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 • No Comments

Track Profiling

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I collect old horse racing magazines – some go back as far as 1898. One of my favorites is from 1925 called A Crystallized Manual by M. P. Walter & Co. Actually, there’s still a lot of pertinent information in that little manual. Every section of the manual has a silk type divider with a nifty axiom like “Confidence is the Result of the ‘Actual How’.

 Of course there are people who drift through life, never knowing what is going on around them. The field of turf speculation will always have it ‘submerged nine-tenths.” Well, I suppose we should make sure we’re part of the one-tenth group. Anyway, the author of the little manual could have used some advise from Hemingway because the guy was stuck in verbiage diarrhea Victorian era style. An Ernie succinct style would have made the thing a bit more enjoyable to read. But still, there’s some good stuff.

Right now I’m re-reading past issues of American Turf Monthly; some of those go back to the 1940s. So today I want to briefly address Doc Sartin’s August ‘96 article Profiling for Profit .

I’ll just give you the gist of the article and spare you the, well, verbiage: Sartin gave a few examples to demonstrate that the track profile of Santa Anita at the time came out in favor of off pace types – those horses were winning in the profile set so those types of horses were the ones we should be looking for in the future at that particular track, at least until the profile changed, you see. Could we trust it? With all due respect to Doc Sartin, I don’t think so.

Here are the fraction examples from the article:

Sprint A – 22 1/5 – 45 2/5 – 1:11 3/5
Route B – 46 4/5 -1:11 – 1:49
Route C -45 4/5 -1:10 4/5 – 1:35 4/5
Route D -47 1/5 -1:10 4/5 – 1:40 2/5
And here’s my take on the fraction examples:

Sprint A earned a pace of the race velocity figure of Fast 5
Route B earned a pace of the race velocity figure of Fast 5
Route C earned a pace of the race velocity figure of Par
Route D earned a pace of the race velocity figure of Fast 2

(Pure pace of the race pace shapes can only number three: Average/Average – Fast/Slow – Slow/Fast)
What does this tell us? Well, it tells us that one race was Average/Average, which is neutral and favors no particular running style. But it also tells us that the Pace Shapes were Fast/Slow in the other three races. Those Fast/Slow pace shapes favor off pace running styles typically. And there’s the most likely reason for the late pace track profile, at least from those examples. Plus, the article and examples did not take into consideration the effects of pace pressure if there was any, which is best expressed by the number of early pace horses vying for early position (the results charts gives us that information for the profile time frame). Crowded environments cause adrenaline surges that can cause premature fatigue, which limits available energy for stretch drives. That is not the optimum scenario for early pace horses, of course. Naturally, off pace horses would have the advantage in those situations.

I see that every race is different. A different dynamic is at work every time. Pace match-ups are different. Pace of the race velocity is different. Mishaps occur. So track profiles tell us what happened yesterday, I think. They can’t help us with today’s races. The biggest problem with track profiling, though, is this: trend-lines cannot be drawn across independent events. But that’s another story for another time.

February 4, 2010 • Posted in: Articles • No Comments

When three powerful factors come together…

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One of my favor pastimes is post-mortem analysis. Take a pile of PPs and look for magic keys. Now the cynic will say there are no magic keys in horse racing, and anybody with half a brain can go back and find stuff that works AFTER the race has been run. But there are, really, and they hold up over time because they’re based on fundamentals, not horsey angles, real fundamentals. Here’s one that has three components – pace match-up, turf breeding, and hidden improving form.

If you have the PPs handy for September 3 of this year at Monmouth, check out race number 4, horse number 6. Go find the PPs for that race before we go on…

Ok. You’re back.

The race was a MdSpWt on the turf, good. Eight of the 11 horses had established a running style. The early pace pressure was on the light side, good. Now…

Let’s go looking for a 1st or 2nd time starter on the turf that has good turf breeding and will be comfortable with the pace match-up. And let’s add an improving form pattern because
we know a horse is not much good to us if its out of form, bad form.

