11/05/2014 1:07PM

Jerardi: Rain threw monkey wrench into Breeders' Cup Beyer figures

Barbara D. Livingston
Texas Red earned a 104 Beyer Speed Figure for his win in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Saturday at Santa Anita Park.

The obvious Beyer Speed Figure question from the Saturday Breeders’ Cup card was: How could Take Charge Brandi run 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.95 in the fourth race and Texas Red get the same distance in 1:41.91 in the eighth race, with the 2-year-old filly getting an 83 Beyer and the 2-year-old colt earning a 104?

The answer is that Friday night into early Saturday, the new Santa Anita dirt surface got rain for the first time. That rain apparently affected the surface, making it incredibly fast for Saturday’s first four races. After the Filly and Mare Turf on Saturday, the surface slowed dramatically to a variant essentially identical to Friday’s all-day variant.

The best way to understand the difference between early in the day Saturday and later is to compare the seven-furlong times in the second race, a $200,000 stakes for California-bred 2-year-olds, and the sixth race, the $920,000 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. The second race went in 1:21.70, and the sixth race in 1:21.92. There simply is no way on a track with a consistent all-day variant that the 2-year-old Acceptance could run faster than Judy the Beauty.

Thus, the split variants account for the speed of the racetrack changing. Andrew Beyer, who does the speed figures for the Southern California tracks, decided that the early dirt races had a variant of -46, and the later races had a -26, the surface slowing down by 20 Beyer points.

As sometimes happens, specific races still don’t make any sense if the larger variant is applied. The third race did not fit with the first, second, and fourth. If the variant had been applied, the winner would have gotten a 64 Beyer, which would have made no sense with the Beyer history of the top three finishers. So, that race was “projected” up to 78.

The other race that did not fit was the Classic. If the variant for the previous three dirt races had been applied, Bayern, Toast of New York, and California Chrome would have gotten 120 Beyer figures.

“The Classic came up very fast,” Beyer said. “If somebody had won it by 10, you could say, ‘Okay, they ran 120,’ but when you’ve got a three-horse photo finish, a stratospheric number with everybody improving so radically seemed completely implausible.”

The Classic figure was “projected” down to a 113.

Are we at Beyer Central happy about all this? No.

We would much prefer science over art, math over mind. Sometimes, we just have to make sense of what makes no sense.

It would be much simpler if every day were like Friday at Santa Anita, where the variant was a solid -25, and there was very little ambiguity about who did what or why.

“For much of the meet, the variant has been in the -30s,” Beyer said. “The track was pretty consistent on Friday, and then they got that rain, which wreaked havoc.”

Even with the variant chaos apparently caused by the rain, Beyer said he is “quite confident the numbers are right.”

The Friday track, Beyer said, was a “fair track.” In fact, horses were winning from everywhere.

The first three races Saturday were won by speed horses, but they all were logical winners, suggesting the results were much more about ability than any perceived bias. That the track was so fast led more than a few people to the conclusion that there was a speed bias.

Beyer wanted to make the point that you “can have biases on fast tracks, on slow tracks.”

Just about everybody jumped on the speed-bias bandwagon after the Juvenile Fillies. Really, there did not seem to be any other way to account for the 61-1 longshot Take Charge Brandi wiring the field.

I had a different take at the time, and now with a few days to think about it, I think I had it right. It had less to do with a bias and everything to do with the D. Wayne Lukas factor, the logic of illogic in which a filly with figures of 61, 58, 57, 66, and 60 and who had been showing early speed and collapsing at Saratoga, Churchill Downs, and Keeneland suddenly kept going all the way to the wire.

One could make the bias argument. I will stick with the Lukas argument and won’t be waiting for Take Charge Brandi’s next win. Top Decile and Wonder Gal, second and third behind Take Charge Brandi, ran wide and from far back while earning their typical figures in a race in which the top five finished within 1 1/2 lengths.

As for the Juvenile, a meltdown pace often contributes to a giant figure and a big winning margin. With all those horses dueling themselves into oblivion after fractions of 22.37 seconds, 45.66, and 1:10.17, it was no shock that a horse like Texas Red blew by them all and won by 6 1/2 lengths, improving his best Beyer by 11 points. If I were you, I would not line up at the future book to bet down on Texas Red. Circumstances worked for him Saturday. They could work against him next year.

Circumstance, weather, and track maintenance all affect final times. Our job is to make sense of those times in the context of the day they were earned. Sometimes, like Friday at Santa Anita, there is no confusion. Then, there are days like Saturday, when we have to determine what makes the most sense when the data are a bit contradictory.