DIY Figs Q&A with Derek Simon
Because sooner or later we all want to do it ourselves
Level: Intermediate
By Dana Byerly, Hello Race Fans Co-founder

Are you a data weenie or a number cruncher? Are you mathematically inclined and/or just plain old interested in making your figs? You’re not alone. If you’ve ever thought about making your figs but have yet to take the plunge, we have insight to help you get started (or keep going!).

Derek Simon, who schooled us on pace figs by using examples from his own system, answers some questions about how to get started.

Tell our readers a bit about your figs. For example, what type of figs are they (speed, pace, etc), how long have you been making them, and why did you start making them?

Derek Simon:
I make my own pace figures and have been doing so since the mid-1990s. I first became interested in pace handicapping after I read a book called Investing at the Racetrack by William L. Scott. In that 1982 classic, Scott developed the idea of “Ability Times,” which were segments of a race (fractional times) that he adjusted for track speed and pace. While his overall method never worked for me, I was intrigued by his work and thereafter began experimenting with my own methods of evaluating pace.

How much have you refined your figs? Did you have a period of refinement or is it an on-going process?

Derek Simon:
Most of the refinements I made to the figures themselves occurred years ago. I think the biggest strength of my pace numbers is that I’ve never tried to make them something they’re not. They measure energy distribution — period. It is up to the handicapper (me) to interpret them.

Do you feel that making your own figs gives you a significant edge, and if so, can you elaborate?

Derek Simon:
Without a doubt. To begin with, I have found that my late speed rations (LSRs) are a great indication of form as well as of late speed, so I can use them to validate or, in some cases, invalidate an otherwise impressive performance. What’s more, improving LSRs have been very effective in finding longshot winners, especially in the Kentucky Derby. Since 2000, 15 Derby entrants have recorded increasingly higher LSRs in each of their two starts prior to the first Saturday in May; three — War Emblem, Funny Cide and Giacomo — have won, returning an average mutuel of just over $57.

What kind of advice would give to people interested in making their own figs? Is there anything that you wish that someone had told you?

Derek Simon:
Stick to what you know and can prove. The more adjustments one makes — for track speed, a slow opening quarter (or half), etc. — the more subjective and the more potentially error-filled the figures become. That wasn’t a lesson I needed to learn the hard way (although I learned many others in that fashion), but I have seen the pitfalls that other pace handicappers have faced. For example, those that placed inordinate value on early speed, which is normally wise on American dirt, got fleeced when synthetic tracks, which behave much like turf, became the norm in California and other places.

And that concludes Figs Gone Wild month! Have a question for Derek? Don’t be shy…


  • Keep up the great work. I’ve enjoyed the recent interview / exchange type posts. Hopefully your readers do as well. While still quite the neophyte, they may provide a reference or idea to pursue a little digging.



  • Thanks Jim, glad to hear it!


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