Racing Trends Pace Figures

Racing Trends Pace Figures – A Study by David Renham

One of the strongest biases in racing is pace bias. On Racing Trends we have daily pace information which we believe gives us a real edge. This report hopefully will detail how you can utilise this daily information to your advantage.

For the last few years the question of “pace” in a horse race is something that has become quite a hot topic. In the Racing Post for example, it is not unusual to read such comments as “all the pace is high so high draws could be at an advantage” or “there is plenty of pace in the race, which could set the race up for a finisher”; or “**** is the only confirmed front runner and hence could get a soft lead in front”.

Knowing how a race is likely to “pan out” in terms of a “pace angle” can give punters a valuable insight for a variety of reasons:

1.  Some course and distances do strongly favour horses that front run / race up with the pace; likewise there are plenty of others where front runners really struggle. Knowing this information can give you the extra confidence to back a selection, or indeed steer you clear of another.

2.  Knowing how a race is likely to be run in terms of how much pace there is in the race makes it easier to spot horses that may get a soft lead for example. Horses that get a soft lead have a much better chance of winning as their jockey should be able to set the ideal pace from the front. Conversely you may have a race with 3 or 4 confirmed front runners. In this case, the chances are that the front runners will go off too quickly as they try to dominate each other, and hence the race is often set up for a horse coming from off the pace.

3.  In big field straight course handicaps where the field splits into two distinct groups, there is sometimes an ‘advantage’ to one side in terms of pace. With confirmed front runners or pace setters on one particular side, there is more chance of a truly run race and hence one would expect the side with “better pace” to generally out-perform the other. Unfortunately this is not an exact science but it can give you some useful clues.

4.  Front runners over shorter distances tend to trade lower “in running”; likewise hold up horses tend to trade higher “in running”. Knowing what running style a horse has can give you an “in running” edge over other traders.

Therefore, understanding pace / running styles can give you a useful advantage over fellow punters. However, for many, pace / running styles do not enter calculations when having a bet. Hence, for those of us who use this approach, we still should have a clear edge over the majority.

At this juncture it will be worth explaining how I calculate the daily horse pace figures. I calculate a “pace average” for each horse by giving each horse “pace score” for each of their last six races. The score is dependent on the pace or running style they showed in those six races. The scoring system goes from the highest score of 5 down to a lowest of 1.5. Horses that score 5 are basically the front runners – those earning comments such as “made most”, “made all”, “led for 3f” etc; the 1.5 score is given to horses that race mid pack or at the back – those earning such comments as “behind”, “raced in midfield”, “held up”, “mid division”, etc. Other comments such as “prominent”, “close up”, “tracked leaders”, “chased leaders”, etc, gain scores of between 3 and 4. I am not however, going to give all my secrets away by saying which comments earn which scores!

I have done similar pace calculations for each course and distance – to work out a course & distance pace average I add up all the pace scores of the winners and divide the total by the numbers of races. The higher the figure, the more biased the course & distance is to front runners. The most biased course and distances in terms of pace are generally the ones I use alongside the Racing Trends horse pace figures. For 2011 the C&Ds with the very strongest front running biases in handicaps are as follows:

Course Distance (f) Course pace fig
Chester 5 4.21
Carlisle 5 4.15
Catterick 5 3.36
Chepstow 5 3.32
Warwick 5 3.25
Lingfield turf 6 3.12
Kempton aw 5 3.1
Pontefract 5 3.03
Warwick 6 3.01
Carlisle 7 2.94
Salisbury 6 2.85
Ascot 5 2.82
Southwell aw 5 2.75
Beverley 5 2.71
Redcar 6 2.7

The reason I concentrate on handicaps is that they offer a better betting medium where pace is concerned. Indeed I focus on all age handicaps as the pace data for the horses is far more reliable. Older runners have generally established a specific style of running, whereas younger runners have not. I also concentrate on 5f to 7f handicaps as shorter distances give more of a front running edge.

Any course and distance that has an average figure of 2.0 or more can be considered biased towards front runners – a figure of 2.0 indicates that front runners have won twice as often as they should given a statistically level playing field.

