Isn't it amazing how history repeats itself.
According to legend, Archimedes -- the scientific whiz of ancient Greece -- was taking a bath when his brain suddenly calculated the math behind the principal of buoyancy. He leapt from the tub and ran through the streets of Alexandria shouting "Eureka!" or "I have found it."
The Happy Handicapper found himself in a similar situation last Monday afternoon.
He was taking a financial bath at the OTB parlor on Hertel Avenue when he started doodling around with an ancient formula -- one he hadn't used in years -- in doping out the races at Finger Lakes.
When it produced a pair of winners -- who paid $34.20 and $57 to win with exactas worth $137 and $408 -- it took iron discipline to keep him from running naked through the streets of North Buffalo in celebration.
The formula is this: (SR TV) @TD(or ).
Just kidding. It isn't really that complicated.
All you do is concentrate your wagers on those horses who show the highest Speed Rating plus Track Variant totals in past races at today's distance or longer.
In case you've forgotten, the Speed Rating and Track Variant are those tiny hyphenated numbers found in the Daily Racing Form's past performances directly underneath the bigger, bolder number that indicates today's weight assignment.
In the "Past Performance Explanation" guide, the Racing Form editors take 188 words to explain how the numbers -- which compare "a horse's final time with the best time at the distance at that track in the last three years" -- are calculated.
Basically, it works like this: Add the two numbers, the higher the sum the better.
Just be careful not to confuse them with the Racing Form's other proprietary number, the popular "Beyer Speed Figure."
Printed in big boldface type, the Beyer number -- calculated by a group headed by Washington Post columnist Andrew Beyer -- has become part of the race track language. (As in, "He has Beyered better than most" or "He recently matched that Beyer").
The "Beyer Boys" are welcome to their numbers, but the H.H. still finds the old-fashioned SR-TV combination to be very helpful. That's especially true at the minor-league tracks, like Finger Lakes and Fort Erie, where there are few "super horses" whose performances can sometimes skew the numbers.
And it doesn't take a whole lot of work, or mathematical ability, to come up with a bet.
One quick way to do it is to run your eyes down the SR-TV column looking for totals that add up to more than 100. (Horses that never break 100 usually aren't worth bothering with.)
When you find one, check that it occurred in a race at today's distance or longer. (The distances of past races are listed in the fourth column from the left in the past performances.) Determine the highest such combination for each horse and write the number next to its name.
Sometimes, the results are surprising.
In Monday's feature race at Finger Lakes, the $17,300 Frank V. Loparco Memorial Handicap, the odds-on favorite was Classic Playboy, a 4-year-old gelding who hadn't finished worse than second all year or in 11 lifetime starts at today's 6-furlong distance.
And while Classic Playboy owned some impressive Beyer figures (the "85" in his last race was at least six points higher than any other horse in the race) his SR-TV combinations were not that dominant.
The best SR-TV combos (at distances of 6 furlongs or more) belonged to long-shots Tahapo and Saigon Lieutenant, who checked in with 109 points each.
For Archimedes' descendants and others who must know the details, here goes. Tahapo earned his "109" on July 19 when he won at 6 furlongs in 1:11 4/5 . That earned him a Speed Rating of "82" because the clocking was 3 3/5 ths seconds slower than the fastest time posted at the distance (1:08 1/5 ) at Finger Lakes in the past three years.
Tahapo's performance that day came over a track whose variant was a "27." That number indicates that the average sprint race on July 19 was won in times 5 2/5 ths seconds slower than the three-year standard. The higher the Speed Rating, the faster the horse. The lower the Track Variant, the faster the track. The higher the total, the better the overall performance. For more specifics, check the Form.
To cut to the chase, Tahapo won the race at 16-1 and Saigon Lieutenant finished out of the money. Finishing second was Kanpai, who posted a "108" combination in his last out, the second-highest combo in Monday's race. Classic Playboy, the Beyer darling, finished third.
The next race, also at 6 furlongs, contained three horses who had broken the 100-point barrier at that distance or more.
Spent Shell had earned 104 points (79-25) at 6 furlongs in October 1998. Coming On Strong showed a "103" (65-38) in a 1 mile, 70 yards race April 10. And Flying Again had scored a "101" (65-36) at 1 1/1 6ths miles Aug. 10. Their respective odds on Monday were 7-2, 27-1 and 12-1.
Coming on Strong did just that and won by several lengths and paid $57, $18.20 and $12.20 across the board. Flying Again closed late to be second and pay $7.20 and $5.70 to place and show. Spent Shell was nowhere, but those who had the foresight to box the three top candidates in the exacta collected $408 for a $12 investment.