Can we get this right?

Timing is everything is something I often say.

The Breeders’ Cup Classic is obviously a major event in the Sport of Kings. I’d say it is second in stature to only the Kentucky Derby but garners a fair share of excitement, fans, and of course, handle. We have year to year to prepare for its running. There should be no excuses not to get it right.

There is nobody I know in the game who pays more and better attention to timing races than Craig Milkowski of Timeform US. If not for his dedication and man-hours, we probably wouldn’t officially know how many races contain timing errors and flaws. I contend that improperly timed races or races that have errors in timing affect the most important aspects of handicapping. Those same flaws and errors have tentacles that reach into breeding and even sales. Horses are at times bought, sold, and bred based on times of their races and records. Wagers are calculated and placed based on times. This needs to be a precise science with little or no margin for error, and it can be.
On our biggest stage, or maybe the second biggest stage, with the worldwide racing community on us, Keeneland and Equibase had little choice but to issue the following statement:
Prior to the running of the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic (Gr. 1) on November 7, 2020, at Keeneland, a photo eye at the start of the race was inadvertently tripped, which resulted in an error when attempting to operate the timing system manually causing inaccurate timing for all fractions and the final time of the race. A final time of 1:59.19 was initially provided by Equibase using the available video replay.
“After subsequent and more detailed review and timing of the race from multiple sources and camera angles, Keeneland and Equibase have determined the fractional times for the Classic (:23.20, :46.84, 1:10.32, 1:34.64) and confirmed a final time of 1:59.60. The Classic chart has been updated and the running of Authentic in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic is now the official track record for the 1 1/4-mile distance at Keeneland.”

Well, at least it was caught and corrected as it should be. I do not understand how if the beam was tripped early the fractional time for the first quarter was not slower than normal. The racetrack feed showed 17:19, which even on that super-fast strip could not be accurate. 23.20 was definitely more like it. Regardless if the beam, as they say, was tripped early, the time should have been slower, not faster. Maybe they didn’t think the statement through, or maybe I am missing something.
Trakus, a popular GPS system with chicklets used by Keeneland and plenty of other racetracks in the US to track the location of each horse throughout each race, published the following times for the 2020 Classic: :23.20, :47.06, 1:10.84, 1:35.00 and 1:59.82.

Dirt or turf it didn’t matter. The best of the best ran fast and broke records on Breeders’ Cup weekend.

6 furlongs (1:07.89) by Nashville in the Perryville Stakes;

6 1/2 furlongs (1:14.99) by Highly Motivated in the Nyquist Stakes;

7 furlongs (1:20.20) by Gamine in the G1 Filly & Mare Sprint;

1 mile (1:33.85) by Knicks Go in the G1 Dirt Mile;

1 1/4 miles (1:59.60) by Authentic in the Classic;

1 5/8 miles (2:42.57) by Rocketry in the G2 Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance Stakes.

1 3/16 miles (1:52.72) by Aurdarya in the Filly & Mare Turf for the one and only turf track record to fall

Are those times correct? Who knows? You’d have to hand time them to have real confidence at this point.

If this can happen in the Breeders’ Cup, we can imagine what happens on a Wednesday in the 4th at Tampa or some other track that doesn’t have millions of eyes on it.

Owners and trainers should be balking at this also.

This is really not that deep. We all know tracks, breeders, owners, and trainers all love fast horses and times. If they are not accurate or if they are souped up, than what do they truly mean. The Keeneland track was very fast, and those good horses will excel over that kind of strip. Isn’t that enough? Why in the world do we need run ups? In my opinion, they’re ridiculous. You move the gate an unspecified amount of distance beyond the scheduled race distance so that the horses have a running start before the beams that often don’t work right trip and start timing the race. This way, we are timing races from a running start as opposed to flat out of the gate. This makes the times appear faster on paper. I view it as a cheap trick.

I believe races should be times from the starting gate at the true distance. Yes, the times would be slower, but it would be much easier to get them accurate, and the industry would adjust. Do you think buyers would cease going to the sales and spending money if horses ran three quarters of a mile in a minute and thirteen seconds? I don’t think they would.

Times and distances need to be an exact science. This is a skill game, and we are treating it like a carnival game.

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Jon Stettin

Since childhood, Jon has always had a deep love and respect for the Sport of Kings. His years of experience have earned him a well respected spot in the industry as a handicapper. He now is a frequent contributor to AmWager as well as writing for his own site.

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