Brisnet Speed ratings can make small fields playable

November 22nd, 2022

The power of speed figures—and specifically the Brisnet Speed ratings published in Brisnet Past Performances—came to the forefront in the 2022 Bob Hope (G3) at Del Mar.

At first glance, the Bob Hope seemed like an unappealing race to bet. The seven-furlong sprint for juveniles featured only five starters following a pair of scratches, and one of them—Havnameltdown (odds of 9-10)—was a heavy favorite. Generating a meaningful return on investment seemed unlikely.

But even five-horse fields with heavy favorites can be nicely profitable under the right circumstances, and Brisnet Speed ratings indicated the Bob Hope was just such an opportunity.

Brisnet Speed ratings gauge how fast a horse has run in the past by placing their final time in context with the speed of the racing surface over which they competed. The higher the number, the faster the performance.

In the Bob Hope, Havnameltdown was an obvious Speed rating standout. After posting an 88 in his debut victory, Havnameltdown won the Best Pal (G3) with a 102 before finishing second in the prestigious Del Mar Futurity (G1), earning a 98. In contrast, none of his Bob Hope rivals had posted a Speed rating higher than 94.

Second choice Newgate (7-5) appeared formidable as well after posting consistent Speed ratings of 89, 90, and 88 in his first three starts, including a fourth-place finish in the Del Mar Futurity.

Practical Move (9.30-1) boasted a higher peak Speed rating than Newgate, having earned a 94 when finishing second in his debut behind future Del Mar Futurity winner Cave Rock. But Practical Move regressed to Speed ratings of 85 and 84 in two subsequent starts, suggesting Newgate would have the edge in the Bob Hope.

Mixto (20.80-1) was next in line with Speed ratings of 85, 86, and 83. One might have made a case for Mixto to challenge for third place except that he’d finished behind Practical Move in both of their meetings, suggesting Mixto was more likely to finish fourth than nab a spot in the trifecta.

Completing the field was Capote S. winner Hard to Figure (9-1), whose Speed ratings of 81, 78, and 85 suggested he was the slowest horse in the field despite entering the Bob Hope off a stakes win.

So what happened in the Bob Hope? Havnameltdown pressed and set a quick pace before edging clear to beat Newgate by 1 1/4 lengths. Practical Move settled for third place by a clear margin over Mixto, while Hard to Figure faded from a pacesetting position to finish last.

Not every race unfolds exactly as Brisnet Speed ratings suggest, because Brisnet Speed ratings only look at the past, and horses can improve or regress expectedly or unexpectedly in any given race. But it wasn’t hard to view the Bob Hope as an opportunity to play straight exotic wagers based on Brisnet Speed ratings, and bettors who favored the logical outcome were rewarded with payoffs of $3.90 for the $1 exacta, $9.70 for the $1 trifecta, and $20.20 for the $1 superfecta.

Wait—that perfectly predictable superfecta paid 19-1? Maybe the Bob Hope wasn’t an unappealing betting race after all.