01/29/2004 12:00AM

Homemade pace figs well worth the effort

Email

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Unexpected dark days spent snowbound and sheltered from insanely frigid wind chills give handicappers in the Northeast the chance to spend quality time examining result charts, and to take a step back from the daily grind to see the big picture.

Using Tom Brohamer's revised "Modern Pace Handicapping" as a foundation, along with the aid of par times from Cynthia Publishing (www.cynthiapublishing.com) and David Schwartz's HorseStreet pars (www.horsestreet.com), I have for several seasons been conjuring up Quirin-style pace and final-time figures.

Pace figs are an exceptional tool for getting a line on those developing 3-year-olds we will be hearing so much malarkey about as the Triple Crown trail unfolds. Making pace figs is worth the time and trouble because in addition to giving final-time figs a vital added dimension they are often the most predictive tool for analyzing the cheap claiming sprints that make up the majority of cold-weather programs.

Homemade final-time figs jibe in relation to the Beyer Speed Figures most of the time. But sometimes, happily, they will not, as when the practitioner who closely follows a specific circuit has unique insight into the making of a tricky variant. Those days can be a source of top-fig contenders at square prices when the do-it-yourselfer's variant is on the money.

Plus, just knowing which days were particularly challenging enables you to put an asterisk alongside figures when confidence was shaky, such as the days when variants are split due to changes in conditions, or where you must rely on a projection with little reliable evidence to back it up.

Horses that get a big fig with an asterisk, or who earned the fig thanks to a soft pace, make for precarious singles in multi-race exotics.

Winter figure-making for Aqueduct's inner track is simpler in the sense that all sprints are six furlongs, and all routes are at two turns, so the "chute factor," often a sticking point, is eliminated from the equations. On the other hand, the surface is subject to the extremes of the weather, most notably precipitation and freeze-thaw cycles, as well as the measures taken by the track maintenance crew to counteract the forces of Mother Nature.

Here is a rundown of my inner-track variants for 33 racing days, Dec. 3 through Jan. 25, along with brief comments where appropriate. Sprints and routes are figured separately, each represented as pace/final, with "F" signifying faster than par, "S" for slower than par, and "P" for par. The notation F2/S2, for example, indicates fast by two-fifths at the pace call and slow by two-fifths for final time.

Sifting through the data, a notable trend emerges. Consider the tally for 32 days of final-time sprint variants (no figures for one race of Dec. 5):

Days faster than par: 6 (19 percent)

Days averaging par: 7 (22 percent)

Days slower than par: 19 (59 percent)

Now the 27 days of route variants (no routes Dec. 4-5 or Jan. 9, projections Dec. 26, Jan. 8, Jan. 21):

Days faster than par: 3 (11 percent)

Days averaging par: 1 (4 percent)

Days slower than par: 23 (85 percent)

Observations

* Route variants have been much likelier to play slower than par.

* In sprints and routes, when the track is fast, it has been by small margins of a tick or two.

* When the track has been slow, it has tended to be really slow, especially when wet and still harrowed as on Jan. 4 and Jan. 19.

Suggestions

* Be forgiving concerning subpar performances on exceptionally slow tracks, especially with lightly raced runners and those who otherwise figure to contend off more relevant races.

* Cheap horses, the kind seen so often in winter, tend to decelerate more dramatically at longer distances than short ones, which is the main reason routes usually shake out so much slower than par. It follows that because it is a relatively rare accomplishment, handicappers should sit up and take notice when routers meet or exceed par. Such anomalies can be tabbed as key races in advance - before horses exiting the live races return to light up the tote board.