Tag Archive for: York pace bias

Cesarewitch Draw and Pace Bias Plus The Effect Of The Ground On Front Runners At York

Some very interesting betting races at both York and Newmarket this weekend and the most interesting of all has to be the Cesarewitch Handicap at Newmarket. As usual there are 34 runners plus 2 reserves entered and some course biases would be extremely handy in narrowing down this field, so let’s take a look at what might prevail here.

Cesarewitch Draw Bias

The general consensus is you want to be drawn low in this, but how strong is the bias over 2m2f at Newmarket?

The Cesarewitch Trial doesn’t tend to attract big fields so we are fairly limited with our data here as most of it is only provided by the renewal of this race each year. The good news is that with some massive field sizes a huge amount of runners have contributed to the PRB data here and that is going to be by far our most reliable gauge of a potential draw bias at Newmarket.

The PRB data seems to favour low and middle over high with a low draw PRB of 0.54, a middle draw PRB of 0.53 and a much poorer PRB for the highest third of the draw of just 0.44.

The win data isn’t totally reliable given a relatively small sample of races since 2009 but it’s worth noting that only one winner since that data has come from a stall higher than 23 and that was when Frankie Dettori made all on Never Can Tell in 2011. His stall number was 36 but with non runners and reserves not making the cut he effectively came out of stall 33. It’s worth noting that not only was he able to get a good early position from his ‘bad’ draw, Dettori also explored a completely different part of the straight than the rest of the field which probably gave him a big advantage that day - negating the disadvantage of his draw.

That win certainly looks the exception to the rule and it seems that for win purposes we probably want to look at the bottom two thirds of the draw.

For a more detailed look at the draw we should check out the individual stall data.

Both the table and the graph are sorted by PRB3 (PRB3 is a rolling three-stall average percentage of rivals beaten) to give us the best indication of the best and worst places to be drawn in the Cesarewitch.

First of all though, we’ve established that winning is very difficult from the top third of the draw but what about placing? Higher drawn runners do place, and it’s easy to then suggest the draw bias can’t be very strong because of it, but that isn’t wise. Of the top eleven place percentages for individual stalls, nine of those come from stalls 11 or lower. The only other stalls to break into that top eleven are stalls 19 and 27.

Stall 33’s sole place came when Dettori found the quickest ground and if you were willing to ignore that, which admittedly is slightly selective use of the data, it could be said that the highest seven stalls are all in the bottom fourteen stalls as far as place percentages are concerned.

A total of seventeen stalls have placed more than once and fourteen of those were stall 16 or below. The other three stalls to have two places or more are 19, 22 and 27.

Based on the win and place data, I’d suggest that the winner is very likely to come from stall 23 or lower and the placed horses are very likely to be dominated by stalls 27 and lower. That potentially rules out eleven runners for win purposes and seven runners for place purposes.

As mentioned previously, the most reliable data in this sample is the PRB data as every runner is contributing to that.

Again, this is selective use of the stats as Stall 33 has won the race before, but we’ve established that he probably didn’t really win completely on merit so I’m willing to largely overlook that anomaly. If you did ignore that win the top twenty-two individual stall PRB figures would belong to the lowest 28 stalls and any stall higher than that would have a PRB of 0.46 at best. The top six PRB figures include five stalls that are 10 or lower.

For some reason there is a slight dip in performance as far as PRB3 is concerned from around stall 9 to stall 18. There is no obvious reason why that might be the case and perhaps that line will be smoothed further in future years. It certainly seems as though being drawn 11 or lower is absolutely ideal according to many of the individual stall metrics.

All of the above data is based on the actual stall the runners emerged from, which is impacted by non runners, rather than the racecard stall numbers. It’s worth noting that the reserves this year are drawn in stalls 23 and 3. Assuming neither gets a run stalls 4 to 22 will effectively break from one stall lower than their racecard draw and stalls 24 and above will effectively come out of two stalls lower than their racecard draw. So if you were using stall 23 as the cut off for where you might be able to win from, stall 25 would actually qualify as that will effectively be stall 23.

One final point to note on the Cesarewitch draw advantage is that as of 2020, you have to go all the way back to Sergeant Cecil’s victory from stall 9 in 2005 to find a renewal of this race where a horse drawn 7 or lower didn’t finish in the first four. So it might not be a bad strategy to simply back your favoured horse drawn 7 or lower to place - there are plenty of runners at very big prices amongst those draws this year.

Cesarewitch Pace Bias

So we certainly seem to have a Cesarewitch draw bias, what about a Cesarewitch pace bias at Newmarket?

The win percentages suggest the closer you are to the early pace the better but sixteen races is too small a sample to be reading too much into the win data when we can also look at the place data.

The place percentages suggest there really is much in it at all. The top place percentage of 15.91% belongs to prominent whilst front runners have a slightly inferior place percentage of 15.71%.

The best two place percentages do belong to the most aggressive run styles but with mid division place percentage coming in at 12.5% and held up providing a place percentage of 14.21% there really isn’t much between the data.

