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Strategy On Barriers In Horse Racing

(From an unsourced article - but whovever wrote it is pretty smart)


When we sit down to study the form, there are of course many different facets we must consider before we decide to have a bet. What meeting to bet on, what race to bet on, prevailing track conditions, distance of

the race, jockey, weight class etc etc, the list goes on. It is not an easy task, and if we consider ourselves good form students, it will always be very time consuming. But as good form students, we enjoy the challenge.

But the further down the track we head, it is becoming increasingly evident to me, that one major facet is standing out in every race we study. Not only should you do your HOMEwork prior to the race, you should also analyse the result after the race so you can work out if you truly did make the right decision. And this analysis has led us to the conclusion, that the single most important part of form study is the barrier draw. We have all seen the look of anguish on the owner/trainers face, when the television cameras show them drawing barrier number 16 in the Golden Slipper. And the look of dismay when the owner/trainer pulls out barrier number 24 in the Melbourne Cup, they feel like melting into the ground and disappearing. Then not long afterward they are spruiking "Well, he has the speed to overcome the draw" or this "Oh, she gets back anyway, so the draw doesn't really matter" What balderdash !!! Deep down in their heart of hearts they are crying tears of blood, green with envy of the people who drew barrier 1. Aren't they? If you were drawing a barrier for your horse in a big Group 1, or a Wyong Maiden for that matter, what barrier would you want to draw? Barrier No1 of course, wouldn't you? Yes, of course you would. Speak with any trainer when their horse draws a double figure barrier in any race. They will always tell you the horse will struggle from the barrier.

One of our old hero's, Keith Noud, used to appear on radio every Saturday morning and spruik. "There is only one decent barrier, No1, and then they get progressively worse" True in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and still true today in 2006. Look at the statistics of the race clubs who provide barrier winning statistics. The best barriers usually provide the winner of the race. Barriers 1-5 invariable provide the winner. With the breeding lines of the thoroughbred racehorse being so wide spread these days, the thoroughbred racing are much more evenly matched than in years gone by. So to win a race, the horse must get as many favours as possible, because there are probably 3-4 in the same race with similar ability. Therefore, the horse with the best run in the race, will usually win. The horse who gets a lovely sit in behind the leader, not too far off the pace, on the fence covering the least amount of ground, with plenty left to give at the finish. There's your winner. Now other factors of course, do play a part, however, if the horse has good form, is fit and sound, with a decent jockey and it gets the best run in the race, then it is safe to assume the horse will be in the finish.

Why is this? Why can't a horse speed to the front and break the track record and win? Why can't a horse drop out to last and finish like Bernborough down the outside and win? Think about it.

A horse starts from barrier 12 in a 12 horse field over 1200m and he is a leader. What is the jockey going to do? What will the trainer advise him to do? Use the horses natural speed and get to the rails as quick as you can and lead them. Right, easy, barriers open, jockey does exactly as he was told, burns across from the outside, gets to the front on the rails after 250m. Great, we win. Wrong. The horse probably broke a world record for the first 250m to ge there, and no horse can spend all that petrol and have enough gas left for the final 200m. Sectional times tell us, a horse can do it either early in the race, or late in the race, never both. This can be accentuated if there are are than 1 or 2 horses that like to lead in the race. Imagine our jockey tearing out of the barrier only to find two other jockeys, drawn closer to the inside had been given exactly the same instructions as him. After 250m, not only has he spent plenty of gas, he is 3 deep and stuck there because the two on his inside are not giving up their positions, and the horse who drew barrier one is smoking his pipe in behind the three of them just waiting to blouse them away in the straight. So what happens is our speedster from the outside barrier, because he used up all his petrol at the start of the race, has nothing left to give in the straight and weakens to finish back in the ruck.

Let's take the other tack. You fancy a horse drawn barrier 14 of 14 in a 1400m race. Well, that's okay, he gets back anyway, and always comes from behind to win. You have been listening to trainer speak, haven't you? So, the race begins, and as you suggested, your horse drops back to last from his wide draw. Now, one of two things can happen, fast pace or a slow pace in the race. If the pace of the race is slow, sectional times again tell us it is a mathematical impossibility for your horse to finish over the top of the front runners who have have an easy first 600m. Because the horses are so evenly matched nowadays, one cannot run 2 seconds quicker over the last 400m, when the leaders burnt up little or no petrol at the start of the race. So what happens, your horse comes from last, plods to the line, with a faster sectional than the leaders only to finish just out of the placings. And how many times have you seen a horse back last on the turn, on the inside, and the jockey rides him for luck looking for rails runs? Yes, sometimes they win, if there has been plenty of pace in the early and middle stages of the race, and if all the gaps appear, and if one of the leaders don't collapse and interfere with your Bernborough and if ........ Gee, plenty of ifs there, isn't there. And astute profitable punters don't rely on ifs and buts, they rely on facts and making all the right decisions.

Here's another example of what could happen from a wide barrier. You draw 20 of 20 in the Doncaster Handicap. No problem, 600m run to the first turn, always pace on, doesn't matter if we get trapped wide, we can get cover. Again, balderdash !!! Trainer speak, who are you fooling? Only yourself. Only three choices form this barrier draw. Either the jockey leads, which will inevitably mean the horse won't have enough petrol at the end of the race, because there is always pace on in a 20 horse field. The horse goes to the rear and has 19 other rump steaks in front of him, and he has to go 6-8 wide on the turn, or ride for luck on the inside through plenty of traffic. Or, the horse gets trapped 3,4 maybe 5 deep for the entire 1600m, and you cannot seriously expect a horse to have that type of run and still finish off better than the horse who drew barrier 1 and sat 4th on the fence, got the clear run on top of the rise and hit the front at the 200m, can you?

Okay, so only three choices from a wide barrier. Either lead, drop out to last, or sit deep midfield and hope for a bit of luck. As astute profitable punters, we don't punt on ifs buts and hope for a bit of luck. We just don't back horses from poor barrier draws. Even in small fields, you often see a horse drawn 5 of 5, stuck out there 3 deep. It has no hope of winning.

Sure, sometimes, your horse from barrier 12 will scoot to the front, get a cushy lead, and sprint clear in the straigh to win. And your Bernborough, will drop out to last and receive a Super Impose like run along the fence to win. And your Doncaster horse will sit 3 deep with cover and still win. Sometimes, but the percentages are very low, again, check the barrier statistics of any race club.

So as the astute profitable punter we are now, from what barriers do we back horses. Just keep thinking about our old mate Keith Noud. Personally, we rarely back horses outside barrier 5 or 6, especially in small fields. Horses from wide barriers, especially outside gate 9, rarely win races. Barriers 1, 2, 3 and 4 are the best to ensure your horse gets an easy run in the race. And the horse with the eaisest run, will win most races.