GRACIOUS JOHN (2nd right, Fran Berry) beats ENCORE D'OR (centre) in The Betway Hever Sprint Stakes Lingfield 24 Feb 2018 - Pic Steven Cargill /

Pace Wins The Race: 5f All Weather Handicaps

We still have several weeks of the all-weather season left so I have decided to look to see how strong the pace bias is on the sand, writes Dave Renham. I have not previously looked in detail at all weather pace bias in my Geegeez articles so now seemed as good a time as any.

Just in case you have not read my previous articles on pace I will briefly summarise a few things. Firstly when I discuss pace my main focus is the initial pace in a race and specifically the position horses take up early on. Most of you will be aware that on racecards there is a pace section, and the stats in this article are based on the site’s pace data.

This info is split into four groups - Led, Prominent, Mid Division and Held Up, and after each race all the horses are assigned points in regards to which position they took up early in the race. Leaders get 4, prominent runners 3, horses that ran midfield 2, and those held up score 1. Just over 96% of all UK and Irish runs since 2009 have been scored, the other 4% unable to rated from the comment. For clarity, at the time of writing, 1,169,760 of 1,218,499 comments have been scored.

In previous articles, I have highlighted certain distances / race types that generally favour front runners both on the flat and over the jumps. My first five articles looked at 5f handicaps where pace bias is arguably at its strongest, but I did not look in detail at any course data for the six UK all weather tracks – my main focus was turf handicaps. Hence, a touch belatedly perhaps, it is time to address that now!

The first set of data I wish to share with you is the overall pace stats for 5f all weather handicaps with 6 or more runners (the data for this article has been taken from the last 5 complete years, 2014 to 2018):


Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 254 1137 22.3 2.04
Prominent (3) 360 2874 12.5 1.15
Mid Division (2) 67 1026 6.5 0.62
Held Up (1) 183 2735 6.7 0.61


These figures clearly illustrate the advantage to horses which have led, or disputed the lead, in 5f all-weather handicaps. In fact, the Impact Values - a measure of how much  more likely than normal something is to happen, 1 being 'normal' - suggest that 5f handicap pace bias is slightly stronger on the all weather than it is on the turf.

The main data cover all handicaps with six or more runners; I have next looked at splitting these data into groups – 6 to 8 runners; 9 – 10 runners; 11 or more runners. Here are my findings:


6 to 8 runners

Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 119 459 25.9 1.86
Prominent (3) 138 956 14.4 1.04
Mid Division (2) 22 249 8.8 0.64
Held Up (1) 65 757 8.6 0.62


9 to 10 runners

Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 85 446 19.1 1.81
Prominent (3) 146 1083 13.5 1.28
Mid Division (2) 30 435 6.9 0.66
Held Up (1) 68 1125 6.0 0.57


11 or more runners

Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 50 232 21.6 2.60
Prominent (3) 76 835 9.1 1.10
Mid Division (2) 15 342 4.4 0.53
Held Up (1) 50 853 5.9 0.71


It seems therefore the front running bias is as its strongest when there are more runners. An IV of 2.6 for front runners is extremely high for races of 11 or more runners.

Of course, each all weather course has its own unique confirmation and, consequently, its own set of stats. Here is a view on the courses individually, presented in alphabetical order:


Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 51 194 26.3 2.26
Prominent (3) 40 346 11.6 1.00
Mid Division (2) 22 252 8.7 0.78
Held Up (1) 30 410 7.3 0.63


Just over a quarter of the 5f handicap races at Chelmsford have seen the early leader going on to win. This is a very high percentage and worth noting. It is also worth pointing out that in races of 11 or more runners 9 of the 27 races (SR 33.3%) have been won by the front runner (IV 3.84). Not only that, another ten have been placed. Hence just over 70% of all front runners in these bigger field races have finished in the first three.



Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 23 84 27.4 2.36
Prominent (3) 24 170 14.1 1.22
Mid Division (2) 4 72 5.6 0.49
Held Up (1) 8 177 4.5 0.39


It is a shame that Kempton seem to have so few 5f handicaps these days as the front running bias is at its strongest here. There is a decent inside draw bias here also and it should come as no surprise that front runners from the lowest three stalls have secured 11 wins from 33 (SR 33.3%). The IV is 2.88 for those well drawn pace setters. Hold up horses have a dreadful record also which is worth mentioning too.



Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 54 208 26.0 2.13
Prominent (3) 57 377 15.1 1.24
Mid Division (2) 16 227 7.0 0.59
Held Up (1) 31 436 7.1 0.58


Lingfield is another of the all weather courses to demonstrate a strong front-running bias over 5 furlongs. Additional insights are hard to find, although early leaders who were drawn 1 (the lowest draw) have produced 14 wins from 36 (SR 38.9%).



Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 22 137 16.1 1.74
Prominent (3) 37 393 9.4 1.03
Mid Division (2) 11 183 6.0 0.67
Held Up (1) 40 473 8.5 0.92


Newcastle has the weakest front-running stats of the six all weather courses, almost certainly linked (like Southwell) to it being a straight five as opposed to running around a turn, but an Impact Value of 1.74 still indicates front-runners do have an edge. Hold up horses perform quite well here so it is not a course and distance I personally get too involved with.   



Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 27 142 19.0 1.81
Prominent (3) 94 730 12.9 1.23
Mid Division (2) 4 102 3.9 0.41
Held Up (1) 14 342 4.1 0.40


The second lowest IV (1.81) for front runners, and again the straight nature of the track is likely a factor at a course where pace setters do well at other distances. Note that horses which try to come from midfield or off the pace really struggle over the five at Southwell. I have found no major additional angles to profit from, but ultimately steer clear of horses that regularly are held up.



