Thursday, June 25, 2009

Past Performance Data: Inconsistencies are Handicapping the Handicapper

The latest in a series of guest posts on the business of horse racing.

By Vic Harrison

We've discussed video displays, breakage and outs issues, past posting and starting gates. This week we turn an objective eye to Past Performance info.


Q: Does the best horse always win the race?
A: No, there are many contributing factors.

Q: Is the Past Performance info in the
Daily Racing Form accurate?
A: Yes.

Q: Is the Past Performance info in the
ubiquitous Simulcast Program (SP) accurate?
A: Yes.

Q: Is the Past Performance info in the
DRF the same as the PP info in the SP?
A: No.

On any given race day…

My handicapping pal Grant places great handicapping emphasis on class drops. He uses, mostly, purse amounts to determine class. But his wagering choices hinge on the publication he’s reading, either the Daily Racing Form (DRF) or the Simulcasting Program (SP). Yup – he will make his betting choice in a race depending on which publication he is reading. Is this proper, or fair? Is Grant’s return-on-investment higher utilizing the DRF or the SP??

The added purse from, say, the in-state Breeders Association (and shown in the SP) skews Grant’s handicapping choice: Let’s look at a horse named Dobyn’s Novel. The DRF does not show the added money on the PP line; so Dobyn’s Novel’s most recent allowance race appears in print with a purse of $52,325. In the SP, the added money is included in the total purse amount and, for the same date and race, is $59,000. Remember, to Grant, Purse equals Class. Today’s purse is $55,000 – Dobyn’s Novel is not dropping in class as per the DRF. But, utilizing the SP, he’s dropping in class.

I can’t say which publication has is right, but I believe it should be shown identically. There should be consistency in both publications, keeping in mind that wagering newbies are already struggling with racing terminology and convoluted condition races.

And… my pal Grant, whose unfortunate surname is Marnier, also places great emphasis upon moves made by horses within the running of their recent races. If a horse makes two moves in the race, all the better. So, dear reader:

Q:  In this year’s Kentucky Derby, would
there have been an outcry if Desert Party

or Regal Ransom had won the race?

Non-committal A:

Perhaps, I think so, yep, pretty sure.

Neither horse shows any fractional times, positions or lengths-behind in their three most recent races – all were overseas. Is this proper or fair? In this year’s Derby must Grant toss his handicapping formula/criteria on these two horses? Should he have withdrawn them from his considerations? One could argue that first time starters also have no such PP info. Well, a graded stakes race generally has no such first time starters and…I know I am not likely to part with my money on a FTS in any race, maiden included. We’re trying to grow pari-mutuel handle here by allowing players to bet with confidence.

Related Note: Just today (Wednesday, June 24, 2009) I read a wonderful article by the venerable John Pricci on the veracity of workout times and the underlying issue of such data collection. Mr. Pricci offers that the obvious solution is to track the horse’s movements by utilizing chips in saddle pads. I know there is a cost involved in implementing such systems, but he is absolutely right. There is no other answer, not only for workouts but for live racing as well. This would also solve the problem of having humans posting the running numbers during the race which invariably result in laughable departures from reality. And (he added hopefully) perhaps the saddle-chips can be programmed to trigger the stop-bet command as they break from the gate so this responsibility isn’t left in the hands of the Stewards/Judges (a moot point, in thoroughbred racing, if wagering is stopped as the first horse enters the gate - to be applied uniformly at all North American race tracks – please see my earlier post on this subject.)

Until next time...

-- Vic

For information about Vic Harrison, see Contributors on the About tab.


Betting said...

Wonderful, I can bet a win betting in horse play!

Glenn Craven said...

Until all publications start printing the exact-same data (I won't hold my breath for that day), Grant needs to determine whether his ROI is better using the Daily Racing Form or the Simulcasting Program and then stick with that publication whenever possible.

Vic said...

Grant likes the readability of the DRF by leaps and bounds, but...he prefers (does better with) the purse info supplied in the Simulcast Program.

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