08/14/2009 10:46AM

Welcome to Pacefig Central


    The Moss Pace Figure blog has officially arrived on your computer - or your Blackberry, or your iPhone, or whatever instrument you use to surf the web.

In future posts on this page, I’ll preview upcoming major stakes from a pace perspective, answer questions about the pacefigs and how to decipher them, and occasionally discuss or debate other handicapping topics while trying to stay out of Steve Crist’s way.  But be forewarned: when it comes to pacefigs and how they are calculated, I’m quite a numbers wonk, so if you ask a technical question, you can be assured to get a very technical answer.

Now, down to business. 

    This seems like a good time to announce that a major revision in Moss Pace Figures for synthetic tracks has been uploaded into the DRF computer system and should be available beginning with cards drawn Friday.  Now that the Beyer Speed Figure synthetic upgrade has been completed, I analyzed the relationships between fractional times and final times for every synthetic race at every distance run in the U.S., starting with the very first Polytrack race at Turfway Park back in 2005.  As a result, synthetic pacefigs will not only be more accurate, but their relationships to synthetic pars will also be available.

  Admittedly, I’ve struggled with the philosophy of dealing with synthetic figures, and an important point should be made here. 

The new pacefigs for synthetic tracks will provide a very accurate comparison of, say, 6 furlong races at Hollywood Park with 7 furlong races at Santa Anita, or 1 mile 70 yards  with a long runup at Woodbine with 1 1-16 miles at Keeneland.  Those comparisons are apples to apples, as they say.

But comparing synthetic track pacefigs to those of regular dirt tracks becomes problematic.  That’s because jockeys quickly learned that synthetic surfaces are more unkind to early speed than dirt surfaces, and adjusted their riding styles accordingly.  From the beginning of 2001 until Keeneland switched to Polytrack in the fall of 2006, a six-furlong race with a final Beyer Speed Figure of 84 had a variant-adjusted, average quarter-mile pacefig of 102 and a half-mile pacefig of 83  (for the purposes of making a point to a mass audience, I’m using Beyer figures instead of the Moss Pace Figure scale).  Since the Poly conversion, those same Keeneland races are averaging Beyer-scale pacefigs of only 58 and 65.  The change at Keeneland has been especially dramatic, given its old dirt track’s speed-and-rail reputation - but even at Hollywood Park, whose Cushion Track is widely considered the most dirt-like synthetic surface in America, pacefigs at that class level went from 79-86 to 68-77.

  The horses didn’t suddenly get slower.  They’re just being ridden more conservatively.  A sprinter capable of running a first quarter of :21 3/5 might go in :22 2/5 on synthetics and then revert to his/her original speed when returned to dirt.  Even come-from-behinders such as Zenyatta are ridden with less urgency on synthetics;  Mike Smith knows he can be more patient because the pacesetters in front of him are disadvantaged by the very nature of the surface.

Many horseplayers - even horsemen – underestimate the dramatic differences between synthetics and dirt because the fractions themselves are just as quick. However, that’s only because synthetic surfaces give horses better traction and thus tend to generate faster raw times. Santa Anita had a deserved reputation as a fast dirt track, but when it became Cushion Track/Pro Ride/whatever, the average Beyer track variant got 68% faster, going from 19 points fast to 32 points fast.

    So when using the retooled synthetic numbers, keep in mind that a pacefig profile for a particular race that is around 10 points faster than par is being stacked up against other synthetic races at that class/distance. If compared to dirt races, it might actually have come up slower than par. 

