April 2001, Number 21
ALL-WaysTM Newsletter 


  Inside This Newsletter 

An Effective Pace Handicapping Process


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An Effective Pace Handicapping Process  

ALL-Ways software includes extensive pace data. The purpose of this article is to present an effective handicapping process for turning this data into powerful information. Even if you are not an ALL-Ways software user, you will probably find some very helpful techniques in what you are about to read.  

Why bother? First, pace handicapping is a very effective way to separate horses in very contentious races. It is also the best method we know to identify high priced horses that surprise everyone and cause exotic payoffs to skyrocket. And, many players will find pace handicapping to be a very enjoyable process. Indeed, gaining an intimate understanding of just how a race is likely to play out is intellectually stimulating and just plain fun.  Profit and fun .... isn’t that why we love horse racing?

So, let’s get started. The word “process” is very important here. While it is going to take us several pages to explain it, the fact is, once you have learned the process, you will be able to apply it effectively in just 2 or 3 minutes per race. The process has the following steps:  

1. Determine the pace scenario.  

2. Determine the track bias influence.  

3. Determine/visualize how the race will unfold at the 1st and 2nd Calls.  

4. Determine/visualize what is likely to happen in the stretch run.  

5. Make your selections.  

Again, once you learn and practice these steps a bit, you will be able to carry out this whole process with a very small investment of time, literally just a very few minutes.  

Step 1: The Pace Scenario 

This is where, very quickly, you get an overall feel for how the race is going to be run. This simple step will influence your decisions. You may not think so at first, but it will strongly influence your thinking.  

A good way to approach this is to use the concept of Race Pace Shapes that we presented in ALL-Ways Newsletter #3. This is a concept original to ALL-Ways software that has received wide acclaim as one of the most powerful, yet easy to use pace handicapping methods ever published. If you do not have the newsletter, just contact us and we will send it to you.  

We are not going to repeat the whole article, but here are a few highlights. ALL-Ways software identifies races as having one of four possible Race Pace Shapes as follows:  

Fast Early Pace: These races have two or more horses with an Early Running Style (“E”). ALL-Ways software designates this race as “EEE” or “EE”. These races will be run very fast to the 2nd call. By definition, “E” horses need the lead. Any “E” horse that figures to not get the lead will likely finish off-the-board. These races often set up for horses from off the pace and you will almost always see a higher priced late running horse finishing in-the-money.  

Lone Early Pace: These races have just one horse that likes to be on the lead or up close to the lead. So, there is either a single “E” horse with no Early Presser (“EP”) or there is a single “EP” horse with no “E” horse. ALL-Ways software designates these races as either “E” or “EP” or “EP-P” where the “P” is for Presser horses that like to run mid-pack. Lone “E” or “EP” horses are always a threat to run away from the others with an uncontested lead.  

Honest Pace: Most races are Honest Pace races. ALL-Ways software designates these races as either “E-EP” or “EP-EP”. These races do not generally set up for closers simply because the early pace of the race is honest, not too fast and not too slow. “E” and “EP” horses will win these races more often than “P” or “S” horses. Any of the Combined Pace Ratings in ALL-Ways software is a particularly strong handicapping factor in these races. Also, the track bias will have the most influence on Honest Pace races.  

Slow Pace: These races are void of early speed because there are no “E” or “EP” horses running. They often set up for horses with the best Early Pace figure and the best Final Fraction figure. “P” horses with the best Early Pace ratings are the most dangerous.  

Step 2: The Track Bias 

The ALL-Ways Paceline Report shows you important track bias information for the specific race you are handicapping for the current week and the current meet. Information includes the percentage of races won by  “E” and “EP” horses. This is called the Speed Bias. It also includes the Impact Values for each of the four running styles and for post positions. It is not uncommon to see that 20 dirt sprints have been run this week with a speed bias of  75% or higher. This is very valuable information.  

For those that want an even deeper understanding of the track bias, take a look at the ALL-Ways Track Bias and Jockey/Trainer Report. Here you will also see the Average Beaten Lengths at the first and second calls. This tells you about how close to the front the eventual winners need to be at these points in the race. This report also shows you how well the jockey does with horses that have the same running style as the horse he/she is riding today.  

There is another great set of bias statistics on this report, namely the long term bias stats with one set for win horses and another set for place horses.  What is unique and powerful about these figures is how they are presented. Here is an example of the Win Horse statistics for the 2nd Call (the report also includes the 1st Call and the Stretch Call). The figures are percentages.  

