1932 Kentucky Derby

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The May 1932 issue of Horse and Jockey magazine did a nice spread on the Kentucky Derby for that year. Brother Joe, a handsome dark brown colt owned by Kentucky colonel E. R. Bradley, had future book odds of 300/1 but by May they dropped to 30/1 for fifth choice. Top Flight, the filly, came in at 4/1, future books odds, but would probably be 6/5 or even money at post, they said. Tick On was at 5/1, Burning Blaze at 12/1 and so on. The Bro, half brother to the immortal Blue Larkspur (16 Starts, 10 Wins, 3 Places, 1 Show), was a Bradley colt and figured to take on more sentimental and well wisher money than the rest of the field together. Since Colonel Bradley was a gentleman and fine horseman the racing public could be assured that any horse that started in the “white, green hoops, red cap” of the Idle Hour Stock Farm figures to win. Furthermore, any workouts before the Derby could be considered the true condition of Brother Joe. After all, Colonel Bradley was a gentleman – no secrets.

Bro Joe’s stable mate got a footnote mention as the pacemaker and would further the chances of the entry, Bro Joe. Apparently, he was to play the role of the rabbit in this grand scheme. As it turned out, the scheme backfired; Burgoo King, the lowly rabbit and stable mate of big Bro Joe, won the 1932 Kentucky Derby.

See also: Kentucky Derby

February 12, 2010 • Posted in: Articles • No Comments

Slow Pace & You’ll Be Sorry

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If you’ve been reading this blog for long you know there’s a lot of talk about fast pace races, key pace races, etc. But it’s just as important to know if the pace was unusually slow. In his book Figure Handicapping, James Quinn wrote, “Thus, whenever the pace of the race has been unusually fast or unusually slow, the resulting speed figures can be outrageously false.” In Off the Charts Nick Borg stated, “In essence, however, it is not the final time that’s most important, but how the final time was achieved.” And Andy Beyer wrote in Beyer on Speed, “If you know what a reasonable pace for a given time on a given track, then you can relate horses’ performances to it.”

But best of all, Ray Taulbot stated for posterity (paraphrased), “The superior horse is one that can set or overcome the speed of the pace against which it ran.” In a 1995 American Turf Monthly article, Doc Howard Sartin elaborated on Taulbot’s pace philosophy: “Taulbot’s premise was that the pace of the race itself matters at least as much as the actual pace of the horse – how well a horse handled the pace of the race it ran against. He placed particular emphasis on horses that could overcome the fastest second call and secondary importance on those leading at the second call”……..”In this era of so many short prices from obvious choices, it behooves us to gain the ability to find longshots. I know of no better source than the “pace of the race – pace of the horse” relationship as postulated by the late Ray Taulbot.” That’s what Sartin said. Starting with Ray Taulbot these simple yet profound statements have been imprinted in my brain.

Which brings me back to the second sentence in this post about slow pace races. Here’s an example: My Good Thang, horse #2, is a Presser/Closer. He came out of a Slow 6 pace of the race and finished fourth by 7 lengths, which ranked his speed figure in the bottom half of today’s field. He’s back in at the same “class” level today. Naturally the betting public disregards My Good Thang for You’ll Be Sorry, the #7 horse, who has the top speed figure and finished second last race all the while sporting an Early/Presser running style. But there’s something “hidden” in today’s race, the pace picture. Let’s say it looks like this:

E8
E7
E8
—-E/P7 (You’ll Be Sorry)
—-E/P5
—-E/P4
——————-P/C (My Good Thang)

My Good Thang has arrived for a perfect situation – the right running style for today’s pace match-up. And remember he finished 4th in his last race for added value. Brilliant! The Slow 6 coupled with My Good Thang’s running style tipped us off to a high probability success rate wager.

These kinds of situations are not atypical. When it’s all said and done it’s not so much how fast your horse ran that matters but rather how your horse ran fast. Pace Pictures along with knowing what a “reasonable” pace is for a particular time helps us uncover these “hidden” situations where you won’t be sorry you bet You’ll Be Sorry.

February 11, 2010 • Posted in: Articles • No Comments

Zen and the Art of Past Performances

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Is your head swirling with too much information? Trainer stats, bias ratings, trip notes, jockey/trainer combos, class appraisal, form appraisal, etc., and please give me an Excedrin. Signal-to-noise ratio is in full bloom? Well, I recently read Malcolm Gladwell’s New York Times bestseller Blink  in which Gladwell does a entertaining job of describing the human ability to make correct decisions based on intuitive reasoning. For me, it shed light on the problem of over-analysis in our jobs and our lives and, of course, handicapping. In fact, Gladwell suggests that we may make better snap decisions than we think we do, and the old adage “It just doesn’t feel right” may be the best indicator.

