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What are speed figures in horse racing?

Speed figures are an attempt to quantify a horse’s effort in each race of its career to make it easy to compare with those of their rivals.

The best known speed figures are known as Beyer numbers, after longtime Washington Post racing columnist  Andrew Beyer, who developed them and has published them in the Daily Racing Form since the early 1990s.

Beyer’s scheme reduces a horse’s performance to a single number, the higher the number the better.

Numerous competitors that are similar to Beyer’s figures have emerged in recent years, including Brisnet, Equibase, TimeformUS and TrackMaster, some of which produce multiple figures to differentiate pace and class rankings and other factors.

A different type of speed figure was developed in the 1970s by the late Len Ragozin. Known as the Ragozin Sheets, they more closely resemble graphs that follow horses through their entire racing careers. In the Ragozin world, the lower the number the better, but the format is also intended to help players project what number a horse will run in today’s race based on its “form cycle.” The Ragozin sheets also have spurred several competitors, including Thoro-Graph, which use similar approaches.

Which one is best? That depends on how you use them in your handicapping and which service you’re comfortable with. The most important things to keep in mind is that none is perfect and they represent a horse’s previous efforts, not how he or she will run today.