History of RsPos (TM)

In The Beginning...

Jim Cramer at HDW has been working on thoroughbred handicapping databases for the past 14 years, but his method of "Running Style-Position" (RsPos TM) handicapping has been with him since 1979, when he began using it at Calder Race Course in Florida, where he owned and trained race horses.

Back then, Jim's techniques were a little rough around the edges. For example, his labeling of each horse's running style was not as elegant as the one you're about to be exposed to. Twenty four years ago, he called E (early horses) "WTW" (wire to wire) and S (sustained) horses "CFB" (come from behind) with deep closers called "CFFB" (come from far behind). These labels took care of the "Rs" - running style.

In 1979, Cramer had yet to disover the power of projecting each horse's position. The second part, "Pos" (position) was ignored. While making wagers based solely on the "Rs" was profitable, Cramer knew it could be improved. Twelve years later, Jim found the missing ingredient was the second part - Position.

Intuitively, Cramer knew that certain distances favored certain running styles, and that certain jockeys "fit" certain horses. It was imperative for him to spot his own horses where the profile of the racetrack said they could win, and then link the horse with a rider that complemented the horse's style.

All these things were second nature to Jim. He had an uncanny feel for them. What he did not have, however, was cold, hard data that proved their effectiveness beyond the shadow of a doubt.

Which brings us to 2005. Now, with some help from other handicapping experts and exhaustive research of the databases, Jim has both refined his techniques and compiled the statistics that make the RsPos TM data the newest, if not the most powerful approach to pace handicapping available. You are about to be exposed to all aspects of this approach. We are confident it will improve your game and add a valuable dimension to your handicapping.

The Importance of Early Speed

Knowing Your Track

No two tracks behave alike. While most tracks generally favor horses that have good early speed, there are certain distances at that track that can discriminate against the frontrunner.

For example, at most major tracks, the seven furlong distance will yield a lower win percentage for the horse on the lead than the other sprint distances do. Many times, the five and a half furlong distance behaves in the same manner: front runners don't win as often.

Jim says the reason for this is that seven furlong races are usually made up of a lot of six furlong sprinter who go too fast too early in the seven furlong race. Hence things set up for a non front runner. He calls the seven furlong race "the toughest race there is" for the racehorse, and "the most difficult to handicap" for the horseplayer.

In five and a half furlong races, jockeys tend to send their horses more than usual, given the short distance. Again, the pace in these races is usually too fast for the front runner to survive.

Given the fact that horses on the lead at the first quarter mile of all races win 28.9% of the time, it's easy to make some general conclusions about the relative tendencies of any track to favor front runners: tracks where the front runners win more than 28.9% of the races can be classified as above average when it comes to favoring early speed; conversely, tracks where front runners win less than this percentage can be classified as below average for front runners. Some examples:

Knowing how front runners fare right now at the tracks you play is of the utmost importance.

Jockey Profiles

Like horses, jockeys have preferred running styles. Often, the public perception of a jockey's favorite style is nothing more than that - a perception. Cramer's data is frequently revealing and sometimes shocking.

Jim's data for jockeys nationwide focuses on each jockey's percentage of wins on the lead. Jim cites the example of Florida and Chicago based jockey Earlie Fires, whose victories occur on the lead 52% of the time.

In sharp contrast to Fires is Julie Krone, whose wins on the lead account for a shockingly small six percent of her total wins.

Jim then focuses on where each jockey on a circuit (the Southern California circuit) tends to position his mounts at the first quarter mile. These data shatter a few long standing public perceptions.

For example, Eddie Delahoussaye is considered a patient, take-back style of jockey. Jim's data show that Eddie D. goes to the lead just as often as he takes back to fifth place in a race. On the other hand, Martin Pedroza is thought of as a hustling rider who sends all his mounts to the lead. He may try to do that, but Jim's data shows he's not that successful at it: his mounts are more likely to be in fourth position at the first quarter mile than they are to be on the lead.

Next, we measure where the same jockeys position their mounts when they win. Again, the public's perception of a jockey is often misguided. For example, Eddie Delahoussaye has a reputation as being "king of the closers." A look at the data shows Delahoussaye does far better taking horses wire to wire. Conversely, Patrick Valenzuela is known as a superior front running rider. But the data show that among the top 10 riders in Southern California, Valenzuela has the fewest number of front running victories.

Only the data can precisely label a jockey's preferred running style. Public perception is often wrong.

Jim says these jockey styles can have a big impact on the shape of today's race. Jockeys tend to place their horses the way they (the jockeys) like to ride. For example, Kent Desormeaux puts more horses in the third spot early than any other spot. Desormeaux's image as a take back jockey is warranted. Patrick Valenzuela puts more of his mounts on the lead than in any other position. In any jockey colony, the members eventually sort out their various positions.

