12/02/2009 1:00AM

World record illustrates value of speed figures


PHILADELPHIA - World records tend to get attention. Sometimes, they even merit the attention.

Secretariat's world record of 2:24 for 1 1/2 miles in the 1973 Belmont Stakes got lots of attention. And it obviously deserved every bit of it. The Belmont Park surface was quite fast that day, but not that fast. The great horse ran what was and may always be the greatest race in the history of the sport. There was no other horse born before or since that would have had any chance that day.

Twin Sparks set a world record for six furlongs on Nov. 21 at Turf Paradise. There are dozens of horses running today that could beat Twin Sparks at six furlongs. There are hundreds in racing history that could beat him at six furlongs or any other distance.

Turf Paradise has been renowned as a track that yields fast times. On the day when Twin Sparks ran six furlongs in 1:06.49, after setting fractions of 21.79 seconds, 43.20, and 54.57, the surface was crazy fast and also strongly favored front-runners who won by large margins (12 3/4 lengths, 17 3/4 lengths, 11 1/4 lengths by Twin Sparks). Each race but one was won wire to wire.

Those are the kind of days that can yield really fast times. It was not big favorites winning all the races, either. One winner was 9-1. Another was 16-1. Twin Sparks was 9-1. That screams track bias.

Twin Sparks got loose on a seriously speed-favoring track where every race was going really fast.

Idabetabuck won a $4,000 claimer, running 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:02.47, a raw Beyer Speed Figure of 125. Quietly Roar won a $3,500 claimer for horses that had never won three races. She ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:14.44, a raw Beyer of 132. Such a Shame won a $6,250 claimer for horses that had not won three races, running 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:13.96, a raw number of 137. She's a Hoot won a maiden $5,000 claimer in 1:11.01 for six furlongs, a raw figure of 92.

Twin Sparks's world-record time translated to a raw Beyer of 158.

So, how fast was this track? In Beyer terms, it was 52 points fast (or about 3.5 seconds fast at six furlongs). That was how many points needed to be subtracted from the raw times to get the final Beyer Speed Figures that Daily Racing Form readers will see when all the horses run back.

So, Twin Sparks's world-record performance translated to a 106 Beyer, easily the best of the 6-year-old gelding's 22-race career and a number that matched the winning Beyer in this year's Breeders' Cup Sprint.

Did trainer Karl Meyers make a mistake by entering Twin Sparks in the $50,000 Caballos Del Sol Handicap and not the BC Sprint? Of course not.

The figure was a direct result of the speed-favoring track. It was not because the surface was fast. The Beyers account for the speed of the surface. We all have to account for the true meaning of the figure when the horse runs the next time.

Twin Sparks's previous best Beyer was a 94 that was earned in February when third in the Phoenix Gold Cup. The horse had not won a race all year before setting the world record. In fact, there really was nothing in Twin Sparks's past performances that would suggest he would win by so much or run so fast - unless you could have put him on the lead on that track on that day.

In looking back at the past performances, I doubt I could have done that. A sharp player who believed Twin Sparks was going to clear the field absolutely could have done it and gotten 9-1, which would have touched off a longer celebration than a world record, the direct result of circumstance, not any particular talent by the record setter.

Twin Sparks won his first two career races at Yavapai Downs and has raced exclusively at Turf Paradise since those early races in summer 2006.

The son of Twining was a nose shy of winning his first five races and won just one race over the next two years before breaking through with consecutive wins in fall 2008. Now, Twin Sparks is a world-record holder.

When that record inevitably is broken, tell all your friends it sounds better than it really is. Explain that the Beyer Speed Figures are the true measure of how fast a horse really ran, not time by itself.

While world records and track records are mostly irrelevant, they do serve as great examples to those that still don't understand the true meaning of time on the racetrack and what it really means.

Believe it or not, there was a time when times supposedly didn't matter. If they don't matter, why have teletimers?

Andrew Beyer's first book, "Picking Winners," brought speed figures into the consciousness of horseplayers. Still, there were doubters simply because new concepts and horse racing have never been a happy marriage.

If there are any doubters left, show them the past performances of Twin Sparks. You will never get a better example of the value of speed figures.