Speed figures used to be an important aspect of my handicapping process. I was convinced they were important when I read Andrew Beyer’s books in the late 1970s, which, for some unfathomable reason, are still in print. I remember spending hour upon hour creating par times for the Southern California racetracks. I then assigned speed figures to every horse running based on those par times. Today, those figures are readily available for everyone in the past performance charts. They are known as Beyer Speed Figures. There is just one problem with BSFs. They are totally, absolutely, entirely, worthless. (Did I stress that enough?)
I remember one day I witnessed a horse with a speed figure of 72 in its last race beat a horse with a speed figure of 88 in its last race. Keep in mind these were figures based on par times I had spent hours creating. I thought, at first, it was just a fluke, but the winning horse crossed the finish line three lengths in front of the second place finisher. How could that be a fluke? Maybe the horse with the 88 speed figure had a belly ache, and just did not feel like running that day. (You know every horse player has to have an excuse for why their pick lost.)
I later found out that the final time of the race, you know, the actual time of the race, was nearly identical to the time posted by the winning horse in its last race; that the final time of the second place finisher, based on the age old belief that one length equals one-fifth second (it does not), was within three ticks of its time in its last race. Something was clearly amiss. So, as is my nature, I pawed my way through my stacks of old Racing Forms, searching for an answer to this dilemma.
The first thing I noticed completely surprised me. The speed ratings published in the Daily Racing form, while suspect in their own right, were a more reliable gauge of the outcome of the race in question than the speed figures I had spent a considerable amount of time creating. I wanted to kick Mr. Beyer in the ass for preying on the gullibility of the masses, myself included. I had spent hundreds of hours creating a set of par times, only to find out they had no value.
Sadly, there are still people who believe par times do have value, and sadly there are individuals and companies who will gladly sell you par times created from the previous season for any racetrack in the country. Do yourself a favor. Forget about BSFs; forget about par times.