The big handicap race of the day is the Victoria Cup at Ascot, worth over 50k to the winner, with a massive field of 24 in contention.
The jury is out on draw bias at Ascot – supposedly high numbers are favoured, to the stands side of the course, but with the stalls being positioned in the centre of the course over a straight 7 furlongs, this is just the sort of race where the way the race unfolds, via pace, should be more important than draw.
Typically in these situations we will want to look for the paciest runners in order to predict how the race will unfold and which horses will lead the pace in the race, then narrow the field down to those horses that are drawn near the pace.
In order to predict the pace, we’ll use past in-race comments for each of the contenders, as found in Smartform. There are various programmatic ways of parsing previous comments to come up with those contenders that show the highest probability of racing prominently, as we’ve discussed before in this blog.
Today, the percentage likelihood of leading throws up the following shortlist (shown for each runner alongside the draw, with stall position and forecast SP):
White Frost, 0.11, 7, 12/1
Nasri, 0.11, 21, 20/1
Rodrigo De Torres, 0.10, 18, 14/1
Cool Marble, 0.10, 3, 25/1
Benandonner, 0.09, 9, 20/1
Brae Hill, 0.06, 8, 12/1
Pravda Street, 0.06, 16, 33/1
Kakatosi, 0.06, 24, 20/1
King Of Jazz, 0.06, 5, 10/1
This is a tricky prognosis – the fact is there is no clear side of the track where pacier runners are gathered, with those likeliest to race prominently (based on past performance) racing from stalls 3, 7, 18 and 21. It’s therefore possible in a field of 24 that two groups may develop towards the stands rail and the far rail, based on this.
The question then becomes which group will have the most pace, and possibly which part of the track is riding quickest. Unfortunately, yesterday’s results at Ascot offer no clues since the fields were so small. With regard to where the greatest pace is, a further look down the front runners list seems to indicate the strongest pace will indeed be on the near side (ie. high numbers), though it’s a marginal call.
As such, we’ll be looking at runners drawn 13 to 24 inclusive and ignoring the half of the field drawn low on the inside rail. Additionally, on soft to heavy ground, whilst the pace of the race might come from front runners, it’s unlikely the winner will be leading from pillar to post over 7 furlongs, so hold up horses that can come from off a strong pace may be favoured. Fortunately there’s a similar program that we can run from Smartform to show hold up horses in the race. Many horses have raced with varying characteristics, but Fathsta and Lightning Cloud and Space Station catch the eye as hold up horses in stalls 14, 15 and 17 respectively, along with New Leyf in stall 23.
Nasri is also interesting, 3rd in this last year having disputed the lead for most of the way, but now 2 lbs lower.
With a few of the bookmakers paying 5 places, the shortlisted horses are Fathsta, Space Station and Nasri, largely based on the fact that they should all go on the ground (backed up by reasonable speed figures) and the larger prices available on these in such a cavalry charge.
Whilst trying to solve the puzzle is part of the fun of horseracing, betting strength should be based on degree of confidence in having solved the puzzle. As should be clear from this blog post, with so many variables and marginal calls going in to this conclusion, stakes will be small on this particular occasion!