Fast Track Simulcapping

FTS Qualified Contenders

  • As described below a Qualified Contender is a runner that has a B2 (Best Two Races) rating at least equal to the Race Par.
  • The Race Par (explained below) is the second highest FTS rating of all horses running in the race.
  • Number of races that qualify with either 3 or 4 QCs in a race is approximately 2 per racecard
  • A clear GAP (2 or more) in the B2 column between QCs and the rest of the field is preferred
  • All maiden, 2 yr old, and races with more than 2 scratches or more than 1 first time starter are omitted


    From time to time, we are pressed for opinions from members as to what best use can be made of our ratings and contender rankings. These requests range from general inquiries to questions as to which Selectors are the best to follow, or even questions regarding specific races. As we have indicated elsewhere, we do not wish to give specific wagering advice, and recommend that you make use of the archived ratings and selections, or the ratings and selections of the previous racing day, to analyze for yourselves the results to determine how well our ratings and rankings myight fit your specific wagering style or that of your favorite track.

    However, we have noticed a specific procedure for selection of Qualified Contenders, using the FTS and the B2 ratings, which we feel we should bring to your attention. The following method is presented, not as a complete system, but as a starting point for more effectively using our FTS ratings and contender rankings. It is suggested that you do your own thorough study as it relates to your favorite track and the races you tend to play.

    What are FTS Qualified Contenders?

    For a horse to be a Qualified Contender in a race it must have shown in its B2 or "Best Two races" rating an ability to run to the par for the race under study. Any horse that has is a Qualified Contender or a "QC". This is of course just a starting point, and other handicapping factors have to be taken into account.

    What is the FTS Par for the Race?

    Generally, when handicappers speak of par times they are referring to hypothetical times that a class and age of horse is expected to run for a particular distance. For instance, it may be assumed that the par time for $20,000 or $25,000 Claiming older horses at a particular track is 1:09. Such a result may be interpreted in terms of speed ratings as a par of 100, for example. If the horses run faster than the expected par this suggests that the track is running fast (101 or higher), and vice versa. A horse who can run a 103 in a class where a rating of 100 for the class is expected, is considered to have an edge.

    At Fast Track Simulcapping we take a different approach. The only horses of concern to us are those actually in the race. Hypothetical times for classes of horses are not relevant. The horses are, after all, only running against the other horses in the race, and to say we expect a rating of 100 for the winner, based upon the described conditions for entry into the race, is not a logical approach if, for example, either no horse in the field has yet run faster than 95, or all horses in the race ran at 105 in their last race. The question with which the handicappers should concern themselves is: What do we expect a good performance to be for this particular group of horses as demonstrated by their past record, and which of these horses can match it or exceed it?

    We looked at the top FTS time initially, but found that the second best FTS time is a better predictor of the group performance standard. For example, if the top rated FTS horse has an FTS score of 103 and the second highest is rated 101, then the FTS par for the race is 101. Of course, the top two or more may be tied, and we then use that rating as par

    For an example, take a look at the results for the 2000 PREAKNESS . The FTS Par for the race was the FTS of Red Bullet at 102. If we take a look at the 2000 WOOD MEMORIAL. There the FTS Par was the score of 3 horses, Fight for Ally, Fusaichi Pegasus, and Red Bullet, all at 102.

    How to use FTS Pars to Determine Qualifiers?

    This turned out to be more straightforward than anticipated. In a study of over 1,100 races we found that approximately 70% of races were won by horses that had a B2 rating of equal or greater than the FTS Par for the race whereas a little less than 50% of the horses were such horses. The minimum number of Qualified Contenders using this approach will be 2 in a race, with a maximum of all the horses where a race is extremely contentious. Many of the races with only 2 Qualified Contenders are fields of lightly raced and inconsistent horses, often at low odds, and are best approached with caution. The optimal number of Qualified Contenders appears to be 3 or 4 in a race, provided there are at least 6 horses if 3 Qualified Contenders, and at least 7 horses if 4 Qualified Contenders. Using the QCs as a starting point focuses the handicapping process, and can save time. Other considerations such as the post time odds and sound handicapping factors, including current form, can be taken into account to separate the Qualified Contenders.

