Pace Handicapping: A Practical Demonstration

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Derek Simon

June 14th, 2013

(Click on image to enlarge)

(Click on image to enlarge)
The first thing to take note of regarding this race is that the average early speed ration, or ESR, is on the moderate side for a sprint race (-4), while the average late speed ration, or LSR, is on the poor side (-19).

What this tells us is that Saturday’s opener at Louisiana Downs probably doesn’t feature a stellar field — check, it’s for state-bred non-winners of three — and that horses possessing even a modicum of early foot could have an advantage.

Now, let’s take a closer look at the field:

This gelding is the morning-line favorite undoubtedly due to the fact that he’s been facing better. Notice his PC, or purse comparison, ratings are all in excess of 10, which is considered par for Saturday’s race. He’s also tied with Smartlightandquit in overall speed (Speed Rank) and ranks second to that rival in overall LSRs (LSR Rank). On the negative side is a pronounced lack of early foot (recent ESRs of 0, 0 and +1).

The question here is: Can this guy run on the dirt? He’s got two wins — both on the green — and his latest dirt try was atrocious. Not for me.

He’s another that has to prove he’s not a turf specialist. However, unlike Prime Cuvee, I would keep this fella in the mix due to his excellent grass form.

Son of Toolighttoquit is clearly the one to beat, in my opinion. Not only does he rank first in overall speed (tied) and LSRs, but he’s got some early lick as well (witness the -14 ESR on March 15). Better still, his last race was a solid try against tougher (second in a PC-13 race).

He’s been facing much, much better and is eligible to improve against the likes of these.

Early speed is a huge advantage for gelding seeking his third win in a row, but that -18 LSR last time gives me pause. Still, he’s a contender.

Final Word: On paper, this race belongs to SMARTLIGHTANDQUIT — he’s the fastest overall, the fastest late and he can be in touch early. Plus, he’s in fine form right now. I’ll play him to win at even odds or greater and in exactas over and under VOO DOO LOVE, SOLAR NIGHT and GO ‘ON NOW.

The numbers are all over the place in the next race, so let’s move on to race number three:

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Fast average ESR (-7) and decent LSR (-13) don’t really favor any particular type of horse in this turf dash.

Hasn’t stepped foot on the lawn in nearly a year, but did win a similar event on June 24 over this track.

Has some back class, but he’s winless on the sod and his recent dirt figures don’t suggest that he'll improve on the green, green grass of home.

He’s a little slow early, but typically motors home; could be tough with the right kind of trip.

Dueled through brisk fractions, yet still held on well last time. Son of Trust N Luck would be doubly tough if he can get the lead early.

He’s won more turf races than the rest of this field combined, but has Father Time finally caught up with this seven-year-old gelding? The recent numbers say “yes,” but I’m keeping him in the mix based solely on his past form.

He’s got the best LSRs in the field, but that’s where the positives end. With no early speed to speak of — and not much speed, period — this dude could find himself with way too much to do late.

Although he hasn’t won in two tries over the lawn, this five-year-old gelding has a lot going for him. To begin with, he’s dropping significantly in class after recording a race-best -13 ESR last time and, even better, it doesn’t appear that he needs the lead to win. What’s more, he’s got the best overall speed figures in the race.

Final Word: Even though the early pace could be blistering, I like the chances of WILDCAT CHARMS, who I think offers value at 7-5 or greater.

Other Horses to Watch on Saturday (6/15/13)

AP7: 1-TAZZ (superior last-race LSR).
CD5: 1-BAIL ME OUT (superior last-race LSR).
CD9: 3-KITTEN'S DUMPLINGS (superior last-race LSR).
CNL4: 1-FIXIN THE BOOKS (best overall speed figures, ESRs and LSRs).
CRC8: 3-THE BOOT WILDCAT (solid debut numbers).
CRC11: 8-WEE ROSA (best last-race speed figure, ESR and LSR).
SUF3: 5-CHI CHI'S PRIDE (best last-race speed figure and ESR vs. tougher).
SUF8: The morning line favorite 4-CLIFFORD ranks dead last in overall speed, ESRs and LSRs. 1-MISTER DIXIE and 5-FRANKIE RULES look like great alternatives if the morning line is accurate.