As many of you know I'm a numbers guy. I'm always looking for ways to quantify what I see and find numbers to back up opinions.
Whether we believe in them strongly or not Beyer figures have changed the way most people handicap and they also have a great effect on people who are trying to identify the strength of a given group.
It's mid-January and some people are already beginning to wonder where the fast horses or whether or not this crop will even have any.
It's no secret that the average Beyer figures earned by Triple Crown prospects have been declining in recent years. But recently I've begun to question if the horses are really slower or if maybe the figures are misleading us.
I have taken a recent fancy to the old fashioned DRF Speed Ratings and Track Variants. Unlike the mystical secret sauce added to most speed figures these ratings simply tell you how fast the race was in comparison to all the races run at that distance in the last three years. The variant is an average of how all the other races fared that day in relation to the fastest times for their respective distances.
If the horses are truly getting slower than more than just the Beyer Speed Figures ought to be in decline. The speed ratings should tell the same story. Consider this table below.
The first chart shows the avg Beyer's and DRF Speed Ratings (plus Variants) for the last start prior to the Derby for each Derby entrant for more than a decade. You can see the Beyer's steadily declining but the Variant's staying just about the same.
The second chart shows an average of all the Kentucky Derby prep winning figures since 1996 and the corresponding DRF Speed and Variants. Although the Variants are in a minor phase of decline you can see that the differential between them and the Beyer figures is increasing by quite a bit.
Draw what conclusions you will but I suspect that these horses aren't nearly as slow as the numbers suggest.