First up I would like mention that my RAFF POWER Data Service has been going well, about to enter it’s 4th month on Wednesday December 3rd, which will be the first day of racing for the new month at Hollywood Park (and then later at Santa Anita Park) and Aqueduct, which will begin it's campaign on the winterized Inner Dirt track.

Below is a capsule shot of the RAFF POWER data regarding yesterday’s big race at Hollywood Park, The Grade 1 Hollywood Derby at a mile and a quarter on the grass.

It presents the order of listing of the first 4 entries according to last out and previous race raw final fractions, and includes actual final fractions of the entries as well as other pertinent information, including indicators that reflect any what I refer to as "Red-Scan" gains.


7 Californian (GB) ML 30

LAST( 57) 23.0 / 23.0
T Even
PREV(106) 24.3 / 25.1 Stale

8 Sweet Return (GB) ML 8 - Won - $35.40

LAST( 57) 23.0 / 22.3

PREV( 85) 23.2 / 23.0

11 Urban King (IRE) ML 8

LAST( 57) 23.0 / 22.2
PREV( 90) 24.1 / 24.2
T Even

14 Fairly Ransom ML 4.5 - 2nd – Ex. $191.00

LAST( 85) 23.2 / 23.1
PREV(106) 23.4 / 23.0 Stale


The wire to wire winner #8 Sweet Return was indeed the most logical contender for the win according to RAFF POWER data with his last out 23/22.3 coupled with his previous outing final fractions of 23.2/23.0.

The horse that beat Sweet Return in his previous outing was 2nd place finisher in this race #14 Fairly Ransom, who completed the nice exacta in race 9 on Sunday 11/30/03.

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For decades now there have been numerous discussions about pace and its relevance to handicapping and winning thoroughbred horse races.

Is it a relationship between raw and/or actual fractional times of the different segments of a race and the final time?

Is it best measured by velocity ratings, or the familiar fractional split times we are used to seeing reflected in 5ths of a second in our past performance listings?

Matching up entries with regard to pace is certainly no easy feat.

It would be fairly simple if the perfect world existed in which we were frequently handicapping races that were composed of entries that had each competed in their last 5 races or so at the same track and distance on the same surface.

But matching up a field of horses that includes some going route to sprint, some making a surface switch from grass to dirt and/or sloppy to fast, having run at 3 different venues, among other possible scenarios makes the pace analysis aspect of handicapping very complex indeed.

On many occasions, but not all.

I think the best place to start when considering pace in any match up is to identify and label running styles.

Once that has been accomplished, we can get a clear picture of the pace shape, a topic that was also discussed in Issue No. 6 of this newsletter back in March of 2003 if you want to go the the archived issues page and re-read that edition.

Running style labeling/pace shape analysis is one of the 3 main areas of focus in my book, "Calibration Handicapping - The Next Level ."

And the most common scenario in which we will find pace shape advantages is the one in which there is a dominant speed horse that projects to get a fairly easy lead, set reasonable early fractions, and then have plenty left in reserve to go on for the score.

There is simply no more potent and most likely to win play in all of horseracing.

And usually an easy lone speed horse will have a "breather" at some point during one of the segments of the race.

In most sprints the segments include the first quarter, the second quarter ending at the 4F point (pace call) and the remaining distance to the finish.

In most routes those segments are the first half mile or 4F, the 6F point (pace call), and the distance remaining from there to the finish.

If a horse gets an uncontested lead in the first segment of the race, he usually is able to relax and slow down in the 2nd segment, which allows him to have enough left in the tank to go on for the win, sometimes easily and sometimes in a close finish, depending upon how fast he had to go early to secure the lead.

As I've said many times, in my handicapping book I stress three areas: pace shape, moves-within-a-race (along with what I call Red-Scan Qualifying gains), and final fraction comparison.

When a pace shape indicates a strong advantage for early speed, that can and often does become the most important factor. If the pace shape of a race indicates the presence of only one, two or three early speed types with the remainder of the field composed of mostly closers, and one of those speeds can be identified as dominant over the other early runners, that is a situation that often outperforms all other aspects of handicapping.

So how do we identify or isolate a clear pace shape advantage horse?

Well, as I stated earlier the beginning point is to label each horse its correct running style.

So let's begin with that part of the handicapping process with Race 3 run at Aqueduct on Thursday 11/17/03.

You can view and/or print the p.p.'s for this race by clicking here.

And the results chart is here.

This was a field of just 6 going a flat mile around one turn out of the Aqueduct chute. The pace shape reflected a slight tendency toward favoring early speed, but an analysis of pace showed a clearly dominant in-form front runner.

I'll list the entries in post position order followed by their running style, last out Beyer speed figure, last out raw/actual final fraction, and any last out "moves-within-a-race."

