Ascot Draw Bias

Mon, Jun 14, 2010

Betting News

Ascot Draw Bias

First the good news. A trawl through the results for all the races run on the straight course at the new Ascot during the month of June revals no evidence of an inherent bias in the track surface. Now for the bad news. So great is the debate about a possible draw bias and so convinced are some that there will be a bias to be found that there is a danger jockeys and trainers (usually on the back of just one race) will decide for themselves that a bias exists, creating a self fulfilling prophecy for the remainder of the meeting.

In 2009 Chris Stickells, the Clerk of the Course, at Ascot explained patiently (and repeatedly) that he could discern no bias on the straight track at Ascot. He went further than any other clerk has gone at such a meeting, even producing daily readings for the stands side, middle and inside. Despite his efforts many observers, including several who really should know better, convinced themselves that there must be a bias and set about finding one. Jockeys and trainers and journalists, desperate not to be miss a trick (but not so desperate as to actually walk the track themselves) went with the press consensus. Even those jockeys who knew there was no bias had their hand forced by the herd mentality which saw so many of their rivals crowding together where they imagined the ‘best’ ground to be.

We saw the same discussions of course prior to this years Lincoln meeting at Doncaster. Prior to the meeting the clerk maintained that his new straight track had no inherent bias (sound familiar?). Despite his assurances the draw continued to be a hot topic for debate. Once the racing was underway though it soon became apparent that his pre meeting assurances were spot on. No bias. No excuses and no justification for seeking out the ‘better’ ground. You could compete from anywhere on the track, depending on your horse’s ability and the pace around you.

It is to be hoped that the early results on day one of Royal Ascot this year produce a similar set of results. It is also to be hoped that there is no immediate knee jerk reaction should one side or another appear to be favoured in one or two races.

Be prepared to respond to any perceived bias though because even if there is no physical evidence to support the theory, experience tells us that if a consensus starts to build it’s very hard for individual trainers and jockeys to resist it. Partly because of peer pressure and a reluctance to appear foolish but also because of the harsh reality that even if you know there’s no bias against you, it’s damned hard to race on your own and try and prove it.

Time will tell of course how the track actually rides this year but my money is on any bias being the work of the weighing room and the press room rather than the clerk.

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4 Responses to “Ascot Draw Bias”

  1. Santiburi Says:

    Sean, I’m with you especially after the fiasco at Sandown on Friday and Saturday but I note the following headline in this morning’s Post: Far side expected to be quicker on Ascot straight.

  2. seanboyce Says:

    It’s only a .2 difference which I’d put within the range of variation and error in the sample. Stickells himself doesn’t point to a bias so don’t think it’s significant. Having said that if you take Ascot straight course results on the new course across all meetings the far side fares best of all. Pretty margindal in terms of stick readings though but brace yourself for accusations of selective watering etc if anyone decides there is a bias tomorrow!

  3. Patrick Says:

    You’re hardly Betfairs “Clerkwatch” greatest fan, I almost get the feeling you’re dangling a carrot with your barely disguised antagonism, I use to love the old days when you knew you had a draw bias, now? its a lucky dip!

  4. seanboyce Says:

    HI Patrick, don’t see why anyone would be annoyed by this. Chris Stickells has prepared the track openly and honestly, given readings across the track. What more can he do?
    One of the reasons I did a feature on going stick and watering last year on ATR was because of a correspondence with one of the guys behind the clerkwatch thread, so I’ve actually been very receptive to their points. As you know, we have a fundamental point of difference which is that I think the watering policy (though flawed) is fundamentally sound and most of the ‘clerkwatch’ contributors disagree. Where we would agree I hope is on the need for open and transparent communication of what the ground actually is.
    Can’t please all the people all of the time though so I’ll live with not being flavour of the month in every quarter.

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