Beyer Speed Figures – How to Understand Them Part I of II

Horse Betting - Beyer Speed Figures – Part 1
How to Understand and use Beyer Speed Figures for Profit at the Race Track
by Kenneth Strong of

Beyer Speed Figures are the most accurate measure of how fast a horse ran in its previous races and they are an absolutely essential tool in any handicapper’s arsenal. They allow you to compare performances at different distances and from different tracks and are often used to quickly separate contenders from pretenders.

Beyer Speed Figures are better than the raw final times still used by many handicappers because they take into account the actual speed and depth of the racing surface on any given day. A horse that runs six furlongs in 1:10 over a lighting fast track with a two-inch cushion might run the same distance in 1:12 when the track surface has a four-inch cushion. Theoretically, for a consistent horse, the Beyer Speed Figures for the two races would be similar. A handicapper using only final times would think that the 1:10 race was better than the 1:12 race, which would be incorrect – this gives YOU an edge.

Beyer Speed Figures are designed to be interchangeable and transferable between tracks and distances, which makes for quick and easy comparisons. For example, a horse that runs a Beyer Speed Figure of 82 going seven furlongs should theoretically run a similar Figure going a mile, assuming it can handle the extra distance. And a horse that runs an 82 Beyer Speed Figure going six furlongs at Santa Anita should theoretically run a similar Figure at Aqueduct, assuming the horse can handle the different surface.


Before Beyer Speed Figures were added to the Daily Racing Form, many sharp handicappers had their own sets of figures that were calculated using a similar methodology. These figures gave them a huge edge over the majority of their betting competition – who had only final times at their disposal. Figure handicappers in the old days could get some great prices on horses that were actually faster than their competition – because nobody else knew it.

Now that Beyer Speed Figures are included in the Daily Racing Form past performance lines for all to see and use, the Figure handicappers no longer have the edge they once had, but they do maintain an advantage over the players that cling to the perceived value of raw final times. Additionally, handicappers who can see and understand the patterns revealed by the Beyer Speed Figures over a succession of races continue to maintain an edge over their rival bettors.

It is important to note that while the Beyer Speed Figures that appear in the Daily Racing Form are quite accurate, they are still only a measure of raw ability and they do not take into account the horse’s trip, track biases and other related factors. For example, a horse will often run a much better Figure when able to clear early to an open lead and hold it to the wire. The same horse, when confronted with pressure and unable to get the lead, will often run a lower Figure. Similarly, a come-from-behind sprinter who runs a big Figure over a tiring track favoring closers will often not run a matching figure when faced with a track favoring front runners.

Handicappers who profitably use Beyer Speed Figures know that the top Figure horse will win only 25-30 percent of the time at an overall loss. Because the top Figure horse is almost always over bet, sharp handicappers use identifiable and profitable patterns found in the Beyer Speed Figures to find overlays. They take into account how each Figure in the past performances was run with regards to trip and track bias, and take a broader look at the Figures in an effort to predict what kind Figure the horse will run today, taking into account the horse’s likely trip, any perceived track bias, jockey, class, surface, distance etc.

In Part 2 of this article we will discuss some creative ways of using Beyer Speed Figures and the patterns they reveal to find overlays and beat the favorites!