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Homeracing

A month's worth of Gulfstream Park turf racing, Part II

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TwinSpires Staff

January 12th, 2018

by DICK POWELL

Click here to read Part 1 of this series

Now that I have entered the 145 turf races run at this year's Gulfstream Park Championship Meet into a spreadsheet, I can now examine if the rail placement favors any running styles or post positions.
 
For purposes of this study, please understand there are essentially two turf courses at Gulfstream Park. The "inner" turf course is when the rail is set between 0 and 36 feet. The "outer" turf course is when the rail is set between 72 and 120 feet.
 
On rare occasions (December 20, 23, 24 and 26) there are three courses. One is when the rail is at 0 feet, the middle course is when the rail is set at 60 feet and the outer course is when the course is set at 120 feet.
 
The average field size for the 145 turf races was 9.83.
 
For purposes of this study, I take the position of the winner at the first call in the chart. For two-turn races, it is the first quarter-mile. For five-furlong races, it is the 3/16ths mark.
 
To try to analyze winning trends and profiles, I then take the position of the winner at the first call and divide it by the field size. With an average field size of 9.83 horses per race, the average first-call place of the winners was 4.4. A lower number indicates the course was speed favoring; a higher number indicates the course was favoring closers.
 
I use field size as the denominator so a horse that is second at the first call in a race with six starters gets a 3.3 (2 / 6) while a horse that is second at the first call in a race with eight starters gets a 2.5 (2 / 8). I moved the decimal point one digit to the right to make this more readable.
 
There were 34 races run at five furlongs and 111 run at least two turns. The five-furlong sprints saw the average position of the winner at the first call of 3.7. With an average field size of 9.44 horses per five-furlong sprint, the winners were usually in the front third of the pack.
 
35 of the 37 five-furlong races were run with the rail at least 60 feet out. The two instances when they were run with the rail in, the average position of the winner at the first call was 1.8 so speed did well. Even with an obvious small sample, this makes intuitive sense since the inside part of the turf course has one, tight turn and makes it difficult to rally from off the pace.
 
Of the 32 races run with the rail 72 feet or farther out, around a wider turn, nine of them were won going gate to wire. This seems counterintuitive since you would think that the wider turn would allow closers to get up in time, but when the rail is in its two farthest positions – 108 and 120 feet – the average position of the winner at the first call was 3.7 which is right on target for all 37 five-furlong races run.
 
The three main distances run around two turns are 7 1/2 furlongs, one mile and 1 1/16 miles. We will ignore the one race run at two miles, the one race run at 1 3/16 miles and the three run at 1 1/8 miles.
 
Of the 106 races run at the three most common, two-turn distances, the average position of the winner at the first call was 4.6. With an average field size of 9.97, this is just below the midpoint where half the winning horses were near the lead and half the winning horses came from behind.
 
And the three most common, two-turn distances do not show any wide variances from the total. 7 1/2 furlongs saw the average position of the winner at the first call was 4.6, at a mile it was 4.8 and at 1 1/16 miles it was 4.4. Nothing to see here; move along.
 
But when you break down the three most common, two-turn distances to their rail placements, a couple of things begin to show up.
 
If you think the true rail position of 0 feet helps horses on the front end, you would be correct. Of the nine of these run, the average position of the winner at the first call was 3.7. Doesn't seem like a lot but compared to the other two-turn races, it was almost 20 percent less than the average.
 
And when you take the 15 races with the rail farthest out – 108 and 120 feet – the average position of the winner at the first call was 5.7 which is 20 percent more than the average.
 
The rest of the rail placements are in between which is what you would expect.
 
So the four conclusions we can draw after 145 turf races have been run at Gulfstream Park this meet are:
 
1. Speed does very well going five furlongs. The rail is usually out at least 60 feet and when it was placed at least 72 feet, 9 of the 32 races were won gate to wire.
 
2. Going two turns, the average winning position of the winner at the first call is an very average 4.6.
 
3. Going two turns with the rail at 0 feet, speed does better than average.
 
4. Going two turns with the rail farthest out, speed does worse than average.
 
Tomorrow, we will take a look at post position and if run-up distances have any impact.

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