapped out of this off 4lb higher and could go well at a price but obviously needs to improve again in this company.

Hartswood

Has a bit of a reputation as a York specialist despite just the one win here, having also filled the places in several top handicaps here. Won last time out when getting the run of the race at Newcastle and still has a chance of landing a decent race at this course off his new mark. He’s only tried this distance once and didn’t seem to stay so would have made much more appeal in the mile handicap earlier in the card but it will be interesting to see how he takes to this trip here at York.

Victory Chime

Had limitations exposed last time out at listed level and has generally performed best at front runner friendly tracks. Much more competition for the lead here and probably not well enough handicapped.

Winter Reprise

Needs to step up massively on what he’s done this season and seems very reliant on leading early, which will almost certainly compromise his chance here.

Palavecino

Hasn’t quite matched his all weather form on turf despite not having a split mark and it’s a slight worry his best turf form seems to have come at Chester. Another that could be too close to the early gallop and doesn’t look well enough handicapped.

What’s The Story

Has a good record at York and runs in this for the fourth consecutive year. This trip seems to stretch him a little and his best chance of a win off this mark would be on fast ground over a mile here.

Sky Defender

Inconsistent and difficult to win with but has shown he can run well off this sort of mark and has strong course and distance form. Probably too reliant on getting an easy lead though which he won’t get here and needs to bounce back from a poor run.

Strait Of Hormuz

Still lightly raced and better than the bare result in both runs this season. He’s only 3lbs higher than when winning a decent handicap at Doncaster last season over this trip and didn’t seemingly stay further on his next two runs. He dropped back to this trip last time out at Epsom and although beaten 11.5 lengthsit was a day of exaggerated winning distances and Strait Of Hormuz met trouble in running and had to be snatched up. He does have form on softish ground but he’s probably better on good or better, which means the ground has probably gone slightly against him here. He’s worth watching out for on better ground though and should outrun his odds, especially if less rain falls on Saturday than is forecast.

The Verdict

A fair few of those near the head of the betting look worth taking on for reasons outlined above and although Strait Of Hormuz is very likely to outrun his odds, especially if the course doesn’t catch any more showers, he probably needs even faster ground to go close in a race of this nature.

I’m so much more confident betting on course form at York and Lucander, Fishable and Surrey Pride all have strong course and distance form to their names. The fact that Lucander is unbeaten in two runs here makes him really interesting and there are obvious reasons for him to bounce back here from a poor run but he would have appealed slightly more if he’d run just a bit better at Ascot last time. He’s still massively overpriced and worth covering though, especially with Laura Pearson riding and claiming 5lbs.

Fishable may not have won here but he’s unlucky to not have placed in both course and distance starts and will find conditions perfect here. If he’d got a clear run behind Surrey Pride last time he’d probably have finished 3rd or 4th and would be going into this a shorter price. He’s been in good form all season, is consistent and after just ten runs should still be improving a little. The only slight worry with him is being ridden too close to the pace but he’s been held up in all three visits to York (didn’t have much choice last time admittedly after missing the break).

Assuming Saturday's rain isn't enough to send the ground back to soft though SURREY PRIDE looks the most likely to go well. We’re yet to see how far he can go on good/good to soft ground and he’s proven over course and distance with his last race working out well. He’s been held back for this since and his run style is ideally suited to a course like this where he can make up ground on the bridle. The draw isn’t ideal but his run style should be.

Dave Renham: York Draw & Pace

In my most recent article I combined my draw bias roots with a more recently acquired interest in pace / running styles to overview their collective impact at Pontefract, writes Dave Renham. This time I am going to look at another northern racecourse, York.

A picturesque Grade 1 track, York stands in the south west of the city on the Knavesmire. The racecourse is around two miles in length in the shape of what resembles a 'U', and it has a long run-in of nearly five furlongs. Over the sprint distances of five and six furlongs they race on a straight course; the seven-furlong distance starts from a ‘spur’ or chute and they do race around the tangent of the home bend; from a mile upwards they race on the round course. The 1m 6f distance starts with a two-furlong chute at the end of the back straight before they join the main course.

