Ever since famed Washington Post columnist and handicapper Andy Beyer wrote about his technique of speed handicapping in the 1970's, picking winners based on speed figure analysis has become the most popular system used. Originally the domain of players willing to invest the time and effort to calculate their own figures, nowadays Beyer's figures are readily available in the Daily Racing Form's past performance lines. Beyer Associates employs people whose job is to calculate the figure for every horse in every race in North America. One such person is Joe Cardello, a handicapping veteran of the New York and Maryland racing scenes for thirty years and a Beyer employee since 1991, when the figures were first introduced in the now-defunct Racing Times.
In his new book, Speed to Spare: Beyer Speed Figures Uncovered, Cardello explains to handicappers how to make the best use of this very powerful tool. In a concise, compact volume, the reader will quickly understand what patterns to look for in those figures in order to place a winning bet on an overlaid horse that on paper may not look to be the fastest or best in the field but, through the figures, shows potential for improvement that may be enough to result in a win over the more highly touted competition. As DRF chairman Steve Crist said, Cardello "goes far beyond simple comparisons and suggests entirely new ways to look at the figs that are provocative and enlightening." James Quinn, another DRF handicapper, adds, "Pattern recognition is probably the most important skill in using the Beyer Speed Figures effectively." Every race day is full of horses that are "cyclers", who very predictably cycle up and bounce down over a series of starts and are key horses to play or play against depending on cycle position.
Bounce theory is put to maximal use by Cardello, using the Beyers of a horse's last few starts to determine whether he is due to regress out of contention or if a horse has already regressed and is about to cycle up to a figure closer to his career best. Although bounce theory was first suggested by Len Ragozin, publisher of "The Sheets", a high-end competitor to Beyer and DRF, Cardello demonstrates that the theory works just as well with the much more affordable Beyer figures, saving a newcomer the extra investment but still remaining competitive in the pari-mutuel wars.
Unlike other handicapping books which often use examples in the distant past to "prove" obscure theories, Cardello used a narrow sample of races - three months in late summer of 2002, limited to New York, Delaware, and Pennsylvania - to show that his examples work in the run-of-the-mill races any bettor may encounter on any given day at any track in North America. A very useful section in the book, "Beyers on Grass", addresses the common concern that speed figures are not accurate in turf racing. He demonstrates that in fact the opposite is true, and that with a few adjustments (for example, horses don't bounce as severely) they are as effective a tool as they are on the main track.
Having discussed his theories in detail, the penultimate chapter, "Thinking Beyer", serves as an excellent review of the technique. Numerous examples in quick succession demonstrate where an overlaid winning horse can be found in contentious races or races where the favorite initially looked unbeatable.
This is an excellent book for racing fans that wager on regular day-to-day races. It is especially recommended to new horseplayers because of the very simple, easy to understand explanations Cardello uses. Cardello avoids the too-scientific look that has been seen in some books on handicapping theory. Andrew Beyer sums it up perfectly: "Joe Cardello is both a successful bettor and a member of the team that calculates the Beyer Speed Figures. In Speed to Spare, he shows how to use those figures intelligently, creatively, and profitably."
Joe Cardello published a pattern analysis of the 2003 Kentucky Derby contenders on the Daily Racing Form website, using the very theories explained in his book. He feels that Empire Maker is a "very logical, deserving favorite", and lists Ten Most Wanted as a "major contender" as well. You can view the full analysis here.
Speed to Spare has a list price of $14.95 and is available from Amazon.com for $10.47. This is the third book in DRF's Elements of Handicapping series. The first two are Off the Charts by Nick Borg and Handicapping Contest Handbook by Noel Michaels.
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