Next time you think it’s tough finding a winner or two, think about how it must have been for punters at the old Harold Park circuit in the period when 10 runners would line up for a race.
I don’t know precisely when Harold Park dropped to eight-dog fields, although it appears to have been around 1960, or a little earlier. Prior to this, fields were a maximum of 10 runners. What’s interesting is that despite the passage of 60 or more years, some things really don’t change when it comes to which boxes tend to dominate.
In a brief chart published in the Sydney Morning Herald in April 1954, a list of winning box numbers from Harold Park showed there had been 201 races run from January to the end of March. Runners exiting box one registered 36 wins, or 17.91 percent, while box two notched 31 wins and box three 32 wins. The wins then dropped away dramatically with box five next best at 20 victories, box four 16, box nine 14 and boxes six, seven, eight, and 10 with 13 wins apiece.
A couple of weeks earlier, the Herald had published the results of 190 races run at Wentworth Park. As with today, races at Wentworth Park only ever consisted of a maximum of eight starters. Box one dominated with 48 wins (a massive 25.26 percent), ahead of box three with 31 wins and box two with 29. Box four won 22 races, ahead of box eight with 21 while box five had 14 (with one dead-heat), box six 14, and box seven just 10 (with one dead-heat).
Basically, the inside three alleys won almost 57 percent of races. At Harold Park in the same period, the inside three boxes picked up 49 percent of events run.
By way of comparison, I looked up the current situation regarding winning box numbers at Wentworth Park (via thedogs website). According to their statistics, box one has recorded 3,887 wins, box two 3,152 and box three 2,598. It doesn’t say what period the figures cover, but given there are 21,129 races it must be the period since the beginning of the loam track back in 1992. So, boxes one, two and three have won 9,637 races between them in that time, or over 45 percent.
By way of further comparison, I looked at The Meadows box stats for 525 metre races, via the GRV website. They only have the past 12 months, but from 926 races box one notched 188 wins (20.3 percent), ahead of box two with 156 and box three with 125 wins. So, the inside three alleys have snared 469 of the 926 races, or a whopping 50.6 percent.
Box six, almost universally, comes out with the worst numbers (which, in my opinion, always adds further lustre to the grand career of Rapid Journey, who raced five times out of that alley for five wins; but that’s another story).
Note what I wrote earlier regarding Harold Park and Wentworth Park, 60 years ago. The numbers haven’t moved much with the passage of time, whether it is a grass one-turn horseshoe track with long straights and 10 starters like the old Harold Park, a tight grass circuit like Wentworth Park used to be, or a loam track such as The Meadows. That box draw remains the single most important element in the equation for most punters, owners, and trainers.