There are so many different ways to handicap horse races. Some like to handicap pace. Some like to handicap form. But there is one thing that no handicapper can dispute. Horse races are fundamentally about speed. The fastest horse in a race wins most of the time. It only makes sense that finding out which horse is fastest will give you a huge edge when it comes to picking winners.
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What is a Speed Handicapping Method?
A speed handicapping method can be defined as any method of picking winners that focuses on determining which horse can run the fastest. Many handicappers have made a lot of money by simply evaluating speed. They reason that speed is such an important factor that it often surmounts other considerations. The truth is, they are right.
Speed is the one factor that can, by itself, carry a horse to victory. Horses that rely on pace need help to win. Horses that are bred for a certain distance or surface need that condition to succeed. A speed horse carries his track harrow wherever he goes, as the saying is. A horse that is faster than its competition, barring some type of accident, will win on any given day under any conditions.
Think about this. What are all races about? We’re speaking of human races, horse races, dog races. All races. They are about seeing which person or animal is the fastest. The fastest competitor will always win a race under ideal conditions. Barring an injury, a fall, or interference, the fastest athlete wins. Period.
The same is true in horse racing. Now, the problem is that not all races are ran under ideal conditions. There can be rain. A horse can be blocked by other horses. An injury can occur. There have even been horse races where the jockey of a horse race fell off the horse! Any of these things can prevent the fastest horse from winning. That’s why betting is gambling. You are gambling that your horse will run under optimal conditions and is faster than its rivals.
Those who use a speed handicapping method are concerned with two things. They want to know which horse is fastest, and they want to know if the horse could potentially be compromised by racing conditions.
The History of the Speed Handicapping Method
No one really knows who the first bettor was to use a speed handicapping method. As long as people have been betting on race horse, bettors have been trying to figure out which horse is the fastest. What we do know is that speed handicapping came into its own with the advent of speed figures. The man most consider to be the father of speed figures is Andrew Beyer.
Andy Beyer is a horse bettor and journalist who is famous for his horse racing articles in the Washington Post and his books on the art of handicapping. But what he is most famous for is creating what we call speed figures.
When Beyer was a young horse bettor, long before there were online racebooks, he was struggling to find an edge that would allow him to cash more winning tickets. Beyer began to think about how he could express the speed of a horse in a single number. If he could manage to do that, it would be a simple matter to then determine which horse in a race was the fastest.
For years Beyer worked at refining his method until he came up with an approach that actually accomplished his dream. Suddenly, Beyer was winning bets at long odds. His fellow bettors did not have access to his information and could not always precisely determine which horse was the fastest. Beyer became a legendary bettor, often finding winning horses that paid odds of 5-1 or better.
Beyer decided to sell his figures to a horse racing newspaper. The figures were later purchased by the Daily Racing Form where they are still presented today. Known as the Beyer Speed Figures, these numbers give an accurate estimation of a horse’s speed. Bettors can look at the numbers and more easily compare one horse with another.
The Dangers of a Speed Handicapping Method
As good as speed figure are, even Andrew Beyer will admit that they are not perfect. Again, the issue comes from attempting to quantify something under ideal conditions when conditions are rarely ideal. A speed figure tell the bettor how fast a horse can run when everything is perfect. It does not account for variables such as interference. But the most damaging variable is something bettors refer to as track bias.
A track bias is one that favors horses with speed or one that favors horses which run from off the pace. When a track is favoring closing horses that run off the pace, the speed horse is compromised. Beyer and his team do their best to adjust their speed figures for track bias, but they admit that this is an imperfect science.
Also, speed figures that are earned in grass racing may be very unreliable. The reason for this is that speed figures on the grass require much more human interpretation. They are essentially manufactured, whereas speed figures for the dirt are more mathematically calculated.
Finally, it is always important for a bettor to take into account how a speed figure was earned. A horse that ran uncontested on the lead could very well have an inflated speed figure that does not accurately represent how fast it is. A horse that was bothered during a race may actually be faster than the speed figures would indicate. The speed handicapper must take into account how the speed figure was earned before he gives it authority in handicapping.
Should You Use a Speed Handicapping Method?
The type of method you use to select winning race horses is a matter of personal preference. Other forms of handicapping may be more suited to your personal style than focusing on speed. But if you are the kind of bettor that is thrilled by horses that surge to the lead and often win a race going wire to wire, you might want to speed handicap.
Speed handicapping methods can be especially effective at an online racebook. The reason for this is that you will have the opportunity to make bets at race tracks all over the country. While other bettors on a specific racing circuit are able to judge things like the track surface, local jockeys and trainers, and race weather conditions, you are more apt to rely on speed as you bet the races from home.
This may sound like a disadvantage but it isn’t. When you are using a speed handicapping method you are eliminating many other factors. This means that you can assess a race more quickly to determine if it is worth betting. The local bettors has to content themselves with whatever race is coming up next. You are simply required to look for another race at any track in the country. You can keep looking until you are able to identify a horse that is legitimately faster than its competition.
We will say this in closing. The speed handicapper generally spends less time handicapping than other bettors. This means that they are able to handicap more races in a shorter period of time. More races means more opportunities to win.
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