03/25/2016 2:44PM

DRF race shape symbols: Frequently asked questions

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DRF race shape symbols: Frequently asked questions


1. What are DRF's race shape symbols?
2. What is race flow or race shape?
3. How can you make a pace product without using fractional times?
4. Why are extremes important in pace handicapping?
5. How do the race shape symbols work?
6. If a race does not get a symbol, does that mean it had a neutral race flow?
7. How do I use the race shape symbols?
8. What do the and symbols mean?
9. What is the difference between or and or ?
10. What is the difference between Moss Pace Figures and the race shape symbols?
11. Can I use the race shape symbols and Moss Pass Figures together?
12. What are some of the advantages of also looking at race flow instead of fractional times?
13. Can you show some examples of how to use the race shape symbols for a live race?


1. What are DRF's race shape symbols?
DRF's race shape symbols are best described as a race flow tool that informs the handicapper if the race flow or race shape offered an advantage or disadvantage to specific types of horses in a race.

2. What is race flow or race shape?
That first statement raises the question, “What is race flow?” To put it simply, race flow or race shape is how the race is run irrespective of the clock – fractional times, final times, speed figures, etc. Watch a race and ignore the fractions on the screen. Does the race resemble more of a merry-go-round where no horses change places? Or was it a meltdown where the closers all overtake the front-runners? Is it a mixture of both as is often the case? DRF's race shape symbols use a proprietary algorithm to assess the race flow of all Thoroughbred races run at North American tracks. That post-race assessment is compared to the pre-race assessment and if there is a match, the race will get a race shape symbol. More on the specific notations below.

3. How can you make a pace product without using fractional times?
There are many “pace” products that use fractional times to produce pace figures, including DRF’s own Moss Pace Figures, which work extremely well for all North American dirt and synthetic races. We didn’t set out to create another pace figure product. Instead, race shape symbols take a different approach, using carefully crafted pre-race and post-race assessments of the early speed in the field to identify races with EXTREME race flows or race shapes. The result is that the handicapper has an invaluable new tool in evaluating whether a race developed in a way that favored horses near the lead or off the lead.     

4. Why are extremes important in pace handicapping?
If you focus on extreme pace scenarios, as the race shape symbols do, and toss out everything in between, you are more likely to be working on solid footing in making your pace assessments on a race. Because of the many variables involved in any race, pace analysis can and often will be a murky mix of art and science. By focusing on the extremes, the race shape symbols reduce the art and increases the amount of science in the process.

5. How do the race shape symbols work?
The race shape symbols look at the makeup of a race before it is run to try to determine how it is likely to develop.  DRF’s proprietary algorithm will determine if a race has either a lot of early speed types, very few early speed types, or is about average.  All extremes are marked.  The algorithm will then check the race chart of all marked races after the race is run to determine if the actual race flow matched the pre-race analysis.  Only races that match on both the pre-race and postrace analysis get marked with a symbol.  This is what we called the “double-checkmark” approach: The race unfolds in a way that the algorithm expected it to unfold, and if the race passes BOTH tests, it is only then advisable for a handicapper to apply upgrades or downgrades to specific horses in the race.

Looking at both the pre-race field makeup and the actual ontrack race development increases the probability that if a race flow did favor a certain style it was due to the makeup of the field instead of other factors.  Other races may unexpectedly favor one style or another, but they will not get a symbol due to the lower confidence level.     

6. If a race does not get a symbol, does that mean it had a neutral race flow?
Not necessarily. It could also mean that the post-race analysis did not match the pre-race analysis, in which case we would rather err on the side of caution and not lead a handicapper to use the symbols to upgrade or downgrade any horses in the field. The best way to use the race shape symbols are to find the races that do get the notations and upgrade/downgrade specific horses in the field accordingly.

7. How do I use the race shape symbols?
Handicap as you normally would to come up with an expected race flow or race shape. Then look for horses that have symbols in their running lines.