Bored yet?  I could go into much more detail on handicapping theories all this creates.  Maybe later.  For now, suffice to say that whenever possible, horseplayers using pace figures should think it terms of apples-to-apples and compare synthetics-to-synthetics and dirt-to-dirt.   

jeffrey More than 1 year ago
In regards to my post on moss pace blog dated below, I have at this time re-read your statement on pace figures. I have grasp some of what you have said, and I will try and take a look at it from the form to my own way of corolating the drf stats from one to each other. I will try and keep my eye on the buyer figure, syn vs dirt vs conficuration of track vs form vs...etc I would also like to say at this time, I have read whats involved with getting a nhac or maybe its called the nhc. I know how to get on the web site, and if I join, I might make a donation not a membership. I do have a very good understanding of what the nhc is. I very much like the drf weather on line or the newsprint. :) Posted by: Jeffrey I Greenberg | Aug 14, 2009 at 10:46:19 AM
Writingman More than 1 year ago
Love the blog. Must say though, Travers Day at Saratoga sure made most a wreck of any data used for handicapping. Track conditions were atrocious. On the dirt, coming out of the final turn, a number of my picks slipped, bumped and nearly fell. The turf course was more of a swamp bog than a racetrack. My questions are these: How the heck do you handicap for these kind of conditions? And, Can any useful data result from this poor kind of racing? Keep up the good work!
wordsofreason More than 1 year ago
I brought a horse from Az last week to run in a race a Del Mar. After the race I noticed on the big screen the Stats for how much farther one horse had run in the race than another. I had never seen this before and thought to myself this would be great information to include in the DRF. As it Turned out my horse broke from the 9 hole and ended up running 36 feet farther than the winner.
kg2 More than 1 year ago
Randy - how about a pick for tomorrow at Saratoga?
kevin sullivan More than 1 year ago
Dear Randy, I am impressed with the Union Avenue win and more so that nobody listened to you. I remember the Derby, the only one without pace figs, or at least one of very few, was Mine That Bird. I don't know if you ever calculated that race (Sunland Derby) but pro figures that I have seen show an extremely high pace, something that might have helped find the Bird. Keep up the good work.
Tim Maz More than 1 year ago
Welcome aboard and looking forward to reading your posts. Is it me or has the synthetic surface at Del Mar made a dramatic change in the way horses are taking to it as they run down the stretch, just at this meet alone? For example watch the 2 races that Hayley's Halo has run on the surface. One time he's looking like a champ, the next it looks as if he hates the surface. If I'm noticing this then what are the whales thinking?
Aaron Shapiro More than 1 year ago
Hi Randy- If your able to do figures for synthetic,then what can't you do figures for grass ? I like the tightness of your numbers. I think you should discuss patterns and how many points we can expect a horse to improve or regress.
Alan More than 1 year ago
Randy, Welcome to the World of DRF Cyberspace!! Consider me amongst the Pace Figure Learning Disabled, but I am willing to once again give it a try. Could you perhaps take us through how you would handicap an occasional DRF ROTD using them?
Mike More than 1 year ago
Randy, thank you for the blog and welcome. I look forward to reading you posts. I can't thank you enough for what you've introduced with your pace figs. It was always something I wanted to incorporate into my handicapping, but I never found a set that I was comfortable with and didn't have the time to take on the task of making my own. Yours are absolutely fantastic, give great insight into races, and have made the "picture" much clearer for me to understand. I seriously can't thank you enough. I do have a couple of questions. I'm not sure if you're familiar with Cary Fotias' new pace top theory, but it works absolutely fantastic with your figs. Do you have any thoughts on the subject? For those unaware, the new pace top theory is when a horse runs the highest 4 F pace figure they've ever run without a big bump up in their final time speed figure or slight regression in their final time speed figure. Personally, I prefer slight regression in a horse's final time speed figure. The thinking there is that it signals conditioning for the horse (improved early speed) and impending improvement next out depending on the spot, ie. distance, surface, track condition, etc. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Also, do you have a calculation for wind or is that a very subjective matter? I've never been able to come to an exact conclusion on the effect of wind on a throughbred and have usually gone the subjective route depending on a tailwind, headwind, or crosswind. Thank you again Mr. Moss.
