doug — off the record

just a place to share some thoughts

How fast is that?

One of my little pleasures is going to harness races and watching these magnificent beasts in action.  I prefer Harness racing to Thoroughbred racing since it’s easier to figure out what’s happening.  I don’t have to worry about furlongs/miles and turf versus synthetic track.  The horses all race for one mile.

But it caught up with me last Sunday.  It was the second race and the #5 horse, Jake Parrish looked like this.  (Highlighting mine)


Depending upon who you talk to, the program tells you everything with all these numbers or it tells you nothing.  I prefer to think the former.

One of the things that you look at when you handicap is the speed of the horse.  In this case, Jake Parrish had times of 1:57 4/5 and 1:55 1/5 at Grand River Raceway.  He then moved to The Raceway in the Western Fair District where he ran 2:06 1/5 and 2:04 1/5.  Those were pretty big differences in speed.  Often, when you see that, it’s a sign that the horse may have some issues and is just having difficulties keeping his speed.

But, that’s not the story in this case.  If you look at the other highlighted area, you’ll see that the races at Western Fair were not at a distance of one mile.  In fact, they were at a distance of 1 1/16 miles.  How do you compare those races with every other horse in the field that had raced at the standard mile?

How much difference does the 1/16 mile make?

It was an interesting challenge.

Generally, 2:00 (2 minutes) is a standard for a harness horse to run a mile.

It would be nice to be able to convert the program time to an equivalent mile time.  Of course, there are other factors like being in shape, the push from the other horses, etc. but at least this would be a starting point.

Like all numbers, it should be easy enough to calculate.  But then, thanks to my mathematics teachers of the past, I realized that the answer might be staring at me in the face.  Leamington is a 1/2 mile track so a race there makes two laps.  So, a single lap would be half a mile.  All things being equal, it should look like this as I work my way to 1/16.

 1   mile - 2:00
 1/2 mile - 1:00 
 1/4 mile - 0:30
 1/8 mile - 0:15
1/16 mile - 0:07 1/2

A horse can run quite a distance in 7 1/2 seconds.

This seems easy enough.  So, that 2:04 1/5 would estimate to 1:56 4/5.  That number is consistent with his past races.  So it looks like he is in racing form.

Is that close enough?  Is there a way to get an exact calculation?

Of course and another thanks to a mathematics teacher.  I just have to divide 2:04 1/5 by 1 1/16.  I’d start by converting minutes and seconds to minutes.  Remember ratio and proportion?  How about improper fractions?  How about invert and multiply?  All of this came rushing back!

I won’t show my rough work but will confess to feeling pretty silly later knowing that I had a calculator and Wolfram Alpha on my phone.  As it turns out, my initial estimation was pretty good.

So, the next time you get the question “When will we need all this?”, you never know where a good example might pop up.

By the way, Jake Parrish won the race and a $2.00 Win wager paid $5.90.

Full results here.


Please share your thoughts here. I’d enjoy reading them.

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