DONN McCLEAN: The draw could be key on both sides of the Channel this weekend. In the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, historically, you know that you need to be drawn low. But just about all the history is at Longchamp, and the race is at Chantilly this year, so you need to examine the data again.
Most of what we Irish and British know about Chantilly is based on the Prix du Jockey Club, the French Derby, and recent history tells us that it is probably an advantage to be drawn low in that race. But the French Derby is run over 10 and a half furlongs these days, has been for the last 11 years.
The Arc is run over a mile and a half, over the same course and distance this year as the course and distance over which they used to run the Prix du Jockey Club, and that makes a difference. Unlike with the 10-and-a-half-furlong start, there is a small turn to your left about a furlong and a half after the mile-and-a-half start at Chantilly, before you settle in and turn right, and that small turn left may make a difference.
It is a bit like the small turn right after the mile-and-a-half start at Epsom, which means that it is not a disadvantage to be drawn high in the Epsom Derby. In fact, if you were given a choice between low and high in the Epsom Derby, you would choose high.
So it may not be a disadvantage to be drawn high in the Arc this year either. Indeed, it may be an advantage, and that means that high-drawn horses like Found and Makahiki and Order Of St George and Left Hand may not be at the disadvantage at which many seem to believe them to be.
Then there is the draw in the big seven-furlong handicap at Ascot, the Challenge Cup. The stats say that there is no major draw advantage on the straight track at Ascot but that, if anything, you probably want to be drawn more high than low. That said, it that can oscillate from meeting to meeting.
There were three races with 11 or more runners run on the straight track at Ascot on Friday. In the first, a 17-stall seven-furlong handicap, six of the first nine home were drawn 11 or higher, and all nine were drawn seven or higher. In the second, a 14-runner handicap run over a mile, three of the first four home were drawn 11 or higher, and five of the first six were drawn nine or higher.
And in the third, a 13-stall race run over seven furlongs, the first four home emerged from the four highest stalls, nine, 10, 11 and 13.
On today’s evidence, it looks like high numbers may have the edge in the Challenge Cup. Add to that the fact that the only real confirmed pace in the race, Watchable, is drawn high, 17 of 18, and the advantage of a high draw may be accentuated.
That is good news for favourite-backers, with Librisa Breeze in stall 16, right next door to Watchable, and with other potential prominent racers Coprah and Right Touch drawn close by.
Librisa Breeze is a big player, he looked very good when he won the International Handicap over this course and distance at the end of July, and he didn’t run badly in the Group 3 City of York Stakes at the Ebor meeting last time.
However, Squats is also drawn well in stall 11, he is twice Librisa Breeze’s price, and he was only beaten a length and a half by Dean Ivory’s horse in that International Handicap.
Squats went for home a long way out in the International Handicap. Racing on the near side of the centre group, he was asked for his effort just inside the two-furlong pole. He couldn’t hold off the late challenge of Librisa Breeze, who was ridden a little more patiently, and he was delivered with his challenge on the far side of the centre group, towards the favoured far side. However, William Haggas’ horse kept on well all the way to the line to retain the runner-up spot.
Squats, racing from stall 22, did by far the best of the high-drawn horses. Librisa Breeze was drawn in stall 14, and the third, fourth, fifth and sixth horse were drawn, respectively, two, six, four and nine.
The Dandy Man gelding is 2lb better off today with Librisa Breeze and, while Georgia Cox’s claim has been reduced from 7lb to 5lb, thereby negating that 2lb pull in theory, she is a better rider now. She has ridden four winners in August and seven winners in September, and you can easily argue that she is better value now for her 5lb claim than she was for her 7lb claim at the end of July.
William Haggas’ horses continue to be in top form these days, unlike at the start of the season, and Squats loves Ascot. His record there reads 3124024, the last four figures achieved in big-field handicaps. Also, just a four-year-old, he has raced just four times over seven furlongs, and just three times in big-field handicaps over the trip, so he still has potential to progress further at this distance.
Librisa Breeze and Remarkable are both big dangers, and Burnt Sugar and Donncha would be interesting at decent prices if you knew that low numbers were not going to be significantly disadvantaged. However, at around 10/1, Squats could represent the value of the race.
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