The TimeformUS Pace Projector is a tool that allows the user to see instantly where each horse is most likely to be positioned in the early part of the race, “early” being defined as at the completion of the opening quarter mile of sprint races and the opening half mile of route races. Click on this link to learn, in a matter of seconds, how to use the Pace Projector.
This post will draw on data from our just-completed study of the effectiveness of our Pace Projector. To provide the most meaningful results, we used a data set containing 10,000 races whenever possible. When lack of data made this goal impossible to meet, we used all available races.
In total, we found the results pleasingly unsurprising. After all, we have been using the Pace Projector for some time now and have grown accustomed to its accuracy. However, we did find areas of potential improvement, and we will be focusing, relentlessly, on improving in these areas. The complete results from this study are shown at the bottom of this post. But first, we will provide a brief summary of three results from the study, along with comments, in the hope of helping readers to get the best use out of a tool that we have grown to love.
1: The results show that the Pace Projector is more effective at identifying the early leaders in dirt races than in turf races (with synthetic races occupying a middle position). The results also show that the Pace Projector is slightly more effective at identifying the early leaders in sprints than in routes.
This was no surprise. Riders’ tactics are a more important pace factor in turf races and route races because the pace tends to be slower in these races, which leads to situations in which more horses have the potential to make the early lead if urged. This lowers the probability of accurately predicting the pace in a turf race or a route race. Considerably larger field sizes for turf races play a part as well.
2: The Pace Projector proved to be very effective overall when it designated races as “Favors horses on or near the early lead.” But this effectiveness was not distributed evenly. As one might expect, the results were a bit stronger for dirt sprints than for dirt routes, for example. And in general, the results were stronger for dirt races than for turf races or synthetic races. (More on this in point 3 below.)
What should one do with this information? The obvious answer seems to be the best one: Give slightly more weight to the Pace Projector in the types of races where it is strongest. In addition, it is important to remember that the designation “Favors horses on or near the early lead” is not a prediction about the race winner. Rather, it is a prediction about which types of running styles will be favored by the expected pace. To favor is not necessarily to crown. If a horse is very slow relative to his rivals, a pace advantage alone is exceedingly unlikely to get him to the wire first. Likewise, if a horse is significantly faster than his rivals, he will quite possibly prove capable of overcoming a pace disadvantage. But these are exceptions. As a rule, races are reasonably competitive, and, all things being equal, playing horses who figure to be favored by the pace, or at least not disadvantaged by it, gives bettors a stout advantage over their competition at the mutuel windows.
One of our favorite ways to employ the Pace Projector is as an “ordering device.” Say, for example, that the Pace Projector designates a race as “Favoring horses on or near the early lead.” We will then go through our handicapping routine in a front-to-back manner: starting with the horse that the Pace Projector puts on the early lead, and then proceeding backwards, moving on to handicap the horse that it puts second early, third early, and so on, a practice that is conducive to making comparisons between horses who have similar running styles. In this manner, we are also, in a sense, giving “pride of place” to horses who figured to be favored by the likely pace, while still insisting that they be up to snuff in other respects, such as speed figures, Race Ratings, Trainer Ratings, Pedigree Ratings, etc. Sometimes the horse that the Pace Projector puts on the early lead survives this entire process and becomes our selection. At other times, he is trumped almost instantly by the horse whom the Pace Projector puts second early, or trumped by the horse it puts third early, or fourth early, and so on. In any event, by proceeding in this manner, we are giving a little bow to the fact that a pace that is friendly to frontrunners is not limited to helping only the horses who are in front early. If none of the speed horses or stalkers is qualified to win the race, the projected slow pace can end up convincing us to favor a midpack runner over a deep closer.
By the same token, when the Pace Projector designates a race as “Fast Pace,” we will begin our handicapping by looking at horses whom the Pace Projector indicates will be safely off of this potentially destructive pace. What we will not do, however, is give special preference to horses who are projected to be in the very rear of the field early. Yes, their chances will improve in these situations, but so will the chances of horses who are projected to be mid-pack early, and we have found little advantage to splitting hairs in these situations. Far better to use this energy downgrading the chances of frontrunners and, to a slightly lesser extent, horses who are projected to be close to these frontrunners.
3: In races that the Pace Projector designates as “Favors horses on or near the lead” races, it has its lowest strike-rate in turf routes. What this means is that the horses that the Pace Projector predicts will be on or near the lead in turf routes “favoring speed” go on to win their races less often than do the predicted frontrunners in other types of “favoring speed” races.
This says something about the difficulty of winning turf routes on the lead, no doubt, and it also points us to an area that we believe contains ample room for us to improve. But we believe that it also says something else that is important: There is no substitute for comprehensive handicapping of horse races. Indeed, our study shows that the results above improve dramatically as soon as even very basic handicapping is added to the pace projection.
Final thought before we attach the statistics:
The motivation behind this study is perpetual improvement to our product. More studies, including one using return on investment, are planned for the Pace Projector. We plan on consistently and zealously refining all of our tools–in order to ensure that they remain as current as the modern horseplayer.