Print and Go Back ESPN.com: HorseRacing [Print without images]

Monday, June 10, 2013
Numbers tell a story

By Jay Cronley
Special to ESPN.com

Here's the chief question leftover from the 2013 Triple Crown races: What is a handicapper to do with the Beyer speed figures?

It's such an important question because there's another race in a few minutes. And right there in big black numbers is the best figure getting ready to run third or fourth. Most every tout service lists the highest rating number as a key handicapping element.

A speed figure or rating number was never offered as a cure-all for stupidity. These numbers are meant to be pieces of a handicapping pie chart. But lately the slices representing a horse's rating have been getting smaller and less important than, say, a race's length, a trainer's decision, the number of horses in a field, or a lousy ride. Horses with the top Beyer numbers did nothing much in the Triple Crown races. But guess what. Neither did the horses with average Beyer numbers. Using a number to identify a fraud has been more reliable than using it as a divining rod in search of winners.

Here's an angle that's hard to deny after looking at the numbers involved in the 2013 Triple Crown races. Nothing inflates a Beyer number like a race on an off track. Gigantic off-track numbers were posted by Orb, Freedom Child and Golden Soul. Of these three in New York, only Orb was standing at the end. The other two looked like vastly different horses on fast tracks, like allowance horses. Next time, if the racing surface is fast, run a line through all the off-track results and see how your handicapping turns out.

Once the horses that are unlikely to win have been eliminated, here is what would have gotten you to a big Belmont ticket.

Play all:

1. Blinkers off.
2. Decent posts.
3. Horses from the sticks.
4. Stalkers. Early or late horses stand little chance on a fast Belmont track at a mile and a half.
5. Maiden winners versus stakes winners. Maybe horses that lost a graded race by a narrow margin didn't even know it lost.
6. Veteran riders.
7. Lightly raced horses.
8. Horses ignored by experts.