York has always been considered to be a fair track and when I was studying draw bias ‘24/7’ back in the late 1990's and early 2000's the mile trip offered a decent low bias but, other than that, there was little to report. The sprint trips in those days looked very even with little difference from wing to wing. However, I have noticed more recently that a sprint draw bias may have started to appear so I am hoping the stats back that perception up.

York Racecourse map

For this article, as with the Pontefract one, I am using tools available on this site, namely the Draw Analyser, Pace Analyser and the Query Tool. The initial period of study is a long one, going back to 2009, but I will examine more recent data (2015 to 2019) in detail, too, where appropriate. I will also check other variables including ground conditions and will focus once again on eight-plus runner handicaps only.

From a draw perspective, when analysing each handicap race, I divide the draw into three sections (low, middle, high). This how the Geegeez Draw Analyser does it and has always been my favoured method, too. In this way, a ten-runner race has three low stalls, four middle stalls and three high stalls; an eleven-runner race has four low, three middle and four high; twelve-runner races have four low, four middle, four high; and so on.

It should also be noted that I also adjust the draw positions when there are non-runners. For example, if the horse drawn 6 is a non-runner, then the horse drawn 7 becomes drawn 6, draw 8 becomes 7, and so on.

The differences in the percentages will help to determine the strength of the bias and, given a level playing field, one would expect the win percentages to be around 33% for each third. The more races in a sample the better: that may sound obvious, but with any data set, especially the type of small ones in which racing must habitually deal, there is an element of randomness.

Finally, in terms of framing what follows, I will reference A/E and IV stats throughout. More information on these can be found here.

Right, let’s crack on with the 5f data.

York 5 furlongs (8+ runner handicaps)

Since 2009, the period under review, there have been 105 qualifying eight-plus runner five-furlong handicap races. I have also included races over 5 1/2 furlongs of which there of which there were 21. Here are the overall draw splits: 

These figures suggest a modest low draw bias over the longer term. The A/E values below back up this theory from a betting perspective:

For the record, if you had bet every horse from the bottom third of the draw at £1 per bet you would have roughly broken even – a loss to SP of 50 pence over 523 bets to be precise! [And, though it's not the main measure in this article, blindly backing those in the bottom quarter of the draw would have netted a £55.50 profit at SP!

Time to look at each individual draw position broken down:

Draws 2, 4 and 5 have made a profit to SP and all have A/E values above 1.00 again indicating a low draw edge. It is time to look at some more recent data; for this I will focus on the last five seasons (2015-2019). Here are the win percentages for each third over this more recent time span:

It is clear from these percentages that the low draw bias has strengthened in the last five years. These are the individual stall values:

Once again draws 2, 4 and 5 have proved to be profitable and if we combine the results of draws 1 to 5 they produce a positive overall A/E value of 1.09; compare this to draws 12 and above that combine for an A/E value of only 0.43. Low draws definitely have been in the ascendancy since 2015, although it should be said that the microcosm of 2019 was more even in terms of the draw.

It is unclear, having dug deeper, whether the going has any great significance. I cannot find a strong enough pattern to elaborate on and I don’t wish to further extend the article with relatively worthless stats as it is quite comprehensive as it is. Likewise the bias is consistent in terms of field size – low draws have had a similar edge in smaller fields of 8 to 10 as they have in bigger fields stretching across the track of, say, 17 runners or more.

Let us now look at pace and running styles. Here are the overall figures (2009-19) by early run style:

There is a clear edge for front runners here, a pace bias that seems marginally stronger on ground conditions of good or firmer. Looking only at big field (16+ runners) 5f handicaps, the IVs suggest a decent strengthening of the front running bias and a commensurately tougher time for hold up horses:

 

Now a look at draw / pace (running style) combinations for front runners in these 5f races:

For a straight course to see a single third of the draw (low) with an early leader figure of over 50% is unusual. Only Sandown over the straight 5f sees similar stats – the average % for all straight courses for low drawn runners taking the early lead is around 36%.

