How close up does your horse have to be to have a chance to win? When is it okay (from a track surface standpoint) to come from behind, and when do you need to be on or near the lead? The Pace Contention Point � an idea I developed and talked about publicly years ago � helps answer these questions. It�s a measurement of how far behind the leader at the second call a horse can be and still have a reasonable (say, about 80% chance) of winning the race. Since this number varies widely from one track/surface/distance to another, and from one period to another, it can be useful in pinpointing any pace biases at work in a given situation.
If I�m using a computer program to calculate the Pace Contention Point (PCP), then the calculation involves messy things like standard deviations and sample sizes. But there�s a quick-and-dirty way to calculate this number too. All you need are your local result charts and a paper and pencil.
You just create a line on your sheet of paper for each of the track/surface/distances (TSDs) that you�re going to follow. (Okay, I know I�m using Too Many Acronyms [TMA].) For instance, if I was tracking Santa Anita, I�d have a line for SA/6F/Dirt; another for SA/6.5F/Dirt, and so on until all TSDs were covered.
In a procedure that takes less than a minute per card once you get the hang of it, I just check to see how far behind the leader the winner of each race was at the second call. (By the second call, I mean after one-half mile in sprints and after three-quarters of a mile in routes.) When counting up lengths behind for the winner, look at all the horses that were ahead of the winner at that call and add their beaten lengths together. Convert a nose (no) to .05; a head (hd) to .1; a neck (nk) to .2. If the sum of the beaten lengths contains a fraction of more than .2, then round it up to the next whole number.
Say the winner of the first race at Santa Anita, a 6F dirt affair, ran 1.5 lengths behind the second-call frontrunner. I round that number up to 2, and write it down in the row for SA/6F/Dirt. I do the same for all the charts for that day. As time goes by, I get a line of numbers for each TSD. To calculate the PCP is simple: cross out all but the last 10 numbers for each TSD, and then circle the third highest number from the most recent 10. That�s your PCP for that track/surface/distance. For instance, say my last 10 numbers for the SA/6F/Dirt TSD were: 3, 2, 2, 0, 0, 2, 5, 6, 1, 2. The third highest number is 3 � that�s the Pace Contention Point.
The PCP is useful in a pace analysis because it tells you how close up a horse has to be to have a good shot at winning in this situation. You�ll see this number change over time. Pace biases definitely appear and disappear in specific situations. You may go through streaks where the PCP for a certain TSD is two or less. You know you then have a situation heavily biased toward early speed. These situations can occur on turf as well as dirt, so keep an eye out on both surfaces. If a Pace Contention Point is five or higher, you probably have an unbiased situation. If you can latch onto a pace bias at your track, it definitely provides an edge.
If a horse isn�t "in the pocket" (within the PCP number of lengths of the frontrunner) at the second call, things are starting to look black for its backers. Don�t be one of those unlucky souls with a ticket on the horse five lengths back coming into the stretch in a race with a PCP of two. Know if a pace bias exists before you place your bet.
That�s it. Sorry for using TMA. I will now STFU.
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