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The Importance Of Post Positions In Horseracing

Aug 17, 2007
The post position is where a race horse starts his race and it can have a variable effect on the outcome of the race, which in turn, can have an affect on your horseracing handicap.

First let's take a look at post positions. The Phillips starting gate is an automobile mounted with horizontal bars on either side, which permits the horses to start while in gait. Generally, the pacing or trotting horses begin their movement about 1/4 of a mile before the starting line. Before reaching the start, each horse generally has his head up, nose to the gate and is pacing or trotting on stride. The starting gate is about 30 feet wide; hence the horse in the number eight post position is starting approximately 30 feet further out from the rail than the horse in the one position.

A harness race generally consists of eight contenders. In stake and invitation races as many as 10 or 12 may start. In this case, horses number one through number eight start in their normal positions. Horses 9 through 12 begin on the second tier, which means number nine starts behind number one; number 10 behind number two; number 11 behind number three; number 12 behind number four, and so on.

The post position counts about a third in your handicapping calculations. This may seem to place an undue weight on as simple a mechanical factor as that of the starting of a race. But this is far from the truth. Depending on how a particular horse runs, post position can either enable him to win or lose a particular race.

If we return to the physical aspects of the problem, let us remember that a half mile harness track is oval in shape, having four turns in its perimeter. The starting point at most tracks is about two-thirds of the way down the stretch. Hence, after the start is made the horses have only a few hundred feet in which to jockey for position prior to arriving at the first turn. If you are at all familiar with harness racing, then you will be aware of the difficulties involved if a horse is outside on a turn. Most drivers prefer to go into a turn running on the rail, and to do their positioning on the straightaway.

We should be aware of the fact that the number one post position is favored by being on the rail, and running from it presents little chance of a horse being "caught" on the outside or in a poor position. The number two position is second best, the number three, third best and so on.

Up to this point we have been mechanical in our outlook. There are very definite reasons for this. The shortest route around a fenced-in circle is closest to that fence. For each yard you move away from that fence you correspondingly lengthen the path you must cover. This explains only a part of the problem. Pacers move at about 30 miles per hour. At this rate of speed, centrifugal force takes over on the turns to a point where it is almost impossible for a horse running outside at a faster rate to overtake a horse running on the inside at a slower rate.

The importance of post positions cannot be overrated and are a component of horseracing that will help you determine a handicap.
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