If there aren’t many front runners in the field I’d probably slightly favour something that is likely to be ridden in the front half of the field but granted an even pace or better I’d have no hesitation in going for something a bit more patiently ridden if they have the right sort of draw and a strong level of form.

Cesarewitch Draw and Pace Combination

Draw and pace are both extremely important factors in most races. In combination they can be hugely influential and the draw and pace combination heat map on the Draw Analyser helps give extra insight into potential course biases.

Despite Newmarket often being a front runner’s track, the data points to a front running ride from either low or middle to be a disadvantage in this race with extremely poor PRB figures for each of those combinations. The only reason front running from a high draw comes out okay is the victory of Never Can Tell in 2011 and that probably shouldn’t be taken at face value. More runners have led early from low, than middle and high combined, so it’s clear that it’s much easier to get the lead from a low stall as those higher drawn runners are likely to track across.

Racing prominently is rarely a bad thing at Newmarket and that’s certainly the case if a runner is drawn low or middle in this with impressive PRBs of 0.58 and 0.64 respectively. Things get drastically worse for this run style from high draws though with a PRB of just 0.31. Nineteen runners have raced prominently from a high draw since 2009 and only one of those even managed to place.

Racing in mid division is possibly just about the best place to be if drawn low but things get steadily worse the higher you are drawn for this run style. The place percentages for middle and high for mid division are extremely poor (less than 4% compared to 24.25% for mid division for low).

The draw seems to make the least amount of difference for those held up with not a massive amount between the draws for that run style. On balance, if you are backing a high drawn runner then it is probably best that the horse is dropped out from the start. If you are a hold up performer then there isn’t much between a low and middle draw as far as PRB is concerned, although place percentage data very slightly favours middle.

This heat map is very informative and my reading of the data is that prominent runners from low or middle draws should be marked up, as should those racing in mid division from low draws, whilst I wouldn’t be completely put off hold ups from low or middle.

Cesarewitch 2021 Pace Map

This is the pace map for the 2021 Cesarewitch Handicap, based on the last two runs of each participant.

I have added two blue boxes which may well be the most advantageous draw and pace combinations. There is of course no guarantee that those runners will reproduce those run styles, or that runners outside of the boxes won’t be ridden differently this time around.

Overall there is a fair amount of pace in this contest, particularly drawn very low although Aleatoric is second reserve and unlikely to run. There is also pace middle and high and those runners are going to have to use up plenty of early energy if they are to compete with Putting Green and Land Of Winter for the early lead.

Only a couple of the low drawn runners appear likely to be dropped out early, potentially forfeiting some of their draw advantage, and one of those includes the well fancied Buzz.

Given there is a decent amount of early pace in this on paper I wouldn’t rule out the more patiently ridden runners from low and middle draws although they might be at a slight disadvantage against some other draw and pace combinations (mainly the two marked in the blue boxes on the pace map).

Cesarewitch 2021 Preview

It's not impossible to build a case for many of these but I had four runners, all relatively well found in the betting, in mind for this from an early stage.

I’m never quite sure what to do with the Willie Mullins runners in these races. He’s won this for the past three years and runs five this year. In general they are difficult to weigh up from a form perspective but you know they should usually be respected because of the powerful yard they represent.

MC Muldoon is one of the easier ones to work out because he ran in the Ascot Stakes in June. He was runner up in that contest, and an unlucky runner up at that. I was really impressed with how he made up ground that day, going from around five or six lengths off the pace turning for home to about two lengths off the pace by the time they reached the 2f marker. This long straight will allow him to make up the ground in his own time and his draw in stall 15 is more than fine. He’s up 4lbs and the form of that Ascot Stakes race could certainly have worked out better so there are negatives but he’s clearly been campaigned with this in mind all season and has to be the one to beat.

Elysian Flame was one place behind him that day on ground that would have been plenty fast enough. He then did best of those held up at Glorious Goodwood over a similar trip. He stays all day and would have preferred more rain but what rain they’ve had will suit, as should the long straight. He’s entitled to push MC Muldoon close from a similar draw, with a similar run style, but you get the impression that MC Muldoon is the classier rival.

The horse that finished ahead of Elysian Flame at Goodwood was Calling The Wind, who has been extremely progressive over staying trips this season. He was runner up in the Queen Alexandra Stakes in June but it’s not always best to take that form at face value. He came out of that and won at Goodwood though, cruising through that contest and only needing to be shaken up in the final furlong to win comfortably. He was put up 6lbs for that but probably put in his most remarkable effort to date last time out over just 12f. Despite that distance looking far too short for him based on this season’s exploits he once again cruised through the race, showing more speed than any other rival, only to go down by a head to a well handicapped winner. His performance needs to be watched to be appreciated and he has looked well ahead of his mark on his last few runs. The problem here is stall 27, which admittedly will effectively be stall 25 assuming the two reserves don’t make the cut. That stall would make him slightly higher still than the preferred cut off for win purposes but just about within the cut off for placing.

If Calling The Wind had been granted a much lower draw I don’t see how this horse would have finished out of the places and would have backed accordingly. As it is he still has a fair chance of placing at least but the market hasn’t reacted enough to his draw (meaning he should have drifted more) so I’ll have just a small each way bet on him instead.

