Horseracing Betting Tips | What is Draw Bias?

Sunday, January 13th, 2013
By Jonathan Russell

Horseracing Betting Tips

The Meaning of ‘Draw Bias’

Many punters who are new to the world of horse racing can often be baffled by the jargon involved, while some terms that are peculiar to the sport can seem confusing, all are perfectly logical and easy to understand. Draw bias is one of those racing colloquialisms that underlines this point perfectly.

‘The draw’ of a horse race decides in which individual stall a horse and rider is placed, a low stall number puts the runner closer to the inside rail, as the stall numbers increase the runner is placed further and further from the inside rail.

As far as draw bias is concerned, the clue is in the terminology, ‘bias’ refers to whether a horse has an advantage or disadvantage following the draw i.e. the bias depends upon stall number.

In some countries ‘draw bias’ is referred to as ‘post bias’, this article changes intermittently between these terms.


The Best Draw

Generally speaking, an inside draw is the most sought after and this is where draw bias will benefit most horses. If you consider an athletics race, with the exception of a 100 metre sprint or a longer endurance race, the start is staggered to ensure that each athlete runs the same distance, whether it’s 200 or 400 metres. Without this system, the athletes in the inside lanes would have an unfair advantage because they would have to run less distance than those further from the inner ring.

In horse racing, there is no such system and every horse starts from the same line (starting gate). Therefore, depending on the distance of the race in question, number of turns and position of turns, the horses on the inside will benefit more from the draw bias (if there is any) than those further on the outside. It should be noted though that a draw bias may not be positive and neither might the inside rail always be the best post/stall.

Note: Not all races use stalls!

Horseracing Betting Tips

Horses coming out of the stalls marked by post position.


Betting Implications

There are many factors creating a bias upon the various stalls, drawing stall 1 is normally enough to lower the odds of the stall 1 runner but a deeper investigation is needed to learn if there is a true bias, and if so, how big/small it may be.


Positive Effects of a Low Stall Number

In a nut shell, if there is a turn in the race, the inside horse (closest to the rail) will have to run less distance.

Imagine there is a turn in the track shortly after leaving the stalls, the horses break from the stalls and providing the stall 1 runner can keep-up/lead the group it will gain the advantage of being closer to the inside rail than the other horses  when the turn begins and consequently will run less distance. If the runner from stall 2 breaks from the stalls and runs alongside the stall 1 runner until the turn, the stall 2 jockey will either have to slow the horse down and slip behind the stall 1 runner or stay on the outside and thus be forced to run a longer distance; either way, the advantage goes to the stall 1 runner.

Not convinced? Mathematically a horse with rider is approx. 3 feet wide; if there is one turn in a race each ascending stall after stall 1 will add another 3π of distance (3π  = approx. 9.4 feet) to a runners journey. If we wish to calculate the additional distance added to each runner compared to the distance the stall 1 runner has to run then we can design a table similar to below.


Stall Number of Turns Equation Additional Distance (feet)
1 1
2 1 9.4
3 1 18.8
4 1 28.3
5 1 12π 37.7


The table above indicates the massive advantage stall 1 can give to its runner, the further from the inside rail a horse is the more adverse the effect of the draw bias. A horse is approx. 9 feet in length and consequently if the horse in stall 2 were to run alongside the stall 1 runner for the duration of the turn it would have run an additional body length (9.4 feet) in distance! Obviously if they all held their position going into the turn horse 5 would have to run a huge 4 body lengths in distance just to keep-up with the group! As the stall number ascends the additional race distance also increases (assuming horses do not move closer to the inside rail once the race begins); this additional distance continues to affect runners for every turn. If the stalls 1-3 held their positions for the 1st and 2nd turn, stall 2 and 3 would again be forced to run a larger distance than the inside horse (stall 1).


Position for both turns Number of Turns Equation Additional Distance (feet)
Closest to the rail 2
1 Position Outside 2 2*(3π) 18.8
2 Positionsoutside 2 2*(6π) 37.7


Obviously it is very doubtful the horses will hold their position going into the 2nd turn but the table illustrates the difficulty of trying to overtake the inside rail horse whilst also running the turn. Ideally the best place for a horse to overtake is on a straight, overtaking on a turn requires a horse to catch its rival and also overcome the additional distance not being on the inside rail creates. If a horse does manage to overtake on a turn it is a considerable achievement.


Example 1

If a horse has run outside of the stall 1 horse for two turns it has run an extra 18.8 lengths (2 body lengths).

Example 2

If a horse has run from the 5th stall and taken the first turn in 5th position it will have run an additional 37.7 feet, if it then runs alongside the inside horse for the second turn it will have run another 9.4 feet, the total additional distance is there for 37.7+9.4= 47.1 feet.


Most punters are well aware of the advantage a low draw number can bring and the odds usually reflect this. It is possible though that stall 1 may bring no/negative advantages; this concept is discussed in our next section.


Possible Negative Effects of a Low Stall Number

We know stall 1 would normally be an advantage but what if the inside rail was also the lowest point on the racing strip and it had been raining for 2 days? Would stall 1 still be advantageous?

A track sloping downwards towards the inside rail will tend to accumulate more water closer to the inside rail and consequently the ground will be softer closer to the rail. Some horses love to run muddy wet ground, some do not. The mentality of a horse and the conditions it will have to race in need to be considered carefully before declaring any draw bias.

If the ground is wet towards the inside rail, will this slow the horse? Is the horse a mud lover or a wet track specialist? Would a higher stall be more beneficial (drier ground)? What will the other riders be trying to do? Does the horse normally chase or lead? If a horse is forced to follow a horse on the inside rail, will the horse back away in order to stop the mud getting kicked-up into its face?

These questions should help you realise that there are other aspects to post position that most punters are not thinking about, if you wish to make money betting then it is these details that will give you a betting edge.


Other Post Bias Considerations

It is not only the number of turns that can effect the outcome of a race, the position of the first turn is also important. If a first turn begins shortly after the stalls then the outside runners will have little chance to take the inside rail before the turn begins. If the stalls open onto the beginning of the straight the horses will need to run the entire length of the straight and then take the first turn, this gives ample opportunity for an outside horse to overtake its rivals and attempt to get to the inside rail before the turn begins; it is far easier to overtake on the straight than during a turn.

If a race begins from a chute there are even more considerations. The length of the chute and angle as it connects to the first turn will often have an effect upon the race; a chute connecting with a shallow angle to the first turn will often favour the outside horses, chutes perpendicular to the straight will often have a sharper angle as the turn begins, this favours inside runners.


Betting Opportunities

Identifying horses that perform well despite an un-advantageous draw are definitely horses to watch in future races, given the right stall number a horse that ran 3rd from stall 8 could very easily run 1st from stall 1 (if racing under the rough same conditions).  Given the right weather conditions a horse drawn in stall 1 could be expected to increase/decrease its finish time if drawn in stall 1 twice in a row.


The Stats add up.

Draw bias can vary depending upon the course you are taking into account but overall the results are conclusive; around 20% of races are won by the horse that finds itself drawn in stall one and that statistic is more or less repeatable wherever you are in the world.

As a rule, don’t ignore the draw bias and don’t bet solely upon it.

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