One of the many factors in assessing the chances of a particular horse winning a race is what sort of pace the race might be run at. It is a factor that I believe not too many punters consider in their prep work. If your ‘form study’ for a race consists of using the limited data provided in your daily morning newspaper, then you are definitely not considering the ‘pace angle’ since the details printed in such publications do not include much that will assist with understanding the pace-wise possibilities in the race. (This is not the fault of the dailies; it is not their function to provide intricate detail in the limited space that newspaper editors now allow for racing coverage.)
Even the industry’s sole daily racing paper, The Racing Post, does not include much in the way of any type of standardised nomenclature for denoting the probable pace of entrants in a race. That paper’s sister publication, the weekly Weekender, does include in its form pages the letters ‘L’ for Led, ‘P’ for Prominent, ‘M’ for Mid-division, and H for Held up, and this is at least something.
For a better indication of running styles and pace preferences, other publications such as Timeform, Geegeez.co.uk and the ATR website do publish their own indicators for pace. Timeform uses what it calls EPF (Early Position Figure) which ranges from 1 for a horse which generally leads in its races, through to 5 for a horse usually ‘held up.’ Geegeez.co.uk uses 1 to 4 similarly to Timeform but looks only at the horse’s last 4 races, and the ATR website has a ‘Pace’ tab on its form pages which gives pace in a 1 to 10 rating with pace-setters the higher numbers, and also includes a pace forecast for the race such as ‘Even or ‘Strong.’ The best thing about the ATR offering is that is totally free. The other resources mentioned require subscriptions.
But why does pace matter so much? Well, I dare say we’ve all lost money on what appeared to be a decent bet, when the runners have dawdled along for a mile and then sprinted for the last 2 furlongs. And afterwards cursed our bad luck in what the commentators call a ‘falsely run race.’ Let’s look at such a scenario with human beings. In a 100 metre race between Mo Farrah and Usain Bolt, who wins? Bolt, of course. In a 10,000 metre race between the two, who wins? Farrah, of course. But say the 10,000 metre race is run at a gentle jog for the first 9,900 metres, who wins then? Hmm, maybe need to have a reverse forecast bet in place for this!
I believe that form is at its strongest when races are truly run, but given that all races are not run truly, we need to be able to assess pre-race that such an event may occur and make this assessment part of our bet selection process. And it is not just races that are run slowly for the first 80-90% of the distance that may be falsely run. Imagine a 10 runner race where 6 or 7 go off like scalded cats and the 33/1 outsider comes from behind to win by a nose, to great whooping and hollering and an “oooft, that’s one for the judge” from Derek Thommo Thompson! Well, that is a different type of falsely run race.
So, how do we put pace analysis into practice? Well, let’s take an example using today’s Group 1 July Cup at Newmarket. This looks very much like a race which will have a ‘Strong’ pace or as some might describe it, ‘pace burnout.’
Timeform has two horses with a front-running EPF of 1 (Dreamfield and US Navy Flag), and four with a prominent EPF of 2 (Fleet Review, Sands Of Mali, Spirit Of Valor, and Blue Point).
Geegeez.co.uk has five with the pace description ‘Led’ (Dreamfield, US Navy Flag, Fleet Review, Spirit Of Valor and Intelligence Cross) and three with the prominent description (Sands Of Mali, Blue Point, and Redkirk Warrior).
The ATR site (remember, free to use!) has pace forecast “Strong” with three horses having a front-running pace figure of 9 (Dreamfield, US Navy Flag and Intelligence Cross) and three with a prominent pace figure of 8 (Fleet Review, Sands Of Mali and Blue Point).
The same names over and over. It is slightly unusual to see so many pace-setters in the one race, and whilst the July Cup has generally been won in the recent past by a pace forcer, this year’s renewal has the look of a race that may end up with the afore-mentioned pace burnout, potentially leaving the spoils to a horse ridden more patiently from behind.
But which one? The ones who I feel may benefit most from the pace horses cutting each other’s’ throats up front are Limato, who needs to re-discover his form and may do so being returned from a mile to 6f in a race he has won and come second in from two attempts; Sioux Nation, the Aiden O’Brien perceived ‘outsider’; Eqtidaar, the Royal Ascot 3yo Group 1 Commonwealth Cup winner; and the usually held up Brando, who already has 3 Newmarket wins from 4 races.
These four constitute a fairly long short-list, and whilst I won’t be having a bet in the race, (and it is very possible that a pace setter may hang on for victory), I’d love to see one of them win, or maybe even just one or two of them to place at a decent each-way price, if nothing less than for to demonstrate the potentially profitable use of pace analysis in pre-race study that not every punter might normally consider.