The Draw

Despite the many efforts of the clerks of the courses to mitigate its more extreme effects on their tracks, the draw continues to play an important role whenever trainers, jockeys and punters come to assess the chances of their respective charges, mounts and possible selections in any race where its effects are thought to have a bearing on the outcome. There are few more galling experiences for the connections of a runner which has been specially prepared for a specific race than to see its chance of winning scuppered by being allocated a highly unfavourable draw. The shrewd punter, however, with a thorough knowledge of the overall effects of the draw bias can turn this to advantage by being able to cancel out several runners straight away, so turning the percentages in his favour.
Always remember: the bigger the field, the greater are the effects of the draw – and, unless there are compelling reasons to do otherwise, never back a badly drawn horse.
• The problems of trying to evenly water a course are manifold. One such problem is a gusting wind which tends to blow the water spray in a haphazard fashion instead of it being allowed to fall in the desired uniform pattern. During a dry spell one must be alive to the possibility of the generally established effects of the draw being altered by uneven artificial watering in just the same way as the draw bias on some courses changes on a wet day as the ground softens. The alert backer can turn these changes to his or her advantage if at the racecourse or watching the screens. It may become apparent quite early on in the day that a certain strip of ground is riding faster than the rest of the track, thereby enabling the punter to eliminate a portion of the field in some later race.
• Horses which are drawn towards the inside rail in races of five to eight furlongs on the round course and on fast ground will have a bigger advantage than those drawn wider than when the ground rides soft, because they will reach the bend that much quicker on the fast ground - providing of course that they do not miss the break, and so get "chopped off" at the turn.
• In a race on the straight course where there is only a slight draw bias, the best horses, if drawn in close proximity on the less favoured area of the track, may still dominate the race. Because these form horses will be competing against one another in what may be a separate race, as it were, they may well pull away from those better drawn but slower animals in the closing stages of the race.
• In a sprint race, two-year-olds and inexperienced three-year-olds benefit from being drawn against the rails: this allows them to run against the rail, so keeping a straight line, and therefore less liable to become unbalanced and "roll about" when under pressure - unlike those rivals drawn nearer the centre of the track.
• When considering any race which is to be run on the round course, always look at the starting position of the race in relation to the bends and the size of the field; then take into account any advantages or otherwise which might affect the main contenders of the race: good jockeyship can be an important factor here.
• Where the draw has an obvious influence in the outcome of a race, not only should one consider its possible effects before a race is run, but also after the event. For example: a badly drawn horse finishes on the heels of its better drawn rivals, or a runner has raced prominently for a long way on a slow strip of ground or has finished close up after being forced wide round the turns. Make notes of such instances and you will be able to take them into account when making evaluations in future races where these noteworthy runners hold engagements.
• On a wet day, take special note of the positioning of the starting stalls just prior to the races on the straight course. The clerk of the course has been known to move them away from their advertised position in order to allow the bulk of the field to race along that section of the course which he deems has the least advantage to any portion of the field under soft ground conditions. This is an unfair tactic which often harms those backers who take an early price with regard to prior conceptions of the draw bias being taken into
account - and backed up with hard cash.
• Some jockeys are master tacticians when it comes to realizing any changing effects of the draw: Michael Roberts is a good example of this. Most riders who have come to Britain from the old colonial countries have great tactical awareness and appreciate saving ground on the inside, and are also quick to realize any marked effects of the draw.
• The most intelligent jockeys make for the quickest and fastest route home, be it via the inside rail or the fastest strip of ground. Having stated this, it has not been unknown for the jockey on the non-trier to take the longest and/or the slowest path to defeat.

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