What is the "Fast Horse Format"?

Slew's "Fast Horse Format" (or FHF) is a way to identify horses that ran in superior races prior to today's start. These are horses that were competitive in fast heats, whether they won or not. Some of these horses may have been coming off of layoffs, or simply rounding into form. They may have won the race, or only hit the board. But they have in common a good run in a race that was superior for the track and distance. What does that mean for today's race? Well, that could mean the horse is ready to win, or ready to run big and be a part of a winning exacta or trifecta. It also could mean that the horse is simply a faster, better athelete and has found weaker competition. Conversely, when many fast horses get together, the results are sometimes difficult to predict. We know what happens when too many fast but unseasoned horses go head to head. As far as horses that make it to the top of the list for a single race, be on the lookout, because  that's where good handicapping enters the picture. Many of Slew's top horses win, but certainly not all. But always be cautious and don't throw out a longshot without careful consideration, or just a modest play. A powerful performance last time out merits your attention today. Especially if in a superior heat.

The 'Fast Horse' format is simple to read. The entries below are the horses listed for race 1 at Belmont park on 9-10-2011. It is a 9 horse field.

       NAME                    Trk Race  Last Race   Fin*FHF  ITM Avg|       Today     ML
3-Sunnybrook                   Bel  1  06Aug11  4SAR  3 * 4    32,090 |      9K / 4   (2-1)       
1A-Juliann's Approval          Bel  1  14Aug11 10SAR  1 * 3    27,714 |     14K / 7   (15-1)

Column one is comprised of the saddle cloth number and the name of the horse 3-Sunnybrook
Column two indicates at which track the horse is running todayBel
Column three indicates which race the horse is competing in today1
The next two columns tell us which fast race the horse ran in, the date of that race, the race number, and the track where the race was contested: Race Date / Race Number & Track (In this example, it was Aug. 6th, 2011 in the 4th race at Saratoga).06Aug11  4SAR
Columns six and seven are all important as they indicate the finish position of the horse and the FHF rating of the race: Finish * FHF Rating3 * 4
There are also two  supplemental indicators immediately after the rating. A + sign (not shown in this example) shows the race was the last race the horse ran in. Also, a T indicates this as a 'TARGET' race. + T
The column labeled ITM Avg is an indicator of the horses 1-2-3 finishes and the average purse value of those races.32,090
The Today column indicates whether the horse is competing for a purse value greater than its in-the-money average. A negative number means the horse is receiving a drop in purse relative to its in the money finishes. The second number (after the slash) is the rank of that purse value increase or decrease relative to the other horses in the race.9K / 4
The last column is simply the morning line odds.(2-1)

OK, so let us look at the first race at Belmont Park on the opening day of the fall meet, 2011.

In the first race, there are two horses that are singled out as horses that competed in fast races. What are fast races? They are races where the split times (quarter, half mile, etc.) are superior to the usual times run for a given distance and track. Of course, not all horses qualify, nor do all races were some splits are fast. They have to be FHF fast. Most horses will not qualify. But the ones that do are listed on Slew's daily sheet as having competed successfully in those races, even if they did not win.

When we consult the past performances for race one, we see that Sunnybrook raced in a qualifying FHF race on 08/06/2011 in race number 4 at Saratoga, and finished third in a race that is ranked a "4". You will only see 3 ranks for horses listed on Slew's sheet: 3,4 and 5.For the most part, a rank of 4 or 5 holds pretty much the same weight. They are superior races indeed. A rank of 3 is a notch below both, but still is a rather significant heat and merits serious attention, especially if the horse stands alone. So in our example, Sunnybrook ran in a fast race (06Aug11  4SAR), and finished third. Note that there is no plus sign after the rank, so it was not her LAST race. Consulting the past performances you will find that Sunnybrook's last race was an off the turf affair in open company at Saratoga on August 22. She won that race.

