It's York's Ebor meeting next week, with its smattering of Group 1 features as well as the first ever £1,000,000 handicap in British flat racing, attached naturally enough to the race which gives its name to the meeting (and which in turn was derived from the name, Eboracum, the Romans gave to a fort which resided on the site of what is now the town of York).
In view of four heady days on the Knavesmire, with what general information should punters at York arm themselves? This article, revised since last year's meeting, should help.
York Racecourse Configuration
The track at York features a six furlong straight down which races at up to that distance are run. There is a dogleg start from a chute for seven furlong races, and a pretty tight bend into the home straight for races longer than that. You can find more York racecourse insights on our dedicated York course info page.
York Draw Information
So what impact, if any, does the shape of the racetrack - and indeed drainage - have on draw positions? The weather is set fair for the week and the going is currently good to firm, good in places - the clerk has stated that he will water to ensure broadly that ground. Using geegeez.co.uk's Draw Analyzer tool, offers the following insights:
Five furlong draw at York
Looking only at bigger field handicaps on good to soft or quicker, we can see that there is a slight bias towards lower drawn horses. It is important, however, to check for an even spread of pace across the track: if high numbers have the most early dash, that could be enough to overcome any implied bias in the data.
Six furlong draw at York
Over the longest piste on the straight course, low again seem just about to have the best of it, particularly when reviewing the place data: this reveals a gradation from low (best) to high (worst). There is nothing insurmountable in these straight data but, all other things being equal, lower numbers may shade it.
Seven furlong draw at York
On the dogleg, there is a small advantage to be drawn middle to high. Looking at the constitution of the track, that makes sense as such runners can cut the corner of the dogleg, especially if breaking alertly. Again, though, it probably won't make the difference between a horse winning and losing, it's just a mild negative for those drawn low.
1m/ 1m1f draw at York
The mile and nine furlong trips are the first we've considered which take in that sharp bend quite soon after the start of races; that can make life challenging for those trapped wide. As a jockey, do you use up petrol trying to get handy, or take back and ride for luck? This challenge is borne out in the data, which shows those on the outside winning far less often - and placing less often - than those inside (low).
This time I've illustrated using the full draw chart table as well as a chart showing IV3, a unique geegeez perspective of draw based on the average Impact Value* of a stall and its immediate neighbours.
*Impact Value is the name given to an index created from the number of winners having a certain characteristic compared with the number of runners having that same characteristic. In this example, we are looking at the exactly 1000 runners to race in 8/9f 12-runner-plus York handicaps since 2009 (good to firm through to good to soft) which contested the 61 races in that sample.
So, for instance, we can see that the number of stall 1 winners was five, and the number of stall 1 runners was 61.
Our calculation is:
(number of stall 1 wins / number of stall 1 runs) divided by (all wins in the sample / all runs in the sample)
(5 / 61) / (61 / 1000)
0.0819672131 / 0.061
which equals 1.34 (see the IV column, second from the right)
The IV3 for stall 4, for instance, is the mean average of the IV of stalls 3, 4, and 5. That is, (2.96 + 1.88 + 1.88) / 3 = 2.24
Of course, you absolutely do not need to understand how it is calculated to know that it is useful in probability terms. Not necessarily in profitability terms, which is a different fish entirely. (We use A/E - Actual vs Expected - more of which another day, or here).
All you need to know is that 1.00 is 'par', 'standard', 'normal' and/or otherwise unremarkable. The further away from 1.00 you get the better or worse such horses have fared, bigger numbers being better.
Management summary: numbers greater than 1.00, especially on bigger sample sizes, imply a greater probability of success.
Hopefully that makes sense - don't get bogged down in the method, but do take note of the meaning.
Draw at longer trips at York
There is no noteworthy draw advantage over longer distances at York.
York Pace Information
So that's draw, but what of pace? Are particular run styles favoured on this expansive track with its near five furlong home straight?
As with most courses, the front is the place to be in sprint handicaps: front runners at York in big field 5f or 6f handicaps win around two-and-a-quarter times as often as random, and are very profitable to back blindly. See the image below, taken from Gold's Pace Analyzer.
Of course, the problem is that we don't know which horse will lead until the race is underway. However, we can often project that fairly accurately based on historical run styles. Naturally, Geegeez Gold will inform you of what you need to know with a couple of mouse clicks.
There is no discernible pace bias at seven furlongs in big field handicaps, though when the going is good to firm those on the speed have a better chance of seeing it through.
Over a mile, it doesn't pay to be too far back as this somewhat linear chart attests. Although the fewest number of races were won from the front, the number to attempt that feat was commensurately small: a win strike rate of 12% compares favourably with the other run style cohorts. We can see from the table below (Place% column) that these data are backed up by those horses to make the frame.
