Readers of PPM will be familiar with the name Andrew Beyer, the American author of several books on speed ratings. I've been a speed rating fan for many years now and I developed my own ratings system a long time before finding out about Andrew Beyer.

I gave them away several years ago, mainly because the volume of detailed, accurate records required became impossible to maintain. Done properly, it is a full-time job on its own.

I have just finished reading Andrew's book, Picking Winners, which I found quite fascinating. On the surface, the Beyer rating methodology appears very similar to Read Ratings.

To whet your appetite, here are several quotes I selected from Picking Winners. They'll give you some idea of the author's line of thinking throughout the book.

  • The mental attitude with which a man approaches gambling can determine whether he will succeed or fail.
  • I am thankful that God gave me the capacity to enjoy.
  • Let's face it: there's nothing more enjoyable than gambling. The capacity to enjoy: so few people have it.
  • A gambler may have as many periods of pain and frustration as he does of exhilaration, but at least he knows he's alive.
  • To assess a race intelligently a punter must know, above all else, which horse has superior ability. Time (speed) is the one way to measure this ability with precision. It is by far the most important means of assessment.
  • Speed figures clarified mysteries, subtleties, and apparent contradictions of the sport that I had always thought were beyond human understanding. I realised that all other methods of evaluation, even the most sophisticated ones, fail to attack what should be the central question in any race. Who is better than whom?
  • The most difficult part of speed rating is making the initial commitment to learn it. Speed figures are the way, the truth and the light.

There are many pitfalls in using speed as the sole method of rating horses, but to have an educated idea as to how fast (or slow) a horse can ACTUALLY run, a speed ratings database will be of enormous benefit to you, however basic that database may be.

Some of you will immediately say that false rails, wet tracks, rain during the day, wind changes, inaccurate distances, the way a race is run, different final 600m times, etc., all make speed ratings a bit of a lottery.

Andrew Beyer didn't disagree with such thinking and neither do 1. But maybe it's much superior to the alternative - which is having NO idea at all as to how fast each horse is capable of running!

Or, as Andrew puts it, "Who is better than whom?"

To enable you to prove to yourself how speed ratings can be a useful selection aid, and provide you with some wonderful good-priced runners to include in your quinellas, doubles and trifectas, I've designed a simple speed rating method.

You won't need to determine the track record for every racetrack in Australia to compare every race time against. There are no complicated sets of calculations to determine the overall strength of runners on the day, to enable you to determine a time adjustment for the meeting, etc. Full-blown speed ratings are very time-consuming.

I have found an easy way to dip your toe into the speed rating scene, and if you're willing to learn (and teach yourself to some degree) you should be able to prove, within a few weeks, how a black book of fast-rated horses can provide you with some excellent-priced winners.

If you want to take your initial interest further and further, well and good.

This approach can operate on any track, anywhere. You'll need the race time for every event, either from your daily newspaper, or the midweek Sportsman (which publishes the major results for the entire week, right across Australia).

Forget all races under 1000m.

Start with the shortest race first and divide the distance by the time. For example, a 1000m race run in 58.01 seconds is 1000 divided by 58.01 = 17.24. That is, an average of 17.24 metres is covered for every second of the 1000m event.

As you do the same calculation for every race in a meeting, you'll see the distance covered 'per second' gradually decreases as the distance of the race increases.

For example, a 2000m race on the same day as the above example may be run in 15.86 metres per second.

It's your task now to relate the class of each race and the distance against each of your calculations. For instance, if there were two or three Maiden and Class 1 events on the  programme (over the same distance), I would generally only consider the runner with the fastest time.

You'll quickly come to appreciate the relationship between class, time and distance. The fastest horses on the day according to their class (and therefore likely to win again soon) generally stand out from the rest.

For a metropolitan meeting, you may find several horses running good times on the day, whereas in the bush there may be just one or two to consider at their next start.

Every now and then you'll find a standout "super special", which has run a time well and truly above any other runner on the day.

I've been working the above method for several months now and it is really interesting stuff.

I probably find 30 or so "speed horses" a week from the results printed in Sportsman.

I may "blackbook" 25 winners and five second placegetters (if they finished close to the winner) each week. Plus the one or two "super specials".

Then each day I hunt them out from the fields in the daily papers, only needing to search for those runners which finished 1st or 2nd last start.

I've noticed that many owners/trainers who have a "speedy" winner, tend to have a rush of blood (or maybe it's enthusiasm) and place their horse way out of its depth next start.

You have to take a lot of care with runners who go up more than one class following a win, or move from provincial or bush tracks to city or provincial tracks respectively (where both class and quality are often stronger).

As I've said, you can use this simple speed rating system at any track in Australia. just keep level-headed about it all and continue to apply your regular broad assessment methods to each runner, regardless of it being in your black book.

Don't give up on a runner which doesn't win or place next start. They often then return to their rightful class and locality and, two or three starts later, they may bob up at any old price (winners over 20/1 are not unusual).

A fast horse is a fast horse, it just needs the right conditions. You should find that any runner you identify as "fast" more than once, will win its share of career races.

Sometimes winner after winner will come out of a fast-run race. Be the first to identify which races they are!

By Barry Meyer