1 2 3 4 5 +
Position 38 24 19 8 8 3
Lengths 58 17 6 6 5 8

 Here is how you read this. For the “Position” line, the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, + corresponds to the position of the winning horse at the 2nd call. So, in this example, 38% of the winners were 1st at the 2nd call, 24% were second and 19% were third. Now add the numbers together and you get 62% were either 1st or 2nd and a whopping 81% were 1st, 2nd or 3rd at the 2nd Call.  

For the “Lengths” line, the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 + represent the beaten lengths of the winning horses at the 2nd Call. In this example,  58% of races of this type were won by horses that were on the lead or within one length of the leader at the 2nd Call, 17% were farther back but within 2 lengths of the leader, 6 percent were farther back but within 3 lengths of the lead.  Again, when you add the numbers, 75% of the winners were on the lead or within two lengths of the leader at the 2nd call.  

This makes it pretty clear that for this kind of race (our sample data is for a dirt sprint), deep closers are in trouble. “E” and “EP” horses have a distinct advantage.  Note: Professional Edition users can print out the full Track Profile Report in the Print Module. This shows all these bias statistics for win and place horses for each basic type of race and it does so for the 25 most recent races, the 75 most recent races and all races in the database. One page covers the entire card.  

So, with just a few seconds work, we have a very good feel for the overall pace scenario and the track bias.  

Step 3: The First and Second Calls 

The 1st Call is at the two furlong point in sprints and the four furlong point in routes. The 2nd Call is at the 4 furlong point in sprints and the six furlong point in routes.  What we really want to know at then end of this step #3 is which horses are going to be in contention at the 2nd Call for a possible in-the-money finish. Part of  this includes determining just how the horses will get to their 2nd Call positions. This includes the dynamics at play in getting to the 1st Call.  

The 1st Call  

We will explore two things about the 1st Call. First, we will look at the pressure a horse may experience getting to the 1st Call. Second, we will look at a special situation regarding post positions and negotiating the first turn.  

The 1st Call is very different than the 2nd Call. It is more dependent on the running style and the will of the horse than it is on any pace figure. Just about any horse can run fast for a short distance out of the gate.  So, we prefer to use a positional handicapping factor for this. ALL-Ways software gives you two choices. One is the First Call Performance index (FCP) and the other is Quirin Speed Points. Our ALL-Ways Newsletter #13 includes an extensive article on Quirin Speed Points. We will use these Quirin numbers as we look at the 1st Call.  

What you want to determine here is which horses are going to be on or near the lead at the 1st Call and how much pressure or exertion will come into play to get there. Look at the following chart.    

Run
Style
Quirin
Speed 
Points
Horse A E Q7
Horse B E Q5
Horse C EP Q8
Horse D EP Q5

Note that Quirin Speed Points range from 0 to 8 where the higher the number the more likely the horse is to be on the lead or very close to the lead at the 1st Call. We are only looking at Early and Early Presser horses in this example since they generally are on or near the lead. Note that you will occasionally see a “P” horse with a high Quirin Speed Point rating. This is not an anomaly. These horses go towards the front at the 1st Call and then settle back to mid pack before reaching the 2nd Call.  

Horse A is probably going to be on the lead at the 1st Call. With an “E” running style and a high Quirin rating, it figures to be the pace setter. Horse C, with a style of “EP” will be content to stay back a length or two, but you can count on it being close with a Quirin rating of 8. Horse B is a different story. Its “E” style tells us it wants the lead but with Quirin Points of 5, it doesn’t always get there. This horse is going to have to work harder than it likes in order to keep up with Horses A and C. Finally, Horse D will probably be in 4th place at the 2nd Call but it will be reasonably close and it will have run at a modest pace.

Here is how we would summarize our thinking for the 1st Call.

Horse     A             On the lead. Modest pressure getting there.  

Horse     B             Struggling to keep up.  

Horse     C             Very close. Little pressure.  

Horse     D             Close. No pressure  

The hypothetical example we are using is one with some, but not extreme, pace pressure getting to the 1st Call. Some races have several “E” horses, all with Q8 ratings. These are “suicidal” fast pace races. There are races where all horses  have modest or low Quirin Points. Such races are void of much pressure. Sometimes a horse will have 7 or 8 Quirin Points and be 3 to 5 points higher than the next closest horse. This horse will be loose on the lead and a real threat to wire.  