It is really important to appreciate there is a front running bias in certain races and that we should try and take advantage of it. Indeed, if I had been able to predict the front runner for 5f and 6f all age handicaps in 2009 and 2010 I would have made a profit of around 38% – so for every £100 wagered I would have got £138 back. The problem of course is correctly predicting the front runner – however, the horse pace figures Racing Trends generate give us a much better chance of predicting the front runner – unfortunately it is not close to being right 100% of the time, and never will be. The reasons why this is the case could be any of the following – a bad draw might make it impossible for a horse to lead for example; there might be 3 or 4 potential front runners in the race all with high pace scores and any one of them could lead the race early; it might be that a new jockey is on board and does not click immediately with the horse; it may be the horse misses the break or rears at the start; it might simply be that the trainer has asked the jockey to hold the horse up for a change –  the list is endless.

The good news is that our horse pace figures increase the chances of predicting the front runner fivefold compared to a random based selection. Indeed, using a recent sample of 200 rated races in 2011, horses with the highest Racing Trends pace figure went on to become the early front runner in exactly 100 of the those races (50%). They have been most accurate in predicting the front runner when the pace figure has been 4.0 or bigger – with these runners, the front running predictor percentage improved to 55%. Higher pace figures should theoretically produce a higher percentage of front runners compared with lower ones, so this should not come as a great surprise.

I have therefore used this sample of 200 flat races to research possible ideas in terms of backing and trading them “in running”. Over time I will be increasing this sample, and also looking at the National Hunt results but a 200 race sample is certainly big enough to make some confident conclusions.

The beauty of trading “in running” is that if you have a strategy that works, you don’t actually have to watch the race. Betfair allows you to set a lay or lays back at the price or prices you are happy with – you just need to click the ‘keep’ button to make sure these lays are kept for when the race starts and goes ‘in running’. Of course they may not get matched but the idea that you cannot benefit from betting ‘in running’ unless you are physically watching the race is a fallacy.

Ok, let’s look at some of the stats. To make it simpler I have concentrated on all top rated runners in this sample, rather than those horses i have personally mentioned in the analysis – the reason for this is simple; I need a benchmark from which to work from and looking at ALL top rated runners gives me this.

Backing All Top Rated Selections – one option I looked at was simply backing the top rated runners (including joint top rated) and not even worrying about any ‘in running’ trades. The figures were thus:

Top rated selections Wins Strike rate Profit/loss to BSP ROI
200 25 12.5% +£26.27 +13.1%

Quite a low strike rate but in all my pre testing of my pace figures, a win percentage of around 12-15% was the norm. The important fact point here is that a profit would have been made (this profit figure has been calculated after take out any winning commission at 5%). One big priced winner accounted for the majority of the profit, but in my experience this happens from time to time and these are the winners that often make the difference between success and failure.

The top rated selections have done best in 5f-6f races – I have always considered my pace figures to be more effective at the shortest distances and these figures help to back up the theory. Here is the 5f-6f breakdown of top rated pace runners:

Top rated selections 5-6f Wins Strike rate Profit/loss to BSP ROI
164 24 14.6% +£57.25 +34.9%

Profits improve to roughly 35% which is an excellent return.

Looking now at BSP place now – here are all the results first:

Top rated selections 5-6f Placed Strike rate Profit/loss to BSP ROI
200 82 41% +£27.98 +14%

A similar profit to backing the top selections to win – backing the BSP place offers more winning selections albeit at much shorter prices. However, for punters who do not like long losing runs, this looks a potential option.

Now let’s look at 5f-6f races only with the BSP place data:

Top rated selections 5-6f Placed Strike rate Profit/loss to BSP ROI
164 69 42.1% +£23.54 +14.4%

These are only marginally better results in terms of strike rate and returns this time compared to the overall ones.

All in all these figures for simply backing all top rated runners be it win or place look promising.

However, the pace figures were essentially designed with the intention of making money via ‘in running’ trading, so let me look in more detail at this now. Firstly I want to look at ‘dobbing’. Dobbing is basically betting on price movement within a race – it means double or bust. In other words it is a technique that simplifies the whole trading process which has the potential to give you an Even money win regardless of whether the horse wins or loses. As long as our runner trades low enough ‘in running’ we win irrespective of the result.

There are two bets which make up a successful DOB:  A BACK bet which is placed before the race begins, and A LAY bet which is matched ‘in running’. Let me give you an example: let us assume you back a horse at 9.0 on Betfair pre-race for £10; you then lay back at half the price (4.5) for double the stake £20. So if the 4.5 lay is matched ‘in running’ then you win £10 no matter what the result. Here’s the maths behind it – £10 back at 9.0 – potential profit £80, lay at 4.5 at £20 gives a potential loss of £70 – if the horse goes onto win the race you win £80 on back bet, but lose £70 on lay – a profit of £10; if the horse loses then you lose £10 on the win bet, but gain £20 back on the lay – once again a profit of £10. It works for any runner as long as the back price is 2.02 or bigger.

