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Horse racing speed figures explained

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In the course of the last 45 years, the biggest advancement in handicapping has probably been the emergence of speed figures.

What is commonplace now was in its infancy back then when speed variants ruled the land.

The variants were simplistic. They were averages based on how many lengths above or below the track record the races on that day were.

Speed figures took that process to a new and infinitely more helpful level.

Though he was not the founding father of speed figures, Washington Post turf writer and handicapper Andy Beyer made them popular through his 1975 book “Picking Winners.” In it, Beyer explained his take on speed figures and how he developed numbers that could reflect horses’ performances at different distances.

For example, times of 1:12 at six furlongs, 1:25 at seven furlongs and 1:38 at a mile all equaled a 94 to Beyer, who used a numeric system in which the higher the speed figure, the better the performance.

Beyond that, a horse with a Beyer Speed Figure of 104 ran faster than a horse with a 94, even if those figures were earned at different distances.

Then Beyer established a table of pars, which was the expected speed figure for a winner at each level in the condition book. Let’s say the par for a maiden special weight sprint was an 84 and the winner ran an 86, that would mean the track was fast by two points.

Beyer applied that process to all of a card’s dirt races and turf races (keeping the dirt and turf races separate) and then he would average the pluses and minuses to determine whether the track was slow or fast. That means if the average for the day was minus-2 then the aforementioned MSW winner who ran an 86 would get credit for an 88 Beyer Speed Figure.

Horses who finished behind the winner had their figures calculated by how many lengths behind they finished, taking two points off for each length behind in a route race and three points per length in a sprint.

It takes time, but handicappers can craft their own speed figures.

They can also save time by purchasing speed figures from a variety of outlets.

Most of these providers use the same basic methodology as Beyer but calculate the data differently and offer different bells and whistles, so speed figures will be different on a company-to-company basis – and some are also more accurate than others.

As an introduction to speed figures, here’s a quick look at some of them:

Daily Racing Form: www.drf.com

The Daily Racing Form is the exclusive outlet for the Beyer Speed Figures, listing them in its past performances that also include running lines, a pace figure, some pertinent stats, info on turf and mud breeding, workouts, and a couple of sentences about the horses chances. DRF sells past performances via print and online, and electronically also offers Formulator past performances which offer more stats and the ability to customize your searches for data and stats.

Equibase: www.Equibase.com

They offer similar past performances but create their own speed figures. They also include Pace ratings, Race ratings and Class ratings to augment their speed figures. They can be found in many track programs, and can be purchased online, where you’ll find the speed figures categorized and additional statistics provided. Electronically, Equibase also offers Stats RaceLens, which allows handicappers to test theories and angles using Equibase’s in-depth database.

Brisnet: www.brisnet.com

Has the standard past performances and their own brand of speed figures. Their past performances also offer a wealth of stats, including percentage winners by running style at the race’s distance, a prime power number, average class figure. They also offer some helpful hints by pointing out a couple of key stats for each horse – if there are any.

TimeForm US: www.Timeformus.com

Is an eye-pleasing online product that offers speed figures plus extras such as a Pace Projector, Running Styles with Early/Late Ratings, Race Ratings, Trainer Ratings, and color-coded fractional times that indicate whether the pace was fast or slow.

Ragozin Thoroughbred Data: www.TheSheets.com

The father of speed figures is generally considered to be Len Ragozin, who teamed with Len Friedman to create and sell highly popular and effective speed figures in the years before Beyer’s book. Aside from the basic speed figure principles, the Ragozin Sheets (a.k.a. The Sheets, because they are printed on sheets of paper a little larger than a notepad) incorporate wind, weight carried and, most importantly, ground loss into their speed figures. Their numbers are based on a system of a lower number being the better number. A 0 can win you the Kentucky Derby, while a 20 means your horse belongs in claiming races. Aside from the actual figures, the Ragozin system is built on projecting how a horse will react to its last race. By using The Sheets, a handicapper looks at a horse’s last few races and then projects whether the pattern of those numbers indicates it will move forward, regress, or duplicate its last figure. The Sheets do not provide standard past performances lines as found with the other companies or accompanying stats.

Thoro-Graph: www.Thorograph.com

Thoro-Graph was founded by Jerry Brown, who used to work for Ragozin, so the figures are constructed akin to The Sheets. One difference between the two is that Thoro-Graph offers a condensed running line and also plenty of trainer, jockey, and breeding stats to complement the speed figures. Thro-Graph’s speed figures are generally a few points lower than Ragozin so it’s not unusual to see a horse get a 0 on Ragozin and minus-3 on Thoro-Graph and it will say the same thing about how that horse stands in regards to its rivals.

Verlander injury shuffles Astros’ MLB futures odds

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MLB betting got a shake-up Sunday afternoon, specifically on World Series odds and AL pennant odds, with news that Astros star pitcher Justin Verlander could miss the rest of the season – or at least a significant chunk of it – with an arm injury.

