Run Style Isn’t Written in Stone

Way back at the beginning of my handicapping career, I read a tip for picking winners. The author said to look for races with only one horse with an Early speed or E running style. He said that in these races that horse can often get the lead and keep it, even if it’s faded in other races, especially if it has a high number of speed points.

Now, I knew that this was true from playing greyhound races for so many years. Especially from the 8 box, if a dog is the only speed dog in the race, you have to take it seriously, even if it’s a fader usually. So, I decided to look for races with only one Early run style horse and play them on paper to check this idea out. I always try things out on paper before I risk real money. My experiment was a dismal failure, but not for the reasons you might think.

I found quite a few races where there was only one horse with the Early run style and a high number of speed points, meaning that horse wanted the lead. I kept track of these races and when I looked at the results, I was surprised to find that the horses that looked like they’d burst out of the gate and race to the lead didn’t always do that. In many races, the Early horses didn’t run like E horses or like E horses that wanted the lead, at any rate.

Right about then, I found IHandicapRacesWithPacePals and installed it on my smart phone. It has good tutorials and I followed them and one of them gave me a clue about why my Early horses ran like Early Pressers or even Pressers. On the Pace Pal module, there’s a screen that shows the entries, their run style and also, more importantly, the run style they ran in their last race.

It was an eye opener! I couldn’t believe how many horses ran a different run style in their last race than they were “supposed” to run. E horses that ran like EP’s, P’s and in a few cases like S’s, horses that stay at the back of the pack and then close with a rush at the end. I decided to talk to my favorite handicapping authority, Bill Peterson, about this and he had some good insights into why this happens and what to do about it while handicapping.

Bill said that horses aren’t machines, which is true. They’re not as rigid as people think they are. True, horses are quick to develop habits, both good and bad, and they usually prefer one run style over other run styles. But, as Bill says, there’s a jockey on the horse and he or she may have their own idea of the best run style for the race and succeed at getting the horse to run that way.

Also, the makeup of the race and the run styles of the other horses has an effect on the Early speed horses. If they’re blocked at the start or get bumped or cut off very early in the race and don’t get the lead, they may lose their momentum and just decide to “run with the herd” or even try to lag behind. Need to lead horses almost always alter their run style when they don’t get the lead at the git-go.

After talking to Bill and adding IHRwPP to my handicapping arsenal, I’ve changed the way I look at run style and its effect on races. I still look at it, but I don’t take it as gospel. I look at IHRwPP to see if the horse ran a different style of race in its last race. I look at the horse’s last six running lines to see if its run style has been consistent over those races. And I’m not surprised if, after all this, a horse that has always been first out of the gate misses the break or just doesn’t beat the other horses.

I’m also not surprised if an Early Presser runs like an Early horse or a Presser runs like an Early Presser or vice versa. One thing I have noticed though with run style. Sustained or S horses almost always run like S’s. If a jockey does manage to get one to run faster than it wants to in the beginning of the race, that horse almost always fades to the back of the pack at the end of the race.

Sustained running style horses just aren’t made for taking the lead and you’ll find very few of them running different run styles in their last race on the IHRwPP screen that shows the run styles. So, when you handicap, keep in mind that run style is just one of the factors to consider in any race. So is post position advantage, but that’s a subject for another article.

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