Platform Nineteen was four places behind Calling The Wind at Goodwood and followed that up with a strong 3rd at York over two miles.

What is interesting about that form is the 2nd, 5th, 6th and 7th have all won since making Platform Nineteen look well handicapped still off a 1lb higher mark. Unfortunately he has fared just as badly as Calling The Wind when it comes to the draw having been handed stall 28. From very similar draws I’d expect Calling The Wind to finish maybe a couple of lengths ahead of Platform Nineteen but Calling The Wind is only around 8/1 at the time of writing whereas Platform Nineteen is around the 25/1 mark. I’d much rather back Platform Nineteen to place at around 6/1 than Calling The Wind to place at around 2/1!

I think this quartet will all run well in this race and begrudgingly admit that MC Muldoon is the most likely winner but he offers no value, nor does Calling The Wind who the draw has hindered. I’m reluctant to get too involved in PLATFORM NINETEEN given the draw but he has to be considered the value play in this for all his draw has probably cost him a winning chance, making a place only bet the most appealing wager – you’d still get paid at similar odds as you would on MC Muldoon winning.

Coral Sprint Trophy Preview

From eighteen furlongs to six. Over at York, at 3.15pm, another extremely tough handicap will be run - the Coral Sprint Trophy.

The draw advantage at York probably isn’t what it used to be, they largely come up the middle and that seems to be just about the best place to be, making it a pretty level playing field as far as stalls are concerned.

Pace still has a huge bearing on York sprints though. It’s often a huge advantage to be on the speed over both 5f and 6f but is that still the case on testing ground?

The above shows the pace bias in big field York sprints on good or good to firm ground.

Meanwhile this is the pace data for sprints on good to soft or soft ground.

Front runners actually do marginally better in softer conditions for both win and place percentages. With front runners doing even better on testing ground we see a slightly poorer performance from those that are held up.

In this year’s race Gulliver will be going for a hat trick having won this in both 2019 and 2020. Despite being held up more often than not, which isn’t a great run style for this venue, all four of his turf wins have come at York. For 99% of the race in 2019 he looked like an also ran having been first off the bridle but he kept responding and got up late. A year later things were far more straight forward. Despite being settled at the back of the field he made up ground more comfortably this time, winning by over 2 lengths against a runner up that would be rated 10lbs higher within 6 months.

He also ran in a 6f handicap this season, on good to soft ground, but it appears the ground wasn’t quite soft enough as he was never going quick enough and finished a never nearer 6th. He did second best of the hold up performers that day and it’s worth noting that the best of those hold up performers was Mr Lupton who won the race. Mr Lupton is 3lbs better off with Gulliver in this having beaten him by 4.75 lengths so even though Gulliver looks likely to run well again off the same mark he carried to victory last year, it’s difficult to argue he is any sort of value against Mr Lupton who is the complete outsider of the field whereas Gulliver is the favourite. Like Guilliver, Mr Lupton also has four wins on the Knavesmire so is just as much of a course specialist.

You do have to forgive Mr Lupton four poor runs on the bounce, which is why he is such a big price, whereas Gulliver looks much more likely to run his race.

I do like Gulliver’s chances but the ground isn’t going to get any softer there now and that might count against him.

There are some interesting Irish runners in this race. Laugh A Minute was rated as high as 109 when with Roger Varian and placed twice here (good previous York form is always a huge bonus in any of these races). He comes here rated 92 having gone close last time despite never really getting a clear run. His better form has generally come on better ground though and he was well beaten in this last year.

Verhoyen could be the most interesting Irish raiders though. Three of his four wins have come over 6f but he’s been running over 5f recently. Last time out he got within half a length of the now 100 rated Strong Johnson, off level weights, meaning he’s feasibly handicapped here off 92 with the step back up in trip looking likely to suit.

Magical Spirit looks overpriced at 16/1 with most bookies. He ran a solid 4th in the Ayr Silver Cup last time out despite the ground not being soft enough and he was also 4th in this last year off a 5lb higher mark.

Magical Spirit ran very well over a slightly inadequate 5f on his penultimate start at Ascot’s Shergar Cup meeting but what is interesting about that race is he was 2nd in the near side group and the other runners who came near side have let that form down repeatedly since.

However the race that took place on the far side is far more interesting. The winner of the entire race, and therefore first home on the far side, was Tis Marvellous who has won two listed races since and placed in a Group 3 since. The runner up on the far side, beaten 2 lengths, was King Of Stars who has won two handicaps subsequently. Then third home on the far side, beaten a length by King Of Stars, was Snazzy Jazzy who is now a massive 7lbs lower and runs here. On that form alone he is 8lbs better off with Magical Spirit.

That was one of three strong efforts Snazzy Jazzy put in during the summer over 5f and the other two came here at York. The first of those was a 4th in a listed contest won by subsequent Nunthorpe winner Winter Power. The runner up has finished 2nd in a Group 3 since and the 3rd placed in a listed race next time out.

