First things first: I have backed Bated Breath for this afternoon’s Sprint Cup at Haydock.

Interestingly, when you bet ante post on the flat, you obviously bet without knowledge of the draw. That’s not necessarily a good thing on the face of it. It follows that, before you place a bet, you should have gathered as much information as you possibly could have about a race, and that you use that information to determine if there is a value bet lurking.

The thing about betting ante post, however, is that nobody else knows what the draw is either. You base your assessment on form and potential without having to try to figure out the effect of the draw.

So here’s the form part, the pre-draw part. Bated Breath is a top class sprinter. He hasn’t won a Group 1 race yet, but he was beaten the width of a narrow thing by July Cup winner Dream Ahead in this race last year (yes I backed him then as well), and Dream Ahead added further ballast to that form by going on to beat supermare Goldikova in the Prix de la Foret on his next and final run.

On his first two runs this year, Bated Breath won the Group 2 Temple Stakes, beating previous Group 1 winner Sole Power, the pair of them clear, and finished a close-up second to Little Bridge in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot on ground that should have been softer than ideal for him.

His only subsequent run, when he finished sixth behind Ortensia in the Nunthorpe, was disappointing at first glance, but you can easily forgive him that. Again, the ground was easier than ideal, but more significantly, he was drawn and raced on the near side as the race developed away from him on the far side, with the hare Hamish McGonagall, who was drawn in stall one, giving Ortensia a perfect target at which to aim.

Bated Breath seemed to get a little outpaced half way through that race before staying on well inside the final 100 yards, so the step back up to six furlongs from five should suit well. Also, he seems to love Haydock, he has won three of the four races that he has contested there, including the Group 2 Temple Stakes, and he was only just beaten in this race last year (see above) on his other run.

He should bounce off the ground, his record on ground faster than good reads 1112281 – the two 2s were behind Dream Ahead, in two Group 1 races, beaten by a half a length and a nose respectively, while the 8 was at Sha Tin last year when he was drawn poorly and raced too freely – and he will be racing on fast ground for the first time since he won that Temple Stakes. He has raced just three times this season, he comes into the race fresher than most, and Roger Charlton reports him in top form.

Paul Messara also reports Ortensia to be in super form, but she has been on the go for a while now. She has raced four times in Britain since June, and she came over to England from a Group 1 win in Dubai in March. Also, she may not have been as inconvenienced by the easyish ground or the five-furlong trip in the Nunthorpe as Bated Breath was, and she has never run at Haydock. She probably shouldn’t be as far in front of Bated Breath in the betting as she is.

Now, here’s the draw part. Bated Breath is drawn in stall one, Ortensia is drawn in stall 15. Together they book-end the other 13 runners. One of them is probably going to be advantaged by the draw, and one of them is probably going to be disadvantaged.

Usually on the straight track at Haydock, you want to be drawn towards the near side (high), so Ortensia looks to have the initial edge. The first four home in the race last year, run on good to firm ground, were drawn 9-15-13-14 (of 16). Fairly damning stats for the low-drawn horses. However, in 2010 the first four home, also in a race run on good to firm ground, were drawn 14-7-4-8 (of 13), so not so damning.

The first four home in 2009 were drawn 13-12-8-10 (of 14), but the ground was soft that day, so you can probably put a line through that one for the purposes of assessing today’s race. It was soft again in 2008 (high-drawn horses dominated), but it was fast in 2007, and the first four home were drawn 6-1-7-14 (of 14). Much more encouraging.

There was one race run on the straight track at Haydock yesterday, with the first four home drawn 7-8-11-6 (of 14), and there were five today, in which the first four home in the first four races were drawn, respectively, as follows: 9-10-5-2 (of 10), 9-5-3-2 (of 9), 10-9-8-7 (of 10) and 8-11-7-13 (of 16). Interestingly, they all raced more or less straight down the middle in those four races, with those drawn towards the near side undoubtedly favoured.

However, in the fifth race run on the sprint track today, the jockeys, obviously having twigged that there was an advantage to be gleaned from racing on the near side, congregated towards the stands rail, with the result that congestion ensured. The net result was that the first four home emerged from stalls 2-7-9-1 (of 13): low-drawn horses were favoured.

The other thing worth bearing in mind is that, for the first two days of the Sprint Cup meeting, Haydock used the inside track. Today they will use the outside track. So there may not be too strong a correlation between draw advantage on the first two days and draw advantage today.

In effect, though, we’re back full circle, back to trying to figure out how the race will be run. If they congregate towards the stands rail, Ortensia will probably be disadvantaged. Given her hold up style of racing, if they do all converge on the near side, the chances are that she will find herself between a wall of horses and the stands rail at some stage in the race. In that situation, William Buick will be relying on the breaks coming on time, even if he does have the horse under him.

If they all race down the centre, however, the mare will probably have plenty of room in which to deliver her challenge, and she will probably be racing on the fastest part of the track, middle to stands side, while Bated Breath could be racing on the slowest part of the track, towards the far rail.

Strange thing for a Group 1 six-furlong race, there doesn’t appear to be that much early pace in this one. The field is replete with hold-up horses who like to be covered up and delivered late, and there is no tearaway Tangerine Trees or Hamish McGonagall in the line-up. I think that that will favour Bated Breath. He doesn’t need to be covered up, he likes to race at his own pace, usually just behind the leaders, and that could be the ideal sit.

Likely pace-setters? Soul (stall six) could lead, Es Que Love (stall two) could lead, Majestic Myles (stall 11) could lead. Two out of three drawn low, so there should be some pace on the far side at least. If the leaders are drawn low and keep straight, that will suit Ortensia well. However, if one or two horses emerge from low draws and ease their merry ways towards the near side, that would suit Bated Breath well and would not be ideal for Ortensia.

It isn’t a two-horse race though. Not completely. Strong Suit is a player, and he will love the ground, but he is short enough now, dropping down to six furlongs against genuine Group 1 class sprinters. The ground is surely going to be too fast for Soul and Society Rock and Wizz Kid, and that leaves Dandy Boy (stall eight), Hitchens (stall four) and Gordon Lord Byron (stall 12) as potential stakes-savers at the prices.

I still think that Bated Breath is too big at 4.5 though. Hope it doesn’t rain now.

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