From Off The PaceBy Eb Netr
Handicapping for early speed is one very good way to find winners. But early speed isn't always what determines which dog will get to the finish line first. There are times when the winner comes from "off the pace." That is, a dog that runs just behind the leaders for most of the race accelerates in the stretch and passes one or more of them right before the end of the race.
This might be a gradual maneuver - if anything can be gradual in a race that takes about a half minute - or it might be done with a flashy flourish that shocks the leader's backers, who thought they had a winning ticket. Either way, these dogs are factors in a good part of the races, so how do you handicap them?
If I see this type of dog in a race, and if it looks like it might be a factor, I pay very close attention to its recent form. First of all, I look to see that it's been getting out no worse than 3rd or 4th. This kind of dog needs to be just behind the leaders or, many times, it won't even try to close, especially if it gets blocked by other dogs because it's in the middle of the pack.
Next, and this is a very big indicator to me that the dog is worth a close look, I want to see that it closed on the leaders in the stretch in its last 3 races, even if it didn't win. This tells me that the dog is trying and is in sharp physical form. It tried to win, and will most likely do the same thing in this race. Of course, it should be in the current grade or no more than one grade lower that it closed. I prefer the current grade, because it tells me that the dog is able to compete with today's level of competition.
If the dog's times, class, post position and running style fit into the shape of this race, an "off the pace" dog who is closing in recent races is a good bet. Of course, you have to look at the other dogs to see if their running style will help or hinder that dog. If there's a lot of early speed in the race, will that put too many dogs out in front of it?
Or will only a couple of dogs get out in front of it, giving it only one or two dogs to close on at the end of the race? This is the ideal scenario for this kind of dog. When you see this setup, especially if the early speed is the kind that fades in the stretch, look for "off the pace" dogs to get into your exotics, even if they don't win.