Snazzy Jazzy was also 7th in the above race, that I highlighted as hot form ahead of the Portland Handicap a few weeks ago. The 3rd and 5th have both won twice since and the 1st and 2nd have both finished as runner up since giving that form a really solid look. Snazzy Jazzy was only beaten 3 lengths in this race and is now racing off a 5lb lower mark.

His two subsequent runs haven’t been quite so good but he was held up in the centre of the course in the Ayr Gold Cup which was absolutely not the place to be from both a draw and pace perspective. He was then outclassed in a listed race last time out. His runs at 5f on good or good to soft ground in the summer read very well given all his best form previously had come on soft ground at 6f, the scenario he faces on Saturday.

He could easily bounce back to form back at York, pitched into more suitable company on a lenient handicap mark, and although his hold up style isn’t tailor made for this course, he’s already run well here against pace biases. There is also plenty of pace likely in this (four habitual front runners) which will boost both his, and Gulliver’s chances. SNAZZY JAZZY looks far more interesting than Gulliver though given the 33/1 on offer.

Good luck whatever you are backing!

Ebor Handicap 2021 Preview and Tips: Away He Goes Ticks All The Boxes

It’s quality not quantity as far as the live races on Saturday are concerned and as I’m a big handicap fan the choice seems to be the Melrose or the Ebor, both run over the same course and distance. I love a 3yo stayer but there are just too many unknowns in the Melrose with so many lightly raced runners meaning it’s the big one, the Ebor Handicap, that I’ll be previewing this week.

The race is due off at 3.35pm and as usual it will be run over York’s 1m6f course. There are 22 runners (plus reserves) to go through and hopefully the race will be run on good to firm ground. There is rain forecast on Saturday but the vast majority is likely to fall after the race and after racing finishes as things stand. This of course could change between now and Saturday though.

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

The effect of the draw on round course races can sometimes be overlooked, and sometimes overestimated, where do you want to be drawn over this course and distance?

Not much between the win figures but slightly against convention the place percentages and PRB figures suggest low is slightly disadvantaged with a considerably lower place percentage compared to middle and high and a slightly worse PRB score than the higher draws.

This is something that should be investigated further with the individual stall data.

It’s worth noting that eight of the best nine individual stall PRB figures belong to double figure draws with 16, 18, 19 and 20 filling the top four positions. This would suggest the higher the draw the better.

Stalls 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7 are all amongst the poorer performers with PRB figures between 0.47 and 0.39.

Stalls 1 and 20 have both previously won this race so you can clearly win from anywhere and no draw should be written off but slight preference would be for something drawn in the top half of the draw, all other things being equal.

Pace

The shorter trips here favour early pace, what about this distance?

Quite the opposite when it comes to the 1m6f distance here with hold up performers bossing it in terms of both win percentage and place percentage. The place percentages suggest there isn’t much between mid division and front running with prominent coming out worse of all with a place percentage that is three times worse than that for the most patiently ridden types.

It’s not impossible to make all here but it’s pretty clear that on fast ground it will be difficult to dominate and in most cases those that are held up and delivered late may have a distinct advantage.

The individual pace make up of each race will obviously have an impact on this but granted an even to strong early gallop the best value could be gained from hold up performers in this race.

Ebor Handicap 2021 Pace Map

Here is the pace map for the 2021 running of the Ebor Handicap at York.

There clearly isn’t going to be an extremely strong pace in this with just one recognised front runner (Mt Leinster) but Makawee has led in two of his last three starts (was held up on his penultimate run making his average run style look slightly less prominent). Max Vega is another who has led in two of his last three runs so there should be no shortage of pace and at the very least we’ll likely get an even gallop that could give a slight edge to the runners that are held up.

Draw and Pace Combination

With such a big field here we could witness some micro advantages within the usual draw and pace biases so the draw and pace combination heat map will help highlight those.

What this heat map tells us that front runners are best served by a middle draw with prominent racers doing best from a low draw (but not doing well in general). Low draws that race in mid division seem to perform extremely poorly but they do much better from middle to low draws and the draw doesn’t seem to matter at all if you are held up.

So whilst a low draw had seemed a slight disadvantage according to the draw data, this helps highlight that it is no disadvantage at all if you are going to be held up but the stats aren’t good for all other run types with low draws.

The Runners

Here are the runners for the 2021 Ebor Handicap, in early odds order:

Live Your Dream *FIRST RESERVE*

The ante post favourite for this isn’t guaranteed a run, he needs one to come out. Quite a few of the field would prefer rain so maybe he’ll get a run but most entries are going to want to see how early Saturday’s rain turns up which could count against him.

On form he has obvious claims having bolted up in an uncompetitive Wolverhampton handicap before winning a 15 runner heritage handicap over this trip at Newmarket at the July Festival. That looks pretty solid form, even if it hasn’t worked out particularly well, and he can’t really be crabbed for beating everything he’s come up against comfortably at this trip or further.

