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Draw Bias at Goodwood

Of all the major festivals on the UK racing calendar, it is suggested that Glorious Goodwood has arguably the most extensive level of draw bias. It is something that has been spoken about for years. Back in 2009, Simon Rowlands of Betfair wrote about the bias for horses near the rails in the Mile Handicap; primarily due to a large number of runners.

The racecourse at Goodwood consists of a straight 6f course with a small incline at the beginning, but it is primarily downhill all the way to the finish. The 5f course is one of the quickest in the UK, and it favours frontrunners. As Glorious Goodwood races tend to feature large fields, it is essential for horses to get to the front to have a realistic shot of winning. If your horse manages to win by coming through the field, you have probably been fortunate.

As shorter races at the Glorious Goodwood festival are known for their draw biases, I thought it would be interesting to see if this supposed bias even exists over 5f and 6f. I will also see if this alleged bias is factored into the odds of horses in these races.

5 Furlongs at Goodwood

Conventional wisdom suggests that horses drawn near the inside rails over 5f races at Glorious Goodwood have an advantage. It makes sense in theory because such horses can get around the course by covering the least possible distance if they get to the front early. 

To begin with, I did a basic overview of how horses performed in all 5f races at Goodwood from stalls 1, 2, 3, and 4 since the beginning of 2009.

Stall Number Bets Wins Strike Rate% ROI (BF)
1 (Inside) 111 13 11.71% -22.16%
2 109 18 16.51% 55.14%
3 105 14 13.33% 36.6%
4 90 8 8.89% -44.48%

Horses drawn in stall 1 do not do much for your bank balance unless you lay them which would lead to a profit of over 14%. Horses in stall 2 perform much better although profit is not consistent with losses in four of the last five years. It is the same story in stall 3 and horses in stall 4 perform poorest of all.

The theory posits that the bias exists in races with large fields. Since 2009, horses from the first 4 stalls have won 40% of races in 5f races with fields of 11+ runners. This indicates a slight bias. There are four 5f races at the Glorious Goodwood festival. Let’s see if the bias is more or less pronounced. 

King George Stakes

This race tends to have fields of 11-17 runners, and only 8/21 winners have come from stalls 1-4. For reference, 5/21 winners were drawn in one of the three widest stalls. None of the winners from stalls 1-4 did so at SP odds of shorter than 3/1 and was at similar prices to other triumphant horses.

Molecomb Stakes

Recent races have seldom featured more than 11 runners, and 9/21 winners were drawn in stalls 1-4 while 7/21 winners were in one of the three widest stalls. Once again, as far as winners are concerned, there is no noticeable impact on the odds.

New & Lingwood Handicap

This is a race with much larger fields, usually between 14-23 runners. 9/21 winners have come from stalls 1-4 which is perhaps slightly high, but the rest of the winners come from a variety of stalls. It does seem that horses drawn inside are generally available at shorter odds but in recent years, few winners come from inside stalls and most successful horses win at double-digit odds.

Tatler Handicap

Once again, there are plenty of winners in outside stalls along with 9/21 from stalls 1-4. Field size ranges from 9-21 runners with no noticeable odds bias.

6 Furlongs at Goodwood

Once again, the suggestion is that being drawn near the rail is an advantage, but it should be less of a factor than at 5f because of the extra distance. Here is an overview of the performances of horses from stalls 1-4 at Goodwood in all 6f races since 2009:

Stall Number Bets Wins Strike Rate% ROI (BF)
1 (Inside) 221 28 12.67% 28.12%
2 222 34 15.32% 215.94%
3 227 31 13.66% 5.2%
4 220 27 12.27% 26.81%

Four of the last six years have been profitable for backers of horses from stall 1. The statistics from stall 2 are eye-popping until you realize that it involves a profit of over 470 points from one winner in 2017 in what was unquestionably a freak result. Horses from stalls 3 and 4 perform solidly. Overall, horses from stalls 1-4 win 48.58% of all 6f races at Goodwood, but this information is not very useful if we don’t know how many horses were in each race.

Interestingly, 40.45% of races featuring 11+ runners have been won by horses from stalls 1-4 which indicates a slight bias. There are numerous 6f races at the Glorious Goodwood festival, so I looked at the three of them to find out if there was much of a bias for horses drawn on the inside.

Richmond Stakes

In a race that usually has 8-10 runners, 13/21 winners have come from stalls 1-3. Several short-priced winners have come from the inside, but then again, a 2/5 shot won from stall 5 in 2014. An above average number of horses win when drawn on the inside so it may be worth exploring further.

Markel Insurance Fillies’ Stakes

This race regularly features more than 10 runners. 9/21 winners were drawn in stalls 1-3, but 8/21 winners were drawn in one of the three outside stalls. 

Steward’s Cup

This is a race with a huge field; none of the last 20 races has had fewer than 24 runners. Only 4/21 winners have come from stalls 1-3 although three winners have come from stall 4. In what is a tricky race to call, there is no evidence that a horse’s draw dictates its odds.

Final Thoughts and Things to Consider

Overall, there seems to be a slight bias towards horses drawn on the inside for 5f and 6f races at Goodwood in general, even in larger fields. In most instances, however, this bias does NOT extend to the Glorious Goodwood festival, barring perhaps the Richmond Festival. In 2016, Matt Bisogno of GeeGeez found that it is critical for horses to be front-runners than have a specific draw over these short distances at Glorious Goodwood. Bring drawn in stall 1 means nothing if the horse doesn’t get up to pace quickly enough. 

Richard Hughes recently spoke about his experiences riding at Glorious Goodwood over different distances. In sprint races, he confirms that the initial downhill stretch has an effect but points out that there is a significant distance to travel on level ground at the end. He says that holding the rail is crucial because the ground is slightly quicker and this can be a tremendous help to a tiring horse. The main issue is that leaders often go too quickly and fade in the final furlong.   

Any perceived advantage gained by being drawn on the inside can be affected, or even negated, by various factors such as the number of withdrawals, the size of the field, the weather, or even how often the course has been watered. In summation, being drawn near the inside is helpful in Goodwood sprints, but the horse still needs to be ridden well.

If the jockey overdoes it at the beginning, grabbing the rail won’t be enough to prevent an exhausted leader from being overtaken. If a horse you fancy is drawn on the inside in a 5f or 6f race at Glorious Goodwood, your best chance is if it’s a frontrunner with a proven ability to keep strong as the finishing line draws near. 

Patrick Lynch

Patrick graduated from the National University of Ireland, Galway with an MA in Literature and Publishing but decided he would rather have the freedom of a freelance writer than be stuck in a publishing house all day. He has enjoyed this freedom since 2009 and has written thousands of articles on a variety of topics but sports betting is his passion. While his specialty is finding mismatches in obscure football leagues, he also likes to use his research skills to provide punters with detailed winning strategies in horse racing. You can check out his personal blog on www.lynchthewriter.com or Twitter @pl1982 where he writes content to help small businesses achieve success.

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