The Importance of Identifying Front Runners

Today I want to talk to you about pace, how finding front runners in certain conditions has transformed my betting over the last 8 months, and how it could transform yours too.

Understanding pace and identifying the right front runners to back has been responsible for about 250 of the 550 points profit I have won this year from my own ‘form based’ betting. (I like to distinguish what I call ‘form’ based betting from the horses I back as a result of systems I have built) I spend around one hour every evening and another hour the following morning looking for few bets a day and pace plays a vital role in identifying those horses that I think are overpriced.

If you are not identifying front runners, and when to back them, you are missing out on huge profits.

So, in this piece I am going to look at one example from Hexham (today) on the 19/11/2014. I will also look at a couple of ‘pace’ horses that take my fancy tomorrow at Chepstow.

For some punters pace is inextricably linked to times and sectionals. Some people are experts at, for example, working out if a horse went off too fast last time out or if it was given too much to do when the pace was slow. They use this analysis to note those horses worth following in future or to find value bets.

Not for me.

I’m not a ‘ratings’ punter and I’m not into sectionals and times. In fact I am not even into ‘handicapping’ -never once have I thought about what x amount of lengths means to a horses handicap mark. Can a horse win from its current mark-that is all i want to know. But that is a discussion for another day.

For me you can over complicate this great sport of ours and in all honesty I simply don’t get excited about that side of ‘the game’. In truth I’m not sure if I would be any good at it. I admire those judges that use this ‘timing’ approach successfully but it is not for me. I would like to think my recent experience demonstrates that you do not need an overly complicated approach to be successful.

How do I use Pace?

Generally I look at a race in isolation and work out which horse is best suited to the race conditions. When it comes to ‘pace’ I predominantly focus on identifying front runners – those horses who I think have the ability to win but who may also have an advantage because they will get an uncontested lead.

If the jockey is able to dictate the pace he/she can leave those behind with far too much to do. If they can kick at the right time (so that the line arrives before their horse starts tiring) and get up to full speed with an advantage rarely will those behind be able to catch them. (Unless they are outclassed of course) The ‘chasers’ also have to get up to top speed in order to catch the front runner but the problem is they may already be 5 or 10 lengths behind the leader when they hit top gear.

So you have the chasers going full speed and the leader also going full speed, but the leader is already 10 lengths ahead. Horses can only go at their top speed for so long, so it is likely both the leader and the ‘chasers’ will tire at a similar time. By that point it is too late because the leader is too far ahead or may have already crossed the line. Now this is a simplistic description but it is how I view the importance of front runners and how a race can be shaped.

Clearly this is not an exact science and this approach can make you look silly. Of course the ‘chasers’ or one chaser may just be a better or quicker horse than the front runner. As such their top speed, or even their cruising speed, is quicker than the leader so when the jockey ‘presses the button’ they can pass those in front with ease.

But that is why you still have to approach the race as you would normally and try and find front runners that have a form chance as well as an advantage because of their running style.

If you can find the right front runners, who could get away from the rest of the field and be good enough to stay there, you can make a lot of money.

An example

12.50 Hexham: Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase: 3m1f C4

Typically I do not like betting in Novice races but this was an opportunity I had to take. This was a 4 runner race and the first thing I did was to see if there is a clear front runner. A quick analysis of their past 4 runs showed me that Strike Fast and Simarthur were not front runners. Sometimes they would chase the leaders or be held up. But it was clear that based on their recent runs they would not be front running. Houndscourt had front run on his last race but has also tracked the leaders. Moyode Wood looked like he had always wanted to front run and had done so on a few of his recent runs.

I thought I had the pace set up and that if the jockey decided to set the pace he could get an easy lead on Moyode Wood. Next I wanted to see if the horse actually had a chance of winning in the conditions and whether the odds made it a bet.

It was clear that Moyode Wood’s last two runs could be ignored given that based on his earlier form he clearly stayed 3 miles 2 furlongs. On his first two runs of this season he had been asked to run over 2m 4 furlongs. Unsurprisingly he was outpaced in both and ended up being tailed off. A combination of either needing the runs and/or not being quick enough over that trip meant that I was happy to ignore those two runs.

