Horse Racing Handicapping Speed and Class Comparison

While some horses may burn up the track at a lower class, when they are put in with classier horses their speed and ability seem to vanish and they run slower times.. That means that the speedier a horse is the higher the class it should be able to compete in, right? Not always. The biggest consideration, however, is whether the horses it is facing today are faster or slower than the field of horses it raced against last time out.

This may be seen as a mystery but what really happens is that internal fractions and short bursts of speed wear the runner out early and it winds up using all its energy reserves before the end of the race. Therefore, don’t rely on speed figures alone when a horse is moving up in class to determine that it will be competitive with the other horses. For instance, older horses that compete in $10,000 claiming races over the 6 furlong course may average winning times of 1:11.2 while older horses racing over the same course for a higher claiming tag of $25,000 may average 1:11 flat. Sometimes it will need a race or two to acclimate to the higher class. On the other hand, when a horse moves up in class and throws in a real clinker of a race, it may improve dramatically in its next race because it has had a taste of the higher class and will be ready to deal with the short burst of speed that the other horse’s used to keep it unsettled.

There may be aberrations, but overall, this speed/class bias holds true. Is its form improving, peaked, or declining? That is the question the handicapper must answer about form. This is where we run into the intangible class factor. Its first and second races against tougher foes will sometimes be run much slower, but once it catches on, it may actually post those higher speed figures again.

Looking at the statistics for the races run at any track and comparing races at the same distance and run over the same surface for the same age and gender of horse, we find that the higher the purse, generally speaking, the faster the times. That, in a nutshell, is the whole mystery of trying to pick winners by handicapping a horse race. While internal fractions can be measured, those mini fractions in between cannot. In other words, the classier the horse, the faster the race.

While it may be obvious that the horse who can run the fastest will ultimately win the race, it isn’t nearly as obvious whether a horse will run as fast today as it ran last week. If horses always clocked the same speed figure in each race, then simply glancing at the speed figures for their last race would tell which horse was fastest.

Form cycles are the changes that occur in a horse’s conditioning, so it must be considered when determining how fast a horse will run today

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