How To Understand Horse Racing Speed Figures

If it sounds a simple concept, that’s because it is: fast horses beat slow horses. Speed figures are reliable ways of interpreting how fast a horse has run in its previous races, and thus, have become an essential part of betting horses. The Daily Racing Form and the local track program contain speed figures, or a “speed” number assigned to every horse, for every race they have run in North America. 

What Do Speed Figures Mean in Racing?

There are several different variations of speed figures, such as Brisnet, Track Master, and others. The Daily Racing Form is among the most popular and trusted source, as the publication retains exclusive rights to Beyer Speed Figures, which have for years been considered the gold standard. These numbers, listed prominently in bold type, roughly in the middle section of the Form, take into account several different important variables that effect the final time of a race and therefore a horse’s overall “speed” in that race. 

Speed Figures are very simple to understand

Beyer Speed Figures are good indicators of which horse will often be the favorite in a race, and the figures are simple to understand: the higher the number, the faster the horse. Let’s say you’re analyzing a field of horses in a race. If horse “A” has recorded Beyer Figures of 90, 82, and 89 in his last three starts, we can assume that he is faster and a more likely to finish ahead of horse “B” who has recorded Beyer Speed Figures of 79, 83, and 85 in his last three efforts.

All speed figures provide a basis for determining the potential of a horse to finish ahead of other horses in a race. Frequently, a horse that has recorded the highest last-race Beyer will be the winner of a race, or at least a strong contender. But betting only based on speed figures isn’t a good long-term strategy, considering there are other critical handicapping factors such as distance and race classification, for example. And often speed figure comparisons between two horses are not as cut-and-dried as in the example above, as horses don’t always run consistent speeds, or consistently faster speeds, from one race to the next. Still, it’s a tool to be used, and intelligent handicapping starts with understanding and applying speed figures.


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