Running Well Against a Pace Bias, Part 2

In the first half of this two-parter, I started to look at something I term as ‘negative pace bias’, writes Dave Renham. The basic idea is to find races where there seems to have been a strong pace bias with a view to highlighting horses that have run well against it. I mentioned last time that one can never be 100 per cent certain whether there has actually been a pace bias in a race or not but, generally speaking, one is going to be right many more times than one is wrong.

To recap, there are two ways a pace bias could play out. Firstly, races where horses close to the pace from the start dominate: here we are looking for any hold up horse that has run well. And secondly, one where hold up horses end up fighting out the finish, in which case we look for prominent racers or race leaders that have run well.

As before, I have looked at bigger field – races of 15 or more runners – from UK turf flat and all-weather racing in 2020. In the first piece I looked in detail at five races and the subsequent form of highlighted runners; in this one I will look at another quintet of big field negative pace bias races.

Continuing in chronological order, and starting on 4th July, with the Derby.


RACE 6 - 4th July – 4:55 Epsom

One of the most iconic races of the year, the Investec Derby showed a strong pace bias this year as the result and race comments below imply:


This was an extraordinary race where the early leader, Serpentine, just gradually increased his lead in the final mile until he was over ten lengths clear with three furlongs to go. He basically slipped the field, and it was a triumph of pace setting by jockey Emmet McNamara.

What was equally remarkable was that the first three horses home stayed in those positions for most of the race. Not only that, all three were huge prices which, for me, strengthens my belief that there was a bias that day for those who raced close to or up with the pace.

Also don’t be fooled by the words ‘held up’ in Kameko’s in running comments, because as it says he was ‘held up behind leaders’ and for virtually the whole race he was positioned in 4th or 5th.

English King and Mogul did best of those who ran midfield for the first part of the race and they are the horses that seemed to have run best in terms of performing against the bias.

In English King’s next run on 30th July at Goodwood he finished 4th, but can you guess who won that race? Yes, it was Mogul, who scored at a decent enough price of 9/2. English King has run once more since, finishing 6th at Longchamp, while Mogul finished 3rd at York before scoring another victory at Longchamp in September (price 6/1). All in all, another good outcome for the approach.


RACE 7 - 5th July – 3:15 Haydock

For the next race we travel north to Haydock a day after the Derby. The Old Newton Cup is a decent Class 2 handicap, which this year strongly favoured horses coming from off the pace as you can see from the following race comments.


Seven of the first eight raced midfield or in rear early and only The Trader, who finished third, was close to the pace. Therefore, The Trader is the horse to take out of the race on the negative pace bias angle. He has run twice since, finishing 3rd at Ripon and then 4th at Newcastle. No future win yet but the Ripon race result with the comments are definitely worth sharing:


As we can see, the jockey on The Trader dropped his rein a furlong out. Not only that, he also got his whip tangled up. I think we could legitimately argue that he should have won that race, but for those two unfortunate incidents. Even with that happening he was only beaten by a neck and a neck.


RACE 8 - 8th July – 8:40 Newbury

Newbury next and a long distance handicap.


In this race, six of the first seven home came from off the pace with only Tralee Hills in 4th racing prominently. Clearly, Tralee Hills was the horse to take out of this one. He has run four times since with his results shown below:


As we can see he has not made the frame subsequently in four starts and in truth all runs have been relatively poor. Initially I thought it was interesting that Tralee Hills had been ‘held up’ in all starts since when trying to look for potential reasons or excuses. However, looking at his career record, he has actually raced close to the pace in just three of his 25 starts. The remaining 22 saw him positioned midfield or in rear early. If I had the opportunity to speak to his trainer, I might point out that racing prominently is a running style that may in fact suit his horse!

Over both articles, this is the first race of the eight I have looked at where, to date, the follow up results have shown no positivity. This highlights, of course, that no method or angle is fool proof, as I have indicated many times in the past.


RACE 9 - 17th July – 12:35 Beverley

A class 6 5f sprint handicap is next on the agenda with the first two, and the fourth home returning big odds.


