Dr. Howard Sartin was the father of pace handicapping.
In this article I will focus on the influence he had on my handicapping and my approach to the game. The SEE ALSO section below links to several other articles.
Howard’s main contribution to the handicapping world was “Incremental Velocity.” That is, how fast horses ran the different segments of the race, measured in feet-per-second.
Specifically, Howard used 4 metrics, of which 3 were important:
- EP (Early Pace) – Velocity to the 2nd call
- F3 (3rd Fraction) – Velocity from the 2nd call to the finish
- SP (Sustained Pace) – (EP + F3) / 2
- W (Factor W) – Loosely, (EP x 2 + F3) /3
Of these factors, F3 was ignored, except as part of the calculations for SP and W.
The idea was that the handicapper would select a single paceline that best represented how the horse would run today. The end result was the three columns, EP, SP, W, expressed as ranks.
In the original strategy, Howard’s idea was that each ranking combination (i.e. 1-1-1, 2-3-1, etc.) had a particular win percentage attached to them. As I recall, he found that 1-1-2 was actually superior to 1-1-1.
The process was:
- Select 5 Contenders in each race (only “contenders” were handicapped.)
- Select a single paceline for each contender.
- Based upon the EP-SP-W ranks two horses were selected as bets in each race.
Howard once said that 90% of the time, one of the last 2 races should be picked as pacelines. In later years, I believe he felt differently about that.
He also said that in order to win, there were 3 things the player must do:
- Select the right contenders.
- Select the right pacelines.
- Interpret the readouts correctly.
Essentially, Howard said that if you made mistakes on any of these, you were in danger of losing the race.
When I joined the Sartin Methodology in 1987, Tom Brohamer had developed what became known as The Brohamer Model. This was a huge step forward in pace handicapping because it was based upon the principle that a each track-surface-distance had a unique winners’ profile. By looking at the profile of a winner, the handicapper would know which of the three columns (EP, SP, W) should be used in this race.
Eventually, the modeling concept changed to reflect the idea that the profile of a winner was constantly changing at each track-surface-distance. The belief was that this could be determined just by looking at the last few races (5-10) at that distance. The “profile” was often referred to as the “recent pace bias.”
A great quote from Dr. Sartin was, “The first race of the day is more important than the last 100 races.” This was when Howard was completely enamored to the concept of the recent pace model.
Another of his quotes from the later years of the Sartin Methodology was, “Most changes in the bias are perceived rather than real.” This meant that almost all track-surface-distance models produced the same bias (or winners’ profile) over time and that changes were often the result of the mix of horses in the race. Obviously, this showed how Howard’s opinion had changed over the years.
Sartin’s Influence on My Handicapping
Of course, a lot has changed for me since I first came into contact with the Methodology back in 1987. I had actually heard of “incremental velocity” as far back as 1978 when Huey Mahl told me about it. (Dr. Sartin was not the original source.) Frankly, I could never get it to work because I was trying to do just what Howard originally did: Build a standard set of values for each Pace Metric (i.e. the 1-2-1 vs 2-3-1, etc.).
That is, I was searching for a single formula. Brohamer changed all of that. When I embraced the idea of building unique models for each track-surface-distance suddenly the world changed for me and I began winning consistently.
My Handicapping Today
Today I still consider myself a “Pace Handicapper,” although I do not select pacelines. The concepts are still there but instead I employ something called “Synthetic Pace,” which relieves me of paceline selection completely.
I have continued to employ modeling, but the models are all based upon the “Pace Configuration” of the race. That is, my belief is that the amount of Pace Pressure present in the race determines which past races should be included in the model. In that modeling process I aim for 100 past races to build my model, but will accept as few as 15 to make a decision. Studies have shown that the accuracy improves up to about 45 races but above that the value of more races diminishes almost completely.