08/20/2009 3:44PM

Pace in the Test


   Pardon the dust on the blog.....I've been on Brett Favre duty here in Minnesota for NFL Network.

   Some posters have requested a preview of upcoming stakes races from a pacefig perspective. I'm planning to do that each weekend.  Others have wanted an example from past races of how pacefigs can be used to a horseplayer's advantage. I can do that right now.

   One of the most recent - and best - examples was Saratoga's Test Stakes Aug. 8.  This spotlighted one of my favorite pacefig plays: a route-to-sprint turnback in which a horse's six-furlong pacefig is faster than the final figs of the competition. 

   On the scale used in Moss Pace Figures, Heart Ashley had set swift pacefigs of 99-96 in the Prioress Stakes before faltering to an 85 final figure. Olde Glamour had been almost as fast in the Jersey Girl Stakes, going 98-95 en route to an 87 final fig.  Cat Moves sat back in the Prioress with 76-90 and rallied to win with a 91. But as part of that suicidal pace battle in front of Rachel Alexandra in the Mother Goose, Flashing went 90-93-96, the latter pacefig taken at the six furlong mark. In other words, Flashing's six-furlong pacefig was clearly superior to the final sprint figs of any other 3-year-old filly in the field, plus she won the 7 furlong Nassau County two races back. With a similar effort under more favorable circumstances in the Test, she looked to have an edge if Richard Migliore could get her to settle behind the two projected frontrunners. That's exactly what happened, and the fact Flashing backed up so badly late in the Mother Goose when hopelessly beaten by Rachel Alexandra inflated her price in the Test: she paid $11.20.

  If only they all could turn out so neatly.

  Now, to the mailbox.

  Van Savant asked, "Have synthetic surfaces diminished or eliminated your edge from a pace handicapping standpoint?" 

    From a personal perspective, the answer is a clear "yes."  I think I've now come up with very accurate synthetic pace figures and pars, but I'm admittedly still struggling with the best way to use them. On dirt, it helps to know if a horse has the speed to get a clear early lead, but on the fake stuff that often isn't really an advantage. Because synthetic surfaces are less favorable to speed, it does help to identify abnormally fast-paced races from which early-pace types deserve extra credit. And when Keeneland first unveiled its Polytrack, a pace handicapper could with disturbing frequency find trifectas by using only horses with the lowest pacefigs.  But while I've corresponded with pacefig users in Southern California who say they have developed a consistently good feel for using them on synthetics, I haven't yet.

    This isn't about pacefigs, but sometimes I get a kick out of acidic posts such as the following from Dan: "I would rather know why you are in Jess Jackson's back pocket? Why do you spend so much time with him or rather why does he spend so much time with you before a national broadcast and why do you seem so serious/mean almost in your opinion of HOTY?  Like you and Jerry Bailey are the final word on the discussion because you were on the phone with Jess before the broadcast or you 'spent lots of time' with Jess that morning?"   

   My kids have always insisted my serious look is also a mean look, so I'll take your word on that. And although I hardly have the final word, I'm completely serious in my opinions that Rachel Alexandra and Ruffian are the two fastest fillies ever on American dirt and that Rachel is currently the clear HOY frontrunner. As far as being in Jess Jackson's back pocket, he'd get a kick out of that, since I was quoted in USA Today and all over the radio as being against his decision to run Rachel back in the Preakness on 15 days rest. For our last two ESPN shows, I've been the one designated to provide an update on where Rachel Alexandra might run next. As Steve Asmussen would probably tell you, the most accurate way to do that is to call Jackson directly, thus I twice tapped into Jerry Bailey's endless reservoir of cellphone contacts for Jackson's number and rang him up before going on the air to provide the most up-to-date info to our viewers. We're always encouraged to preface such comments by saying, for example, "I spoke to Jess Jackson earlier today," etc., not to sound boastful but so viewers understand what we're saying is coming directly from the source and isn't just announcer blather. I respect Jackson on many levels and think he's been great for the sport, but I recall having a one-on-one conversation with him on only one other occasion, the afternoon last fall we both testified in D.C. before a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives.  So there you go, Dan.  And thanks for watching, by the way.

