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Against The Draw

Since 1993, I have studied the effect of the draw at all UK courses. For the first few years I was able to make significant money almost backing well drawn horses “blind” at certain courses. It was not just win singles, but I had several winning forecasts and the very occasional tricast. Unfortunately those days are gone – so much media hype has “murdered” the prices of these well drawn horses at certain courses. Added to that, some strong biases that were around a few years ago have disappeared due to new watering systems or by moving running rails. You can still use the draw to your advantage in a positive way, but it is getting harder and opportunities are becoming more and more limited. However, there is alternative method of using the draw ………………


This alternative method is about “flouting” convention and actually going against the perceived draw bias. I still believe that to make significant money, you do need to think differently to the vast majority of other punters. The draw is still an area where we can do this. In the “good old days” I went against convention because the draw was not fully understood. There was no satellite TV and there was little debate in the racing dailies about the draw. Hence I was in the minority – I thought differently to “the crowd”. Nowadays, I believe there are occasions when it is actually sensible to go against the perceived draw bias. Now, I am not advocating going against the draw all the time. Indeed you can only consider it on fairly rare occasions. For example over 5f at Chester in fairly decent sized fields (handicaps), low draws simply dominate due to the sharp turning nature of the track, and therefore there is little or no point in going against “the crowd” and backing high draws. Regardless of the fact that lower draws are "overbet" and little value these days, there is no edge in backing higher draws. In all 5f handicaps from 2000 to 2005 at Chester no horse has won from a double figure draw. There were 123 losers though! Therefore this is an occasion where it is not a good idea to bet against the crowd, and in the grand scheme of things a 16/1 shot drawn in double figures is awful value in 5f Chester handicaps. I would argue that even up to 33/1 is poor value.

Moving away from Chester, we need to discover where this “against the draw” method might work. One idea is to look at the courses where the draw bias is overrated. One such course and distance is Musselburgh over 5f. Over this trip at the Scottish track, the belief is that lower draws have a decent edge …… but in reality they do not. Hence backing middle to higher draws here should offer good value. In the 66 5f handicap races of 10 or more runners (2000 to 2005) we have the following split:

Bottom third of the draw - 24 wins
Middle third of the draw - 26 wins
Top third of the draw - 17 wins

(N.B there has been one dead heat hence the number of wins adds up to 67).


So maybe high draws are at a slight disadvantage but low draws certainly are not clearly best! My argument here would be that there is more value backing higher draws compared to lower draws thanks to my twofold assumption – firstly I do not see high draws at a major disadvantage, and secondly I have assumed that higher drawn horses would be on average bigger prices. Let us see if my theory could work here. Looking at those 66 5f handicaps at Musselburgh, let us see what would have happened if we had placed £10 on every horse drawn in supposedly the best two stalls in 1 and 2? We would have been successful 9 times from 133 runners, but we would have lost over £720. Conversely if we had placed £10 on the two worst draws (16 and 17) we would have been successful 4 times from 56 runners and shown a profit of £100. That is an amazing difference of over £800!!!


Now I appreciate that draws 16 and 17 only come into play when the field size gets to maximum or within one of the maximum (hence only 56 qualifiers), but the results seem to back up my “against the draw” theory. The strike rate for both groups was roughly the same (6.8% v 7.1%), but clearly the winning SPs of the higher draws were considerably higher than the winning SPs for the lower draws.

Is this is one-off or is this idea worth closer scrutiny? Well I can tell you this is not a one off and other course and distances are worth looking into. One such C&D is Catterick over 7f – would you prefer a low draw or a high draw on this turning left-handed track? Low draws are on the inside and surely favoured …………. aren’t they????!!!

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