Pace comment Wins Runners SR% IV
Led (4) 77 372 20.7 1.90
Prominent (3) 108 858 12.6 1.16
Mid Division (2) 10 190 5.3 0.52
Held Up (1) 60 897 6.7 0.61


Decent front running stats for Wolverhampton, too. Front runners when drawn close to the inside rail, (draws 1 to 3), have scored 32 times from 132 races (SR 24.2%) with an IV of 2.14.


Before I finish, we can use these numerical figures to create course and distance pace averages. I have done this by adding up the pace scores of all the winners at each course and dividing it by the total number of races. The higher the average score, the more ‘biased’ the course and distance is to horses which lead early or race close to the pace. This hopefully gives us the final piece of the jigsaw. Here are the 5 furlong handicap pace averages for the six aw courses:

Hopefully this article has demonstrated how strong the front running bias is on the all weather over the minimum trip of 5f in handicap races. The four turning courses offer a huge edge in my opinion. My next article is going to look at 6f handicaps on the all weather so watch this space!

- Dave Renham

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22 replies
  1. 10 Things You Didn't Know about Geegeez Racecards
  2. Chris
    Chris says:

    ? the four straight courses? (last para)
    There are only two Southwell and Newcastle.
    The reverse is meant?

    • Matt Bisogno
      Matt Bisogno says:

      Yes, Chris, thanks for pointing that out – my mistake when I edited!


  3. frank mccarthy
    frank mccarthy says:

    a lot of retoric but i wnt horse racing tips on the day,, so for me its a waste of email

  4. racinganorak1
    racinganorak1 says:

    Hi Dave
    That is a powerful piece of analysis that I will most definitely be using
    Many thanks indeed

  5. Rotund legend
    Rotund legend says:

    Where there are more than one front runner in a 5F race at these courses, apart from draw, what else should we consider? Should we back multiple selections if they meet the criteria? Are certain jockeys better at riding such horses?

    • Matt Bisogno
      Matt Bisogno says:

      There is a big difference between an easy, or soft, lead and a strongly contested pace. We have to take a view on whether horses’ chances will be compromised by a battle early.
      For me, where there are three or more that probably want to contest the early lead, I’m not interested in any of them as I feel they’ll ‘cut each other’s throats.
      Where there are two possibles, the draw is a factor, but there are some challenges in understanding what the Americans call ‘the speed of the speed’. We don’t have early sectionals to inform us, so we’re left guessing and/or watching video replays of the relevant horses’ starts. Ultimately, I’ll sometimes dutch, sometimes swerve, and generally back the one with the more compelling overall form profile. That last approach is not always the right one but, overall, it is the best route I think.

      Hope that helps.

  6. Antony church
    Antony church says:

    The stats might be correct over 5years but recently front runners over sprints at Chelmsford going back to September 1st are totally different front runners for me are ones to avoid over sprints at Chelmsford don’t know why that is I think trainers and jockeys are approaching these races differently now days kempton I agree with the other tracks I avoid

    • Matt Bisogno
      Matt Bisogno says:

      You’re right, at least up to a point, Tony. In fact, leaders or prominent racers are still dominant, the latter more so than the former in the time frame you mention. I think the very dry period is a factor, but maybe also what David mentioned in his blog about the state of the surface: perhaps it’s a little looser and deeper. Not sure, but it’s a good call and certainly something to watch out for.

  7. computer kid
    computer kid says:

    Not every one has the time to sift through endless digital data ! Pace cards and race cards.

    A resident expert who can filter out these qualifiers on a daily basis for members to then decide how to best use the information is a progressive step forward, otherwise newbies to racing haven’t got a clue what to look for and from some one who never backs a horse under 7f that includes me.
    There is clearly an angle to profit with sprinters if you know what to look for, so come on geez geez let’s get Dave or someone to flag up these good things on a daily basis. That’s offering more value to members who after all have day jobs as well to fit in…..

    • Matt Bisogno
      Matt Bisogno says:

      No. That’s not going to happen. Geegeez has never been, and never will be, a spoonfeeding operation.

      If you want that, you’ve come to the wrong place. And, given the number of emails I’ve personally replied to from you, I’m surprised you still need that clarifying.

      Respectfully, please stop asking us to do it for you. This site is not that site.


  8. colsinit2win
    colsinit2win says:

    Excellent article, as always Dave!

    The beauty of horse racing or for that matter, any event that you try to make a few quid on, is that there are differing opinions and this diversity of opinions contributes to making the market. Not everyone will see a race in the same way and we don’t all see value in the same way.

    As for providing tips, look at the Hugh Taylor effect… no thanks! While I greatly respect his views, as soon as the tips are online, the market crashes.

    Like anything in life, you reap what you sow.


  9. Lawrence Frampton
    Lawrence Frampton says:

    Hi Matt, very useful as always. Is there an easy way to combine draw biases using these figures ie low quartile/middle etc to give a combined I.V. I appreciate that draw biases are shown independently but it would be useful to know the combined effect, I’m guessing very strong

  10. hudmillen
    hudmillen says:

    food for thought = Must remember to check pace in 5f sprints on AW. Good work Dave

  11. Chud777
    Chud777 says:

    A classic Geegeez article.. Great to read, informative, full of useful info, and wets the appetite for finding the next winner. Thanks as always Dave and Matt.

  12. zhorik
    zhorik says:

    no mention on whether those front runners were profitable at SP. which is a strange omission,

  13. zhorik
    zhorik says:

    surely what matters is whether the front runners provide a profit at SP, yet this is not mentioned.

Comments are closed.