Horseplayers Episode 3: Pace Makes the Race
By Dana Byerly, Hello Race Fans Co-founder

In the third episode of Horseplayers we see the gang enjoying a beautiful sunny day at Belmont Park. Much of the banter was about running styles and pace scenarios, and we’ll get to that, but first let’s talk about pedigree.

Early in the episode Pete Rotondo Jr. notes that a horse is “bred for grass” and that as a part of his handicapping that he’s “looking at all the brothers and sisters.” Later in the episode Matt Bernier picks a horse based on the horse’s parents being known “turf horses.” This type of handicapping is called pedigree handicapping, or looking at the family of the horse to learn more about his or her potential abilities (or lack of them!).

Pedigree handicapping is most useful when a horse is trying something new, for example a first-time starter or a horse making a distance or surface change. Unlike other angles where you only need to determine factors in today’s race, pedigree handicapping can require a fair amount of research (which can be very fun, by the way!). For example, in order to determine if a horse trying turf for the first time might do well, you would first look up the sire and dam (father and mother) then start digging around with siblings and previous generations.

Naturally we have a few posts to help you get started with pedigree handicapping. Get the the lay of the land with our Pedigree Basics: Terminology and then familiarize yourself with the known turf sires in our Introduction to Turf Pedigrees. And to get some pointerss on how to research pedigrees, check out our discussion post on Juvenile Handicapping: First Time Starters.

Now, on to the pace handicapping! As mentioned earlier, much of the discussion around picking their horses was based in pace handicapping: “he’s a closer, he’s gonna finally get the trip he wants” or “he’s gonna take ’em gate to wire.”

Pace is what it sounds like, the way in which the race is run. Is there a horse that will will go to the front and run fast, are there horses who will sit back and do their running late (closers)? A big part of handicapping is understanding each horse in the race, but putting it all together to figure out how the race could unfold crucial as well. The best horse in the race could hampered by a pace scenario that will make it harder for him or her to win, and that’s exactly the kind of scenario any horseplayer is trying to find!

You can learn more about how to determine the running style of a horse and the pace scenario of a race in our Introduction to Pace. Good luck!

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