Fort Larned (front, center) and Mucho Macho Man (second entering stretch) were obvious plays in the Breeders' Cup Classic if you relied upon Equibase Speed Figures. (Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire)
When it comes to handicapping, consideration of the horse and his/her athletic ability is the most important factor. Even though a horse is fast, there is still the matter of how fast it can run on race day. Handicapping involves looking at each horse’s history and trying to determine which will be a contender in the race if they can repeat certain efforts from their past races.
The handicapping process continues by trying to determine which horse will be faster than the others based on those efforts. Speed figures, which indicate in a single number how fast a horse has run in its past races, are the perfect tool to assist in making those determinations and hopefully to help make a profit.
The benefit of using speed figures to handicap was never more evident than in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, as pointed out in pre- and post-race articles written by Matt Gardner on the “And Down the Stretch They Come” blog, part of SB [Sports Blog] Nation.
In Matt’s post which appeared on October 17 (and was recapped on November 7) in his “Divisional Standings & The Classic” blog, he pointed out that among the Classic division contenders, the highest Equibase Speed Figure earner was Fort Larned, who earned a 123 figure in the Whitney Invitational Handicap (G1). Additionally, the two horses tied with the next best Equibase Speed Figure of 121 that ran in the Classic were Mucho Macho Man (earned in the Suburban Handicap [G2]) and Flat Out (earned in the Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes [G1]). The Classic resulted in an Equibase Speed Figure exacta and trifecta, with Fort Larned edging Mucho Macho Man for the win in a thrilling stretch battle and with Flat Out third.
In speaking with racing fans at various seminars and presentations, I am constantly asked for the top things to look at when handicapping a race. The first step is asking the question “Are there winning races from each horse’s past that if repeated today would make him/her competitive?” The second step is looking at the Equibase Speed Figures among those horses to determine which horse should run faster, and to put those horses in order accordingly.
Using that process when handicapping this year’s Classic would have yielded excellent results, as the $2 exacta combining Fort Larned and Mucho Macho Man returned $125.40 and the $1 trifecta using the three top Equibase Speed Figure horses (from the key races as pointed out in the article referred to above) returned a healthy $306.90. Unfortunately, I did not heed my own advice. However, as with most things related to the art of handicapping there is the opportunity to learn from your mistakes, which I will most certainly do when handicapping next year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic.