Whenever a horse earns a speed figure that looks too good, it is fair to scrutinize it. After all, cross-examining these numbers is a better practice than blindly accepting.
In an otherwise routine round of stakes races last weekend, Come Dancing’s 114 Beyer Speed Figure in Aqueduct's Distaff Handicap (G3) -- the best Beyer assigned so far this year -- clearly stands out.
On TimeformUS' scale, the number is a less exciting 119, which roughly equates to a 99 Beyer. Regardless, this is a good race to use because the 114 Beyer is an abnormal figure that stands out from Come Dancing's previous efforts.
Even if the figure is accurate, trusting the 114 in a race analysis will prove difficult given she enjoyed a perfect trip. Furthermore, Marley’s Freedom defeated Come Dancing two starts back in the Go for Wand Handicap (G3), and she is not a 114-type runner.
The Distaff Handicap pace scenario gave Come Dancing a comfortable lead. For the seven-furlong race, she waltzed through fractions of 23.40, 46.68 and 1:10.21. TimeformUS coded all three fractions in blue confirming the slow pace.
Come Dancing had Yorkiepoo Princess chasing her a length behind, but the two never met eye to eye throughout the race. Overall, it was a relatively uncontested lead.
Because Come Dancing reserved energy in the initial stages against weaker competition, she powered home and drew off by more than seven lengths.
But look at what happened in the Go For Wand in December.
Come Dancing did not set the pace, but she took her best shot on the outside anyway against Marley's Freedom, a horse who does not normally earn Beyers above 105. In the replay below, Marley's Freedom kept Come Dancing at bay in the stretch run.
Marley’s Freedom earned a 102 Beyer Speed Figure for winning the Go for Wand. Then, she earned a 99 Beyer for taking the Santa Monica Handicap (G2), before finishing second in the Beholder Mile (G1) won by Secret Spice, who earned a 100.
No one doubts Marley’s Freedom’s status as one of the top sprinters in this division, but she is not capable of a 114 Beyer. Yet, Come Dancing earned a 114 next time.
In fairness, Come Dancing improved last winter. Perhaps she belongs in the top sprint races for older fillies and mares, and she might win a couple of them. But if she does start in a Grade 1 or 2 next time and meets Marley’s Freedom or another top sprinter, in no way is the 114 Beyer Speed Figure indicative that she is several lengths better.
Think about the pace scenario and trip to cross-examine an abnormally high speed figure. Then study the speed figures of the horse in question, and the competition’s usual speed figures from that race and previous races.
If it is too good to be true, then it probably is.
Where does Roadster fit?
Besides Come Dancing’s high Beyer Figure, none of the other speed figures from the weekend stuck out too much.
On TimeformUS, Roadster earned a mild 113 last weekend, and that comes after a 108 for the optional claiming win on March 1. To put that figure into perspective, Tax scored a 121 for running second in the Wood Memorial (G2), while the winner Tacitus ran a 120. Vekoma also topped Roadster by earning a 119 in the Blue Grass Stakes (G2).
On Beyer Figures, Roadster’s speed figure is 98, which actually puts him ahead of Tax, Tacitus and Vekoma. Tacitus earned a 97 Beyer, and Vekoma got a 94. Even though Roadster is rated higher on Beyer Speed Figures, he is still not that different than them.
But some argue Roadster is the best 3-year-old in Baffert’s barn and a definite Top 5 Derby contender. It is hard to argue those points because he keeps winning.
Are the numbers underrating Roadster? Using the Come Dancing/Marley Freedom example from above in reverse fashion, here is an attempt to cross-examine Roadster’s low number using the Santa Anita Derby runner-up Game Winner.
Game Winner received a 118 TimeformUS number in the Rebel Stakes (G2) off the layoff when he lost to Omaha Beach. Furthermore, Game Winner is an accomplished colt who went undefeated as a 2-year-old and won the American Pharoah (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
If Roadster could defeat Game Winner in his second start off the bench, and Omaha Beach defeated Game Winner at Oaklawn Park, then it certainly makes Roadster appear more capable than the 113 TimeformUS awarded him in the Santa Anita Derby.
This is not necessarily questioning the 113 figure. Rather, it is suggesting Roadster's potential for moving forward is high given what he defeated. Roadster not only beat Game Winner, but Instagrand was also present and faded to third. Instagrand’s past opponents, Mind Control and Much Better, ran 1-2 in the Bay Shore Stakes (G3).
Instagrand’s distance limitations are noted as well as Game Winner’s wide trip. Plus, the hype on Roadster is strong. As Derby bettors search for the one dominant horse, they tend to latch onto ones from established barns like Bob Baffert.
An improving sprinter
Beyer gave him a 100, while he only earned a 112 on TimeformUS. Remember, the scale difference is roughly 20 points, which means the 112 equates to roughly a 92 Beyer Figure. But TimeformUS also penalized World of Trouble for the slow pace.
Given World of Trouble’s previous 124 and 128 TimeformUS Speed Figures in his winter races, expect him to cycle back to the 120-plus range on TimeformUS next time.