May 21, 2010
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 incurrent 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 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 whosemost 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
(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," the half-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 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, 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 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 isentered 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 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 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 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 thata 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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