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Pace The Final Frontier 1
With the turf flat season drawing to a close, punters who enjoy their flat racing have all weather racing to keep their minds ticking over during the long winter months. With Great Leighs hopefully soon to be added to Kempton, Lingfield, Southwell and Wolverhampton, there has never been a better time in this country to try and profit from all weather racing. In this article I am going to build on some work I have done over the past three or four seasons.
In 2006 I discussed the fact that a perennial problem for all punters is finding strategies from which to produce consistent profits. As soon as one profitable avenue opens, it is not long before it closes. This inspired me to develop a fairly new concept based on “early” pace and finding all weather course and distances that favour either front runners, or horses held up for a late run.
To refresh people’s memories, or if you have not read those articles my starting point was to work out a “pace average” for each distance at each all weather course. I calculated this “pace average” by giving each winner a “pace score”, and then dividing the total of the pace scores by the numbers of winners. The scoring system was thus:
5 points – for comments like “made all”, “made most”, “led for 3f”, etc.
4 points – for comments like “tracked leader”, “prominent”, etc.
3 points – for comments like “in touch”, “chased leaders”, etc.
2 points – for comments like “held up”, “midfield”, etc.
1 point – for comments like “behind”, “raced in last”, etc.
Therefore, the higher the average pace figure, the more likely the race was to be won by horses that raced up with the pace.
In this article I am going re-focus my attention on Wolverhampton. The Midlands track was re-laid with a Polytrack surface in the summer of 2004, and hence I have used data from 1st October 2004 to 30th September 2007. In my previous pace research I focused solely on handicaps but now I have decided to expand my thinking to incorporate non handicaps also. I have focused on 10 or more runner races as I feel these races are going to run at a truer pace most of the time.
5f races – there were 183 qualifying races during the 3-year period of study and here are my findings:
Over 5 furlongs at Wolverhampton it is real negative to be slowly away / held up near the back of the field - less than 10% of races are won by such horses and what makes matters worse is that horses with a pace figure of 1 tend to make up about 30% of all the runners. (It is not a simple matter of an even spread of 1, 2s, 3s, etc – it is dependent on how the race was run and the make up of the runners. Essentially there is usually a fairly even split of 2, 3 and 4 pace figures per race, whereas a pace figure of 1 tends to include more runners whereas usually only one horse gains a pace figure of 5. The pace figure of 5 is given to the early leader and in sprints especially the early leader is often clearly defined seconds after the start. Indeed most early leaders tend to lead for a minimum of 2-3 furlongs, and as the table shows nearly 25% are able to lead from start to finish. Hence front runners have a distinct edge over 5f at Wolverhampton.
The 5f trip is unique in terms of pace research as it is the only distance that real does give front runners a real advantage – not just at Wolverhampton, but this is the case at the majority of other courses too.
To prove this point further the average pace figure of the 183 Wolverhampton winners over 5f is 3.37. In order to help readers interpret this winning pace figure, it should be stated that the average pace figure for all runners in all 5f races is around 2.5. This figure is calculated by adding up the pace figures of all the horses in all the races, and finding their average. This is necessary so that we can compare the winning pace averages against this base figure of 2.5. Hence 3.37 is much higher than 2.5 and is another strong indication how important early pace is over this course and distance.
I decided that it would useful to dissect the figures in more detail and firstly I compared the winning pace average of handicaps compared with non handicaps. Remarkably the figures were virtually identical:
Non handicaps 3.38
Nothing in it therefore, and from a punting point of view this was pleasing news as it meant I could expand future betting operations to non handicaps as well (up to now I have only employed my pace bets in handicaps). Continuing on the non-handicap versus handicap theme I decided to compare the success of front runners (pace figure 5).
This was even better news with front runners in non handicaps winning an impressive 28.6% of the time. The handicap figure of nearly 20% is pretty good also, but maybe I have been barking up the wrong tree in previously focusing on just handicap races. Having digested these figures and having given it a bit more thought, non handicaps by their very nature tend to be less competitive than handicaps, so perhaps it is no surprise that front runners have a better win percentage in non handicaps.
Having compared the different race-types I decided to focus on class. My hypothesis before checking the class figures was that the lower grade races would strongly favour horses up with the pace as poorer horses have not the ability to make up ground as easily as better class horses. However, the figures surprised me:
Quite a surprise – races of class 5 or higher had an average winning pace figure of 3.80 is quite exceptional as is the near 40% success rate for front runners. This seems to indicate that it may be best to leave very low grade races alone (class 6 and 7).
Finally for my initial number crunching, I wanted to look at the effect of the draw. The draw can be crucial at Wolverhampton with lower draws definitely holding the advantage when viewing the draw figures as a whole. The low draw bias does not seem as strong as it did when the Polytrack surface was first laid back in 2004, but I still believe a lower draw is far more preferable than a higher one. Having been wrong with my hypothesis connected with “class”, I was keen to get it right about the draw, especially as I have written four books on the subject of draw bias!!!
My belief therefore was that the majority of front running winners would have had a low to middle draw. The reason being that is far easier to lead and successfully lead from an inside stall position (low) than it is to lead and successfully lead from one of the outside stalls (high). If drawn high, front runners often have to use up too much energy in attempting to get to the front, as they are forced to run round the outside of most of the other runners. Fortunately my hypothesis this time was spot on. Of the 44 front running winners, 32 were drawn 5 or lower (72.7%). Draws 6 to 13 provided the other 12 winners. Clearly a lower draw coupled with good early pace was a strong combination. Indeed if we split the draw positions into “thirds” we can perhaps see this more clearly:
OK …. it is all very well providing all these facts and figures, but how best can employ this knowledge? Ultimately, there are various options and in a follow-up article I will expand on some ideas.
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