What is the effect of the draw on a horse race?
With the exception of a handful of long-distance races, all Flat in Britain races in use starting stalls and the ‘draw’ simply refers to the random allocation of a starting position to each horse, by Weatherbys, at the declaration stage of the race in question. One point to note is that, in March, 2011, the numbering of stalls positions on right-handed courses was reversed, so that nowadays the lowest numbered stall is always closest to the inside running rail, regardless of whether the course is left- or right-handed.
Aside from that obvious change, which made no difference to left-handed courses in any case, the effect of the draw on a horse race remains the same as ever; depending on the course and the distance of the race in question, the draw may have profound consequences or none at all. Logically, on a turning course, horses drawn on the inside rail – that is, in lower stall numbers – have less distance to travel than those drawn higher, but it is unlikely that any jockey would be content to remain trapped wide on the course for the whole race.
Conventional wisdom dictates that the effect of the draw is greater in races over shorter distances – that is, five, six or seven furlongs – and this is especially true on courses with a bend, one way or the other, shortly after the start. Similarly, inconsistent drainage, or the movement of running rails to create ‘fresh’ ground, can result in strips of ground that cause a major draw advantage one way or the other. In large, competitive fields, which often split into two, or three, groups, those horses drawn wherever the pace is strongest are always likely to fare better than those drawn away from the pace.