Hmmm….hmmmm…….hmmmm….ok….Why West, number 6 – has all three …Presser, OX form pattern, turf breeding. Let’s go through each one:

E/P5     P0     P/C4     C2
E/P7     P4     P/C0
             P3

The P4 is our filly, and she has a comfortable pace set up, it’s light.

Now look at the form pattern that I call OX. Third start off a layoff, good race (in the money) and bad race last race. So OX = 3rd start off layoff, good race/bad race. Got it.

Now for the turf breeding fundamental. The Sire Pulpit has a B Turf Sire Rating by Jim Mazur and Mike Helm. That’s a good one!

Let’s add them together: pace match-up is comfortable, improving form pattern is OX, and turf breeding is a B rating. The fundamentals equal three.

Winner – $25.60!

Yeah, yeah, yeah. The horse won THAT race but will that threesome win again. Well, check it out and see for yourself. Maybe you’re already doing this. Then you know what I’m
talking about. If not, well, check it out.

February 3, 2010 • Posted in: Articles • No Comments

CPL/CP/FFR 3+/CSFR/PCZ 5.0 Limit

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The month of January has been a good one. Here’s how. It’s called the CPL/CP/FFR 3+/CSFR/PCZ 5.0 Limit. I’ll explain in a minute. First, let’s just say I’m a profile fanatic. You could call the profiles equations, too. When they appear and the price is right I’m a happy person. I know over time I’m in the money, the black. This one that I’m about to tell you about has been in my profile book for 20 years. It’s still a nice return on investment producer. Now for the explanation one part at a time.

CPL – I call this one the class profile on the lead. Actually, the horse doesn’t have to be on the lead at the pace call but it’s usually leading at the wire. It’s on the lead where it counts. This horse must have a 2 dimensional early pace running style with 5 or more speed points; no more than 7 points. So it looks like this: E/P 5-7. I don’t use 8 speed points because too many times these types need to lead at the pace call. That’s a little risky for our purposes. Now this E/P 5-7 needs to be dropping in today’s race to its lowest claiming price out of the last three races. That’s easy enough. At the end of I’ll give you the twelve reasons that will eliminate this one from further consideration. This one must qualify on CSFR and PCZ limit 5.0…I’ll explain those in a minute.

CP – Any horse that is dropping to its lowest claiming price out of its last three races gets this designation. Just like above but aren’t E/P 5-7 types. No one dimensional early pace horses (E) or closers (C) are considered.

The Form Factor Rating – The Form Factor Rating is made up of 8 factors, which includes improving form patterns, jockey/trainer combo stats, single jockey stats and single trainer stats. The higher the number the better. The highest rating is 8; you won’t see many of these but you will see 5s and 6s, which should grab your attention when numbers are no higher than 3. In competitive races, those races with more than 3 CSFR qualifiers, you’ll find this rating a helpful tool with odds assessment. For example, in a recent race the favorite had a FFR of 3 and was 6/5 one minute to post; another contender with a FFR of 5 won the race and paid $11.20. You’ll find situations like this one often, which should answer any questions about anecdotal outcomes. You’ll also see a lot of races with clustered ratings in the 2 and 3 neighborhood, no real advantage. I look for horses with pace advantages, which includes extreme pace and pace box advantages, that have the best or one of the best FFRs in the race. Please remember that the lower the odds the more risk management we need; the Form Factor Rating will be a useful tool in that area. For example, I will wager on a pace advantaged horse with a relatively low FFR if the odds are excellent – not with mush races and low odds, however. The general rule is this: the lower the odds the higher the FFR should be; the higher the odds then relatively low FFRs are acceptable. As with every handicapping tool, they are the most useful when building contender lists and assessing odds. Well, that’s the definition of the Form Factor Rating in general play. For our purposes here we just need to remember the we need a FFR of 3 or more. Simple.

CSFR – Competitive Speed Figure Range qualifier. In the PaceAppraiser PPs these horses have speed figures in bold type. It simply means that these bold type horses have shown the ability to be competitive in today’s race final time wise. They’re fast enough to compete with today’s field.

