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How important is Draw Bias in Horse Racing?

In horse racing, the ‘draw’ of a horse relates to its position in the stalls and is relevant in All-Weather and Flat racing. A horse with a ‘low’ draw (low stall number such as 1, 2, or 3) will be close to the rails while a horse with a ‘high’ draw will be further away from the rails.

What is the Best Draw?

In certain races, the draw isn’t much of a factor, but it comes into play at certain courses in the UK. As a rule of thumb, it is best for a horse to receive a low draw and remain close to the rail because it covers less distance than horses on the outside. Of course, this advantage only becomes relevant when there are several turns in a race; the more turns there are, the greater a horse’s advantage.

Other Things to Consider

Shape of the Course

Knowledge of UK racecourse shape is crucial if you wish to base a betting strategy around draw bias. It is worthless if you look at long straight races at Ascot for example! You need to look for courses with long, sweeping bends.

Then there is the small matter of the position of the first turn! A turn early in the race makes it hard for high drawn horses to take the inside rail. However, if there are no turns for a considerable distance, it gives high drawn horses the chance to overtake those on the inside and hug the rail.

Distance of the Race

It goes without saying that the shorter the race, the greater the bias. A horse has more time to make up ground in a 1m 2f race than a 5f one for example. The largest draw biases in UK racing occur in sprint races.

Field Size

The impact of draw bias is somewhat negated in races with few runners. If there are 5 or 6 runners, for example, the entire field can take the inside rail and remain relatively close together. In fields of 10+ runners, it is much harder for a high drawn horse to win. Indeed, in races with large fields, it is normal for the field to get split into two; high drawn horses near the outside rail and low drawn horses near the inside rail.

Ground

It is often enough for a horse to see its odds cut by sheer virtue of the fact it is in stall 1 but it can be a disadvantage in certain conditions. For example, if it rains for a few days on a course where the track slopes downwards towards the inside rail, the horse in stall 1 could have to deal with heavier ground than its rivals.

The Horse’s Running Style

Front runners tend to make the most out of draw bias when drawn near the rail as they immediately set the pace and cover the shortest possible distance. Conversely, front-runners with a high draw could waste a lot of early energy trying to get to the front and leave nothing for the home straight.

Where Are The Biggest Draw Biases?

Now we know that we’re looking for low drawn horses in short races with medium to large fields. It is always preferable if there is good ground. It is also great if the horse in question is a known front-runner.

Chester

Chester racecourse is one of the best-known draw biases in UK racing. It is the country’s smallest course at just over a mile long and its round shape means horses are constantly on the turn. So, how does this work out for you when it comes to placing a bet?

I used the following criteria for races at Chester:

  • 5-6 furlongs
  • 10-15 runners
  • 2013-2017
  • Stall 1-3
Bets  Wins Strike Rate% ROI (BF)
157 30 19.11% 40.76%

Although the strike rate isn’t as high as one might expect, the ROI is excellent. The downside is the relative lack of betting opportunities. I was very surprised at what happened when I focused on stalls 2 & 3 only:

Bets  Wins Strike Rate% ROI (BF)
105 23 21.9% 56.11%

The strike rate goes up, and the ROI becomes a very healthy 56%. As it turns out, you would make a loss by backing all horses in stall 1. For the record, stalls 2 & 3 have given a double-digit profit every year up to and including 2012. If you focus on races with 6-10 runners, the profit drops below 10%.

The profit from 6f-7f races within 10-15 runners is just over 17%.

Beverley

The draw bias at Beverley is as well known as that at Chester, but it doesn’t fare well when you use the same initial Chester criteria:

  • 5-6 furlongs
  • 10-15 runners
  • 2013-2017
  • Stall 1-3
Bets  Wins Strike Rate% ROI (BF)
347 41 11.82% -16.34%

Things look a little better when you focus on races with 6-10 runners instead:

Bets  Wins Strike Rate% ROI (BF)
354 54 15.25% 20.31%

Horses in stall 2 have the best overall record, but it is patchy year by year. For example, you would have a 44% profit this year, a 66% loss in 2016 and an incredible 366% profit in 2015. The statistics suggest that you’re better off sticking with Chester for the purposes of draw bias.

A Funny Thing about Nottingham

I noticed something odd about Nottingham, but as it is only relevant since the beginning of 2016, it is probably best to adopt a ‘wait and see’ approach. There is a suggestion that high drawn horses have an advantage yet since January 2016, the following criteria have led to a massive profit:

  • 5f-6f
  • 10-15 runners
  • Stall 1-3

Profit in 2016 was 272%, and it is 244% so far in 2017. The main issue is the strike rate with just 15 winners from 123 events at the time of writing.

Stall 1 runners have a strike rate of 24.32% and an ROI of 543%!!! In 2017, it is a strike rate of 40% and an ROI of 1117%, but surely, this is just a short-term anomaly?

Final Words

Draw bias is very real, but it only applies to a handful of courses in the UK and during certain conditions. It is apparent that Chester offers a significant betting opportunity as long as you thoroughly analyze the conditions and determine whether or not the horse is a realistic contender. There are other supposed biases at courses such as Yarmouth, but the statistics don’t back up such assertions.

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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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4 Comments

  1. Low numbers are always nearer the rail is not only an over generalisation, it is factually incorrect. At Leicester (RH), Doncaster (LH), and probably others, whenever the stalls are on the stands side in sprints, the high numbers are next to the rail. It is sometimes the case that stalls are classed as ‘centre’, meaning the low or high numbers will be closer to the rail depending on which side of the track is deemed to have the better ground.

  2. What happens if you focus on the first three in the betting (or betting forecast) at Chester and Beverley? And does 5f offer better opportunities than 6f?

    1. Hi David,

      At Chester:
      Using the criteria in the article
      10-15 runners
      2013-2017
      Stalls 2-3
      It turns out that 5f only is better with an ROI of 88.53% on Betfair; races from 5f to 5.5f offer an ROI of 87.02% while 6f only provides an ROI of just 1.6%. The ROI remains high for the first two in the betting market at 88% (5-5.5f) but with 24 bets in 5 years, you have to wait for those opportunities!

      At Beverley
      We saw a 20% ROI with
      6-10 runners
      2013-2017
      5-6f races
      Stalls 1-3
      Clear favourites fare poorly with a loss of 9.79% and a low win rate of 32%. There is little overall difference by looking at the top 3 in the betting market with an ROI of just over 17%.
      In summary, Chester offers even better opportunities in races below 6 furlongs.
      There appears to be little difference at Beverley in terms of position in the odds market. As you probably know, Beverley does 5f races but not 6f ones, I should have mentioned that in the article! Hope this helps.

      1. Thanks Patrick; yes that’s very useful. I’ve been following the draw at Chester and Beverly, but think I will stop as Beverly is not worth it and there are too few bets at Chester.

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