Things We Learned » Draw at York

Draw at York

It makes sense that low-drawn horses are advantaged over seven and eight and nine furlongs at York.  Instinct dictates.  The first turn comes up quite quickly after you leave the stalls over those distances, and the wider you are, the more ground you have to cover around the bend. 

They start in a chute over seven furlongs, so the seven-furlong bend is only half the bend that the eight- and nine-furlong bend is, and the advantage of a low draw over seven furlongs is not as significant as the advantage of a low draw over eight and nine.  Also, the fact that they generally come middle-to-wide into the home straight means that there is not a clamber for the inside rail.  Even so, you are still advantaged if you are drawn low over these distances.

On the straight track, however, over five and six furlongs, the distance from the stalls to the winning line is the same regardless of where you are drawn, as long as you go in a straight line, so instinct determines that there is no draw bias.  Right?  Wrong.  We see it at racetracks all over Britain and Ireland: some of the greatest draw biases are on straight tracks.

On the straight track at York, the vagaries of the position of the pace notwithstanding, you generally want to be drawn low, and this factor appeared to be accentuated early in the week, possibly because of the deluge that they had on Wednesday before racing.

In the opening five-furlong handicap on Wednesday, the first four home were drawn, respectively, eight, five, two and nine, of 16.  In the big 19-runner Goffs Premier Yearling Stakes on Thursday, three of the first four home and six of the first eight home were drawn 10 or lower.  In the 17-runner nursery that concluded proceedings on Wednesday, the winner made just about all the running from stall five.

It is a small sample size, just three races with 10 runners or more run on the straight course at York so far this week at the time of writing, but the evidence is consistent with what has gone before. 

First conclusion?  The horses who ran well from high draws should be marked up and could be worth following.  The Denis Hogan-trained Tithonus ran another cracker under Gary Halpin to finish fifth in the opening race on Wednesday from stall 16, doing best of the high-drawn horses.  His progress in the last 12 months has been remarkable, Hogan has done a fantastic job with him, from the mark of 76 off which he won a handicap at Dundalk last September to the mark of 96 off which he raced on Wednesday.  And, on this evidence, he is not finished yet.

Hey Jonesy ran a big race to finish a close-up third in the Goffs race on Thursday from stall 18 and racing with no cover on the near side for much of the journey.  Kevin Ryan’s horse was only beaten a neck and a half a length in the end, and he finished four and a half lengths clear of the next home on the near side, Darkanna, who can be marked up herself.  Hey Jonesy will be of interest wherever he goes next.

The second, third and fourth in the concluding nursery on Wednesday all raced from high draws, which brings the advantage that the low-drawn horses had in the race into question, but the evidence suggests that all three – Queen’s Sargent, Areen Faisal and John Kirkup – can all be marked up at least a little and could all be worth following.

Second conclusion?  Have a second look at the low-drawn horses in the Julia Graves Roses Stakes and the Betfred Apprentice Handicap today.

Order restored

It looked like Order Of St George was back to his best in the Comer Group Irish St Leger Trial at The Curragh on Saturday.

The odds-on favourite he may have been, but this was not a formality.  Aidan O’Brien’s horse faced formidable opposition in the progressive Rekindling and the talented Renneti and last year’s Irish Leger winner Wicklow Brave, who was rated just 5lb lower than the favourite. 

The market did not appear to be certain whether the son of Galileo should be a 1/2 shot or not, but he dismissed all doubts with a turn of foot at the two-furlong marker that put the race to bed and put him into the record books as a three-time winner of the race, a hat-trick-completer.

Order Of St George is that rare beast, a stayer with a turn of foot.  If the ball had hopped a little differently, he would be a dual Ascot Gold Cup winner now, and all the talk would be of Yeats’ footsteps.  As it stands, he is surely on track for another crack at Wicklow Brave in the Irish Leger, a race that he won as a three-year-old in 2015, by 11 lengths, doing handsprings, the first three-year-old to win it since Vinnie Roe won his first in 2001.  After that, another crack at the Arc is surely on the cards. 

He was the third member of the famous Aidan O’Brien 1-2-3 in the race last year, so why not?  If the ground came up just a little softer than it did last year, you just never know.

Enable energised

Speaking of the Arc, strange that bookmakers took the opportunity to shorten Enable’s odds further for the race after she won the Yorkshire Oaks on Thursday.

She was impressive of course, Frankie Dettori kicked her in the belly at flagfall, and she never saw a rival.  However, she achieved no more than we knew she was well capable of achieving in beating her stable companion Coronet by five lengths, with Queen’s Trust and Nezwaah and Alluringly behind.

John Gosden’s filly’s best performance to date remains her King George performance, when she beat Ulysses and Idaho and Highland Reel.  It is on that performance that her Arc prospects are founded.  She is tough too, the King George came up just two weeks after she had clocked top figures in the Irish Oaks.

Indeed, you could argue that her Arc prospects were enhanced more by Ulysses’ win in the Juddmonte International on Wednesday than they were by her own performance on Thursday, for all that the Juddmonte was run over 10 and a half furlongs, and that the 12 furlongs on soft ground at Ascot in the King George may have stretched Sir Michael Stoute’s horse’s stamina beyond its limit.

Of course, it is correct that Enable is a short price for the Arc, not only because of her own progress, but also because the potential opposition appears to be weaker than it was three weeks ago.  Almanzor was beaten and has been retired, Brametot was beaten, Ulysses will probably be targeted at the Breeders’ Cup, Cracksman, the filly’s stable companion, is not certain to go to Chantilly.  Enable gets the fillies’ allowance and the three-year-olds’ allowance, and they are saying that she could be the best ever.  It is difficult to pick holes.

Stewards’ decisions

It was not surprising that Defoe was not disqualified and placed second behind Wall Of Fire after he had passed the post first in the Group 3 Geoffrey Freer Stakes at Newbury on Saturday.  Roger Varian’s horse did move over onto the stands rail, he did take Wall Of Fire’s ground just as Hugo Palmer’s horse and Josephine Gordon were building momentum.  The best horse in the race probably won the race, they said, and they moved on. 

We have been here before.  The benefit of the doubt going to the perpetrator, not to the victim, and that is not as it should be.  Common sense dictates that the benefit of doubt should go to the victim, that the burden of proof should rest with the perpetrator.  Common sense says that placings should have been reversed, but precedent said that they would not be and, in these instances, unfortunately, precedent usually triumphs. 

It was surprising, therefore, that, two and a half hours later, two hours away around the M25 and up the M11, and just above it in the A to Z of racecourses, Star Of The East was thrown out after passing the post first in the Randox Handicap at Newmarket, and the race awarded to Okool. 

It was a rare defeat for precedent, but it was a victory for common sense and for what-is-right-ness, and that is a step in the right direction.  All we need is a victory for consistency now, and we’re on the road.

Qatar qonfusion

Qatar racing ran two fillies in the Lowther Stakes at York on Thursday.  Oisín Murphy rode Special Purpose and wore the maroon cap.  Jamie Spencer wore the gold cap and rode Natural. 

Question 1: Which filly was the owner’s first string and which filly was the owner’s second string?

Question 2 (a): Which filly would have been the owner’s first string and which filly would have been the owner’s second string had the race been run in early 2014?  (b) In late 2016?  (Note: ‘Neither filly could have raced then’ is not the correct answer.)

© The Irish Field, 26th August 2017