So it was interesting he was running over what looked to be his right trip for the first time since last season. Last year he had come 2nd at the course over a similar distance on soft ground and although he was unproven on Heavy there was no evidence to suggest that he did not handle it. It was also reassuring that the trainer Brian Ellison and the jockey, Danny Cook, had a decent record at the track. Yes he had yet to win a race but he had ran with credit in a couple of Novice/Handicap chases over the right distance last season and combined with the pace angle I was ready to place a bet.

What of the opposition?

Simarthur –  was favourite for most of the day and was returning after 211 days off the track. Both his wins to date had been when returning within 60 days so I was happy to take him on and assume he would not be fit enough. What’s more, when he was last seen he was Pulled Up, which combined with the break, suggested there may have been an issue with him and even his two runs before that were poor. There were enough negatives for me to leave alone.

Houndscourt – unlike Moyode Wood there was no evidence as yet that this horse would handle the distance. Now I predominantly bet in 3m+ chases and I do like a horse to have won,placed, or even demonstrated promise, over a similar trip to today. The furthest Houndscourt had ran was 2m7f and he had finished 89l behind the winner. He had shown nothing of any real note in his last 3 runs and I was quite happy to take him on. I couldn’t see why he would finish ahead of Moyode Wood.

Strike Fast – Like all of those in this race he was unexposed over fences but unlike Moyode Wood he didn’t have any decent place form in chases to go on. His first chase was his last run where he finished 43L behind the winner. Now yes he may have been unfit on his first start of the season but it takes a leap of faith after a beating like that to lump on – or it takes a decent price. And to repeat, unlike MW he did not have proven form in similar conditions to today’s race.

I had made up my mind.

I thought Moyode Wood would get an uncontested lead and I thought he was suited to conditions. I also thought, over similar distances, he had the best chase form on offer. I knew he was fit and sound, I knew he would relish the distance and the connections had decent form at the track. It was now time to see the odds.

To my utter shock, given everything above, he was the 4/1 outsider of the four. It was a no brainer. I kept asking myself what I had missed. No doubt all those betting in the bookies looking at the newspaper on the wall had focussed on his last two runs over an inadequate distance. Whatever caused him to be that price I didn’t really care.  I placed my bet and a few hours later watched the race.

To summarise…Moyode Wood got an easy lead and the race was over from some way out. Only two horses finished and Moyode Wood comfortably saw off Strike Fast by 9 lengths. Another 4 points to add to the betting bank. The race had gone exactly to plan.

The other horse that caught my eye for similar reasons was Uno Valoroso who was the 2/1 favourite in the 2.50. It was another Novice race and he had proven himself over fences having won last time out. It was becoming clear that at Hexham on this particular day horses were struggling to make up ground from the back. Knowing he was likely to jump well and lead I thought 2/1 was a fair price and he duly won quite comfortably by nearly 4 lengths.


Understanding Pace is a crucial factor that should be considered just as much, if not more, than any other factor when betting on a race.

Latching on to front runners that are suited by the race conditions has made me a lot of points and profit over the last 8 months or so. Now of course it does not always go to plan but if you think you are getting a value price it pays over time. Sometimes you will misjudge whether a horse will get an easy lead or you may just misjudge the form.  I back more losers than winners but so far, touch wood, the winners have been worth waiting for.

I hope in some small way this article has highlighted my approach to pace and analysing a race and if you have learnt something then great. If not, then you can just watch the two horses below tomorrow to see if they can lead from flag to post…

Pace Bets  

I have found 2 ‘pace’ races and horses that I have already bet on tomorrow. I will be writing up a short piece as to why I fancy these tomorrow (20/11/14) morning and this can be found on the blog. In the meantime these are my pace bets…

1.40 Chepstow Guna Be A Devil 6/1

2.50 Chepstow Kapricorne 9/2

Next time you are betting see if you can find a front runner that may not be caught- so many races a day are won from the front.

Happy Punting,


p.s Finding front runners can be time consuming. Thankfully I have found just the tool that tells me where the pace is at the click of a button. But more on that in future 🙂

p.p.s all comments welcome. If you have a similar or different approach let me know below.


