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This month's topic is, "Evaluating Early Speed Horses."

My personal handicapping approach focuses on 3 main areas.

  • Running Style/Pace Shape Labeling

  • Moves and gains horses make within a race

  • Internal Fraction Calculation and Comparison
For every race I have under consideration I make it a point to label each entry its running style, E, EP, P or S.

Once that is accomplished I can label the pace shape of that match up.

My pace shape labels are:

  • Strong Ad Early - stands for strong advantage early, which indicates a situation in which early speed horses, labeled E or EP are perceived to have a strong advantage due to the pace shape of the current match up they are a part of.

    In the Strong Ad Early pace shape there are usually no more than 3 early speeds on board along with a number of pressers and/or closers.

    And in the Strong Ad Early pace shape the more closers (S runners) there are present, the more of an advantage quality early speed horses will have.

  • Ad Early - there is also a perceived early speed advantage in a match up with a pace shape of Ad Early, which obviously stands for Advantage Early.

    In this pace shape, however, there may be more than 1 to 3 early speeds signed on.

    In this pace shape as well, the advantage for one or more of those speed horses also increases the more S runners there are present.

  • No Ad - in the no advantage early pace shape there are usually an equal or about equal number of early speeds and pressers/closers.

    Or there may not be a clear differentiation in terms of early speed among the E and EP runners.

It should be noted that just because a race has a pace shape favoring early speed horses does not mean that a presser or closer will not win.

There are numerous influences on any and all races, and for a few reasons a presser or closer could win a race with a Strong Ad Early or Ad Early pace shape label.

Among the possibilities for a presser or closer winning in a speed favoring pace shape are:

  • the presence of a presser or closer with a superior final fraction advantage

  • one or more of the speed horses getting a bad ride or bad trip, including being wide, being checked, stumbling, jockey losing irons, etc.

  • jockeys on the early speed horses getting involved in a torrid speed duel that results in going too fast early

  • the presence of a closer's bias or dead rail bias
But since we can't predict when human or environmental influences will cause unexpected results, the best approach is to assume that match ups pointing to speed having the advantage will play out that way a good percentage of the time.

I'm sure none of us expect things to go right all the time in this game.

The best we can hope for is to find enough edge and value to justify constructing wagers.

In races labeled Strong Ad Early or Ad Early there will be one or more early speed types present.

When there are 2 or more E or EP runners in these situations, how do we know which of those has the best early speed advantage as pointed out by the pace shape label?

That's the topic of this month's newsletter, and I'll answer that question with a review of 2 races run on Thursday, June 24, 2004.

Race 8 at Churchill Downs.

And Race 6 at Belmont Park.

Churchill's 8th was a short field of 5 after the late scratch of #6 First Approval, and because of the small number of horses entered, exacta was the only exotic wager available within the race (Pick 3 being the other exotic wager offered which continued into races 9 and 10).

Here is a rundown of the field, and as usual I'll list the horses from the rail out with running style, last-out Beyer speed figure, last-out raw/actual final fractions, and any last-out "moves-within-a-race."

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

And the results chart is here.

1. Unbridled Sidney E 83 26.0/26.0 ---

2. Good as Silver E 80 25.4/25.4 ---

3. Storm's Darling E 83 24.4/24.3 ---

4. I Love the Organ E 78 24.3/24.0 ---

5. Abbeys Runner P 76 24.4/24.1 T/M

As you can see, 4 of the 5 entries in here were labeled E, which means that they are most comfortable going to the front, rather than pressing the pace or closing from off of it.

This is a Strong Ad Early pace shape.

Obviously something has to give in a match up like this.

All 4 horses can't have it their way.

So it would be very helpful in these situations to be able to rate which horses from among those that have a pace shape advantage have a better shot than the others.

Here is how I recommend evaluating early speed horses.

What I do is compare the pace call splits.

Since this was a 6F sprint, the pace call is the 4F point of the race.

Looking at the past performance listings, let's go down the list of the early runners and note the best pace call time out of the last 3 outings for each horse.

  • 1. Unbridled Sidney 45.4

  • 2. Good as Silver 45.0

  • 3. Storm's Darling 44.4

  • 4. I Love the Organ 45.1
This is in essence a pace analysis, and while this is the gist of it, there is somewhat more to it, which I cover in greater detail in my book "Calibration Handicapping - The Next Level", a review of which can be seen by clicking here.

