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Who is the Fastest Horse: Using Speed Figures in Handicapping

News and Results > Top Racing Headlines > 2023 > Who is the Fastest Horse: Using Speed Figures in Handicapping

Who is the Fastest Horse: Using Speed Figures in Handicapping

June 9, 2023
By Jennifer Morrison
An afternoon at the Thoroughbred races in Ontario is a great way to get together with friends and family to enjoy the beautiful horses and the excitement of racing. It's even better if you can put your $2 down on a winning horse.
This week's handicapping feature is about using the various types of speed figures available to fans in either the track program, Daily Racing Form or many other services available to racing fans, owners and trainers.
What Are Speed Figures
To put it simply, a speed figure is a number assigned to a horse's performance.

In the 1970s Andrew Beyer created Beyer Speed Figures by painstakingly recording times of races, to be able to compare winning times at various distances taking into account how fast or slow the track surface was playing on a particular day.
The figures can be used to compare horse performance at any track, and the Beyer Figures are now published in Daily Racing Form which can be purchased at the track, off-track wagering spots or convenience stores.
One of the great things about Beyer Speed Figures is that they give bettors a fairly easy way to sift out the contenders from the non-contenders in a race.
Of course, there are dozens of other factors that can go into detailed race handicapping, but the 'Beyers' give strong evidence as to which horses in a race are the fastest.
A horse than regularly runs six-furlong races and puts up Beyers in the 80s is a faster horse than one who usually runs numbers in the 60s at the same distance.
Beyer Figures for each track throughout North America are done by a team of people, including Beyer. Projections on how fast or slow the racing surface was on a particular day are incorporated into a 'par' number for the class and these pars have been created from years of race results.
At Woodbine on Saturday, June 10, the ninth race is the Fury Stakes for 3-year-old, Canadian-foaled fillies at seven furlongs on the Tapeta track.
A handicapping sheet showing an example of the speed figures explained in the article.

Number 5, TICKER TAPE HOME is back at Woodbine after a pair of starts at Tampa Bay Downs in Florida this winter. The last time Ticker Tape Home raced at seven furlongs on Tapeta she earned an 83 Beyer Figure in the Display Stakes (which was against the boys).
In her previous race at the same distance on the grass, the filly posted an 88 Beyer Figure.
These two numbers are better than any other numbers earned by most of the Fury Stakes field. Another filly in the race, number 8, FASHIONABLY FAB is making her 2023 debut but note that last season she had an 88 Beyer Figure outing on October 9.
When using Beyer Figures to narrow down your contenders it is a good idea to pose the question, how was the figure earned? Did the horse have an easy lead all the way and was unchallenged, perhaps leading to a slightly inflated number?
The race comment for Fashionably Fab's Oct. 9 race says 'unchallenged up front' which suggests she had things easy all the way. In her next two races when she had to work hard in the early stages, Fashionably Fab won, but her Beyer Figures slipped to 75 and 76.
It should be noted that young, lightly raced horses, in particular 2 and 3-year-olds, can improve their performances by leaps and bounds from race-to-race.
A filly like number 6, ME AND MY SHADOW has several Beyers in the mid to high 70s including a 74 in her May 5 return at Woodbine. In that race, it says Me and My Shadow 'reared start' so she overcame a lot to finish fourth. Perhaps you can add a few points on to that 74 Beyer and tab her as a win contender.
On Sunday at Woodbine, race 4 is a 6 1/2-furlong race on Tapeta and in the 11-horse field a few starters have recent Beyer Figures in the mid to low 70s. These horses are the contenders and they include number 7, KING ALFREDO and number 8, HEAT MERCHANT.
King Alfredo has never raced at Woodbine but earlier this year he was steadily earning Beyers in the 70s on turf and Tapeta.
Heat Merchant ended 2022 with a 74 Beyer Figure in a sprint and he was odds-on in his 2023 opener on May 21. In that race, the comment lie says 'forced 8-wide' and that ground loss could have affected his performance.
Check out the odds on each horse as post time approaches for this June 11 race and consider boxing these two in exactor bets.
King Alfredo's Speed Figures.

The Equibase Track Program
For a little over $2 you can buy a track program and handicap the races using the data which includes its own speed figures, called 'E' Figures.
The bold column is the E Figure (and all horses E Figures are available for free on the website) which are computer generated using previous times at tracks. Unlike Beyer Figures, the E Figures do not have any human intervention. Here is an explanation on the E Figures in the track program.
In the example below, from June 3 at Woodbine, the number 6 horse, MIA AND ME has recent E Figures of 65 (May 12), 46, 60, etc.
His main rivals, Trebuchet (65,70, 67) and Yorkville (59, 43, 79) are lower odds for this race and each has a question to answer. Trebuchet was 0 for 17 coming into the race while Yorkville faded to fifth as a big favourite in his most recent race. Mia and Me was let go at 6 to 1 for this race and won easily.
Mia and Me Speed Figures

Other Sources of Speed Figures
The Ragozin Sheets, the oldest form of assigning a number to a horse's performance, and Thoro-Graph sheets, take into account other factors into a horse's number, in particular ground loss.
If a horse raced wide throughout a race, the figure would be adjusted to reflect that. Oh, and 'sheet' numbers are on an opposite scale; the lower the number the better.
The 'sheets' can be purchased from their creators for any day and any track and usually are $25 (US) per day. is a subscription-based service that offers its own speed ratings and a host of other products for handicapping a race.
What every bettor should note is that horses are living and breathing animals and they won't run their fastest race every time. Don't be afraid to go back in a horse's record to see how he did in a race similar to the one he is in today.

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