Horse Racing Selections and Handicapping Reports
Pace, speed and Class (basic concept)
We all know what speed and pace figures are. But, how are they related and when to or not to use them?
In this article we will cover how and whens of figure handicapping using our Speed, Pace and Class figures.
In general, pace and speed are negatively related as class and speed are positively related.
The faster the pace, the slower the speed figure. The higher the class, the higher the speed figures.
The concept is easily noticed with younger or lower class and less noticeable with stake runners.
A point worth mentioning here is that throughout this article the mentioned speed, pace or class refer to TOTAL figures and not previous individual speed figures or pace call figures.
Another strong point to mention is the quality of speed and pace figures. A good figure handicapper will always determine how reliable the figures are and plays them accordingly. By reliable, we mean that one should always be aware of where the figures came from. Figures by young horses (2-3 life time starts) or ones after a very long lay off should be looked at accordingly.
Pace, speed and Class (Common Sense Handicapping)
Pace is the pressure a horse face in the race. Higher quality horses can handle the pressure and still finish strong (earn a good speed figure). Lower class or younger horses can't.
How to use this concept?
For example, try horses that are moving from Maiden to Allowance company. The horse will face better competition and a more demanding pace. For this horse to be considered for a top spot finish, the horse should have a speed figure comparable to race's speed par and pace figure comparable to other contenders' pace figures. This is not limited to Mdn to Alw moves but any move up the class. When comparing class figures, lower class figures have to have comparable pace figures to be considered serious competition to higher class figure horses in the field.
Another example of comparing speed and pace figures is when spotting horses that are trying a new distance or surface for the first time. When pace figures are higher than speed by more than a few points, these horses are less likely to succeed the first time stretching out or trying the turf. I like a round 10% difference, like if horse's pace figure is 90 and speed figure at 80 or lower. (10% of 90 is 9, subtract 9 from 90 to find the limit for speed figure)
This just shows that unless jockey and trainer find a way to stop the horse from buring all it has in the tank early in the race, the horse will be running on empty down the stretch.
These were just a few examples of how our figures could effectively be used to better handicap the races.
We will cover different class and age group races next, then will cover the turf races.
Maiden Claiming and Claiming Races
Maiden claiming races are usually slow and the stand out in pace figure has a good chance of winning.
This will specially hold for horses dropping down in class. (pace and class figure advantage)
In first half a of the year (up to around June) if a 3 year old is dropped down in claiming price or entered back in a claiming race at major tracks is mostly due to connections considering the horse untalented. Untalented and cheap claimers usually don't have the speed to step up and show unpredictable speed ratings for no apparent reason.
Because of this, speed figures can't be used to seperate the horses. Pace figures combined with early pace (EP) figures point towards horses that can take the lead early and often finish on top due to lack of talent of others in the field to challenge.
We break down the claiming races in two groups, low class and medium to high. You need to make the distinction for the circuit that is played. As a guide line, we call it a "low class claimer " when bellow 25K at major tracks and 12K at minor tracks.
Medium to high class claiming races are often decided by speed figures. As the class and quality of horses in a field increase, the handicapping value of total pace figure decreases. This is mainly due to the fact that higher class horses can handle different pace scenarios therefore pace figures in these races are too close to be used to seperate the contenders. Therefore, you are looking for horses that can handle the pace and still turn in a good performance/speed.
Low class claiming races are mostly decided by pace and speed figures combined. The cheaper the race, the more of a mechanical system of totaling or avereging the two figures you can use. Between the top contenders, the higher the pace and speed figures of a horse, the better chances of winning the race.
2 Year Olds in route races
When 2 year olds are entered in routes, in early half of the year, the horses with superior speed figures are favorable since pace figures are unreliable. Later in the year, we prefer a 2 year old with good pace figure over one with better speed figure. (a more improved 2 year old)
Allowance and Stakes Races for 3-4 year olds
In allownce and stake races for 3 year olds, both speed and pace are equally important. As improving animals, they may have the superior pace figures but lack the power to finish strong. Only the few that show both superior speed and pace are candidates to move up to next levels of competition.
A quick way of estimating the true ability of a 3 year old in stakes races, add the speed and pace figures then compare the totals.
When comparing improving 3 year olds that are stepping up in class, they may have the total pace figure to be competitive but if their early pace (EP) figures are too far off the EP par, they should be looked at suspiciously. As a rule of thumb, when horses stepping up in class, they will face a more intense competition during early part of the race. That's why it's important for the horse to have early pace numbers comparable to par or other contenders to be successful.
In 4 year olds and up races, as the class increase the handicapping value of pace and speed will decrease to the point that we do not consider speed and pace figures to be a factor in graded stakes races. We will use the figures to seperate the legitimate contenders from those who are just there to fill the race. Class figures become the most important factor in graded stakes races for older horses. The longer the race or closer the speed figures, the more important the class figures.
Few Misc. Pointers
In stake races, as a rule of thumb, two declining recent speed figures (SP1-SP2) indicate a negative or declining form and do not expect a rebound.
Also in stakes races, when a horse turn in a dull effort when racing after 4-6 weeks, this indicate a negative form cycle and backing the horse should be avoided till indications of positive form cycle is present.
In sprints, between two horses with equal pace figures, favor the horse with better turn speed. (TSP)
Pace, speed and Class (Turf Races)
In turf races, because of the softer footing, the horses need to have a higher degree of endurance than if running on dirt. Grass races are usually run slower at the begining to conserve energy and have an all out race down the stretch. Since early positioning and tactics are very important for the best final performance, horses have to have strong favorable pace figures.
Turf races favor horses that have comparable early pace figures and strong late kick as oppose to dirt races where closers win less than their share of the races. The other important factors are pedigree and class for older horses.
We prefer our turf runners to have pace fractions that are close to par or to other contenders' EP and TSP and a strong late pace or an evenly distributed pace fractions and comparable total pace figure. For example:
EP TSP LP
75 80 88 pattern with EP and TSP being close to par or other contenders' EP-TSP or,
80 82 82 pattern with total pace being comparable to par or other contenders' pace figures.
In 1st and 2nd turf starts, we consider pedigree to be the deciding factor. This is mainly due to the fact that either the young horses do not have any pace and class figures or the available figures are on the dirt which are not very reliable on grass.
Couple of overlooked points in turf races worth mentioning is that far more turf runners turn in a good performance after long layoffs than do horses on dirt.
Another difference between dirt and turf races is the increased value of a good jockey in turf races.
These are mainly due to slow early pace of the grass races.
First, even slightly out of form horses after a layoff will not burn out by a strong early pace and second, early maneuver and positioning of the horse by jockeys before the stretch run is essential to an effective late run to the wire.