Speed figure differences among Kentucky Derby contenders

LOUISVILLE KY - NOVEMBER 06: Uncle Mo ridden by John Velazquez crosses the finish mile to win the Juvenile during the Breeders' Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs on November 6 2010 in Louisville Kentucky. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

While the use of speed figures (or performance ratings) is a staple of a great majority of handicappers, there is divergence on the specific figure that a player might choose to use.  Beyer Speed Figures are incredibly popular due to their inclusion in the Daily Racing Form, while other players greatly prefer Bris Speed Ratings or Ragozin's The Sheets.

Every speed figure purports to tell the same story: how fast did a horse run today in relations to all other horses at other track and at other distances and classes?  A well-crafted set of speed figures can create a great advantage for a player in relation to the crowd, and those advantages .  At the same time, an inaccurate figure can easily lead one in the land of underlays.

Of course, the caveat with speed figures (and all handicapping information) is the crushing reality that no matter how well or how poorly a horse ran in the past, there is no guarantee for how he'll run today.  Furthermore, speed rating are anything but an exact science and many times different systems produce significantly different results in terms of comparisons between horses running at different tracks.  

This afternoon I went through the stakes races on the Triple Crown trail from the Breeders' Cup Juvenile forward and identified both the Beyer and Bris figure earned by the winners.  (I have no idea what the Ragozin numbers are for these races since I've never used The Sheets.)  The two systems are, for the most part, similar in the performances they rate as the best in the last four months.  Differences between Bris and Beyer begin to occur when we take a look at the low end of the scale and when we consider the distribution of the figures across the entire group.  A quick scan of the landscape at this point in time presents us the following data:

 

Date

Race

Surf.

Winner

BSF*

Bris*

6-Nov

BC Juvenile

Dirt

Uncle Mo

108

110

20-Nov

DeD Jackpot

Dirt

Gourmet Dinner

93

96

20-Nov

Hollywood Preview

Poly

Premier Pegasus

85

93

27-Nov

Remsen

Dirt

To Honor and Serve

102

103

27-Nov

Ky. Jockey Club

Dirt

Santiva

78

92

18-Dec

CashCall Futurity

Poly

Comma to the Top

95

95

15-Jan

Sham

Dirt

Tapizar

97

103

22-Jan

Lecomte

Dirt

Wilkinson

77

92

30-Jan

Holy Bull

Dirt

Dialed In

96

104

12-Feb

El Camino Real

Poly

Silver Medallion

93

91

12-Feb

Robert B. Lewis

Dirt

Anthony's Cross

90

93

12-Feb

Sam F. Davis

Dirt

Brethren

83

94

 

*Beyer Speed Figures for stakes winners can be found at DRF.com (link).  Bris Speed Ratings can be found in the advance Ultimate PPs for the 2011 Kentucky Derby (link).

Further thoughts below the jump...

The top figure earned under either scenario is Uncle Mo's runaway win in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile; nothing too shocking there.  However, the two systems start to split after that point - the Bris figures identify Dialed In's Holy Bull win as the second best performance of the group while the Beyer figures point towards To Honor and Serve's triumph in the Remsen.  Both Beyer and Bris rate Tapizar's win in the Sham quite highly but Bris puts that performance much closer to the Remsen and the Holy Bull than does the Beyer figure.

The major difference between the Bris and Beyer numbers are the high/low range for each set.  The difference between the top Beyer fig. (108) and the low (77 by Wilkinson) is much bigger than the Bris numbers (110 and 91).  Oddly enough, the Bris numbers rate the El Camino Real Derby as the weakest of the preps to this point, while the Beyer figures suggest the Lecomte was the weakest race, followed closely by the Kentucky Jockey Club.

The Bris numbers make a bit more sense to me given the fact that they don't separate the winners as much as the Beyer figures do.  I think the low end of the Beyer numbers are a bit erratic, especially when you consider the difference in lengths between horses that the figures suggest.  The Beyer numbers indicate that Wilkinson's win in the Lecomte was approximately ten or eleven lengths slower than Comma to the Top's win in the CashCall Futurity.  The Bris numbers suggest the difference was more along the lines of three or four lengths, which is more inline with how I rate the two races.  Either scenario is possible, but I think it's more likely that the middle of the pack contenders are a fairly tightly bunched group and that the performances aren't dramatically different.

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