In this article I will be explaining how race times, in conjunction with my par time tables, can be put to very good use by both non-time and time handicappers alike: the tables for metro tracks for Sydney, along with those previously published for the Melbourne tracks (Par For The Course, March 2000 PPM), will show this quite clearly with a technique called racemapping.

Many punters do not see benefits in time handicapping, mainly because they believe it cannot work on turf tracks in the same manner that it apparently does on the dirt tracks in the US, and it seems marry punters have a misunderstanding of what time handicapping is all about.

It isn't simply just using pure speed handicapping but more so one of giving an insight into how a race is run and what factors are likely to benefit or hinder individual horses. The fact is the fastest horse does riot always win and racemapping can show which horses are most vulnerable.

Let me explain. How many times have you blown your money within the first few seconds of a race? I know that I have on more occasions than I care to remember.

No matter how careful you've been with your analysis, some things happen in racing that you cannot take into account. I call this the chaos factor; you will need to accept it happens on occasions, but do not let it unduly worry you as the reality in racing is that most likely you will get your analysis wrong more often than you'll get it right for many reasons: horses missing the start is only one such reason.

I believe most racing enthusiasts would agree if I stated that horses who obtain their preferred running position at the start and during the early part of a race win more races than those who don't and, having done detailed analysis of exactly this factor, I can assure you that my last statement is very much a truism; if a horse can't get an early position in the running, it will usually be beaten.

So, how can a punter, when doing the pre-race analysis, know if a horse is likely to obtain a preferred running position or not? The use of times and racemapping will give a good indication and it really is quite a simple process using any decent formguide, such as the Sportsman, the Truth or any of the daily papers that provide in-running positions and/or other comments to determine a horse's preferred running style.

Racemapping is nothing more than building a picture of how you envisage a race will be run. The important part is in getting the settling positions as accurate as possible. By settling, I mean after the hustle and bustle of leaving the starting stalls and the horses have travelled about 200 metres.

Firstly, using the in-running positions as a guide, sort the field into four categories; pace runners, off-pace runners, mid-field runners and backmarkers, ensuring that the distance of the race is matched to the horse's running style, e.g. a stayer may lead at distances of 2000m-plus, but on resuming over 1200m would normally lack the early pace of sprinters and therefore get back mid-field or worse.

Pace runners are those horses that either take the lead or settle second, normally just off the leader's shoulder. Off-pace runners are those who settle about a length or so off the leaders in third or fourth position on settling. Mid-fielders are those who settle about three or so lengths off the lead, settling anywhere between fifth and eighth position (depending on the number of runners), while backmarkers are those that settle ninth or worse in their races.

Horses drawn in outside barriers are not necessarily disadvantaged, particularly if they usually race towards the tail of the field. In fact, the reverse can be true as such backmarkers can be badly disadvantaged when drawn in an insider barrier, often finding themselves bottled up behind weakening runners.

However, what about the pace runner drawn wide? Will it be able to obtain a preferred running position or not? History can often tell the likelihood of that occurring. If the horse has previously been drawn wide in one or more of its races, what happened? Was it able to get across into an on-pace position, or was it trapped wide? The race comments in your preferred newspaper will often tell you this and even if there are no clues in the newspaper,
often how the horse finished off its race will do so.

If, for instance, the horse coming from a wide barrier was in a forward position but finished out of a placing, losing ground in the final part of the race, then it's very likely the horse was weakened by the extra effort and was at a distinct disadvantage.

It is also necessary to analyse where the pace in the race is going to come from. A horse drawn wide may have no other pace horses drawn on its inside, making the job of crossing the field to take up its preferred running position that much easier.

Times are also important in this type of analysis as they can give a clear indication of a horse's ability to come from a wide barrier, depending on the pace in the race, and if it is likely to be a fast, genuine or a slow early pace.