Post Comments

Do join in the conversation below, we're a friendly bunch.. all questions welcome, and do share your selections or thoughts

30 Responses

  1. Hi josh thank you for disclosing the information to me I found it fascinating I have noted the horses for tomorrow good luck James

    1. Hi James,
      thanks for your comment- in all honesty pace wasnt something i really considered at all up until this year and I do think it is an under valued factor. Yes keep an eye on them, given that i have tipped them they will probably finish out the back! And i will write up in the morning why i fancy they – obviously i expect them both to get an easy lead and I think they have the form to win, and the odds are a bit bigger than i think they should be. Thanks for the good luck, always needed! Josh

  2. Hi Josh — are you going to add an RSS feed for the blog posts? My RSS reader (Feedly) isn’t picking up any new posts since a Test you made on the 17th. Or will you continue to send emails on each new post? Thanks, Simon

    1. Hi Simon, Yes i should do that really! the technical side is not my strongest asset 🙂 but i will get onto that! In the meantime i will email every time there is a ‘meaty’ post…from tomorrow, including those two in the article, I plan to do a ‘pace wins the race’ post everyday (mon-friday) where i will highlight one front runner that is worth considering -some days nothing stands out but they are rare. cheers Josh

  3. Hello again, Josh,

    Cheers for that. I normally lay on Betfair using Bet Angel but I also back to get out in running. A good front runner gives me that opportunity, an angle I hadn’t looked at too closely before this. I will be doing that with both these horses tomorrow as they are attractive prices.
    Thanks again.


  4. Hey Josh, loving your insight, was delighted to get Street Artist at 16/1 the other day. Fantastic mate. Cheers Gary

    1. Thanks Gary…yes Street Artist was someone has just pointed out on here he ‘technically’ wasnt a qualifier but as you can see from my reply having tracked the price he wasnt 16/1 until very near to the race- anyway i backed him and i know a lot of others did too! I will hopefully have some more interesting ideas over coming weeks! thanks for reading.

  5. Hi josh, great to get a new and constructed view of racing. Much better then so called tipsters giving short price favorites, keep in touch.

    1. Hi Gary, thanks for your message. I like to think i have a different view…well whatever view i have it has been successful for me! and i will try and share what has worked over the next few weeks. I rarely back short priced favourites however my view of value is not strictly price based (i know some judges say anything below 4/1 is not ‘value’) as if you think a 2/1 shot should be even money, that is value in my opinion. As with the 2/1 pace horse yesterday mentioned in this post, i thought that was a decent price having looked at race, and he won like an even money shot.

  6. Why are you claiming(in your recent email) a D Nicholls winner at 16/1 when the rules of your system states 14/1 or under.

    1. Hi Robert…that is a good point and I was expecting someone to raise it…the selections are posted to my OTT members and i know a lot were on, including me…and that is because that winner was 10/1 and 12/1 the evening before and up to about 10 minutes before the race. It then went 14/1 up until 5 minutes before the off, at which point it went to 16/1. Anyone betting before near the off of the race would have backed the horse. If you were tracking live, or using a bot, you may not have true…but that is the nature of odds caps and one of the negatives. The odd drifter can win. When i researched and wrote guide a few months ago Dandy was 1/14 with 16/1 shots with only 2 places. He was 0/16 or so above 16/1…under those rules he is now 2/15 with 16/1 shots for about a 19 point profit at ISP…so, if you are prepared for a slightly longer losing run..he may not have another 16/1 shot for next 10-15 selections. I honestly wasnt trying to be disingenuous – if the horse was above 16/1 the night before and throughout the day i wouldnt have backed him, simply as that. But as i say, anyone betting before the final 5 minutes of the market would have backed him as he ‘technically’ qualified. I have learnt something from this and that is in future guides i will write a piece on performance at bigger odds so that people can make the decision…explaining the 16/1 element and fact he does have the odd winner at those odds would have negated this issue i dare say.

  7. Excellent post, Josh, and some very well made points. I hope at least one of your pace pair do the business, or at least show up well for a very long way, as people tend to look for instant validation or move on. And in the case of pace, as you rightly say, it’s a genuine edge that those who have the data – and know how to use it – can deploy against the mindless masses. 🙂

    Great post, really enjoyed it.


    1. Thanks Matt! Indeed a great edge that can really make a difference to the bottom line..I will be introducing readers to the source of the date in due course 🙂

  8. Alright Josh,
    I was on the dandy Nicholls I had it in a lucky 31
    11/2 5/2 12/1 n/r 16/1 the other was 4th gutted bcause
    I had an e/w fivefold. I always look at attheraces website
    And look at there speed ratings plus I have 
    Made a spreadsheet trainer and jockey combinations
    For selected courses not big stakes but a wins a win 
    No matter what 

    1. cheers Martin…yes Gunna Be A Devil was poor..i suspect the ground was a bit too soft however I dont think it made much difference, the Pipe horse responded really well to blinkers and had plenty in hand. Thankfully the second one won and the race panned out as expected. Of course if every ‘tip’ won I would by typing this from a beech somewhere exotic!

