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I've been getting numerous posts and questions about the methodology of the pace figures, and specifically why/how a faster-than-par pace that slows to a below-par final figure doesn't necessarily translate into pace figs that are higher than the final fig.
So at the risk of turning this blog into a forum on pace figures, let me explain the differences in the version you see in Daily Racing Form compared to the versions you find elsewhere.
At Belmont Park, the five-year average raw clockings for a $10,000 claiming race at 6 furlongs are 22.6, 45.9 and 1:10.8. At one mile they are 23.4, 46.7, 1:11.8 and 1:37.9. Many pacefig systems are tied directly to par times, with $10,000 pars set at a figure of 100. That way - removing track variants from the equation for this example - each of those fractional times would correspond to a 100 pacefig. And if a one-mile race is run at the par final time but the fractions are, say, 23.0, 46.3 and 1:11.4, you might see a pace figure line of 102-102-102-100.
These types of pace figures have advantages. Mainly, they are easy to use. At one glance, you can see the pace of the aforementioned one-mile race was two lengths faster than par. You don't need a separate "race shape" line. There is something to be said for simplicity.
Unfortunately, that system can also be misleading when comparing different distances at different tracks. A horse that ran fractions two lengths slower than par at 6 furlongs might come up with a lower pace figure than a horse that ran two lengths faster than par at a mile, despite the fact the 6-furlong half-mile clocking was 2/5 faster and clearly superior pace-wise. And an added twist at Belmont Park is that fractions for one-mile races are artificially faster because of the long straightaway backstretch run.
For the best accuracy, my belief is that pace figures should directly correlate to final figures. In other words, they should be based on the same parallel-time chart values. This isn't as numerically handy and neat, since in our scale, one length at a quarter-mile equals 3.25 points and a length at 6 furlongs equals 1 point. But I want to know exactly how the speed of a :44.8 half in a 7-furlong race at Lone Star Park compares to a :45.4 half in a 6-furlong race at Pimlico, and I don't want a pace figure that rates one higher than the other just because it may be faster-than-par.
Using our pacefig scale and parallel-time charts - and again, excluding any track variants - those raw 6 furlong average times for Belmont $10,000 claimers would translate into an unadjusted pacefig line of 83-88-91, and at a mile it would be 70-81-86-93. Why do I say unadjusted? Because to enable Belmont figures to be compared to those of other tracks, I use an adjustment based on how Belmont pacefigs compare to those of other tracks at every distance and class level. And Belmont fractions tend to be much slower than average. Thus when that adjustment is added, those Belmont 6 furlong figs would wind up at 92-92-91 and the one-mile figs at 82-88-90-90. This tells you what you need to know: that the horses in the 6-furlong race were running faster at the quarter and half, as you would expect, but also that in case of a turnback in distance, the 6-furlong internal pacefig in the mile race compares favorably to the final figure in the 6-furlong race.
As a rule, the longer the race, the slower the pacefigs. Combined with the values of the parallel-time chart, this explains (I hope) why it is possible for a race such as Rachel Alexandra's Woodward to have a slightly faster-then-par pace even though the quarter- and half-mile pacefigs themselves are lower than the final fig.
Bottom line: we didn't want to sacrifice accuracy for simplicity, so the pacefigs themselves do not reflect whether the pace of a race is faster or slower than par. We included the Race Shape line to the left of the past performances to help illustrate that, with positive numbers for faster-than-par and negative numbers for slower-than-par.
Can the 2 furlong pace figures be used as turn back figures for a 2 furlong race? Why are there no Beyer figures for 2 furlong races?
Unfortunately, we all face the same dilemma in trying to find equivalence between distances and tracks. The only thing available is the Beyer Speed figure. What to do: 1. Reverse engineer the final time for the distance where the 100 pt is awarded (which I know how to do but won't share 2 years of research for free). Calculate feet per second. 2. Use a parallel time chart to transpose the 100 pt feet per second in terms of 5 furlong equivalent. (This is what I do, and I will not share my 2 years worth of research for free.) 3. Use the 5 furlong feet per second equivalent while parsing the running lines. Be aware of the fractional times not necessarily coinciding with the "points-of-call", using 8 feet per length. 4. Use the calculated distance traveled for that panel as a ratio of the 5 furlong feet per second derived in point #2. Multiply this result against the measured length of the panel. (For instance, if using this method for a 1/4 mile, then the "measured length" of this panel is 1320 feet. If the horse is behind 2 lengths, it has traveled 1304 feet. Use the 1304 feet divided by the number of seconds in the panel to derive true feet per second. Divide true feet per second by the 100 pt 5 furlong feet per second. Multiply this result times 1320. This takes time out of the picture and make for an easier interpretation of the pace...) I have an Excel spreadsheet that I coded for this purpose. I am working on enhancing the figures with a "fatigue factor" that actually incorporates the 100 pt feet per second for the actual distance. -- Chuck Sakach Sr. Programmer/Analyst Steel Industries, Inc.
