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Back To The Draw
All race courses in the UK are not equal! British racecourses vary a large degree in configuration. When it comes to flat racing, one of the key aspects it often pays to consider is which stall position or DRAW the horse has been allocated. Certain tracks and distances exhibit a very strong bias towards to certain draw positions. An understanding of these individual track biases can at worst stem unnecessary losses or more hopefully, move your betting towards profit. In this article I take a detailed look at Chester.
Draw bias has been a hot topic for some time now, and gone are the days of simply backing favoured stalls at draw biased courses. However, I am going to look into whether there is still any mileage using the draw to help pinpoint bets at Chester.
Chester is considered by many as one of the most biased in terms of the draw in this country. The configuration of the track (horses running round a tight left-handed bend) suggests that any bias is likely to remain constant over a long period of time. The biggest problem theses days is that punters and bookmakers alike are much more aware of the strength of draw biases at courses like Chester, and hence prices of well drawn horses have contracted to leave what seems to be no real “edge” for the punter.
Let us first concentrate on the stats concerning the draw bias. I have only considered handicap races with 10 runners or more and have split the runners into “thirds”. Hence in a 12-runner race, draws 1 to 4 would lie in the bottom “third”, draws 5 to 8 in the middle “third”, and draws 9 to 12 in the top “third”. On a completely fair course the winning percentages for each third should be around 33% and, while some courses hover around that figure, others clearly do not.
I am not saying this is a totally satisfactory way of quantifying draw bias, but it certainly gives you a good idea of the strength of any bias. The data for this article is taken from 2000 to 2006 – 7 seasons in total.
The breakdown of results at distances from 5f to 1m2f is shown below:
5f – 47 races
6f – 12 races
Amazingly there have been on average less than 2 handicap races a year for races of 10 runners or more over 6f. Hence, the sample is too small to come to any strong conclusion, although traditionally higher drawn horses are no where near at the disadvantage they are over 5f.
7f – 21 races
7f 122yds – 34 races
1m2f – 27 races
The first point that should be noted is that the strong low draw bias only seems prevalent over the minimum trip over 5f. Indeed, there looks to be value looking beyond lower drawn horses at trips from 7f to 1m2f.
Focusing on the extended 7f trip (7f 122yds), if you had backed each of the three highest draws in every qualifying race you would have made an 18.5 point profit backing at 1 point level stakes. Hence, it may be worth looking at middle to high drawn horses at this distance which although is going against the majority, it certainly seems a viable alternative to the “norm”. I for one will be looking for value in races of 7f to 1m2f by looking for overpriced horses drawn wider than the perceived “ideal”.
However, wide draws have a seemingly hopeless task over 5f and hence we need to see if we can find an edge by backing lower drawn horses here. Let us look at the percentage breakdown again for 5f handicaps (10 or more runners):
5f – 47 races
As the figures indicate, there is an extremely strong bias to horses drawn low. In turn, horses from the middle "third" of the draw have a clear advantage over horses drawn high. Horses drawn high have a dreadful record winning on average just 1 race in 23. (On a non-biased course this would be around 1 win in 3). Horses drawn in the bottom “third” of the draw are 14 times more likely to win than those drawn in the top “third”.
Now surely we can use this to advantage? The question is how? Time for more digging:
The effect of field size
The maximum field size over 5 and 6 furlongs at Chester is 16. I have split the races into the following field size groups. Firstly, races with 10 to 12 runners, and secondly races with 13 to 16 runners.
Races with 10 to 12 runners
There were 29 qualifying races over the 7 years studied. Here are the statistics:
Races with 13 to 16 runners
There were 18 qualifying races over the 7 years studied. Here are the statistics:
Field size does not seem to make that much difference over 5f at Chester with low draws having a big advantage regardless. However there are two points worth noting - firstly it seems that very high draws struggle even more in big fields, while secondly middle draws have a better chance in bigger fields. As the table shows, since the year 2000 no horse drawn in the top “third” has won a race with 13 or more runners.
Individual draw positions
All the research to this juncture, points to the fact that the lower the draw, the better over 5f. Let us look at individual draw positions to see this even more clearly. For the record, any non runners have been accounted for in the analysis –hence, if for example the horse drawn 8 was a non runner, then the horse drawn 9 becomes draw 8, the horse drawn 10 becomes draw 9, etc, etc. Here are the stats:
31 of the 47 races (65.9%) were won by horses drawn in one of the four lowest stalls - the four draw positions closest to the favoured inside rail. Indeed the lowest six stalls have accounted for 40 of the 47 winners (85.1%). Looking at the wider draws, no horse has won from a double-figure stall from 145 runners. Indeed, only 7 of those 145 (4.8%) have finished 2nd or 3rd.
It seems therefore, that 5f handicap races at Chester can usually be narrowed down to 6 serious candidates. This clearly improves the chances of success, and although their prices will reflect their good draws, it is important to appreciate that sifting through the form and chances of six runners is much easier than 10 to 16.
How you approach deciding upon which one of the six candidates you are going to back is down to the individual. Personally, the lower the draw the better and I would always prefer my favoured runner to be drawn 1 rather than 6. In addition, I would be looking for a horse that tends to race up with the pace, so that he/she is able to take full advantage of the good draw. Essentially, you want your selection taking as short a route as possible (near to the inside rail) and avoiding getting boxed in. Hence, I would be less inclined to back a hold-up horse as they are more likely to find major traffic problems with a good proportion of the other runners attempting to get a position as close to the inside rail as possible.
There is probably nothing “earth-shattering” amongst these findings, although it just re-emphasises the importance of the draw at Chester over the 5f. With nearly 66% of the races being won by one of the bottom four stalls, it is clear that these horses always require the closest scrutiny. In addition to this, you can fairly confidently discount horses drawn 7 or wider.
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