Beyer Speed Figures

 Beyer Speed Figures - what they are, how they are created and how to use them.

 Using Beyer Speed figures and par times when handicapping horse races.


Andrew Beyer is the father of the Beyer Speed Figure.  He is a world famous handicapper and columnist for the Washington Post.  His book, Picking Winners, revolutionized handicapping with the introduction and explanation of speed figures.  The idea behind speed figures is simple - the easiest way to measure one race horse against another is by how fast it runs.  Beyer devised a system that assigns a number - a speed figure - to each horse's performance in a race.  If every horse ran over a standard surface at the same distance we could compare their speeds simply by looking at their finishing times.  Beyer's idea is to be able to compare horses who run over different surfaces (fast tracks, slow tracks, etc.) and different distances.  In theory, a horse that earns a 100 speed figure running 7 furlongs at Keeneland should be faster than a horse that earns a 92 running one mile at Saratoga. 

The creation or computation of Beyer Speed figures is a laborious and time consuming process.  Thankfully, the figures are published in the Daily Racing Form, and the average handicapper can take advantage of them without spending hours compiling data. 

The process used to create Beyer's speed figures involves creating par times for races.  If a large number of $10,000 claiming races at different tracks are compiled and it is determined that the average winning time at six furlongs is 1:12 and 1:45 for 1 1/16 mile races, then it can be assumed that those two times would have the same speed rating.  Lets say they earn a speed rating of 70.  The other piece of the puzzle is to look at track variants.  Some tracks are inherently fast or slow.  Keeneland is a track that is notoriously fast, so a $10,000 claimer that runs 6 furlongs in 1:10 at Keeneland would have to have his figure adjusted downward to compensate for the fast track he is running on.  Likewise, a horse running on a slow track would have his figure raised in compensation.  In addition to adjusting figures for fast and slow tracks, daily variants are also used to account for the daily changes in the racing surface.

Handicappers often want to equate a speed figure with a race level and in general a horse that runs in the high 100's is a stakes caliber horse, while one who earns figures in the 80-90 range may be a high priced claimer and a horse who earns a speed figure in the low 50's may be a $5,000 claimer.

Beyer Speed Figures are a fantastic handicapping tool but even Andrew Beyer himself would tell you that you cannot rely on speed figures alone.  They are one of many valuable tools that you should use to handicap a race.  Automatically giving the edge to a horse that earned a 95 rating in his last race over the horse that earned an 85 could be a huge mistake if the horse that earned the 85 had a horrible trip, bad ride, and broke slow.

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