Sonnyboyliston

Yet to race on faster than good but his better form has come on better ground so there should be no issues with underfoot conditions. One of his most interesting pieces of form is his 4.25 length victory at the Curragh 11 months ago which worked out well and that effort suggests he was more well in than the 9lb higher mark he now runs off.

His form has been slightly underwhelming this season though for one of his rating. He won a pretty poor listed race in June over 12f and his two runs over further haven’t particularly advertised his claims for this – he was behind three of these rivals last time out over course and distance including Roberto Escobar who he has to give weight to here.

Hamish

Still lightly raced and certainly a horse to be interested in given he won twice over course and distance in 2019 before being beaten just a neck by subsequent group 1 winner Trueshan off level weights. He only managed one run last season though, which was an eyecatching run at Royal Ascot.

His form is top notch and he’s certainly capable of proving better than his handicap mark of 108 but he hasn’t been seen for 428 days and on top of that he’d prefer softer ground by all accounts, for all he has won on good to firm here previously. In these big handicaps you tend to get one horse who shortens dramatically just before the off and Hamish looks like that sort of runner. Either way he's certainly one to watch in the market, even if he is already well found.

Ilaraab

Likes it here as he’s won both starts on the Knavesmire but he’s pretty ground dependent (was withdrawn on good ground last time out). He beat an okay field by 3 lengths here in May off a mark of 102 which was a smart effort but he seemed to have his limitations exposed somewhat next time out at Royal Ascot in deeper company. The return to this venue may suit but he’ll want plenty of rain and he still has to prove himself over this trip.

Mt Leinster

The sole runner for Willie Mullins, who had several well fancied entries at the five day stage. He’s only had four runs on the flat producing form figures of 1211. In September last year he beat 101 rated Cape Gentleman in a listed contest by 5 lengths so the fact he runs off 102 here is interesting, especially as he was giving Cape Gentleman 11lbs that day.

He certainly looks well handicapped but he hasn’t been seen for 314 days and there has to be a ground concern as all his wins have come on soft ground and he’s been beaten all seven times he’s raced on anything better (even yielding). Yet another that will likely want rain.

Tribal Craft

He's been running very well this term and a 2 length defeat at the hands of Wonderful Tonight last time out at Goodwood is certainly no disgrace, even in receipt of 3lbs. That effort means he’s 4lbs well in here but once again, he’s one of those that surely wants rain having been kept to soft ground all season. Ignoring a three runner novice race win he’s been beaten in all eight runs that have come on good to soft or faster.

Fujaira Prince

Last year’s winner has only had one run this season so far and it was a fair 3rd over course and distance in listed company, leaving the impression he’d come on for the run. His win in this last year came on soft and he does prefer cut in the ground but he’s run well on good to firm and good ground previously, in fact he’s run well everytime he’s reached a racecourse given he’s yet to finish out of the first 3 in all 11 starts.

He’s up 6lbs from last year’s win which doesn’t rule him out and this has surely been the plan all season. He followed up last year’s victory with a 2nd place in the Irish St Leger so he’s clearly very useful but he could end up finding a couple better handicapped.

Mirann

Plenty of solid form in the book and stays the trip. Only 1lb higher than a decent 4th at Royal Ascot in the Duke Of Edinburgh Handicap. The ground could be a problem though. If it stay fast then he’s unproven on it and his best form is on softer. If it does soften then there are almost certainly better handicapped runners with give in the ground.

Away He Goes

He's 2lbs well in following a career best 2nd in the Goodwood Cup. That effort came on soft ground but his previous three wins have been on much faster ground so he could be capable of better yet, especially as he’s not fully exposed after 15 runs so far (only 4 of those have been at further than 12f).

He has work to do with a couple of these based on his run in the Silver Cup Stakes here but a bigger field and stronger pace will be in his favour and he’s not to be underestimated, for all he might be even better over 2 miles than this trip. Drawn extremely wide but that’s not necessarily a disadvantage.

Humanitarian

Another one that comes here off an absence, Humanitarian hasn’t been seen since winning over 12f at Newbury 11 months ago. That win came off a 455 day break meaning he’s had just the one run in the past 26 months. He’s seemingly one of the few that wants the rain to stay away here and he’s proven he can run well after a long break already. The horse he beat last time out, Dubai Future, has subsequently rated 11lbs higher and Humanitarian runs off just a 4lb higher mark here. He’s unproven over this trip but oth his runs at 12f suggest he’ll stay.

Quickthorn

Mudlark who won back to back races on testing ground earlier this season before finding things happening too quickly on good ground in the Silver Cup Stakes when behind several of these. He was poorly in at the weights that day and would be capable of a bold showing on soft or heavy here given his profile but it’s hard to see the ground softening enough in time for him. Something like the Old Borough Cup at Haydock (usually run on testing ground) would be a suitable target after this.

Roberto Escobarr

Very lightly raced still and a 4 length defeat of Matthew Flinders last season (rated just 1lb inferior to Roberto Escobarr now) suggests he could be well handicapped still. He’s 2 from 4 here at York, has won his only start on good to firm (beating a subsequent listed winner) and ran well last time out in the Silver Cup Stakes just half a length behind Fujaira Prince who he now gets 7lbs from. Roberto Escobarr was well placed in that contest but he does look decent value here.

