01/20/2017 10:06AM

Beyer Sire Performance Standings offer new metrics for stallions

Shigeki Kikkawa
Maclean’s Music received a 114 Beyer Speed Figure for his lone start. He now stands at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms in Kentucky.

A visitor to Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms in recent years would have found the number 114 inescapable.

The three digits adorn baseball caps, posters, print advertisements, and Hill ‘n’ Dale-branded jackets, begging onlookers to inquire about the meaning.

Those who ask learn that the number is what makes the young stallion Maclean’s Music special.

The son of Distorted Humor raced just once before injury ended his career, but the start was a dazzler, a 7 1/4-length maiden romp at Santa Anita. What made it historic was his 114 Beyer Speed Figure, the highest ever in a debut effort. A typical Kentucky Derby fails to produce a winner with a figure that exceptional.

It was a watershed moment for the marketing of a stallion prospect. Beyer Speed Figures graduated from supporting fact to central selling point.

“You have to hang your hat on one race in a one-race career, and he ran faster than any maiden has ever run,” said John G. Sikura, president of Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms. “That number was a way to help define how good he was.”

:: 2016 BEYER SIRE PERFORMANCE STANDINGS: Download complete 2016 divisional sire charts ::

Maclean’s Music displayed plenty of traits befitting of a stallion prospect at a major Kentucky farm – pedigree, looks, strong connections, and a showcase race – but the weight that record-setting 114 Beyer carried was one of the most compelling reasons he entered stud in the Bluegrass State instead of debuting as a regional sire.

“I would say he wouldn’t be at Hill ‘n’ Dale if he had run a 101 Beyer and won by four lengths,” Sikura said.

Since making their published debut in The Racing Times in 1991, Beyer Speed Figures have become a widely recognized shorthand to describe the level of a horse’s effort beyond a final time and finishing position.

Beyer Speed Figures were incorporated into Daily Racing Form’s past performances in 1992 and are now an industry standard for the comparison of one horse’s performance to another.

With the introduction of DRF’s Beyer Sire Performance Standings, the breeding industry will have a new tool to compare stallion progeny performance beyond wins and earnings. The standings provide totals and percentages for progeny who surpass specific Beyer Speed Figure benchmarks in North American races (90 and higher for horses 3 and older and 80 and higher for 2-year-olds).

While traditional sire lists based on earnings can be slanted by one or two major stakes victories or casino-inflated purses on some circuits, the Beyer Sire Performance Standings are not impacted by those factors. Beyers are assigned to all runners in a race, allowing DRF’s sire lists to include all performances.

The standings provide a measurement of a sire’s ability to produce fast horses, not necessarily the most winners or highest earners.

To illustrate this point, Songbird and Beholder fought an epic battle to the wire in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff, with Beholder prevailing by the slimmest of margins. Beholder’s win added $1.1 million to sire Henny Hughes’s progeny earnings, while Medaglia d’Oro’s rose $340,000 for Songbird’s runner-up finish. Beholder got credit for more black type and another graded stakes win, but few could argue that her performance was massively better than Songbird’s. In fact, both received a 105 Beyer for their efforts in the race.

“The traditional ways in evaluating horse performance have pretty much all been ridiculous, or filled with flaws,” said Andrew Beyer, creator of the Beyer Speed Figures. “We know all the things that are wrong with earnings and saying that a horse won so many Grade 2s or Grade 3s with no reference to the quality of those performances.

“Almost every sport has mathematically based evaluations of its athletes that are pretty widely accepted – like the quarterback rating in football or ‘wins above replacement’ in baseball. American Thoroughbred racing never had anything like this, but I think that the Beyer Speed Figures have filled a void, with an objective, mathematically based rating of every horse’s performance.”

:: Read the 2017 Kentucky Sires and New Stallions supplement ::

Beyer Speed Figures have an established history in the breeding industry, and many breeding operations are quick to note when a runner sired by one of their residents pulls a big number, preferably in a big spot.

“We use it for Twitter a lot, and obviously for ads, especially if there is a trend or a story to be told based on a personal touch for a stallion,” said Darren Fox, sales manager at Darley. “For example, it’s nice that your stallion had four maiden special weight winners in a week, but you can quantify that with Beyer Speed Figures and tell an even deeper, more meaningful story, one that would grab more attention, which is what we’re trying to do.”

