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A Beginners Guide to Pace.

horse racing pace

When looking at a race for the first time. How many of you consider pace before delving into the form of each runner?

I must confess until recently, I didn’t. However, pace is now becoming a very important part of the way I go about analysing a race.

There’s nothing more frustrating than spending time looking at the form of the runners in the race, picking what you think is an excellent bet, only to find out that the race might not be run to suit your pick.

This article is a very much a beginner’s guide to pace but presents in a simple way the various category of running styles and pace scenarios.

Starting to Think About Pace.

For years, in North America, pace has been an important tool in a punters armoury when it has come to handicapping a race.

Until recently it was mostly overlooked by punters on this side of the Atlantic. Two reasons can be given why this happened.



Firstly, until recently there was a woeful lack of easily accessible data for punters to use. I say easily accessible for a reason. To fully understand how a race was run punters had to watch as many race replays as they could, or they had to wade through the in-running commentary in the results section of the like of the Racing Post, Raceform or Sporting Life.


Of course, all of this is was insanely time consuming. Most punters just didn’t have the time to devote to such a process and so it was mostly left alone.

Things have improved a lot in recent years and there are more sources where punters can go and find out how a race will be run from a pace perspective.

The www.attheraces.com website now has pace tab on its race cards and it’s free to use.

On Course Profits free Horse Racing magazine

Then there are the pace map features to be found on the racecards at www.geegeez.com

Never underestimate the power of visuals for delivering information as quickly and efficiently as possible.

For me the visual picturing has added a whole new dimension to how I see a race.

From a personal perspective, I really like the pace maps feature on geegeez. They are more comprehensive than the At The Races ones and just seem to do the same job.

Of course, geegeez is a subscription-based site but even free members get a few races each day where you can see the pace feature in action.
The second reason why pace hasn’t been important for many UK based punters, is down to a lack of knowledge on how pace can affect the result of a race.

Pace Categories

Horses are basically herd animals, so theory goes, which tends to mean they have certain position when running within the herd. So, to fully grasp the concept of pace in the race you need to understand running styles.

Each horse has a running style that helps them to produce their best efforts. Some horses have the flexibility to produce their best efforts using different running styles, but they tend to be an exception to the rule.
Although there is no agreed definition regarding horses running styles.

Here are the four main ones:

Leaders or Early Speed Runners.

These are front runners. They like to be at the head of the herd. These horses will be leading (or very close to the lead).

If a horse has often been in the lead in the first quarter of a race or very close to it, they can be described as early speed horses.

Looking at the above GeeGeez pace map Club Wexford is the only horse in the race who likes to lead.

In the Racing Post results commentary, you will see the words “led”, or “with the leader”.

If they have the right conditions and the stamina, they can lead all the way from leaving the stalls to the winning post.

Prominent Runners.

The prominent racers sometimes called ‘pressers’ as they usually sit just behind the leader and press the pace. They usually have enough early speed to get a position close to the leader(s). They are often in an ideal position, if the early pace horses slow down.
In the Racing Post results section for a race you will often see comments like “prominent”, “tracked leader” or “chased leaders”. These comments indicate that the horse is a prominent racer. In some cases, they don’t have the speed to take the lead, but they have enough to stay within striking distance of the leaders.

Like leaders, prominent racers can win plenty of races when they get their right conditions.

Mid Division Runners.

Plenty of horses fall into this category. The ‘stalkers’, as the American’s often call them, are usually about 3 or 4 lengths off the leaders but they never get to far back and are close enough to strike in the latter stages of a race should the opportunity arise.

Since they are in a better position than closers, being near the front, and have not exerted as much energy as front runners up to this point in the race, the stalking style is popular and often successful.

The Racing Post comments will normally use the terms “mid division” or “midfield” to describe such runners

Closers.

These horses are most likely to sit well off the pace and attempt to come with one late run.

You will often see the jockey of a closer or hold up horse pull their mount back after the start to ensure that the horse is positioned towards the rear of the pack.

The Racing Post commentary of the race will use terms like “held up in rear”, “in the rear” or “behind”.

Hold up horses like these win less races than any of the four categories but should the race be run to suit they can pounce.

When using the in-race comments that are found in the Racing Post. I find it’s useful to also watch the race in question just make sure of the accuracy of the race readers comment.

I should briefly mention. That there are some rare horses trained by top trainers who can change their running style to suit the race. There are also a few great horses who are tactically versatile that they cannot be put into any single category as they have hybrid of running styles.

Pace Scenarios.

Now you know the running styles of the various runners you can then work out how the race will be run. For example; Will the closers get the strong gallop they need? If there are number of front runners in the race, can anyone of them sit behind the speed and still win?

Here are the four main types of pace scenario:

Fast Pace.

This normally means the race has two, three or more racers who like to lead. If the runners adopt their normal running styles, they may well go off at too fast a pace.

Here’s an example of such a race from Gee Geez racecards.

As you will see there are three horses who can be categorised as leaders in the race.

The chances are this race will be won by the more patiently ridden runners rather than the leaders.

Given the race is being run over 1m 4f then it’s likely the leaders will burn themselves out.

Even Pace.

Here’s a good example of an even pace race scenario.

The form of such races is usually reliable and the better fancied or form horses normally come to the fore.

Uncontested Lead.

The first example I gave from geegeez is a good example of a lone speed scenario with Club Wexford the only likely front runner in the race. In this case the lone speed horse has a good chance of winning if the pace scenario works out and they get an uncontested lead out in front.

For anyone wondering, Club Wexford did make all to win the race at Ayr at 9/2.

Falsely Run.

Here’s an example of race that could be falsely run.

There are no definite front runners in the line up and seven of the ten runners fall into the category of hold up horse.

This is the hardest race to work out. Unless you can find a horse that is versatile enough to win a potentially tactical contest.

Such races can often be won by an outsider and the form of such contests should normally be treated with caution.

Final Thoughts.

Now it would be great if every race worked out how the pace scenarios suggest on paper. However, in the real world, although many do, some races don’t.

A front runner may miss the start and find themselves in the rear for example.

Trainers and Jockeys can also have a big say in how the horses will be raced. The jockey/trainer may have different ideas about where they want to position a horse during a race. They will look at the competition and decide where they need to be to get the best from their horse.

In the July Cup Aidan O’Brien decided to have Ten Sovereigns ridden up with the pace rather than be held up as he had been at Royal Ascot.

Looking at the pace maps for a race before you look at the form of the runners is something you should consider. It can save a lot of wasted time that’s for sure.

When you start to factor in running styles and pace, you start to look at the race as a whole instead of solely at the individual runners. Knowing how the race will unfold or the shape of the race, can help identify a horse who could be suited by the pace of the race or a hot favourite that may not be suited by the likely pace scenario.

Pace is just one piece of the puzzle, there are many other factors, but an understanding of a horse's running style and the shape of how a race will be run and can give you a vital edge in the search for profits.

It’s a skill that doesn’t take too long to master either. Once learned the process can literally take just a few minutes.

Summary: There you have it.

Using running style and pace can be an excellent way of separating runners in what looks a competitive race. It can also help to identify plenty of nice priced winners and avoid short priced losers.

There are no excuses now for the time short punter either as easily accessible pace maps can be found on the likes of geegeez.com and attheraces.com


John

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