Shanroe

A handicap winner over this trip last time out on good ground which took his flat record to 3 from 5. He’s won on soft ground but he’s also run several good races on good ground so underfoot conditions shouldn’t bother him. The handicap he won in October over this distance off an 18lb lower mark worked out well, which you’d hope for given his subsequent rise in the weights, plus the form of his latest win is pretty solid too. Very few negatives and he’s at the right end of the weights to progress further.

Alounak

Not the most consistent but he’s come good on his last two starts and he’s shaping as though worth trying over this trip. He seems pretty reliant on very soft ground though and the form of his Old Borough Cup win hasn’t really worked out so he could be vulnerable whatever the ground.

Global Storm

Slightly surprising to see him available at twice the price of Live Your Dream given they were separated by less than a length at Newmarket with Global Storm now 3lbs better off. His better form has generally come at Newmarket but it’s also generally come with a bit of cut in the ground too so if the ground was to ease even slightly he might have better claims of reversing that form. Global Storm did prove himself away from Newmarket when placing at Royal Ascot and given his consistent profile there will certainly be worse each way bets out there.

On To Victory

Won last year’s November Handicap in testing conditions and ran extremely well to get as close to Hukum as he did at Goodwood in May, surely running above his rating of 104. It was therefore a bit underwhelming that he was only 5th off this mark last time out in a handicap at that same venue when getting his ground again. Three of his four wins have come on soft, the other came on good to soft, so he needs rain to be at his best and he needs to improve on that latest run but he has a chance on his best efforts and Saffie Osbourne claims a useful 5lbs.

Pablo Escobarr

Runs against his full brother Roberto Escobarr here, who seems to have a decent chance if the rain stays away until after the race. Unsurprisingly he seems to have a similar going preference to his brother and he seems to have a similar level of ability too. He was rated 5lbs higher last year and hasn’t been the most consistent but he’s probably been campaigned with this in mind and should be cherry ripe now.

He was quite well fancied for this race last year but the ground went against him and connections have been playing with different headgear since. Cheekpieces go back on here for the first time since he was a good 3rd in a listed race over an inadequate trip last year and he’s been shaping as though this sort of trip and big field could be what he wants. Not very reliable but probably overpriced if the rain stays away.

Euchen Glen

A credit to connections who is extremely versatile. He put in a rare below par effort last time which is a slight concern but more of a concern is the fact that he’s 15lbs higher than when winning last year’s Old Borough Cup and 14lbs higher than when 5th in this race last year.

Blue Cup

A slightly frustrating sort who finally came good at Epsom in June when winning by a wide margin and he backed that up with a decent effort in the Wolferton at Royal Ascot when 4th. He ran less well last time out at Newbury and he’s on a stiff enough mark now having gone up 16lbs since his last win and this trip isn’t one he’s sure to see out.

Eagles By Day

Just one win outside of maiden company but it did come over course and distance on good ground in last season’s Silver Cup Stakes. He’s been highly tried since but without any success and in all probability his mark flatters him. He’s only had one run this season, perhaps by design, but he’s got plenty to find.

Makawee

A regular at this venue with a total of eight runs here and he generally seems to run her race with form figures of 15220333. She got 5lbs and an almost 3 length beating from Roberto Escobarr over course and distance earlier this season and is unlikely to reverse that form on these terms.

Max Vega

Still lightly raced and he’s looked better on softer ground to date. With that in mind he didn’t run too badly on seasonal debut on good ground in the Silver Cup Stakes behind several of these given he was poorly positioned, may have needed the run and would have find the surface lively enough. He was 2.25 lengths behind Away He Goes for example and he'll get 5lbs from him here.

Unfortunately if the rain comes and the ground goes in his favour this probably become a more competitive race and he could get found out still. On good to soft he’d represent fair value though.

Mekong

Not the force he was for Sir Michael Stoute and hasn’t really run to form since early last year. Difficult to see him bouncing back in such a competitive race.

The Verdict

A tremendously tricky puzzle to solve, complicated further by the possibility of the ground slowly easing throughout the day. At the time of writing this rain is likely to hit towards the end of the card (and after) so the race being run on ground softer than good seems unlikely for now. That would be a negative for the likes of Ilaraab, Mt Leinster, Mirann, Tribal Craft, Alounak, Quickthorn, On To Victory and Max Vega, amongst others. That’s almost half the field plus Fujaira Prince, Hamish and Global Storm would prefer the rains to come, even if they have run well on faster ground before.

Hamish in particular is very interesting still. He’s been extremely consistent to date on the racecourse and has even proven he can run well off this sort of absence before. He’s still a risky proposition though given the absence and the ground so unless there is sustained market support he’s probably not one to get too involved in at the price.

If the ground does stay on the fast side then Live Your Dream, Sonnyboyliston, Humanitarian, Away He Goes, Roberto Escobarr, and Pablo Escobarr should all run well. Humanitarian is very interesting and like Hamish, he’s proved himself off an absence before but still plenty has to be taken on trust. The Escobarr brothers are probably overpriced but neither are particularly reliable.

