MILES AHEAD

Wednesday 22, 2017 2:00 PM By Best Bets

There’s something about a big handicap mile. More intrigue than a sprint, less predictable than a weight-for-age middle-distance race.

Of the 72 Group 1 races on the Australian calendar, just 14 are run under handicap conditions these days, and five of those are over 1600 metres — including this Saturday’s highlight, the Railway Stakes.

When it comes to punt appeal, the handicaps win hands down. And the Railway is a good illustration.

Punters who can find the winner are well rewarded. El Presidente ($2.80) and Luckygray ($4 — on a controversial protest) are the only favourites to have won this century. Even the (future) great Northerly (2000) started at 6/1 ($7).

On the other hand, no Railway winner in the past 30 years has started at a price greater than $21, and the average SP this century is $9.37.

This Saturday’s Railway looks as open as any. After the barrier draw on Tuesday, it was $5.50 the field and just four runners under double figures.

Interestingly, they were the four at the top of the weights, with handicaps ranging from 54.5kg (Supply And Demand) to 59kg (Black Heart Bart).

Recent history, however, suggests it might pay to look further down the list — seven of the past nine Railway winners have had 53.5kg or less.

A wide (ish) barrier shouldn’t put you off — five of the past eight winners have jumped from 11 or 12, and the average winning barrier over the past decade is gate 9. Having said that, no winner has jumped from 14, 15 or 16 since Welcome Knight in 1992.

Finally, it’s a good idea to stick to the relatively young (no seven-year-old has won since Willoughby in 1998) and in-form (no winner has come off a last-start finish worse than sixth since Zaparri in 1994).