We’ve all heard these three words - be it on the television, in the newspaper, by a trainer in a post-race interview or even by my dad after I’ve tipped him another 30-1 pop from barrier 15 that runs fourth.
But what does it actually mean?
Sure barriers do help horse’s win races but are certain barriers overrated and overall is their impact on a race overplayed?
I once read a study on an AusRace forum that examined beaten margins to determine the general impact of barriers.
It was a while ago but the study found the average difference in beaten margins between barrier 1 and 13 was just half-a-length.
There have been numerous studies conducted which show backing horses from wide barriers actually produce a better profit on turnover most of the time than inside barriers.
For some reason, barrier one has always had this aura, at least with the general public, as being the best barrier.
After all, it means your horse will be on the fence, which is shortest way home. Sounds simple but is it all it’s cut out to be?
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No it’s not and barrier one, or inside barriers most of the time, are definitely overplayed by the market and over bet.
If your horse is a leader, the inside barrier is one of the worst gates you can draw, unless you’re in a race where you are the only leader and will simply lob in front.
Barrier one, or inside barriers for that matter, allow the other leaders in the race, drawn wider, to dictate to you.
Instead of being able to roll across and decide the pace you want to roll at in the early stages, a leader from the inside barrier has to be hunted up from word go and then has to absorb all this pressure from the outside if they want to hold the lead, leaving them vulnerable over the concluding stages.
If you want to ease out of the speed battle from an inside barrier, you find yourself in the box seat, another position that for some reason has this great aura around it.
Take Tom Melbourne for example.
He landed in the box seat three weeks ago at Rosehill. Blake Shinn did nothing wrong but the gaps just didn’t open until the last 100m and by then it was too little, too late. Of course, sometimes the gaps do open and it looks great but horses in this position need a bit of luck and even if they do get through they are often held up for just enough time to lose all momentum and ruin their winning chances.
For horses with no early speed, inside gates are even worse.
Cluttered up three or four pairs back on the fence is about the last place you want your horse positioned.
You might get the breaks but, unlike the box seat, you have more than a few horses to manoeuvre around in the home straight.
Of course, there is no fixed rule.
There’s no advantage for a leader drawing barrier 12 with five leaders drawn inside you but on the other hand barrier 12 is absolute gold when you’re the only leader in the race.
Not only can you cruise across at your own speed but the barrier will automatically put a lot of punters off, meaning you’ll get a better price than you should.
There’s also the starting point to consider on the racecourse- does the race jump straight onto a turn or is there a 400m straight run before a turn?
More on that later but for now start training your brain to not automatically see inside barriers as ‘the perfect barrier’ because most of the times they aren’t!
Originally published as Breaking down the barrier ‘myth’...Read more