So you want to use 'times' as a benchmark for rating racehorses? It's tougher than it sounds. But keen punters can do it, as long as they are prepared to put in plenty of hard and detailed form study.

Using the track record as a gauge to how fast a race was run can be useful, when the track is dry. One method basically sets the track rating at a value of, say, 100 with each slower time being progressively lower in value.

Let's look firstly at the Moonee Valley 1600m. Until recently, the track record for that distance was 1m 34s. Setting 1m 33s as the top 'rating' gives scope for a faster run to occur (which was the case when Our Poetic Prince broke the record last year). For each 0.1s, the rating goes down by one point. Therefore a time of 1m 34s has a rating of 90, while a time of 1m 39s has a value of 40.

Here's an example, using theoretical weight of 80 kgs:

TimeSRwgtLens
1.3 310080k40
1.3 49071k34
1.3 58062k28
1.3 67053k22
1.3 76044k16
1.3 85035k10
1.3 94026k4

Time, of course, can be converted quite easily into weight or lengths. Generally, six lengths is run in about one second. So for every second the time is run slower, the 'rating' in lengths would decrease by six lengths. Likewise, taking 1.5 kg to be the equivalent of one length, this produces a 9 kg change for every second of variation.

These figures do have their limitations. The first is that the track rating is not always fast and so a time of 1m 35s on one track rating may really be the equivalent of 1m 34s at the same course on another day.

Ideally, it would be good if a standard horse could be found! He could be put over 800m, with the last 600m timed.

This time could then be assessed for each meeting, with a suitable change being made to the time accordingly. The track rating could easily be calculated using the times in the next chart as a rough guide:

TimeRating
35sFast
36sGood
37sDead
38sSlow
39sHeavy
The times run in a given race could then be adjusted. If the standard horse ran the 600m in 36s, then any times to be adjusted to fast track times would need one second deducted. Unfortunately, that standard horse doesn't exist!

The times run on a given day are usually indicative of the standard of each race. The faster the time, the better the field, or at least the winner. Let's look at some races from the Moonee Valley meetings last September 24 and 25. These were run on fast tracks a day apart and the track would not have altered significantly (the rail was out two metres on the second day but adjusted distances were given).

1600m races, Sept. 24
Feehan Stakes, Our Poetic Prince, 1st 1m 33.Is (record). Open Handicap, Bonded, 1st, 1m 35.1s. 3yo. C&C, Aisle, 1 st, 1m 35.7s.

On times alone, the WFA field in the Feehan was 12 lengths, or two seconds (at six lengths per second) better than the Open Handicap field, and about 16 lengths better than the 3yos. And that's a big gap.

1609m races, Sept. 25

Open Handicap, Mr Danamite, 1st, 1m 34.9s, adjusted 1m 34.4s.
Mares, Hazy Pond, 1st, 1m 35.4s, adjusted 1m 34.9s.
3yo. Quality, Almurtajaz, 1st, 1m 34.7s, adjusted 1m 34.2s.

The adjusted times (1609m to 1600m) at the second meeting had the three-yearolds being the fastest, marginally.

Comparing times for the two days, Almurtajaz ran over a second faster than Aisle and their respective racing after that date tended to confirm this finding.

Almurtajaz ran 1.1s slower than Our Poetic Prince, and that horse carried 2 kgs more in weight, so in theory at least should beat Almurtajaz by about 7.5 lengths at set weights (1.1 seconds is a little more than six lengths, and 2 kgs equals 1.3 lengths).

The speed rating to be of use, then, must be adjusted for weights. The adjustment for weight is quite easy when using Weight Over The Minimum, and with 9 kgs basically equalling one length. In the special chart on page 5 are the adjusted times for the Feehan Stakes at Moonee Valley, accounting for beaten margins and weight over the minimum.

In the cases of Flotilla and Vo Rogue, for example, both ran roughly the same adjusted time (Vo Rogue carried 1.5 kg extra weight). The faster the time, the better the speed rating. The ratings shown take the highest speed value as 100 and then for each 0.1s slower, two points are taken off. Once the ratings are reduced to figures as outlined in the Feehan Stakes chart, they make comparisons very easy.

The problem of variation in track rating still exists, though. One suggested method is to use the average time for a given distance and then adjust each time as slower or faster accordingly.

This is a good idea but is likely to be rather biased, depending on how many wet track times make up the average! A better method could be to take an average for different track ratings over a given distance at each track. So at Moonee Valley, for example, an average for fast, good and dead tracks could be determined for each distance.

From these individual values, adjustments could be made. For tracks any wetter than dead, the possibly variable going all the way round the track and the influence of the weather can make times rather irrelevant.

If rain is falling during a meeting, the times will get slower and slower, compared to a firm track with more racing.

Statsman comments: This introduction to speed ratings for racehorses was adapted from articles in Pureform Weekly, the popular Melbourne ratings and race results service. 1 have some comments of my own to add regarding speed in relation to weight.

It's true that in certain races, weight can be a determining factor. It must be considered in all races, though it is less important in some than in others. The punter should certainly keep in mind the differentials as to age and sex shown in the WFA table, and the sec-weight differential tables.

The main reason why weight is sometimes important is that it can seriously decrease a horse's racing ability. Carrying 55 kgs, a horse may be able to run 1200m in m 9.6s with a time at the 400m mark (after 800m) of 45s flat. If that horse was asked to carry 56.5 kgs--only 1.5 kgs more-it might still be able to run the 800m in 45s flat, but it might require lm 11.2s to run the full distance.

Other, better quality horses might carry the 56.5 kgs with no appreciable problem. This ability to carry weight and sustain time is a measure of class (Vo Rogue is an example).

Each horse, it must be remembered, tends to have a plateau of weight tolerance for different distances.

As for speed ratings: The article above goes into detail. I can only add that for a long time a professional friend of mine has worked on speed ratings, using track records as the key element, much the same as outlined by Pureform Weekly.

For example, if a track record for 1200m is lm 8.1/5s and a horse runs the distance in lm 9.2/5s-that is, say, six-fifths of a second outside the record-it will 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 extra 1/5th (2/10ths) of a second required by a horse to run the same distance.

Special par tables, which we have published previously in P.P.M., are especially useful in attacking speed ratings.

This article, and my comments, are an introduction to the subject and we'll have more articles on the subject in future issues.

By an Unknown Author

PRACTICAL PUNTING - MAY 1989