by Dick Powell

Click to read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series

Post position is an interesting handicapping angle and one that I often get wrong. There have been many winners from outside posts going two turns that I ignored since I didn’t see any way they could overcome a wide trip. In sprint races, I like the middle toward the outside and feel that the inside is a disadvantage unless the horse has strong, natural speed.

The following table shows for each distance run on the turf at Gulfstream Park this meet, the average winning post position, and field size:

Distance

 

Number of Races

 

Winning Post

 

Field Size

5 Fur.

 

34 races

 

4.97

 

9.44

7 1/2 Fur.

 

39 races

 

4.85

 

10.31

1 Mile

 

38 races

 

5.13

 

9.39

1 1/16 Mi.

 

29 races

 

4.75

 

10.28


Only conclusion that the above data shows is that wide draws do not hurt going a two-turn mile. Now, let’s break them up into inner and outer turf courses based on the rail placement.

For five-furlong races, 32 of the 34 run had the rail at least 60 feet out so there were only two races run on the inner turf course.

For 7 1/2-furlong races, the rail is either between zero and 36 feet for the inner turf course and 96 or 120 feet for the outer turf course.

The 7 1/2-furlong turf races at first glance, look pretty predictable. But a closer exam shows some results that are counter intuitive. For 7 1/2-furlong races, when the rail is:

Rail

 

Number of Races

 

Winning Post

 

Field Size

0 Feet

 

7 races

 

5.71

 

11.57

12 Feet

 

4 races

 

6.00

 

10.75

24 Feet

 

11 races

 

3.82

 

9.54

36 Feet

 

5 races

 

4.20

 

10.20


So on the inner turf course, when the rail is at zero or 12 feet, wider post positions win far more than when the rail is put out to 24 and 36 feet. Considering we have already shown that speed-favoring running styles do best going two turns on the inner turf course at Gulfstream Park, the above indicates that extreme inside post positions can be a disadvantage.

For the rail placements of one mile and 1 1/16 miles, I ignore 60 feet since it is right in the middle and should not be assigned to either the inner or outer turf courses.

There were 19 one-turn mile races run when the rail was placed between zero and 36 feet. The average winning post position was 4.21 and the average field size was 8.78. This is well below the average winning post position of 5.13 regardless of where the rail was placed.

There were 13 one-turn mile races run when the rail was placed between 84 and 120 feet. The average winning post position was 5.77 and the average field size was 10.08. This is higher than the average winning post position of 5.13 regardless of where the rail was placed.

There were nine 1 1/16 mile races run when the rail was placed between zero and 36 feet. The average winning post position was 4.22 and the average field size was 11.11. This is below the average winning post position of 4.75 and that is with a higher average field size.

There were 15 races run at 1 1/16 miles when the rail was placed between 72 and 120 feet. The average winning post position was 5.13 and the average field size was 10.07. This is higher than the average winning post position of 4.75 regardless of where the rail was placed going this distance.

Using whole numbers, the average winning post position for the 140 examined turf races run at Gulfstream Park is 5.

The exceptions are:

  • • Going 7 1/2 furlongs when the rail is either zero or 12 feet, the average winning post positions are much higher.
  • • Going 7 1/2 furlongs when the rail is either 24 or 36 feet, the average winning post positions are much lower.
  • • Going one mile when the rail is between zero and 36 feet, the average winning post position is much lower.
  • • Going one mille when the rail is between 72 and 120 feet, the average winning post position is around 5.


As for run-up distances, I can’t see any meaningful correlation between them and their effect on how the race is won.

Some of them are logical. If you are going to go 7 1/2 furlongs when the rail is out at 96 and 120 feet, there is no run up. When the rail is placed at 36 feet, it can be as low as zero and as high as 242 feet.

Many of the five-furlong sprints are run with run-up distances between five and 307 feet. This will affect running times since the short run up usually means slower first quarter miles. The short run-up distance is like a “standing start” and the long run-up distnaces are like a “running start.” The longer run-up distance might mean faster first quarter miles but slower final times since they are running almost a sixteenth of a mile before the timer starts.

Where I would pay attention to run-up distances is when they are different for the same distance with the same rail placement on the same day. This does happen from time to time and is well worth noting.