Free Data Friday: Tracks Running Races at the Wrong Distances

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From the Thoroughbred Idea Foundation

Saratoga, Gulfstream and Kentucky Downs have all run races over wrong distances within the last six weeks – at least one half-furlong longer than the races were scheduled.

This 50th volume of #FreeDataFriday is not an explanation of some obscure method of timing races, it offers merely a sobering fact, easily exposed BECAUSE of the way in which America times horse races.

First, understand that nearly every distance of a race run in North America is not the actual distance traveled, but the distance which is timed. Horses run-up to the starting point and reach the spot which is the published race distance away from the finish, and then the clock starts. It might be 30 feet, 50 feet, 70 feet or more. It depends on many factors.

Yes, we think this is the wrong way to time races, but at least we know that run-up exists.

But when the un-timed portion of a race is a half-furlong (1/16th of a mile) or more, and those wagering on that, riding in those races or preparing horses for such events are either unaware or not properly informed of this? Well, that's a problem – for the integrity of the sport and for the confidence of stakeholders.

Saratoga ran the Grade II Bowling Green on August 1, 2020 at a reported 1 3/8 miles on turf-the race was likely at least 1 7/16th miles, more than a half-furlong farther than reported to anyone, including owners of horses in the race, jockeys who rode it and the bettors who staked more than $1.7 million on this race.

Last Saturday, September 5, Gulfstream Park ran two listed, black-type awarding stakes (the Bear's Den and Miss Gracie) at a reported “about” 7.5 furlongs on the turf. The races were very likely about 540 feet, or roughly four-fifths of a furlong longer than that, much closer to 8.5 furlongs.

On Monday, September 7, Kentucky Downs ran four races at 6 ½ furlongs. The reported “run-up” for the race, acquired via the new Equibase-serviced Gmax timing and tracking system, was 330 feet, a distance that equates to a half-furlong. In other words, horses actually ran seven furlongs. The charts for these races (R2, R6, R7) are HERE–but a replay can be found via ADW replay providers.

The circumstances of all of these races, and the impact of the extra ground covered, and the degree of harm done by presenting customers with these errors, assuredly, varies.

Click here to read this entire report from the Thoroughbred Idea Foundation.

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