The quickest pace call split from the last 3 outings of all 4 early speed horses is 44.4.

So in essence that is the "target" pace call split, which in this 6F sprint would be the point of the race at which 2 furlongs remain, or near the top of the stretch.

Once we have the "target" pace call split, we should see which of the speeds can hack that figure, meaning be either on or very close to that number and still go on from that point to win the race.

#1 Unbridled Sidney had not shown the ability to run that fast to the pace call because she had only 1 race lifetime, which she won by 10 1/2 lengths, which was the reason why she went off as the 3-5 favorite.

That does not mean that we can be certain she cannot sustain the kind of speed projected to be needed for this match up, but she was a bet-against favorite because:

  • she won by 10 1/2 lengths while receiving "only" an 83 Beyer speed figure

  • her speed figure was "inflated" because of her winning margin

  • all 4 of her opponents had run speed figures within 5 points of hers (1 had bettered it)
#2 Good as Silver had won 4 of her last 5 starts (finishing 2nd in the other), including her last wire to wire score.

Her 45 flat 4F split was tops in the field for winning or running 2nd in the last 3 starts.

Winning her last showed that she could stand the heat of a 45.0 half mile time, and as things turned out she won this encounter after #1 Unbridled Sidney ran too fast early, getting to the quarter pole in 44.2.

#3 Storm's Darling admittedly bested the 4F mark of Good as Silver in her 4th race back when she got to the 4F point in 44.2 at Fair Grounds before fading back to finish 2nd beaten 1 length.

But in her most recent 3 outings she was unable to do better than 3rd in races with 4F times of 44.4, 46.0, and 46.0.

#4 I Love the Organ was involved in a 45.1 half in her prior outing, but wilted to finish 5 lengths off the winner in 4th.

#5 Abbeys Runner, despite being a T/M play projected to be too far behind the 4 speedsters to be able to pass 3 of them and get into the exacta.

So the pace shape analysis in this heat pointed to #2 Good as Silver as the most logical winner, with #3 and #1 most likely to fill out the exacta.

Since Good as Silver was sent off at 7-2, far better odds than her morning line of 9-5, she was the value horse and key to the wagering.

The $2 payoffs were:

2. $9.80
1. 2nd - 2-1 ex. $23.00
3. 3rd

Please Note:

The upcoming release (no date set just yet) of my C.H. Subscription Service will integrate all 3 areas of my handicapping focus mentioned above.

Including pace shape analysis.

  • Each race will have all entries labeled with their proper running style

  • There will be a pace shape label for each match up

  • There will be a pace shape analysis showing order of quickness of the early speeds, calculated similarly to what I am discussing in this newsletter, but in much greater depth

  • There will be a running style recap so that users can see just how many of each running style there are signed on, thereby quickly being able to see the number of S horses present

  • There will be 3 different internal fractions calculated for the last 3 outings, including raw final fraction, actual final fraction, and I38, which is a key 3/8ths of a mile measurement from the start of the final turn to the 8th pole

  • There will be identification of "moves" and "gains" and other indicators of potential for next out readiness

If you would like to subscribe to or receive a free trial for my present C.H. Data Report, which has all of the above except coverage of pace, please click here.

Race 6 at Belmont Park on June 24th was a 6F match up of 8 three-year-olds (after the late scratch of #1 Fortunate Boy), going for claiming tags of $65,000 down to $55,000.

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

And the results chart is here.

Here was the field:

2. Term in Office S 70 25.2/23.4 T/M

3. Dynamic Vision P 56 23.1/27.3 ---

4. Charismatic Rob S 61 24.4/24.3 ---

5. Lucky Gamble E 61 25.0/27.1 ---

6. Crafty Player P 66 25.0/26.0 ---

7. One Tough Dude E 81 25.1/25.2 ---

1A Trumanson E 76 25.4/25.3 ---

8. Ringold S 64 24.1/25.0 T/M

As you can see, the running style recap for this race is 3E 2P 3S.

And the pace shape is Ad Early.

Because of the presence of 3 S runners (38% of the field) we can make 2 assumptions.

