Harness racing form assessment is usually centred on pacers' Mile Rates. These are now widely used to measure a horse's speed, and P.P.M. has featured a number of fine methods incorporating Mile Rates.

In this article, I am going to introduce the added element of Track Variation, something which tends to be overlooked when we look into performances at different tracks.

Harness racing circuits vary in circumference and surface. Tracks with long straights and wide, sweeping turns produce above-average Mile Rates, even for lower-grade events. On the other hand, tracks with short straights and tight turns tend to produce below average Mile Rates, even in the higher class races.

Clearly, we cannot use Mile Rates as form determinants without comparing tracks and introducing an adjustment in order to bring each performance at each track into an approximate equalisation.

The accompanying table with this article shows the allowances to be made for horses racing in N.S.W. This chart can be used for assessing format Harold Park. The statistics are based on figures compiled by the Australian Harness Racing Council, as well as my own extensive personal research, taking account of the circumference, geometry, track surface and the quality of the horses (which, naturally, varies from track to track).

It is interesting to note that the average Mile Rate for mobile start races on all tracks in Australia has dropped by 1.2 seconds in the past 5 years. Gloucester Park in Perth had the fastest average of all Australian tracks in the 1991-92 season of 2.01:4s, slightly faster than Brisbane's Albion Park (2.01:8s) and another WA track, Pinjarra (2.01:9s).

I'll now run through some examples of how to use the Track Variant. Let's assume we are assessing form for Harold Park in Sydney. We have four runners engaged in a race. Horse No. I had its last start at Bankstown. It won with a Mile Rate of 2.02:6s. Taking into account the Track Variation figure for Bankstown (-1.6s), we now deduct this from the Mile Rate, to give an adjusted Mile Rate of 2.01:0s.

Horse No. 2 last raced at Richmond (grass surface) and recorded a Mile Rate of 2.07:5s. The Richmond Track Variation is -4.7s, which we deduct from the Mile Rate to give Horse No. 2 an adjusted Mile Rate of 2.02:8s.

Horse No. 3 recorded a Mile Rate at Harold Park of 2.02:9s, some adjustment is necessary as this is the Base Track.

Horse No. 4 is visiting from interstate where it recorded a Mile Rate of 2.01:8s at Albion Park. Because Albion Park has a circumference of 1000m, compared to Harold Park's 743m, horses are able to run faster Mile Rates, because of the spaciousness of the circuit. We ADD (+) 1.2s to this horse's rate to give an adjusted Mile Rate of 2.03:0s.

Let's now compare the original Mile Rates to those prevailing after the track variation adjustments have been made:

1 2.02:6 2.01:0
2 2.07:5 2.02:8
3 2.02:9 2.02:9
4 2.01:8 2.03:0

After calculation of these adjusted Mile Rates, we see that the original fastest Mile Rate has become the slowest adjusted Mile Rate! Conversely, the slowest original Mile Rate has become the second fastest adjusted Mile Rate!

In this example, I have assumed that all four horses were last-start winners. In real races, of course, we will have to do some calculations on beaten horses, using the winner's Mile Rate as the basis.

In an actual race, we must add on the beaten margin (at 0.75s per metre) then add or subtract the Track Variation. Here is an example: Let's say we are assessing a race at Moonee Valley and the pacer was beaten by 8 metres in a Mile Rate of 2.04:5s at Kilmore. We add the beaten margin to the Mile Rate (8 x 0.75 = 6) giving us a Mile Rate for the beaten horse of 2.10:5 (that is 2.04:5 + 6). We now deduct 2.9s (the Kilmore track variation) giving us an adjusted Mile Rate for the beaten horse of 2.07:6s (2.10:5 - 2.9).

(The above Variation was done using the Moonee Valley 'base track' table, which is not published with this story).

As another example, let's say we had the same horse racing at Harold Park. In this case, the adjustment (as per the table printed with this article) for Kilmore is -2. This, then, would be deducted from the pacer's Mile Rate (after beaten margin) of 2.10:5s, giving it a final adjusted Mile Rate of 2.08:5s for Harold Park.

You should, to get an all-round view, assess each horse's last two Mile Rates, taking into account any beaten margins and utilising the Track Variations. Add the two adjusted Mile Rates together and divide by two. You now have a pretty accurate average Mile Rate for the pacer's last two starts.

For example: Franco Tiger has adjusted Mile Rates of 2.01:5 and 2.03:5.
Add 201.5 and 203.5 to get 405. Divide by two and you have an average Mile Rate of 2.02:5s.

Do this for all runners engaged in a race and you will emerge with an accurate Mile Rate figure that truly reflects each horse's speed. Take particular notice of the top 3 or 4 rated horses and always be on the lookout for value prices.

Those punters who bet the exotics quinellas, trifectas, exactas and doubles - should be able to land some big dividends.

My final piece of advice is to eliminate all runners resuming from a spell of 60 days or longer. Also, don't bother playing races for trotters. The following are some recent workouts using this Mile Rate approach.

HAROLD PARK, March 12,1993

Race 1: A loss in this race, with the horse rated 6th fastest winning at more than 40 / 1.

