Numbers don’t lie.
But in horse racing, certain numbers stretch the truth.
The search for a magic number to pop out at the end of a rainbow exemplifies the difficulty of the horse handicapping game. A foolproof numbers system over thought, power ratings, thrust indicators, torsion factors, torque figures, something simple that can’t miss, that’s all any gambler asks.
The Beyer speed figure is the most popular number used by horse players to try to get their money back. The Beyer number has to be important, it’s in bold face type in the Racing Form.
The Beyer number is brilliant in its concept, which is to establish a common racing field by which all animals can be evaluated. A mile at Sunland, a mile and a sixteenth at Aqueduct, the Beyer number suggests that if the two horses were to run a match race at the Fair Grounds, the highest mark would be the horse to beat. Providing a jockey didn’t have a hangover. Providing a horse didn’t stumble. In a two-horse match race, the Beyer number would pick a winner. Providing one of many dozen barely imaginable missteps didn’t occur; make that, the Beyer number should pick a winner, could, not would.
There’s even a “mud number,” which is to say that all goo and slop is alike.
Common sense parallels most numbers and ratings.
A horse wins a six furlong strong-track allowance race by ten lengths in 1:08, that’s going to be a pretty good Beyer.
Even the cheesy track variants, based only on times compared to track records, are fairly suggestive when it comes to looking for a winner.
Here’s what mixing science and luck can produce: trouble.
A speed rating or Beyer number is not a prediction so much as it is history. A good number, at its best, is a very visible and simple way to measure improvement. It suggests capability. A number or a rating should stimulate thought, not stand as a substitute. Numbers and ratings are only clues, small pieces of a pie the size of the winner’s circle.
I have found a 9 Beyer number to be of great value when it comes to picking among dogs.
The highest Beyers are not intended to be automatic plays.
A sky-high speed rating in a five-horse race usually means less than a lower number in a full field of competition. Mud tends to inflate rating numbers. I imagine grass to do the same thing as well, as might a certain running style: Shackleford puts up a 105 Beyer when allowed to have his way, ten point less when confronted.
Beyer numbers and speed ratings have become so popular that they help to make lousy favorites in cheap races across the land.
At times, there’s no more valuable racing tool than improving numbers at different race tracks.
How many racing tools must a handicapper consider?
Oh, about 50, common sense still being the hammer.
Originally Posted on ESPN