This 'early leader' by course table illustrates the point. (Note that a race can have more than one 'leader' where two or more horses contest closely).

You would expect 5f races around run a bend to have high figures like this for the bottom third leading early, as lower drawn runners should find it easier to get to the inside rail. But on the straight track at York, I cannot really explain the figures. Any suggestions welcome!

York 5f Handicaps (8+ runners) Summary

A low draw, ideally coupled with good early pace, or at least the ability to hold a position early, looks extremely important.

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York 6 furlongs (8+ runner handicaps)

There have been 112 qualifying six-furlong races going back to 2009. Here are the overall draw splits: 

The ten-year picture shows a very even split which does not correlate with the 5f stats, both distances being run on the same straight piste.

The A/E values are what one would expect given the win percentages, with no-brainer profit angles conspicuous by their absence:

 

A look again at individual draw positions and how they have fared over this time frame:

This table is a good example of how random draw data can actually be, and how individual draw positions often show this randomness. Stall 3 is a complete outlier with 15 wins and a £93 profit; in the context of neighbouring stalls there is no other explanation than that it's the confluence of happenstance in a small data set.

Given the ostensible long-term fairness of the six-furlong trip in terms of draw thirds, I wanted to see if there might be a draw bias when studying more recent handicap data at the distance. Here are the draw splits for 2014-2019 seasons where have been 51 qualifying races:

Interestingly, the recent data points to a very strong-looking low draw bias, with high draws having really struggled. When we split by draw we see confirmation of that in less ‘random’ looking data:

Draws 2 to 5 have all been profitable to SP and all have very positive A/E values. This adds confidence in terms of there being a robust bias.

Let us now look at A/E values in a slightly different way – I am going to split the data by draws 1 to 5, then 6 to 10 and finally 11 or higher:

 

This really accentuates the low draw edge and I am fairly confident this is a bias we can exploit when the season gets started again. Before I move on to pace data, I want to share with you the result of the last qualifying handicap race, run on 12th October 2019.

It was the Coral Sprint Trophy with 22 runners; the first eight finishing positions were drawn as follows: 1st (5), 2nd (4), 3rd (10), 4th (3), 5th (2), 6th (1), 7th (8) and 8th (7). Seven of the first eight home were drawn in single figures and all were drawn in the bottom half of the draw. For record the last five horses’ home (placed 18th to 22nd) were drawn 22, 19, 14, 17 and 18 respectively.

This race demonstrates how strong the bias can be. Now, not all races fit this pattern, and high draws will have their ‘day’, more than once, but in recent years it is clear that lower drawn horses have enjoyed a significant edge.

As with the 5f races, I found that the going makes little or no difference to the above. Field size does have a small effect, however, with large fields (17+) increasing the low draw win percentage slightly to 59%. However, with only 22 races included it is a limited sample.

Now a look at York 6f handicap (8+ runners) pace and running styles now. Here are the overall figures going back to 2009:

There is a really significant edge for front runners, much stronger than over 5f which is unusual. Normally, as the distance increases, the edge for front runners decreases. This pace bias has actually been even stronger in the last five years – front runners have won around 30% of all races from 2015 with an IV of a whopping 4.06 and an A/E value of 2.92.

Now a look at draw / pace (running style) combinations for front runners in 6f handicaps (2009 – 2019):

These are virtually a carbon copy of the 5f figures. Once again lower drawn horses lead far more than you would expect. Again, this is difficult to explain and unfortunately I can’t.

York 6f Handicaps (8+ runners) Summary

Six-furlong handicaps at York in recent years have strongly favoured lower drawn runners from a draw perspective. In addition front runners seem to have a very strong edge, too, and horses appear far more likely to lead if drawn low (though I am struggling to find a reason for this).