The race shape symbols identify races that contained an above- or below-average amount of early speed and developed in a way that advantaged horses either close to or well off the lead. When you see a symbol, apply a downgrade or upgrade accordingly for that running line.

a. If a horse that usually shows early speed got outrun in a race marked with an  or , it will often indicate that the horse did not change his style or go off form. He may have simply been outrun by horses with more early speed.  Therefore, he may show more early speed again next time in an average field. 

b. If a horse that usually comes from off the pace gets the lead in a race marked with an  or , it will often indicate that the horse did not earn the lead – he inherited it because there wasn’t much speed in the race.  He may go back to coming from off the pace next time, if he’s in an average field.

c. If a front-runner ran well in a race marked with an  or , it is likely he earned it by outrunning or battling several other front-runners. Therefore, he can be upgraded the next time he runs.

d. If a closer ran well in a race marked with an  or , it is likely he took advantage of a contested pace or front-runner that was used up chasing the pace. This horse can be downgraded next time he runs.    

e. If a front-runner ran well in a race marked with an  or , it is likely he took advantage of a field with very few other front-runners. This horse can be downgraded next time he runs.

f. If a closer ran in a race marked with an  or , it is likely he was disadvantaged. This horse may have an excuse or should be upgraded if he ran well.    

8. What do the  and  symbols mean?
stands for Favored Closers, meaning there was a lot of early speed in the race and the race flow favored horses that were off the lead
stands for Favored Speed, meaning there wasn’t a lot of early speed in the race and the race flow favored horses that were close to the lead.  

9. What is the difference between or and or ?
The / and symbols tell you the degree to which the race flow favored horses on the lead or off the lead. The  and  symbols stand for Extremely Favored Closers and Extremely Favored Speeds, respectively.

10. What is the difference between Moss Pace Figures and the race shape symbols?
Moss Pace Figures focus on the early fractions of races to try to determine how fast the early pacesetters were running and whether the pace was fast or slow relative to the final time.  Moss Pace Figures are available for dirt and synthetic races only.

The race shape symbols look at running styles and race flow and is utilized in dirt, synthetic, and turf races.

11. Can I use the race shape symbol and Moss Pace Figures together?
Absolutely.  In fact, they are complementary, giving you two different insights into how a race was run. 

12. What are some of the advantages of looking at race flow instead of fractional times?
The biggest advantage is that you are looking at a race differently than most bettors, many of whom are using only fractions and/or their own pace figures. Looking at something different can give you an edge in a parimutuel game by leading you to bigger-priced horses that can yield boxcar payoffs. Furthermore, if using only raw fractional times, handicappers will find the clock is not always consistent from track to track or even race to race. If you are not familiar enough with a track to know what a sub-22-second first quarter represents – lightning fast or average? – you could be putting yourself at a significant disadvantage by weighing the fractions so heavily in your handicapping.

Furthermore, there are outside factors to fractional times that pace figure makers cannot account for well, including wind, changes in run-up distances and track conditions, turf rail settings, and pace pressure that comes from head-to-head duels at different points of a race.

13. Can you show some examples of how to use race shape symbol for a live race?
Check out 27-1 winner Emotional Drive on March 19 at Santa Anita. The mare was coming out of a race flow labeled for Favored Closers, but had raced well previously when encountering softer race flows, including a wire-to-wire maiden victory at Los Alamitos Race Course two starts back.

See the example here for a 1 1/16-mile allowance on the turf Feb. 13 at Gulfstream Park. There was a contested enough race flow for closers to move into three of the top 5 spots, but Grand Tito was able to win despite being close to the lead the entire race. Grand Tito’s effort here deserves an upgrade, and indeed he came back to win the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida on March 5, paying $20.40.

And here is what Grand Tito’s updated past performances look like with his back-to-back victories included:

Now let’s look at a horse that came out of a race designated as , or Extremely Favored Speeds. Natchez had been off the board in each of his past three starts, all at Oaklawn, but he had not had the best of pace scenarios, especially in his latest. The is an indication that he was against the flow in that race, which was kind to speeds, perhaps more so than even his prior two starts despite the fact that the opening fraction of that race was faster than either of his previous two starts.

Now, let’s look at the race chart for Natchez’s last race that earned the  designation.

Natchez returned to win his next start with a 91 Beyer Speed Figure, paying $15.60. Here is the race chart for that race.

Related links

Peck: Handicapping class moves made easier with Pace Ace

Fornatale: Keen Ice owner big on NHC trail

Peck: Pace Ace uncovers sneaky good efforts 

Peck: Pace Ace shows how race flow affects horses 

Pace Ace adds new tool to DRF past performances

Kooko Banana More than 1 year ago
Can you please leave the the pole position and no of horses as it was before. 1/2 is just garbage.
Stephen Mercier More than 1 year ago
 I like these additions   ..clean simple and easy to use...could you please add these  to the Formulator also ?
Dactime More than 1 year ago
So...now it's "C" and "S". Do these replace the "H" and "S" or ?
robert More than 1 year ago
Nice addition to the PP's. They do work. Thank you.
Larry Kaufman More than 1 year ago
its garbage put the form back the way it was