Fractionally Speaking
Doing the Splits!
Level: Intermediate
By Jessica Chapel, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor

Time only matters in prison, as the old racetrack saying goes, but time can also tell a story about how a race was run. While it’s possible to derive a horse’s preferred running style and the pace of a race by looking at past performances, there’s even more useful information to be gleaned by examining the fractions. For example, on paper, Zenyatta won a lackluster edition of the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic (chart), receiving a Beyer speed figure of 97 for a final time of 2:00.62. But Zenyatta went from sixth at the stretch call to first at the wire in a stellar time of 23.30. Looking at Zenyatta’s fractions for the Classic, you can see that her historic victory was a great race in which she effortlessly tracked her rivals, then powerfully outkicked them in the stretch.

Confused? Don’t be. At every point of call in a race, a fractional time for the race leader at that point is recorded. The first point of call is the first quarter (the first two furlongs), the second call the first half (the first four furlongs). In races longer than five and a half furlongs, the third is for the first three-quarters (the first six furlongs). In races longer than a mile, a fourth time is taken at that point, an additional time for each quarter after. A final time is recorded when the winner hits the finish line.

Fractional times are cumulative. For the 2010 Kentucky Derby (chart), a 10-furlong race with four points of call plus the final time, the results chart displays the fractional times like so:

22.63   46.16   1:10.58   1:37.65   Final time: 2:04.45

The time of 22.63 is the time it took the race leader to run the first quarter, 46.16 the time it took to run the first half, 1:10.58 the time for the first three-quarters, 1:37.65 the time for the mile, and 2:04.45 the winner’s final time.

By subtracting each quarter’s time from the preceding time, we can get internal splits for a race. The internal splits for the Kentucky Derby:

22.63   23.53   24.42   27.07   26.80

After the first quarter was run in 22.63, the second quarter was run in 23.53, the third quarter in 24.42, the fifth in 27.07 and the final in 26.80.

In the Kentucky Derby, we can see that the splits display a pattern common to main track races: The opening quarters are faster than the later quarters. (Races run over turf often follow a different pattern, with slower opening quarters and faster closing quarters.) We can also see that the pace of the race, set by Conveyance, was quick and collapsed in the fourth quarter, with Noble’s Promise briefly taking a slow lead. This scenario opened up the race to horses held back during the swift opening quarters, such as Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, who ran the fourth quarter in 26.22 and the final in 26.55.

Ice Box, also running off the pace in the Derby, finished second after running the fourth quarter in 24.45 and the final in 26.10 — a faster final quarter than any other Derby contender. Impressive, yes, but that time also reveals a limitation. Watching the race, Ice Box appears to be closing quickly on Super Saver, but this is an optical illusion — Ice Box isn’t closing fast, he’s slowing at a rate less than that of the other runners. Compare this to Zenyatta’s Breeders’ Cup Classic time, in which the mare won by running the final quarter not only faster than the other Classic contenders, but faster than she ran the previous quarters.

Following the 2010 Kentucky Derby, handicappers speculated that Ice Box would have won with a clean trip and that he would appreciate the distance of a longer race, such as the Belmont Stakes. But the fractions suggest that — unlike Zenyatta, who really can close — Ice Box has little advantage in the final furlongs of a route. Raw as the times and splits are, the numbers still yield clues to the colt’s capabilities, just as Zenyatta’s confirm her talents.

There’s much more to understanding and applying fractions, but getting comfortable with the basics is the first step toward understanding pace handicapping. To begin exploring fractions, visit the Trakus website. Installed at a number of racetracks, including Gulfstream Park and Keeneland, Trakus uses wireless radio tags to track the speed of every runner in a race. The collected data can then be displayed at each point of call and at the end of the race (the “Race Summary” view on the Trakus website). To see the final fraction for each runner in a specific race, select the final point of call (the “Finish” view).

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Charts and PPs provided by Brisnet

11 comments

  • Excellent introduction to pace handicapping Jessica. Well done!

  • Finally! An explanation in terms that makes it easy to see. This is a great site for my horseracing education – thank you!

  • Brilliant site! Answers lots of basics and more for me. Loved how to watch a race. Great explanation of fractions and so on. Just a great site! Thank you so much!

  • Thanks so much for the kind words David, and we’re very glad to hear that you found the site so helpful!

  • Jessica, 5/30/2014

    Very interesting website you have up for us to learn from in regards to horse racing.
    I spend a fair amount of time on the internet reading about horse racing. Lots of info.

    I just have one question if you don’t mind.

    How do you figure fractional times with different distances? I know you simply subtract each quarter’s time from the preceding time to arrive at the internal splits. Which points of call do you use for 5F, for 5 1/2F, for 6F, for 6 1/2F, for 7F, 1m, 1 1/16 etc. Can you use 2 points of call for all of them, and if so, which points of call do you use to subtract one from the other. For instance, is it the 2nd call from the final time, or the 1st call from the 2nd call or what. I’m lost here. I’m using points of call instead of quarters. Its easier for me to refer by. Is there such thing as using certain points of call to figure final fractions regardless of the difference in distance, or do you have to use different points of call for different distances. Wished i knew which points of call to use in different distances. I hope you can help me with this one. Just trying to learn a little.

    Your website is very useful. I appreciate very much websites like this. Thank you.

    Len

  • Hi Len,

    Points of call are fairly standard in that the fractions given are always for the quarters in each race plus final time, whether that’s half a furlong, as in a 1 1/6 mile race, or a furlong and a half, as in a 5 1/2 furlong race. To get fractions for odd distances, subtract the final time from the final point of call. In a five furlong race, that would be the final time from the second quarter (the half, or four-furlong call); in 5 1/2 furlong race, the same; in a 6 1/2 furlong or seven furlong race, it would be the final time subtracted from the third quarter (the three-quarters, or six-furlong call); a 1 1/6 mile race would be the final time subtracted from the fourth quarter (one-mile call); and so on. Both Equibase and Trakus display the splits like this, so if you’re looking at a seven-furlong race, for example, in addition to the cumulative fractions, you’ll also see splits that look like :22.03 (first quarter), :22.50 (second quarter), :23.09 (third quarter), and :12.14 (final furlong). Hope that info helps!

  • chuck gurtowski

    I read your article on fractional times. how do you get the times for all the horses in the race? thank you, chuck

  • Hi Chuck,

    You can find fractional times for all horses in a race via a couple of sources: DRF Formulator (a paid service) displays incremental times in charts; Trakus gives times for horses at tracks with the technology installed (such as all the NYRA tracks). You can get the Trakus information through a track website or the main Trakus site:

    https://www.nyra.com/belmont/handicapping/belmont-trakus/
    http://www.trakus.com/

  • How would you calculate the fractional times for furlong races that extend to a half i.e. 61/2, 71/2,51/2 etc??

  • Hi Dana,

    You would subtract the first quarters as described above and then subtract the final time from the final point of call to get the closing fraction of any race with a final half-furlong distance.

    Example: The points of call for a 5 1/2 furlong race are the first quarter, the second quarter, the fifth furlong, and then the final time. Times might look like this:

    1st quarter: 22.36 – 2nd quarter: 47.01 – 5th furlong: 58.65 – final time: 1:04.98

    The split times would then be 22.36 for the first quarter, 24:65 for the second, 11:64 for the fifth furlong, and 6:33 for the final half.

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