If there's one thing that makes the four Melbourne racecourses stand out it is their complete difference to each other.

You have the spacious, sweeping bends of Flemington, with its long 453 m home straight; you have the turning Moonee Valley circuit and the odd Caulfield banked bends - and you have the testing American-style Sandown Park circuit where the uphill home stretch of just over 400 m can flatten many a front runner just when it looks like sewing up a race.

Flemington is a magnificent track and invariably allows every runner a chance to win. Yet, despite its huge circumference (more than 2300 m) Flemington is a track that many horses simply cannot handle.

We've all seen the horses that weave all over the place down the home straight! The fact is that some horses race far better when they are on turning tracks. A lot lack the ability and experience to race flat-out down Melbourne's famous Straight Six (1200 m) course.

Flemington is shaped a bit like a pear. There's a sweeping double turn leading into the home stretch and a pretty tight couple of turns leading out of the straight.

Most of us are aware of the 3200 m start at Flemington - the one where the annual Melbourne Cup begins. It provides a tremendous run of 900 m down the straight the first time, giving the stayers plenty of time, and opportunity, to settle and take up a position.

The sprint races at Flemington provide punters with headaches all through the season because they are run on the straight course and the state of the going can vary markedly from rails to the outside.

You can never really say that horses drawn from 16 to 24 are 'badly' drawn, because it's often the case that the going down the outside (grandstand) rail will be lengths faster than closer to the rails. The same thing can happen in reverse, too, with the rails runners getting the advantage of faster going.

It's a puzzle that no-one yet has been able to work out. It has really reached the point where you cannot say with any degree of certainty which horses are well drawn and which aren't.

My own theory is that you ignore the barrier draw in these straight spring races at Flemington. I'm sure statistics will prove my point.

I've seen too many winners coming from middle and outside barriers to be confident of discarding other horses because of such draws.

The other distances at Flemington are different again. The 1400m races start from a chute at the far end of the course and they have only about 250 m before they hit Flemington's big double turn into the straight. I would say that any horses outside 10 are at a disadvantage and any in 14 and over have a major obstacle to overcome a win.

From the 1600m start, the best barriers are between 1 and 8. Horses in 9 and onwards must be at a disadvantage, specially those from 13 out. The exceptions are horses that begin smartly and possess a great deal of early pace.

In the Flemington 2000m races, my advice is not to worry too much about the draw, as the runners have 600 m in which to settle before hitting a bend. Naturally, those drawn widest~ say from 13 out - are at some disadvantage. Put in distance terms, I would say the disadvantage would be a length or so.

We then have the 2500 m start. There are not too many of these races during a season, but we know enough to realise that horses drawn wider than 9 will be at some disadvantage. The runners have a run of only about 200 m before they strike the sharp double turn out of the straight.

There are a few races over 2800 m at Flemington and only runners drawn in 12 and wider will suffer any problems. Barrier positions must be considered relatively unimportant over the Melbourne Cup journey of 3200m.

Flemington is a track where any type of horse can win, but it certainly is a circuit that sorts out the weakies from the strong in the run to the line. Horses can come from a long way back on the turn and win at Flemington - witness Kiwi's charging victory in the Melbourne Cup in 1983.

The home stretch is so spacious that all the runners usually have room to sort themselves out and gain openings, although you'll always have the cases of horses that run out of room. That will happen anywhere.

Caulfield's straight is just under 320 m and you will need your horse to be reasonably well placed on the home turn. Barrier positions are important at this track, particularly in races from the 1400 m stalls.

In the 1000m and 1200m races, I would say that all runners in barriers up to 9 will have every chance. Over 1000m, there is a small disadvantage to those drawn in 12 and out, while over 1100 m the same theory applies.

The 1400m start is the trickiest. It has a short, sharp run to the course proper where the runners have to encounter a bit of an incline and a bend. My statistics show that runners up to barrier 7 are okay, but the disadvantages begin from barrier 8 out. Any horse from 14 out is badly affected.

Horses drawn wider than 10 are the ones to be wary of in 1600 m races, specially those at 14 and wider. The 1800 m course, which is not often used, gives most runners an even chance, although take caution with those drawn at 10 and wider.

The 2000m journey starts on a turn and continues this way for about 200m; generally, horses drawn inside will have an edge and the ones at a real disadvantage are those drawn widest.

The Caulfield Cup 2400 m start has a run of about 300m to the first turn and the barrier draw is important, particularly when there are more than a dozen runners. I would place plus factors on those at 9 and under, and queries that grow with each slot outside that. There is a very real disadvantage for horses drawn from 14 and wider.

Sandown Park is a different track altogether. It is a 407 m straight and it is a really testing one. Track conditions are vitally important at Sandown. When the going becomes heavy, it is no rare sight to see all runners heading for the outside going on the turn. So, never be too worried if your horse is drawn wide in very slow or heavy going, as it could well prove an advantage.

If you are studying form for a Sandown meeting, always check to see if a horse has won or run well there before. Some horses excel at the track and often repeat their victories.

Runners drawn wide are disadvantaged in the 1000 m and 1200 m sprints. The 1400 m start allows horses plenty of time to settle down because it provides a nice even run of 500 m to the first bend. If I were to allot minus factors it would be for those horses drawn 12 and wider.


Click here to read Part 1.
Click here to read Part 3.
Click here to read Part 4.

By Statsman