Even at Royal Ascot Pace Makes the Race

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D.S. Williamson

June 29th, 2017

Sometimes, it takes a while to realize the mistakes that you've made. As horseplayers, we've all developed a particular method of studying racing forms. Some of us first look at speed ratings. Some of us prefer to look at pace ratings. Some of us, like my dad's friend Curtis, follows the money.

I had a terrible Royal Ascot Meet. No, seriously. The only wager I hit was an exacta with Big Orange over Order of St. George in the Ascot Gold Cup. Looking back on it, I talked myself off potential winners because I didn't stick to what has helped me in the past, figuring out the likely pace of the race first.

It appears even at Royal Ascot, pace makes the race. Pace made race for every single one of the winners I list here.

Prince of Wales Stakes - Highland Reel

I woke up thinking I was going to dump on Highland Reel.  Then, I looked at the past performances. Highland Reel faced Ulysses, Jack Hobbs, and Queen's Trust. He also sweat on the racetrack. Sure, I thought he might get a great trip behind one of the likely pace-setters. I didn't think he could hold off Ulysses, Jack Hobbs, or Queen's Trust. I ended up building tickets around Queen's Trust.

That was a mistake. Highland Reel, like he did in last year's Breeders' Cup Turf, got the perfect trip. He won easily. Just because it's on turf, it doesn't mean that closers always run better. That's a fallacy. I thought the pace might be soft. I still bet against Highland Reel.

Ascot Gold Cup - Big Orange

I kept going back and forth regarding my key horse. After a few minutes of thinking, "I should key on Big Orange because his odds are better," I decided to go with Order of St. George. Big Orange went gate to wire. I even remember thinking, "Big Orange gets an easy lead in this. He can wire this field." Then, I talked myself off Big Orange because I didn't think there was any way a horse could run 2 1/2 miles on grass and win on the lead. Not when a closer like Order of St. George was in the race.

Ribblesdale Stakes - Coronet

I didn't think about how pace doesn't always have something to do with how easy a lead a horse gets. I thought that a horse might get out to an easy lead. I didn't think the horse that got the lead in the Ribblesdale was going to run as fast on the lead as this horse did. I had money on the chalk, Mori, who finished second. Pace definitely made the race on this one. The jockey on the winner, Olivier Peslier, just waited longer before making a move than Pat Smullen aboard Mori did.

Notice how all the jockeys didn't panic once the rabbit got out so far in front? This is a classic case of the pace itself leading to results, not an easy lead.

King's Stand Stakes - Lady Aurelia

I took a stand against Lady Aurelia. Why? I thought she'd have trouble getting the lead. Again, pace made the race because Lady Aurelia didn't get the lead. She didn't have to. The other jockeys were so afraid of her running away with this, that she got a comfortable position a few lengths behind dueling front-runners. When asked, she ran on for an easy win.