Speed as the
“Universal Bias”

It’s common knowledge among horseplayers that "early speed is the universal bias."

This is probably especially true in sprint races from 5F up to 6 1/2 panels.

The highest return on investment in thoroughbred racing is achieved by horses that have the lead at the first call, which in sprints is after 2 furlongs or one-quarter of a mile has been run.

It is, however, easier said than done to accurately predict which horse will have the lead at that point in the race.

This of course is not to say that it’s a wise decision to try to identify and then bet to win the horse that will have the first call lead in every single match up.

Some basic handicapping should be applied to the mix, such as noting how many speeds are in the race, what the post position is of the horse projected to have the lead and other factors.

So how does one accurately predict the early leader?

In my opinion the best gauge is the William Quirin speed point calculations, and while there are a number of software programs and past performances with these numbers included, they are not always accurate.

If you are interested in how it’s done, please read the following excerpt taken from William Quirin's writings.

Quirin Speed Points

  • Quirin speed points are always regarding the first call point of a race

  • We use the last 3 races unless one of those was run at a a route, in which case we adhere to the rules below concerning a route in today’s sprint race.

    Each horse in a race will be credited with a certain number of "speed points" for each of 3 recent races.

    We start with the most recent race and work backward, never going back farther than 5 races in the horse’s record, to find 3 "ratable" races.

    The horse’s speed point total for these 3 races will represent a consensus of its recent ability to flash early speed in today's sprint.

    Each horse in the race starts with 1 speed point credited to its account.

    Sprints – up to 7 1/2 furlongs: speed points:

  • 1 point for any sprint in which the horse was 1st, 2nd, or 3rd at the first call, and/or (with an exception for 7F and 7 1/2F races)

  • 1 point for any sprint in which the horse led or was within 2 lengths of the lead at the first call

  • 0 points for any other sprint performance

  • 0 points for any route, unless the horse was within 1 length of the lead at the first call, in which case the race is passed over and not counted in the rated races, meaning we must go back to the prior qualifying race; the horse receives a bye for that race

    (At 7 and 7 1/2 furlongs, a horse is eligible for 2 points – see 2nd bullet - only if he led at the first call)

    So a horse may receive from 0 to 2 speed points for each of 3 races.

    For a sprint, only past sprints can contribute to the total – all route efforts receive either 0 points or a bye.

    For past races at 7 or 7 1/2 furlongs, a horse is eligible for 2 points only if it led at the first call.

    If the horse had been 2nd or 3rd, or within 2 lengths (or both) at the first call, it receives only 1 point.

    Award 1 bonus point to horses that led or raced within a neck of the lead at the first call of all 3 rated races, for a maximum total of 8.

    Any horse that receives only 1 speed point that was in the rear half of its field at the first call in each of its rated sprints must be penalized 1 point, giving it a new total of 0 points.

    Likewise for the horse with 1 speed point whose last 5 races were all routes, with none of the last 3 resulting in a bye.

    If the horse has been in the rear half of the field in the rated races, deduct the initial point for a 0 rating.

    In the book, "Winning at the Races" by William L. Quirin, Ph.D., the subject of speed points is discussed in full by the author on pages 32 through 40.