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Nov 19, 2010

Numbers Are Only Part of the Story


The following is an article by Ray Taulbot.

Numbers Are Only Part of the Story

We've previously explained how the selector can reduce his or her handicapping work to a minimum by eliminating horses whose recent speed ratings indicate they're not as sharp as several others in the field.

It is impossible to lay down any hard and fast rules in racing. As soon as a rule is written, exceptions begin to arise. But remember that rules are guide-posts, not shackles. You must always use personal judgement since handicapping is not an exact science.

One can work scientifically when dealing with mathematical factors, such as evaluating the worth of various data in the past performances. Once the figuring is done, however, the job is far from complete. The figures can pinpoint the logical contenders; they can't be used to make the final selection.

Unfortunately, the high-figure horse is not always a sound selection due to factors unrevealed by the cold figures. Perhaps the horse has been inactive for more than 30 days. Maybe it's shipping in from another circuit. Or its last race might have been a hard-fought contest that drained the horse. And there's a plenitude of physical problems that can remain unseen by even the most trained eye.

We've suggested in the past that you figure only those horses whose last, or next-to-last, speed rating was within five points of the highest in the field. Today we will illustrate two ways to compare a route speed rating with a sprint speed rating.

First, you can use your parallel pace ratings. Let's suppose you have a router going in a sprint today. The best speed rating it earned within its last two starts was 77 over a route distance. This speed rating, while certainly not poor, is unlikely to come within five points of a sprinter's best recent speed rating. Therefore, you can use parallel pace time to get a better line on the router's current condition.

The router earned a 77 last start over a 1-1/16 course, and completed the distance in 1:45. Today it is entered in a six furlong race. The parallel time for six furlongs in that route was 1:12; the track record for six furlongs at today's oval is 1:10. The difference between the adjusted parallel time and the track record is two seconds.

Numbers Are Only Part of the Story

Two seconds equals 10 points. Subtracted from 100, we come up with a speed rating of 90. Now our router is likely to be one of the entrants that is within five points of the highest-rated sprinter in today's race. In fact, the router now may even have the highest sprint rating in the field.

But the router is not actually the highest speed-rated horse in the field. That's because the rating is an adjusted rating, not an earned rating. Never use an adjusted rating to represent the best number in the field. The best rating must be an earned one for the distance to be run today. The adjusted rating may cause you to consider the router in today's race, but it can't ever be the key speed rating-the highest earned rating for the distance today.

The same applies to the adjustment of a speed rating on an off-track. The adjusted rating may place the horse among the speed rating contenders, or even above the key rating, but the adjusted rating can't serve as the key rating in the race. Let's suppose the highest speed rating in a sprint race is 88. Our router is in the race with an adjusted rating of 90. There is also an entrant, with a rating of 69, whose last race was over a muddy track. When we add 20 points for mud, the adjusted rating is 89. These two horses can be considered because their adjusted ratings place them within five points of the key rating of 88. But their ratings can't be used as the basis on which you figure current condition.

There is another way to deal with this situation. The average difference between sprint and route speed rating is 9.8, which we'll consider an even ten points. In the above example, therefore, you add ten points to the route rating of 77; you obtain a rating of 87, three points less than the parallel rating but close enough for practical purposes. But remember that you are adjusting, and the adjusted rating can never become the key rating.

To reduce the amount of work involved in figuring pace, you can employ a "quick-eye" examination of the pace factor. Run your gaze down the chart of each horse, spotting its best race. Then glance at the final time and speed rating. Do this with each horse without writing down any figures. Just keep in mind the time of the horse with the fastest best race time. That's your key horse.

Let's say a "quick-eye" examination reveals these numbers:

You can see the key best race is 1:10.2, for a 91 rating. The next best is 1:10.4, at 89, and the third best is 1:11 with an 88. These are the only horses you should figure in this race, provided none have to be discarded for reasons like lack of current form or a hard previous race.

Unless there's a throw-out in the top three, the 1:11.2 horse probably won't be able to rate close enough to the time of 1:10.2 to make it a logical pace contender.

With our figures on the charts of the contenders, the scientific part of our handicapping comes to an end. Personal judgment must be used to select one of the three figure contenders as a final selection. An individual's knowledge of racing angles and their proper evaluation, brought together with all he or she knows about racing, are required to finish the job.



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