Judy Gaddis -- Aiken, SC More than 1 year ago
Randy I am a long time fan of yours and I respect your opinions, observations, even your handicapping (honest!)but I have to kind of side with Dan when it comes to the Rachel/Zenyatta issue. But that's ok. I rest comfortably knowing that IF they meet on the racetrack (which I STILL think J.J. is cleverly avoiding) you will come over to our side. Oh and just a comment -- saw the proposed field for the upcoming Woodward. The first filly to ever win the Woodward will NOT be beating ANYONE of any true competition. Maybe you could cover the field in one of your upcoming blog entries? Keep up the good work (and keeping Bailey in check!)
Dan More than 1 year ago
Thanks for your answer and go back sometime and watch the look. What was particularly striking about it was twice in a row. After a very nice feature on Zenyatta the three of you looked grim and not one word said about the feature or Zenyatta for that matter. Why? Not even "great job Jeannine". Not one word on Zenyatta. Do you think she has zero fans? If so why run a feature on her even if you were in Calif. Sorry but it was glaring and weirdly classless on all three of your parts. First and only comments from any of you were Jess related and how you spent time with him. Just seems more likely that maybe a comment or two about Zenyatta or from her camp could have AT LEAST accompanied the latest Jess Jackson temperature read. Where did I say Ruffian or Rachel not the fastest fillies or that Rachel was not the front runner for the HOY?? Please reread and do not obfuscate what I said. As for HOY--could care less but do love the fact that the wonderful Gio Ponti is real close third in the voting. He is a horse I have loved for a couple years and barely gets noticed until now. BTW am sure you know but the last horse to beat Rachel is running this Saturday at Saratoga. Trust your kids--they are right. Thanks again for the answer tho.
Merritt Finnell-ARTIST More than 1 year ago
I asked Jess J. if he was interested in paintings of Curlin. No response. Now he again has the best three year old in the country,AH what a painting! There heads in the sky watching their first born playing on the green money mountain of anticipation. Thank you Randy for your mean honesty that we have come to trust as the best in the business. Please look at my website merrittfinnell.com
Adam Adamson More than 1 year ago
Randy- Your work is outstanding and has really helped been a great supplement to handicapping. Also being a Minnesotan, thanks for covering the Favre saga but sorry you had to miss Saratoga. I am curious with your Pace Figures, how much goofiness the numbers of synthetics are playing into your numbers. With Beyer numbers being modified recently, have all of your Time Charts been adjusted accordingly. I am also curious if you have tried any comparisons using JUST the polytrack surfaces of Keenland, Turfway, Arlington and Del Mar and if the running lines seem similar. Thanks.
Tim More than 1 year ago
Could you post the Pace Rating Chart and the Beaten Lengths adjustments for the Moss Pace Figures? I know that in Beyer's books, he's provided the raw Speed Rating Time Charts as well as the BL adjustments.
Aaron Shapiro More than 1 year ago
Randy- Wouldn't it be helpful to show the turnback figure of horses going back in distance ? For instance if today's race is 6f and the horse ran a mile in his last race,it would be a positive to know is 6f speed figure is say 87. If the rest of the horses in the race were slower this could be an advantage. Having the turnback figure and pace figure would seem to be an advantage when handicapping the race.
ML/NJ More than 1 year ago
BTW, I still remember the morning at Siro's a couple of years ago when you "took out your driver."
C More than 1 year ago
Just curious what you thought (in general) about the Sword Dancer, which seems like a candidate for the most oddly-run race of the year so far... and, possibly, may prove to be the most overrated G1 turf race of the year as well.
GunBow More than 1 year ago
Thanks Randy for your example. I resepct you for your admission concerning the difficulty of handicapping pace on synthetics. I grew up in s. California before moving to Michigan 10 years ago in my mid-20s. Although I may have been biased, I truly believed there was nothing like California speed. Once I moved to the Midwest and began attending the races at Arlington/Churchill/Woodbine,etc I would vigilantly look for Cali shippers, knowing that almost invariably they had superior speed and would be able to dominate the pace. Usually, my pace analysis was correct and even if the Cali shipper couldn't hold on to win, it was able to dictate the pace. I just loved that betting angle. Now, I can only reminisce about the days of California speed. The installation of synthetics has changed the pace of races, and reduced the value of the pure speed which used to dominate the state's racing. Although a horse like Zensationsal has proven that sprints can still be won with blazing displays of (nearly) unbridled speed, it just isn't the same as it was. For me, the loss of "California speed" has been one of the saddest consequences of the new synthetic surfaces.
aparagon4u More than 1 year ago
Any chance you'll do pace figs for turf sprints in the future? I know turf routes are hard to handle because they can have such huge variances in the early pace but turf sprints tend to have fairly consistent early fractions. Lenny