Quirin Speed Points are a valuable tool for handicapping horse races because they tell where a horse is likely to try to run, but they are also still misunderstood, even though they have been around for quite some time now. There is no doubt that early speed plays a significant role in many races.
Looking at track models for many tracks, early speed is one of the most significant factors. There are several reasons for this. First of all, the horse who races on the front end gets to dictate the pace and take control of the race. This means that it is running at the speed it chooses so it can settle down and race comfortably.
Secondly, a horse near the front or on the front end has fewer horses in front of it to block it. Racing trouble, having to take up or check or change lanes, can cost valuable lengths and mean the difference between a win or loss. Horses in front also may choose the part of the track that they run on, or rather the jockey can maneuver his or her horse to the lane that the jockey feels is the best path. Usually it is on the rail so the horse is covering the shortest distance to the finish line. When the track is off due to rain or some other weather event, the jockey who has been paying attention and knows which part of the track is playing the fastest can maneuver the horse to that path as well.
Using speed points to figure out which horse will try for the lead is a good idea, but be warned, the horse with the highest speed points isn’t necessarily the horse who can cover the first part of the race the fastest. As I said, speed points indicate a running style, in other words, the horse’s preference for which part of the pack it likes to run in. It is not an indication of raw speed.
A horse with an 8, the highest rating, is a horse that has always gone to the front in its most recent races. A horse with a 7 usually goes to the front or close to the front. A horse with a 6 usually tries to get to the front and so forth all the way down to a 0 which is a horse that not only never tries for the front, but doesn’t even race in the first half of the field early in the race.
So let’s say you have a horse with an 8 who has raced in lower grade races against softer competition and you have a horse with a 6 who has raced against some very speedy types in higher grades, the horse with the 8 may try for the front, but the horse with the 6 may actually be faster and take the lead. If that happens, the horse with the 8 may well exhaust itself trying to run against a tougher horse.
I look at speed points and then calculate the real speed or ability of each animal before I make any final decisions about speed. I find the speed points are very useful for determining what a horse may try to do or what a jockey can do with the horse, but I also look closely at fractions and speed figures.
The one place speed points still really stand out is in isolating the lone speed in a race. This is still a great handicapping angle although it is hard to get good odds on such a runner because the public is wise to this angle. A better way to determine the real value is by using several factors and coming up with a horse that is fit and ready using a system like True Handicapping that uses a combination of factors rather than relying upon early speed alone.