The jockey's preferred running style should match that of the horse. If not, all prime bets are off.

Running Styles - Defined

The first of syllable of Jim's RsPos TM is for "Running Style."  When a horse wins a race, it usually comes as the result of being able to run to its preferred pace style or running style.  Jim's first challenge is to identify the running style of each horse.  The possible designations are as follows:

To identify the horse's preferred running style, look only at its previous wins.  Each win will be labeled with one of the running styles.  The running styles are defined as follows:

Based on these definitions, and with some minor exceptions, we have developed a methodical approach to labeling the running style of all non-E wins.

  1. Start with the first quarter mile.  If the horse is within one length at that point, it's an EP win.
  2. If not, then move on to the first half mile.  If the horse is within one length at that point, it's a P win.
  3. If not, then move on to the stretch call.  If the horse is within one length at that point, it's an SP win.
  4. If not, then the win is an S win.

By proceeding in this linear manner, each win's running style becomes a snap to identify.

The next step is to label the horses running style.  Many horses will show wins only in a certain manner, most likely E or S.  Horses that show a variety of running styles in their victories must be handled differently. 

In the case of multiple running styles, Jim says to take the horse's "farthest back running style," indicating that they horse may run as that running style or a more forward running style.  For example, if a horse shows a victory as an E and an EP, label the horse an EP - it is the farthest back running style.   If a horse shows victories as a P and S, label the horse an S.

At this point, after identifying a horse's running style and the jockey's riding style, we then try to make the most fundamental elimination - when the horse's running style and the jockey's running style clash.  For example, when a P horse switches from a "take back" or presser jockey to a "send" or early jockey, the P horse will find himself on the lead, and probably won't cooperate.  Running a horse forward of his preferred running style usually results in a poor performance.

Combining Running Style With Position

Once we have labeled each horse with a running style, we then rank each horse on the basis of where that horse figures to be at the first quarter mile of today's race. This is only a rough guide - you really have to look at the shape of the reace, post position, and jockey to get an accurate guesstimate of who will be where at the first quarter mile.

For example, an E1 is an Early horse who projects to be on the lead at the first quarter mile. An EP3 is an Early-Presser horse who projects to be third at the first quarter mile. An S7 is a sustained horse who projects to be seventh at the first quarter mile. And so on.

We arrive at the positions as follows:

  1. Adjust all of the horse's first quarter mile times for beaten lengths.
  2. Take the fastest first quarter mile.
  3. Rank the horses based on their first quarter mile times.  Note each horse's rank alongside its running style.

The challenge and fun come from analyzing and interpreting these designations in order to eventually form a basis for predicting how each race will unfold.

Early Horses - A List of Their Characteristics

Given the fact that horses on the lead at the first quarter-mile win more than 29% of all races, it's easy to see why we are so fond of Early horses. Here are some of their unique characteristics:

  1. They win races.
  2. They are the most inconsistent, most erratic horses. When they run last, it's not because they're in bad form - it's because they don't get the lead in that race. If an E horse figures to be an E6 or E7 in today's race, and he's in an outside post, he's definitely not in a position to run his best race. BUT - don't throw him out. He may have a significant impact on how the race is run! That's why you won't hear many RsPos TM users talking about 'contenders' and 'noncontenders.'
  3. They wear blinkers and they try hard (at least to get to the lead) all the time. When they get loose, then can run phenomenal races...and usually at BIG prices.
  4. They quit. They run last a lot. They run third a lot. Our study of 5,000 E horses showed that their records typically look like 25 10-0-10 or 72 26-0-10. E horses run third a lot, but don't put them on the bottom of an exacta!
  5. They are almost always the "first horse out" (dropping out of the race) if they can't make the lead.
  6. They need a good "send" jockey, and they need to be inside, where they'll get the easiest path into the turn. To clear another E horse inside, the outside E generally needs to be about two lengths superior at the first quarter-mile to get the lead. At times, an E5 on the rail can keep position with an E1 marooned on the far outside.

Running Style Position and Race Shapes

We have listed some scenarios in which certain combinations of running style and position (for example, EP1) tend to do their best, as well as combinations that virtually demand elimination:

An E1 will do its best when it:

  1. Owns the first quarter mile by a length or two.
  2. Is drawn on the inside.
  3. Has a jockey that will take a good hold and not let them run off 10 lengths ahead in the first half mile.
  4. Own the half mile by a length or two and project to run the best final time.

An E1 and an E2 will duel if the E2 is on the inside. In these instances, it is best to be the P3 if there is one in the race.

