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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


By Keith Pettyjohn — As Founder and Chief Figure Maker at, I review the Graded Stakes Races from the previous weekend.

At the end of that review process, I compile many data points that eventually become the Grades for each graded stakes race and a Class-Based Performance Ratings for each winner.

One additional step I take for further examination is to compare my figures with those from other top services.

And now I’m going to share some information that I found to be rather intriguing from this research.

On Sunday September 20 they ran the Grade 1 Summer Stakes at Woodbine. It was a one mile event for two year old colts and geldings on turf rated firm. The race went off at 4:31pm.

The winner of the race was Gretzky The Great. He completed the race in 1:34.53. For this accomplishment, he received an 83 Beyer Speed Figure.

Well, at 5:38pm, 67 minutes later, they ran the Grade 1 Natalma Stakes, for juvenile fillies at the same distance and the course condition did show a discernable change.

Lady Speightspeare was the winner in a final time of 1:34.61, just eight one-hundredths of a second slower than the earlier race. Yet she only received a 76 Beyer Speed Figure.

For two races to be so close in their final times, I was left scratching my head as to why the BSF’s would have this seven point gap.

Continuing my investigation, I decided to take a look at the figures given to each horse from another popular speed figure service, TimeformUS.

Gretzky The Great was assigned a figure of 96 and Lady Speightspeare rated a 92, a four-point gap. The Chief Figure Maker there addressed this disparity on a popular podcast on Tuesday.

He explained that the difference in figures was greatly attributed to the pace difference, especially since pace is a major part of their figures.

Let’s take a closer look at the pace of each race. The Summer Stakes went 24.1 for the opening quarter, 47.82 to the half-mile and 1:11.11 for six furlongs.

By comparison. the Natalma fractions were 23.77, 47.92 and 1:11.59 for six furlongs; very comparable and compatible yet such a difference in the final ratings.

As a result, I can only suggest that this is a “Caveat Emptor” scenario or, paraphrasing, “let the bettor beware”.

There six Graded Stakes Races from this past weekend. Below you will find their letter grade and the winner’s Class-Based Performance Rating.

Please note that both of the aforementioned stakes races received a C- grade, indicating that they were of the same quality competitively.

And also note that the difference in the GSR Ratings was only one point:

Grade 1 Woodbine Mile (A) // Starship Jubilee–104

Grade 1 Salvator Stakes (A) // Pirate’s Punch–102

Grade 3 Singspiel (A-) // Count Again–97

Grade 1 Belmont Oaks (B) // Magic Attitude–89

Grade 1 Summer Stakes (C-) // Gretzky The Great–75

Grade 1 Natalma Stakes (C-) // Lady Speightspeare–74


The Brad Cox barn has been red hot. They’re winning races at Churchill Downs at a 21% clip and have won multiple graded stakes in the last few weeks.

This year’s edition of the G3 Ack Ack looks like an excellent spot for his 9/5 morning line favorite, #1 Warrior’s Charge. This horse has a ton of early speed and could possibly have things his way throughout.

However, I expect some pace pressure from  #6 Pioneer Spirit and #12 Home Base. Even though these two horses lack his class and current form, they should at least keep the pace honest. 

Warrior’s Charge has a major class edge over this field having competed in four straight graded stakes. In February he won the G3 Razorback Handicap with a Class-Based Performance Rating of 100.

He ran second in May in the G2 Oaklawn Handicap behind By My Standards, earning a GSR of 103. He was able to match that figure in his next start, finishing second fourth behind Vekoma in the G1 Metropolitan Handicap.

In his most recent start, the G3 Philip Iselin, he encountered some late traffic troubles, only able to post a 97.

That brings us to our price play. For that, I’m turning to Steve Asmussen trainee #9 Bankit (10-1). This horse loves to come from off of the pace. And with three horses capable of setting fast, honest fractions, he should get a desirable set-up.

In his last graded stakes effort, the G3 Razorback, he only lost to Warrior’s Charge by a head. Also like to note that Bankit does his best running in the stretch. And with Churchill Downs having one of the longest stretches in the game, it should suit him well.

EXACTA:  #1 Warrior’s Charge over #9 Bankit

TRIFECTA: #1 Warrior’s Charge on top , with #2 Bourbon Calling, #4 American Anthem, #8 Ebben and #13 Everfast in second and #9 Bankit singled in third.

SUPERFECTA: I’ll take my Trifecta ticket, use “ALL” for third, and single #9 Bankit in fourth. 

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⚠ Before you comment

Our staff likes nothing better than to engage with the HRI Faithful and provide a forum for interaction on horseracing and sports. In that spirit, please be kind and reasonable; keep the language clean, and the tone civil. Comments from those who cannot comply will be deleted. Thank you.

20 Responses

  1. Thank you Keith for explaining in detail Exactly what your doing for people like me that doesn’t quite understand all yet.

  2. HRI Readers,

    Have a difference of opinion, think the handicapper, whoever it is, wrong? Great! That’s what racing is about, a difference of opinion.

    But make your rebuttals, criticisms, opinions, whatever to challenge–but do it respectfully.

