How Brisnet running style statistics can help your handicapping

April 27th, 2022

Suppose you’re handicapping a 1 1/16-mile route race at your favorite track. Eight horses have been entered, including a couple of pacesetters, a few pressing/stalking types, and a pair of deep closers.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know which running style is most likely to win? Absolutely, which is why Brisnet Ultimate Past Performances provide running style statistics for handy interpretation.

Running style statistics applicable to the track and distance of the race you’re handicapping can be found following the horse-by-horse data sections within Brisnet Ultimate Past Performances. They’re included under the “Track Bias Stats” section, with data available for the entirety of the current or previous race meet (listed on the left) and the most recent racing week (listed on the right). An example taken from a race at Keeneland is shown below; for this article, we’ll reference the meet stats on the left side.

Brisnet sorts running styles into four different categories: “E” (Early), “E/P” (Early/Presser), “P” (Presser), and “S” (Sustain or Closer). Basically, “E” types are pacesetters, “E/P” types can set the pace but generally sit just off the lead, “P” types rally from midpack, and “S” types are deep closers coming from well off the pace.

The Track Bias Stats section begins by listing the surface and distance the stats apply to (in this case, dirt races held over 8 1/2 furlongs or 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland), along with the number of races in the sample size (25) and the percentage of races won in gate-to-wire fashion (8%). The overall speed bias is 48% (more on that in a moment), and the average winner has trailed the early leader by an average of 3.6 lengths at the first point of call (early in the race) and 2.3 lengths at the second point of call (later in the race).

Below this opening data, the four Brisnet running style categories are each afforded a column. Below the headers, you’ll find two pieces of data: the impact value for each running style, and the percentage of races each running style wins. The impact value mathematically calculates the expected performance of each running style and assigns 1.00 as average, so a number higher than 1.00 indicates a style outperforming expectations, while a number lower than 1.00 indicates subpar performance.

The impact values and win percentages can quickly communicate which running styles perform best over the track and distance you’re handicapping. In our example, we’ve already gathered that pacesetters perform poorly (8% isn’t a very good win rate) and horses rallying from about 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 lengths off the early pace are performing best.

This data is further reflected in the breakdown by running style. “E” types have struggled, winning only 12% of races while generating an impact value of 0.52. In contrast, “E/P” and “P” types have thrived, winning 36% and 32% of races while generating strong impact values of 1.84 and 1.19. “S” types haven’t done quite as well (with a 0.68 impact value), but their 20% win rate far exceeds that of “E” types.

Now for a side note — remember the overall speed bias percentage of 48% mentioned earlier? That number comes from combining the win percentages of “E” types (12%) and “E/P” types (36%) to indicate the percentage of races won by “speed horses,” or horses who race on or close to the pace.

Since speed is widely considered an advantage in U.S. dirt racing, it’s striking to see pacesetters performing so poorly racing 1 1/16 miles over the Keeneland dirt. Clearly, favoring horses who race just off the lead or in midpack is the way to go, a valuable trend to keep in mind when handicapping and a clear indication of the value provided by Brisnet running style stats.