So, according to the majority of analysts this morning, the draw for the Arc doesn’t really matter. The best horse will win. Simples.
This is why it is possible to make a profit betting on horses. The best horse may well win, but if the best horse is drawn in the car park, then his or her chance of so doing has been considerably diluted. You can’t deal in absolutes when you are dealing with a horse’s chance, you can only deal in degrees.
According to the market, the two best horses in the Arc have been drawn wide, not quite in the car park, but close enough to the entrance to it to make a difference, and the market probably hasn’t fully reacted to that yet. Sarafina has drawn 13 of 16, So You Think has drawn 14 of 16, and both of those boxes are going to be difficult to overcome.
You can’t ignore the stats. You can’t say, I’m not a stats man, and carry on as if they don’t exist. That’s like saying, I’m not a ground man, and burrowing on with the soft ground horses when the mercury level is scraping the bottom of 29 degrees. Well, you can, but you’ll be not a stats man as you queue up for your bowl of soup.
Stats are a part of it, they are just another element to throw into the mix that is your race assessment, but they are an element, they are a factor, just like current form and trainer form and course form and potential for progression and jockey bookings are factors.
The draw stats on the Arc de Triomphe are quite compelling. In the last 10 years, only two horses, Sakhee and Dalakhani, have won the race from a double-digit draw. The last seven winners were drawn eight or lower, and six of those seven were drawn six or lower. Also, in last seven runnings of the race, only one horse drawn higher than eight and no horse drawn higher than 10 has managed to finish in the first two, and only two horses drawn higher than 10 have managed to finish in the first three. That’s 21 places, and only two have been filled by a wide draw.
You could protest – and many have this morning – that Sea The Stars, who won the race from stall six in 2009, or Zarkava, who won it from stall one in 2008, would have won the Arc no matter where they had been drawn, but that is to miss the point. For starters, there is no way of knowing if they would have or if they wouldn’t have, there is no way of knowing how much they had in hand (more than the 8lb and 11lb that they respectively received from their elders?) and there is no way of knowing by how much a poor draw would have affected their chances.
The point is that the chances of those drawn wide are unquestionably compromised. And even before the draw was made this morning, it looked like both Sarafina and So You Think were too short at no better than 7/2 and 9/2 respectively. Older horses in the Arc are often over-bet as punters don’t seem to take sufficient account of the propensity for three-year-olds to improve at this time of year, or the 8lb that they receive from their elders. The Classic generation have won 14 of the last 17 Arcs, and seven of the last eight.
Sarafina and So You Think may be exceptional older horses, and the Classic generation’s challenge may have been weakened this year by the Epsom Derby winner’s enforced absence. However, the two market leaders have drifted by just about a half a point each since the draw has been made, and that is probably not enough to reflect the degree to which their respective chances have decreased. One of them may win, but you can be against them at around 5.1 and 5.9 respectively at present, and that is more than fair.
OUTSIDE THE BOX Donn McClean