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Sep 19, 2003

Speed Ratings, Final Times and Current Condition

By: Ray Taulbot

We believe that there is no easier or better way todiscover the true contenders in a race than by using pace handicapping. At the same time,however, we are the last to suggest that the logical investment is always the horse withthe highest pace rating.

This is because the condition factor always governs theeffectiveness of handicapping figures; this is true no matter what kind of basichandicapping is employed.

Further, racing angles—which may reveal hiddencondition—as well as those angles which reveal the trainer"s intentions enter thepicture at this point. These angles combine to strengthen or weaken the true value of pacefigures.

It is clear that merely learning the basic principlesof pace handicapping is of small value unless the selector has a sound knowledge of alltypes of racing angles and a clear knowledge of what effect the horse"s last race islikely to have on its performance today.

This month, we are going to deal with condition asexpressed by a horse"s time and its Daily Racing Form speed rating improvement.Readers of limited experience should use this method of assessing current condition onlyin those instances where the horse being analyzed ran the same distance in its last tworaces.

The thoroughly experienced handicapper should encounterno trouble in applying the same method regardless of the distance factor. His knowledge ofthe relative time values for the various distances will enable him to use the method innearly every race he figures.

Most of readers would agree than an improvement infinal time and an improvement in a horse"s Daily Racing Form speed rating, as itpertains to the last race, indicates improvement in physical condition.

For example, examine the two races below, whichrepresent the horse"s last two six-furlong races:


Time: 1:10 Horse"s speed rating: 90

Time: 1:11 Horse"s speed rating: 85


This broad example of improvement in the final time andspeed rating shows that the horse improved last start by about five lengths if we applythe standard adjustment of one length for every fifth of a second. If this horse was notused excessively last start, it is likely to be exceptionally sharp today—providedthat the last race was comparatively recent.

If such a horse is one of the two, three, or fourhorses with the highest pace ratings, it cannot be faulted on the condition factor. Assuch, its pace figures can be accepted at face value.

However, if the horse"s last race was a hard-foughtcontest, are we safe in assuming that it is a sharp contender today? Not unless there isevidence in its charts that its last race is not its best effort. We must makeallowances for the probable effect of its last race upon this horse"s current condition.If the improved race took too much out of the horse, then it is not as sharp today as itwas in its last race. It becomes strikingly clear, therefore, how important it is to judgeaccurately the probable effect of a horse"s last race upon its current condition. This,admittedly, is not an easy task. It requires a lot of straight thinking. For example, theeffect of the two following races is likely to be radically different:


HORSE A: 31 21/2 21/2 2nk time: 1:10

HORSE B: 32 32 32 2nk time: 1:10.3


Horse A was in stiff contention from the quarter rightdown to the wire. He had a sustained effort over a distance of one-half mile in a racethat was run in the final time of 1:10. Horse B, on the other hand, was in stiffcompetition only during the final furlong. One horse was driving for a half mile, theother was under excessive pressure for only 660 feet, and in a final time somewhat slowerthan the other horse.

Horse A probably had much more taken out of him thandid Horse B. Yet both horses finished second by a neck. We can assume that, generallyspeaking, the longer the excessive effort is sustained, the more it will take out of ahorse.

Here the time factor must also be considered, for therate of pace, as well as the distance over which the effort is sustained, influences thehorse"s condition.

Generally speaking, if the horse was defeated by 2-1/2to three lengths or more, it is not likely that he race took too much out of our prospect,not even when the pace was on the fast side. However, it is quite possible that a hardnext-to-last race, combined with a defeat of 2-1/2 lengths last start, could take a greatdeal out of the average plater.

Some players make the mistaken assumption that if thehorse led all the way the race did not injure its current condition. This is not alwaystrue. For example, a horse might have led by only one-half length at every call. Thisnarrow margin indicates that the horse was being hard-pressed throughout the race and,therefore, the contest took something out of it.

If you get nervous about eliminating higher ratings,you are missing the whole point of this article. Horses are not automobiles and they cannot be rated on engine horsepower. A high rating without sharp present form ismeaningless.

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