    Several commenters I know are using multiple accounts to try to get around things, why I have no idea, nor do I care. They have the time, I do not.

    If there’s no harm, there’s no foul. I could care less. If that’s not the case, however, comments will be deleted and future comments blocked.

    I mention this because there was an attack on HRI weekly contributor Keith Pettyjohn that got personal. It was deleted, as was Mr. Pettyjohn’s response. But hey these things happen. Families fight, right??

    1. You can make and claim any excuse you wish but the fact remains that this K P with a PO Box address cannot pick a winner nor a placing horse. This Is an ongoing Fact. No fake Congrats but Condolences. Your rep,
      whatever it is, is sinking with this BS of an albatross on your neck. Face the truth, it will set you free.

    1. Thanks Doc
      The horse has a lot of talent. However he has not moved forward or blossomed into that potential. So hopefully he can get a good pace set up and can use that long stretch to his advantage.

  3. Keith – Good Morning
    I agree 100% with Warriors Charge being the horse to beat and Bankit as the closer { finish 2-3-or 4}
    So here is my question — Using your horses above —
    Why not do a .50 tri. 1 x 5 x 5 = $10.00 ?
    Which is #1 with #2 #4 #8 #9 #13 with #2 #4 #8 #9 #13
    Or a .10 super # 1 with #2 #4 #8 #9 #13 with #2 #4 #8 #9 #13 with #2 #4 #8 #9 #13 = $6.00
    I know that you and other people like to slot horses in 2nd – 3rd – 4th. What is disadvantage to slotting horses underneath in the tri. and super wagers?
    I would like your opinion on slotting horses underneath. Seems harder to me to hit the tri. or super slotting — Now this may sound hard to believe — but I could be wrong in my thought process — would not be the first time nor the last time either — but this is it — I am who I am. My wife is so lucky — I Think?
    As you know on tri. bets I like to use 4 horses and box a .50 tri = $12.00
    If I really like a horse to win – I will use the 1 x 5 x 5 wager.
    I feel like I have a better chance underneath with more horses in each slot – provided my single comes in first.
    What say you ?

  4. First….thanks for taking the time to read the article and to make a comment.

    Second…..dude….you REALLY don’t think that you’re wife is the lucky one? (I could write a page-turner right here on this topic alone)

    Thirdly…..let’s get back to the races.
    You’re referencing betting strategy. And there are a TON on ways to play this game. I actually hate when I hear the “Talking Heads” get on tv, radio or a podcast and say that “This is the right way that you play this game.” When in all actuality, that’s what’s best for them.

    I know a guy who bets $10,000 to show and on a few occasions to place. He’s very selective in his bets to where he’ll end up with one and sometimes two bets per month. He’ll risk $20,000 that month to make sometimes as little as $1,000. Now for me and my mathematical, analytical mind, that’s not a good return on investment. But from his viewpoint, he just made $1,000 for the month playing the horses and he only needed one or two bets all month to do it.

    Now, I have another friend out at Lone Star Park (who has started reading HRI and will probably see this)…he ONLY slots horses on tri’s and super’s. That’s what works for him.
    Also, there’s another guy who bets Pick 4-5-6 tickets that normally cost $1,000 – $4,000. He hopes to land some bombs and big payouts. And a lot of times, he scores. But once again, that doesn’t work for me.

    The point being to all of this, is that there are a lot of ways to play this game. And you have to find what works for you and what’s comfortable for you. What track? What type of bet? How much to bet? How often to bet? Watch replays or don’t watch replays? What company’s PP’s will you use? What tout service will you use? and so on and so on.

    Now for you, since you usually only play on Saturdays and it’s your way of having a little fun and getting out of the house, it makes total sense to NOT slot horses. You’re only playing a few races each week. So your methodology makes total sense and it’s within your comfort zone

    Slotting horses is more of a style of play for your everyday player and volume players. We play a lot of races each day and therefore a lot of races each week. So slotting horses helps to manage bankroll. But for the person who only plays a few races each week and they are playing in the exotic pools, it’s probably makes even more sense to NOT have a single horse on top. Therefore when their top pick runs second to a horse that they had in the play, they still cash.

    When the dime super started in horse racing, I used to bet three over three over five over six. That’s a $5.40 ticket. Over a ten race card, its a whopping $54. I didn’t have to hit many races to turn a profit. And before many people became efficient at betting the dime supers, it was very lucrative. Prior to that when I was a Saturday only play in the late-eighties and mid-nineties, I played a lot of $1 tri’s. Two over three over four. It is an $8 bet. And over ten races, that’s $80 for the day. Well, once again, you don’t have to hit many $1 tri’s to turn a profit.

    1. Now for this website and the piece that I do here each week, I try to find a horse who’s Moring Line odds are 10-1 or greater in a Graded Stakes Race and I try to draw-up a scenario where that horse can hit the board and help the exotics to pay. As you know that our Graded Stakes Races have small fields and the M/L oddsmaker typically does a rather efficient job with the oddsline. So trying to find that proverbial “needle in the haystack” where he has made a mistake, is actually quite harder than it looks. (But I’m not shying away from the challenge).

