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The Draw In Uk Flat Racing A Broad Overview
THE DRAW IN UK FLAT RACING – A BROAD OVERVIEW
This is a hugely difficult time for you all, this country and indeed the world. For racing fans there is currently a huge void and I hope this article will in some small part fill that void albeit temporarily.
At the time of writing I have no idea about when racing will start again. My guess is sometime in June. If that is the case then at least we do have some great flat racing to look forward to.
In this article I am going to take a look at the draw over 5 and 6 furlongs across UK course and distances in an attempt to give you a comprehensive overview. Some potential biases will be hopefully be highlighted and I will add some additional statistics to give more ‘meat on the bones’. For new readers of Betting School, and maybe some of the more seasoned readers too, I began my racing days as a draw aficionado back in the late 90s and early 2000s. I wrote 4 books on the subject and ran a tipping service ‘drawn2win’ for 6 years. I dread to think how many draw articles I have written over the past 23 years, so let’s crack on with my latest offering ……
For this article I have taken data from 1st January 2015 to 31st December 2019 focusing on UK turf flat racing only. When studying the draw and potential biases there are numerous ways you can look at it. In the past I have often split the draw into thirds and looked at the relevant win and placed percentages for each section. Some pundits, split into quartiles, others look at A/E values, some look at profit/losses, others will combine more than one factor.
For this article I am going to split the draw into halves bottom half of the draw (low) compared with top half (high), and also look at A/E values. For those who have not seen this term before, or has forgotten an A/E value or ‘index’ is, it is a type of impact value. The A stands for ‘Actual’ and the E stands for ‘Expected’ so essentially the stat shows an index of actual winners compared to expected winners. To give you a numerical explanation – imagine you had a system that generated 100 selections from horses that were priced up at Even money. Each horse would have a 50% chance of winning according to the price and hence in 100 runs you would expect 50 horses to win (50%). Imagine though that actually 60 of the horses won; that gives us:
A = 60 winners
E = 50 winners
A/E index = 1.2 (6 divided by 5)
The higher the A/E index the better from a potential backing perspective; any figure over 1.00 gives us a potentially positive scenario.
The main advantage of looking at an A/E index is that it is useful for determining value selections as it takes into account the prices of all the runners. The slight downside is that it cannot take the over-round of bookmakers into account giving us very slightly ‘skewed’ results.
Personally when examining the draw and potential draw bias I focus on only handicaps. This is because they are the most competitive race-type; plus there are a decent number of handicaps on a yearly basis. The number of runners is important too – I tend to use 10 or more runners where possible, but am happy to go to a minimum of 8. For this article I am going to analyse 10 runner + handicaps only.
5f handicaps – a look now at courses in the UK that have had at least twenty 5f handicap races with 10 or more runners. Year on year there seems to be slightly fewer 5f handicaps which accounts for the relatively low cut off point I have chosen. The table will show the win percentages for the both halves of the draw as well as their A/E indices.
As readers will notice several courses do not make the list due to not having enough qualifying races. Courses such as Brighton do have a decent number of 5f handicaps in a season – 75 in the last 5 seasons - but just 10 of those races featured 10 or more runners. Brighton is simply a course that generally attracts small fields in sprints.
The first part of the table that I wish to discuss are the figures for Chester. Chester is generally thought of as being the course which offers the strongest and most consistent draw bias in the country. Low draws have a significant edge at certain distances due to the tight configuration of the track. The raw draw percentages over 5f back that up here, but the A/E values for both halves of the draw are very similar. This shows that the betting market is fairly efficient and that lower draws rightly start at much shorter prices. Having said that, with all basic stats it is worth digging a little deeper and the very lowest draws still offer an edge to punters at Chester. Focusing on the 4 lowest draws, normally draws 1-4, (non runners can potentially effect this), you would have made a profit at SP backing all such horses ‘blind’. A return of around 11 pence in the £. Compare that with backing draw 5 and 6 ‘blind’ where you would have lost a whopping 47p in the £.
Beverley is another course where 5f draw bias (horses drawn low near the far rail) has been prevalent for many years. The raw percentages indicate an edge for lower draws still, although nowhere near as strong as it would have been in the past. The A/E values at Beverley again indicate that the market understands the bias and reacts accordingly.
