03/25/2016 11:37AM

Peck: Handicapping class moves made easier with Pace Ace

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By using an algorithm that isolates instances where an extreme pace scenario influenced the outcome of a given race - as opposed to assigning symbols to every race - DRF's new Pace Ace feature helps handicappers uncover potential live longshots, and also exposes vulnerable favorites.

To summarize: every race run in North America is scanned to find a projected race shape, whether it be one that should be expected to develop well for closers ( or ) or for speed ( or ). If neither running style is clearly expected to have an edge, or if a likely race shape cannot be determined, there is no symbol assigned in the internal system. Then, after the race is run and the official chart is available, the program checks to see if the race was run as expected. If it was, the pre-race symbol is applied. If it was not, there is no race shape symbol for the race. There is no subjectivity involved, and the "chart check" application ensures that the pre-race designation was in fact correct.

This new feature has quickly proven to be an important tool, and it's apparent that it is especially powerful when it comes to class. More specifically: horses coming off flow-aided inflated figures are great situations to exploit, but especially when those horses are then moving up in class in their next start. Also, runners who were against the race shape last time can certainly be expected to improve in their return, but a drop in class can really add to the appeal. Here are two recent examples:

VULNERABLE FAVORITE

Fortuitous Path was the favorite in the eighth and featured race at Aqueduct on Sunday, March 20, on the strength of his latest Beyer. That figure, a 97, was earned back on Jan. 30, against first-level allowance sprinters, and was the best Beyer of his 10-race career. His previous career high came on Oct. 17, when Fortuitous Path posted a 94 Beyer when second, also against first-level allowance runners.

It's no coincidence that those Beyers were earned in races deemed to be favorable to closers, as evidenced by the  symbol in his running line, and it's clear Fortuitous Path was greatly aided by the pace scenarios in those races. Now stepping up in class, and with no obvious edge in terms of the expected race flow, Fortuitous Path wasn't able to run back to those efforts and finished off the board as the 6-5 favorite.

FAVORABLE CLASS DROP

R Jolley Dreamer was beaten a combined 48 lengths in two starts at Laurel, both against optional claimers, coming into the second race there on Sunday, March 20. But while he faded badly, he was also close to the pace each time, and both races were rated as   by Pace Ace. That means those horses close to or on the lead were at a disadvantage, and the presence of a good amount of speed in the field helped to set the race up for closers.

He returned in a $10,000 claimer restricted to non-winners of three. That's a level that could be considered suspicious given a look at his recent running lines alone, that something had gone amiss with the 6-year-old gelding and trainer Ben Perkins Jr. was looking to get him claimed. But DRF's Race Shape symbols show he had a valid excuse, making the move into a claimer less of a concern. It should also be noted that R Jolley Dreamer had shown that he was versatile and  could rate if need be, that he needn't be on the lead, and in his two most recent tries he was the victim of being too close to the lead. He took back off the pace on Sunday and scored via with a late run at better than 6-1.