Anyone who has ever attempted to analyse horse racing will know it’s all too easy to get buried beneath a cavalcade of statistical data; and not all of it is useful! Serious punters always look to have an edge on the bookie by creating various systems based on dozens of different racing criteria.
As well as the Timeform Ratings, Racing Post Ratings, Bayer Speed Figures and other commonly sought after figures, there are lesser known and some would say little understood ratings that warrant further investigation. Today, we look at the Racing Post Topspeed ratings which appear as TS on a Racing Post racecard.
What Are Topspeed Ratings?
In simple terms, Topspeed Ratings are figures designed to show insight into the ability, potential and preferred conditions of a horse. As is the case with the Racing Post Ratings (RPR), TS ratings are measured in pounds and attempt to eliminate the impact of different track and weather conditions on race times.
In other words, TS ratings should theoretically enable you to avoid quite a bit of research as they can provide you with analysis of the rating achieved by each runner in conditions relevant to the event it is set to compete in.
How Does The Racing Post Calculate Its Topspeed Ratings?
The official line from the Racing Post is that a mature horse carrying 9 stone with a rating of 100 has the ability to meet Racing Post Standard Time in a race that is ‘truly run’ on ‘good’ going. All distances are proportioned back to 5 furlongs and the ratings are calculated on the basis that 1 second at 5 furlongs = 22 pounds.
For National Hunt races, the scenario changes to a mature horse carrying 12 stone with a rating of 135. In this case, 1 second at 2 miles = 6 pounds. Let’s make this a bit clearer with an example using data taken directly from the Racing Post for a Flat race (I’m making up a name of a horse here):
Gentle Ben is a 3 year-old running in a 7 furlong race at Lingfield’s All-Weather track. His weight is 9st 7 pounds and he finishes second 2.5 lengths behind the winner who clocked a winning time of 1 minute 25.99 seconds (85.99 seconds). The Racing Post Standard time for this particular race is 1m 24.20 (84.20 seconds) so the winner was 1.79 seconds slower than standard time.
In this instance, the RP makes a ‘Going Correction’ of 0.24 seconds per furlong. Using the above information, the Racing Post comes up with a Topspeed rating of 59 for Gentle Ben which is achieved with the following set of data:
- Race Distance (D): 7 furlongs which is 1,540 yards (1 furlong is 220 yards; 7 x 220 = 1540).
- Time of Winner (T): 99 seconds.
- Beaten Distance (B): 5. One length is defined as being 3 yards; as Gentle Ben was defeated by 2.5 lengths, he was beaten by 7.5 yards in total (2.5 x 3 = 7.5).
- Total Distance Covered (D2)[For Gentle Ben]: 5 yards. This is because he was beaten by 7.5 yards so he covered 1532.5 yards in 85.99 seconds.
- Speed (S): 82 seconds. This is calculated by dividing the Distance Covered and Time (1532.5/85.99).
- Time Behind Winner (T2): 0.42 seconds. This is calculated by dividing the Beaten Distance and the Speed (7.5/17.82).
- Comparison to Standard Time [C]: +2.21 seconds. This is calculated by adding the Time Behind Winner to the amount of time the winner was outside the RP Standard time mentioned above (0.42 + 1.79).
- Adjusted Comparison (A): +1.58 seconds. Remember, Topspeed ratings are adjusted to 5 furlongs or 1,100 yards. This means we multiply 1,100 by the Comparison to Standard Time and divide it by the actual Race Distance of 7 furlongs or 1,540 yards so (1,100 x 2.21 = 2,431/1,540 = 1.58 when rounded up).
- Going Correction (G): 24 seconds per furlong as mentioned above.
- G2: +2.78 seconds. This is the Going Correction adjusted for 5 furlongs which means 5 x Going Correction + the Adjusted Comparison (5 x 0.24 = 1.2 + 1.58 = 2.78).
- Pounds Equivalent of G2 (P): 16. Again, remember that in Flat races, distances get proportioned back to 5 furlongs and 1 second at 5f equals 22 pounds. Therefore, this figure is achieved by multiplying 22 by the G2 figure of 2.78 so it is (22 x 2.78 = 61.16).
- Weight Adjustment (W): -7. We simply subtract Gentle Ben’s race weight (9 stone 7) from the standard 9 stone figure used by the Racing Post so (126-133 = -7).
- Rating [R]: The formula used by the Racing Post here is (100-W-P + 13 wfa). Wfa stands for Weight for Allowance and is normally less generous to immature horses than the official scale. The 100 figure is of course the stock rating used by the RP for Topspeed so 100-W-P = (100 + 7 – 61.16 (because of the double negative) = 45.84 + 13 = 58.84; this is then rounded up to 59 which is Gentle Ben’s Topspeed rating.
Formula For Flat Races: 100-W + wfa – 22(1100C/D + 5G)
Formula For National Hunt Races: 135-W – 6(3520C/D + 16G). Note that there is no Weight For Allowance for jump race calculations.
How Useful Are Topspeed Ratings?
Topspeed and speed ratings in general tend to be put to better use on American tracks rather than UK ones. This is because courses in the U.S. often have similar configurations whereas every UK course is unique in its own way. As it turns out, there are a few things to consider:
In an ideal world, punters would be able to compare the times of races on different tracks but this is very hard when it comes to UK racing. For instance, a ‘5 furlong race’ at Newbury is actually 5f 34 yards (such as the Weatherbys Super Sprint) while at Beverley a 5 furlong race is 5f exactly.
The distance issue gets even more complicated on turf courses if running rails get reconfigured in order to provide fresh turf. If this change happens around a bend, the distance ran by horses can decrease if a running rail is removed or increase if the rail gets brought out at the bends. You won’t see any evidence of these changes in official records so this muddies the waters a bit.
In UK sprint races, horses tend to be reined in at the start and are only unleashed for a furious finish in the final couple of furlongs. You would expect the Topspeed rating to be quite different if the horses followed the U.S sprint race model of going all out from the start (and struggling to maintain speed at the finish).
It seems as if the Going Corrections included in the Topspeed calculations cannot be taken as Gospel. There are plenty of occasions when the Going Corrections published for past meetings are the same for races taking place over round and straight tracks. Clearly, there will be differences in wind speed and ground conditions for example.
Trying to create a system using Topspeed ratings is certainly complex and you need to have a head of numbers. These ratings could prove handy when used in conjunction with other data such as Official Ratings but they should not be relied upon on their own merits as there are too many variables preventing you from achieving an accurate figure.
The potential issues covered above only scratch the surface which suggests that Topspeed ratings, while a useful tool, contain enough flaws to treat them with caution.