Gary | Sun 30/04/2017 - 20:39 EDT

Kentucky Derby Analysis: How Will The Pace Develop?

Kentucky Derby Pace Analysis

By Brent Sedo

In horse racing, the pace of a race is measured in 1/4-mile increments. For decades this measurement was given in seconds and fifths, such as 23 2/5 seconds. Although many race announcers still call the race in fifths, official times are now given in decimal tenths, such as 23.20. 

Anything in the 21 to 22 second range for a 1/4 mile is considered very fast, and likely suicidal in a 1 1/4 mile race like the Kentucky Derby. A moderate or "honest" pace is something in the 23 to the low 24 second range, and anything in the high 24s and up is considered slow.

The significance of this is that the faster the pace upfront through the early part of the race, the more likely the front-running horses will tire, and allow for a late-running horse to make a bid for the lead. Conversely, the slower the early pace, the less likely the horses near the back will be able to catch up.

A look at a couple recent races involving some of the 2017 Derby contenders demonstrates how pace influences the outcome of the race.

In the Wood Memorial, won by Irish War Cry, Battalion Runner set a fairly honest pace through the first 3/4 of a mile in times of 23:50, 23:84 and 24:49. But he slowed considerably to 25:84 to finish the first mile of the 1 1/8 mile race.

Irish War Cry, who had been right on his heels from halfway down the backstretch, made his move to get past him at that point and go on to win. But since Battalion Runner had not pushed an overly fast pace at any time of the race, he was able to hold on to finish a comfortable second, actually increasing his lead over the third-place runner. No other horses were able to make any significant closing move from the back.

Meanwhile, in the Arkansas Derby, won by Classic Empire, the lead was set by Conquest Mo Money, who was pressed hard early by Grandpa's Dream and Petrov. They raced a very fast 22:75 through the first 1/4 mile, slowed slightly to 24:17 and 24:24 to the 3/4 mile and 25:27 to the mile, still more than a half-second faster than the fourth 1/4 mile in the Wood.

All this speed up front opened the door for Classic Empire and several others to close on the lead through the last 1/8 mile. Conquest Mo Money barely held on for second, while Lookin' at Lee improved 3 1/2 lengths in the last 1/8 on Conquest Mo Money to grab third, while Sonnateer closed the gap on Conquest Mo Money by four lengths to get fourth.

As a handicapping tool, look at horses that get to the lead early, how fast they are going and how well they are able to maintain that pace through the various points of the race. This is an indication of how well these types of speed horses are actually able to control the pace and, even if they don't win, whether they are able to hold on to the place or show spot against the late runners. 

On the other side of the coin, look for horses that are able to improve their position against the leader of the race, particularly as the field runs through the fourth 1/4 mile. These kinds of horses are prime candidates to run down the leaders in the stretch and have an impact on the final order of finish.   

Category : Sports Betting News

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