How to Handicap a Horse’s Pace


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When you think of horse races, naturally, the fastest horse will win the race. All the racehorses start in a straight line, and the first one to cross the finish line is named the winner of the race. Whoever covers the race distance first is the fastest. It’s why handicapping a horse’s pace is highly sought after. 

Pace, by definition, is the race in which horses run on the tracks. When horse race bettors handicap on a particular factor, it’s because it can directly impact the outcome of a race. As we all know, the pace is an excellent example of this.  

Handicapping a horse’s pace is extremely challenging, just like how it’s like to handicap other factors. However, with pace handicapping, you would have to look and analyze speed figures and watch previous performances. Want to learn more about how you can handicap a horse’s pace? Then read on below! 

Different Pace Styles  

Did you know that there are four different running styles? Gaining the ability to recognize these types is how to judge horse pace easily. 

The quickest horses are called “Early” horses; these are the horses that exhibit their speed early in the race. You see these horses on the tracks that fight for an early position. “Early Only” horses are those contenders with lone speed and no pressure. They don’t try to fight for an early position. 

“Pressers” are those winners who just came off the pace and now are getting the first jump on the pacesetter. These horses force the pacesetter with their mere presence to quicken their tempo. These are the most common winners at the most class level. It’s because horses are pack animals and respond well to pack mentality. Wouldn’t they run faster if five horses were breathing down a horse’s neck? Pressers grind down the horses at the front and swoop to catch the front spot. 

If there are Earlies and Pressers, there are also “Stalkers”. These are the horses that are usually at the back of the line. They are the ones that usually wait for the horses in front to tire out and get their spot.  

Spotting the Pace Style of Horses 

It’s essential to determine a horse’s pace style and what racehorse they are. To find this information and look at the horses’ running line, you must look at a horse’s previous performances.  

A running line is the progression of a contender’s place in the race compared to other horses. This line will tell you where the horse was at every race call. It will also tell you the lengths he was behind or in front of the race leader.  

An early-speed horse would lead the race or close most of its running lines. So if the contender’s often the leading horse at the first and second call, they’re labelled as an early speed type horse. 

If a horse continually places 3rd, 4th, or 5th and about 2 to 3 lengths away from the leader, they’re called the presser. It’s because he can stay within striking distance but doesn’t have the speed to take the lead. 

Contenders more than three lengths away from the leader and among the last horses in each call are now called the stalkers.  

Regardless of the distance’s race, most horses will generally keep the same pace style. So, be on the lookout for those early speed horses as their speed figures and pace style shows they can maintain the lead horse in a race no matter the distance. 

Importance of Pace Handicapping 

As mentioned above, when handicapping pace, you will have to use speed figures. These figures are beneficial when determining the quality and, of course, speed of a horse.  

In the United States and Canada, thoroughbred dirt racing is the most famous horse racing event in these two locations. Dirt track surfaces are hard on a typical day, except when it’s raining; this type of track can help horses rapidly achieve peak speed. They can also gradually slow down when they want to. This surface is the ideal track for reviewing past performances and for a horse to show off their maximum speed. 

When you handicap pace, you can help evaluate which horse will be more likely to speed early and which will stay late but will excel near the finish line. 

Finally, it would help if you remembered that a contender’s past speed figure could only tell bettors so much. Other factors such as race tracks, coach, weather conditions, jockey, etc., are only some factors that can contribute to a contender’s pace. 

Final Thoughts 

“Pace makes the race” is a famous saying in Thoroughbred racing. We all know that early pace affects the outcome of a race, especially on dirt tracks. A fast early pace for horses can benefit other contenders and hurt others.  

Handicapping on this factor can be difficult as it involves lots of information you have to learn. Pace handicapping will test your brain capacity and motivation to gain an edge. Remember that it may be hard studying the materials right now. Still, as you train and make a habit of learning the crucial pace of handicapping information, you too can make profitable bets. 

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