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Profiting From Track Pace Bias

Racetrack bias in horse racing has always been an interesting subject, be it the effect of the draw or the favoured running style. Draw biases are still very much as prevalent today as they were in the past, but unfortunately they have been studied and analysed to such an extent in the racing press that any value to be had from backing well drawn runners is now long gone. You only have to look at the starting prices of the highest drawn runners in every 5f Beverley handicap to see that finding value using well-known draw biases is nowadays incredibly difficult. Pace bias, on the other hand, has had far less media coverage than the effect of the draw, which means, for the time being at least, that finding an edge using this particular angle should reap rich rewards, as the starting prices of pace-favoured runners are not driven down in the same way as they are in the case of a well drawn horse. Some racecourses are widely known among racing form students to favour a certain running style. York has, for many years, been a happy hunting ground for front-runners and those horses that sit in just behind the leaders. Chester racecourse is another venue that favours those racing prominently the configuration of both of these racetracks gives an advantage to this type of early paced runner. Conversely, on the new All-Weather surface Polytrack, which is in place at Lingfield and Wolverhampton, front-runners have a dire record due to the elasticated surface allowing hold-up horses to preserve energy throughout the race and also allowing them to instantly quicken far more easily than they can on turf, thus the advantage held by those runners which set their own pace is diminished. So how can we profit from this? Simply knowing which of our racetracks favour front-runners and which do not is a handy piece of knowledge to have, but turning this information into profit is easier said than done. In my experience, trying to pre-judge the likely pace make-up of any race is nigh on impossible its certainly possible to achieve a rough idea of the likely pacesetters, the pacechasers and the hold-up runners, but confidently predicting exactly which horse(s) will lead in every race you examine is just not feasible. One major problem is the fact that trainers can and often do change the riding plans of their horses, for various reasons. For example, a horse may have been held up in every race of its career to date, yet on this occasion the trainer may decide to tell the jockey to try and make the running with his charge. And this is just one horse in one race how could it be possible to guess the plans of

each and every trainer? There is simply no way of knowing and trying to base a system or method around such debatable guesswork is a risky business. What I decided to do was to examine every single winner from the last 19 flat seasons that had managed to win by making all of the running. I concentrated solely on those winners that had then gone on to win on their next start too. The following table shows each racecourse and the strike rate percentage of these winners for their next time out appearances.
WOLVERHAMPTON (aw) LINGFIELD (aw) KEMPTON LEICESTER DONCASTER NEWBURY HAMILTON SOUTHWELL (aw) WINDSOR WARWICK AYR HAYDOCK THIRSK CATTERICK BATH SANDOWN LINGFIELD (turf) CARLISLE MUSSELBURGH NEWMARKET (Rwly) ASCOT NEWMARKET (July) GOODWOOD REDCAR FOLKESTONE 25.00 23.56 22.22 21.54 20.31 20.16 19.47 18.88 18.53 18.50 18.42 18.40 17.94 17.77 17.38 17.33 17.22 17.20 17.19 17.03 16.97 16.94 16.81 16.71 16.67

RIPON YARMOUTH YORK CHEPSTOW CHESTER NOTTINGHAM BEVERLEY PONTEFRACT SALISBURY BRIGHTON NEWCASTLE EPSOM

15.99 15.97 15.85 15.50 14.64 14.60 14.47 14.41 14.41 13.96 13.86 12.78

So for example, of all the Wolverhampton (aw) winners that made all of the running to win their races, 25% of them managed to follow up that victory with another on their very next outing. 20.16% of Newbury front-running winners managed to win next time out, and the strike rate from Goodwoods winners was 16.81%. As you will see, there is quite a varied set of figures here, which is too wide a span for it to be insignificant. The strike rates from the All-Weather tracks of Lingfield and Wolves are almost doubled that of Epsom and there is a near 10% strike rate difference between the highest turf track and the lowest turf track. There has to be a reason why front-running winners at certain tracks go on to win their next starts far more often than others. It cant have anything to do with class, as among the top half a dozen courses on the table we find top class venues such as Kempton and Newbury alongside lowly Wolverhampton (aw) and Leicester, and the home of the Derby, Epsom, is at rock bottom on the list. Careful scrutiny of the table leads me to believe I know the answer. The majority of courses that favour front-runners can be found towards the bottom of the table, while the tracks which making all at is a tough task are situated around the top. This makes sense when you think about it if a horse can win by making all of the running on a track which holds a pace bias against front-runners, then it has clearly put in a meritorious effort and must be capable of winning again hence the higher next-run strike rates at the hold-up style favoured courses. On the other hand, if a horse makes all to win on a racetrack which strongly favours the front-running style then it has possibly been flattered in doing so and will find