      So when I make a pick here, I try NOT to lump that horse in with the rest of the picks because I’m playing him to hit the board. But when I’m making my bets, I do make several backup bets, and when they come in, I still cash, I recoup my investment and sometimes even turn a nice profit.

  5. First – you are welcome
    Second – Why, Yes – Sorry ladies – I am taken
    Third – good points made by you , Yes- A persons bankroll is the key to the volume one can play
    Forth – Thanks

  6. Mr. Pettyjohn: Since you agree (in a prior comment) that claiming races are easier to handicap (in many years commenting here at HRI, not one contributor or commentator would address the question I asked frequently), I have another question for you since you like to work with numbers: How is it possible for ‘geeks’ with their supposedly computer programs to make last minute bets that will reduce the payoff on horses when the pari-mutuel system does not have fixed odds, meaning when one plodder is bet heavily all other entrants odds go up? And, when several entrants are bet their odds drop while all others go up. What horseplayer is going to bet thousands of dollars at the last minute on a number of platers reducing the payoff to himself?

    If the odds were fixed odds not variable odds changing constantly, I would be inclined to consider last minute wagering by geeks as probable; but, when the odds are variable any significant wager changes odds of all entrants – a stumbling block for anyone attempting to manipulate payoffs.

    Methinks that last minute ‘batch’ betting by these so-called computer geniuses is a myth; but there are thousands of horseplayers that will ‘send it in’ on a plater as they are loading – go figure!

  7. Great question….I’ve actually tried to address this question to a couple of friends. Let’s see if I can do a good job of typing it out.

    Unlike you and I who are trying to make a profit from gambling on horses, these Computer Gambling Outfits only need to break even. They bet millions and millions of dollars per year thru the gambling windows and they get on average 8% rebate. So, $10 million bet at 8% is a nice and tidy $800K profit for the year. Afterall, they only broke even from betting. And if there was a small profit from betting, all the better for them.

    Now let me dive a little more into two that I KNOW about and two more that I’ve HEARD about.
    In one, the human has to turn the computer on, indicate what tracks are to be played that day, download the PP’s, load them into the computer, logon to their ADW/tote system that they have direct access to the pools. And from there the computer does all of the work.
    1) it determines fair odds usually based upon speed figures, trainer stats, jockey stats and workouts
    2) it determines how much to bet based upon that track and current pool size. So it knows that it can bet $40 at Portland Meadows, $100 at Delta Downs and $1600 at Saratoga.
    3) some require the human to hit “SUBMIT or CONFIRM”. others have that programmed in too so the human doesn’t have to do anything else for the rest of the day but logoff and look at the tally sheet at the end of the day.
    4) the bets are made as close to post time as possible. So you will see horses in the gate at one price, and you’ll see them at normally that same price when first posted on the screen, but just a few seconds later you’ll see a change in the odds (sometimes significantly) by the time they turn for home or just after crossing the wire. That’s because the last and final tote updates in America doesn’t happen until between 23 and 32 seconds after the start of the race
    5) the Pari-Mutuel system is Total Amount bet in to the pool minus Takeout equals Pool to be returned to the bettors and it gets divided by the number of winning tickets. Therefore when money is dumped on a horse, his odds will go down. Conversely, other horses odds will go up.

    So hopefully I’ve done a good enough job of explaining it so that it makes sense. But I can tell you, it’s no myth. And I can also tell you, that Fixed Odds are not necessarily good for this sport. They have their place, mostly in the Future Pools and “Futures” style of bets (it just needs to be developed more). But going away from the Pari-Mutuel system would not be good for us.

    1. You can make and claim any excuse you wish but the fact remains that this K P with a PO Box address cannot pick a winner nor a placing horse. This Is an ongoing Fact. No fake Congrats but Condolences. Your rep,
      whatever it is, is sinking with this BS of an albatross on your neck. Face the truth, it will set you free.

  8. Thank you for your detailed answer to my question. However, I still do not believe late computer wagering via syndicates exists. Odds of a bet winning do not seem to be considered. Batch wagering must be based on show, place, and win bets which have the best odds for cashing a ticket. I don’t know what the odds of winning an exacta, trifecta, pick five, et cetera are but the odds are way down the ladder from a win bet. And I am sure that no syndicate chases them

    The premise of computer wager appears to be to breakeven and collect a rebate from the amounts wagered. For these geeks to breakeven they must have a superior handicapping system than I, you, or other ‘cappers have. It is just to much of a stretch to accept that a group of horseplayers with supposedly access to wagering pools are willing to wager over a year, say, $5,000,000, incur takeout of roughly $900,000, have a bit over $4 mil ‘working’, be a major contributor to a wagering pool that drives down the payoffs of the horses they bet (which makes them their own worst enemy) and find the need to breakeven on all bets made for the year.

    My win bet never changes the odds of the plater I selected throughout a year and I am all out to breakeven for the year. To think that knocking the odds down further to collect a rebate amount which computer batch wagering seeks just doesn’t compute with me.

    Over and out.

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