Pace Makes the Race…Sometimes

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You probably know by know that I call myself a pace handicapper. However, I don’t believe that pace makes the race all the time. Pace makes the race when, well, pace can make the race. Many times the least gimpy makes the race. Or the best form makes the race. Or so-called class makes the race. Final time expressed as speed figures makes the race. Our job, of course, is to know which one of these, and others, will most likely make the race that’s under review. Pace pictures will help us make that decision. I’ll use some actual races to explain all of this.

The Grade 1 Test at Saratoga few years ago (I’ve been looking through old PPs just for fun) is a wonderful example of a high probably that pace will make the race. Here’s the pace picture.

E/P4
E/P7
E/P7
E/P6
E/P4
E/P0
E/P5
E/P3
E/P7
———P5
—————–P/C (Swap Fliparoo)
—————–P/C
—————–P/C

Feel the tightness in your chest from all that early speed? As I’m sure you know, Swap Fliparoo (P/C) won going away and paid $13.80. Not bad. He had finished second in his last race, which was a Grade 2. Apparently, the masses thought that class would rule in this contest so they made Ready to Please (E/P5) the 3/1 favorite. After all, she finished second in the Mother Goose, Grade 1. My trusty Pace Pressure Gauge came up a 37 X 0! That points to late pace and a high probability a carpetbagger will win the day. Actually, lucky Swap Fliparoo got a Fast 6 pace of the race that day. Pace made the race.

Let’s do another one of those. This one is really good. Let’s head over to memory lane and visit the Bing Crosby, Grade 1, out in sunny California where the turf meets the surf at old Del Mar. Wow! Look at all of those big speed figures. One triple digit after another. Let’s do the pace picture.

—————–P/C (Pure as Gold)
—–E/P6
—–E/P7
—–E/P7
E7
E7

There’s that tightness in the chest again. Pace Pressure Gauge red lining at 34 X 2! This one is a classic pace aberration and I don’t care about class one iota here. Pure as Gold actually earned his name that day. He paid $48.20. These kinds of pace pictures expose a “demonstrable , recognizable advantage”. I forgot who said that but I like it. In other words, it can be repeated…..and for cash. The pace of the race came up par but there’s more to pace than just velocity; there’s the physiological part that begins with adrenaline, followed by lactic acid, and culminating with oxygen debt, etc.

Back at Saratoga again � The Whitney, Grade 1, tells another informative tale, I believe. Here’s the pace picture. By the way, I thought Sun King (6/1) would get up in time. Nope. He finished in a photo second. I felt the race was truly run. Everyone was in their running style. I hung my head and after a bit of pacing I excepted the result � after all, it was a 40 X1. Research will at the very least lean toward the truth.

———P3
———P5 (Invasor)
—–E/P8
—–E/P6
—–E/P6
—————P/C
———P7
E8
—————P/C

One of the honest to goodness Grade 1 horses won the race regardless of the pace, Invasor. The truth is he got by on a Fast 1 pace but still, you know. A photo finish could sway the argument back to pace but……Class made the race, I’m convinced.

Let’s remove the late edge and look at the early one. Let’s look at an early pace blowout. On August the 2nd at Del Mar in the second race there was an important lesson to learn about pace pressure and pace velocity. Sometimes it’s all about screwing it up for all the other early pace types in order to get the job done. Check this one out.

———–P2
—–E/P5
—–E/P5
—–E/P6
—–E/P5 (More Angels)
—————-P/C
—–E/P5

Going by what we’ve just talked about the P/C is our guy/gal. But wait. Pace aberrations are just that, aberrations. The question is: What happens to racehorses that don’t get into their running style? The answer, in my experience, is they don’t run their race. If you have the PPs for this race look at More Angel just to see if there’s a coup d’�tat afoot? One of those beautiful exceptions of Thoroughbred racing. Wait, he’s a sprinter stretching out. What would happen if he got loose early? What would become of the other early pace types? In my experience, horses that don’t get into their running style are horses that don’t run their race. Period. That’s twice I’ve said that. Okay. More Angels paid $21.80 to win. Pace made the race. Once again we are confronted with a “demonstrable, recognizable, advantage” that will repeat because it is focused on the most fundamental part of any kind of race.

Intermission: Please know � and I’m sure you’re already thinking about it � there are plenty of pace picture failures. Require fair odds and you’ll survive. Plus, every horse we’ve talked about must be in the competitive speed figure range. In other words, the horse must be fast enough to compete with the balance of the field. The top two speed figures in the race that are listed in one of the last three races for each horse will give you that information.

Okay. We’ve covered early and late pace aberrations at Del Mar and Saratoga. It’s been fun. But sometimes none of this pace picture business matters. It’s all about the least gimpy or pure final time ability. Here’s one from Finger Lakes on July the 30th back, way back, race number 5. Here’s the pace picture.

E5
——————–C
—–E/P0
——————–C
———P5
E0
——————–C
————-P/C (Need a Phone)

The E5 did not fit the competitive range so no wire to wire job. There’s no pace aberration. It’s mushy from here on out. The P/C won. She didn’t have a pace advantage but she had a form advantage and she had double advantage speed figures. Her last 39 and 42 Beyers were the best in the field. She only paid $8.10 but not bad on a speed figure/form play. Form and speed figures made the race.

CODA: I started all of this article writing business on the web back in 1998. I’ve only reported what I’ve found. It’s been fun. But the one thing I’ve learned in all my years of research and handicapping is that the most fundamental part of the game will always give safe harbor. Whenever I’m adrift I always come back to pace match-ups, pace pictures. Bits and pieces handicapping will never fulfill its promise until it’s integrated with the whole, pace picture handicapping. That’s my experience, anyway. If there’s a pace aberration alive I want to know.

February 5, 2010 • Posted in: Articles

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