it harder to supplement its win with another on its next outing, especially as it will usually have a tougher task with its official rating being upped for winning. As mentioned earlier, the Polytrack surface at Lingfield and Wolverhampton All-Weather tracks does not lend itself to front-runners, so its no surprise to find these two tracks at the top of the table (for the purpose of this analysis I have only included races at these venues from when the new Polytrack surface was laid). Its interesting to see that of the four other courses to have a higher strike rate than 20%, three of them have long, stamina-demanding straights which are unsuitable for front-running types as there is nothing to help break up the pace and therefore they are there to be shot at by the late-running type who needs to come with a long raking run; Leicester has a straight 7f track and on the round course the run-in is a good 5f, Doncaster has a straight mile course with a 5.5f run-in on the round course, and Newbury has a similar description to Doncaster. At the foot of the table, Epsom holds an awful strike rate of just 12.78%, which strongly suggests that the track hands a strong advantage to horses that make all there. The severe undulations, tight turns and a short run-in, not to mention the completely downhill 5f course, make this track a front-runners paradise. No wonder so few winners go on to win again from here. Many other front-running favouring courses are found near the foot of the table Chester, Beverley and Brighton to name a few. So now that we know which tracks produce the most subsequent wins from their front-running winners, we can use this information to our advantage. Looking at the last 5 seasons using the top six courses from the table, we get the following collective results.
YEAR WINS RUNS STRIKE% LSP LSP%

2000 2001 2002 2003 2004

23 15 20 30 49

108 77 124 149 184

21.30 19.48 16.13 44.57 26.63

-7.66 -7.03 -23.51 -15.10 110.88

-7.09 -9.13 -18.96 -10.13 60.26

TOTAL

137

642

21.34

57.58

8.97

Backing all font-running winners from these six tracks on their next starts has hit a strike rate of 21.34% with an excellent LSP% of 8.97. Obviously the fantastic results from 2004 have skewed the figures somewhat, but only in 2002 did the strike rate disappoint, and remember this is backing every single qualifier blindly with no filters.

Most systems can be massively improved by adding a rule which chucks out the big priced qualifiers any system which relies on longshots winning at is always going to be less likely to continue to make a profit due to the odd 33/1 shot skewing the figures. Breaking down our stats into SP groups we have the following
CATEGORY SP < 4/1 4/1 - <6/1 6/1 - <8/1 8/1 - <10/1 10/1 - <12/1 12/1 - <16/1 16/1 or bigger WINS 80 23 14 11 5 2 2 RUNS 210 103 92 65 42 53 77 STRIKE% 38.10 22.33 15.22 16.92 11.90 3.77 2.60 LSP 9.58 24.50 12.50 35.00 14.00 -23.00 21.00 LSP% 0.46 23.79 -13.59 53.85 33.33 -43.40 27.27

Clearly the qualifiers that were sent off at odds of 12/1 or longer are the ones to avoid here. Although the 16/1 and bigger group made a good profit, it was clearly due to a couple of huge priced winners inflating the results. Discarding the runners that were 12/1 or bigger we get the following results.
YEAR WINS RUNS STRIKE% LSP LSP%

2000 2001 2002 2003 2004

23 15 20 29 46

84 58 100 118 152

27.38 25.86 20.00 24.58 30.26

16.34 11.97 0.49 0.90 65.88

19.45 20.64 0.49 0.76 43.34

TOTAL

133

512

25.98

95.58

18.67

So with just the one filter, we have a LSP in every year - in fact it has produced a LSP in 14 of the last 16 seasons, which reinforces the thinking that this is a logical sound idea. Although only a small profit in years 2003 and 2003, this is still highly promising considering just one basic filter (Starting Price) has been used. Breaking down the stats further, we can see from the following table that one particular age group makes a significant loss as compared to the profits made by the other age groups

CATEGORY 2yo 3yo 4yo 5yo 6yo 7yo 8yo-10yo

WINS 23 36 15 12 9 0 2

RUNS 90 137 63 49 21 5 14

STRIKE% 25.56 26.28 23.81 24.49 42.86 0.00 14.29

LSP -12.31 48.28 5.77 14.26 13.35 -5.00 1.00

LSP% -13.38 34.24 9.16 29.10 63.57 -100.00 7.14

The strike rate for the 2yo runners is actually only just below the average of 25.98%, but clearly these juveniles offer no value in their prices and return a loss of over 12%. Discarding this 2yo age group leaves us with a profitable system, which is based on logic and should continue to prove profitable in the years to come. The final results for the system are
YEAR WINS RUNS STRIKE% LSP LSP%

2000 2001 2002 2003 2004

17 11 12 22 40

61 48 46 94 128

27.87 22.92 26.09 23.40 31.25

27.70 2.30 17.86 6.50 64.70

45.41 4.79 38.83 6.91 50.55

TOTAL RULES

108

415

26.02

106.06

25.56

a) Horse must have won last time out at one of the following tracks by making all the running DONCASTER, NEWBURY, LEICESTER, KEMPTON, LINGFIELD (aw), WOLVERHAMPTON (aw) b) Discard any runner which is sent off with an SP of 12/1 or bigger c) Discard 2yo runners