03/10/2016 4:36PM

Peck: Pace Ace shows how race flow affects horses

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Let’s take another look at Daily Racing Form’s newest feature, Pace Ace.

Pace Ace provides information based on how races shape up in terms of pace using running styles and how a race was run, as opposed to strictly using race fractions. Here’s how it works: Every race to be run in North America is analyzed prior to its running to determine how much speed is in the field and what type of pace scenario can be expected. Based on that assessment, a grade is assigned internally in the program. After the race, when the official chart becomes available, Pace Ace compares the pre-race label to how the race was actually run. If the pre- and post-race labels match, that label is assigned to the race going forward. An “S” symbol should convey to horseplayers that the race flow for that particular race favored front-runners; an “H” means a hot tempo gave an edge to horses coming from off the pace. If the pre- and post-race assessments do not match up, the race does not receive the pre-race label.

An example: The pre-race analysis concludes that the field lacks pace, and the race flow will thus be very favorable to speeds. The race is run, and the expected pacesetter gets loose and wires the field, with another horse with some early zip holding second. That race will receive a  symbol, and when horses come out of that race, handicappers will know that the speeds had an inherent edge, and closers were at a subtle – but genuine – disadvantage.

Handicappers can use this information in several ways. One obvious way is to upgrade those horses who were against the race flow in a given race – stretch runners in a  or  race, horses close to the pace in a race labeled  or . Also, DRF readers will know to downgrade those horses who were with the race flow, namely speeds in any race with an “S” symbol and closers in a race marked with an “H” symbol. In addition, Pace Ace is an aid for those projecting race flow for today’s races, as those coming out of races with an “S” symbol may not show as much speed as they did in that race, and runners emerging from a race sporting an “H” can be expected to show more speed.

There are a couple of horses on Saturday’s cards who provide good examples of how to best make use of Pace Ace. Quiet Ruler will be among the favorites in the sixth race at Oaklawn on the strength of his latest, where he posted a 91 Beyer Speed Figure in beating non-winners of two lifetime. But the inverted “S” in the Pace Ace field indicates that those horses close to the pace had an edge, and he was just off the pace. Further, two back, he was off the pace in a race that favored closers. The 91 figure he registered in that last one will be what draws money, and he could win this race, but he’s not likely to run back to that Beyer, as it seems to have been earned with the aid of the race flow.

Mr Num Num, entered in the first race at Tampa Bay Downs, has Pace Ace symbols showing in four of his last six races, and they illustrate how the race flow has influenced his form. In his two wins during that stretch, he was with the race flow, on our near the lead in two starts where the race received a rating of  or . In his races where the race flow favored the rallying horses (as evidenced by the “H” symbol) he hasn’t really been a threat. There’s a fair amount of speed in this field, and he shouldn’t be expected to be a pace factor Saturday despite some recent lines where he was near the pace.

A horse who could improve off his recent form due to an improved pace setup Saturday is Natchez, who is in the sixth race at Oaklawn. He was off the board in each of his last three starts, all at Oaklawn, but he has not had the best of pace scenarios, especially in his latest. The inverted “S” 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. He should get ample pace on Saturday and stands to move up if he gets a clean trip and the race does in fact set up well for stretch runners.

Richard Helfman More than 1 year ago
I don't believe you explained the difference between an "S" without the black circle around and the S within a black circle. Is there a difference?