1st Call Special Situation: At most tracks, in route races, both dirt and turf, the first turn is part of the run to the 1st Call. “E” and “EP” horses will generally try to outrun the other horses right out of the gate in order to move towards the rail to avoid having to go several horses wide around the first turn. The special situation arises when any “E” horse or any other horse with a Quirin Speed Rating of 7 or 8 is in one of the outside post positions and one or more other “E” or Q7/Q8 horses have inside post positions. The outside horse will have a tough time getting in front and moving to the rail. If it does, it will be severally compromised by the effort. If it doesn’t make it, it will still be compromised and will also go wide around the first turn. Such a horse will eventually have a difficult time coming down the stretch run.  

The 2nd Call  

The fundamental issues here are:  

1) How will the “E” and “EP” horses get to the 2nd Call? Will they have anything left to advance or hold their position down the stretch?

2) Will the “P” and “S” horses be close enough to the leader at the 2nd Call to be a factor in the race? Will they be starting their late run soon enough to be able to challenge the front runners for a piece of the purse?   

Let’s add Hall Early Pace Ratings to our hypothetical example. Early Pace is measured from the gate to the 2nd Call. 

Run
Style
Quirin
Speed
Points
Hall
Early
Pace
Horse A E Q7 116
Horse B E Q5 114
Horse C EP Q8 112
Horse D EP Q5 110

Horse A had only modest pressure getting to the lead at the 1st Call and, with the highest Early Pace rating, will probably have the lead at the 2nd Call and still be in pretty good shape. Horse B had to work hard to the 1st Call and, with an Early Pace figure below Horse A, will probably be backing up at the 2nd Call. It needs the lead but isn’t going to get it. Both Horse C and Horse D were comfortable getting to the 1st Call and both will be within 2 to 3 lengths of the leader at the 2nd call.

Important: One Early Pace Rating point equals about a half length at the 2nd Call.  

Now, lets add some Presser and Sustainer horses to the mix and also look at Turn Time.  

Run
Style
Quirin
Speed
Points
Hall
Early
Pace
Hall
Turn
Time
Horse A E Q7 116 112
Horse B e Q5 114 111
Horse C ep Q8 112 112
Horse D ep Q5 110 109
Horse E p Q3 110 114
Horse F p Q2 104 108
Horse G s Q1 108 110
Horse H s Q0 102 106

Horse E, a Presser, figures to be about 3 lengths off the pace, certainly in contention. Horse G will be about 4 lengths back. Horses F and H figure to be 6 to 7 lengths back, a decided disadvantage, at least in terms of winning the race.  

Let’s look at Hall Turn Time. This is the horse’s pace figure from the 1st Call to the 2nd Call which is generally run around the turn leading up to the stretch drive. Early runners will be slowing down, hence their Turn Time is generally lower than their Early Pace figure which is measured at the 2nd Call. The late running horses, on the other hand, will be revving up around the turn. So, you expect their Turn Time to be higher than their Early Pace figure. Hall Turn Time can be found on the ALL-Ways Form-by-the-Numbers Report and on the Pace Past Performance Report.  

Notice Horse E and how high its Turn Time is. This horse will be within 3 lengths and coming on strong as they approach the stretch run.   

Let’s wrap up this 3rd step of the process by summarizing how things look at the 2nd Call:  

Horse   

Horse   A               On the lead. Modest pressure getting there.
Horse   B
               About 4th. Backing up due to early pressure.
Horse   C
               In contention. Within 2 lengths. No pressure.
Horse   D
               In contention. Within 3 lengths. No pressure.
Horse   E
                In contention. 3 back. On the move.
Horse   F
                Out of it unless huge final fraction .
Horse   G
               Marginal. About 4 back. On the move.
Horse   H
               Out of it unless huge final fraction.

Step 4: The Stretch Run 

In the final fraction of a race, from the 2nd Call to the finish, we know that early running horses (“E” and “EP”) will be slowing down and trying to fend off the late runners (“P” and “S”) that are trying to catch them. There are two areas we need to look at in this step of the process: 1) Pace figures for the horses; 2) Race and Track specific influences.  

Pace Figures for the Final Fraction  

There are two figures that will help us here, specifically the Hall Final Fraction (FF) pace rating (from the 2nd Call to the finish) and the Hall Combined pace rating (Hall EP + Hall FF).  Lets add some figures to our hypothetical example.  

