Everything you wanted to know about Speed Ratings but were afraid to ask!
What are they?
Basically, as the name suggests they are ratings based on how quickly a horse covered the distance when compared to the standard time.
But obviously it's not as easy as that as there are other variables to consider including....
Running in heavy ground is always going to slow a horse down whereas you'd expect a faster time in firmer conditions. So you need to make allowances in your calculations for the going depending on how soft or firm the ground is.
Running into a head wind is always harder than having the wind behind you and is another thing you may wish to consider when making your speed ratings.
Running fast (or slow) at one track doesn't necessarily mean the horse will run as well (or bad) at another course. As you well know, the racecourses in this country are not alike. Unlike in the States we don't run around on a flat, oval, left handed track all the time. Some of our courses are round with dips and uphill climbs, some are right handed with long straights, some are left handed with short straights and some are just dead straight with dips and uphill climbs. In fact no two tracks are alike in Britain which means if you want to do it seriously then making your own speed ratings is going to take a lot of time and effort.
Is it worth all the effort?
Get it right and yes, definitely. There have been many exponents of Speed Ratings over the years and many successful punters use Speed Ratings as their betting mainstay. Don't believe me? Well let's start with a little history lesson. A long, long time ago in a far away land....
Well the 1950's actually in the good ole US of A a man called Len Razogin figured that seeing which horse in each race could run the fastest would be a good starting point as to deciding which horse would win the race. Wow groundbreaking stuff! That nobody had given it much thought before then is staggering! So he started compiling what are now known in the States as 'sheets' to assign a speed figure throughout the career of each horse in the race. But he wasn't interested in simply backing the horse with the top figure in the race what he preferred to do was calculate the likelihood of each horse being able to produce their best speed rating in that day's race conditions. A sort of rating against the horse itself rather than against the field.
Then in the 1970's along came the legendary Washington Post racing journalist Andrew Beyer who totally transformed speed ratings and is now the undisputed Godfather of the stopwatch. Such has his impact been that when referring to his speed ratings in the States the figures are now known simply as the 'Beyer' and his ratings are carried every day in the Daily Racing Form (the American Racing Post). His suggested way of betting was to analyse the ratings for the last three runs of all the horses in the field and go with the one that had all three figures higher than every other figure achieved by the rest of the field. If there was a runner in the field that satisfied this rule then Mr Beyer would put on his punting boots and head for the nearest Ladbrokes (or similar).
But that was all over the other side of the pond, in the UK speed and ratings haven't been quite as popular with most punters preferring to bet whatever Newsboy in the Daily Mirror says or take the easy route and just side with the favourite. We have of course got Timeform which was set up by Phil Bull around the 1950's as he wanted to 'establish a mathematical link to a horse's performance, based on the time the horse recorded'. He obviously succeeded as Timeform is still around today and was bought by Betfair for £15million in 2006.
Then there's Nick Mordin who is worshipped as the Speed Guru in the UK since his seminal book Mordin on Time was published in the late 1990's. He has his own website that sells his own unique speed figures for all the big meetings.
There is no harm in using someone else's work for your ratings but obviously like in the States with the Bayer figures the horses these big name ratings flag up are always going to be overbet and underpriced. Much better to make your own speed ratings up.......
How do you compile them?
We've had our history lesson, now it's time for double maths!
Compiling speed ratings can be as complex or as easy as you want it to be. As an introduction we'll begin with ratings in the most simplest of form.
For this we simply assign every horse in the race a base figure of 100. We then compare each runners time to the standard adding or subtracting 1pt for every 0.1 seconds the horse ran above or below the standard time. An example: if the horse ran 0.4 seconds faster than the standard time the speed figure will be 100+4 = 104, if he ran 0.4 seconds slower than standard time then he would of course get a rating of 100-4 = 96
So where do we get the Standard Times from?
The first thing we need to establish when compiling our speed ratings are standard times for each race distance at each race course. As we saw at the start of this article all racecourses have not been created equal. A horse running over the downhill 5f at Epsom should post a faster time than if it ran over the stiff, uphill finish of the 5f on the Rowley Mile at Newmarket. So we need a different standard for each course so we can iron out any deviance's caused by the make-up of the course. That's quite a lot of standard times and if you're planning on covering the whole spectrum of racing rather than specialise on a certain bracket of race distances, class etc. it's probably best to use the Racing Post standard times as your starting point.
If you are a paid up member of the Racing Post then you can access Standard Times for every track and distance by simply clicking on the racecourse map>standard times.
If however you aren't a member, you can still find these out but you'll need to do a bit of number crunching. On the Racing Post results page, under each result they give the time the race was run in and whether that was above or below standard and by how much. From these figures we can work out the Racing Post Standard times. Examples follow.....
Yesterday's (3/6/13) 2.30 Chepstow was run over a distance of 5f in a time of 59.32 seconds. According to the Racing Post this was 1.02 seconds slower than standard making the Racing Post Standard time for 5f at Chepstow 58.30 seconds (i.e. 59.32 - 1.02).
