Jul 26 2013

Stretching Out And The Sprint Closer Paradox

In a prior article we explained that Sprints are short races (less than 1 mile) and Routes are long races (1 mile or more).  We also opined that some horses are better suited to run in Sprints while others prefer a Route of ground.  Frequently you will come upon a horse that has been running in Sprint races and is now stretching out for the first time in a Route race.  You look at the Past Performances (PPs) and find in her Sprint races she has been steadily gaining ground at the end, but often falling short.  You surmise (enter the Paradox) that “if she only had a little more ground” she would eventually catch the leaders and win the race.  So when she is finally entered in a Route race, you think “Aha, perfect … this horse is going to win for sure.”  Unfortunately, many times you will be wrong. Hence, completion of the paradox. Two examples follow.

Example #1: Saratoga, July 25, 2013, 7th race. One Mile (8 furlongs) on the Inner Turf course.

Below are the PPs for the solid 9-5 Favorite in the race Pan Dulce.

Pan Dulce PPs

As you can see from the PPs, in her last race (a 6 furlong sprint on the turf) she closed from 7th place to 2nd in the race. And the race comment line even made the positive comment that she made a “rally.”  Based upon this information and maybe the popularity of her Trainer and Owner combination, she was made the 9-5 favorite in the July 25, 2013 race, at a distance of 8 furlongs.  So what happened?  Below are the comments from the result chart of her July 25 race:

PAN DULCE raced off the rail on the first turn, settled in the front half of the field, was urged along while three wide on the far turn, chased under a drive in upper stretch, loomed a threat into the final furlong but proved no match for the winner then lost the place.

So in the end she finished 3rd, beaten by over four lengths. What went wrong?

First, it is important to understand the difference between a 6 furlong race at Belmont and an 8 furlong race at Saratoga.  In addition to being 2 furlongs longer, it is around two turns rather than one.  Below are the diagrams for the two tracks, complete with starting positions.  Look for 6f at Belmont and 8f at Saratoga.

Belmont Mellon Turf

Saratoga Inner Turf Course

The physical demands for a horse running around two turns is much greater than one turn. Also, the Pace of a Sprint race tends to be much faster than a route race, so closing ground late on the leaders (in a sprint) is frequently easier than in a route race where the pace is moderate (compared to a sprint race).  Also, there is the possibility that the horse simply doesn’t have the stamina to go longer and tires at the route distance, like Pan Dulce did on July 25.

Example #2: Saratoga, July 19, 2013, 10th race. One Mile and 1/16 (8.5 furlongs) on the Inner Turf course.

Below are the PPs for the 5-2 Co-Favorite, Sunbio, in this race.

Sunbio PPs

As you can see, Sunbio shows the same tendency of closing strongly in sprint races, especially in the last two races.  It certainly seems like all he needs is “a little more ground.” Well, he gets it on July 19 with an 8.5 furlong race around 2 turns.  Below are the comments from the result chart of that race.

SUNBIO moved in early, contested the early pace then relinquished the lead, was well placed along the hedge, came under urging on the far turn, chased into upper stretch and tired.

He finished 7th; a well beaten horse at a very short price of 5-2.

These are only two examples, but I can give you many more. So keep an eye out for these circumstances and see if you agree with the “Sprint Closer Paradox.”


The Article Sponsored By ADIRONDACK BEVERAGES (A Favorite Cooler Drink Of Racing Fans at Saratoga)

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By Neal Benoit

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