Ken Wiener More than 1 year ago
Mr. Moss: very interesting and confirmation as to how much pace figures slow down on synthetics even though the surface itself is faster. You have to wonder whether synthetics are truly unkind to early speed or whether this is an instance (to some extent at least) of a self fulfilling prophecy as a result of riders changing tactics. Why should a faster surface be more taxing for speed horses? Regards.
Stranded_at_LSP More than 1 year ago
Welcome to the blogosphere, Randy. Looking forward to learning more about your pace figures and how best to use them. Anything to help make more sense of handicapping these synthetic tracks will be appreciated.
Van Savant More than 1 year ago
Mr. Moss; I am glad to see that you have been bestowed a blog here on this first-class site, and I have always appreciated your writings and your style. You are clearly a class act. I don't typically utilize your pace figures, as I rely on my own (when used). Mine are Quirin-style (of course), but I supplement (actually compliment) these with everything I learned from Dr. Sartin and Mr. Brohamer. I admit that I am a disciple. Not slavish, but clearly influenced. It has served me well, but I have found that pace handicapping is now too spotty (and somewhat irrelevant) on ProRide, Tapeta, Polytrack, and Cushion Track surfaces. In fact, I no longer bother working pace figures for these surfaces. I cannot manage to find an edge. Actually, I will state that for me, there is no edge. With dirt surfaces (turf racing is a pace-figure non-sequitor to me), the figures I calculate and project are quite meaningful for early-three year-olds, but become less useful as the summer progresses. For older horses on dirt surfaces, I rely on my own pace figures, but only at my convenience. So my questions to you are these; 1.) Have synthetic surfaces diminished or eliminated your edge froma pace handicapping standpoint?; 2.) If not, then what have you figured out with so little information; 3.) What is your opinion on the works of the late great Dr. Sartin, and Mr. Brohamer?
slewofdamascus More than 1 year ago
I think I understand what you are saying, but is there enough data to suggest that synthetic to synthetic is, in fact, 'apples to apples'? Can it be said that every single synthetic track is unfavorable to speed, therefore is ridden differently, therefore has different pace characteristics, relative to their dirt counterparts? All of them? Finally, may I ask your opinion of synthetic tracks and synthetic racing? That is, are you a satisfied handicapper when forced to handicap these tracks, do you support future dirt to synthetic transformations? What is the future of synthetic racing, to the best of your knowledge at the present time? Thanks, and more importantly, welcome to the DRF blogosphere from its many inhabitants (both passive and engaged), if I may speak for the lot.
Bruce Friday More than 1 year ago
Welcome, Randy. Been a user and fan of the pace figs since their introduction. I've kept my own speed figures in the past and have some understanding of the difficulty of estimating a track variant each day. An example was last year's Whitney Day at Saratoga. The Grade1 Go For Wand Stakes was won by Ginger Punch in 1:53.43 while claimers ran earlier on the card in 1:50.42 and Commentator won the Whitney one race later in 1:50.23. Those times had little to do with track conditions per se but everything to do with how the races were run. (The five opponents built a blockade around Ginger Punch and slowed the race to a crawl, running the 3/4 in 1:14.) In the example above the pace determined the final time; the final time did not determine the pace. Which brings me to my question. Wouldn't it be more "correct" to use variants determined from the fractional times than to use (Beyer) variants determined from final times. In fact, it would make sense to me if Beyer used variants derived from your pace figures rather than the other way around. In this way one could factor out such variables as run-up, wind in backstretch, riding tactics, etc. in determining the track variant. Any chance you could publish your fractional par times? Best of luck with the blog.
SR Vegas More than 1 year ago
Randy Well, Welcome to the party! I'm sure you wil catch on as the rest of this Motley crew (said with the most fondness) I have never used pace figs, but now that you are here, I will be willing to learn a bit more. SR Vegas. PS...I have been following Dan Illmans blog for a few years now, But one may still teach an old mare new tricks, eh? Again, Welcome to Formblog! SR Vegas
tomath2o More than 1 year ago
