10/27/2004 11:00PM

Beyer and Timeform: Forget the calculator

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NEW YORK - When Daily Racing Form introduced Timeform ratings to its foreign past performance lines, speed handicappers immediately addressed the problem of how to translate these ratings into something resembling a Beyer Speed Figure.

Some people employed the formula of Timeform minus 12 equals Beyer Figure. Some say 13 should be subtracted. Still others say that 14 will produce the magic number.

All of them are wrong.

Subtracting any amount from a Timeform rating to try to transform it miraculously into a Beyer Speed Figure is fraught with danger and, in most cases, leads to the casual acceptance of misinformation.

With a major international racing carnival like the Breeders' Cup on Saturday, players would be well advised to scrap the minus 12, 13, or 14 systems they may have been employing.

The reasons are numerous. First, the Timeform and Beyer ratings, while sharing a number of criteria, are also based on different factors. For example, Timeform ratings are developed as four separate handicaps: one for juveniles, one for 3-year-olds, one for 4-year-olds, and one for 5-year-olds and up.

The Timeform system was developed to enable British handicappers to gauge a given horse's chances in races in Britain against other British-trained horses. While Timeform has in recent years expanded its base to include many Irish and French horses, and some German and Italian horses, as well as developing a data base for all races run in the United Arab Emirates, the theory behind the ratings remains the same - the ratings are presented as guides to determine the relative strength of a horse in relation to other horses' Timeform ratings.

Timeform ratings are gauged at weight for age. So, if a 3-year-old and a 4-year-old both have ratings of 110, they are deemed to have an equal chance in a given race only when the 3-year-old is in receipt of whatever is allowed on the scale of weights at that time of year.

An examination of the ratings Timeform sets for European-trained horses running in America challenges the validity of any mathematical formula to produce a Beyer equivalent.

Powerscourt, who will run in the Breeders' Cup Turf, was awarded a Beyer Figure of 109 for the Arlington Million. Timeform gave him a 124 for the same race.

Minus 15, anyone?

For winning last year's Breeders' Cup Mile, Six Perfections earned a Beyer figure of 105. Timeform gave her a 123+ for the same race.

Minus 18, anyone?

When High Chaparral won last year's Turf, his Beyer Figure was 112. Timeform gave him a 130, well in keeping with the 128 he had earned for having won the Irish Champion Stakes the previous month.

It is a similar story considering High Chaparral's 2002 Turf victory, where the scoreboard reads Beyer 111, Timeform 127+.

Timeform gave Banks Hill near-identical ratings of 119+ and 119 for her last two outings in America in 2002 in the Filly and Mare Turf and the Matriarch. Her Beyer numbers for the same two races were 106 and 111. What is one to make of the 5-point discrepancy?

It should be remembered that ratings work best when used in the context of a given race's distance, the assignment of weight, and the conditions of the ground.

This last point is extremely important, especially when horses such as the Aidan O'Brien-trained 2-year-olds Scandinavia and Mona Lisa are running for the first time on a different surface, as they will be in the Juvenile and the Juvenile Fillies.

And concerning Mona Lisa: Can her Timeform rating of 108 for a troubled fourth-place finish in the Fillies Mile at Ascot be automatically changed into a Beyer of between 94 and 96? If you think so, Mona Lisa's best rating is 3 to 5 points better than the best Beyer Figure awarded any of the American runners in the Juvenile Fillies, the 91 that Sense of Style received for winning the Matron Stakes.

Can a 2-year-old maiden filly who has traveled 5,000 miles for her first race on dirt be that much better than her Grade 1-winning American rivals? If you believe in the lazy man's minus 12, 13, or 14 theory, it should happen.

Just don't bet on it.

Perhaps it is time to remember that in horse racing, horses are not running against numbers, they are running against other horses.