1. Abreeze EP 84 27.3/27.2 ---

2. Justification P 92 25.1/27.0 ---

3. Regal Sanction EP 87 24.1/25.2 WIR

4. Cottage S 91 27.3/26.2 ---

5. Classic Endeavor EP 38 25.1/31.0 --- STALE

6. Free of Love P 89 25.3/26.1

Generally speaking, a pace shape that is tilted toward early speed horses will have fewer entries with that running style than pressers and closers.

In this match up, however, despite there being an equal number of early runners and presser/closers, 3 of each, pace shape analysis indicated a strong horse from among the 3 that tended to run on or near the early pace.

One of the many features and benefits that the new handicapping/making money on the thoroughbreds software product that I and my software design team are committed to creating (the first functional piece of which having been designed and developed already - the Viewer) will include a comprehensive look at pace and pace shape for each race run on a particular card.

A pace shape analysis of race 3 at Aqueduct on 11/27/03 reveals that from the 3 early speeds present, #'s 1, 3, and 5, #1 Abreeze could be considered the speed of the speed in this match up with a very good chance to get to the front by himself.

Pace analysis is mostly concerned with the 3 segments of the race I mentioned earlier, but when you are confronted with a pace shape that you believe favors the early runners in the field, you should take a careful look at the first 2 of those segments.

If we compare the first 2 segments of the last race of the 3 speeds in the race we are now discussing, we can see why I say Abreeze could have been projected to get an easy lead:

1. Abreeze: 22.2 44.4 110.2

3. Regal Sanction: 46.4 110.0

5. Classic Endeavor: 23.3 47.1 112.0

As we can see in the 9F race Regal Sanction was exiting there was no 2F split listed as there was for the other 2 speeds who were coming off 8 1/2F and 8F races respectively.

The first 2 segments of the race Abreeze was exiting were run as fast as many 6F sprints could be expected to be run at Belmont in October, very fast indeed.

There was a loose on the lead front runner in that race that opened up 15 lengths by the end of the first segment of 4 furlongs.

Abreeze was chasing him the whole way in 2nd, and made a middle move when cutting into the lead of that one by 8 lengths by the time they reached the 6F point in the race.

Because of the furious early splits both the loose front runner and Abreeze both faded back to finish 4th and 5th respectively in a field of 5, Abreeze finishing dead last.

But there were two points of significance. First of all he was only beaten by 5 3/4 lengths, but secondly and much more importantly, he was involved in those impossible early fractions on a track variant of 29!

If you look at Regal Sanction who was coming out of the next fastest 6F split you'll see that he had run at the Meadowlands which on that day and for that race featured a track variant of only 8.

Big huge difference.

The 3rd speed horse was #5 Classic Endeavor, and he had been away from the races for 146 days. When last seen he had collapsed to finish last beaten 28 1/2 lengths and 34 3/4 lengths in his last 2 outings, and his work tab for his return was not consistent.

Therefore he could be eliminated from top 3 contender status because he could be projected to try to run with the speed of the speed horse, #1 Abreeze.

In many match ups like this when a horse gets away to an easy lead, which could have been projected for Abreeze to do, the horse or sometimes horses that chase that leader will often fall back out of it.

After all, they are speed types to begin with and don't particularly have the inclination or ability to close from off the pace. So if they can't get to the front, or at least stay within close contact of the leader, they will usually fall back, often out of the money.

Since Classic Endeavor had some knocks on him anyway, he was a good one to toss out of this race and put on non-contender status.

The raw 6F split of the last race he competed in was 112.0 on 14 track variant anyway, so he in no way figured to be able to go with Abreeze in his first try off the layoff. The trainer's plan for him was probably to try to run with Abreeze for as long as he could and then let him fade back out of it, thereby prepping him for his next outing in which he could expect a better result.

A look at Abreeze's past performances showed that back on May 16th, 2003 he went wire to wire in a one-turn 9F race at Belmont with raw/actual final fractions of 23.4/23.4, showing the potential dominance he may have over his field if he could get to the front with a 2 or 3 length lead, after which he could coast at some point of the race and have plenty left for the stretch drive.

Obviously by the results chart, one can see that this is not an example of a $48 bomber that wired the field due to a pace shape advantage.

But I thought 4-1 was a definite overlay on Abreeze, and it's the principle that we are focusing on, not the price.

With Classic Endeavor considered a non-contender and perhaps #4 Cottage being considered the same (despite exiting the same race as Abreeze) because of his sustained closer running style, only 3 others were left to consider if one were to play exotic wagers in addition to capitalizing on the overlay win status of the top pick.

