03/25/2016 11:37AM

Peck: Handicapping class moves made easier with Pace Ace


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:


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.


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.

Larry Kaufman More than 1 year ago
it's garbage put the form back the way it was.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Me thinks you doth promote this symbol too much. (And in so doing expose a lack of handicapping acumen.) Without the pace symbol Fortuitous Path is already a dubious favorite. Sharp on Jan 30th, unraced until March 2Oth? Prep (bullet) workouts for a horse that should have been eager to run much earlier off of a single maintenance work? Whoa. But let's accept the symbol as offering unique and valuable insight. How is the handicapper supposed to determine that today's race is going to offer a different pace scenario than the one that abetted or compromised the runner in its previous outing? There might be effective ways to do this, but for now there seems that assumption is being touted here: that today's race is not going to be run to the same pace the as prior race noted in the Form. Moving on to R Jolley Dreamer. The symbols tell us he ran into contested paces. The excuse line pretty much tell me the same thing. In fact, before the addition of the symbol, I'm looking at a speed horse*, second race off a layoff, dropping in class (assumed easier pace), with a bullet workout on Feb 28 (covered up with a claim defying but stamina enhancing workout on March 6th.) The horse was 38-1 last time. I don't need a symbol to tell me he had a valid excuse. Today is obviously the race they were pointing towards. And really, your logic fails me again when you assert that the presence of a valid excuse makes it much more logical that the trainer would drop the horse from a restricted race into a claimer. If it was a valid excuse, Why not try the restricted condition again and hope for a softer pace? What that race said is Jolley didn't belong in that condition. And Perkins knew that from the previous race he ran at that condition. Obviously the last race, symbol or not, was a tightener. Listen, I'll let you in on a secret. There is no piece of information in the Racing Form that does not take it value from how it relates to other pieces of information in the Racing Form. No matter how much one tries to digitalize it with editorialized numbers and symbols, handicapping will always be an analogue process. One should build a bet not on the strength of individual pieces, but on how those piece fit, preferably snap, together Now I'm not arguing that these symbols are without value Maybe there presence makes it worth a handicapper's time to watch a replay. For myself, being they are basically pace symbols that aren't predictive of what today's pace is going to be, I'm finding them a bit intrusive. I'm finding the left side of the Form awfully crowded right now. It's readability (a much more serious asset to the paper than the editors seem to realize) has been compromised. And for what? A post-facto parade of symbols that can most assuredly tell you why you should or shouldn't have bet today's horse in it's last race? Oh well. Maybe I'll have to buy Pace number for today's races to better utilized the standardized information now given in the Form. Am I getting warm. *The two races R Jolley won were on the lead. He closed from moderately off the pace for a Showing in a Jersey $10.000 State bred race on July 3rd. Please tell me how his Form shows he was versatile and could rate effectively if need be? To be perfectly honest here, if I would have bet this horse I would have expected him to go to the lead (remember I haven't seen the other entries) then gladly cashed my ticket when he came off the pace. More candidly, I missed this, I'm completely red boarding here, but the workouts do seem to indicate a rating was in the game plan. Regardless, there were a lot of good reasons to bet this horse, pace symbol or not. Obviously some horse will appear in the Past Performances having run better or worse with a change to the Pace symbol appearing for their last race, The case still hasn't been made as to how the reader was supposed to anticipate that change before hand. Or, if the art of reading the Racing Form, is the art of cross-referencing, how does one reliably cross reference the Pace symbol? For now, I'm of the opinion that was is being heralded as Oracle is actually just more eye clutter. .