    As an example, take a look at this year's crop of three year olds as they performed in the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the prep races earlier in the year. You will find that the winner was a Qualified Contender in every race, including the longshot winner Graeme Hall paying $38.40 in the Arkansas Derby. The exactas were comprised of Qualified Contenders in 4 of the 6 races.

  • 2000 PREAKNESS

    In these 6 races there were a total of 66 runners, of which 27 were QCs (Qualified Contenders), of which 6 won for a total return of $76.00 for $54.00 bet on all QCs. In 3 of the 6 races betting all QCs would have returned a profit. In addition in 4 of the 6 races boxing the QCs would have brought home the exacta. These races are a useful example of the use of QCs because it can be assumed that all horses in these races are intended to win by their interests. In other races this may not be the case, and we suggest you consider form cycles as a further eliminator.

    As an unpdate we can also look at the Belmont, where under our rules the race was one to pass due to there being only two Qualified Contenders in the race..


    Without the rigor of at least 3 QCs in the race the concern for inconsistency in the field shone through with the upset victory by Commendable and the slowest running time in decades.

    The Significance of the Gap

    Although the strict definiton used so far to define Qualified Contenders is any horse whose B2 rating equals or exceeds the par for the race, it is worth noting that a 1 point difference may in some cases not be significant. The reason for this is that the numbers get rounded up in calculation. For instance a rating of 95.6 will read as 96 whereas a rating of 95.4 will read as 95. As a result, special care needs to be taken in considering races where there is no gap of 2 points between par and one of the horses. Especially, when a horse is 1 point below par, and there is a gap of 2 or more points between it and the next horse, it may be advisable to consider the horse to be a qualified contender.

    Preliminary Studies of FTS Qualified Contenders

    When we concentrated on races limited to experienced horses, and where the fields not too contentious in being comprised of too many Qualified Contenders, we found some interesting results that may point to further profitable studies. However, at this time the results may be based on data comprised from too few races to claim any definite conclusions. You are invited to use our past ratings and investigate for yourself.

    Number of Playable Races

    Throwing out races for two year olds, for maidens, all races without either 3 or 4 Qualified Contenders seems to point to an average of about 2 playable races per racecard. Of course, some racecards will have more and some less, even no playable races.

    Initial Results Betting to Win

    Take a look at the table of results below, selected at random from racecards we have covered, that had either 3 or 4 Qualified Contenders. The winning percentage in the table, 65% with 3 or 4 contenders is good, comparing favorably to other studies that show similar results for the top 3 or 4 betting favorites, and, since the odds on the QCs will be higher, should form a good bais for sound handicapping. Although we would never suggest it is advisable to bet all Qualified Contenders, especially without any effort to weight or dutch the odds, the results were nevertheless very promising when we did so. Bear in mind that with the track take in excess of 15% the average return on random win tickets would be about $1.70 per $2.00 bet even where there is just one bet per race, let alone 3 or 4 per race.

    Betting the Exacta

    Taking a look at the results table, boxing all races with 3 or 4 QCs regardless of odds, and doubling the bet in the races with 3 QCs so that the cost for each race is a $24 cost for an exacta we found that there was consistently a slight profit back in the return of for the $24.00 box. In this sample there was a little better than one in three of the races in which the QC exacta box came in win and place. Hopefully, this will stand up over the long haul.

    Qualified Contenders Results Table

    Results for playable races through June 4th, 2000

    per race
    per race
    Return per
    $2 Win Bet
    betting all
    3 or 4 QCs
    Exacta Box
    Return per
    $24 Cost
    Exacta Pays
    All Races2667.83.566.5$2.0136.5$28.57$ 78.33
    3 QCs1357.53.066.7$2.0832.5$31.17$ 95.63
    4 QCs1318.14.066.4$1.9440.5$25.88$ 63.97
    Sprints1247.73.568.5$1.9141.2$30.39$ 73.90
    Routes1427.93.564.7$2.1032.4$26.97$ 83.25
    Dirt2047.63.568.1$1.9336.2$25.97$ 71.59