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Horse Racing Wagering System:
Business And Pleasure At The Racetrack
Past Performances Of Horses
Getting Rid Of Goats At The Racetrack
Speed Vs. Class In Horse Racing
Fundamentals Of Handicapping Horse Racing
Colt System
Claiming Race System For Horses
$61,00 For $2 In 30 Days At The Races
Pulliing Out Of A Slump At The Racetrack
How To Bet Horses
More Horse Racing Tips

Speed Vs. Class In Horse Racing

( Originally Published mid 1950's )



There always have been two schools of thought in handicapping-those who favor speed and those who swear by class. And they are as far apart as the North and South of Ireland.

The speed handicapper goes by the time in which a horse runs his race. If the horse is required to carry additional weight today, due allowance is made for that fact. And if the horse is assigned less weight today, it is figured that he should run even faster than he did in his last race, or whatever race is taken as a basis for calculations.

The class handicapper judges the merits of a horse not by the time of his recent races, but by the type of company in which he has been competing. In claiming races, for instance, the class handicapper figures that a good $3,000 horse should be able to beat a good $2,000 horse, just as a $3,000 automobile should go faster than a $2,000 machine.

A claiming race is ranked below stake races, handicap races and most allowance races.

An owner who enters his horse in a stake, handicap or allowance race runs no danger of losing him, except of course if the animal breaks a leg or drops dead. But if the horse is entered in a claiming race, he may be claimed-which means bought-by another horseman, even before the race starts.

A horse which has been running in handicap or allowance races and then drops into a claiming race represents a tough problem for the class handicapper even though the animal may have a very poor record. In the first place, the horse inherently must be a high-class one or he would not have been running in handicap and allowance races. In the second place, the horse may come to life with a bang, because the old saying that "class will tell" is likely to be borne out in this type of race. In the third place, the owner will figure that his horse may be claimed, and want to get the purse money for winning, so he probably will tell the trainer and jockey to go "all out."

For these reasons, the race-goer is advised generally to avoid the extremely high-class claiming races. Definite instructions on this point will be given later in this book.

The second headache of the class handicapper is when a horse who once was a high-class racer but has been steadily slipping down the scale, comes to grips with a cheaper horse that has been improving rapidly and climbing up the scale.

Let us say, for instance, that a fading star was entered in his last race for $5,000 and still ran nowhere, despite his previous price tag of $10,000. Today he is dropped to a $4,000 claiming race.

Against him is an improving steed who once was entered as cheaply as $1,500 (like the great Stymie, who later became an outstanding champion) but subsequently won at $2,000, then $2,500, then $3,000, and finally at $3,500. Today he is in for $4,000 against the fading star, who, it must be remembered, still may come to life at any moment.

Which horse will win? Offhand, the writer would say stick with a winner, meaning the improving horse, but the problem still remains a headache. That is why we have special rules to cover such a situation.

The problems of the speed handicapper, on the other hand, are even more numerous and vexing.

In the racing paper (we are referring to the Morning Telegraph here as in all such references in this book), the track variant, consisting of two figures, is printed directly after the horse's speed rating in each race.

The track variant is supposed to show whether the track was faster or slower than normal on the day the race was run. The variant is obtained by comparing the time of the winner in each race with the track record for that particular distance. The figures for all of the races on the card then are averaged into a final track variant figure which is supposed to be combined with the horse's actual speed rating.

Now let us see how this works out in practice. Let us say that on a Friday-usually an o$ day with a bunch of cheap horses running-the track variant was set at 15. Now on the following day, Saturday, a bunch of highclass races were carded to attract a big crowd. All of these steeds naturally ran faster than did the cheaper horses on the day previous, and the track variant was set at 10 instead of at 15.

Yet the actual condition o f the track may have been exactly the same on both days!

Right there, we have a possible error of as much as five lengths in what will appear as the combined speedvariant average rating of one of those horses the next time his record appears in the past performances.

That's speed handicapping for you. You may be wrong by as much as five lengths before you hardly get started handicapping a horse.

As the reader probably has gathered by this time, the writer is strictly a class handicapper.

The track variant is just the beginning of the speed handicapper's headaches. He has no way of knowing in what direction or how hard the wind was blowing on the day of a horse's last race, thus affecting his true speed one way or the other. He has to adjust weight along with class. Furthermore, he may make a really serious error in the matter of different distances.

For example, let us say that a horse named Black Prince, which was in a mile race the last time out, is competing against a filly named White Lily, who was in a 6 1/2-furlong race in her last start. Let us say that in his last race Black Prince's speed rating was an apparently unimpressive 90, which was obtained by comparing his time with the track record for that distance. White Lily, on the other hand, was credited with a 96 rating. At first glance, White Lily should beat Black Prince today.

But please, just a minute. Closer inspection reveals that Black Prince really ran a pretty fair race that day. The reason that he received a rating of only 90 was because the track record for that distance, a mile, was set by the great champion Equipoise. Naturally it takes a good horse to come even close to that track record.

Now White Lily ran at an odd distance in her last race and the track record for the 6 1/2 furlongs was set by some plug long since forgotten. Consequently, her rating of 96 may not be nearly as impressive as the 90 made by Black Prince.

If you think that's bad, here's an even worse problem that frequently confronts the speed handicapper.

He may have to evaluate a horse which has just won a handicap at a New England track, and is entered in a handicap at a New York track today. The speed handicapper may be confronted not only with the Black PrinceWhite Lily problem which was just described, but also he is faced with the fact that winning a handicap in New England generally is a far cry from winning a handicap at a New York track.

In a case of this kind, the speed handicapper has to consult a complicated table giving the comparative values of various times for the different distances at various tracks. By the time the speed handicapper gets to this stage, he is just about ready to start cutting paper dolls. The writer now feels that he absolutely wasted many, many years fooling around with speed handicapping. The final blow came somewhere around the year 1940 when horses which had been running in races of a mile and 70 yards at the New Orleans meeting started showing unexpected form reversals when entered in a race at a different distance.

It finally developed that some clever rascal, in the dead of night, had shifted by several yards the pole which marked the starting point of a race at a mile and 70 yards. As a result, the times made by horses in those races were away off the beam, and all speed records that had been printed on those races now became virtually worthless.

The writer, who at the time was handicapping horses for many leading newspapers, became so enraged that he pulled all of his speed records out of his filing cabinet and threw them to the four winds. He has been strictly a class handicapper ever since.

But it is only comparatively recently that there has come a development which, class handicappers claim gleefully, has definitely sounded the death knell of the speed handicapper.

Some time ago the track at Rockiiigham Park, New Hampshire, began using an innovation called the moving starting gate. With this gadget, the horses are in motion at the time the race actually begins. As a result, ordinary horses, with the head start thus given them, began breaking one track record after another, and then breaking them all over again within the next few days.

For a speed handicapper, the situation became far, far worse than the New Orleans episode. All previous records kept of Rockingham results became useless, and even the new ones being made almost daily had no permanent value.

Other tracks may adopt this innovation.

In addition to all these headaches for the speed handicapper, track superintendents constantly are changing the surface soil of their ovals to make the track faster or slower. So what price speed handicapping? All in all, it probably can be said that the speed handicapper is on his way out, if he isn't there already.

In contrast, the class handicapper has no such vexing problems.

Having disposed of the speed handicapping bugaboo, at least as far as we class handicappers are concerned, we will discuss briefly in the next two chapters other fundamentals of handicapping.



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