E2's can win, but they need to be alone at the half mile. E2's do have a "1" horse to contend with, and they can most successfully contend if that "1" horse is a P1 whose half mile time is slower than the E2's.  In other words, if the E2 owns the half mile, he can be bet over the P1 with a lesser half mile.  E3's (and greater) will have a hard time winning.  Like E2's, they have to be alone and must own the first half mile - a very tough assignment because a P1 or P2 can own the half mile. The E3 needs alot of luck.

If the race consists of all E horses (every horse in the field shows only wire to wire wins), the E1 will win as the "speed of the speed."

However, sprint E horses stretching out will probably go too fast early to win the route, especially if they have an E jockey.

In all situations, E horses should be played sparingly on the bottom of exactas, since this type of horse does not place often enough. However, they do stop and finish third.

EP's are very reliable, and one of our favorite bets is the EP1 who owns the race. In other words, the EP1 who has the fastest quarter-mile, half-mile, and final time. By definition of their position (1), EP1's can run faster than any other horse to the first quarter mile, but by definition of their running style (EP overlapping the leaders), they won't be on the lead. They'll be just off the lead, tracking it. And they'll be running well within their abilities.

The EP1 is even stronger when tracking an E2 or an E3. The EP1 can pass them whenever he wants. The E2 and E3 have shown no ability to pass horses in their victories. The strongest EP1 is the one who has a two length or more advantage at the first quarter mile.

By definition, the EP! (the "!" is for exclusive) can win only when overlapping the pace. So the EP!6 is probably a bad bet, since he won't be overlapping the leaders at the first quarter mile. Look for improvement from an EP if in this race he is an EP1 or EP2 and in his past races he was an EP4 or EP5 and couldn't get in the race because of his mid pack position.

The EP who projects to be an EP5 through 8 today might have best final times or speed figures, but won't get a slow enough first quarter mile to overlap the leaders today.

EP's are excellent candidates in exacta or trifecta boxes. Our studies of tens of thousands of EP horses show that they win, place and show with equal frequency. However, the very best EP's win and place with equal frequency but show a lot less (for example, their lifetime records might look like this: 62 24-23-9).

The P1 horse needs to sit behind two or more E horses, and needs a jockey who can put it right behind the E horses, not too far back.

In a field having an E2, E3, E4, and E5, the P1 is in a great spot. He can track the dueling E's, save energy because he's not going to his fastest first quarter mile like the E's are, then run by the E horses any time he wants, even to the first quarter (which he probably will not do, since he's a P).

The P3 will not win if a P1 and P2 project to be ahead of him.

P7-14 horses are best eliminated. They probably will not get involved in the race. They may try to move up to second, third, or fourth at the half mile, but will usually fade late. They need to be within a length at the half, but probably won't make it.

In the race with a stack of P horses the P1 should win.

However, P horses who project to get involved in a duel to the first quarter probably will not have enough energy left at the half, where they will need to be within a length of the lead, as shown by their previous victories.

P horses run second a lot. Their lifetime records show it.

PS horses win when they have a stack of E horses in front of them. The PS must be close at the half mile, while laying fifth, sixth, or seventh. They need a collapse of the leaders. For this reason, they win a lot of seven furlong races in which the E horses (usually six furlong sprinters) go too fast too early. The PS horse also needs a patient jockey, such as Kent Desormeaux or some other take back rider. Early jockeys generally can't win on the PS horse.

Unlike P horses, S horses' lifetime records are more even in the win and place holes, but tend to jump up in the show spot. S horses can win, and are the most consistent horse in racing. Their final fractions tend to stay the same from race to race. To win, the S horse needs losers in two places: E and P. The S finds these losers when there are several E horse pulled too far forward, and as a result, several P horses are pulled too far forward. These E horses and P horses will get burned up, while the S horses will stay even farther off the pace.

The S7 is the best of the S horses. The fact that six horses will be in front of him early says there will be alot of speed today. S horses run third alot. Jim says "the 'S' in Sustained stands for show." The lifetime records of S horses look like 7-8-26; 4-9-17;5-11-17. Our study of 5,659 horses with more places higher than wins and twice as many shows as wins, shows that their preferred running style is S. S horses run up to get third.

In general, the following projected pace scenarios favor certain types of horses:

Pace Scenarios and Benefits
Very Slow E horses on the lead
Slow E horses on the lead
Normal E horses on the lead
Fast P4 - 6 can win
Very Fast S7 - 9 can win

The probable pace can be predicted by noting the running styles of the horses in today's race.

For example, if today's race is made up of an E1, E2, E3, EP4, EP5, E6, and an S7, the race will probably have a very fast pace.

In the case of a race made up of a P1, P2, P3, and PS4, for another example, a very slow pace will probably develop, since there are no E horses in the mix. The top three won't change positions during the running of the race.