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More Draw Research
I have written about the draw in flat racing many times in the past. Indeed I wrote or co-wrote four books on the subject between 2000 and 2004. The draw is now better understood by punters and hence gaining an edge has become increasingly difficult. For example, the world and his wife know that low draws are best at Chester and that if you are drawn high at certain distances you may as well go home! However, I feel there is still plenty of mileage in the subject as draw biases do still occur at several courses. The biases may not be particularly strong, but an understanding of them really does give you that extra edge over your fellow punter.
For this research I have looked at data going back to 2004. I have only considered 5f handicap races with 10 runners or more. The first area of research is to see how successful draws 1 to 3 had been at all British courses. The results are shown in the table below:
The average number of runners per race in this sample is 13.6. Hence, one would expect a strike rate of 7.35% for draws 1 to 3 on a level playing field with no draw bias. Thus any percentages well above 7.35 in the table show that there is likely to be a low draw bias; any percentage significantly lower indicates that there is a bias AGAINST low draws. Let us look at the results in more detail:
Courses with a low draw bias – it will come as no surprise that Chester has a strike rate more than twice the “expected” strike rate. Indeed, you would have made a profit by backing the lowest 3 draws in every 10 runner plus handicap since 2004. It is interesting to see that Leicester actually has the best strike rate, but with only 14 races studied, the data is limited. Having said that draws 1 to 3 provided 7 winners – so 50% of the races. Leicester’s lowest 3 draws also produced a significant profit of £46.00 (ROI +109.5%).
Perhaps the most interesting result comes from Sandown. For many years Sandown was one of the strongest draw biased 5 furlongs in the country. However, the bias was to high draws not low! Now Sandown course officials have spent considerable time trying to even out the high draw bias in recent years. A combination of a new drainage system coupled with random moving of the favoured far rail has clearly stopped the bias to high numbers. However, the bias now seems to have swung around in favour of low draws. Draws 1 to 3 have provided 13 of the winners from 35 races (37.1%) and clearly the market still perceives low draws to be at a significant disadvantage as backing them in every race would have yielded a healthy profit of £72.33 (ROI +68.9%).
Catterick is perceived to be a low draw biased course, but the results for the lowest 3 draws are not as clear cut as I had expected. Having said that you still would have made a level stakes profits by backing all 3 draws in every race. Wolverhampton on the all weather is another course that favours lower draws, although it should be noted that the low draw bias has been much less strong at the Midlands track in the last 18 months. I am not sure why this has happened, but it is worth knowing!
Courses with a bias against low draws – the beauty of draw bias is that there are negatives to look for as well as positives. The data has certainly thrown up some interesting results from a negative perspective. Let us look at Bath first. Bath is perceived by many to favour lower draws, but for years I have known this not to be the case. Bath’s 5f is left-handed, hence the perception is that low draws should be best as they are drawn on the inside. However, it is quite a stiff 5f at Bath and hence lower drawn horses tend to get tired late in the race and horses drawn wider tend to sweep past in the final furlong. The figures from the table back up my hypothesis with just 2 wins from 18 races. To turn this into a more positive slant, it seems that we have found a profitable laying system. Simply lay draws 1 to 3 in 10 runner plus handicaps at Bath. If you had adopted this laying approach, you would have a profit of £47.50 (ROI +83.3%) if able to lay at SP. Of course we have to take Betfair prices into account so laying at SP is never possible. However, the only two losing lays you would have had were priced 7/2 and 4/1 respectively. Hence, you would have got very close to that profit. Taking higher laying Betfair prices into account coupled with commission the profits for this laying system would have been nearer £43.00 (ROI +75.4%)……………….. however a profit of 75.4% is not to be sneezed at!
Another course that may surprise some readers is Pontefract. Another left-handed course so once again one would expect lower draws to have the advantage. However, just 3 wins in 27 races is a very poor return. As with Bath, Pontefract is a stiff 5f and the same scenario of horses tiring on the inside seems to occur here. As with Bath, laying the lowest 3 draws would have yielded some healthy returns. In this case, after taking Betfair prices and commission into account, the profits for laying would have around £53.00 (ROI +65.4%).
Low draws have also struggled at Epsom and Lingfield. There have been 12 races at each course and no wins for draws 1 to 3. Lingfield and Epsom used to be strong high draw biased courses – although this is not really the case these days, clearly low draws are still at a big disadvantage.
Two courses where the figures are no surprise in the least are Beverley and Thirsk. Both courses traditionally have a strong high draw bias and lower draws have always struggled. However, if you look at the Beverley profit / loss column you will see that despite a dreadful strike rate, the losses are not as big as many other courses. The reason is simple – everyone knows about the Beverley bias and hence lower drawn horses often end up being very big prices. Indeed the prices of the 5 winners at Beverley were 9/1, 12/1, 18/1, 28/1 and 33/1. I would hazard a guess that if you tried laying the lowest 3 draws at Beverley during the period of study, you would have actually lost money due to the inflated Betfair prices at the higher end of the market. If you were able to lay at SP you would have made £51.00 laying the 3 lowest draws at Beverley; however I reckon you would have actually lost around £20.00 in reality taking the aforementioned bigger prices and Betfair commission into account.
Hopefully, this article has given draw bias fans some hope! There is still money to be made using the draw – we just have to be a little cuter than we once were!
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