I am, however, a huge endorser of “higher education” handicapping. It’s extremely important to be as knowledgeable as possible. But we need to be careful when deciding which information is key and should be acted upon and separate it from all of the other nonessential data with which we are bombarded. Over the years I’ve come to realize that I just don’t want or need that much information anymore. For example, I don’t need fractions.  Simple is better for me; it’s a Zen thing.

I’m not saying you should do the same. I’m just saying that if your head is spinning with a signal-to-noise ratio that’s overwhelming you then think hard about what it is that you really need. Do some research and fine tune your requirements. Psychologist tell us that information overload causes nervousness and feelings of uncertainty. That’s not a winning combination. So trim down the information to the areas that jazz you and see what happens. You might be pleasantly surprised. I was.

February 10, 2010 • Posted in: Articles • No Comments

The Bias

and the flyboy lunatic

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Well, the last newsletter created a bit of a controversy. Some folks simply thought I was a fly-boy lunatic for questioning ratings such as an obvious phenomenon called a track/dirt bias. And then there were some “way to go” folks out there, too. I hit the nail squarely on the head, they said. I really wish we could draw trend-lines across independent events/trials because I would love to know when to shoot for longshots. After a couple of days of favorites winning the majority of races, the next day should be prime for longshots, don’t you think? After all, favorites win approximately 33% of the time and so there has to be a correction somewhere in the longer odds category in order to maintain the 33% figure, you see. I could draw a favorites trend-line on an ongoing basis and then every time a day has, say, 4 favorites that win it would make perfect sense to concentrate on longshots the next day, right? I could sell Favorite Correction Ratings. Well, you get the idea. Those kinds of things don’t work with independent events. Anyway, I enjoyed the many emails I received, good and bad, for and against. Tea leaves, I Ching, Bias Ratings – if you think it works for you then by all means put it to use. The teller’s window is always the final judge.

February 9, 2010 • Posted in: Articles • No Comments

Pace Picture Techniques

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Today I want to go into some ways that you can use the pace picture that will help you organize and do your work as efficiently as possible. But first let me talk a bit about the pace picture and how powerful it can be. That simple little doodle of a pace picture up there in the right hand corner of the PA PPs gives us a lot of information even though it seems so simple. Here’s how I use it.

The first thing to know is you should think about clicking through the PPs 4 times at least so that you pick up on the different advantages that we’re looking for. I take the extra time to click through 4 times because it’s just easier for me not to miss anything. I’ve found that if I focus on each advantage separately then I do a much better job of it. I’ll list them and then we’ll talk about them.

1. Low priced overlays (The 2 Bold Type Horses)
2. Extreme pace advantages
3. Lone pace advantages
4. Early pace advantages

All of the above must be pace comfort zone qualifiers. I’ll go into that in a few minutes and then list the factors that will help you make those important paceline selection decisions. But first let’s go back over the Pace Comfort Zone article I sent out a few weeks ago…

Pace Comfort Zones

One of the tools we use with the PaceAppraiser PPs is the Pace Comfort Zone. This rating tells us the number of lengths from off the pace at the second call (one dimensional early pace types always have a zero rating) a horse can be successful. A horse that does not get into its pace comfort zone, even though it appears to be in its running style, will usually run poorly. You could call it a depth of talent rating for the various running styles. For example, an Early Presser with a PCZ rating of 2 is more talented than one with a 0 rating. So I’m going to step you through an easy way that will bring the full power of the Pace Comfort Zone rating into play. It’s very simple and can be done quickly. I’ve received numerous questions about its use and so I hope this little tutorial answers them.

The first thing we want to do is check for the top PA pace figure in the race. We use only the last paceline. Let’s says it’s 103. The top pace figure in the field does not necessarily signify the pace setter, although that could very well be the case. It could say the top figure represents pace ability in reserve. That’s important.

Next we want to check each horse’s last pace figure and subtract it from the top figure, which is 103 in our example. We’ll use a figure of 100 for our second horse in our example. The result is 3. We only need to check the horses that fit the competitive speed figure range since these are the horses that qualify on final time competitive ability. The PA PPs have these horses listed in bold type.

Now we simply check the PCZ rating, which is listed next to the horse’s running style and speed points. If the PCZ rating is equal to or greater than the results of our pace figure subtraction then we have a horse that qualifies on pace ability for today’s race. Let’s say the horse with the 3 total difference has a PCZ of 4 – that qualifies. Now if the horse has a PCZ of 2 then the horse would not qualify. More than likely it would find itself farther back at the second call than it can handle.