Hi Randy, Glad to see you here. Looking forward to reading lots about this subject in the future. You are the best. I am a BRIS user, and a primary reason for this is that they have easily understandable pace figs. I know they are mechanically generated, so I would think that yours would be superior, since you all put such extra effort into them. But I'd like to be convinced switching over is worth the effort and expense (I get BRIS PPs free for races I bet on). Have you all done a study comparing the accuracy/precision of the two systems? Tom
Jim More than 1 year ago
Hi Randy, Welcome to the blogosphere. Any thoughts on making a pace figure for turf races? There are 2 spots I think it would be helpful. I realize that early pace in a lot turf races especially with small fields can be very slow and easily identified but the part of the pace fig I would find most helpful is the last quarter. With formulator it is easier to calculate but some tracks the last quarter seems slower possibly due to the configuration of the track, Delaware and Colonial are 2 tracks that the final quarter always seem slower and some tracks run odd distances where it is hard to convert to quarter time like the 1 mile 70 yard turf races at Monmouth. The other area is the turf sprints. It seems to me that every track runs turf sprint at a different distance and I think the pace fig would help to compare runners from the different tracks.
Shoop More than 1 year ago
Randy, Good to see your insights. As a casual player, I want your assistance in the best way to utilize the pacefigs. It's only taken me 20 years to get comfortable with traditional handicapping, and being somewhat limited in time, I'll be interested to see how I can best manage, or integrate, the pacefigs into a couple days of handicapping per week. Thanks.
george More than 1 year ago
First of, welcome aboard!!! I look forward to reading your future posts, especially the mathematical aspects to your posts. It's a crying shame that we are even having this discussion. Poly/pro-ride/tapeta whateva should not even be in a horse player's vocabulary. I detest that junk. I hope you can make some mathematical sense of it. Good luck, George.
ML/NJ More than 1 year ago
After Fatal Bullet's run in the Vanderbuilt last week, I've decided to pay a LOT more attention to the difference between artifical and dirt!
Dan More than 1 year ago
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 broadcast or time before you 'spent lots of time' with jess that morning?
Jeffrey I Greenberg More than 1 year ago
Please excuse my short cut to a question I would like to ask. You may email me at masybab01@yahoo.ca I am a canadian citizen living in toronto. I would like to know about entering tournaments as a NHC member. Is there a fee for joining the NHC, and if I paid that fee, when does it expire? Is it better to pay the fee on line, or is it better to pay the fee at a live event? Woodbine is holding a tournament at the end of the month which is supose to be part of the NHC program. Can I pay my joining fee then, without having to enter the contest? Which web site is best to understand what the NHC gives me for me joining as a member. Thanks very much, I very rarely go to the track without my copy of the DRF. Jeffrey.
GunBow More than 1 year ago
Thanks Randy. Look forward to reading your posts.
ron More than 1 year ago
Randy. I have developed and used a similar approach as yours with pace figs for nearly 20 years now. Creating pace variants, (essential) beaten lengths, pace to final fig balance, it is a difficult process all around. I sincerely believe you are on the right track, but I wonder why you made it so complicated? For my two cents, I do not think a pace figure is necessary at every call, but that's OK. I can see it. My real question is why did you truncate them so much and why did you create a new scale and not center them around the Beyer final time figs? What I did, was to truncate the Beyer final figs scale in half, so an 80 was still an 80, a 90 was an 85, a 100 was a 90, a 70 became a 75 etc. Then I created and balanced my pace scale figs to those numbers. I guess this probably isn't the forum to discuss how to make pace figures work, sorry, but please keep up the good work. Yours are the best out there. Now that you've gotten the synthetic figs going, please consider the turf.
Anthony Kelzenberg More than 1 year ago
Hi Randy: I would like to applaud your efforts in the area of pace figures. The DRF pace figs you help generate are really quite good. My positive experienced with pace figures have been in in these broad areas: 1) Loose early leader 2) Horse that CHASED a fast pace for the level, but gets a slower pace today 3) Horse that CLOSED from a slow pace for the level, and gets a faster pace today 4) A single horse that stands out on final fraction, especially in 2-turn routes. I know these scenarios aren't that uncommon, but I think they produce overlays, as a group, more than any other method of analysis.