Basic Action: If you spend enough time around the racetrack, you’ll hear plenty of sayings. Of all of those sayings, there’s none truer than “pace makes the race.” What it refers to is the notion that the outcome of any particular race is mostly highly dependent on one factor: pace. That is, the calculation of how much early speed is anticipated from the horses entered in a race.
The basic premise underlying pace handicapping (analysis) is that a race featuring a single speed horse (one who has shown a tendency to break quickly from the gate and go right to the lead) is likely to set up favorably for that lone speed horse. On the other hand, a race that features multiple speed horses is more likely to set up well for horse who tends to run mid-pack (a stalker) or from far off the pace (a closer).
Advanced Action: Think about it: If you’re personally asked to run a race with six other people and you know that you are the fastest, you’d probably be inclined to run out to an early lead and let the competition chase you. All the while — and depending on the distance that you were running — you could also slow your pace down to catch a breather, so that you’ll have enough energy in reserve to kick away from the competition later in the race.
However, if it was a race where you knew that two or three other runners were as fast as you and could keep pace with you earlier on, you’d be a lot less confident. If you had to battle for the lead earlier in the race with other runners, the odds are pretty high that you’d wear yourself out and not have enough energy later on in the race when other runners — who were running off the pace early — come with their best runs.
The above example reveals truths that apply, in the same exact way, to horses. A horse on a loose lead will expend less energy than one that is locked in a pace battle with another horse. That loose-on-the-lead horse has a better chance of winning than one that has to fight for an early lead.
Watching replays and analyzing fractional times should reveal enough information about a runner to give the handicapper a pretty good idea about whether that horse is a speed horse. The next step in the process is assessing how many horses are true speed horses, whether they have tactical speed (the ability to sit off the lead, if pace dynamics call for it) and how fast they’re likely to go.
You can make a lot of money identifying loose speed horses who can win at big prices, and you can also apply the same analysis to identify closers who have better chances of winning in a race where there are a lot of speed horses signed up.