The 3.00 on the card was over 6f and run in 69.79 seconds which was faster than standard by 0.21 seconds. This would make the Racing Post Standard time for 6f at Chepstow 70 seconds (69.79 + 0.21)
So lets use that 2.30 Chepstow as our example race to convert the times of the horses into actual Speed Figures or Ratings.
The winner ran 1.02 slower than the standard time so would earn a rating of 90 (100 - 10)
What about the placed horses?
Right, that's the winner's rating sorted out but what about the also rans? If we only get the time of the winner how can we work out the time/ratings for the rest of the runners?
Easy, we might not get their times but we can find out how far they were beaten and by converting distance beaten into seconds we can assign a time for any horse that ran in the race. How? By using this lovely BHA approved distance-time chart....
Since June 15th 2008 the British Horseracing Authority has set the following distances as equating to one second of time for all UK horse races.
5 lengths per second for AW Fibresand and when the going is soft or worse
6 lengths per second for AW Polytrack and when the going is good to soft or better
4 lengths per second when the going is good to soft or worse
5 lengths per second when the going is good or better
Obviously not every horse is beaten exactly in lengths so we need to convert the smaller beaten distances into fractions of a length.
dh - dead heat = time is equal to the horse ahead
ns - nose = 1/50th (0.02) of a length
sh - short head = 1/20th (0.05) of a length
hd - head = 1/10th (0.1) of a length
nk - neck = 1/4 (0.25) of a length
So using the BHA chart our 5f race at Chepstow run on Good to Firm ground would give us 6 lengths equaling 1 second.
As the runner up was beaten 3/4 lengths, it equates in this instance to 0.125 seconds i.e. 3/4 divided by 6 = 1/8th (1/8th x 1 second = 0.125) . This gives a time of 59.44 seconds for the runner up.
The third place was beaten 6 lengths which is handy as this is simply equal to 1 second and gives a time of 60.44 seconds.
The fourth home was a neck away which equates to 0.04 seconds (1/4 divided by 6 = 1/24th) and gives him a time of 60.48 seconds.
Fifth home was 12 lengths behind or 2 seconds for a time of 62.48
The sixth was 2 1/2 lengths back giving a time of 62.90 (+5/12ths of a second)
and last home gets a time of 63.65 as he was beaten 4 1/2 lengths or 0.75 seconds (9/12ths of a second).
Covert the time into ratings as before to get our speed figures for this race.....
Mr Dandy Man - 90
Bonjour Steve - 89
Taquk - 79
Sartorialist - 78
Zacs Princess - 58
Notnow Penny - 54
My Secret Dream- 47
That is speed ratings in the most basic of form and takes no account of weight , race class or the weather and only a small allowance for the going. As long as you strictly apply the same calculations to every horse you should get a uniform set of figures that will help you better analyse a race from a speed point of view.
Obviously there's a lot of work involved if you want to keep on top of every horse that runs each week (nobody said this was easy!). You may feel that re-inventing the wheel is slightly pointless and decide to subscribe to someone else's ratings which will save you all the hard work and calculations. The choice is up to you but either way once you have your ratings the hard part is then using the ratings effectively......
How do you use them?
With such a diverse range of racing taking place in Britain I think it's always best to specialise on a certain type of race. Be that Group races, 2yo's, sellers, novice hurdlers, sprinters, stayers etc. you'll find it easier to rate a smaller cross section of the racing population than every runner in every race.
So you have sat in the black chair under the spotlight and chosen your specialised subject, you have your ratings for your subset of runners, what next?
Well you could simply back the Top Rated runner in the field. Yes you could and while you may have the odd winner or two it unfortunately won't make you a profitable punter. You need to look deeper than that, you need to find the horse that is going to be toprated on the day of the race not the one who may have run the best figure 6 months ago.
Okay then, so why don't we simply back the horse who achieved the best figure on their last start. Again it's not the worst way of betting horses, it should prove a horse is fit, but you're still not assured of backing the horse who will run the top speed figure that day, just the one who ran fastest on his last start.
Both though are good places to start but what you really want to do is see all (or at least 12 months) of a horse's ratings and find out, when does he run his best figures? Is it on soft ground, firm ground, when he's been rested 4 weeks, at a certain track, going left or right handed, in class 4, Group races or maybe when there are 20+ runners in the race. Or you may want to use the above examples to see when he runs his worst races.
Only then by analysing this data can you build up a picture of the horse to establish when they are most likely to run to their optimum figure.
By looking at the 'sheet' for specific horses you may also be able to see patterns in the way they run. Perhaps they set progressively bigger speed figures before dropping right down and then building back up again. Perhaps the horse in question sets a big figure then a small figure then back to a big figure again. Not all horses will run like this but there are some that do and patterns, or cycles, are always worth looking out for.
But one thing that you simply must NOT do is average out a horses speed figures. Really, what would be the point in that? You are simply creating another figure that has nothing to do with what ratings that horse has achieved. You want cold hard facts about how fast a horse has run not an average speed of his last 3 races, that tells you nothing.
Building up this overall picture is the best way to use speed figures and the most likely way you will make them a profitable betting system. There are no real shortcuts and simply buying someones ratings and backing the top rated will not make you a profitable punter.
Like most things in life (including racing systems), the more you put in the more you get out.