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York 7 furlongs (8+ runner handicaps) 

There have been 94 qualifying races over 7f. Remember this distance is run around part of the home bend starting from a chute: 

Middle draws have had the highest percentage of winners but the figures in reality are quite even especially when I share that lower draws have the best win and placed combined record. Ultimately this looks a very fair C & D in terms of the draw. I think some people may have expected lower draws to have a slight edge but I am not sure the initial chute plays they some might imagine.

The A/E values do suggest though that for win purposes middle draws have offered some value during this 11 year period:

The last five seasons have seen a similar pattern with a fairly even playing field; again, middle draws have arguably fared best, winning around 44% of all races.

Let us now look at each individual draw and their stats since 2009:

A few stalls have proved profitable, but it is highly unlikely this will be replicated in the future as there is no real pattern to it. It is interesting to note that the very highest draws (16 to 20) have provided just 1 winner from 121 runners. Hence in big field contests it looks best to avoid those with 'car park' berths.

In terms of going it seems that higher draws struggle when the going gets on the easy side. On good to softer or softer the draw splits are as follows:

The A/E values for those same good to soft or softer races correlate thus:

It should be stated that there have been only 28 races on this softer type of going, far too small a sample about which to be completely confident. However, the win and placed stats are also very poor for higher draws suggesting that it is certainly possible that this trend towards low to middle will continue.

York as a course rarely gets soft or heavy and only eight qualifying races have been run on that going in the last 11 years. However, worth sharing is that of the 28 win and placed horses, only three came from high draws (11 from low, 14 from middle).

From a draw perspective then a middle draw maybe optimal with both middle and low readily preferable to high: higher draws seem to struggle on going softer than good, and very high draws struggle all the time.

Onto to pace and running styles now. Here are the overall stats:

Front runners have a very slight edge but ultimately there seems no strong pace angle here over 7f. As the ground softens it seems that front runners and horses that track the pace start to have more of an edge but, as mentioned above, the limited sample of 28 races on good to soft or softer would temper confidence in the figures.

Finally let us examine the draw / pace (running style) combinations for front runners in 7f handicaps:

Low draws are more likely to lead as they are closest to the inside, and therefore have least distance to travel around the part-bend. However, whilst I alluded to the starting chute may help lower draws, it may also be that occasionally horses not well away from low draws get snatched up on the inside as wider-drawn rivals attempt to cut the dogleg.

We can see from this draw/run style heat map, which shows place percentage for 8+ runner 7f York handicaps, that those drawn low and held up have the poorest place rate of the waited-with participants.

York 7f Handicaps (8+ runners) Summary

To conclude 7f seems to offer draw and pace punters no significant edge, though exercising caution around high draws may be prudent.

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York 1 mile (8+ runner handicaps) 

Onto the 1 mile trip – a distance at which I am hoping to see a relatively strong low draw bias as historically was the case during my 'draw fever' days. The configuration of the track, with a shortish run to two sharp left-hand bends in close proximity to each other. Horses trapped out wide can forfeit a lot of ground.

There have been 71 qualifying eight-plus runner mile handicaps going back to 2009: 

 

The raw stats clearly favour lower drawn horses. Middle draws are next best and, in turn, have an edge over higher drawn horses who look to be quite disadvantaged. In spite of this quite well known - and indeed obvious when one looks at the course configuration - advantage, the A/E values help back up the raw win percentages and imply a small profit to be had from backing low draws indiscriminately:

This increases confidence in the bias.

Looking at the going the bias is less strong on very fast ground (good to firm or firmer), but on good ground or softer low draws have prevailed in 27 of the 45 races (SR 60%).

So to the individual draw data now:

Looking at the lowest six draws as a whole they paint a relatively strong picture. Clearly not all six stalls were going to be profitable but you only have to look at wins, strike rate and A/E values to see these figures are strong in terms of their grouping. Combining all these stalls would have seen a small 3p in the £ loss backing all 426 runners ‘blind’, and their combined A/E value is an impressive 1.15. Compare this to draws 7 to 12 whose A/E value is just 0.35 and where backing all runners ‘blind’ would have lost you over 61p in the £.

