07/29/2007 11:00PM

Story behind Lawyer Ron's 116 Beyer


PHILADELPHIA - Here is what we know definitively about Saturday's Whitney Handicap at Saratoga. Lawyer Ron's winning time, a 1 1/8-mile track record of 1:46.64, is accurate.

Randy Moss, who worked the broadcast on ABC, timed it Saturday night off racereplays.com and again Sunday off a tape.

"The time is right,'' Moss said.

The first two fractions matched up. Moss could not be sure about the controversial third quarter of 22.91 seconds because the pole was behind a video board. The final time is definitely good.

What we are not quite as sure about is the Beyer Speed Figure. After considering all the data Saturday night into Sunday, Mark Hopkins, who does the Beyer Figures for Saratoga, projected a figure of 116 for Lawyer Ron. If he had gone strictly by the available data, the winning figure would have been 123.

In a sport of cynics, Hopkins is a Phi Beta Kappa cynic. So, did Lawyer Ron roll down the hills of the Adirondacks, prance onto Union Avenue, and run through the Beyer scale like some 2007 version of Ghostzapper?

A cynic like Hopkins just does not believe that.

"This horse has never approached 123,'' Hopkins said.

There were three 1 1/8-mile races on Saturday's Saratoga card. The first race, for $22,500 claimers, went in 1:51.16, a raw Beyer of 96. The Go for Wand Handicap went in 1:49.19, a raw figure of 114. The raw figure for the Whitney, run right after the Go for Wand, was 138.

Hopkins computed his variant and decided the route races were 15 points fast on the Beyer scale, assigning figures of 81 to the claiming race and 99 in the Go for Wand. If he deducted the same 15 points from the Whitney, Lawyer Ron would have gotten a 123.

Which really did not seem possible. Lawyer Ron's career top was 109. On one day, a horse can go completely off on the Beyer scale. That does happen. What should not happen is the horses down the line all getting career tops. If Hopkins accepted the data, Wanderin Boy - with a career top of 113 earned on the old speed-biased highway of Keeneland - would have gotten a 113 while losing by nearly five lengths. More recently, Wanderin Boy had been in the high 90s and low 100s. Diamond Stripes, with a career top of 106, would have gotten a 111. And so on, down the line.

"Theoretically, if Lawyer Ron exploded, it's a little too much of a coincidence that the other two horses would have run so fast,'' Andrew Beyer said. "There has been some things perplexing about mile-and-an-eighth races at Saratoga.''

Beyer and Hopkins both pointed to a similar situation in the 2005 Whitney. The raw data suggested that the winner, Commentator, got a 123. Saint Liam was inches behind. Hopkins accepted the data at face value.

"And it was probably wrong,'' he said.

Commentator has not been close to that figure since then. And Saint Liam, the 2005 Horse of the Year and a really good runner, was simply not a 123 horse.

This time, Hopkins chose to try to make sense of a situation that was not at all clear-cut. Thus, the projection of 116 for Lawyer Ron for the 2007 Whitney.

"We made the mistake once of going with what it appeared to be, knowing that it's probably wrong,'' Hopkins said. "This time, I'm not doing that.''

If making Beyer Figures were all science, this would be simple. All the races would just fall into line. All figures would make sense.

In the real world, it does not work that way. Making figures, at times, becomes art. You try to arrive at the best possible explanation for something that is not readily explainable. And then you wait for Lawyer Ron to run his next race.