03/10/2008 12:00AM

Fixing the Fountain of Youth time


PHILADELPHIA - While the rest of the Western world has tried to make sense of the Fountain of Youth time controversy, we here at Beyer Speed Figure Central, where time means more than life itself, have spent countless hours trying to sort it all out.

Randy Moss, ESPN's racing analyst and a charter member of Beyer Central, did most of the sorting. We know the original time was wrong. We know the corrected and now "official" time is wrong. We know the real time. Which, of course, is why we are members of Beyer Central.

It was clear from the start when the first fraction was listed as 25.78 seconds that something was amiss. There was no way the final time could be 1:51.85. Just about everybody knew that.

Apparently, an outrider set off the beam early which resulted in that ridiculously slow time which, as you shall see, is more than two seconds slower than the actual time.

"With all this pace figure stuff that I've been doing over the last couple of years, I've had to become pretty proficient at timing races digitally, either with tapes that we get from stakes races or over the Internet," Moss said. "I'm kind of a timing geek. Everybody that thinks a time is bad e-mails me or calls me."

It turns out that, according to Moss, "99.99 percent of the time the teletimer is correct, which inspires a little confidence in our teletiming systems."

Gulfstream Park's racing operations manager Bernie Hettel hand-timed the Fountain of Youth and actually did a pretty good job. Hettel's final and now official time of 1:50.07 would have been accurate if the track was actually 1 1/8 miles around, and one could time a race of that distance from finish pole to finish pole.

But you can't do that if you want to be accurate on a track that isn't exactly 1 1/8 miles around. Moss had been digitally timing 1 1/8-mile races from Gulfstream since the track opened after renovations in 2005 with a circumference of slightly larger than 1 1/8 miles. His times always came up a half-second too slow. Now, with the controversy, he had to find out why.

"There were dozens of times this happened," Moss said. "I just commented to some people that this was kind of odd."

When the Hettel time came out, Moss said he decided that "this is ridiculous."

"I'm going to solve this mystery," he said. "I hadn't really thought that much about it. It was kind of like turning on the water faucet and the water comes out."

A call by Moss to Teleview Racing Patrol revealed that the track is actually 17 feet longer than 1 1/8 miles. So 1 1/8-mile races are actually timed from a beam 17 feet beyond the finish line. Moss was told that they had done the math and it comes out to about .54 of a second difference. Moss, of course, already knew that. He just didn't know why. Now, he did.

The 1 1/16-mile pole is actually 347 feet from the finish line, 330 feet (a sixteenth of a mile) from the beam that is 17 feet beyond the finish line. All the other poles are 330 feet apart, as they should be. Thus, other times at other distances should be accurate.

Clearly, Gulfstream officials did not know this about their track. We at Beyer Central make it our business to know such things.

The rational members of BC - that would be Moss for sure and possibly me - decided to undergo a rational review of the data.

Moss went to Google Earth and noted that the first pole beyond the finish line is, in fact, 347 feet away. He checked out some tapes and saw exactly where the beam is and timed some races from there to make sure he had it exactly right. Then, he timed the Fountain of Youth from the beam.

After reviewing all the facts and using Moss's digitally timed clocking, which begins at the beam 17 feet beyond the finish line, we are as certain as we can be that the final time is 1:49.58. Which, after our computations, means that Fountain of Youth winner Cool Coal Man got a Beyer Figure of 98.

Moss said that his data indicates that Teleview's Gulfstream times have been accurate over the last few years. It was not Teleview's fault that that whoever laid out the track made it 17 feet too long. Hey, maybe all those satisfied Magna shareholders could trade those 17 feet for a few cents in that ever-appealing stock price.