05/07/2014 11:55AM

Jerardi: Beyer Speed Figures told the tale on Derby Weekend

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Justin N. Lane
Entering the Kentucky Derby, California Chrome's Beyer Speed Figures were as dominant as his margins of victory.

Sometimes, you just know. My only concern about California Chrome was the same one Art Sherman had – the first 200 yards. Once the colt made that a non-issue, I started looking around for my superfecta horses.

Two hours after California Chrome had dominated the Kentucky Derby, I asked Sherman when he thought the horse had the race won. He said, “The eighth pole.”

And he was not talking about the second time past the eighth pole, when California Chrome was up by five lengths. He was talking about the first time, when the colt had gotten forward position.

Once you got past all the nonsense (horses born in California don’t win the Derby, California Chrome was winning at speed-biased Santa Anita, his times were good only because the surface was rock-hard), California Chrome was a standout before the race, during the race, and after the race.

As I wrote, I loved him in early March when I saw the San Felipe Stakes, watched all his races, and got some great insight on the colt’s career from Daily Racing Form ’s Jay Privman.

California Chrome’s Beyer Speed Figures were as dominant as his margins of victory. It wasn’t just that California Chrome was running fast, but how he was running fast that so impressed me. He ran completely relaxed, no wasted energy. Then, when it was time, the colt, with one devastating move, ended his races.

The Beyer figures just confirmed what my eyes told me. This horse was an absolute standout.

After all these years, there still seems to be confusion about how the figures are computed and what exactly they are designed to do. In shorthand, they account for the speed of the surface. That is the beauty of the figures. Times don’t matter without context. How fast or slow was the surface? Once that is determined, a number is assigned that explains what really happened, how fast the horse actually ran.

There are several speed-figure services on the market. I do not know the exact methodology of all of them but certainly respect the work that goes into the computation.

Heading into this year’s Derby, there was a clear distinction between the Beyer figures and the numbers from the other services. Only the Beyer figures had California Chrome with a decided edge in the Derby prep races, with two figures better than any Derby horse had ever done. Most of the other services had many of the contenders with similar figures.

Does that make the Beyers perfect in all scenarios? Of course not. But it did make them right in the 2014 Derby.

In fact, it was a legendary weekend for the Beyers at Churchill, where 25 races were run over the two days. The horse with the top last-out Beyer figure won 15 of those races, including all six stakes and the pick six races Friday. A $2 bet on each of the 25 runners with the top last-out Beyer would have returned $107.80 on the 15 winners, a rather nice return on a $50 investment.

Let’s review.

On Oaks Day, Tiz Windy ($5.80) had a best last-out Beyer of 80 and won a first-level optional claimer with a figure of 74. On Fire Baby ($5.20) had a 98 and won the La Troienne with a 94. Marchman ($8.80) came into the Twin Spires Turf Sprint with a 98 and won it with a 99. Southern Honey ($6.40) had a 92 and won a first-level optional claimer by five lengths, earning an 86.

Fiftyshadesofgold ($6.20) got a 92 when finishing a distant second to Untapable in the Fair Grounds Oaks. She got a 94 when she won the Eight Belles. A Little Bit Sassy ($10.20) came into the Edgewood with an 83 and got an 84 when winning.

When Will Take Charge was life and death to win the Oaklawn Handicap with just a 103 Beyer, I told a friend that he was a horse who needed a rest and wouldn’t get one. He was a never-in-it sixth in the Alysheba, earning an 82. Moonshine Mullin ($15.80) had the best last-out Beyer of 108 and won the race with a 100 after surviving a speed duel.

Untapable ($4) won at Fair Grounds with a 106 and won the Kentucky Oaks with a 107. She was a winner in the first few jumps, just like California Chrome.

On Derby Day, in the first race, Doctor Peter, with a best last-out Beyer of 86, won by a head, paid $8.80, and got an 87. No Surrender ($4.20) came into the second race with a 92 and got an 83 in the win.

As an aside, the Beyers were off by 30 points on Masochistic in the third. The horse showed slight improvement from his debut race when he got a 69 after finishing fifth at Santa Anita on March 15. On Saturday, he got bet down to 2-1, won by 14, and got a 99. I can’t imagine what went so wrong in that first race. It must have been an equipment problem.

Jessica’s Star ($10.80) won the fifth after getting a best last-out dirt figure of 88. She got an 89 in her win.