    1. Cheers Hugh, yes i was rather pleased with how that race panned out, got the top 3 spot on, although i dont bet FCs or RFCs, but yes, that demonstrated rather nicely the power of a pace approach.

  9. Hi Josh, tried your tips today only very small bet but 1 out of 2 not bad and the 1 won well I missed Nicholls horse the other day keep up the good work

  10. Hi Josh

    Many thanks for another interesting (and successful) post. One selection shortened considerably enabling an easy in-play profit and the other won.
    Glad you’re going to identify a bet a day for us and look forward to finding out where we can find such runners at the touch of a button


    Mike West (Lancashire)

    1. You guess correct Simon..those cards/pace analysis are great and along with horseracebase I would be lost without them! I will do a video or something in next couple of weeks about how I use them etc. I am sure there are some people that would enjoy using them. In terms of Flat/AW.. I think so yes. I have previously not recorded my previous bets as ‘pace’ bets which I am doing now I have started blogging..however from memory (you always remember the winners!) I know i have had a few..Almargo at Goodwood 16/1, Rise To Glory hamilton 16/1, a few at Nottingham who were able to grab the near side rail, a few Joe Fanning front runners and various others. I wouldn’t say Heavy Metal winning at Ascot at 50/1 was an out and out pace selection (well he wasnt i used trends as well) but as it was my biggest win of flat season I may as well mention him 🙂 – So yes, it does work on the flat.

  11. I like the idea. I would imagine that Southwell (aw) would be an ideal track for that approach this winter. Horses tend to struggle to make up ground there.

  12. Hi Josh:

    There is always someone like you who from time to time pops up out of the mist and points us in a new direction, when we thought there could not possibly be any more new angles to horse racing: Better still, you are an up front guy who is willing to share his hard work and dilligence with strangers like me:
    Of course “PACE” is nothing new but when applied like you suggested it makes sense of the frustrating game of horse racing:
    I always rate logical angles highly but when they come from an honest up front guy like yourself it gives that added incentive to keep on keeping on:
    Whatever the outcomes may be, please accept my thanks for your efforts to help us “Also Rans” get up front and stay there:

    1. Hi Gordon,
      thanks for your comment, much appreciated and it means a lot. One thing you will see if you follow me for any length of time is that i will always tell it as it is..and any tip or bet i put ito public, whether due to pace angle, or any of my systems, or other suggetsions will always be carrying my own money, usually 20 on the nose or 10 EW. I think this approach has a lot of value and I have a couple of others up my sleave that i will introduce in due in particular which i think is even more powerful than this pace approach 🙂
      all the best

  13. Simon,
    I thought the above article on pace analysis was very interesting. I look forward to any further information on your methods (“geegeez” and “horseracebase”?).
    I’ve tried trading based on pace, using the drill-down in the Racing Post site – mixed results. I would like to feel that the selection stood a chance of actually winning the race so I’m not obligated to lay it.

    1. Hi Malcolm..
      thanks for comment, there will be more info on both those methods you mention..they are the two main ‘tools’ i use and without them i would not be a profitable punter. While it will become clear that my primary focus is on sharing an info that i feel other punters may find valuable, i will from time to time point you to other services that could change your betting..those two are themain ones and i will share more in due course…including some over the shoulder videos of how i use them.

  14. Hi Josh

    I don’t know whether you’ll get this but here goes

    Would it be possible for you to put the on course profits article about using geegeez pace somewhere on your web site as I can’t for the life of me get the app.


    1. Hi Brian,

      I am not sure if I have permission but will see…I cant see any problem doing it in a few day/weeks. I have spoken to the guys at Daily Punt and those behind On Course Profits – as their promotion of article is a bit misleading! – it doesnt claim that I have made 50 points profits a month from just pace and finding front runners..i havent, that isnt true. I have averaged 50 points a month Sept-Jan using Geegeez Gold package, including pace, and other stuff such as profiling…I am about 25 points down in Feb so I dont always win! 🙂 If you hunt around the blog on all the posts, flick through a few pages, you will find similar videos on using Gold and pace etc.


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