Pace Makes the Race

Pace is so important in trying to handicap a horse race. It impacts how the race is run and more importantly how the race will finish. You’d be surprised how many people don’t put enough stock into figuring out the pace of a race. Many who do rely on tools or figures to predict or calculate pace. This is one area I personally feel the human brain has the edge on technology.


You can program a lot of statistics into a computer model. You can apply plenty of factors and algorithms into an early or late pace figure. You can’t program intangibles. Trainers who train for speed, riders who like to send as opposed to riders who like to take back. Riders who will only go if nobody else does. These types of things should be in your mental notes or your stored written notes if you keep them as I do.


I have a very specific way I calculate pace. For me it is a tremendous advantage to know who is going to be running and how fast at key points in a race. Equally as important is knowing who won’t be running or finishing as fast as the others, especially that last quarter mile.


They say one second equals about 5 lengths. I am more comfortable saying between 5 and 6 lengths depending on distance, surface etc. When I handicap a race I try and paint a picture. I believe there is no shortcut and I treat a wager like an investment. To paint that picture I try and figure out who is on the lead or pace, who is stalking it, who is sitting mid-pack and who is closing or even lagging. To do this I have to know how fast horses run each quarter. As opposed to looking at the winners or leaders spilts I look at each Individual horses spilts which of course will include the leader and eventual winner. This allows me to have a good idea of who will be where when, and who will be running when it counts.


Knowing these things will help you decipher who is the speed when it appears there is no speed. Someone is going to the lead. It may be a horse who usually stalks.and sits 3rd or 4th a length or two back but if nobody in the race runs a faster first quarter and nobody is a bel bent get the front at all costs horse, good shot the stalker is setting the pace.


It will also help you know whether to bet, or bet against a lone speed. Lone speed is often an advantage but they don’t all win do they? We have all been frustrated in races, especially in grass races when nobody goes and one horse gets out or goes out and sets slow fractions. Sometimes they win, but sometimes they also get inhaled the same way a horse that went too fast does. Maybe it’s class, or maybe it’s pace. Yes, pace. A horse can go slow early but if horses who consistently come home faster are close enough what happens? Inhaled.


It takes work, but if you put in the time you will get rewarded at times. The spilts don’t lie. They are what they are.


We recently did a seminar on Pace Makes The Race and how it plays out at different distances and over different surfaces. We hit a lot of key points and even some intangibles. You can check it out here:


See you all next week. Saratoga and Del Mar will be here before you know it and we’ll know who’ll be in front. Pace makes the race! 

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Jon Stettin

Since childhood, Jon has always had a deep love and respect for the Sport of Kings. His years of experience have earned him a well respected spot in the industry as a handicapper. He now is a frequent contributor to AmWager as well as writing for his own site.

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