If you ask 10 handicappers what their most important handicapping factor is they will not say speed. Yet, when they begin their handicapping process the very first thing that 9 of the 10 will do is look at the speed ratings in the race. They may look at speed in a myriad of different ways, ultimately, making it a cornerstone of their handicapping effort.

The majority of players use some kind of electronic download to handicap the races. That download will feed into some software product. The software will contain or compute speed ratings.

Most of the players who do not use a software product will use a set of reports downloaded from some source such as BRIS, TrackMaster or *The Daily Racing Form*. These reports will come with speed ratings. A few players will still be purchasing *The Daily Racing Form* paper edition and doing what I call “paper-and-pencil” handicapping. Most of these players will use The Beyer numbers.

My point is that very few handicappers will actually calculate their own speed ratings.

Good speed ratings begin with a good set of par times. I just happen to know where you can get the best par times available anywhere for the track-to-track adjustments that must be made. That would be the current version of my *HorseStreet Par Times*. (The 2012 version is in our store right now for those of you who are interested.)

I look at speed ratings from 13 different points of view:

- Last Race
- Best of Last 2
- Best of Last 3
- Best of Last 4
- Best 2 of Last 3
- Best 2 of Last 4
- Best 3 of Last 4
- Average of the Last 2
- Average of the Last 3
- Average of the Last 4
- Best Ever
- 2
^{nd}Best Ever - Best 2 Ever

Understand, that when I speak of “speed,” I mean speed ratings and not “early speed.” The question is, which speed rating(s) are best to use? If you ask the typical horseplayer which of the above approaches was the “best one to use,” the majority of players would choose one of the first two on the list: either Last Race or Best-of-Last-2.

Final time in the last race gets 62% of all winners in the top 3. Notice the $nets.

Final Time, Best of Last 2 and Best 2 of Last 3 win more races. This is how most players look at racing: What wins the most races? So, they jump on the bandwagon of most recent races, just like everybody else.

If you are looking for a contender selection process, however, what you really want is the approach that does the best job of eliminating the worst horses in the field.

Suppose, instead, if we ask the question, Which way of looking at speed produces the *worst* result for horses in the rear half (RH) of the field? That way, we can toss them and leave in the rest.

What we find is that taking the best two speed ratings ever (of the last 10 races) points to horses that will produce the worst $net. We find that Best 2 of Last 4 does the best job of picking the lowest IV horses in the rear half.

In the future we’ll take a look at what happens if we look only at long shots, but for now, then next time you are looking to eliminate horses look at older pacelines rather than newer ones.

john zerhusen says

dear sir,could you give the formula for calculating factor”W” and sustained pace.thank you…john

Dave Schwartz says

Howard Sartin’s original SP and W was in feet-per-sec you will recall. Also, I believe it may have changed over the years. What I recall of Howard’s formula was:

SP = (EP + SR * 2) /3

where

EP is the FPS to the 2nd call (i.e. 4f in a 6f race)

SR was the FPS in the last call (last 2f in a 6f race

W = (EP * 2 + SP) /3

Essentially, EP was early + late double-weighted early, while W was EP + Late, double-weighted late.

This is from memory and I may have the precise formula wrong.

reynaldo dizon says

Dave,

When choosing the Best Speed Figure last 2 starts and Best 2 Speed Figures last 3 starts, does it mean that you will disregard figures taken from different tracks and distances?

Dave Schwartz says

I always ask myself this same question when I get a question like this: “Why do people always try to complicate things?”

Best of last 2 starts means (no surprise here) – Best of last 2 starts. Not best of last 2 at the distance or only on this surface, or only on a fast track on a Wednesday in June. It means exactly that.

Anonymous says

when comparing speed figs is the best average 2 of last 4 gives more winners?

Dave Schwartz says

Average of last 4 will produce more winners. Average of Last 3 is actually better than Average of last 4.

Neither is a great way to play, though.