The seven furlong race is perhaps the most unique and difficult to handicap. When we think of the distances of horse races in the US, we usually think in terms of sprints and routes. The classic distances of 6 furlongs and Mile and an eighth come to mind first. They seem to be the yardsticks we measure by, though some might argue that the one mile distance is more popular the Mile and an eighth. Whatever the case may be, the seven furlong distance is a bit of an oddball.
The horses who seem to excel at the 7 furlong distance are often flops at other distances. Sometimes they don’t seem to be able to get going quick enough for the 6 furlong events and run out of steam in races of a mile or longer. Of course, no discussion of horse race distances would be complete without also considering track models.
A seven furlong race at one track is often different than a seven furlong event at another track, because a horse with a different running style is favored. So the horse that wins at Saratoga on a seven mile course may not fare as well at Calder on a 7 furlong course. Then again, without discussing breeding, we cannot discuss running styles or preferred distances.
When handicapping a seven furlong race I like to see that the sire’s foals usually have some early speed, not necessarily blazing early speed, but some speed to get near the front, tactical speed. I also like to see some bottom in the mare and an average winning distance of her sire’s offspring of at least 7+ furlongs, though my preference is a dam’s sire that has some real distance in the breeding like an average win distance of a mile or more (8 furlongs).
That combination of some early speed on the sire’s side and some distance breeding on the dam’s side seems to produce the best 7 furlong horses. As for running styles, I try to match them to the track model and of course, always factor in recent form and the day’s odds.