Midnight Lucky ($5.20) had been off for almost a year before winning the Humana Distaff by 4 1/2. She got a 100 in May 2013 and a 95 on Saturday. Wise Dan ($3) arrived in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic with an incredible 15 consecutive triple-digit Beyers. He won with just a 94, but he is Wise Dan, perhaps wiser than ever at 7 and just doing enough to win. Captain Genius ($6.40) came into the 12th with an 89 and won it with another 89.

California Chrome ($7) you know about. He got pushed up to 5-2 when all that late money arrived on Candy Boy. I’m not sure what that was about. I knew for two months exactly what California Chrome was all about.

Bill McAvoy More than 1 year ago
What cooled me to the use of Beyer's (not speed figures) was when I read that they have adjusted a horse's Beyer's due to how another horse ran in a subsequent race. That is just insane to me.
william More than 1 year ago
Jerardi,you are a joke. Any other derby wherein a horse with the calibre of speed that was shown by Chrome is always placed in a speed duel to burn the horse out or boxed in. Neither strategy was employed by any of the trainers. They wanted this horse to win the derby!!!!!!
Allan Gauthier More than 1 year ago
You should check Mike Bataglia's picks........He did much better than the Beyer line.
Richard More than 1 year ago
The problem with "Beyer Numbers" is that unless the winning horse wired the field, he had nothing to do with the fractional times that set up the final Beyer number. The relationship between the final winning time and the track bias # is far more important as are the final quarter times weighted with the pace of the race. Since CC was awarded a Beyer Number that did not take into consideration the fact that the track was not watered for about two hours prior to race time while every other dirt race that day was preceded by heavy watering, it is flawed.
AzHorsePlayer More than 1 year ago
Untapable, lol...you talk about bad 3yr old colts just look at the fillies...Untapable would get dusted by CC in the Preakness...bring it on and enjoy eating CC's dust!
WEMISSARTIE More than 1 year ago
seriously? CC aint gonna win the Preakness and I'm putting my money on that.
Paul67 More than 1 year ago
Untapable ran one of the fastest Kentucky Oaks ever, C.C.'s Derby one of the slowest in recent memory.
AzHorsePlayer More than 1 year ago
I like the Beyer figures but it's not the determining factor on who I bet...the problem I have with the numbers is it's based on time...it doesn't go by the ease of the way the horse won or the traffic the horse received during the race...CC was under wraps the last 150 yards of the race and Espinoza was standing up on him the last 4 jumps before the wire...the times horses run very race to race because of lots of factors and beyers don't account for these...social inclusion received a 111 where he was cheap speed in a 5 horse who had everything his own way...in the Wood he had a full field and was pressed some and folded like a tent when it mattered so if you played him off his 111 you were counterfeited....CC is not a speed horse and can adjust to the race flow which is something the beyers fail to do...like it or not CC is your next Triple Crown Winner if he stays healthy, fast or slow he wins!
Tony Fortunelli More than 1 year ago
Why doesn't anyone mention CC wasn't be ridden hard after his 5 lengts smart h lead, the jock was smart to let off the gas knowing that CC would be running in 2 weeks. Commanding Curve was running full throttle & still margin of victory was still 1&3 quarters length. Slow time not reflective of ease of win.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
He did look like a galloping winner rather than "driving."
Lindsay Turner More than 1 year ago
I think that's a testament to the jockey. Victor is so competent; he knew exactly when to let off the gas to keep a safe margin of victory without jeopardizing the next race. He gave the colt a break WAY before the last 4 steps. I'd say he threw CC on cruise control as far back as the eighth pole, just showing him the whip and smacking him once or twice because he's still a baby and needs to remember his job. That forward-thinking by Victor may be the difference between a triple crown and a colt that fades in the shadow of the wire at Belmont.
Hail No More than 1 year ago
I saw the San Felipe, (and the King Glorious) , but after watching the SA Derby, you didn't need any buyer numbers to tell you the obvious, sheeesh!
kingsailor2 More than 1 year ago
Cole Porter had it right: You're the top, you're the Mona Lisa. You're the top, you're the Coliseum, You're sublime . . you're the time of the Derby winner. Baby, if I'm the bottom, Chrome's the top!
Mike Martuscello More than 1 year ago
Going by Byers ... Social Inclusion should be a lock for The Preakness.
Robynrokn More than 1 year ago
If he's truly healthy, a scratch wouldn't be a surprise.