FOUR SUCCESSFUL LAYS OUT OF FOUR:  Daqman’s lays made a faltering start to Royal Ascot but finished with a flourish for four in a row, culminating yesterday in Modun (13th of 16 at 10-3 favourite) in the Duke Of Edinburgh.

FOUR ASCOT JACKPOTS UP:  His final-day jackpot start was to name Self Centred (3rd 18-1) as a ‘ridiculous’ price at 20.0 on Betdaq in the morning, and he saved on Maybe (WON 5-2) to give him two wins from the same event and make it four jackpot races up in the royal week, topped by a 12-1 winner.

’PONTY’ DRAW CONUNDRUM: The traditional edge for low numbers is up in the air at Pontefract, with high stalls having dominated handicaps recently. ‘Up in the air’ is an appropriate phrase, with rain forecast. 

The effect of the draw haunts us still. After the see-saw high-low Ascot stalls conundrum, Pontefract has the form student cross-eyed, looking at two opposing sets of results.

Five of the last seven handicaps at the last two meetings have gone not just to a high draw but to the very highest stall in the race; yet the results by stall at today’s meeting last year were, in today’s race order: 2, 1, 1, 1, 2, 3, excluding the 2m 2f Pontefract Cup.

Those high-stall handicap results at the last two meetings, from sprints to 1m 2f, were (returns by stall) 7 of 7, 6 of 6, 11 of 10, 9 of 8 and 6 of 6.

Draw-effect research is restricted to handicaps because, as at Ascot, superior horses in conditions races can beat any supposed bias; but, in handicaps, the horses are weighted to finish level.

With that equalizer theoretically in place, other ‘edges’, such as draw bias, trainer ability, age and track aptitude of horse and so on, can be tested for with more accuracy, to give results that can be used in betting practice.

The difference between tracks affected by the draw – as between Pontefract and Ascot – is whether jockeys’ tactics can overcome the bias or change it.

In the wide-open spaces of Ascot and, say, Newmarket, the effect may change because one side is churned up in soft-surface conditions and the other side becomes better ground; it’s for that reason, or reasons of their own – perhaps from individually walking the course – that riders may switch to the other side of a wide track on a straight course.

On tight, turning tracks – like Chester – there is no escape from the rails-bias draw and, in short-run races, overcoming the law of keeping to an early straight course, means that stalls position is all. ‘Getting across’ from a bad draw to the favoured side can use up the horse’s energy and, unless he or she is careful, can lead to a rider coming before the Stewards.

The three handicaps involved today are the 3.10 mile fillies’ handicap, the class-3 ten-furlong at 3.40, and the ‘Feeling Lucky’ getting-out-stakes sprint at 5.40. The plum stalls if recent handicap results are to be believed are occupied by Woop Woop (5.0 on Betdaq this morning, Pass Muster (9.4) and I Got You Babe (12.0). What a Daq Multiples treble that would be:  around 675-1.

3.10 Pontefract: I wouldn’t normally entertain a maiden: after nine starts – three seconds and three thirds – Woop Woop’s form screams ‘bridesmaid’ and, with her best run this year in a claimer, she has it all to do to take advantage of the ‘gift’ of the draw.

I imagine she will go with the pace, since both place efforts this year came from racing in touch, tracking the leaders, whereas her Windsor failure sandwiched in between was because she was held up in the rear and let them get away from her.

On the plus side, Woop Woop’s first two starts were over 1m 2f, including that hold-up run, and last-time-out’s third dropped to a mile was more promising, and Tom Queally now takes over from an apprentice.

One way of playing a draw bias is to lay horses seemingly trapped ‘on the wrong side’ and the presence of Kieren Fallon on the favourite, Adelina Patti, will ensure she is overbet, nice and short in the green, if indeed the low stalls are now a disadvantage. However, ‘Patti’ is first time in a handicap and Walter Swinburn has just won a big one at Royal Ascot with Julienas..

