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Apr 04, 2008

Outsmarting the Public

By: Ray Taulbot

Regular readers of this publication are aware of pace handicapping, and it is not uncommon for us to receive many letters each month asking questions about the pace factor.

Many readers misunderstand the basic principle of pace handicapping, and believe that the horse with the highest pace rating should win a high percentage of the races run each day. But such an assumption is based on careless thinking, or upon a lack of experience in the use of pace.

Pace ability is used merely for the purpose of discovering thepace contention in a given race. Why is this discovery important? Because it is paceability that makes or breaks a race horse. But pace ability is based  on class and current condition, and the horse with the best pace rating might be outclassed today.

For instance, the horse with the highest pace figures earned its figures in a $3,000 claiming race. If this horse is entered today in competition with$4,000 and $4,500 platers, which have slightly lower pace figures than the $3,000 horse,the cheaper animal may encounter a class handicap which sends it down to defeat-despite its higher pace figures.

Or the horse with the highest pace figures might be lacking incurrent condition. The horse may not have reached the upward swing of its current formcycle, or it may have reached its peak and is now on a downward curve. A horse coming offa very hard race in fast time often falls into this category.

Therefore, it is clear that the horse with the highest pacefigures won"t always be the logical selection. Perhaps the horse with the second highest figures-or even the horse with the third or fourth highest figures-may be a sounder selection today. In racing, there is no completely isolated factor in handicapping. Every factor is related to one another.

It is also easy to slip into the habit of using only final timeas a means of figuring pace. While it is true that final time represents the overall pace picture, it is not true that final time alone is always sufficient when determining the actual pace ability of a horse.

For example, one might have two horses of the $5,000 grade whose most recent races were run in identical final times. If the final time figures are usedalone, these horses might have identical figures. But when the "highlight time"method is used, the picture may take on a different hue. Examine the two following races:

(A) 6f $5,000

32 35 23 22-1/2 SR-90

:45.1 1:10.3

(B) 6f $5,000

11 11/2 22-1/2 22 SR-90

:22.1 :46 1:10.3

Since both of these races were run in identical time, both horses were defeated by the same number of lengths and earned a speed rating of 90, both horses will receive identical pace ratings if only final time and speed ratings are employed.

But when you include the "highlight time," thehalf-mile time in a sprint or the six-furlong time in a

 route, we might arrive at anentirely different picture. In the above example, both animals received

 a parallel pacerating of 391 plus 90, or a final rating of 481. But when we include the highlight

time rating, the final result reveals that A has more early pace ability than B. Examine the following figures:

(A) 391 plus 394 plus 90…total 875

(B) 391 plus 390 plus 90…total 871

These are the ratings you will get from your Pace Calculatorwhen using the "highlight time" method. So where we had an identical time when using only the final time and speed rating, we now have A with a four point advantage whenwe include the highlight time.

Since both animals earned their figures in a $5,000 race, andsince they are assumed to be about equal on the condition factor, A"s four point edge onearly pace becomes of real importance. On the other hand, if A was outclassed or lackingin condition, the four point edge would lose most-if not all-its significance.

There is another important factor to consider in the above example. The early pace of A"s race was faster than the early pace of B"s race, and A gained ground after passing the half-mile pole. On a slower early pace, B lost groundafter reaching the half-mile pole. When one horse gains, and the other loses ground,preference should usually be given to the gainer.

Let's take horse B and enter it in today"s route race. Many players would pass this animal in a route

because it quit or weakened in a sprint heat.The average player would argue that if the horse dropped back in the sprint, there is no reason to assume it will improve at a longer distance. This is poor reasoning. If B is entered today in a route-where the average half-mile pace is something like :46.4 or slower-this horse has a mighty good chance, if the class and condition are there.

When a sprinter moves into a route, it is moving into a race where the early pace will nearly always be slower than the early pace of a sprint heat.Therefore, a sprinter with a good half-mile time has an advantage over the routers with slower half-mile times. The slower early pace might give the sprinter just what it needs to score.

A study of past performance records will soon convince you that this is true. You can find many

examples where a sprinter quit or weakened on a fast early pace in a sprint race, and then came right back to whip horses of the same class in aroute race. This is one of the best longshot angles in

 racing because the public seldom gives the sprinter support when going in a route.

So far we have pointed out two pace angles: a gaining horse in asprint where the early pace was

 fast; and a sprinter with a fast early pace in a sprint that is entered against its own class in a route.

 Both of these angles will produce some nice-priced winners.

But there is a third angle you should consider. It also involves pace, and can be used in both sprints

and routes. Note how A ran his last race as shown.The horse was within two lengths of the leader at the first call, and then dropped back some three lengths by the time the field reached the half-mile pole. Then the horse began to gain ground, picking up two lengths between the half-mile pole and the stretch call,and another half-length between the stretch call and the wire.

This horse had two very strong pace angles: gaining ground off a fast early pace; and dropping back after the first call to come again after passing the half-mile call. It takes a pretty fair animal to drop back off a fast early pace and thencome again to make up lengths down to the wire.

This "drop back and come again" angle is not new. Butit becomes a new and more powerful angle

 when the pace factor is considered. The fact that a horse drops back and comes again is not overly

 important unless the early pace shows that it did this under fast early pace conditions. This is another reason why handicappers can't limit himself to final times.

That is also why "highlight times" were included when the Pace Calculator was designed. Those of you with the instrument should not neglect the use of highlight time ratings if you want accuracy.

A point worth remembering is that the return one receives for his labors is based upon his ability and his willingness to work. The lazy racing fan can't succeed. You can be sure that the more you put into this business, the more you will earn.

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