As the comments indicate, six of first eight home raced rear (four) or mid-pack (two). Pivotal Art, who raced close up and finished 3rd, has only raced once since when well beaten into 10th on the all-weather. The sixth horse home, Newgate Angel, who had led until the final furlong returned to the same course and distance on 12th August. In a slightly weaker contest, he proved that the previous run had indeed been a good one, by winning relatively cosily at odds of 7/1 (result below).


It is interesting to note that Newgate Angel was drawn in stall one on both occasions, a favourable box for a front-runner at Beverley – when getting the run of the race.


RACE 10 - 17th July – 3:40 Beverley

The final race in review is a race later on the card that same day at Beverley. This time it was a 1m2f handicap.


This was another race where the pace setters struggled with five of first seven home held up out the back early on. The two horses to buck the trend were Ideal Candy in 3rd and Motahassen who finished 5th. After watching a video of the race I had a slight preference for the latter even though he finished two places behind Ideal Candy. My reasoning was that Motahassen raced a little wide early but despite this soon took up a position in 3rd. By halfway he was still close up in 5th and then in the straight he did not take a particularly direct line, veering and changing direction a couple of times.

Since this race, Ideal Candy has run poorly on five occasions with a best finishing position of 6th. Motahassen has fared better finishing 3rd next time before winning at the fourth time of asking at Redcar in October.

Whether one would have stuck with him for four runs is another question. However, if you did, you would have been rewarded with excellent winning odds of 12/1.


The five races in this sample have not been as ‘successful’ as the first five but, having said that, I believe over the ten races the angle has produced an impressive set of future results.


Putting ‘Negative Pace Bias’ to work for you

If you want to check out other races for yourself, you can do this through Query Tool on Geegeez, using the following step by step method:

  1. Select 2020, UK, flat turf, flat AW, 15+ runners
  2. Go to Qualifiers tab and sort by position (this is in order to get the race winners)
  3. Click on the winner to go the race result
  4. Select 'Comments' to view the in-running comments
  5. Note any positive efforts against a bias
  6. Go to back to number 3 and repeat the process.


Step 1 is something that can be tinkered with – those were just the parameters I chose. I have yet to check Irish races, but the same principle should apply so you could add that if you wish. Likewise, this method can be applied to National Hunt racing, too. Furthermore, you may want to limit races to handicaps only, as I would guess they work better in general, and of course you could look at slightly smaller field sizes to include races with, say, 12 to 14 runners. I would be wary of going below ten runners, personally.

When choosing races that fit your ‘negative pace profile’, this becomes more down to the individual. I tend to look at the first six to eight finishers and look at the split between pace horses (leaders/prominent racers) versus non-pace horses (horses who raced midfield or rear). Even then, I have no hard and fast rules, but clearly there has to be an imbalance between the two.

To conclude, I continually ‘bang on’ about pace bias and how useful it can be for punters. I hope these two articles may have swayed any ‘remainers’ to switch their allegiance!

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3 replies
  1. 10 Things You Didn't Know about Geegeez Racecards
  2. Rotund legend
    Rotund legend says:

    The articles were interesting and I thank you for your efforts.

    I am an experienced punter, full time but not just on horse racing. The question I have in my mind in regard to pace in horse racing is – Do horses actually prefer to run on or off the pace or is it just because their trainer or jockey just think they do? If you ran a horse on the flat nine times, three at the head of the pace, three in mid division and three at the back, what would you find out about the horse? Perhaps you would find the the horse runs to the same mark regardless?

    Food for thought.

    Regards Martin

    • Matt Bisogno
      Matt Bisogno says:

      Watch a need the lead type when it can’t get the lead, Martin. Generally, they curl up very quickly. Likewise, hold up horses often are paceless and need them to go very hard in front such that the one-pacer can run by them. Jockeys and trainers figure out a horse’s run style based on its ability to quicken – or not!

      A more objective way to look at this is to sort a horse’s form in Full Form by the RS column. Then you can see patterns in performance related to differing run styles.


  3. lawrence frampton
    lawrence frampton says:

    Great article Dave. A short cut that could be used would be to focus on courses with inherent pace biases Ie look at races at Ascot where prominent/front runners have run well or Newmarket where hold up horses have performed well. I think it’s also worth noting that if a hold up horse has run well at a front running bias track, then you would have to treat it with some caution running next time out at a similar track. I would prefer to back it when it ran at a fairer track or one where hold up horses were more advantaged

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