Oct 24, 2003
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 the
pace contention in a given race. Why is this discovery important? Because it is pace
ability 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 in
current condition. The horse may not have reached the upward swing of its current form
cycle, or it may have reached its peak and is now on a downward curve. A horse coming off
a very hard race in fast time often falls into this category.
Therefore, it is clear that the horse with the highest pace
figures 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 time
as 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 used
alone, 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
(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
But when you include the "highlight time," the
half-mile time in a sprint or the six-furlong time in a route, we might arrive at an
entirely different picture. In the above example, both animals received a parallel pace
rating 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
(A) 391 plus 394 plus 90
(B) 391 plus 390 plus 90
These are the ratings you will get from your Pace Calculator
when 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 when
we include the highlight time.
Since both animals earned their figures in a $5,000 race, and
since they are assumed to be about equal on the condition factor, A's four point edge on
early pace becomes of real importance. On the other hand, if A was outclassed or lacking
in 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 ground
after 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
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 a
route 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 a
sprint 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
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 then
come again to make up lengths down to the wire.
This "drop back and come again" angle is not new. But
it 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
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