04/26/2017 1:06PM

Q&A with TimeformUS's Craig Milkowski on Early and Late Pace Ratings


Today’s edition contains for the first time the inclusion of TimeformUS Early and Late Ratings in DRF past performances. Peter Thomas Fornatale spoke with Craig Milkowski, the figure-maker for TimeformUS, about how to best use the ratings.

What’s the idea behind the inclusion of the TFUS early and late ratings in the DRF PPs?

Many TimeformUS features are most powerful when used in the TimeformUS past performance product, but a few of them should have a universal appeal to sharp horseplayers everywhere. Early and Late Ratings fall into this category. DRF has decided to include Early and Late Ratings to make a complicated game a little easier.

What are the benefits of using them?

The Early Ratings make it easy to instantly understand which horses are likely to be in front early in the race, and if any of those horses have a significant advantage over the other runners. And with the Late Ratings, the idea is to show the horses with the best late kick boiled down to a singular number.

What’s the best way to include them in one’s handicapping?

The early speed ratings determine if the pace is likely to be slow, average, or fast. At a glance, they can show you how separated a field is in terms of pace. If one runner has an early speed rating far higher than the competition, you can expect that horse has a good chance to be loose on the lead. If several horses who’ve shown speed in the past have early speed ratings clustered together, it’s possible that the race might set up for a closer. Speed figures are the best indicator of overall ability, but the more extreme the pace looks to be, the more important the early and late speed ratings become.

What’s the relationship between these ratings and final-time figs?

Both should be used with quality speed figures when handicapping. If a race looks to lack any early speed, the early speed ratings can be the most important factor. If the pace is predicted to be hot, the late ratings take on more meaning. They can be the overriding factor when a race completely melts down, as happens at times.

How are the ratings calculated?

The figures are calculated using the actual times run for portions of the race. The dividing point of the race between early and late is known as the pace call – four furlongs for sprints, six furlongs for routes less than 1 1/4 miles, varies at longer distances. Early ratings measure from the break to the pace call; late ratings measure from the pace call to the finish. Besides the actual time, other factors utilized include running positions and lengths behind, surface, distance, and track configuration. The actual speed of the surface itself is factored in as well.

For what type of race are the early ratings most useful?

Maiden races, particularly maiden-claiming races, and dirt sprints because speed is so dominant in those spots.

How do you use the late pace ratings?

I like to use these in conjunction with speed figures when I feel the pace will be hot or when the speed horses aren’t really contenders. I also give them more focus for longer races than those usually carded, over 1 1/8 miles on dirt and over 1 1/4 miles on turf.

If you add the early and late ratings together does that give you any approximation of a final rating?

No. The ratings were never intended to be combined. That doesn’t mean I haven’t tried! I found that doing so adds nothing of value. Speed figures do a better job.

How does the TFUS scale compare to the Beyer scale?

The Speed Figure scale is roughly 15-20 points higher. That doesn’t carry over to early and late ratings. The ratings are distance and surface dependent. They are only meant to be compared within a race, not to other races on the card and not to any speed figures, including TimeformUS.

How reliable are the early and late pace ratings?

They are a guideline. They tell you how fast a horse has run and where it likes to be positioned. You’ll never see a speed horse with the best late rating – not that I’ve seen – or a closer with the best early speed rating unless the field is full of plodders. The jockey and the trainer can and do decide to change tactics. Horses break slower than usual or surprisingly fast at times. Horses change equipment that affects early positioning. Despite all these things and more I’ve left out, the ratings do a really good job of predicting the early pace. Handicappers are encouraged to add their own opinions based on other information they can glean from the DRF PPs.