How to Handicap Pace In A Horse Race

How Do I Pick Winners Using the Pace of A Race?

Pace is the rate horses run during a race and handicappers analyze pace because it directly impacts the outcome of a race.

by James Scully

Before computers, horseplayers had to calculate their own Pace Ratings if they wanted to know how fast a horse ran to a specific point-of-call in a race. By using tested algorithms and proprietary techniques, Brisnet.com has taken all the work out of the process, generating Pace Ratings that are available to customers through a litany of products.

Brisnet Ultimate Past Performances contain fully adjusted Pace Ratings that reflect both daily and track- to-track variants across all North American tracks. These numbers are designated by E1, E2 and LP.

E1 Pace Ratings measure how fast a horse ran from the start to the 1st call, which is 2-furlongs in sprints and 4-furlongs in route races.

E2 Pace Ratings measure how fast a horse ran from the start to the 2nd call, which is 4-furlongs in sprints and 6-furlongs in routes.

LP Ratings (Late Pace) measure how fast a horse ran from the pre-stretch call (2nd point of call) to the finish.

BRIS Pace Ratings use a fixed scale of 2-points-per-length.

“Pace makes the race” is a well-known axiom in Thoroughbred racing because early pace affects every horse, especially in dirt races. A fast early pace benefits some horses and hurts others. And vice versa.

Race shapes

One of the best bets is a horse with controlling speed. Without having to travel at a pressured pace, a lone front-running horse can relax and save energy for the latter stages. BRIS E1 and E2 Pace numbers illustrate the advantage for bettors.

In Race 3 at Gulfstream Park on March 17, Fulfilled Fantasy was the only member of the field to have registered E1 and E2 Pace Ratings in the 90s in the last two starts. The 4-year-old filly was stepping up in class but her pace advantage was too much for rivals as she opened a clear early lead and held on late to score at 7-1 odds.


A counter-example occurred in Race 6 at Santa Anita on March 18. The 6-furlong sprint came up loaded with early speed, with 5-of-6 contestants producing triple-digit E1 and/or E2 Pace Ratings, and it set up for a horse with a closing kick. Pray Hard had the right profile based upon his Late Pace numbers and closed from last-to-first to win at 5.70-1 odds.


There isn’t always an advantage to be found from pace handicapping but it remains an extremely valuable tool for handicappers, with BRIS Pace Ratings providing a framework of how a race will set up.

Using Early & Late Pace numbers for front-runners

A fast horse in good form can register strong BRIS Pace Ratings across the board. And any drop-off in Early or Late Pace numbers rates as a legitimate concern.

Here are the lifetime Past Performances for 2015 sprint champion Runhappy:


As his final four starts of 2015 display, Runhappy posted Late Pace Ratings as high as 101 while generating enormous E1 and E2 Pace Ratings.

The following year, Runhappy was still able to generate 113 E1 and 112 E2 Pace Ratings but his lower Late Pace numbers are the indicator as he was unable to reproduce the same stellar form.

Turf Racing/Late Pace Ratings

The dynamics of turf racing, at least in routes, are different from dirt. Early pace isn’t as important because even front-runners are often under a snug hold, saving as much as possible for the critical latter stages just like the rest of the field.

That’s why I place more importance on Late Pace Ratings in turf routes – horses with bigger numbers tend to enjoy a greater advantage than their dirt counterparts.

However, I don’t want to understate the importance of Late Pace Ratings at any distance or surface. And there’s no better example than Arrogate when it comes to Late Pace numbers:


With BRIS Late Pace numbers of 107 and 110 from his first two starts (dirt sprint and dirt route), Arrogate stamped himself as an exciting prospect, indeed. And he’s been a dynamo every time out.

In fact, it’s extremely rare for a horse to open his or her racing career with seven straight triple-digit BRIS Late Pace Ratings like Arrogate.

Summary

Preparation is a benchmark for handicappers striving for success and the first thing I look for is how a race will set up, using BRIS Pace numbers to identify speed and potential beneficiaries. It’s one piece of information that isn’t readily available from every data provider and I’d be lost without it.

Horseplayers using BRIS Pace numbers enjoy an advantage over those without.