Analysis: What can we glean from legit Belmont Stakes pace?

June 11, 2019 11:01am
Before moving on from the Belmont Stakes, let's dive into the pace and speed figures from Saturday's race won by Sir Winston with a few ideas of what it could mean for handicappers moving forward in the summer's biggest races for 3-year-olds.

With Joevia setting the fractions, many have mentioned the Belmont pace went slower than expected. But the numbers -- both raw fractions and TimeformUS Pace Figures -- don't back that up.

In a 1 1/2-mile race, what's considered fast changes because of the distance. The same is true when comparing any races where the difference is at least two furlongs. For example, “fast” for six furlongs is not the same as a mile. Why should fast at 10 furlongs mean the same at 12?

Even though the marathon distance is rarely seen, it's not fair to compare times to the more common nine- and 10-furlong counterparts.

To dispel this logic, here are Joevia’s final TimeformUS Pace Figures for the Belmont: 135, 126 and 122.

Now, 135 is not high enough to get a red marking, indicating fast, but it's certainly not slow.

The 135 is tied to the 48.79-second half mile. Without accounting for any different run-up or no second turn in the nine-furlong configuration, a moderate half mile for a 1 1/8-mile race at Belmont Park falls around 47 seconds flat.

Therefore, it only makes sense that 48.79 is at the higher end of moderate for 1 1/2 miles, since what is considered fast for the half-mile rises along with the distance.

Later in the race, Joevia earned a 126 for the next pace figure as he crossed the one-mile point in 1:38.27, and then a 122 for the third pace figure late in the race when he hit the 1 1/4-mile mark in 2:02.72.

TimeformUS marked both middle fractions in red. So we have those two indicators along with the initial 135 that's arguably fast, even though it didn't receive the official designation.

Without looking at the raw fractions, it might seem like the top two received pace setup, as Joevia, who was joined by Tax, gave up their positions to Sir Winston and Tacitus.

Sir Winston began the Belmont in eighth, and Tacitus settled in seventh. Only Bourbon War and Master Fencer were behind them.

When the first two spots at the finish are taken by closers, it generally means the pace went moderate to fast. Granted, one could also explain the finish by saying Sir Winston and Tacitus were built for the 1 1/2 miles better than their rivals.

But even Master Fencer began to pick up horses in the race’s last few moments after loping along the back for most of the fractions.

Bourbon War remained at the back, but he had distance issues. His precocious dam, My Conquestadory, did not seem like the long distance type.

Intrepid Heart could not close from sixth place. But his problem is inexperience, as he still breaks awkward and does not give the impression he understands this game. The talent might be there, but the public overrated him in the Belmont.

As for Everfast not riding the rail to a closer finish than seventh, he has always been hot or cold. He might fire one day and finish last a month later.

Notice Spinoff chased in third and faded to sixth, while Preakness winner War of Will ran outside Spinoff in fourth and folded to ninth.

However, it is notable Sir Winston arguably cut off War of Will at the top of the stretch and stopped his momentum. But unlike the Kentucky Derby, War of Will put up no fight after the incident, signaling a tired horse.

In any case, I'll call the Belmont pace somewhere in between moderate and fast. The field did not spread out as it does in a suicidal pace scenario, but the initial leaders, Joevia and Tax, did give the closers a legitimate pace to chase.

For what it is worth, in the Brooklyn Stakes (G2) at 1 1/2 miles two races later, Marconi took the field through dawdling fractions in 50.87, 1:40.45 and 2:04.16.

If arguing the Belmont Stakes pace was slow, then what kind of pace did Marconi set?

Marconi did finish well, winning the Brooklyn and completing the distance in 2:28.97, not too far off Sir Winston’s winning time of 2:28.30. On the TimeformUS scale, Sir Winston earned a final 119 speed figure, while Marconi ran a 115. The Beyer Speed Figure team awarded Sir Winston a 95 and Marconi a 94.

Looking ahead to summer 3-year-old races, 
ased on the pace figures, Joevia deserves respect based on the pace figures. As for Sir Winston and Tacitus, marathon speed figures are not the best tools to use at shorter distances.

Perhaps Sir Winston is improving based on his Belmont win and a strong closing kick to be second in his prep, the Peter Pan Stakes (G3).

Tacitus seems to just runs evenly the entire way around. If he does pick up another nine-furlong win, it will need to be set up by a hot pace.

For my money, Maximum Security, last seen in the Kentucky Derby, is the 3-year-old to catch.

The top of this division now splits into either Monmouth Park's Haskell Invitational (G1) or Saratoga's Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) in the coming months. They will hopefully all converge again in the Travers Stakes (G1) later in the summer.


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Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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