PCZ Limit 5.0 – Pace Comfort Zone Limited to 5 lengths. For an explanation of this one see the post below in this blog. We want horses that can stay in touch with the pace setters. That’s why we have the 5.0 PCZ limit.

Here are the deal breakers:

1. No maiden or stakes races
2. No horses with 2 layoff lines in their last three races. You’ll see the lines in the PaceAppraiser PPs.
3. No long layoffs of three months or more unless the odds are above 5/1.
4. No drops below a claimed tag in last three races.
5. No unsupported turf speed figures. If the last three races were turf races then we need a dirt speed figure in bold type (CSFR).
6. No economically unsound class drops. For example, a horse drops from 25K to 5K. Beware of damaged goods!
7. No confirmed losers. 1 for 28, 2 for 36, etc. Who needs it?
8. No repeat drops in class without improvement. Drop, drop, drop…will today’s drop help? Probably not.
9. No cheaper tracks than host track.
10. No distance problems. Presser/closers stretching out, etc.
11. No races shorter than 5 furlongs or longer than 1 1/16.
12. No winners in last three races. Why drop?

I’m a simulcast player. I look all over the country for these types. It’s a terrific spot play. Since I don’t have time to do full dress handicapping at every track every day (who does), this is a great way to be involved at those other tracks without all the work. Here’s some good news. As you click through the races in your PaceAppraiser PPs, you can place your mouse pointer over each bold type horse in the pace picture and you’ll get the Form Factor Rating and the PCZ rating. If you find a potential qualifier, drop down and check it for class and the elimination rules. Don’t forget to click the Header option in the Java menu so that the header and the pace picture stay in view as you scroll down to check your potential play. It’s fast and simple.

Now here’s the real good news. So far this month I’ve found 55 qualifiers that produced an ROI of 70.4%! Seriously though, I don’t expect that ROI to last; it’s little high. But I do expect it to produce 25% long haul. That’s what my research tells me. I’ll take it.

February 2, 2010 • Posted in: Articles • No Comments

Some Key MC results (Repost)

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There are a couple key pace (Fast 5+) race types in the maiden claiming ranks that we need to be aware of.

  1. A Fast 5+ key pace race horse that does not have a speed figure in one of its last three races that’s within the competitive speed figure range is a low, low probability proposition to win. A competitive speed figure range is simply the top three speed figures in the field.
  2. Key pace (Fast 5+) horses that have a competitive speed figure in one of its last three races are much more productive.

 Now for today’s key fast pace/maiden claiming results, along with the number of qualifiers.

  1. $9.00 (1)
  2. $8.40 (2)
  3. $5.00 (2)
  4. $3.40 (1)
  5. 2       (2)
  6. X       (1)

As you can see nine horse qualified. A flat $2 bet comes to $18.00

The gross was $25.80

The profit was $7.80

The ROI was 43%

Maybe you could have made only six bets and still picked up the 4 winners.

Now let’s look at the key pace horses that did not qualify on the competitive speed figure range.

  1. X        (1)
  2. 4        (1)
  3. X        (1)
  4. 4        (1)
  5. $9.40  (1)

 Once again you can see we had to invest $10

Gross returned $9.40

Do the math. It’s a losing proposition today. Not much but still.

 Now, for all of you sample fanatics (I’m one of them) this proves nothing. It’s just a day, and very, very, very small sample. I agree. Let me say that again….I agree. But that’s not necessarily what this blog/news site is about. Since I started this in 1998 (three different sites at three different times) I’ve presented nothing more than ideas for you to track to see how things go. I believe that’s the fun of it. Oh yeah, in my inbox I’ve received some very good ideas too.

If you’re here for the first time, please read the preceding post.

January 26, 2010 • Posted in: Articles • No Comments

PaceAppraiser Update

The VG Online feature can be accessed with the “Reduce” check box and Display button. This is a condensed version of the PA PPs. We’ve had some subscribers ask for this feature because it makes it easier to use with spreadsheets. The original version did not include the pace picture; this one does.

