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Breeders' Cup 2017

Equinometry 101

HRN Original Blog:
Equinometry 101

Pace Makes the Race Again and Again and Again

My Miss Sophia wins 2014 Gazelle.
Photo: David Alcosser, NYRA

It's been said over and over and passed down from generation to generation: pace makes the race.  A fast contested pace will aid horses that come from the back of the pack and a slow uncontested pace will aid the front runner.  Most of the time an extreme pace is obvious and the contenders that figure to benefit most take all the money but occasionally that's not the case.

This past weekend the focus was on the two Triple Crown prep races, the Wood Memorial and Santa Anita Derby, but lost in the chaos that is Derby season were three text book examples of pace making the race.

Gazelle Stakes

The Gazelle was a case of the obvious lone front runner getting bet hard.  My Miss Sophia looked like the only speed and the race played out exactly that way. Bet down to odds on My Miss Sophia secured a spot in the starting gate of the Kentucky Oaks with her dominating 7 1/4 length win at Aqueduct.  She is three for three and is very fast.

Santa Anita Oaks

The Santa Anita Oaks looked like a carbon copy of the Gazelle with a single front runner.  In this case, however she was not sent off as the favorite and at 2/1 was an overlay in my opinion.  The horse, Fashion Plate, secured a clear lead and maintained it all the way to the wire holding off the overbet and pace compromised Ria Antonia.

Carter Handicap

The highlight of the Saturday Aqueduct card was the aforementioned Wood Memorial but it was not the final stakes.  The Carter was the final leg of the all stakes Pick 4 and like the Gazelle and Santa Anita Oaks had a lone front runner.  In this case pace players were rewarded as Dads Cap was ignored in the betting and sent off at 10/1.  As I mentioned in my Pick 4 wagering strategy I thought Dads Cap could turn the tables on Strapping Groom and the only threat would be Sahara Sky. On class Sahara Sky was the superior horse but his running style put him at a distinct disadvantage.  Dads Cap was fast enough to compete at the GI level and the pace advantage was enough to carry him to his first GI win.  He paid $23.60 and Sahara Sky completed the $138.50 exacta.

Past Performances Do Not Guarantee Future Success

The examples above not only illustrate how pace affects the outcome of most races but also provide several other important takeaways.

First I can't tell you how many times I have heard horseplayers complain when a horse reverses a decision over another horse.  "He just got beat by five by the same horse, how could you bet him today?"  I used to be one of those players and it took me a while to figure out that what happened last week, last month or last year doesn't mean the same thing will happen today.  No two races are alike and even if the fields are very similar the post positions will be different, the jockeys might be different, the pace might be different, and on and on.  There are so many variables in determining the outcome of a horse race and changing one can alter the outcome.

In the Tom Fool a few weeks ago Dads Cap was not able to hold off Strapping Groom at a shorter distance than the Carter.  Most players expected Dads Cap to wilt in the final furlong but he didn't.  He was able to set a comfortable pace and Strapping Groom's rider seemed more worried about Sahara Sky than Dads Cap.  He made an early move and had nothing left late, which cost him the race.

The takeaway is you need to handicap every race as if it was run in a vacuum.  Sure the past performances guide you but you must envision how the race will be run today.  Do that and you will find yourself landing on more winners and often at bigger prices.

This leads to the second big takeaway, which is don't fall into the trap of backing a horse that was able to set an uncontested pace if that horse won't have the same situation occur today.  The two fillies mentioned above are prime candidates for this pitfall.  Both My Miss Sophia and Fashion Plate set uncontested paces in their respective races.  Both won't have that same luxury next time.  One might but at the expense of the other and quite possibly neither will.  In a race that will likely attract a field of ten or more the Kentucky Oaks pace will likely be totally different than either the Gazelle or Santa Anita Oaks.

Social Inclusion was the poster horse for this situation.  He was able to set an uncontested pace in both previous starts and in his allowance win did so while setting a slow pace (according to TimeformUS pace figures).  In the Wood Memorial he figured to have trouble getting the lead and if he did it wouldn't be slow.  At 8/5 he was a bad bet as he had to prove he was not one dimensional and prove he could handle the extra distance and prove he could handle the jump to the GI level and overcome a tough post.  He failed so it's not out of the question that one or both of the fillies mentioned above will do the same in Kentucky on the first Friday in May.


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Older Comments about Pace Makes the Race Again and Again and Again...

many of the angles I discovered are still refered to by the names I gave them: ORder within Chaos, STyle over Substance, 2nd call maidens, the Daymon Runyon. the Pizzola window, the montoring of race biases by early/late balance was my discovery...
I was an instructor of the methodology and mangaed a web group of over 400 at its peak for over 9 years
All it reminds me of is the Wannabees who have no clue as to how to apply the theory,yet ramble on and on and on.
figuring out the various pace styles of a race involved much more than "eyeballing" their beaten lengths. Often one finds a projected lone speed animal from line after line of running 3rd or 4th early just versus faster paces of race than the animal will meet today. It had often amazed me that detractors who know NOTHING of a sbuject always harp on it as rubbish. Davidowitz wrote and embarassing chapter in his book (Betting Thoroguhbreds) calling pace analysis psuedo-science that just HAPPENED to have been deleted in its' thrid printing as the real world users of Sartin wrote back to his ignorance in droves. Remind me a lot about those who go after evolution and have NO idea as regards the basic premise.
To a degree i do agree with you. But you are basically staing common sense and making it sound as though it is a science. You stratigically give 3 examples from this past Weekends races. Let us examine them. In the Santa Anita Oaks> you fail to mention that the winner was by far the fastest horse in the race.You make it sound as though she was not the favorite in the race. The only reason she was not the favorite,was due to the extremely positive trainer change for Post Time favorite Ria. Bottom line is that take away the hype.The fastest horse in the race going in,was the fastest horse exiting the race. Let us now go to the Gazelle,the winner was 2/5 and looked every bit of it going into the race. She held such an advantage it was not even funny. To steal a racetrack pun,she could of fallen down and dusted herself off. She still would of won the race.She was that much better than the field. In the Carter,Rudys horse did go on the lead.But you fail to mention that his speed figures were about 2 lengths slower than the contenders. I look at it more han the others did not run their race,as much as the winner finally pulled through. Regarding the winner,if pace does truly make the race. In his previous race at AQ. on Gotham Day,it ws an extremely speed favoring day. In that race he opened up an easy lead. The Jacobson horse who he beat in the Carter came off the pace to pass him as though he was standing still.Please tell me why the pace did not make the race on that day.
my gosh SOME ONE gets it. Barvo

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About The Blog

 Lenny Moon is the founder of Equinometry.com where he shares his thoughts on handicapping and betting horses and handicapping contests and WagerLogged.com a site designed to take the hassle out of one of the most important parts of being a profitable horseplayer: record keeping. You can also occasionally find him in the grandstand of Laurel Park and more often in a handicapping contest on Derby Wars.  He can also be found on Twitter @Equinometry.

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