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Book Review

The Power of Early Speed
by Steve Klein
DRF Press, January 2006, 301 pages softcover

Most horse race bettors are familiar with the powerful "early speed" angle. The best example of this is when a horse is first out of the gate, saves ground on the turns, and leads every step of the way, easily holding off any late challenges from off the pace. In the latest book of the "Elements of Handicapping" series, Daily Racing Form's Kentucky handicapper Steve Klein closely examines this very important weapon in the pari-mutuel wars.

The traditional way to play this angle is to simply look at the past performances, determine if there is a lone early speed, and if there is, bet that horse. Some bettors may only place such a bet if there is a "speed bias" that day. Obviously such opportunities are few and far between. Using a computer analysis of over 200,000 races run at over 30 different tracks over a nine-year period and covering almost 1.7 million starters, Klein determined that the power of this angle has been vastly underestimated. Over this huge sample of races, the factor produced 28% winners and 56% profit. With these numbers, the key to success is to look not just for lone early speed but also for any horse that is likely to be on the lead at the first call. Finding such a horse as an overlay on the toteboard is the key to profitability at the betting windows.

With such a huge sample, Klein was able to sort the results in various ways. Which distances at which tracks are most favorable to early speed? Which jockeys and trainers are most successful with front-running horses? Is early speed more profitable in cheap claimers versus graded stakes? And of course, what is the effect of the track condition on early speed, both on the dirt and on the turf? Klein includes comprehensive charts listing the winning percentage and $2 win ROI (return on investment) for each and explains how to use them effectively. For example, a front-running horse that lost a race at a certain distance is entered back at a different distance. If the losing effort was over a distance unfavorable to early speed and is now entered at a more favorable distance, the horse should be an overlay on the board with most bettors looking elsewhere because of the poor effort last out.

Klein gives step-by-step instructions on how to apply these charts. First, he recommends you calculate his "speed points" to determine the front-runners in a given race. Then the charts are referred to, to see if the upcoming race is favorable to the speed. Bets are made according to this analysis. Obviously there are times when the early speed should not be backed, such as horses that consistently gun to the front and fade late, never getting a win. Klein also explains how to calculate his track-bias ratings, so that the bettor can record which days were truly biased in favor of or against the speed, for future reference when a horse which raced that afternoon returns several weeks later.

This is a very comprehensive work on this well-known handicapping angle. Thoroughbred handicappers looking for an extra edge may find it in Klein's method. The multiple charts compiled from that huge sample of races are what will make the book pay for itself multiple times over, as the angles that held true over a nine-year period are unlikely to change today except when tracks are rebuilt or when trainers and jockeys move to new circuits.

The Power of Early Speed has a list price of $14.95 and is available from Amazon.com for $9.72.

Rating:     4/5

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