• To Rate Or Not to Rate

    POSTED Jul 4, 2013
    On my latest podcast, I discussed the merits — or, rather, the lack thereof — of “rating” certain types of horses. I explained that some animals simply aren’t effective when their natural speed is throttled and I used Fort Larned as an example.

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    I pointed out that “seven of his nine career wins have come when he has been second or better — meaning first — at the first call. All nine of his career wins have come when he’s been third or better.”

    “Why in the world would you ever rate this horse further off the pace,” I asked?

    It’s a question worth pondering.

    According to Pat Cumming of Trackus, in his now-legendary riderless romp in the Gulfstream Park Handicap on March 19, Fort Larned ran the opening half-mile in 44.29 seconds, which equates to a -14 early speed ration, or ESR (my own measurement of early energy expenditure). And, by the way, because my pace figures are relative, it doesn’t matter that Fort Larned earned this figure sans jockey.

    Now, here’s the thing: My database studies reveal that just 9.1 percent of all races feature an ESR of -14 or less. Yet, Fort Larned has failed to be among the top three at the first call in eight of the 21 races he completed with a jockey on his back.

    Read that again.

    In eight of 21 races, Fort Larned, a horse capable of a -14 ESR, has failed to crack the top three at the first call. How can this possibly be?

    It’s because he’s been rated (taken off the pace in order to “conserve his energy”). How effective has this been?

    I’m glad you asked (I know you didn’t, but just play along). Prior to Nov. 27, 2011, Fort Larned was fourth or worse at the first call in six of his nine races — he won two of those events; since that time, he has been fourth or worse at the first call in just two of 12 races (not counting the Gulfstream Park Handicap) — he has triumphed in seven of those contests, including five graded affairs (three Grade 1’s).

    Given his desire to run free, it comes as little surprise to me that Fort Larned is not great on the green. You see, turf requires precisely what Fort Larned doesn’t have — the ability to rate and finish. My database shows that nearly 2/3 (66.4 percent to be exact) of all turf races feature a moderate-to-soft pace (-5 ESR or greater).

    Is it any wonder that Fort Larned is one-for-five on the grass?

    Of course, jockeys play a huge part in the pace equation too and, without passing judgment (wink, wink), it’s interesting to peruse the riding records of Fort Larned’s two most recent — and most prolific — passengers:

    * Brian Hernandez (8 mounts, 5 wins).
    * Julien Leparoux (5 mounts, 1 win).

    So, the next time you see a frontrunner rating on the lead through dawdling fractions or pressing the pace three-wide, be comforted, it happens to the best of them.

    Just ask Fort Larned.

    Pace Profile Play of the Day

    As many of you already know, I have launched a new Web site (SimonSpeedRations.com) dedicated to understanding my pace figures and promoting world peace… although I’m concentrating primarily on the former because I feel it’s more important.

    Toward that end, I produced a video that includes a couple of free plays (one already lost, so by delaying the release of this column, I’ve saved many of you from financial ruin) and a lot of discussion about ESRs, LSRs and other issues affecting the nation.

    Take a look:


    By the way, my Pace Profile Report and Win Factor Report are now available for purchase. Click HERE for more details.

    SimonSays Racing Podcast on TwinSpires Radio



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