We live in a day and age of convenience. We have allowed our lives to become so busy it has become necessary to make many life essentials faster and easier. Meal preparation is one of those things that has come a long way. At one time you needed a minimum rank of sous-chef to be able to get the right blend of spices for sauces. Now you simply rip open the Club House package and follow the simple two step directions. Excellence has become ordinary and all at once it's become more difficult to impress your friends at a dinner party. They can buy that pre-packed seasoning as easily as you can.
There are many parallels in the world of handicapping. In past generations advanced thinkers made their own speed figures. Meticulous chart keepers kept breakdowns of trainer percentages to find niches. Those who actually watched the races at the track had a massive advantage because you couldn't see races anywhere else. Now you can choose from at least 5 different popular speed figures, trainer stats are automatically kept and anyone with a computer can get a better view of the race than you did while at the track.
It's hard to be different in your approach to handicapping these days. It seems like every angle is covered by someone with a daily updated website. So how can you find an edge? Some go back to the old ways but I prefer to look for ways to enhance the modern pre-packaged tools we've got. If I may belabor the food analogy, you don't need to do all the work of duplicating the pre-packed seasoning all you may need is to add something extra that may have been overlooked like a touch of saffron or oregano (my personal favorite spice!)
One of the ways I've been adding that extra pinch of pepper to the pre-pack is making my own composite average speed figures. Beyer, BRISnet and the DRF TR/SV figures are widely available. A lot of people use speed figures but between all the different brands of figures you often get widely varied interpretations of how good a race actually was. Some swear by a particular type of numbers but I'm of the opinion that most of them have some merit so why not glean all the information presented by each of them.
There are many different ways to do this but the method I use has to do with finding the averages then using only those horses who are faster on average than the field at this specific races approximate conditions. I isolate surface, distance within 1f and the class of the race. Then I use all the speed figures that horse has earned in those races during the last fiscal year. Find the average of those figures then compare them to the fields average. I do this with at least three different types of speed figures then with a little mathematical manipulation I boil the averages down to one number. A rating of 100 means the horse is exactly as fast as the field average at these conditions. Obviously the higher the rating the faster the horse is in comparison to their competition.
The results of this method have been surprisingly good since I've begun testing it at the turn of the year. Here is a real live example of one race coming up this weekend, the Stymie Handicap. This is how the Speed Rating ranks the field.
Researcher - 105.44
Barcola - 104.57
Brilliant Son - 102.54
True Resurgence - 99.73
Judiths Wild Rush - 99.58
Manteca - 99.06
Barrier Reef - 98.22
Real Merchant - 90.87
According to these numbers one should focus on Researcher, Barcola and Brilliant Son for the win and no one else. I know it would be much safer to print the ratings for a race that has already been run. That way I could pick the most formful race of the lot but I'm not interested in skewing any one's perception by cherry picking the best results. I've been pleased with how things have worked out with this rating thus far and hopefully it won't embarrass me too much in this race.
There are tons of ways to play the races and make great use of the sophisticated tools we all have access to these days. All you need to do is think outside the box a bit to find that extra element that can give you an edge.