The significance here is that her FHF listing would have shown up on that day with a PLUS sign after the rank, because the fast race was, at that time, her last race. As such, a third place finish in such a high ranked race would have merited serious consideration. In fact, this did not escape the notice of sharp handicappers, as she won that open affair as the favorite, even though Sunnybrook is a NY bred. Her line that day looked like this:

1-Sunnybrook SAR 2 06Aug11 4SAR 3 * 4+ 32,916 | -3K / 5 (5-1)

Once again, the PLUS sign after the FHF rank indicates that her fast race was her LAST race. A good placing oftens means that the right spot next out bodes well for a powerful performance. Note that the -3K tells us that even though this is open company and Sunnybrook is a NY bred, she has competed well in races within this purse bracket and should be competitive on this day as well. As I already mentioned, she won this race as an underlay to her morning line odds, paying $7.20.

A lone 4 rank that finished second or third is almost a sure bet. However, if the horse had finished first, then form, distance, pace and footing considerations along with sound handicapping principles should guide your selections. If the FHF listed race was not the horse's last race, then handicap the race knowing that the horse may have the potential to put away the field. But if it was his last race and he WON that race, be mindful that most horses cannot repeat a winning effort, especially when moving through allowance ranks or stepping up into stakes company. However, a really good horse may run well enough to merit a position in the exotics, often at a nice price. That is one of the strongest angles of Slew's Fast Horses.

On this day, we see that Sunnybrook has run 2 strong races, and while her last one doesn't qualify as one of Slew's "FAST" races, that off the turf affair in open company bodes well for today's "drop" into state bred competition, as her 2-1 morning line odds would suggest.

The Second horse, Juliann's Approval, ran in a fast race on Aug. 14th at Saratoga and won the race. But then why are her ML odds so high and why do we not consider her the same way we consider Sunnybrook? A quick peek at the PP's for this race tell us that Juliann's Approval won that MAIDEN race on Aug. 14th after 19 tries as a maiden. Her next race was an awful attempt at the allowance level - [S]N1x -, finishing the 10th of 12,. So even though she shows up on our list, she is a no play. Had she shown she could compete at her new level in her last race, she may be eligible for consideration for a lesser prize, and used in exotics. But she is a perfect example of why a horse on the list is not necessarily in contention for today's top prize. It may be another 10 races before she finds a field she can handle. Or, it may never happen.

The second part of the listing shows horses that come from races where there was at least one next out winner AND the FHF rating was at least a 3.

NAME                        Trk Race    Last Race       Fin * NOW    ITM Avg|   Today
Sunnybrook                  Bel  1    06Aug11   4SAR      3 * 1      32,916 |  9K / 4
Missile Motor               Bel  2    30Jul11   11MP      3 * 1      27,334 | -6K / 6
Take a Walk                 Bel  3    22Jul11   6SAR      6 * 1      28,916 | -7K / 2
Jeanbaptiste Corot          Bel  3    20Aug11   5SAR      7 * 1      41,133 |-20K / 1

This listing is the same as the main listing with one exception: the FHF rank is replaced by the NOW column. That is, the Next Out Winners number. This number is usually as recent as the last racing day for each venue covered by Slew's Fast Horses.

As you can see, the first three winners on the card came from key races. That is, a race where there was a next out winner. Sunnybrook, Missile Motor and Take a Walk all came from races that have a next out winner AND were also listed on our main group as a 'Fast Horse' from a FHF fast race. These three horses made up a pick 3 that paid $107.50 and were easy picking using the Fast Horse Format. See the entire listing at the end of this page, and check out my BACKSTRETCH notes for a detailed discussion of this pick 3.

A few other notes regarding how horses get on the list.  Not all tracks are monitored for my database. When a horse runs at a track not included, that race will not show up. Thus, any purses that might have been  won will not be accounted for. Further, a horse's last race may be indicated with a + but in fact, if there were a change of venue subsequent to the last race shown on the list, the last race indicator would be erroneous. Only the monitored tracks will be considered in compiling these lists, and sound handicapping principle should prevail when considering a horse on our list that has run at a different venue between the listed race and today's contest.

The tracks we consider for our lists are the NYRA circuit (Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga), Monmouth Park, Calder, Gulfstream, Tampa Bay Downs, Delmar, Hollywood, Santa Anita, Arlington, Churchill Downs and Keenland.

