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.
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…
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.
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.