At the time of writing this article I have recently witnessed another victory for that marvellous New Zealand mare Sunline, in the Coolmore Classic at Rosehill in early April. Not only is she an exceptional horse, but in the Coolmore Classic she was the next best thing to a certainty in racing.

My racemapping analysis, using the early sectional times as its basis, had the early pace spread as 1-5-36, in other words one pace runner, five off-pace runners, three mid-field runners and six backmarkers. The lone pace runner was, of course, Sunline, who had little trouble crossing the field from a wide barrier to take a sit in second position behind the leader.

The fact that she didn't go to the lead until the run home is of little importance; she was always travelling within herself and was never pressured. Not only was she the class horse of the field, top weighted and at least 5kg above the other runners, she also had the advantage of having the race run on her terms.

In mentioning the 'early sectional times' (the hidden sectional) above, I mean the speed at which the race was run other than for the last 600m sectional, which can be derived by deducting the last sectional time from the overall race time. By comparing both sets of times with the par time tables it can easily be established whether or not the race was run faster or slower than par.

Sectional times used in this manner can be important in indicating whether races have been run with a fast or genuine pace early in the race, or if the race was more one of tactics by the jockeys. Some horses can only run best with the pace on all the way, others need the reverse situation, an easy or muddling early pace allowing them to sit on the pace using little energy and then outsprinting their opponents in the straight.

There have been some good examples of races in recent months where horses have been either advantaged or disadvantaged by the pace of the race.

The very good three-year-old filly Miss Pennymoney indicated early in her career that she was up to Group 1 level. Why? Her very first race, when she came from last to run second in a smart time, indicated her potential with the last sectional time (leader to leader) in that race being 33.8 seconds, which means that she ran her last 600m in something like 33 seconds - and this for a two-year-old having her first race start.

However, that early potential took a while to come to fruition; she might be something special but her racing style of settling back in her races was to her disadvantage. It wasn't until she raced closer to the lead that her early career potential vindicated itself with a win at her eighth race start.

History showed that her win in the Tranquil Star Stakes at Caulfield was the win that earmarked her as a horse to follow in the future. She not only beat a horse (My Sienna) that was to win twice at Group 2 level, but also recorded a time more than a second faster than the par time for open age races over the 1400m at Caulfield, and this as a three-year-old filly.

Her subsequent win first-up in January this year in the Group 3 Rubiton Stakes again indicated she was up to winning at the highest level. Extracting her race run details from my database, along with additional information, I have maintained a separate career record on Miss Pennymoney, as I do for other horses, so I can easily and quickly calculate if a race is going to suit a horse's running style or not.

Using her race and sectional times as a reference, it is clear that she runs best when there is fast early pace in her races, but is disadvantaged when there is not, as was the case when she was beaten by both Redoute's Choice and Testa Rossa earlier this year in the C.F. Orr and the Futurity Stakes.

Since her Rubiton Stakes win and at the time of writing, Miss Pennymoney has raced four times, all at Group 1 level, winning twice and finishing second twice. I backed her on the two occasions she won because she was racing in favourable conditions, in races with genuine early speed, but not when she was defeated, because on both occasions she was always going to be disadvantaged by a lack of early speed.

Race and sectional times can clearly indicate the future stars of racing, as they did for me with Miss Pennymoney, with my use of times and pace maximising my betting opportunities to back horses when they are likely to run in races that suit and saving money when it is obvious that they are running in unsuitable races.

There are other uses for times in racing; used in conjunction with my par time tables, official track conditions can be checked for accuracy, as they are often incorrect.

Race and sectional times earl tell you the hidden secrets of racing, even though you may have watched the race with your naked eye (like I do every raceday), or on the television monitors.

The par time tables that accompany this article are highly accurate and are derived from the race and sectional times calculated from the past five years of racing, so they are as up to date as possible, and importantly do not contain times run on tracks that have had major upgrades over the past few years.

Using these tables and incorporating them into your race analysis as described in this article can keep you one step ahead of the crowd, therefore making them one of the best racing tools available.


By E.J. Minnis