We don’t want to overlook those important pace boxes; the Pace Box Highlighter will help.  Just click on the running style and speed points combo of the horse or horses in the pace picture to create the pace box. If you are printing with a color printer the highlight will be yellow. Laser printers will be light grey.

The Static Race Header freezes the area with the eligibility conditions and pace picture so that it’s visible as we scroll the past performances. No more up and down scroll to access the header information.

Improved scratch function–you can back out mistakes without reloading the file. The scratched horse or horses will have an X listed with its name.

The Form Factor Rating is made up of 8 factors, which includes improving form patterns, jockey/trainer combo stats, single jockey stats and single trainer stats. The higher the number the better. The highest rating is 8; you won’t see many of these but you will see 5s and 6s, which should grab your attention when numbers are no higher than 3. In competitive races, those races with more than 3 CSFR qualifiers, you’ll find this rating a helpful tool with odds assessment. For example, in a recent race the favorite had a FFR of 3 and was 6/5 one minute to post; another contender with a FFR of 5 won the race and paid $11.20. You’ll find situations like this one often, which should answer any questions about anecdotal outcomes. You’ll also see a lot of races with clustered ratings in the 2 and 3 neighborhood, no real advantage. I look for horses with pace advantages, which includes extreme pace and pace box advantages, that have  the best or one of the best FFRs in the race. Please remember that the lower the odds the more risk management we need; the Form Factor Rating will be a useful tool in that area. For example, I will wager on a pace advantaged horse with a relatively low FFR if the odds are excellent – not with mush races and low odds, however. The general rule is this: the lower the odds the higher the FFR should be; the higher the odds then relatively low FFRs are acceptable. As with every handicapping tool, they are the most useful when building contender lists and assessing odds.

January 25, 2010 • Posted in: Updates • No Comments

Critical thinking and polytrack (Repost)

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Turfway’s first meet on the polytrack surface saved horses, which is really what it’s all about. The posted fractions and final times were slower. The second meet on polytrack changed to a faster surface. Again, good for horses. The fractions and final times were faster that time ‘round.

I’m happy to report that the pace/final time energy distribution algorithms have not changed. In a perfect world, Keeneland’s polytrack results will follow suit. It’s very early, but we’re on the case.

As you would expect, the polytrack bias drums are beating in the distance. From what I’ve read at DRF we’re definitely headed for “rubber” biases now. I’m fine with that as long as about 10 other variables are included in the mix. I still receive emails from dirt track bias true believers. The basic story goes that I’m missing something and should check again. In other words, track bias is real and I’m not. I gently remind them that I never said track biases do not exist. Instead I said that a single bit of information that is used as a predictor of future outcomes cannot be divorced from the environment from which it lives, which is basic General Systems Stuff. And, too, we don’t want to get caught in a critical thinking fallacy called the non sequitur.

While we’re at it let’s see if we can use critical thinking to solve another handicapping dilemma. This one is called confirmation bias. It’s a deadly one. Fanatics of all religions – and that includes the church kind and the political kind –  are mesmerized by this fallacy. It seems human beings have a deep abiding love for ignoring information that does not support their world view/belief system. Handicapping is no different. This fallacy leads researchers down the road to perdition. I know because I’ve been there.

Back when I began researching the Super Sprinter I was blinded for a while by this fallacy. I came to realize that the data must speak to me and not the other way around. In other words, I believed a super sprinter exists and I was hell bent on finding it. That hell bent attitude caused me to imperceptibly  ignore evidence that did not support my belief. But I could not ignore the money I was losing. That was the wakeup call. I learned the hard way that a confirmatory bias fallacy ultimately leads to failure. I’m happy to report that I changed my ways and the Super Sprint appeared from the data and then was named. I learned that naming something and then going about finding it is not the correct course of action – let the data name it. Another handicapping conundrum solved with critical thinking.

January 23, 2010 • Posted in: Articles • No Comments