Aug 2 2013

Turf Pace – Incremental Split Times Tell The Story

In a prior article on Time, we explained how Turf races are frequently run slower at the beginning and faster at the end. In particular, Turf Route (over 1 mile) races almost always fit this description. Why?

Turf racing rewards the horse (and jockey) who can save ground on the turns, cut the corner into the stretch run, and finish strong with a solid closing kick.  This is in large part due to the following factors:

  • The tighter turns on turf courses.
  • The nature of the footing on the turf.
  • A horse’s ability to grab hold of the surface while making that closing kick.

Let’s look at the Past Performances for a Stakes winning horse that possessed the capabilities described above … in Aces.  Winter Memories earned $1.26 million in her career by unleashing a furious closing kick to win 8 of her 12 career races.  In her Past Performances we have changed the display of Time to show her incremental split times for each race.

Winter Memories PPs

At first glance the incremental split times might look a little confusing.  The reason for that is the races aren’t all at the same distance.  In her PPs we have races at 1 mile, 1 1/16 miles, and 1 1/8 miles.  Since there are only four columns allocated for time, incremental splits have to be divided differently.  Below is the breakdown of each split by distance (in furlongs) for the races shown in Winter Memories PPs:

Distance Split 1 Split 2 Split 3 Split 4
1 mile (8 furlongs) 2f 2f 2f 2f
1 1/16 mile (8.5 furlongs) 2f 2f 2f 2.5f
1 1/8 mile (9 furlongs) 4f 2f 2f 1f

So let’s start with the easiest distance (1 mile) because the splits are all for exactly 2 furlongs.  In her most recent race, June 9, 2012 you can see her splits are :24.58, :22.56, :22.85, and 22.73.  This demonstrates that her slowest split was at the beginning of the race.  Then she ran fairly even in the final three splits.

In an earlier example, April 21, 2011 at Keeneland, her splits show a more modest pace for all three of her early splits, but then a sudden burst (:22.56) at the end of the race.  That kind of a burst is what made Winter Memories stunning to watch in her stretch runs.

Now for an example at 1 1/16 miles, look at May 5, 2012.  She went the first two furlongs in :25.88, gradually increased her tempo in the next two splits, and then closed in :29.64 for 2.5 furlongs.  That’s an average of 11.86 (29.64/2.5) for her finish.  For a quick visual, remember that a final split under 30 seconds for an 8.5f race works out to less than 12 seconds per furlong.

The last example we’re going to detail, and then provide you a video of an amazing effort, is her race on September 17, 2011.  The distance was 11/8 mile, so the incremental splits differ quite a bit from the other distances.  The first split is :52.38, which works out to an average of 13.1 seconds.  Then her next two splits are :24.25 and :23.75 which average out to 12 seconds.  Winter Memories final split of 10.68 seconds for the final furlong is almost too amazing to believe.  Let’s just say that it’s not something you see everyday.   And if I hadn’t seen it myself, I might not believe it.  Treat yourself to something special and watch the video of this race below.  Winter Memories is the Gray horse, number 4.

One of my favorite calls from legendary track announcer Tom Durkin.

It was a grey blur in the stretch, named Winter Memories. – Tom Durkin

We hope this article gives you an idea of the nature of pace in turf racing and also demonstrates the value of being able to view incremental splits in the past performances.  Oh … and what chance did you give Winter Memories to win the race at the sixteenth pole?

Kentucky Downs

Modeled after European style turf courses, come visit the only one of its kind in North America. The author had a truly enjoyable visit to this unique race course last year. Click here to read more about that adventure.
Saturday, September 13, 2014 will have four Stakes Races, including the Grade 3 Kentucky Turf Cup worth $600,000.

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By Neal Benoit

One comment on “Turf Pace – Incremental Split Times Tell The Story

  1. Neal, Thanks for the split time analysis. Winter Memories was a real delight to watch, especially in the Garden City. With Tom Durkin’s retirement, its great to watch these athletes perform and hear his call of the action. Thanks again.

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