  • Quality early speed horses have a solid pace shape advantage

  • The S runners because of the pace shape should not be used in win wagering or in the win slot in exotic wagering
Let's do a pace analysis on the 3 early speeds in this Ad Early pace shape.
  • 5. Lucky Gamble 45.3

  • 7. One Tough Dude 45.2

  • 1A Trumanson 44.4
#5 Lucky Gamble in his 4th race back (2nd sprint back) broke his maiden from just over a length off a half-mile split of 45.3.

Since then he had run 3 more times:

  • at 7F a length off a 46.0 half

  • at 1 mile on a 45.3 half

  • in his last at a mile and 1/16th on the turf right on a 46.2 half
That last race was a good speed/fade/distance-surface switch effort, having shown solid early speed to the pace call, which at 6F was the same distance he would be going in this match up.

He would have only 2 other horses to get the jump on out of the gate, both of which were positioned to his outside, in the 6 and 7 slots.

#7 One Tough Dude was stepping up slightly off the claim for $50K from a good-looking effort at 7F in which he battled for 6F before succumbing to a stronger horse and settling for the place, 2 3/4 lengths behind.

He certainly looked like one of the top 2 speeds in here.

1A Trumanson was exiting the race with the "target" pace call split of 44.4.

But that was his second career race off a 4 month layoff and in that try he never really got close to the lead at the 4F point where he was positioned 4th in a field of 8, the same position in which he finished.

Since none of the 3 speeds in here had shown the ability to run a sub-45 second half mile time and go on for a top two finish, the pace call split in this encounter could be estimated to be a bit slower than the "target" pace call split of 44.4.

All things considered, the horses with the best chance to get to the front early and hold on for the win were #5 Lucky Gamble and #7 One Tough Dude.

That being the case, I did not like the chances of 1A Trumanson, who could be expected to fade after trying in vain to keep up with the top 2 speeds.

The pace shape advantage in this race suggested using 5 and 7 in the win slots in exacta and/or trifecta wagering.

In a situation like this one in which we should focus on the superior speeds in the win slot, it's a good idea to take a close look at the final fractions of all the contenders.

In addition to 1A Trumanson, I eliminated from contention:

  • #3 Dynamic Vision, who had faded in his last couple since winning his debut, and did not figure to be able to keep up with the main speeds or close well against them

  • #4 Charismatic Rob, who had run dull races in his last 3 outings prior to a 159 day layoff

  • #6 Crafty Player, who didn't exhibit any recent signs of a big effort coming soon
That left the 2 main speeds and closers (and T/M plays) #2 Term in Office and #8 Ringold.

Let's look at the best raw and actual final fractions for these 4 contenders from their last 3 races (which are calculated for all users of C.H. data).

  • 2. Term in Office - last race: 25.2/23.4 - big graduation win from off the pace by 8 1/4 lengths; stepping up from $35K maiden to this claiming level

  • 5. Lucky Gamble - 3rd race back: 23.3/24.2 - these figures significantly strengthened his win contender status

  • 7. One Tough Dude - last race: 25.1/25.2 - his last was his recent best

  • 8. Ringold - 2nd race back: 24.4/24.0 - his 2nd race back was his career best outing, and as per the official comments in his last try he was wide throughout
If there was a win bet to be made it was on the higher priced of the 2 horses on the win contender list, #5 Lucky Gamble at 5-2 who also had better final fraction stats vs. 9-5 on #7 One Tough Dude.

Since the odds on the other 2 contenders (closers-T/M plays) #2 Term in Office and #8 Ringold were both exceptionally good at 18-1, the obvious exotic wager plays were:

Exacta: part-wheel 5-7/2-5-7-8
Trifecta: part-wheel 5-7/2-5-7-8/2-5-7-8

The $2 payoffs were:

5. $7.20
8. 2nd - 5-8 ex. $92.00
2. 3rd - 5-8-2 tri. $1,121.00

As the results show in the 2 example races we discussed today, labeling running styles so we can evaluate early speed horses and do a pace analysis can and does pay off.

With satisfactory results as in the first example.

And with surprisingly good results as in the second.

For some spot plays I post many racing days on my private web page for subscribers to this newsletter, you can bookmark this page:


Or you can click here.

Until Saturday August 7, 2004, I wish you Fair Skies and Fast Tracks.


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