In the first of two articles, PPM expert Richard Hartley Jnr examines the impact of speed and times in racing- and tells how these factors can be used to help your selection process.

In America, much is made of 'pace' in races. Form guides there devote enormous space to assessing a horse's speed at various points in a race. Here in Australia, time most often is discarded as a key factor in form study.

It seems to me, though, an important part of the raw material of race analysis. Critics of speed may argue that one factor-usually class or weight-is sufficient to account for a high percentage of winners. Now, I don't agree with this contemptuous dismissal of speed.

The problem, when placing emphasis on speed, is to predict when the best speed horse will win! Some 20 years ago, the American racing paper, Daily Racing Form, began assigning speed ratings to horses, in accordance with the track record for the distance. For example, if the track record at one racecourse for 1200m was 1m 8 1/5ths seconds, and if a horse ran the distance at this track in l m  9 2/5s-that is 6/5ths of a second outside the record-it would be credited with a speed rating of 94.

The track record is arbitrarily assigned a rating of 100, and one point is deducted for each l/5th of a second outside the record. This procedure involves knowing the race records at every distance for every track regularly raced on, so there would be difficulties in Australia in equalising performances at different tracks and distances.

I have a way of arriving at modified speed ratings. Now, most major racetracks in Australia are 1600m or more in circumference. My chart which accompanies this article has 'par' figures for different distances. These 'par' figures were arrived at after extensive experiments.

You'll notice that the chart has four divisions--distances at which 2yo. races are usually run, sprint distances, 1600m to middle distance, and then middle distance to distance. Each set of figures is divided into three sections-the first lists the distance, the second gives the par time, and the third gives the 'rationale' or the actual time required for the horse to run the next distance.

Example: Since 'par' for 800m is 45s, and 'par' for 1000m is 57 2/5ths, 'par' time to run the fifth 200m is 12 2/5ths seconds. This is more than was theoretically necessary to run the fourth 200m, which was 11 3/5ths seconds. But this is where the speed/distance rationale comes into play. As a race progresses, the pace is likely to slow down. I have allowed for this fact as the distance increases.

The second table is for the smaller tracks. This differs from the first chart in that l/5th of a second has been added to the par times for each 100m over 600m to allow for the time lost in going round tighter turns. Example: 'Par' time for 1200m at the larger tracks is lm 9 3/5ths but at a smaller track it is figured at 1m 10 4/5ths, one-fifth of a second having been added to each 100m over 600m.

My analysis suggests that the 'base distance' for equating speeds for different distances and different tracks is 1200m. This is a frequently-run distance and most of the better horses at any track will run several races at this distance each season.

The 1200m record at any track will almost always represent the true speed of the track. Once we know the track record for 1200m we can, by using the 'par' table, find a figure representing the speed of any horse in any race. This is what I call the modified speed rating.

If a horse runs lm 10 3/5ths for 1200m on a track with a record of 1m 10s, its true speed rating and its modified speed rating will be 97 (3/5ths of a second equalling three points). How, then, do you work out the modified speed rating for races other than 1200m?

Let's suppose the 1200m record is 1m 8 4/5ths. This means the track is 4/5ths of a second faster than 'par', as given in our 'par' table. On this basis, the record for 1600m should also be 4/5ths of a second faster than 'par', or 1m 35s, since 'par' for the 1600m in our table is 1 m 35 4/5ths This modified time of 1m 35s thus becomes par time for the 1600m at this track and any horse which runs to this time gets a modified speed rating of 100. If a horse ran the 1600m at this track in 1m 36s, its modified speed rating would be 95.

Example: Suppose the record for 1200m at another track is lm 10s, which is 2/5ths of a second slower than 'par'.

Therefore, the 1400m record should be 2/5ths of a second slower than 'par', or 1m 22 2/5ths since 'par' for the 1400m, as in the chart, is 1m 22s. A horse running the 1400m on this track in 1m 24s would have a modified speed rating of 92.

Now, for beaten horses: When a horse is beaten, assess that ONE length equals ONE point (e.g. 1/5th of a second) in rating speed. The 'par' table can, then, be applied at all Australian tracks and at all distances, providing you know the 1200m record.

On a track where the 1200m sprint is run down a straight for the entire length (Flemington for example) you should treat the 1400m record as the basis for the application of the table.

All 'rationale' figures are the same for the smaller tracks as for bigger tracks.

NEXT PART: Speed and weights-how do they relate? I'll talk in depth about this factor, and bring you a chart that will make it all very simple for you to understand.

Click here to read Part 2.

By Richard Hartley Jnr