Some Notes About My Speed Figures:

You may be asking, what are these new figures? If they seem odd, it is the scale more than anything else, which uses a time for a mile, and not a number. Conceptually, they are the same as Beyer’s, in terms of what they are meant to tell you. They tell you how good the horse’s time was for that track speed and that distance over that track. I prefer using an adjusted time rather than a number (like, 94) because I believe the time is closer to the actual operation that is done. Beyer’s scale actually has a meaning, but I find it very non-intuitive, and that may be revealing, because I tend to be pretty intuitive about such things. To me, horses do not run numbers, or even percentages; they run times.

Now, if a 2-year-old rumbles a masterful 5f, it does seem odd to be saying he ran a1:34 2/5 equivalent. It can be argued that 5f and 8f are two completely different balls of wax. But the same incomparability is there when you compare two horses with 102 Beyers at 5f and 8f; it’s just not conspicuous like it is when you’re looking at what the 102 actually means. I am all for keeping speed figures as coherent as possible, and not for dressing them up in a form where they seem magic.

I’m trying to think of what other questions you might have….maybe the relation between Beyers and my equivalencies? In other words, a 1:35 is equal to what Beyer? That’s certainly a question I would have as a reader. I’d like to help you, but one of the reasons I’m using the scale that I am is to dispel any notion that Beyer’s numbers are the same as mine, or that I am trying to duplicate his work. I wouldn’t want anyone to blame Beyer and his team for my work, and sometimes I don’t want anyone to blame me for their’s. Certainly there is an average relation between the scales, but as you know, I will often reach different conclusions than Beyer, to one degree or another.

If you’re interested in my figures, you’ll just have to note the many equivalencies that I give in relation to one another, and how I characterize them You’ll probably have a well-developed sense of what’s fast, average, and slow before too long.

You might ask how did I pick the constant track speed that I use for the equivalencies? I suppose it is supposed to be an approximately average track speed; actually, I think it is on the slow side, particularly considering the fast synthetic tracks that have changed the grand average. There isn’t any meaning to the speed I use, though, except that it is always the same. I could just as easily subtract one second from every time that I give you.

I try to give the equivalencies both in fifths and hundredths of a second. If you look at hundredths, you’ll probably block them out, and just see whether the time is in the 1:35s, or 1:36s, or what have you. And whole seconds is not nearly a fine enough basis to compare horses. Lots of giant ties with that information. That’s why I give the traditional fifths first, even though they’re also not quite as fine as speed-figure users like. I think you might remember the times, if they’re in fifths. If you’re serious about this stuff, you have the hundredths, too, unless I find it too awkward to include them in the context of the writing.

I always feel abashed talking about “my speed figures.” The nuts and bolts are not as researched as Beyer’s, for example. I do have my lowly status as one individual as an excuse, but it’s not the complete explanation, and I admit other people have done more work on the nuts and bolts than I have. I am indebted to Beyer for his work, and all of the meta-analysis he does on his numbers, and I use that as a taking off point in several ways.

Often, Beyer and other makers have done more research, and do know something I don’t. What I lack in initial research I often make up for in observation, however, I’m happy to say. I’m good at noticing that something isn’t quite right, and that’s how I learn.

I make my own speed figure assessments because I simply cannot evaluate a day’s races without trying to make sense of the times. I don’t want to wait for someone to do that for me, and I know that other people will often make mistakes, or at least have different judgments than I have. As it is my reflex to analyze in this way, I have accumulated quite a bit of experience and savvy in doing it. My strength is in the judgments I make with what I do know.

At the very least, most people enjoy comparisons and ratings, just as long as they’re not issued with arrogance, or accepted on pure faith by others. You shouldn’t have pure faith, and I’m sure many of you who have seen my admired, high-speed-figure horses prove ordinary in important races are all too aware of that. But you should have some faith, if only because I always use a definite calculation to arrive at my ratings, and I do not rest until I have best reconciled what I have found. I am one of those people who cannot look in a mirror if I have not done everything I can to find “the truth.” I don’t let myself get away with much, and so I believe in what I am doing, and that’s one reason why you should, too, within limitations. To make a long story short -- the speed figures are fallible, but the amount of thought that goes into them is substantial.

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