Race 2: A good result, with the 3rd rated runner Peppy Fast Carz winning at $14 and $3.50 from top-rated Armbro Man and 4th rated On The Track Again. The quinella paid $35.40, the exacta paid $76.70 and the trifecta came in at $872.50 (a $24 outlay on the top 4 rated runners would have landed this trifecta) .

Race 3: The short-priced favourite Priceless Franco (4/11) won. He was the 2nd rated runner.

Race 4: No luck here. The system threw up value runners, but the race went to the favourite at odds-on.

Race 5: Unlucky here, with the top rated Floreat losing 50m at the start and still managing to finish 2nd (to a 32-1 outsider).

Race 6: A good winner at good odds Lucky Pole, the top-rated runner, paid $6 and $1.70.

Race 7: Equal top-rated Paleface Rhythm won and paid $9.70 and $2.20, though we failed to get the placegetters.

Race 8: A nice way to finish, with the winner, Majestic Rhythm ($3.10) top rated and 3rd rated Dust Storm taking 2nd place ($2.20). The quinella paid $10.60 and the exacta $35.20.

From eight races, then, three top-rated (including one equal top-rated) horses were successful. That's a 33 per cent win strike, and profits of more than 100 per cent on turnover on the TAB. The top selections produced two quinellas and two exactas and there was the one trifecta of $872.


Race 1: A great start to this meeting with the three top-rated runners producing the quinella and trifecta. The Running Man was 3rd rated and paid $6.70 and $2. 10. Top-rated Hot Croissant ran 2nd. The quinella paid $5.70 and the trifecta, with 2nd rated Gary Adam, paid $365.10.

Race 2: A complete wipeout but this was a most open type of race.

Race 3: Equal 3rd rated Fiery Walbro saluted here ($8.60 and $2.10). This was another very open race.

Race 4: A standing-start race that produced the winner with the top-rated runner Last Summer ($4.70, $2.10). Danny Strike, 2nd rated, ran 3rd and failed in a protest for 2nd.

Race 5: Karalta jet, the top-rated selection, won but the odds were short ($1.60,$1.10).

Race 6: Another win for the top-rated runner, with In A Whisper scoring at $2.50 and $1.30. Equal 3rd rated Banjo Miss ran 2nd for a $5.60 quinella return.

Race 7: Golden Reign, 3rd rated, won this race at $5.60 and $1.90, with 4th rated Chandon 3rd at $1.20. Top-rated Franco Lament could not obtain a clear run and flashed home for an unlucky 4th.

Race 8: Trotters: No selections.

Race 9: A nice way to finish, with the top-rated Big Wal winning at $3. 10 and $1.30, and we also collected the quinella ($14-90) and exacta ($35.10) with equal 3rd rated Sergeant Len.

At this meeting, the ratings also came up with the 12/1 Extra Double. Fight races overall for 4 winners (50 per cent) and a profit on turnover of 49 per cent (TAB) and 106 per cent (SP).

By allowing for beaten margins and Track Variations, these Track Time Ratings are an innovative and accurate approach to harness racing. Although other factors such as barrier draw, prizemoney etc. have not been included, there is good reason for this: I have found that adding bonuses and penalties can destroy the value aspect.

If a pacer has an above-average rating figure it will often be over the odds because it has drawn badly or has not won as many races as its rivals. But, it is obviously fit and in form and tends to be overlooked by most punters.


Albany -2.7Maryborough -0.8
Albion Pk +1.2Menangle Pk -1.7
Albury -1.9Mildura -2.1
Ararat -2.2Moonee Valley +0.9
Armidale -4.8Mt Gambier -3.2
Ballarat -1.2Muswellbrook -2.8
Bankstown -1.6Newcastle +0.3
Bathurst -1.5Nowra -3.1
Bendigo -1.4Nyah -1.7
Bulli -1.3Orange -2.4
Canberra -1.7Ouyen -2.6
Cessnock -1.4Parkes -1.4
Charlton -1.0Penrith -2.1
Cobram -1.8Piniarra +1.1
Cootamundra -2.1Pt Pirie-1.9
Cowra -0.9Redcliffe -1.8
Cranbourne -2.4Richmond -4.7
Devonport -2.9Robinvale -3.1
Donald -4.7Rockhampton -1.8
Dubbo -4.0Shepparton -0.8
Echuca - 0.4St Arnaud +0.2
Fairfield -1.2Stawell -1.6
Forbes -2.3Strathalbyn -3.8
Gawler -1.0Tamworth -1.9
Geelong -0.9Taree -5.5
Globe Derby -0.6Temora -2.4
Gloucester Pk +1.6Terang -2.0
Gold Coast +0.2Toowoomba -3.3
Griffith -1.0Traralgon -2.4
Gunbower -4.7Tweed Heads -1.6
Hamilton -2.3Wagga -0.5
Hobart -1.0Wangaratta -0.4
Horsham -2.6Warragul -2.0
Junee -1.6Warrnambool -3.8
Kilmore -2.0Wedderburn -1.3
Kyabram -4.1West Wyalong -2.1
Launceston -0.2Whyalla -4.0
Leeton -1.0Wyong -2.1
Lithgow -2.1Yarra Glen -2.3
Maitland -1.0Young -1.7

By Noel Ovington