York shows a low draw bias and this has been the case for some years. It is one of the few course and distances where the bias seems to have got slightly stronger recently. The A/E values suggest that there is more value focusing on lower drawn horses compared to higher drawn ones and if we dig deeper this can be shown more clearly. Horses drawn 1 to 5 have won 20 races from 205 runners (SR 9.8%) with an A/E value of 1.04; horses drawn 6 or more have won more races 22, but from more than double the number of runners 476. Their strike rate is just 4.2% with a much lower A/E value of 0.66. When we look at SP returns the stats continue to be strongly in favour of those drawn 1 to 5 – they would have lost you just 4p in the £ at SP, horses drawn 6 or higher would have lost you over 43p in the £ at SP.
Moving back to looking at other courses - the stats for Ayr, Doncaster, Hamilton, Sandown and Thirsk are also worthy of further investigation, but due to time constraints and keeping this article down to a sensible length I just want to take a quick look at Ayr. The raw stats look strong but there have only been 26 races so this is still a relatively small sample. If these figures are similar when examining the 6f data, then we can be far more confident in the figures. What I am quite confident in though is that the higher draws have been really struggling recently. Just 5 wins from 147 runners drawn 9 or higher for a loss of just under 70p in the £.
6f handicaps – a look at 6f handicaps now. I have increased the number of races in order to qualify for the table to 30. In general there are many more 6f handicaps so it makes sense to do this. As we know, more races generally provide stronger and more reliable sets of data:
Let me start with Ayr as this course that was discussed briefly earlier. In 5f races at the Scottish venue, albeit from a relatively modest sample, it seemed that the bottom half of the draw have had a decent advantage over those drawn higher in the last five years. The 6f data correlates strongly with the 5f data which is pleasing to see and adds greater confidence to the initial draw conclusions. It is also worth noting that over 6f at Ayr there have been a total of 54 handicap races with 10 or more runners which is a good sample size. Let us break the Ayr 6f handicap data down even more:
This low draw bias looks fairly consistent – it is a bias that is relatively new and actually difficult to explain. From 2010 to 2014 over both 5 and 6 furlongs splitting the draw in half saw as even a split as you could get. 85 races with 42 wins to the bottom half and 43 to the top. Ayr is an example of why you need to constantly keep an eye on different stats / angles / trends to see if anything is changing or starting to change. What is also intriguing about Ayr is that the position of the stalls changes – just under half the races saw the stalls placed in the centre of the sprint track while the remaining races were split fairly evenly between the far rail and the stands rail. Breaking these individual stats down show that lower draws are strongly favoured in all three stall positions. Now I always like to be able to explain a bias but here I cannot fully. I would guess that the ground nearest the stands’ rail is probably slower than the rest of track, but that in itself is not enough to explain it properly.
York over 5f showed a bias to lower draws and over 6f the bias looks stronger. Again good that both straight course sprint trips display the same pattern. A good number of qualifying races again (46) to give added confidence to the data. Let me group the data for York 6f like I did for Ayr:
These stats offer one real confidence as everything points to the lower the better, the higher the worse. Good correlation of across win strike rate, % of placed horses, ROI and A/E. York’s straight track is one to keep an eye on once racing gets back underway.
Finally in this article here are a handful of additional 6f handicap race stats gleaned from other courses which I’d like to share with you:
i) At Goodwood horses drawn 11 or higher have provided just 4 winners (19 win and placed) from 188 runners; compare this to horses drawn 1 to 5 who have provided 18 winners (46 win and placed) from 150 runners;
ii) Very high draws have struggled at Nottingham with draws 13 or more providing 0 winners from 51 runners with only 5 managing to get placed;
iii) The lower the better it seems at Redcar. Amazingly horses drawn 1 have won 13 of the 65 races; 42 of the races have been won horses drawn 1 to 6; in contrast, horses drawn 13 or higher have managed just 3 wins from 209 runners with an A/E of just 0.22.
For me it is good to see draw bias still around, albeit you really have to dig deep these days. I hope you have enjoyed this article and fingers crossed everything gets back to some sense of normality sooner rather than later. Stay safe everyone.
Do you want to read Part 2 of this article?
Read it here = > THE DRAW IN UK FLAT RACING – A BROAD OVERVIEW PART 2
This article was written by Dave but first appeared on the interesting OnCourseProfits.com website / magazine.
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