The Silver Cup Stakes could be a key bit of form for this given six of these ran in the race and the pick of those could be AWAY HE GOES. He seems a better horse with a run under his belt so should improve beyond several of those in that race (he doesn't have to improve much to beat Sonnyboyliston on these terms). He’s completely unexposed as a stayer, ran a career best last time out, will enjoy the big field scenario and he’s run well on fast and soft ground so for those of us having an early bet on the race he’s a safe candidate. On his last handicap run, earlier this year, he was runner up off an 8lb lower mark, beaten less than a length behind a horse that was 11lbs well in who enjoyed the run of the race more than Away He Goes, who in hindsight was also running over an inadequate trip. He’s officially 2lbs well in here but could still have more in hand than that. He's only a suggestion though in such a difficult race.

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.

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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.

Two Against The Field At Prices In Live York Handicap

Most trainers, jockeys and bettors will have one eye on Royal Ascot here but there is still some good racing on Saturday and most of the live races look fairly solvable – ahead of a week where there will be many impossible looking puzzles!

This week’s preview is going to focus on the 2.35 at York, an eleven runner 7f handicap at York that will be shown live on ITV4.

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Draw

Not the biggest field so unlikely to be much draw advantage but let’s see.

The win data here slightly favours middle draws, whilst the place percentages and PRB data suggest there is a very slight edge towards those drawn high. A difference of just 0.02 PRB between low draws and high draws suggest there is pretty much nothing in the draw in this field size and it’s pretty evident you can win from anywhere.

Don’t let the draw put you off anything or draw you towards any of the runners in this contest.

Pace

There are some significant pace biases over shorter distances here at York, but what about at 7f?

Once again we see some very fair data for this field size. The win and place percentages both suggest there is a marginal advantage by being slightly closer to the pace but with so little difference it looks a very fair course and distance. The place percentage for front runners in these conditions is 29.31% and the place percentage for hold ups is 28.13% so everything has a very even chance it seems.

Pace Map

With very little natural pace bias here the pace of this individual race should have a much larger bearing on the outcome than the course.

Not a huge amount of pace on here with Dazzling Dan looking most likely to take them along. It’s worth noting that Manigordo has been on the pace in two of his last three runs but he was unable to lead last time against several other front runners. Up in trip and with less pace on here he’ll have no problem getting the lead if he wants it.

National League is tactically flexible and has made the running in the recent past. He was held up last time but that was when slowly away at Chester from stall 8. Expect him to be much closer early on in this.

Ostilio has been a front runner for much of his career but he’s shown no spark in either of his runs this term. It’s difficult to expect anything different from him here but if he was back on his game he is potentially another pace angle.

Whatever happens this will probably be run at an even tempo. The likes of Golden Apollo and Queens Sargent will certainly be hoping the pace setters go off too fast as it will suit their come from behind style.

The Runners

A run through of each horse’s chance, in early odds order.

Dazzling Dan

He’d only previously tried 7f on heavy ground before this season but won comfortably on his first attempt at the trip on fast ground at Yarmouth, albeit only a four runner race, before a respectable 3rd over the trip on good ground at Newmarket, a course where he has historically shown his best form.

He finished his 3yo season rated 104 and after an indifferent 2020 he was given a wind op when rated 90. His Yarmouth win was off 87 and he's back up to 91 here leaving him still well handicapped on his older form. It’s difficult to judge the strength of the form of either of his runs at this trip this season but it is worth noting that he was ridden prominently last time out, as were four of the first five home. He's also not guaranteed to be as good at York as he is at Newmarket.

Gifted Ruler

Lightly raced having had just five starts, two of which came last year as a 3yo. On this first of those he was 9th of 11 at Lingfield, not beaten a great distance and looking as though in need of a stiffer test. He then improved dramatically on that effort back on turf, beaten just a short head in a six runner contest. That form was okay but nothing special. He’s been gelded since.

He’s still got plenty of potential but does need to improve again and he’s seemingly improved for a run in both seasons so far so could need this.

Baashir

Unraced as a 2yo and started last season well with a narrow 2nd on debut (winner gave him 7lbs and rated as high as 91 that season) followed by an easy win on his next start in a weak novice. His form tailed off on his next two starts and he was subsequently gelded.

Started this season in good form again, finishing 2nd to Cryuff Turn at Nottingham. The winner won again two starts later whilst the 3rd was beaten just a nose on his next run so that’s strong form but that race was run over a mile on good to soft ground. Baashir was then dropped back to this 7f on his next start, at Chelmsford and was beaten 4 lengths, not in the same form. It’s not clear if this horse needs easy ground, a mile or is best fresh. It’s possible all three are the case. He’s opposable at 7f on fast ground but would have strong claims if able to repeat the form of his run behind Cryuff Turn.