There are no nine furlong races at York's Dante meeting, and at ten furlongs there is no discernible pace bias. That said, those trying to make all are 2 from 78 (-40 points, IV 0.4).
And at a mile and a half, it pays to be played later: those which led or raced prominently in big field twelve-furlong handicaps are a collective 21-374 (5.6% strike rate) for a starting price loss of £205.75.
Top York Handicap Trainers in August (Ebor meeting)
You may well have seen lists of trainers to follow elsewhere, and fair play to the publishers. Here I want to look at trainer performance overall, and by race type.
York Ebor Meeting: Overall Trainers, 25+ runners, 2014-2018
There are some interest headlines here. First, Mark Johnston runs a lot here but wins with very few. The 21% place rate is way down on this yard's overall rate, normally hitting the frame at around 36%.
Next, Aidan O'Brien. Tony Keenan established chapter and verse on the Ballydoyle Ebor efforts in this excellent post, and it can be seen from the below that York's meeting is not a hugely successful one for the Coolmore head handler: five wins from 56 runners, 0.65 A/E is moderate for this preeminent operation.
Richard Fahey, Brian Ellison, and Richard Hannon are others about whom to be apprehensive in the general context, though further digging below may shine a more favourable light on some sections of their entry.
On a more positive front, William Haggas, famously a Yorkshireman exiled in Newmarket, relishes the opportunity to plunder pots at his home racetrack; and he does so regularly. His 11 winners in the last five years is four better than the next best haul, with Haggas even managing to chisel out a profit and a positive A/E for followers.
And it's been a good meeting for the Godolphin blue, especially the Charlie Appleby team, which has recorded positive punting figures from seven victories. A 24% hit rate is exceptional given the depth of competition at this fixture.
Andrew Balding and Charlie Hills are both solid operators with a mildly positive wagering expectation.
York Ebor Meeting: Handicap Trainers, 15+ runners, 2014-2018
Specifically in handicaps, there is little of value to be gleaned from this table, except perhaps that the place records of Richard Fahey, Tim Easterby and notably William Haggas - whose overall record is so strong - suggest that caution is advised.
Ebor meeting handicaps are notoriously difficult to win and, as such, the hat-tricks notched by Messrs. Ryan, Balding and Appleby (C) are meritorious. In each case the place rate backs up the higher profile statistic.
York Ebor Meeting: Pattern (Listed or better) Race Trainer performance, 10+ runners, 2014-2018
In the good races at the Ebor meeting, we see the emergence of Charlie Appleby as a main man. Just nine runners in such races have yielded three winners, and a further placed effort. Although those numbers are unlikely to be completely lost on the market, there may remain some punting nutrition in his Pattern entries.
William Haggas has claimed two wins from ten runs, with four more placed: excellent figures and testament to the 'target' nature of this meeting for his better horses. Note that Haggas has saddled a 20/1 winner and a 14/1 second in that small group.
Nobody else has managed more than two winners.
On the downside, Mark Johnston's zero from 11 is poor, as is an 18% place rate. I'd be against them, on balance. Aidan O'Brien has an overall win rate in UK Pattern races of 15.78% (16th August 2014 to present), which makes his 5.56% Ebor Festival hit rate highly unsatisfactory. Indeed, just three places from 18 runners in this context in the last five years suggests the meeting is not a material consideration for Coolmore.
York Ebor Meeting: Class 2 or lower Non-Handicap Trainer performance, selected, 2013-2017
Here we are essentially talking about maiden and/or novice races, and we can see that man Haggas sits top of the tree. Richard Hannon's otherwise middling record at the meeting is solid if not bankable in this race type.
Local lads Ryan and Fahey look to be largely entertaining owners at their marquee home fixture and their entries can be pretty much overlooked in this context, though the latter did hit his mark with 33/1 Red Balloons last year - which paid for a lot of losers!
Ebor Trainer Summary
Overall, one does have to be careful with small sample sizes and current trainer form. But, accounting for those, the main trainer takeaways from the last five Ebor meetings are:
- Beware Johnston, Fahey, Ryan and O'Meara. They've collectively won 19 of the 127 races at this fixture since 2014, having saddled 353 of the 1660 runners. An Impact Value of 0.70 compares with their overall five year IV of 1.23 across more than 24,000 runners. It's likely they'll win four or five of the 25 races, but they're also likely to send out around 70 runners most of whose prices will be more indicative of the 'better than peer group' global IV rather than the poorer local IV. That's a verbose way of saying they'll represent poor value overall.
- William Haggas is the man to follow in non-handicaps.
- Charlie Appleby runners should be given two looks without exception.
- Aidan O'Brien appears not to target the meeting, so his runners may make the market for anything else you fancy.