Initial reports suggested Verlander had an elbow ailment, but both he and manager Dusty Baker quickly denied that. Baker called it a forearm strain and said that Verlander would be re-evaluated in “a couple of weeks.” The reigning AL Cy Young winner pitched a solid six innings in an 8-2 Opening Day rout of the Seattle Mariners on Friday.

Verlander’s injury led oddsmakers to shuffle futures book odds on the defending AL champions. Covers checked in on the MLB odds moves with a couple of Las Vegas sportsbooks.

How does Verlander’s injury affect Astros’ World Series odds?

At CG Technology books, risk analyst Rich Zanco said the Astros quickly moved from +1,200 to +1,800 in World Series futures. The SuperBook at Westgate also had Houston pegged +1,200 prior to Sunday’s news and initially went to +1,600, then dialed it a little further to +1,800.

However, there were apparently buyers on the Astros at that point, prompting the SuperBook to reel the price in to +1,400.

How does Verlander’s injury affect Astros’ American League odds?

In AL pennant futures, the Astros initially moved from +600 to +800 at The SuperBook, then ticked back to +700.

World Series odds

Team Odds to win
Los Angeles Dodgers +350
New York Yankees +350
Houston Astros +600
Atlanta Braves +1,600
Minnesota Twins +1,600
Tampa Bay Rays +1,800
Washington Nationals +2,000
Cleveland Indians +2,000
New York Mets +2,000
Chicago Cubs +2,000
Oakland Athletics +2,000
St. Louis Cardinals +2,500
Cincinnati Reds +2,500
San Diego Padres +2,500
Philadelphia Phillies +3,000
Chicago White Sox +3,000
Los Angeles Angels +3,000
Milwaukee Brewers +4,000
Boston Red Sox +5,000
Arizona Diamondbacks +6,000
Colorado Rockies +8,000
Toronto Blue Jays +10,000
Texas Rangers +10,000
Pittsburgh Pirates +20,000
Detroit Tigers +20,000
San Francisco Giants +30,000
Seattle Mariners +30,000
Miami Marlins +30,000
Baltimore Orioles +30,000
Kansas City Royals +30,000

Odds courtesy The SuperBook

MLB picks and predictions for Opening Day

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It was a long and scary road, but we finally get MLB betting back on Thursday, July 23. Opening Day of the pandemic-shortened 60-game baseball schedule is headlined by a pair of matchups, with the New York Yankees visiting the Washington Nationals and the Los Angeles Dodgers rekindling their rivalry with the San Francisco Giants.

Like we do each MLB season (COVID-19 or not), we’ll be taking a swing at today’s baseball odds and giving our best MLB picks and predictions. Up first: Opening Day 2020.

MLB picks for today

New York Yankees vs Washington Nationals

Yankees slugger Aaron Judge was supposed to miss the start of the season back in the spring, but the delay to the 2020 campaign allowed the outfielder to heal up from broken ribs and return to his longball-launching self.

Judge looked great in New York’s warmup games, albeit for a limited number of at-bats. He went 3-for-7 with all three hits leaving the ballpark. And he wasn’t alone, with the Yankees’ other power bats providing plenty of pop around him in the order. He’ll get a chance to go yard again on Opening Day.

PREDICTION: Aaron Judge home run (+210)

San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers

The Giants are no strangers to Clayton Kershaw, who has long dominated the Dodgers’ divisional foes. In 49 career appearances against San Francisco, The Claw is 23-12 with a 1.74 ERA and has allowed just 0.71 hits per innings pitched in those starts.

The Giants don’t pose much of an offensive threat, averaging 8.22 hits per game in 2019. San Francisco has managed 45 total hits in its last eight starts against Kershaw – an average of 0.86 hits per inning faced. Given the Dodgers’ ace looked ready for work in his tune-up efforts, we could see him go seven innings or more on Thursday, panning out to a little over six hits for San Fran.

PREDICTION: Giants between 6-7 total hits (+235)

Mookie Betts has reportedly landed a whale of a contract extension with the Dodgers after joining the ballclub this offseason via a trade with the Boston Red Sox. And what better way to lock down that deal than an impressive effort on Opening Day.

Betts recorded 313 total bases in 2019 (30th) and 353 in 2018 (fourth). He’s been swinging well in training sessions this offseason: in 27 at-bats during the spring/summer schedule, he has 13 total bases, including two doubles and a home run, while hitting leadoff during Summer Camp. We like that to continue into Opening Day.

PREDICTION: Mookie Betts two or more total bases (-182)

Top MLB consensus for today

Want to know who today’s biggest MLB betting and consensus bets are right now? Check out our top MLB consensus picks.

Opening Day betting card

  • Aaron Judge home run (+210)
  • Giants between 6-7 total hits (+235)
  • Mookie Betts two or more total bases (-182)