2nd place finisher #2 Justification had beaten Abreeze in his previous outing, missing by only 1/2 length in 2nd before floundering in the Grade 3 Stuyvesant Handicap in his last.

He could have been considered for a place or show finish along with best final fraction horse #3 Regal Sanction and #6 Free of Love, who had run well in a 7F dash at Belmont before shipping up to Woodbine in Canada to try his luck in a Grade 3 event at 8 1/2F.

All three of these candidates for the place and show slots were exiting Graded Stakes races, dropping back to this allowance race.

This is an example of a race for which the pace shape, showing a potential strong advantage to a speed horse, rendered all other handicapping factors as secondary at best.

Once Abreeze got the lead by an easy length and a half at the end of the first segment, the 4F point of the race, and extended it to 2 1/2 lengths while taking a breather in the second segment that ended at the 6F or pace call point of the race, the race was pretty much over.

Here were his actual splits: 23.2 23.3 24.4 25.3.

We can see that he went fairly quickly through the first segment with splits of 23.2 and 23.3. But then he was allowed to slow things down considerably to a 24.4 3rd quarter, which enabled him to coast home in a 25.3 4th and final quarter.

Will he come back with another top effort next time off what will probably be a performance that will very likely see his Beyer speed figure go up 15 to 20 points?

Only a careful analysis of the pace shape of his next match up will allow us to venture giving an answer to that question.

If we can see in his next match up that there will be a quick and contested enough early battle among him and others, he could be seen as a very vulnerable favorite perhaps, especially if we can project that he will not be able to get the kind of breather he did in this easy score.

The payoffs were:

1. $10.20
2. 2nd - 1-2 ex. $64.50
6. 3rd - 1-2-6 tri. $222.50

On Friday 11/21/03 at Aqueduct in Race 4 there was another instance in which one of the few early speeds in the race could have been projected to get away to a clear lead and potentially get the necessary breather needed to go on with it and wire the field he was facing.

You can view and/or print the p.p.'s for this race by clicking here.

And the results chart is here.

If you scan down this field of 12 going a mile at the maiden special weight level, you will see that the bulk of the running styles are S for sustained, which indicate closer with a one-run style that normally has them in the last 3rd of the fields they run in.

That can be said for #'s 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11. That's 9 out of the 12 horses that for the most part (and there can always be exceptions, especially with equipment changes such as blinkers added or first time lasix) prefer to be in the last 3rd of the pack in the early stages of their races.

S runners can win their share, but not in pace shapes like this one with such a lack of quality early speed types.

This was a match up that cried out for a handicapper to come up with the speed of the speed.

And the horse that appeared to be that early speed runner with the potential to clear the field even from his outside slot due to the pace shape of the race, was #12 Hay Matt, who 3 weeks earlier had just battled all the way at the same mile trip he would travel in this match up.

That last effort was on the turf, and he had been right up on the splits of 23.4, 24.1, 24.4 and 24 flat, never farther off the lead than a head at any point in the race.

He didn't get a chance to secure a comfortable lead (as he could have been thought to have a shot to do in this match up with all the sustained closers signed on), and he also didn't really get any opportunity to "coast" through one of the segments of his race.

Showing that kind of speed on the turf before switching to this dirt race qualified him as a surface switch play, which I discussed in Issue No. 13 of this newsletter just 2 months ago.

As the results chart shows, he was indeed able to get right to the front after an alert break from the gate, and by the time he had traveled the first segment of the 8F race, he was running alone in front by 2 lengths.

He was then able to slow things down, and despite being nearly collared by the end of the 2nd segment when in front by only 1/2 length, the "breather" he got enabled him to spurt away again and draw off to a 6-length win.

His splits for this graduation day try were: 23.3 23.3 25.2 and 25.1. The "breather" he was able to take in the 3rd quarter and 2nd segment of the race, a much slower 25.2 than the first 2 quarters of 23.3 each, was the reason why he was able to separate from the field again at the top of the lane.

This phenomenon of being able to take the "breather" is caused by being matched up in a pace shape that allows a horse to get to the front with a clear and uncontested lead during the first segment of the race.

When we can accurately predict such a possible scenario we can cash on a good number of horses that pull it off as today's 2 examples did.

It was no coincidence that the 2nd place finisher behind Hay Matt was one of the horses that had shown some semblance of early speed in his last outing. He was never worse than 3rd and was the horse that got to within 1/2 length of the winner at the top of the stretch.

The payoffs were:

12. $25.60
9. 2nd - 12-9 ex. $239.50
1. 3rd - 12-9-1 tri. $913.00

For the free selections I post most racing days on my private web page for subscribers to this newsletter, you can bookmark this page:

Or you can click here.

Until Saturday January 3, 2004, I wish you Fair Skies and Fast Tracks.


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