Using Early Fractions and Final Times to Handicap Horse Races – Part One

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Pace and times are a complicated subject and I couldn’t possibly put everything you need to know to be a successful pace handicapper into this one article. I have been studying pace and handicapping for years and I am still learning. However, just understanding the relationship between early fractions and final times is a good place to start when learning horse racing handicapping.

How fast a horse runs at the start of a race has a lot to do with how it will finish the race. You also have to factor into that equation the track variant and running style of the race. For the sake of this article, we’ll leave the variant out of our handicapping. I’ll write about that in part two.

There are different running styles and of course there is also a jockey who may try to change a horse’s running style and natural pace. For instance, if a horse is a closer that likes to start a race at an easy pace and then gradually build up speed, putting in a good final rush at the end of datos de carreras americanas gulfstream park hoy the race, the jockey may decide that just won’t do and pushes the horse to move faster at the beginning. This may or may not work out well. It will depend upon how well the horse adapts to the faster early fractions and how fast the other runners run in the final fractions.

The important aspect for the handicapper to note and use to his or her advantage is whether this tactic was used on a horse in its last race. If a horse was urged to run faster than it wanted to in the early stages, or was throttled back in the early stages, it may have a negative impact so the animal’s last race is not a good indication of its current form or ability. When I am looking through the past performances and see a line that is out of character compared to the rest, I know something was up and must try to determine why the jockey rode in this fashion.

Let’s take a 6 furlong event as our horse racing handicapping example and look at the fractions to try to understand the relationship of early pace to late pace and overall race times. First of all, let’s say this is a five horse field. The favorite, let’s call him Bob, an early speedster, shows a first quarter of 24 in its last race, a 48 in the half mile call and a 1:10 flat for the final time. No other horse in the race shows a 1:10 so the crowd figures Bob is the fastest horse in the race.

A closer look at the Bob’s lines indicates that he ran on the lead, unopposed in his last race, 2 lengths ahead of the next horse. Bob got loose in the race and managed to set the fractions and run his own race. He may not be so lucky in this race however, because Sam, another early speedster is also in the race. Sam wasn’t so lucky in his last race. He teamed up in an early speed duel and ran the fractions in 23:2, 46:4, finishing his last race in 1:10:4 and losing by four lengths. Both Bob and Sam are probably going to hook up in this race and if the jockeys can’t keep them on a sensible pace, they will use most of their energy in a speed battle.

If that happens and they run side by side and set the same fractions that Sam set in his last battle, Bob will probably not be able to manage another 1:10 flat unless the track is a heavily speed favoring track. If Sam’s jockey can rate his horse just behind Bob but push Bob along as Bob tries to maintain a lead like he did in his last race, Sam may be able to win.

For instance, if Bob feels the pressure from Sam in the first quarter and they go 23:2, but then Sam’s rider manages to back him off for an easier second quarter, of say 48:1, while Bob, still feeling the heat from Sam races three lengths ahead of him and runs a 47:3, then Bob is going to be mighty tired entering the stretch, whereas Sam might have a little left in the tank to put him away. With that softer second quarter mile, Sam may be able to come close to Bob’s earlier mark of 1:10 flat. Even if he misses it by a tick or two, Bob will not be around to challenge him.

The point is that racing a few ticks faster earlier in the race can amount to a lot more at the end of the race. Going the first quarter in 23:2 instead of 24, and the second in 47:3 instead of 48 may amount to a finish in 1:12! The difference isn’t always the same but must be calculated exponentially. A tick in the first quarter can be 3 or 4 at the end of the race.

Of course, all of this is hypothetical based on what you think each jockey and horse will do in the situation. There are still three other horses in the race who must be reckoned with. In this case, if you think that Sam’s jockey will do just what I’ve outlined and will actually have the better horse at the end, the next thing to look for is any horse in the field that will benefit from that pace duel and the softening of Bob.

Finding a horse that will be coming from off the pace and closing in the stretch may put you on a longer priced winner or a horse to play with Sam in an exacta. In this scenario, the favorite may well run out of the money or at least miss the top two spots. It is a golden opportunity to make some money from good horse racing handicapping.

Now the disclaimer, don’t always expect horses to run the way you think they’ll run. Horse races are hard fought sporting events. Jockeys must make split second decisions, many things can happen during a race that will alter the result.

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