The same applies to Sizzle, first time in a handicap and with the trainer, Tom Dascombe, celebrating a successful Ascot. Sizzle could be in a favoured slot, stall eight, notably dropping back in trip.

It’s a commentator’s nightmare race with Abidhabiudidubai and Ykikamoocow both drawn high. Silly Gilly is another bridesmaid and Princess Lexi is paying the price of back-to-back wins at Brighton in April.

My view is that both Adelina Patti and Sizzle have crept in here off nice starter weights in their first handicap, but that Sizzle may have an advantage from stall eight with, additionally, a first-time tongue tie. He’s good value at 12.0.

3.40 Pontefract: Pass Muster, who seemingly has the plum stall, hardly clawed back a barrel of oil for the Godolphin sheikhs when he made just less than £5,000 from his first three races.

But, either through Geoff Harker’s genius, or the change of stables, plus his drop in grade, he bagged a similar amount in one go when winning at Beverley. That’s cost him an 8lb rise and top weight in this higher-grade class-3.

He’s not much fancied this morning because of the forecast rain, with all the money for Dhaamer, who is in here because he will like it wet; if the rain doesn’t arrive, he’ll probably be a ‘nonner.’ The will-he-won’t-he-run question has  become the John Gosden foible this year, hasn’t it.

At least the ‘trainer states’ is on the racecard as ‘if rain’. We can only guess that that’s what Richard Fahey means when he says of Our Joe Mac ‘will run only if the ground is suitable.’ Our guess is based on his having won on the soft at Haydock.

As I’ve said before in this column, when they say ‘if the surface is suitable’, we are left wondering ‘suitable for what?’ Frying eggs or water-skiing? Shouldn’t we be told in a little more detail. We’re only the punters who keep the show on the road!

Our Joe Mac was dropped down a grade from class 2 last time and it had a limited effect – though that was over shorter and today’s new trip might help – and the same applies to Sweet Origin, Sowaylm, Suits Me, Diocentric and Fastnet Storm, but Dhaamer may do better for his class-lower demotion after a good run at Epsom. I’ll have to declare my hand now and, like the trainer, hope that the rain arrives.

4.40 (Pontefract Cup): Baddam has won once in five years, Blackstone Vegas and Rosewood Lad never on turf, Comedy Act never beyond 14 furlongs, Night Orbit not beyond 12, Dazinski always on firm.

So I’m focusing on Cosimo De Medici, Hollins, Wells Lyrical and My Arch, with Wells Lyrical back to form last time off his lowest mark for three years.

Wells Lyrical is probably not the same horse who was runner-up in the Northumberland Plate two years ago (on soft) but clearly has retained a good slice of his ability at the age of six and acts on any ground.

My Arch is now nine and would need the rain but he’s not been totally disgraced recently a grade higher on top tracks, Haydock and Ascot.

Cosimo De Medici (holds Dazinski) is another just bounced back to winning form. He’s a bit quirky – taken down early for that win at Goodwod – and it was his first on turf. Trainer Hughie Morrison is another celebrating Ascot success.

Hollins has been held by Wells Lyrical in two meetings, the last one here at Pontefract and it’s noticeable that his two successes have come after long absences. The implication is that he’s best when he’s forgotten the stresses of the racecourse.

Back to the draw question of high or low? Will the rain make it  Stiletttoesinthemud (5.40) by the time we get to this last race?

I Got You Babe is intriguing in the very highest stall, with Kieren Fallon booked; Close To The Edge has won and been second here; and Maggie Mey is up only 2lb for scoring at Redcar and may again hold the runner-up, Finefrenzyrolling, who was lit up by first-time blinkers that day. I’ll take the course form of Close To The Edge.

BET 1.8pts win SIZZLE and 1pt win (saver) ADELINA PATTI  (3.10 Pontefract)
BET 8.3pts win (nap) DHAAMER (3.40 Pontefract)
BET 5.2pts win WELLS LYRICAL and 1.3pts win (saver) COSIMO DE MEDICI (4.40 Pontefract)
BET 7pts win CLOSE TO THE EDGE (5.40 Pontefract)