There are a three exceptions we’ll need to be on the lookout for (go back to 2nd or 3rd races): Distance changes, blinkers on, and dropping in class to lowest level. Horses that are stretching out can outrun their pace figures early, horses that have blinkers on move up closers to the pace, and horses with big class advantages will sometimes move up in the early going. No surprises here and easy enough to deal with.

The PCZ rating is designed to bring a horse’s running style into sharper focus in terms of length requirements. While running styles tell us where horses like to be positioned in the herd, the PCZ ratings tell us the optimum placement of the position for best performances.

I think we have to remember always that some races are so bad in terms current form that the winner ends up being the horse that can stagger home first. Pace advantages don’t mean much or anything at all in these types of events. It’s our job, of course, to invest in races where pace advantages mean something.

Let’s continue:

After I load the PPs it’s time to start the first click through. As I come upon a pace picture advantage I click the print button for the race. I check all printed PPs later for PCZ qualifiers that fit the pace match-up I’m looking for. I find it much easier to do this part of the work off a printed sheet rather than my computer screen. This first time through I’m looking for “Two Bold” races. This simply means that there are only two horses in the race that qualify for, or actually create, the competitive speed figure range. The Two Bold pace picture only comes up about once per day, that’s all. But your win percent will be over 50% with this one. Since the middle of September I have won 65% of these bets! Amazing. Here’s the down side: average payoff is 2.1 to 1, and there’s the reason I call them low priced overlays.

In the second click through we’re looking for extreme pace aberrations. You’ll see the PPG (Pace Pressure Gauge) in the upper right hand corner of the pace picture for this information. As you know, we want to start looking for late pace horses as the gauge moves beyond the 21 mark. The higher the better for those late pace types. If the reading is, say, 21 X 1 I feel stronger about the chances of my late pace runner. The “1″ tells us we “could” have a fast pace, too. Once I find a P/C that fits this kind of pressure and/or velocity, all I have to do now if qualify it for the Pace Comfort Zone fit for this particular pace picture.

Now we’re ready for our third click through and the lone presser advantage. This one will be in bold type and all alone in the presser spot of the pace picture. Easy. If one shows up, qualify it for PCZ and you’re done.

The fourth and final click through is all about early pace horses. I save this one for last because it’s the one that can take the longest to deal with because we’re looking for running styles in bold type with a 2 speed point advantage and/or a 2D Pace Box advantage. Remember, early pace advantaged horses are below the 21 PPG benchmark. You can read on the 2D Early Pace Box horses in the PA forum or here: http://www.paceappraiser.com/forum/

Now, let’s go over the factors that will take us back to those 2nd and 3rd pacelines for our PCZ qualifiers. The “+” sign tells me how often the factor showed up in a research period. I left it in so you get a feels for the most powerful of the factors. It’s not surprising that form (F) and class (CD/CP) are the most represented factors. You might find it a bit surprising that a last race win (W) did so well during this time.

LF/pa1 ++++
F/pa1 +++++++++
J+/pa1 ++
J+/pa2 ++
J+/pa2/as +
J+/L2/pa2 +
CP/pa1 +++++++++++
CP/pa2 +++
CP/pa3 ++++
CP/pa2/as +
CP/pm +
CD/pa2 +++++
CD/pa1 ++++++++++++++
W/pa1 +++++++++++++++
W/pa2 +
BW/pa1 ++++++
T(j+)/pa2 +
T/pa1 +
PM/L2/pa1 +
OX/pa2 +

Before I explain the factors listed above let’s talk a bit about form, the steady and improving types. Back in the 80s William Scott wrote a book called “How Will Your Horse Run Today”. We’re all familiar with his up close definition. The one form factor that has really made a difference for me, though, was and is a stretch loss. This will save you money over time. If a horse is dropping in class and/or changing distances by a furlong or more we can ignore the stretch loss. Like all factors this one helps with odds assessment. I’ve seen this simple factor point to low priced losers time and again. It works. Now let’s go back to the factors that give a good reason to go back to the second or third paceline. You’ve probably noticed I don’t recommend going back more than 3 pacelines to grab the pace figure that qualifies or disqualifies a horse from our contender list. Once you’ve checked the PCZ and the stretch loss factor and find those to be a problem, you can feel confident that those horses can be eliminated from further consideration. So now let’s get to the definitions from the list above:

LF – the only horse in the race that finished in the money but did not lose ground by a length or more in the stretch.
F – a horse that finished in the money but did not lose ground by a length or more in the stretch.
J+ – Jockey change
CP – dropping to the lowest class level from the last three races
CD – class drop
W – won last race
BW – won the last race by three or more lengths while not leading at the first or second call
T – trouble in last race
PM – pace match-up advantage.
OX – layoff/good race/bad race (good race = in the money – bad = out of money)

Let’s go back to the “Two Bold Horses” concept for a few minutes because I believe this one is the most important one in terms of win percent and return on investment. We could call this one the “2 CSFR” as well because the bold type horses in the pace picture are the two competitive speed figure qualifiers. This play is definitely for simulcast players. If you have the unlimited file download option with TSN you’re really ready to go. I use the $59.95 unlimited plan for my single data files. I can click through 15 tracks looking for the 2 bold type horses in just a few minutes. I print them and then qualify them. Today I have 2 of the 2 bold type plays. I expect to average 30 of these plays for per month. Remember to qualify the bold type horses for the correct pace comfort zone rating along with one of the factors listed above.

IMPORTANT: NO MAIDEN RACES. NO TURF RACES. NO 2 YEAR OLD RACES. NO STAKES RACES. WE WANT TO FOCUS ON CLAIMING RACES, STARTER ALLOWANCE RACES, STARTER HANDICAP RACES, AND OPTIONAL CLAIMING RACES. THESE ARE THE RACES THAT PRODUCE THE BEST RESULTS FOR OUR 2 CSFR (BOLD TYPE) HORSES.

As an added benefit you’ll find that the 2 Bold Type horses in the pace picture will run 1st and 2nd enough times to turn a nice profit with an exacta play; I recommend boxing them. Since these are low priced overlays, the exactas will not be huge, but they will produce a profit over time.

As you can see, there’s a lot information to be had in the simple pace picture. For example, if the all the horses are in bold type then you know that you have a race that’s potentially very competitive, so you’ll need to keep that in mind as you assess the odds of the horses on your contender list. Conversely, if there are only a two or three bold type horses then the race is not that competitive so your work load will be lighter. You’ll also see those important horses that are the recipients of a positive pace aberration. And, too, you won’t miss those light early pace pressure races that give the early pace types the advantage and the late pace types the trouble.

February 8, 2010 • Posted in: Articles • No Comments

Bring Home the Bacon 1936 Style

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One of the biggest bookmakers in the country passed away in 1936. Horse and Jockey magazine wasted no time publishing his secret system. The March 1937 issue revealed for posterity the Bookmaker’s Under-Cover System – “he would certainly get a big chuckle thinking about the consternation of the remaining bookmakers”.

Here are the results of a week’s play at Arlington (November 14-20, 1936): “On a ten dollar flat bet……$480.00 total bet. My comeback was $1,036.00, leaving a neat profit of $556.00”.

Without further ado:

The Bookmaker’s Under-Cover System

1. Eliminate all horses that won their last race. Winners repeat, but try and show a profit by betting them to repeat.
2. Determine the horse that went to the post the shortest price his last race and failed to win. You may have a few stiffs but it will be a very small percentage as horses bet down to a short price are usually ready to win with average racing luck.
3. If two or more went to the post at the same price, your play is the horse that takes off the most weight.
4. Should more than one still remain, your play is the horse that has been running with the highest class company in recent races.
5. An added rule is necessary in the following cases. If any of the horses in the race you are figuring ran in the field or as one of an entry their last start go back to the previous race or the last race the horse ran uncoupled. The price quoted on a horse coupled in an entry is no true indication of the regard in which the horse in question is held by the moneyed bettor.

So there you have it again. Straight from the grave of a bookmaker. Now you have no excuse not to bring home the 1936 bacon.

We all know that systems do not work. Each horse race is an independent event of a multitude of factors that no single formula can conquer consistently. But it doesn’t keep us from trying…on and on. In a way, it’s an admirable pursuit. After all, hope springs eternal.

February 7, 2010 • Posted in: Articles • No Comments

The Man Speaks

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I’m the proud owner of a Robert Saunders Dowst tome (He got some help from Jay Craig – see the cover). It was published by the Sun Dial Press of NYC in 1940. The copyright is dated 1934. Copies are hard to find. Start with EBay. The book ranks amongst the top five of all the horse racing books and magazines I’ve collected, some of which go back as far as the 1800s.

So, I want to talk a bit about Dowst’s approach to class and a few supporting factors. (As you might remember, I’m not much with the conventional class thing. I am much more with the pace ability and final time thing, though – not some inherent mumbo jumbo “class” that lives outside of the boundaries of said abilities. In other words, pace ability and final time rapped in a form cycle represents class, period. There’s nothing mystical about it like the old “look him in the eye” saw that’s become ensconced in the horseplayer’s handicapping lexicon.). Anyway…

What did Mr. Dowst’s have to say about Thoroughbred class and the supporting factors. Read on.