Focusing on more recent data to see whether the bias has been as strong over the past five seasons (2015-2019) remains a smart ploy. There have been 34 qualifying races giving the following draw stats:

These stats mirror the 11 year data so the inside bias seems as strong as ever. Below is the constituent draw data for those last five seasons:

Again stalls 1 to 6 are the group of stalls that we are drawn to (pardon the pun!). Their combined A/E value stands at 1.20 and you would have made a small profit backing all runners drawn 1 to 6 to the tune of 7p in the £.

For real system punters out there backing horses drawn 1 to 6 that were also in the top six in the betting would have yielded 22 winners from 111 runners for a profit of £46.96 (ROI +42.3). Now I am not personally an advocate of systems but this illustrates how some punters could theoretically have made money over this track and trip in recent years. There is enough logic supporting the angle to suggest it has at least a fighting chance of continuing to pay its way.

The going stats noted earlier in the 11 year data are essentially the same with the more recent data subset. 59% of races on good or softer ground have been won by the bottom third of the draw (low).

A look at the pace / running style figures in mile handicaps (8+ runners) next:

A small edge for front runners and generally the closer to the pace you are the better. Front runners seem to enjoy a stronger edge as the ground gets firmer as the following table shows:

Data is limited which we must take into account of course; that is why I have added the placed stats too, which support the general direction of travel.

So onto the draw performance for front runners in mile handicaps:

Higher draws lead less often as one might expect, but I am surprised middle drawn horses have led slightly more often than lower draws. Perhaps some jockeys have the desire to overcome an ostensibly poor middle stall by gunning from the gate; if that is true, it would make it commensurately more difficult for the widest riders to execute the same strategy.

The Draw Analyser image below shows - for qualifying races run on good or firmer ground - first a draw table by IV3 (average Impact Value of a stall and its immediate neighbours), and secondly, a draw/run style heat map by Impact Value (IV). The benefit of a low draw and or pace pressing early position is clear, as is the difficulty faced by wider drawn runners, especially if held up.

York 1 Mile Handicaps (8+ runners) Summary

The mile trip shows a strong low draw bias and, from a punting perspective, it gives us a potential edge. This is underscored by very strong A/E values. The betting market has not taken the bias fully into account yet, and long may that continue!

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York 1 mile 1 furlong (8+ runner handicaps) 

The final distance I wish to look at, but only briefly as there have been just 26 qualifying races in the last 11 years. With data so limited I am simply going to share the very basic stats. Here are the draw splits:

Low draws seem to have a very strong edge. My guess is that it would not be this strong with a much bigger sample of races, but as the distance is only a furlong more than the mile races we just reviewed, one would expect low draws to still comfortably hold sway. Here are the A/E values:

 

These correlate with the draw percentages as one might expect. For the record, stall 3 has provided ten of the 26 winners!

Pace wise, only two of the 26 races have been won by front runners with an A/E value of 0.93. Prominent racers have enjoyed the most success from the small data set and have won 13 races with an A/E of 1.55.

For the record, and mindful that there are just 26 races in this data set, here is the draw/pace heat map by place percentage:

York 1m1f Handicaps (8+ runners) Summary

I think it may make sense to group this distance with the 1 mile data in the future, but low draws and a prominent run style looks optimal, albeit from an unreasonably small sample of races.

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York Draw / Pace Summary

In summary, York is a course where the draw clearly has a role: knowing where these biases potentially exist ought to help us with our battle to make  long-term profit.

Pace wise, the sprint distances of 5f and 6f appear to offer a solid front running edge, especially when combined with a low draw.

And at a mile and nine furlongs, the value of being draw away from the outside, ideally close to the inner, should not be understated.

Hopefully you have found this article useful; now it’s time to look at the next course!

- Dave