Handicapping 870-Yard Quarter Horse Races

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February 11th, 2016


Fire On The Fly is a multiple 870-yard Quarter Horse champion

The most important aspects of handicapping an 870-yard Quarter Horse race are post position and track configuration. For an 870-yard race on a one-mile oval, such as Remington Park, the recently expanded Los Alamitos or Lone Star Park in Texas, the starting gate is set very close to the turn, so those breaking from posts 1, 2 and 3 on a one-mile oval always have a big advantage because they are apt to save ground along or near the rail.  Outside posts, 6, 7 and 8 are at a distinct disadvantage because they are likely to get hung wide (eight horses is generally the maximum field size at 870 yards).

At tracks that are less than a mile around, such as Delta Downs or Ruidoso Downs, the distance from the gate to the turn is greater, giving the outside horses more distance to either flash speed and get over toward the rail or tuck in just behind horses before hitting the turn. Post position is less important at those tracks.

Early speed is another key to success in distance races. While you will see horses come from off the pace, particularly if they can save ground along the rail and make a run in the stretch, you will find that the winner most often shows speed right out of the gate.

Pedigree is a useful tool in handicapping 870-yard races. Quarter Horses are generally faster than Thoroughbreds out of the gate, but in deep stretch the stamina advantage of the Thoroughbred breed will sometimes kick in. If you see a Thoroughbred cross in the breeding, that could be a plus in a Quarter Horse stretching out and sustaining a bid "around the hook".

Finally, check the program stats for riders that excel in the longer distances. Some jockeys are more skilled at riding 870-yard races; often Quarter Horse riders that have also ridden Thoroughbreds at some point in their career. They have the edge in getting that closing kick in the longer races versus the short 350 or 400 yard straight shot to the wire.