Well, it's that easy. But don't be fooled. This can be very powerful stuff. See the full Belmont listing below to see how the entire card was laid out and how Slew's Fast Horses faired. Also, check out my BACKSTRETCH section for more information on how to best use Slew's horses.


       NAME                   Trk Race  Last Race    Fin*FHF   ITM Avg|     Today       ML
3-Sunnybrook                   Bel  1  06Aug11  4SAR  3 * 4    32,090 |      9K / 4   (2-1)       WIN
1A-Juliann's Approval          Bel  1  14Aug11 10SAR  1 * 3    27,714 |     14K / 7   (15-1)
8-Leap Day                     Bel  2  21May11  3BEL  2 * 3    29,487 |     -8K / 4   (10-1)
6-Missile Motor                Bel  2  30Jul11 11MP   3 * 3+   27,532 |     -6K / 6   (6-1)       WIN
5-Take a Walk                  Bel  3  22Jul11  6SAR  6 * 3    30,500 |     -9K / 2   (5-2)       WIN  PICK 3 PAID $ 107.00  on a $2 bet. 3 / 8,6 / 5  base cost: $4
3-Retire to What               Bel  5  12Aug11  8SAR  3 * 4    32,544 |     -6K / 10   (7-2)
1-Wascally Rabbit              Bel  5  31Aug11  6SAR  4 * 4+   23,750 |      2K / 13   (8-1)
10-Running Tap                 Bel  5  24Jul11  3SAR  5 * 4    34,250 |     -8K / 8   (12-1)
14-Head Heart Hoof             Bel  5  17Jun11  6BEL  1 * 3    34,500 |     -8K / 7   (7-2)
7-Sam Hillic                   Bel  5  16Jul11  8BEL  1 * 3    22,000 |      4K / 15   (8-1)
3-Retire to What               Bel  5  18Aug11  8SAR  2 * 3+   32,544 |     -6K / 10   (7-2)
4-Beacon Hill Road             Bel  5  30May11  7MP   3 * 3    68,000 |    -42K / 1   (4-1)
7-Drink of the Day             Bel  6  30Jun11  9BEL  3 * 3    20,000 |      0K / 6   (7-2)       WIN  Paid $ 11.60
12-Married At Sea              Bel  6  10Jul11  4BEL  3 * 3    18,000 |      2K / 8   (15-1)
10-Bwana Brave                 Bel  7  01Jul11  9MP   1 * 4    43,800 |     -1K / 5   (8-1)
1-Concert Stage                Bel  7  30Jun11  8BEL  1 * 3+   34,401 |      7K / 9   (5-1)
5-Annawon                      Bel  7  04Aug11  9SAR  1 * 3+   24,750 |     17K / 13   (4-1)
10-Bwana Brave                 Bel  7  31Jul11  6SAR  3 * 3+   43,800 |     -1K / 5   (8-1)
9-Don't Fooli Houli            Bel  7  31Jul11  6SAR  5 * 3+   48,250 |     -6K / 2   (12-1)
5-Colonialism                  Bel  9  23Jul11  9SAR  3 * 4    49,050 |    100K / 6   (6-1)
1-Kindergarden Kid             Bel  9  24Jun11  3BEL  1 * 3    52,200 |     97K / 5   (8-1)
2-Sal the Barber               Bel  9  07May11  9BEL  3 * 3    73,059 |     76K / 4   (8-1)
7-Carson Bandit                Bel 10  14Aug11  5SAR  2 * 3+   43,333 |     -2K / 1   (4-1)       PLACE
13-Knock Quietly               Bel 10  27Aug11 13SAR  2 * 3+   42,285 |     -1K / 3   (5-1)       Scratch
3-Fast Grievance               Bel 10  27Aug11 13SAR  5 * 3+   23,000 |     18K / 8   (12-1)      WIN  Paid 29.80   Exacta paid $138.50
6-Rock Superstar               Bel 10  14Aug11  5SAR  5 * 3+   23,000 |     18K / 8   (30-1)