Handicapping Speed

Handicapping Speed Handicapping Speed

Speed figures are important indicators to picking winners.


A speed rating compares a race horses’s final time to the track record at that same distance or a specific distance established in prior season. Let’s say the track record has a rating of 100. Since a difference of length (a horse’s length) is approximately 1/5 of a second, for each 1/5 of a second that the horse is slower than the track record, one point is deducted.

So, if a horse is two seconds off the track record (10 lengths behind) that horse would receive a speed rating of 90. Should a horse finish 10 lengths behind the winning horse in a race in which the winner was one second slower than the track record, then the losing horse’s speed rating would be 85. Don’t worry too much if it’s not crystal clear. It’s probably not too terribly important for a bettor to understand exactly how speed figures are calculated. It’s more important for a bettor to determine how to use this information when handicapping the field. A horses’s speed history is obviously important. His last speed rating and the average speed rating of his last three races is typically reported in a Past Performance program. It’s not as though a bettor needs to calculate speed ratings based on raw data extracted from unintelligible charts or tables. Speed ratings are readily availiable.

Consider the Beyer Speed Figure, devised by Andrew Beyer, it is widely used and is another method of grading a horse’s performance in a particular race on a particular day. It has been incorporated into the past performances charts since 1992. The Beyer speed figure takes into consideration the track’s surface, the class of horses, the distances and the average times run on the day of the race, and makes a summary of the day’s racing card. Beyer used all of this information plus some other adjustments to come up with his speed figure. Since its inception, it has been a highly regarded measurement of a horse’s speed and this is significant due to the fact that very often the fastest horse in the race is the horse that wins the race. Common sense you might think, and it is true that some of the processes of handicapping are only applications of common sense.

But, the highest speed number does not always automatically reveal the identity of the winning horse. It is merely one more indicator a handicapper needs to evaluate and mix with the overall anaysis of a race. As has been discussed in other articles here at HorsePlayUSA.com, current form, condition, pace, the jockey and trainer, the track’s condition at race time and more are all elements to review and consider when attempting to pick your winners.

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