How to Find the Speed of a Race using Quirin Speed Points

How to Find the Speed of a Race using Quirin Speed Points
by Kenneth Strong of Predictem.com

Handicapping Fundamentals

Who’s the speed? One of the most common questions overheard everyday at the races.
Why? Because speed wins a much higher percentage of races (on the dirt) than it should, and if you know who the speed is, you’ll likely have a good idea of how a race will unfold - before it runs.

You’ll know whether there is likely to be a pressured pace, a duel or a lone speed horse. This will help you decide which horse(s) can take advantage of each scenario and allow you to make a much more educated wager than your fellow bettors.

You could actually make a profit by betting only on the races in which you could clearly identify the first call leader. First call leaders win a higher percentage of races than they should and produce a positive return on investment (ROI) regardless of field size, class or distance. Luckily, despite that fact that the ability to determine the first call leader in a race is an extremely valuable handicapping skill, it is not that difficult to learn. Additionally, it is not a skill held widely by most casual bettors – which gives you yet another edge on the crowd.

Horses are creatures of habit. Once they have some established form (3-5 races in their past performances) you can generally tell how and where in a race they are going to run. Some horses like to run early, some like to run late (and some don’t like to run at all – TIP – don’t bet on those ones.)

Running styles are revealed clearly in the past performance lines. Horses that like to race on the lead will have an abundance of 1s and 2s in their running lines. Horses that like to race close but not on the lead (pressers) will have an abundance of 2s, 3s and 4s in their past performance running lines. The remainder of the field with little or no evidence of anything from 1-4 in their early running positions will probably be stalkers. Take the following examples of running lines in the past performances (one running line only selected from each horse):

Horse 1 Example Running Line: 11 12 13
Horse 2 Example Running Line: 32 43 33
Horse 3 Example Running Line: 87 98 65

If all the above horses were in the same race, which horse would be most likely to get the lead based on past performance?

Horse 1 obviously likes to run on the lead. He was first by a length at the first call, first by two lengths at the second call and first by three lengths at the third call. Horse 2 is a likely a presser. He was third, two lengths back of the leader at the first call, fourth, three lengths behind the leader at the second call, and third, three lengths behind the leader at the third call. Horse 3 is a plodder. He was eighth, seven lengths behind the leader at the first call, ninth, eight lengths back of the leader at the second call and sixth, five lengths back of the leader at the third call.

Assuming each of the above horses had numerous running lines that were similar to the lines displayed above, which horse is most likely to get to the lead. If you answered Horse 1 you’re right. Was that complicated? Not really.

Actually, you have to look at multiple running lines for each horse in a race to determine the speed, so it’s a little more difficult than it looks – but not much more difficult – and once you acquire a knack for it through trial and error, it will generally take you less than a minute to determine who the speed of a race is and predict how a race will set up.

While there are other elements that factor into determining the first call leaders in a race, such as fractional times, jockey changes, trainer patterns, blinker changes etc., running lines still provide the simplest and quickest guideposts to the general speed of a race.

While still learning to determine the speed of a race, it is helpful to use a methodology you can follow every time. With this in mind we will use the Speed Points method invented by mathematics professor and handicapping author William Quirin.

How to use Quirin Speed Points to Determine the Speed of a Race

Speed points are calculated using three representative races from the last five races in a horse’s past performances, preferably races that are at today’s distance.

How to Calculate Quirin Speed Points for Sprint Races

Note: Before any calculations, each horse in the race is awarded 1 speed point

From the three representative running lines you have selected for each horse:

1. Award 1 point for each sprint in which the horse was first, second or third at the first call.
2. Award 1 point for each sprint in which the horse was within 2 lengths of the leader at the first call. (Note: A horse can get a speed point for being first second or third at the first call AND a point for being within 2 lengths at the first call – for a maximum of two points per race.)
3. Award 0 points for any other sprint performance.
4. Award 0 points for any route performance, unless the horse was within 1 length of the lead at the first call. In this case, the race should NOT be used in the calculations at all.
5. Note: In seven furlong races, a horse can only receive 2 speed points if it led at the first call. Award only 1 point if the horse was second or third at the first call or was within 2 lengths at the first call.
6. Total up the points for each horse and add them to the 1 point the horse started with.
7. Award 1 bonus point if a horse was within a neck of the leader in each rated race.
8. Each horse will now have a total of 1-8 speed points. Write this number beside the horse in the past performances.

How to Calculate Quirin Speed Points for Route Races

Note: Before any calculations, each horse in the race is awarded 1 speed point.

1. Award 1 point for each route race in which the horses was first, second or third at the first call.
2. Award 1 point for each route race in which the horse was within 3 lengths of the leader at the first call. (Note: A horse can get a speed point for being first, second or third at the first call AND a point for being within 2 lengths at the first call – for a maximum of two points per race.)
3. Award 0 points for any other route performance.
4. Award 1 point for any sprint race in which the horse was first, second or third at the first call, or was within 3 lengths of the leader at the first call.
5. Add 1 point for any sprint in which the horses was within six lengths at the first call.
6. When calculating speed points for routes, do not use sprints where the horse was not first, second or third at the first call, or was not within 6 lengths of the leader at the first call. Go back as many as five races to find a more representative race.
7. Award 1 bonus point if a horse was on the lead or within a length of the leader at the first call in each of its rated races.
8. Each horse will now have a total of 1-8 speed points. Write this number beside the horse in the past performances.

How to Interpret Quirin Speed Points

Horses with 0-3 points have poor early speed. Horses with 4 speed points have some early speed.
Horses with 5-6 points have good early speed. Horses with 7-8 points have high early speed.

In general, a horse with 4 speed points is likely going to be among the early leaders and horses with a minimum of 4 speed points that also have the highest speed points in the race will win often enough to produce a small but positive ROI. Horses with at least 5 speed points that are also at least 2 points ahead of their nearest rivals will produce an even greater ROI. Horses with 8 speed points are very likely to either lead or battle for the lead. If one horse receives 8 points and no horses receive 6-7 points, the 8 horse has a very good chance of opening up early and going all the way. In the presence of 6-7 point horses there is a good chance the 8 point horse will get some early pressure and might even be forced to battle for the lead.

In races with two high speed points horses you can generally expect a reasonably fast and/or pressured pace. In races with three or more high speed points horses you are almost assured of a pressured pace or duel that can set the race up for come from behind types. The come from behind types with the best chance of winning these types of races must be able to stay within striking range however. Horses with 0-3 speed points that cannot get within striking range at the second call will have little chance to win, but can be used underneath in the exotics. The exceptions would be turf races or races run over tiring surfaces, both of which often favor come from behind runners.

Most importantly, always make sure to check all high speed points horses to see if they are need-the-lead types. Look at their past performances to see what happens when they don’t get the lead. If they never win without the lead, and they don’t figure to get the lead in today’s race, they can probably be thrown out with confidence.

With a little practice using Quirin Speed Points, you’ll find that you can quickly and easily find the speed in any race and predict how a race will set up in advance. The application of fractional times, jockey changes, trainer patterns and equipment changes, to the data provided by the Quirin Speed Points, can provide you with even more insights - and some excellent betting opportunities!

Good luck!

Related: The Importance of Early Speed.