Arguably the only system that really matters…
I have been relying on speed ratings as the cornerstone of my betting strategies for more than ten years. Speed ratings allow a horse race handicapper to assign a numerical figure to each horse in a given race, which represents the horse’s ability and fitness, based upon the times it has run previously.
By using standard times for each track as a baseline, and a relatively simple process of calculation, all performances can be compared, at every distance and across all classes of competition.
Speed ratings will allow you to quickly narrow down a field to the few key runners, and then establish a clear and factual picture of how each horse compares to it’s rivals. This is something that bare form data on it’s own cannot do.
First came the ‘horseplayers’…
Speed figures have been used in the United States since the 1950s. In America those who try to pick winners of horse races are known as ‘horseplayers’ and an early exponent of the game was Len Ragozin. He was one of the first to realize that not only should punters judge horses by comparing them with each other, but also by comparing each horse with itself.
In other words, by using speed ratings he was able to quantify a horse’s past performances to reliably predict how he would run the race today.
Ragozin would plot graphs of each horse’s career runs, and these became known to those throughout the industry as “the Sheets”. The chart for each horse would often reveal valuable patterns in their past performances. Pretty soon Ragozin began publishing these “Sheets” and they were seen as essential by anyone who took their punting seriously.
During the 1970s a journalist for The Washington Post called Andrew Beyer started producing his own speed figures. He enjoyed a mightily successful betting career using his ratings, and when he introduced his figures to the wider public in his book Picking Winners he truly revolutionised betting on horse racing.
Inevitably there was a downside, and as the general betting public became more aware of the power of speed ratings, it became harder and harder to maintain the same level of advantage over the market. In 1983 Beyer released a further book called The Winning Horse Player and by the 1990s everyone was using speed figures to some degree. His ratings were available from several commercial sources, and eventually in 1992 the leading industry publication The Daily Racing Form began to include Beyer’s speed figures as an integral part of their form data.
Because speed ratings had become so widely available, it meant the “golden goose” had flown forever!
Fortunately this is not the case with British horse racing. Punters here remain strangely sceptical of speed figures, and with typical British conservatism they would still rather base their betting decisions entirely upon following top trainers and top jockeys.
Some will blindly follow favourite horses that have won for them in the past, whilst others will draw form lines through a third horse that has run recently against two of the horses running today. Then of course there are those long distance travellers, and the jockeys driving to a course for one ride…. “McCoy would not travel all the way to Sedgefield for a single ride if he did not think the horse had an outstanding chance” and so on.
Now please don’t get me wrong, many of these systems are based upon very sound logic, and some of the fundamentals of handicapping and form reading. And I certainly do not disregard these methods out of hand…. indeed I use many of them once I have narrowed down the field use speed ratings.
However, it does not make sense to me, to start the whole process of race assessment, using systems which are based upon hypothesis and opinion, as opposed to facts.
Don’t ask me why, but it seems that punters in this country will happily use any system at all to select their horses, except for the one that really matters…. the system that tells you precisely how fit a horse is compared to it’s rivals, and whether it is an improving horse. The system that tells you the horse’s favoured distance, and which courses it likes, and importantly the courses it doesn’t like…. I’m talking about the stone-cold facts that only a horse’s speed figures will tell you!
Don’t ask me why, but it seems that punters in this country will happily use any system at all to select their horses, except for the one that really matters. The system that tells you precisely how fit a horse is compared to it’s rivals, and whether it is an improving horse.
The system that tells you if a horse is coming into peak form, out of form altogether, or treading water and ready for a break from racing.
The system that tells you the horse’s favoured distance, and which courses it likes, and importantly the courses it doesn’t like. I’m talking about the stone-cold facts that only a horse’s speed figures will tell you!
Crucially, it’s the system that will give you a reliable indication of how fast the horse will run today. Few will deny that all things being equal, it is the fastest horse that wins the races.
At the moment, punters in Britain do not have open access to accurate and simple to follow speed ratings. Most betting shop regulars have neither the time nor the inclination to compile their own ratings and until they are served up to the betting public on a plate as The Daily Racing Form did in the States, then there will continue to be plenty of value for speed figure hunters to get stuck into.
Will I make a lot of money from speed ratings?
At this point, I should make something perfectly clear, and set some expectations… I am not suggesting that the use of speed ratings is some ‘silver bullet’ miracle method that will provide you with a life-changing income.
Many (in fact the majority) of the horses highlighted by this method will fail to win. But on the other hand, you will find more than your fair share of winners with this strategy, and more than a few of these at very decent prices.
If you are diligent in finding the best prices about your selections, I would expect you to see your investment in stakes more than covered by your winnings.
Want to find out more about Speed Ratings?
If you visit AllWeatherSpeedRatings.com and download my book Patterns In The Sand you can learn how to produce your own personal race ratings, and I’ll offer my advice on how best to implement them into your betting strategy.