Where a horse draws for a race can often have a great bearing on their starting price and perceived chances in an event. Just how much though should barriers be factored into form assessment?
When barriers are drawn for a Group 1 feature, all too often the leading chances based on form firm or drift when the barrier they are to jump from is confirmed.
Those who draw inside usually firm while those asked to jump from the ‘carpark’ generally drift with the masses on hand cringing at the double digit number just announced.
The common perception is horses drawn inside enjoy all of the favours while those drawn outside will endure a tough run in transit where they are forced to cover extra ground wider on the track.
Barriers are important and should be factored in when doing form assessment.
Just how much they are factored in though depends heavily on the course and distance.
To highlight this, let’s use the base of Michael Costa Racing in Warwick Farm Racecourse as an example.
Warwick Farm has the capability of conducting races over distances of 1000m, 1100m, 1200m, 1400m, 1600m and 2200m.
The Warwick Farm course has just three turns and also possesses a lengthy chute which accommodates the starts of all events between 1000m and 1400m.
Gallopers racing over distances between 1000m and 1400m at Warwick Farm must only negotiate the home turn.
It means horses drawn wider out over these distances generally aren’t covering a substantially greater distance than their rivals who have drawn inside.
Jockeys drawn out wider at Warwick Farm in events over 1000m to 1400m have a run of 500m or more (depending on the distance) to place their mounts into a favourable position entering the home turn.
Looking at Warwick Farm barrier position data dating back more than a decade, it shows barriers are of minimal importance over these distances.
To ensure there is a large enough sample size of runners for each distance, we will use barrier 12 as the example for the 1000m, 1100m, 1200m and 1400m trip at Warwick Farm.
From the 1000m, 17.6% of runners who jump from barrier 12 win which over the time span of the sample makes it the most successful barrier for this distance.
9.8% of runners who draw barrier 12 over 1100m win with barriers over this trip possessing an even spread of winners.
This even spread is again seen over 1200m (9.2%), 1300m (8.7%) and while admittedly, those jumping from barrier 12 over 1400m boast the lowest percentage of winners at the trip (5.8%), barrier 13 sits at nearly 10%.
The 1600m start at Warwick Farm features two sharp turns and the impact of a wider draw over this trip is evident when looking at the numbers.
Just 5.3% of runners from barrier 12 go on to win with those from barriers 13 and 14 also striking at less than 5%.
It highlights the importance of looking at a track map when deciding how much to factor in barrier position to your form assessment.
If the field only has a short run into the first turn from the jump then the usually stigma which surrounds wide barriers is perhaps worth respecting to a certain degree.
When punting at a course with a lengthy chute such as Warwick Farm, don’t hesitate with a wider draw if your fancy ticks all the other boxes.