Of course if the horse fails to trade at half odds or less then you lose the £10. When you place the bets is up to you – you may place them early and if a horse is backed off the boards, you may have a successful DOB without the race actually starting! Even if it does not dob pre race, any horse that gets backed will make your DOB much more likely. However, the reverse could happen that when backing your selection early, it could drift making it harder to dob later in the race. For example if you back the horse in the morning at 8.0 and set your lay for 4.0, if it drifts to 12.0 come the ‘off’ then the dob is less likely to occur than it would have been had you waited to the last minute (betting this runner at the last minute would have seen you back the horse at 12.0 and set the lay back for 6.0). Of course if you can only place your bets early then you have to appreciate that some horses you back will get shorter in price before the ‘off’ while others will drift. Essentially it should even itself out, but try to make sure to bet when the market looks strong and does not have a large over-round.

Personally I leave my bet and lay to the last minute – indeed often I set my back for BSP and once the race starts and the BSP is calculated (usually within a couple of seconds) then I set the lay back quickly as the race is taking place. To do this you need to be fairly quick and be able to halve prices in your head.

So now I have explained one trading idea – dobbing – let us see how our sample of top rated pace selections have fared in terms of whether they have dobbed or not. I am taking BSP as my ‘back’ price which is the logical way of back checking this. In order to make a pre commission profit, we need to successfully dob more than 50% of the time, as effectively we are betting even money each time (£10 outlay will return £10 if successful). Of the 200 top rated RT pace horses 101 dobbed (50.5%) – so a rough break even situation. This is an excellent starting point as clearly there are ways to improve upon this. Let me split the results by distance first:

Distance Runners Successful Dobs Successful Dob%
5f 106 56 52.8%
6f 58 33 56.8%
7f 36 12 33.3%

These results are what I would have expected. The shorter the distance the more likely a front runner is likely to halve in price or Dob, especially if they lead.

For my next dobbing ‘experiment’ I split the top rated pace figures into two – those 4.0 or higher, and those 3.9 or below. The reason for this is that in theory those with higher pace scores are more likely to lead, and those that lead in theory are more likely to dob. Here are the findings:

Pace figures Runners Successful Dobs Successful Dob%
4.0 or more 140 75 53.6%
3.9 or below 60 26 43.3%

Encouraging results with the higher rated pace horses performing much better in terms of dobbing. If I now combine pace figures of 4.0 or more with just 5f-6f races we get 65 dobs from 114 or 57%. So what would have happened if we had attempted to ‘dob’ all horses with a top rated pace figure of 4.0 or more over 5f-6f? Let us assume you backed them pre race at a BSP equivalent price and set the lay for half those odds – you would have had 65 winning dobs less 5% commission and 49 losing dobs. Assuming an initial back stake of £20 with a lay stake set of £40 these runners would have yielded a profit of £255 after commission. This equates to a return on investment of 11.2%.

Of course dobbing is not the only ‘in running’ option we could look to be more aggressive and instead of setting the lay for half odds, set it for a third of the odds instead. The advantage of this is that a winning trade would yielded double the profit compared with a standard half odds dob, but to counter this you would not have so many successful trades. To make a profit on these you would need a successful trade over 33.3% of the time. Let us look at all top rated runners over 5f-6f with a pace figure of 4.0 or more and their success rate in terms of at least going one third of their original price ‘in running’:

Runners Successful trades Successful trade%
114 45 39.5%

We have exceeded the break even target with 39.5% of horses hitting the trading point. Assuming an initial back stake of £20 with a lay stake set of £60 these runners would have yielded a profit of £330 after commission. This equates to a return on investment of 14.5%.

It seems there that our top rated runners over 5f-6f with a pace figure of 4.0 have the capacity to generate profits from trading be it setting the lays at half odds (dobbing) or a third odds.

So the pace figures seem to offer potentially profit making options both from a traditional betting perspective and a trading perspective.

I will continue to explore more ideas with the top rated pace horses and my aim is to produce a second report at the end of August.

Dave Renham is a uk Horse Racing Researcher
For more info Click Here ==> Horse Racing Statistics

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