Beyer Speed Figures (BSF) are among the most useful handicapping tools in Kentucky Derby betting. Of the last 31 Kentucky Derby winners, 28 of them had posted at least a 95 BSF leading up to the race (90.3%); 11 of the previous 13 posted a 100+ BSF. There’s a strong correlation between a horse’s posted BSF and winning the Kentucky Derby.
How does the field stack up against one another? We’ll look at the best and most recent BSF for each horse in the current Kentucky Derby probables.
What Are Beyer Speed Figures?
Horse racing handicapper Andrew Beyer designed BSF in the early 1970s as a handicapping tool. The purpose was to quantify a horse’s speed in a given race to compare with other horses. Win margin tells only half the story – was the field fast? Slow? BSF sorts through track length, field strength, and all other variables to create a tidy number that can be applied to future races.
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2023 Kentucky Derby Beyer Speed Figures Standings
|Horse||Best BSF||Last BSF|
|Angel of Empire||94||94|
Using BSF Numbers To Pick A Winner
TheLines editor Stephen Andress penned a helpful guide on narrowing down a Kentucky Derby winner. Step 1 in that guide is to look at BSF numbers and eliminate horses who have not posted a 95+. On that principle alone, half the field can be removed from winning consideration.
Skinner, who fills in for Wild On Ice, posted a top BSF of 99 in his most recent race, the Santa Anita Derby – a race in which Skinner finished third. (Editor’s note: Skinner scratched.)
Another popular use of BSF is in trending numbers. A horse that trends positively with improving BSF is more likely to run better at the Derby than one whose BSF numbers trend down. Andress goes on to note secondary BSF numbers, as well. Did one horse have an outlier day? Did a fast field or track help them over-perform? Looking at second and third BSF numbers helps paint a complete picture of race performance.
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What BSF Do Kentucky Derby Winners Post?
In 11 of the last 13 editions of the Run for the Roses, the winning horse logged a 100+ BSF. Last year, Rich Strike posted a 101 in his historic upset. The lone outright winner to run under a 100 came in 2014 (California Chrome, 97). In 2019, Country House received the win with a 99 BSF. However, that came after the disqualification of Maximum Security.
Most likely, the May 6 winner will run a career-best BSF. But betting on a horse to exceed their previous best by 10+ is a fool’s errand.
How Does 2023 Compare To The 2022 Field?
In general, the 2023 Kentucky Derby field is slower than the 2022 field. Last year, top-end BSF numbers from Messier, Taiba, and Epicenter all exceed this year’s top number (101, Two Phil’s). While Epicenter finished second in last year’s race, Taiba and Messier both finished outside the top 10. Each horse in the top five finishers aside from Rich Strike all previously recored a 95+ BSF.
Eight horses had a career best of 95+ in 2022 while nine horses logged that number this year.
This year’s field has a higher floor than last year’s, though. The bottom finishers – Happy Jack, Ethereal Road, and Barber Road – all had top BSF scores lower than this year’s lowest (Sun Thunder, 89). Classic Causeway posted a sub-80 BSF in his last race before the Kentucky Derby while no probable in the 2023 field posted lower than 85 in their final pre-Derby race.
While last year’s top end was certainly faster than this year’s, 2023 offers a lot more depth.
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