Racing: Punters should find safety in numbers: Scrutiny of past results proves a low draw is a privileged position. Joel Else reports

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'A LOW draw is always important in the Breeders' Cup, especially at Santa Anita,' the top Californian trainer Bobby Frankel says. 'Even in the Classic you wouldn't want to be too far out.'

History has proved Frankel right, with the draw for the 1986 Breeders' Cup at the track proving to be of the upmost importance. Of the horses to finish in the first three that day, no less than 66 per cent were drawn between one and four and only two posted from stall eight or higher. The highest winning draw was just seven.

This year, the Europeans have generally been drawn well, but if the trait bears out, no less than three previous Breeders' Cup winners as well as a few of the ante-post favourites may as well stay in their barns. In the Sprint, last year's winner, Thirty Slews, and the 1990 Juvenile winner, Fly So Free, are drawn 11 and 14 respectively. In the Mile, the favourite and defending champion, Lure, has been drawn 13, compromising his front-running style. And in the 1 1/2 -mile Turf, the favourites Kotashaan and Bien Bien have only each other to comfort in stalls 13 and 11. Poor Intrepidity, winner of the Oaks, has one of the few bad draws for the Europeans, stuck out in the San Gabriel mountains in post 14.

The races not affected by the draw due to small fields are the Distaff and the Juvenile Fillies, traditionally two of the more reliable races. The average price of the Distaff winner over the nine runnings is 1.43-1, with the longest return being 2.91-1. The favourite has obliged six times.

In contrast, the Turf has proved a lottery, with the average starting price of the winner being 20.77-1. The Sprint and the Mile have also proved unpredictable at 15.96-1 and 11.93- 1. The Classic (3.14-1), the Juvenile (4.3-1) and the Juvenile Fillies (9.74-1) have proved more reliable.

The Sprint has never been won by a horse successful in the conventional trials, and favoured Birdonthewire's sequence of wins will, history suggests, help him little on Saturday. A high-class miler coming back in distance has proved good enough on four occasions, and often run respectably. Similarly, older horses dominate the Turf, while maximum experience has proved a definite advantage in the Juvenile races. In all bar the Juvenile Fillies, and to a lesser extent the Sprint, Group or Grade One winning form is a prerequisite. 'I'd be surprised if the best horses don't win,' Wayne Lukas, the meeting's most successful trainer, says.

Unfortunately, they are seldom Europe's competitors, with only 10 of the 63 winners coming from this side of the Atlantic, seven of those from France. Furthermore, seven of the 10 wins were in the colder climes of New York and Kentucky.

However, the majority of the raiding party have experienced luck with the draw. Though, as New York handler Scotty Schulhofer puts it: 'You've got to be lucky. But you've got to be good.' At Santa Anita, they will have to be very good.