Pace Analysis

Today I want to share with you information on an area of race analysis that isn’t often written about in the UK, yet it is considered to be one of the most important factors everywhere else in the world.

So why do we rarely see any information on it?

Because in the UK it is a very difficult thing to measure, which means that we have to think outside the box and do things differently. But, as successful bettors, that’s what we do every day anyway. So nothing new there!

What I’m talking about is pace. You may have heard the phrase “Pace wins the race”, well this is an accurate statement because pace analysis is the analysis of HOW a race is likely to be run. It’s not straight out trying to find winners, it’s an attempt to determine how horses are going to run the race and how this will affect the other horses at different stages of the race.

Horses are herd animals and without exception they like to run in a pack. Within the pack different horses prefer different positions and this is the same in a race. These characteristics are going As a general rule there are four types of pace. These are:

  1. Leaders
  2. Early Pressers
  3. Mid-Pack
  4. Closers

A leader is, unsurprisingly, a horse that likes to be at the front of the pack. If it can’t get to the front then it is unlikely to win the race. The ideal scenario is when there is just one horse whose style is a front runner in the race and the distance of the race is not too long. Very often these horses will win even if they don’t seem to have the credentials to do the job initially.Β When you have a race with a lot of front-runners then they often compete to be the lead and burn valuable energy that they would have needed later on, this is what has happened when you see a leading horse drift away in the last few furlongs of a race.

Early pressers are comfortable either being in the lead or following the leaders. Usually they won’t go farther than three lengths behind the front runner.

Mid-pack horses use their energy more efficiently than front runners and are also where we find the majority of race horses. When the first two types of horses tire, it is a chance for a mid-pack horse to take the race by using the reserves of energy it has to finish.

Closers are horses that race at the back of the pack. They like to put in a strong late run and overtake the leaders in the final furlongs. A strong closing run is a beautiful thing watch.

Although pace is seldom talked about in the UK, these four running styles are incredibly important in predicting who is going to win the race. And although it is harder to calculate or find good pace ratings, putting the effort in to do so will certainly pay off in the long run.

In other countries something known as sectional timings are used to determine the pace of a horse. A horse gets a time at specific points around the race course and this allows users of sectional times to determine at what point of the race a horse was speeding up or slowing down as well as it’s position in the field. Unfortunately these figures are not provided in the UK.

Once you have the pace information then you can use this to work out what pace gives an edge at specific tracks and distances. For example at one track and distance it may be early pace while at another it could be closers. You do this by using impact values to determine how much more (or less) than their fair share each of the four pace types are achieving.

So we know that pace is good and we should be using it. The big question is how.

When using pace to handicap a race you first of all need to determine the race shape. Like the types of pace we can categorise a race into four different types of races. These are:

  1. Fast Pace Races
  2. Lone Fast Pace Races
  3. True Run Races
  4. Slow Pace Races

Each of these different types of race favour different types of runners and we’re going to take a look at them now.

Fast Pace Races

As the type of race suggests, these are races that are run at a very fast pace. They will have multiple horses that like to be leaders and most of them will burn out and not finish in a position. The first thing to determine is whether any of the horses are significantly stronger leaders than the others. If there is one then if this horse is also a top horse in the race, it is possible that it could take the lead at the beginning and keep it all the way. When this is the case you can totally ignore the other leader type horses as they will try to keep up with this runner and run out of energy before the end of the race.

If there isn’t a dominant leader then the chances are that all the leaders will finish out of position as they battle with each other to be at the front of the pack. These races are most often won by early pressers and mid-pack horses, although occasionally a closer will manage to take the win.

Lone Fast Pace Races

This type of race occurs when you get a single leader type horse in the race. With no other runners to jostle for the front position they are left to determine the best pace for themselves. A good leader in these races will, most of the time, win the race. If the race has no leaders but has an early presser then the same applies. Give any horse that has this type of pace, when they are the only one, serious consideration. Strong mid-pack and closers can pay off at high odds in the place market in these races.

True Run Races

The majority of races will fall into this category. While mid-pack and closers do win these types of races, they generally need a faster pace to set them up for their closing run. Leaders or early pressers will most often win these races and a good early presser is often more likely than a leader, particular if the early presser gets off faster at the start.

Slow Pace Races

These are races where there are no leaders or early pressers. This results in a race where no horse wants to take the lead and so the pace is very slow. Use traditional handicapping methods to determine the strongest mid-pack or closing horses and you will find the winner more often than not.

Something to watch out for in these races are mid-pack horses that have been known to get in the lead regularly in these races. While no runner wants to be in the lead, one of them has to be. If a mid-pack horse can get the lead by more than three lengths then they can often keep the position all the way to the finish. If a trainer knows a horse can do this then he will instruct the jockey to go for the front early on. This can give you a nice priced winner in a slow paced race.

In my next article I’m going to show you how we use track pace bias to determine whether we’re going to keep our selection or change them because the bias is so strong it will change the shape of the race.

Keep an eye out for it soon!

Michael Wilding

Michael started the Race Advisor in 2009 to help bettors become long-term profitable. After writing hundreds of articles I started to build software that contained my personal ratings. The Race Advisor has more factors for UK horse racing than any other site, and we pride ourselves on creating tools and strategies that are unique, and allow you to make a long-term profit without the need for tipsters. You can also check out my personal blog or my personal Instagram account.


  1. Hi Michael,

    This is one of the most interesting and useful articles I have read in a long while, but, from my perspective I have just one problem. I have no idea where to find the information about a horse’s normal running style. Does it like to lead, etc, etc.

    Where can this information be found Michael?

    I believe that incorporating this analysis into our selection process would make a huge difference to everyone’s results, no matter what we are doing.


    1. Many thanks Gordon, I’m going to be looking at how you can make pace ratings and find this information later on, so stay tuned πŸ™‚

  2. This is a great information about pace analysis. Many bettors will surely be informed with regard to this matter, as you explained everything clearly.

Back to top button