How fast have you ever gone in a car? Go on, admit it, you haven't always obeyed the speed limit, have you? There was one memorable occasion where you decided to see just what your car could do. It was probably early in the morning on the motorway. Nobody else was around, so you decided to floor it, just for the hell of it.

'The car took off ... (and you) watched the speedometer surge beyond a point you'd ever pushed it to before. Then the car started to make noises and became difficult to control, so you backed off.'

When reading these words in Nick Mordin's excellent book, Winning Without Thinking - A Guide To Horse Race Betting Systems, I must admit a wry smile came over my face.

Why? Because I well remember the occasion I had personally pushed my model three Mazda RX7 to a point beyond reproach on the Hume Highway one early Monday morning a few years ago, on my way back to Melbourne after having watched my beloved Essendon Bombers go down to the Sydney Swans.

The reason Mordin asks the question about cars going too fast relates in an equine sense to racehorses that do likewise. But unlike cars, racehorses can't stop at the next petrol station when they run out of fuel. If a racehorse goes too fast for too long, it will simply run out of energy (fuel) and stop.

In the chapter titled The Tortoise and the Hare, Mordin attempts to answer the question, 'How fast is too fast for a horse?' In what he calls his 'best theory', he states that each horse has what he terms a 'collapse point', which means that after a certain speed in the early part of the race, a horse will not be able to finish the race off strongly.

Mordin theorises, 'that it is only when a horse reaches its collapse point that its performance will be adversely affected', going on to state, 'I am convinced that the final time a horse runs for the full distance of a race will not be altered by the early speed it runs - so long as it runs a genuine racing pace early and doesn't pass its collapse point'.

In races of up to 2000m, Mordin believes that the final race time is an indication of a horse's true ability on more than two-thirds of the time.

He then goes on to make some critical comments about so-called pace and sectional time 'experts' and complex maths being pointless, stating that the (complex maths) formulas don't work.

Personally, I'm not sure of that as I've dabbled in the 'complex maths' (not so complex in reality) and had great success, but each to their own, I suppose.

The reason Mordin believes formulas don't work is because horses speed up and slow down during a race and using some arbitrary sectional time cut-off to represent a horse's early pace can be error prone.

A US sectional time expert, Cary Fotias, whom Mordin describes as the world's greatest, has reputedly made his living for a number of years by betting on horses who have earned what is termed 'a new pace top'.

'That is, they ran faster in the early stages last time than they ever have before,' Mordin explains.

Moving on from sectional times to another aspect of pace, running style, Mordin states that horses that change away from their normal running style don't often win, something with which I concur.

'The traditional view among pace experts is that if there are two or more equally matched frontrunners ... then ... the right play is to back the best horse with a finishing kick. If there is just one front-runner who seems likely to enjoy an uncontested lead, then that is the right play. I'm not saying this reasoning is bad. It's just that the surface and layout of some courses favour one running style so strongly . . . (it hardly) seems to matter,' he claims.

Going on to add: 'Traditional 'pace handicapping' largely ignores the effect of the course. It simply involves studying the running style of the horses in a race to see which one appears to be the most favoured by the way the race is likely to run today.'

This is something that I've been doing for some time with some considerable success.

As an example of 'pace handicapping' in practice, at the Hiskins Steeplechase meeting at Moonee Valley in late July, my pace handicapping found five top-rated winners and two placegetters on the eight-race programme.

Mordin concludes this chapter by restating Professor William Quirin's 'speed points' method, which is based on a horse's last three starts:


  • Four points for any race in which the horse led before halfway.
  • Two points for any race in which the horse disputed the lead before halfway.
  • One point for any race in which the horse was prominent before halfway.

The higher the number of points, the more likely it will lead or take up a front-running position.

This concludes the review of Nick Mordin's latest book, one which is rich in content covering many, if not all, of the aspects racing fans need to consider in determining which horses to bet on. While its main theme is centred on UK racing, there is a wealth of material that is useful world wide, including Australia, and it is highly recommended.

Winning Without Thinking - A Guide To Horse Race Betting Systems, by Nick Mordin, is available from

Click here to read Part 1.
Click here to read Part 2.

By E.J. Minnis