One of the proposals up for consideration this year at the annual USTA meeting is the introduction of mile rates for odd distance racing. A mile rate would be reported instead of the horse's actual finishing time in the program (while the actual race win time would continue to be reported 'as is'). The question is what does a mile rate provide the handicapper and the industry?
First we should discuss what a mile rate is. A mile rate is a representation of the horses time, extrapolating the time the horse ran a certain distance as if it was a mile event. For example, if a horse raced in a 7/8th of a mile race in 1:42, the mile rate for the horse would be 1:56.3. Conversely, if a horse competed in a 1 1/8 mile and went in 2:12, the horse's mile rate would be 1:57.2. Clearly, a mile rate for a race less than a mile would likely be faster than a horse could race at a mile as the horse can race faster for a shorter distance. The opposite is true as well, a mile rate for a race greater than a mile would likely be slower than a mile raced by a horse at the mile distance.
So what is the advantage of the mile rate? It makes it easier for a horseplayer to handicap a race. If a track was carding odd distance races at set distances, say only 3/4 a mile it would be one thing, but if a track decides to race various odd distances such as 3/4, 5.8th, or 7/8th of a mile, you would see different times for a horse. If it was then entered in a mile race, how fast could you figure it would go? While not exact, a mile rate would make it easier to compare the horse against those who raced consistently at a mile rate.
Perhaps even more important, it allows handicappers to become familiar with the mile rate. To ask an American to handicap an Australian race where each horse can be coming from races with different distances. You would be hard pressed to compare each horse in the race if they have been competing at different distances. While not exact, the mile rate gives the handicapper something to compare horses by. Big deal? Remember, a dollar bet in Chicago on a race at Albion Park benefits Chicago racing more than Australian racing.
Anything which benefits harness racing is worth exploring. The time for mile rates has come.