Is it still the best way? Part 1
For all practical purposes, Howard Sartin invented pace handicapping. Yes, yes, I know… there were certainly pace devotees before Howard Sartin. However, it was Howard who first introduced practical strategies for measuring and applying true pace handicapping approaches.
In the beginning there was Phase III. At least for me, the beginning was Phase III. When I discovered pace handicapping in 1987, I was swept on to success. Actually, a more accurate way of putting it would be when I discovered that Howard Sartin had discovered pace handicapping, I was swept on to success.
The Phase III software was by any standard a clumsy and unprofessional piece of software. However, it was based on very sound principles. The concept worked like this:
1. Select five contenders in each race. Howard was firm on this; every race should have precisely five contenders.
2. Select a single paceline for each contender. This paceline represents the race we think the horse will run today.
3. Compute three ratings for each selected paceline. Those ratings were EP, SP, and W. All of these ratings were expressed in feet per second.
“EP” is “early pace.” It represents the speed to the second call. That is, the first 4 furlongs in a 6 furlong race.
If you have an early pace, it is logical to have a late pace as well. Howard called the late pace “F3,” or “final fraction.” That would be the portion of the race left after the early pace. That is, the last 2 furlongs in a 6 furlong race. In my own nomenclature, I refer to this rating as “SR,” which stands for “stretch run.”
“SP” is “sustained pace.” It represents a synthetic rating, comprised of EP and SR, double weighted on the SR.
“W” is simply “factor W.” Just as SP is EP and SR weighted late, W is EP and SR weighted early.
4. The horses were ranked in each of the three factors. Thus, a horse would get a number like 1-2-3, which meant he ranked first, second, third in EP, SP, W, respectively.
Howard’s original idea was to develop a winning percentage for each possible combination i.e. 111, 112, 113, 132, etc. This approach showed great promise but was set aside when it was found that certain distances favored particular combinations. For example, a rank of one or two in the first column (EP) was more likely to win at 6 furlongs then it was at 1 1/8 miles, which might favor a one or a two in the second column (SP).
This idea of the “winning profile” ultimately became a mainstay In the Sartin Methodology’s quest for pari-mutuel profit. This idea was further expanded when it was determined that certain track-surface-distances favored particular combinations.
To recap, first there were three ratings (EP, SP, and W) in pace handicapping. Next came combination ratings, followed by rudimentary distance profiles and, finally, individual track-surface-distance models. It must be understood that these ideas represented improvements of amazing proportion in a short period of time.