Turf racing, unlike dirt racing, usually goes to horses that can finish the fastest. Personally, I've done very well and lean very heavily on Bris late pace numbers as well as final fraction time. For example, at Belmont today I'm Your Lady had two very strong late pace numbers in it's last two as well as two pretty fast final fractions in it's last two. She won and paid a generous 9/2 beating Sonic Sound who was legit but did not have the late numbers that I'm Your Lady had. Have you ever fooled around with late pace numbers and is there any way to use your numbers in a productive way on turf.(this is mostly for turf distance races. Turf sprints can still be dominated by speed)
Randy, Two questions. Only one is about pace figs I promise. Do you make an adjustment in your figures for the various run up distances now that they are widely available? What about decelerations values for time around a turn or is that artificially built in due to the fractional par times? Here's a question that maybe you could sound off on. I'd love to hear your opinion on betting exchanges. Being that Betfair now owns TVG I wouldn't be surprised to see a push for them in the near future. They've stated their interest in bringing the U.S. into the fold and I find them rather intriguing. Low takeout, simple concept, and would possibly bring new blood into the game. Especially a younger generation. I'm 30 and many of my peers find the concept fascinating. I'm understanding of how some won't like them due to the ability to bet a horse to lose. The opportunity for nefarious action will be there, but maybe that's a good thing. Give a cheater the temptation and they're sure to fall for the bait. Maybe some kind of additional harsh penalty could be created to properly punish any horsemen, jockey, owner, etc. caught in such acts. Perhaps a lifetime ban and giant fine. I'm curious as to your thoughts on them. Thanks.
Hi Randy, Thanks for the explanation. In Belmont's 3rd race on 9/18,using the pace figures,I would give the edge to #1 Just Ben. This race seems to be a good race to illustrate the pace figures,if I am reading them correctly.
One's pace figure methodology should be based upon the personality of the user. Every pace handicapper has their favorite pace figure configuration. They understand their method like the back of their hand. I use a method that produces pace variants based upon the final time of each race. On a hypothetical card with no speed or pace figure daily variants, I measure the fifths-of-a-second ahead or behind the par pace for the distance-surface of each race. Would it be possible for DRF to produce pace figures using both methods that you showed? If so, DRF could allow subscribers to choose their favorite method.
What adjustment do you make, if any,for the fairly frequent path bias that rears it's head in making your pace figs.Hope you won'tduck the issue like certian performance fig makers who deem bias as subjective or non existant. The other issue is what adjustment is made for the various run up's at differnnt tracks Thanks, Mike
Randy, thanks for the blog -- it's great. I hope you stick with this -- the posts are extremely helpful to us wackos who are fascinated by how the study of pace can augment our handicapping. I have one question, though, not about the pace figs themselves, but how you apply them. One of my most successful handicapping endeavors the past few years has been identifying what Jim Quinn, in Modern Pace Handicapping, identified as race shapes. If you take a sample of 100 six furlong sprints at Boondock Downs, for example, and find that 80 of them were won by a horse in stalking position, it makes sense that you give extra credit to a horse whose style figures to put him in stalk mode. This does not mean that horses can't win on the lead, or coming from way back; but horses who figure to run a race shape outside what might be called the "race shape bias" will have to run better, sometimes exceptional, races to get to the wire first. My rudimentary studies have shown that certain tracks favor different kinds of runners, and spotting these race-shape biases can be a huge help in doping out winners. It can validate a strong favorite; it can also (and this has been huge for me) be the deciding factor when one is dealing with two or three horses who otherwise look equal. I've also found that some of the best plays involve "hidden style" -- where a horse's running lines at Track A disguise the fact that his style is a perfect fit for the preferred race shape at Track B. So in light of your explanation on how the figs are structured to allow comparisons between different tracks, what insight (if any) has your foray into pace figs given you into identifying differences in race shapes between tracks, and how horses running lines hold up when shipping? If a horse runs 88-88-91 at Belmont, and runs in a stalking position, does he figure to run something similar when he goes to Pimlico? Or do the idiosyncracies of each track's race shape trump the pace figs?
Two words, Randy. Race Replays. I guess I'm just thankful that my best information source is not reliant upon my ability to deconstruct pace figures. Btw, I wanted to apologize for my dark humor re: the ESPN telecasts, I wanted to bring to the light an area of concern that was expressed by many horseplayers on various blogs, including my own concern, of course, but horseplayers whose opinions I respect. They'd simply like to see more back and forth, the kind of debate that they partake in everyday at the track (and at home with the wives or hubbies, as the case may be). Good luck with all this stuff, though, man. I don't envy the deeply involved figure-makers. Respect, though. "I'm in Heaven...."