05/23/2012 5:33PM

Beyer: Changing the Derby Trial figure


Calculating speed figures is often a straightforward process. But sometimes the results on a given card can be ambiguous or inscrutable, which was the case when Churchill Downs ran its opening-night program April 28.

As the person responsible for the Beyer Speed Figures at Churchill, I struggled to understand the data before sending my numbers in to the Daily Racing Form database. I later revised them -- a revision that included a change in Hierro’s winning figure for the Derby Trial from 96 to 103. And the revisions may not be finished.

Before the fifth race on the card, a powerful hailstorm swept across Churchill, causing a 50-minute delay. The rain made the sloppy track slower for the fifth and sixth races. It got much faster for the 10th and 11th, and the ones in the middle (including the Trial) were inscrutable.

Under such difficult circumstances, our figure-makers will "project" a number for a race, estimating what would be a logical figure based on the previous performances of the horses. Then we’ll monitor the subsequent efforts of horses coming out of that field to judge whether our projection looks accurate.

In the Derby Trial, Hierro (lifetime best figure: 89) won by 1 1/2 lengths over Paynter (lifetime best: 93) and Stealcase (lifetime best: 79). Based on these performances, I doubted that the race could be higher than a 96 -- with Paynter duplicating his best effort and the other two improving sharply.

Three weeks later I learned otherwise. On the Preakness Day card at Pimlico, Paynter delivered a smashing performance to win an allowance race with a figure of 106. Based on that evidence, I boosted the Derby Trial figure, using the track variant for the fast races at the end of the card to produce the figure of 103. I tweaked other figures on the card after seeing what horses had done in their subsequent performances.

Making speed figures is not an exact science and sometimes it’s a messy process. But the best way to cope with difficult conditions is to use human judgment (as opposed to relying on a computer program) and to be flexible enough to change the figures when the evidence changes.

Craig M More than 1 year ago
This is looking worse and worse every time a horse runs back.
Craig M More than 1 year ago
I don't think you considered the fast contested pace of the Trial against the slow pace and inferior rivals he faced at Pimlico. He was supposed to run a lot faster in the latter race.
jhbvta24 More than 1 year ago
I suggest that you look at the 3rd race at Golden Gate Fields on 05/13/2012. Every horse regressed on the Beyer scale from his previous number. Do you feel confident about these figures or will they be revised? Clock malfuction occurred and accuracy questioned.
Chris Garrity More than 1 year ago
Thanks for posting, Andy. I agree with Mark's post -- people who criticize the figs don't understand what goes into making them. They are indeed the way, the truth, and the light.
Mark Garcia More than 1 year ago
It's amazing to this day many handicappers dont understand how the figures are computed. It's not rocket science...it just numbers. It's funny to read some of the comments people leave confirming the fact that they dont understand the process.
mikey More than 1 year ago
They might just be number but plenty get suckered by just those numbers. Beyer like Timeform are basically calculated the same way. Timeform has miler Frankel ranked ahead of great horses that has won from a mile to 16 furlongs. Plenty of suckers really believe that Frankel is better than those horses. Yes they are just that numbers but they used it shamelessly to hype that miler Frankel who is ranked higher than Ribot?? give me a break. That is pure fantasy.
Kany Levine More than 1 year ago
Timeform is NOT a speed figure. It is a performance figure. The two are completely different.
Leah Demeter More than 1 year ago
Sorry, BSFs claim to be "a numerical representation of a horse's performance", so how are they different?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I want to thank you for your hard work on Beyer numbers. They are very important to knowledgable handicappers. I have not been burned using them along with other pertinent data. Very reliable. I remember when I first got them, I think in the "racing times". I could tell very few had this vital information then. The results were great. The Beyers numbers are still great. Keep up the good work. Ray