Style Early
Pace
Final
Fraction
Combination
Horse A E 116 109 225
Horse B E 114   99 213
Horse C EP 112 110 222
Horse D EP 110 108 218
Horse E P 110 116 226
Horse F P 104 113 217
Horse G S 108 112 220
Horse H S 102 104 206

As you might expect, “E” and “EP” horses usually have FF figures that are lower than their EP figures. Conversely, late running horses usually have FF figures that are higher than their EP figures. The Combined Pace figures (EP + FF) give us a quick way to see how  these numbers add up. In a perfect world, you could simply select the horse with the highest Combined Pace rating. But, there is another dynamic at work here and it is very important. In a fast paced race, it is generally accepted that early running horses who are forced to run a faster race to the 2nd Call than they prefer will lose more than a proportional amount of speed in the final fraction. So, if an “E” or “EP” horse with an Early Pace rating of 116 and a Final Fraction rating of 109 is forced to run a 118 pace rating to the 2nd Call, it will probably only run a 105 or so in the Final Fraction. That is why it is so important in a pace handicapping process to assess the pressure on a horse in getting to the 2nd Call.  

Let’s look at an assessment of the horses in our example when we take into account their Final Fraction and Combined Pace ratings. The first thing we would conclude is that we can toss out Horse B. It was compromised getting to the 1st Call and it has a Final Fraction rating that is just too low for it to be in contention. Horse H can safely be eliminated. It needs a much higher Final Fraction rating to overcome its very low Early Pace rating. Horse F presents an interesting situation that you see all the time. How often have you said, when disappointed by a late running horse: “The horse (or Jockey) started its move too late. It would have won the race if it had made its move earlier.” Well, here is a very important point. More often than not, this is a predictable outcome. In this example, Horse F has the second best Final Fraction rating, but it will be too far back at the 2nd Call, about 6 lengths or so,  to make up all the ground. We would toss this horse out as well because there are too many front running horses to catch in this race that did not have a lot of early pace pressure and Horse E is a late running horse that clearly should have an in-the-money finish.  

This eliminates three of the eight horses in the race. It is also pretty clear that the horses with the best shot at winning the race are horses A, C and E. Let’s look at other pace considerations that should be reviewed before making our decisions.  

Race and Track Influences  

The Race to the 2nd Call: We completed this analysis in step 3 and have a good feel for how the horses got to the 2nd Call.  

Length of the Race: The distance to be run from the 2nd Call to the finish is dependent on the length of the race. In 6 furlong sprints the distance is 1,320 feet. At 6 1/2 furlongs the distance is increased by 330 feet to 1,650 feet. At 7 furlongs, it increases by 660 feet to 1,980 feet. The distance in a one mile route from the 2nd Call at the 6 furlong mark to the finish is also 1,320 feet and it too increases by 330 feet for each half furlong, which is 1/16 of a mile.  The longer the distance, the harder it is for the “E” and “EP” horses to hold on and the longer the “P” and “S” horses have to gain on the leaders.  

Track Bias: The final fraction of a race is where you will see the influence of the track bias play out. A strong early bias and the front runners are more likely to hold on. A bias more towards late runners will see the front runners struggling and the closers having an easier time making up ground.  

Field Size and Running Styles: A large field with a number of  “E”/“EP” horses may result in a “wall of horses” that closers will have to pass around the clubhouse turn. A late runner that needs to loop 4 or 5 wide around the turn will be compromised.  

Step 5: Make Your Decisions 

Stretch Gain Performance Index  

There is one more handicapping factor in ALL-Ways software that will help you make your final decisions. We call it the Stretch Gain Performance index or SGN for short. This factor gives us a pretty clear picture of a horse’s demonstrated ability and determination  to hold onto a good position or to gain positions in the stretch run of a race. The index is on a scale of zero to five with five being the best. A rating of 3.0 to 5.0 identifies horses that you can count on to do well down the stretch. Note that this figure is weighted with more weight being given to the horse’s most recent races, so it has an element of current form built into the index.  

So, when you are done with Step 4 of evaluating the stretch run including the specific length of the race, the track bias and the field size, you should be in good shape to identify the most likely win contenders and the most likely contenders for place and show.  If these race and track influences slightly favored early horses, we would probably look for the winner to be either Horse A or Horse C. If they slightly favored late running horses, we would probably peg the winner to be either Horse E or horse C. The remaining horses are candidates for place or show finishes.  

One last point: We do believe in a comprehensive approach to handicapping. So, we recommend you look at other important handicapping factors in ALL-Ways software before making your final selections. This includes the horse’s suitability to the distance and surface, current form, class level,  speed figures, jockey and trainer ratings and overall comprehensive ratings. It is, however, pretty impressive to be able to spot the probable winners and the probable place and show horses without even looking at the horse’s speed ratings. Such is the power of a good pace handicapping process.


 
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