Handicapping Ratios

Class

If horse not in claimer this year, rate 1
If horse in claimers and non-claimers, rate 2
If only in claimers, rate 3

Consistency

If horse has won 70-100% of races this year, rate 1
If 40-70%, rate 2
If 20-40%, rate 3
If less than 20%, rate 4
If horse has run in the money, including wins, 70-100%, re-rate 1
If 40-70%, re-rate 2
If 20-40%, re-rate 3
If less than 20%, re-rate 4

Weight

If horse is carrying 5 pounds less than higher weight of field, rate 1
If among higher weights of field, rate 2
If carrying 5 pounds more than higher weights of field, rate 3

Form

If horse’s last races good or fair, rate 1
If definitely questionable, rate 2

After fixing these ratings, and setting the figures down on the past performances of each horse in a race as given in a racing-sheet, each entrant will have five figures, one for class, two for consistency, one for weight and one for form. They are added, and the horses with the lower totals will represent the real contention of the race, apart from accident or upset, the horse with the lowest total being presumptively winner.

(1) Two-year-olds in sprint races cannot be handicapped successfully by these methods; they must be figured along speed-lines if at all.
(2) These methods will not work when applied to races with platers of less than $2000 valuation—or $1500 at the least. Such horses lack the two factors of class and consistency on which the method depends.
(3) Figures on a horse based on performances in sprint races mean nothing in races over a distance of ground and should not be relied on, nor should figures based on performances over routes be relied on in sprints.
(4) Aged horses—animals over six years old—are too erratic and uncertain to be sound selections; if these figures indicate such a one as winner he should not be played but the race passed. The strain of flat-racing on hoofs, bone, tendons, wind, circulatory system and disposition is such that most aged horses are unsound physically or temperamentally.
(5) These figures, if based on performances over fast tracks, will be indicated a winner in the mud.
(6) No horse known to be unsound should be selected even if indicated.
(7) No chronic quitter, as shown by the past performance charts, should be selected even though indicated by the figures.
(8) In handicapping route races, after setting down the figures on each horse, it is wise to consider, before selecting him, the probable winner’s ability to stay within striking distance of the half-mile and six-furlong pace that reasonably may be expected to be set in view of the apparent degree of early foot possessed by the other entrants. Route races sometimes are won by a horse which comes from far back off the pace, but more usually they are won by an animal which stayed snugly behind and close to the pace until called upon in the stretch run.

—I’m sure you know that Dowst made a lot of dough playing the races. Presumably, you now have the key to riches—-

Well, the class part of the equation is easy enough. Nothing to discuss there. I suppose consistency is easy enough too. Weight!? Well, I’m not so of sure that one but if you think 5 pounds is going to make a difference with 1100 pound animals that are cycling through form and pace match-ups then have at it. As for me, I’ll pass on that one. The form part of the equation is rather vague so let’s put a finer focus on it: Here are some ideas that James Quinn articulated in Recreational Handicapping © 1990. A rating of 1 could go to a horse that was in the money last race or raced up close at any call at a higher level last race or has been up close at the stretch call against the same or lower level. Any other performance would be considered questionable. So we have briefly covered class, consistency, weight, and form.

Now for the amendments.

–No two-year-olds, please.

–The second amendment might be adjusted up to $5000 and less for today’s valuations.

–Next Dowst tells us not to mix sprint figures with route figures.

–And then we’re not going to play horses older than 6, which means forget about playing River Downs, Thistledown, Figure Lakes, Penn, and all the other C class tracks – for the most part anyway.

–And don’t go mixing off track figures with fast track figures.

–For some reason Dowst thought to include unsound horses. If you know they’re unsound don’t play them. I can’t image who would but there you go.

–Layoff the quitters. Maybe he was thinking about one dimensional early pace horses that didn’t get the lead and quit like crybabies because they didn’t get their way. Maybe.

–And lastly……Robert Saunders Dowst mentions pace! Hallelujah. Here’s a clue, stay close to the pace for a better chance of winning. It’s good idea no matter if it’s a squirrel race, a turtle race, a dog race, a human race or a horse race….the closer to the pace the better your chances of winning. Now you don’t have to pay $14.95 to know that early speed is powerful.

So there you have it. Straight from the Man, Robert Saunders Dowst. Now you have no excuse not to bring home the 1934 bacon. Maybe.

February 6, 2010 • Posted in: Articles • No Comments