Optimal Race Pace Strategy

Optimal Race Pace Strategy

Ratingvrelr -w 400h 300

One of the benefits of having access to reliable sectional times is being able to analyse what is often referred to as the 'race within a race'. Various studies have shown that there is an optimal race pace strategy which will yield the best possible overall performance in competition.

It is logical to expect that setting too quick a pace early on, will usually result in a state of exhaustion being reached before the end of a race, followed by a rapid decline in speed. Likewise, setting off too slowly is likely to result in excess energy reserves being left after the race is completed. As there is a maximum level of acceleration and speed which can be attained regardless of energy reserves, a decrease in overall performance is the outcome of this scenario as well.

Rather than rely on overseas studies, we decided to conduct an analysis using our our own extensive database of sectional times and ratings. Three time based performance measures were used;

  1. Race Early Rating (from the start to the 600m marker)
  2. Race Late Rating (from the 600m marker to the finish)
  3. Race Overall Rating (start to finish)


What we have termed the Race Early to Late Ratio (expressed as a percentage) was then plotted against the overall performance rating (see image attached). From this we can see that the optimal RELR occurs at approximately 102% or a relatively even paced running strategy. At below this figure, horses are indeed unable to make up the overall time lost due to a slow early pace and at above this figure, the overall performance also declines due to the 'exhaustion' point being reached too early.

Obviously, there will be exceptions to the rule, but the evidence based on a sample of thousands of races, shows why jockeys who are a good judge of pace can be worth many lengths to the performance of a race horse.

For those of you who would like to do more research on this topic, a couple of excellent references are listed below:
Bioenergetics and Racehorse Ratings, Bob Wilkins, 2010, Overdee Press.
Speed, pacing strategy and aerodynamic drafting in Thoroughbred horse racing, Andrew J Spence et al, 2012, http://rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/subscriptions


zap109 posted this comment 12/23/2016 18:07:42 PM

Excellent piece of research Shane, its the first time I have seen that laid out and yes it comes in at about what you would guess to be true, although a cracking first 600 doesn't seem to take its toll to the extent you would think huh.

Will check the references.