One of Melbourne's top professional form students concludes his two-part series on pace characteristics in racing, talking about how races are run and the general racing styles of different horses.

Last month, I talked about sectional times and the problems faced by horses running on from behind in various races run at various paces.

I mentioned in the latter part 'horse positions' and 'pace types' and gave the following examples:


Case Last 800m Suited Unsuited
1 fast, 46s leaders well back
2 48s hdy to midf from behind
3 slow, 50s from well bk leaders

The fourth type of horse runs its races according to the pace present in the race (really, it is running independent of the pace). If the pace is fast early then this type of horse gets back. If a slow pace is the case early in the race, then it races handy to the lead.

The pace the horse runs is set with its position in the race altering, according to pace variations during the race. This type of horse is generally the more inherently classy type, but as such is more difficult to characterise. It's usually the one to bet as it can often overcome bad pace conditions and still win if the class of race is low enough.

About the only thing a truly class horse can't compensate for is a wet track.

There is information on characteristics available, with the most accessible comments being in the Sportsman, or Truth. These papers give comments on the position of a horse at its previous starts on metropolitan tracks. In Truth, most runs in the city area have a comment such as ''11th settling, 10th 800m, 5th 40Om' and often a final comment like 'tightened at the 60Om' or ran on well'.

There are a number of problems with these comments. In their defence, having such comments is much better than having none at all. Otherwise, you would have to remember every horse, keep records or forget about characteristics (disastrous!). However, knowing that a horse is 10th at the 800m mark doesn't tell you the whole story.

It gives you no idea of (a) the pace during the race; or (b) where the horse was relative to the leaders. Ifs okay if you consider a horse running 10th to be a set number of lengths from the leaders, say five lengths, but the problem is a horse could just as easily be three lengths back running 10th with 800m to go, or 20 lengths back with the field strung out (if fast early). In both cases, the horse is 10th 800m out but in entirely different positions relative to the leaders.

It can be argued that only the placing of a horse is needed during the running and that its position from the leaders isn't important. In some races this is true. In truly run races, where the pace is fast early, a horse running, say, 10th would be a fair way back. The leaders on tiring would allow this horse to make up the lost ground and win, or whatever, from that position. In this case, for example, knowing the horse was 10th settling and 8th on the turn tells you the horse ran on well if it finished up winning or placing.

However, it is better, especially these days when more and more races are run with little early pace, to know the position of a horse in terms of lengths relative to the leaders, as well as the pace during the race. From this, it can be determined which horses were suited by the way the race was run, and then, whether or not the form is relevant.

Example: Consider a horse which normally tails off in its races before running home strongly. It would appear to have run badly if the race developed into a fast sprint home after a slow first half (because it would have to make up too many lengths when the pace was on). In this race, a horse of this type making any ground at all has to put in a good run.

The same can be said for a horse that was slow away or checked early in a similar race. Likewise, a leader would run out of steam if the pace were very fast early (not many horses can go at both ends of a race successfully). These methods should make you aware of the effects of different pace on a race, and the horses competing.

By incorporating horse characteristics into your analysis, you should avoid backing horses which have little or no chance and take those that appear best suited.

One problem is to determine what the pace is likely to be in a future race. The easy way to get a good guide to this is by just considering the number of runners in a field (after scratchings). As the number of runners gets less and less, a race becomes more likely to have a muddling pace. Usually, this results in a slow pace early, and a sprint home.

A small field is usually 12 or fewer runners, although many times if a race doesn't have a natural pacemaker, the pace can be muddling in larger fields. Generally speaking, to have a muddling pace, the race has to be more than 1400m (unless the field is less than about eight runners). Races of 1400m or less tend to have the pace on most of the way.

In a small field, the pace is nearly always slower than in a similar class race with more runners. In a big field, horses are trying to take up good positions early, some from wide barriers, so the pace tends to be on as runners scramble for the positions. In a smaller field, there isn't as much of this scrambling for position, meaning the race tends to be more leisurely in the early stages (often resulting in horses being caught wide).

Nearing the end, however, it's on in earnest. As such, the pace over the last section of a small-field race is very much increased. Again, this is another reason why the overall time gives you little indication of the pace situation during a race. A slow overall time tells you nothing if the field is small.

Check the sectional times on races with small fields. The time for the first part of the race is nearly always very slow, and this alone can explain why some runners went poorly.

Click here to read Part 1.