The numbers’ reverence carries over into the auction market. Every horse who pulls a big number can create a ripple effect on a pedigree page that can potentially increase the commercial value of every horse on it.

For some stallions, the Beyer Sire Performance Standings will give numerical evidence to affirm their spot as a top commodity. Sires with small crops can potentially stand out with a large percentage of runners achieving high Beyers.

“It helps you separate horses one race from another,” Fox said about the speed figures. “A race is visual, and assessing it visually is obviously a big part of assessing a performance.

“If it’s one that caught your eye and you see an associated number that affirms what you saw visually, then that cements that performance in your mind.”

Criteria separations by gender, surface, and distance will allow readers to pinpoint where runners by a particular stallion excel or falter when stacked against their contemporaries.

While the Beyer Sire Performance Standings are primarily a tool in the bloodstock realm, an enterprising handicapper who integrates pedigree into his method would be wise to browse the standings to find stallions capable of producing runners who hit key Beyer thresholds under different circumstances. The standings could help identify sires flying under the radar.

In some cases, the Beyer Sire Performance Standings are useful to confirm the prowess of an elite sire. Perennial powerhouse Tapit, who set the North American record for progeny earnings for a third straight year in 2016, led all stallions by number of horses to achieve a 90-plus Beyer last year (36) and tied with Medaglia d’Oro for the most runners with a 100-plus figure (eight).

Tapit also was represented by the highest Beyer Speed Figure of 2016 when his son Frosted racked up a 123 in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap.

“Speed figures define the top horses in the country very well,” Beyer said. “You don’t see fluky kinds of horses popping up and running a 120. In 2015, the top speed figures belonged to American Pharoah, Liam’s Map, and Flintshire, champion horses all. The same is true this year. You’ve got Frosted, Arrogate, and California Chrome with the three best – that’s a pretty good list.”

The standings also can help potential buyers of racing prospects find value on the racetrack in contrast to stud fee. For example, Flatter, who stands for a midrange fee of $35,000, had seven runners achieve a 100-plus Beyer last year, tying for the second-most with Curlin ($150,000 stud fee) and Giant’s Causeway ($75,000).

“You’re always looking for who were the fastest horses,” bloodstock agent Mike McMahon said. “You have to use [a speed figure] that everybody knows. If you say to somebody a horse gets a 100 Beyer, everybody knows what a 100 Beyer is.”

Beyond highlighting the exploits of elite stallions, the Beyer sire standings can identify fast-rising young stallions who might go overlooked on the national scene.

California’s Square Eddie, who had four crops of racing age in 2016, was the third-ranked North American sire by percentage of turf runners with at least one 90-plus Beyer, among sires with four or more do so, at 15.6 percent. He finished behind only War Front and Medaglia d’Oro in that category.

Square Eddie also led all North American-based sires by percentage of turf runners to earn at least one 100-plus Beyer at 6.2 percent.

A horse’s collection of Beyers is just one part of the mosaic that creates an ontrack résumé, either for wagering or assessment and purchase of breeding prospects. While the long-standing indicators of time, class, and margin of victory remain tried-and-true measuring sticks by the industry’s most successful participants, Beyers provide a more standardized assessment of the effort, less affected by intangibles like surface condition and bias.

“Twenty years ago, when a horse ran five furlongs under a minute, that would get your attention,” Sikura said. “If a horse ran it in 58 and 1, that looked really fast. If a horse ran three quarters in 1:09 and change, it was considered very fast. You had a range of times that you’d use, and good horses showed themselves that way. If a horse won by 10 in a hand ride or won four in a row, that’s a good horse.

“It’s up to the buyers to decide what factors are important,” Sikura added. “I’m not sure anyone buys or sells a horse based on a number if they’re retired, but if they’re a racing prospect, it’s important. If I want to buy a filly who won three stakes, but she never ran fast, and compare her to one that was stakes-placed twice and ran huge numbers but had an abbreviated career because she got hurt, then maybe she’s the better buy because she’s the faster horse.”