Manigordo

Won at 25/1 three starts ago when making all over 6f at Thirsk in a race where not much got into it. That effort looked a fluke when he beat just one home at York but that race did come on easier ground and he bounced back to form next time out when 3rd at Hamilton on faster ground. When winning at Thirsk he was reported to have improved for the drop back to 6f but on his latest run he did look worth another crack at 7f, for all he didn’t look particularly well handicapped.

National League

I was quite keen to be with this horse last season and flagged him up at the St Leger meeting when he was 3rd at 25/1. He still hasn’t won since his 2yo days though and has to be considered a disappointment.

His best form has generally come on the all weather or on ground with plenty of dig in it, which is a worry here, but his 2nd at 7f on good to firm at Redcar this season was a good effort as was his 7th in the Spring Cup at Newbury on ground that was just on the fast side of good. He was slowly away last time at Chester and never picked up. The consequence of that has been connections deciding to dispense with the visor. It’s difficult to make a strong case for him, especially for win purposes, but it would be no surprise if he placed.

Golden Apollo

He's run well in some big sprint handicaps here in the past and although he’s done most of his racing at 6f, he has run well on all four attempts at this course and distance despite the fact that records will show he didn’t place in any of them.

He won the Ayr Silver Cup less than two years ago off this mark so isn’t badly handicapped, it’s just a question of his current form. He ended last season with a poor run in the Ayr Silver Cup and then didn’t look competitive on his seasonal debut at Haydock last time out, albeit on pretty testing ground. He has generally improved not only for his come back run each season, but also his second run, so it’s possible next time may be the best time to catch him although he could run well here.

Queen’s Sargent

Seems to have become poorly handicapped since his win in April and has been beaten in all ten handicap starts that have come off a mark of 87 or higher. Only two of those have come over 7f on fast ground though and on both of those occasions he has gone close to placing, beaten 2.25 lengths each time, in much deeper, big field handicaps. He’s probably not quite well handicapped enough to win this but should run well and might not get a better opportunity to win off this mark.

Admirality

One that has potentially been overlooked too much by the bookmakers for this race. I previewed the Haydock race in which he made his seasonal debut and I wrote this about his chances:

A frustrating 7yo who has won just once in eighteen runs for Roger Fell but finished runner up on five occasions in that same period. He’s relatively versatile but is probably at his best over 7f on fast ground, his last nine turf runs on good or better at this distance have yielded form figures of 222133522. He won first time out two seasons ago but seemed to improve for the run last year. No seasonal debutant has even placed from this yard in the past 30 days from twelve runners which is a concern.

He duly ran as though needing the run, competing 1.5f out and getting very tired in the closing stages. A drop back to 6f on soft ground next time was never going to suit so that ran is forgivable too and he finds himself back under ideal conditions, 4lbs better off than he started the season.

He has run well in 2nd on both course and distance starts, finishing runner up to a course specialist on the first of those efforts on ground that was probably slightly softer than ideal before being beaten only by Documenting, a horse that would win a big field Ascot handicap on his next start off a 6lb higher mark.

Admirality is certainly not a horse to trust in a finish, he’s finished runner up five times since he last won, but he should outrun his odds here.

Golden Spear

Won in good style at Chester last month (had previously run well there) but hasn’t been in the same form in two starts since. He’s run some decent races here at York in the past but has been a non runner three times on good to firm in the past and the only time he has been allowed to run on ground this fast he was below form. The chances of him running a career best on fast ground look slim, being declared a non runner looks more likely.

Ostilio

Won the Britannia Stakes at Royal Ascot as a 3yo and finished that season a Group 2 winner, rated as high as 115. He still won a listed race last season but since moving to Paul Midgely he is yet to beat a rival in three tries, being beaten 47 lengths, 31 lengths and 20 lengths respectively. He’s only been dropped 2lbs since his last run so a sudden revival doesn’t look on the cards.

Troubador

Showed good form here (and elsewhere) as a 2yo and although he ran well on his second start as a 3yo he seemed to run progressively poorer as the season went on last year, being beaten 13 lengths on his only try at 7f (on good to firm), before being beaten 16 lengths here over 6f. He was beaten 10 lengths on his seasonal debut this year and looks best opposed.

The Verdict

I can’t confidently rule out any of the first eight in the betting here, and I don’t fancy any of them particularly strongly to win either! Dazzling Dan is probably the right favourite given he’s run well in these conditions on two recent starts and he seems a bit more consistent than most of these. Baashir looks a better handicapped horse but he’s yet to prove he can go on from his early season runs.

Most interesting at the prices are probably QUEEN'S SARGENT and ADMIRALITY, who both have ideal conditions and both of whom seem pretty consistent when getting these conditions. On a meeting at Thirsk (a course both enjoy) last season there is very little between them on these terms so they could finish close together yet again.

I’m not convinced Queen’s Sargent is quite well enough handicapped to win nor am I convinced Admirality has the bottle to finish better than 2nd. Both are around 10/1 so could be considered each way wagers but the bets I’d be most interested in would be Admirality to finish exactly 2nd (usually available with SkyBet as a minimum on day of race, he can be backed to finish 2nd to the field in forecasts as an alternative) and also a Tote Swinger on the pair. Not a race to get heavily involved in though.