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The Math of Early Speed

I've been thinking about the math of early pace running styles, especially the one-dimensional types. Since we play this game with an eye on the odds (or should), it's important to know the probabilities of a 1D early pace horse making its running style in the early going. As surely as a new day will dawn, if your one dimensional front runner is not free by the first call you can stroll (stumble?) confidently to the nearest trash bin, shred your ticket into tiny pieces and toss them down the hole.

Anytime I hear someone cheering on a one-dimensional early pace horse that's sitting 5th, say, at the 5/16th pole I momentarily revisit in my mind's eye the days when my ignorance of running styles and pace match-ups made a race nothing more than a spinning roulette wheel....."come on baby, come on". Of course, they never did "come on". Now my one-dimensional-come-on-baby-chants don't make it past the first quarter mile. If a handicapper can eliminate just one loser in ten races it just might be enough to turn a profit. Thinking is good.

Let's start with an imaginary pace picture along with the odds. We're only interested in the two 1D horses.

E8 (4/5)
E7 (5/2)

Now that that's done we need to revisit an old and trustworthy book, Winning at the Races, Computer Discoveries in Thoroughbred Handicapping (1979), by William L. Quirin, Ph.D. As you know, Quirin came up with the speed point idea....and what an idea it has been. They work! Two things I will not do: Handicap a race without speed points. Handicap a race without pace of the race velocity. Here's a break down on speed point totals (SPT) and gaining a position among the first three by the first call.

SPT %FCP 1-3

But now we must reflect the early speed probabilities of all the other horses in the race. I will quote Quirin, "To calculate these probabilities, simply add the percentages corresponding to the speed point totals for each horse in the race, and divide the sum into the percentage for each horse in question. Multiply by three, since there are three early leaders (FCP 1-3), and you have the probability the given horse will be among the first three at the first call."

Now we have a little problem. Since we're talking about one-dimensional early pace horses, we need the LEAD by the first call. A position among the top three is not good enough unless we're on the lead. We'll deal with that problem in a minute.

Let's do the math.

86.1 + 70.4 + 56.7 + 66.4 + 31.6 + 31.6 + 19.8 = 362.6
Our E8 has a 71% chance of a top three position at the first call (2/5)
Our E7 has a 56% chance of a top three position at the first call (4/5)

Let's not multiply by three and see what we get.

Our E8 (the favorite) has a 23% chance of being on the lead by the first call -that's (7/2)
Our E7 has a 19% chance of being on the lead by the first call - that's (4/1)

Now let's look at the odds on the board:

The E8 is offered at 4/5 or a 55% chance of winning. The odds of this horse grabbing the lead? (7/2), a 22% chance. Now would you want to key or single this horse in any of your exotic tickets? I don't think so. How about the E7? A 19% chance of grabbing the lead and offered on the board at 5/2. A great win bet, right? Again, I don't think so. A 4/1 (20%) chance of grabbing the lead is not good enough at the offered price of 5/2 (28% win).

I got a little creative with the numbers by not multiplying by 3 but it's close enough and you get the idea. Just like a one run closer, a one-dimensional front runner will break your bank and your heart. There are always exceptions, of course, but in most cases the race is over at the first call for the pure 1D early pace types. Make sure the odds of grabbing the lead are better than the odds offered on the board.......after all, this game is all about value.