The Dilemma of the Slow-Paced Race

Pace figures and final time figures are now available as part of TimeformUS past performances. For both the leader and for each individual horse, figures are available for various segments of the race.

Without pace figures, customers are able to identify extreme “race shapes” only via color coding. Red indicates the race was much faster early than late, while blue indicates the opposite. With pace figures and final-time figures available, the race shape will appear numerically.

Figure makers deal with many issues when assessing a race card. There are varying distances, surfaces, weather conditions, etc. One of the most difficult issues is the pace-less race, or one, as our partners in the United Kingdom would say, that is not “truly run.” I actually like the latter term better because of how well it defines the problem. Races that are not truly run cannot really be truly rated. The reason is simple. The final time will not be representative of track speed because the horses didn’t really “race” for the full distance. And in the end, that is what figure makers are trying to do: assess track speed for every race on the card.

The conventional wisdom for races not truly run is as follows:

• Horses that raced on or near the lead should be downgraded.
• Horses that made moves from behind should be upgraded.
• Horses that lost ground and or positions late didn’t run very well.

There is certainly some truth to these. But in parimutuel gambling, the conventional wisdom often leads to low prices. How should handicappers treat these races? Try something unconventional…ignore them! These races often require different attributes from horses: attributes that may or may not matter much in future races. Many handicappers look for reasons to “excuse” a bad last race. Distance changes, surface changes, trouble lines, and track biases are just some of the reasons cited for looking deeper into a horse’s past performances. Why not add the following one? “The race wasn’t truly run.” For horses with many running lines, this is an easy fix: Evaluate them based on races that were truly run. For horses with few running lines, try other factors, such as trainer or breeding ratings.


The pace figures above (below each point of call) are for the leader of the races shown. Miss Da Point’s last race was a race with a “slow” pace. The term slow is used when the pace figures are slower than the final-time figure. La Verdad was far superior to the field on November 7th. She cruised to the lead with tons in reserve and drew away from the field. Clicking on the top three finishers opens the full chart for the race. She probably could have run faster, but that is conjecture. It doesn’t mean she could have run faster in a truly run race. That is a common misconception among handicappers. Miss Da Point chased the winner and retreated late.

In each of the prior three races shown, Miss Da Point faced a “fast” pace, i.e., one noticeably faster early than late. Her TimeformUS speed figures improved from 48 to 68 to 83. She seemed to be rounding into top form, the 83 being a lifetime top. But then she ran a 74, which suggested she had “topped out.” But had she? She was chasing a runner who was far superior to those she had faced in her prior three races, as can be seen by the 104 final-time rating. What is more, she was chasing a horse that was gradually running faster numerically as the race progressed.

Conventional wisdom would have dismissed this horse going into today. After all, she had lost ground and position late in a race in which the pace was not taxing early. Her figure declined, and did not look good enough to win the race today. But if this race is ignored, she was a definite contender today on the class drop. The 83 from the prior race fit well with the field. She was, at the least, worthy of consideration at 7-1 odds. Ignoring a race can lead to not ignoring a logical contender.

Race Result Chart courtesy of Equibase:


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2 Responses to The Dilemma of the Slow-Paced Race

  1. Ryan says:

    Very interesting article. Thanks. In trying to find races that are not “truly run” in the PP’s, if the pace figures are coded blue, would these be races you would consider not “truly run?” I noticed in your Miss Da Point example above none of the pace figures for her AQU race were coded blue but you state this race was a “slow pace.” Maybe this was before you started color coding. Do you consider a race that is not “truly run” to have all points of call as slow or coded in blue?


    • We limit our use of color coding to the more severe cases so they stand out. The race above is more subtle and was used intentionally for this article to show sometimes you have to dig down and not look at the obvious.

      For an example with color coding, check out the Withers from this year:

      The horses running 1-2-3-4 early are 0 for 7 since, while those running 5th or further back are 4-14 since and show a 1.86 ROI per $1 bet.



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