Last week, we checked out how three-dozen-odd tracks across North America were playing. Local knowledge is king, and it all begins with knowing exactly what's going on at the various surfaces and ovals you play.
But what about any pace-behavior generalities across the entire nation, transcending regional biases and taking root in certain class-types of races? Is there something to examine there? Should we expect, say, maidens to consistently behave a certain way vis-a-vis the older, established open-claimers? Will the stakes runners behave differently from the allowance guys?
You bet. First off, let's set the parameters of the exercise. We took a look at six-furlong dirt races written for three-year-olds and up and four-year-olds and up. We calculated the same early-late balance numbers as presented in the WMFs (Winning Move Factors) in the Cynthia Publishing Company 2002 PARS PLUS Special 10th Anniversary Edition book and supplemental materials, grouping the WMFs for these six-furlong races by class type. (For the uninitiated, WMFs attempt to describe a track-distance-surface combination's pace "behavior." Loosely modeled after the speed-stamina spectrum popularized by the Dosage Index, WMFs range in value from 0 to infinity; the higher the value, the more disposed to early speed a particular track-distance-surface combination is.)
Based on races at four major Thoroughbred racing circuits in the United States over the past 365 days, these were the findings:
And what have we learned? Maybe nothing, maybe everything. Most likely something in the middle.
In six-furlong open-claiming races for older horses at three of the four major circuits, the majority of winners should not be expected to emerge from the population of horses making or flanking the lead through the opening half-mile (or second call). (A WMF of 100 suggests a balance between early and late styles, so a WMF of less than 100 identifies the bulk of winners as making their winning move sometime after the opening half-mile, or after the second call.)
Conversely, maidens are utterly predictable, at least in terms of the type of running style they likely will employ when they win: early, early, early. Look at the maiden WMF for the New York circuit, where twice as many winners get to the lead (and thereby win the race) by the second call (opening half-mile) than after it.
But the key concept here is a comparison of the two class-types. At the traditionally early-speed-friendly circuits of Southern California and New York, maidens are twice more likely to control the front than win than open-claimer are. At the "slower" circuits in Kentucky and Chicagoland, the difference is less striking, but no less real: maidens are about one and a half times likelier to control the front to win than are open-claimers.
Are you expecting a maiden to overcome all sorts of sluggishness and launch a sustained, winning bid sometime after the first four furlongs have gone by? You might think about it once in a while, but if that's the emphasis of your maiden play, you're almost certain to be waging a difficult battle against conventional class-pace behavior. An unnecessarily difficult battle, since all it takes to go with the winning maiden flow is an easy shift in your pace priorities.
On the other hand, do you slavishly love that early-speed factor when doping-out your run-of-the-mill, bread-and-butter open-claiming race? If the results of a year's worth of six-furlong claiming races at four major (and nationally representative) racing circuits are any indication, you may want to rethink the issue. Horses that get going in the later stages and seize the lead sometime after the first four furlongs have passed, well, they win a bunch of races, and often more so than the early-speed-types we've been accustomed to drool over.
So the next time you're pondering a six-furlong race at a certain track and are tempted to characterize it the same as all the others, it very well might pay you a little extra in the pari-mutuel-points (and dollars) department to check out the general class-type of the race. The dynamics tend to be (at least a little) different. Truly, a lot different.
We may be on to something here, but for now, you can make a bunch of finer distinctions and better understand the differences in pace behavior from track-to-track by downloading a complimentary and comprehensive catalog of "Individual Track Capsules" for your Palm, Handspring Visor or Pocket PC.
These Track Capsules are narrative descriptions of more than 100 North American racetracks and are lifted directly from the 2002 PARS PLUS book and supplemental materials. The vivid word-pictures in the Capsules are based on the exhaustive compilation of WMFs calculated for the 2002 PARS PLUS book.
Give yourself a little edge, and at no charge. Download this eBook by going to the Track Capsules Page. Enjoy!
Fast Capper 2002 is raring and ready to go. So ready that he's already wondering why Calder's huge Summit of Speed wasn't instead called the Acme of Alacrity. Go figure -- who knew the machine had a little bit of the literary hijinks to balance all those numbers?
Calder first, then the rest. Of course, we hope for dry, fast tracks and solid, firm turf courses for all these races, but that might not be possible. Also, these are based on information obtainable before any raceday scratches or wholesale changes become known.
As always, best wishes for a prosperous weekend.
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