Speed Figures

Speed figures have changed over the years; the Daily Racing Form uses an exclusive system designed by Andrew Beyer now. However, local track programs still use track par numbers, making it important that you know how to interpret both. This lesson will touch briefly upon both of these types of speed figures.

Time, according to Beyer, is the most important factor to look at when handicapping races. A horse that runs six furlongs in 1:112 is a far more superior horse than a horse that runs the same distance in 1:14. Speed figures account for this discrepancy, and use it to compare horses in two different racing situations. The 1:14 horse may have won its race, but even if the 1:112 horse came in dead last in his, it is still a faster horse, at least over these reported outings. But there are other factors that affect a horse’s time when running, Beyer argues. Time might not mean the same thing from day to day or course to course. These include:

  • Track biases
  • Weather

Track biases are difficult to determine if you are not a frequent track visitor. Also, the bias can shift from day to day, or even race to race, depending on the care of the track. Simply put, a track bias is an anomaly with the racing surface that affects the race and its outcome. An example of this is the “dead rail” phenomenon. Normally, the rail position is the fastest route around the track since it is the shortest distance. When a dead rail occurs, the horse will actually run slower than it should have in the rail position. This could be attributed to a softer surface on the inside track.

The weather will obviously affect all horses the same if they are in the same race, but from race to race, the weather can change things dramatically. A windy day might slow down a horse one day, allowing him to run a completely different time on another day. Rain and sloppy, muddy tracks will also slow down a horse.

Both of these factors affect the true track condition. Beyer recommends compiling a list of winning times from races at a specific track for each class, averaging them, and then comparing them to future races. After this is done for each track, the times are assigned a numeric value so that the figures of each horse can be compared.

Of course, this is a vast simplification of how the Beyer speed figures are determined, but they are a good thing to be aware of, especially if you use the Daily Racing Form for your handicapping.

Old fashioned speed figures are calculated by comparing a horse’s time to the track record. Each length equals 1/5th of a second and thus one numeric point. So if a track record for a six furlong race is 1:104 and a horse runs a 1:12, that horse’s race can be valued at 94. This is a much more simplistic method of quantifying a horse’s effort – but it is much easier to understand for the average horse bettor. Again, if a horse is ten lengths in front of another, the slower horse will have a speed figure ten points lower. The time will be approximately 2 seconds flat.

Being aware of both sets of speed figures will help improve your winnings at the track. It will also help to alleviate the discrepancy that you see between the DRF and the local track program. This is by no means an exhaustive study of speed figures, but it should get you started in the right direction.

Our next class will look more at some of the exotic bets you can make.

elementary school
Pre-KHorse Racing Basics
KindergartenPari-Mutuel System Betting
1st GradeHorse Racing 101
2nd GradeWhy Pick One Horse Over Another
3rd GradeReading Horse Charts
4th GradeWhy Class Matters
5th GradeSpeed Figures
middle school
6th GradeIntro to Exotic Betting
7th GradeExotics Part II Multi Race Bets
8th GradeSelecting the Right Races
high school
9th GradeThe Morning Line
10th GradeMoney Management
11th GradeBetting Tactics to Avoid
12th GradePerfecting the Craft