Front Runners: These types of runners want the lead right from the beginning of the race. A beginner may think of this as a good thing, and it can be, but often times horses that are in the lead in the beginning tend to tire themselves out and fade towards the end. Here is an example of one of the best front runners in the game today, The Factor. Notice how he goes for the lead right from the start, and battles hard with the horse beside him to get that lead. He is the #7 horse in this race.
Stalkers: A stalker likes to be near the lead, but doesn’t necessarily have to be ahead to be happy. Typically a stalker sits within one to four lengths of the lead and waits until the top of the stretch before making their move. If the race lacks a true front running horse a stalker can assume the lead as well. Here is a look at 2011 Horse of the Year Havre De Grace, who is known as a stalker. Notice that she sits patiently, and starts her move at the top of the stretch. She is #6 in this race.
Closers: The closer is the most exciting style in horse racing. A closer will go to the back of the pack, sometimes as many as 15 lengths off the lead, and then wait and make one big run at the end of the race. Here is a look at the great Zenyatta, who is known as one of the greatest closers of all time. She is #4 in this video.
Why is this Important?
Many expert handicapers will tell you that determining the “shape” of the race is the most important factor in horse race. “Race Shape” means determining what type of runners are in the field, and how their running styles will set up for them to succeed. For example, if there are four horses in the race that want to be in the lead from the very beginning, it makes senses that those four would wear themselves out early in the race because they are all running hard to get the lead. So in this case you would look for a closer to win that race. However, lets say that you look at a race and determine there is only one horse that has early speed. Then you would bet that horse because he/she will get a nice comfortable early lead, and is likely to not tire himself/herself out too early.
It’s important to realize that just like humans, horses have personalities. All horses have quirks about them, and how comfortable they are on the race track during the race makes a huge difference in the outcome. Some horses are versatile and can run with any of these styles, but those are few and far between. So if you ever take a shot at handicapping horse races, determining how the race will shape is the best place to start.