It does not matter whether you are handicapping a major stakes race at Saratoga or a $1500 claiming event at Portland Meadows, one thing is certain. Pace makes the race. That became abundantly clear to me when I attended a two-day seminar held in a vacant store in a Beaumont, California strip mall circa 1990. The seminar was presented by Dr. Howard Sartin. The event took place more than twenty years ago, so I am not certain who else was in attendance that weekend. I do remember that Tom Hambleton, Dick Schmidt, and Michael Pizzolla were studying with Sartin at the time. The four of them collaborated on a 374-page book titled, Pace Makes the Race: An Introduction to the Sartin Methodology. While the book, released in 1991, is long out of print. used copies can often be found for under $30.00.
Traditional handicappers have a tendency to pay too much attention to speed ratings and where a horse finished in a race, and not enough attention to how the horse ran the race. Andrew Beyer once wrote, “A horse’s fractional times do not affect his final time. Horses are never ‘burned up’ by fast fractions. There is no such thing as a ‘killing pace.’” Many handicappers have since disagreed with those statements, including Beyer himself in later years.
While I fully concur with those who believe that pace is one of the most important aspects to consider when handicapping a race, modern pace handicappers suffer from the same problem speed handicappers suffer from. They assign numbers to the fractional times of a race, then adjust those numbers based upon how far behind the leader a horse was. They have the errant assumption that this somehow makes it easier to determine how today’s race will be run. The Daily Racing Form, Brisnet, Equibase and others all have their proprietary pace numbers. What they all fail to grasp, and what seems glaringly obvious to me, is the fact that horses do not race against time per se, they race against other horses.