Kentucky Derby 2013: Profiling the Derby Winner

Written by trackmasterplus on March 20, 2013 – 10:02 am -

Editors Note: The following Blog was written by Michael Cahill – Developer of On-Target Performance Ratings Version 2

March 20th 2013

With the Derby a bit more than six weeks away and future pool #3 opening up this weekend I’ve been looking for creative ways to analyze the contenders. So let’s get started. Now I can’t even begin to say this is a proven winning approach to ‘handicapping’ a race this far in advance. What you’re looking at here is probably more about having fun with numbers than anything else, but if you follow along it might turn out to be interesting food for thought. During this analysis I will be utilizing performance ratings from On-Target Version 2, which is one of the advanced reports sold exclusively through TrackMaster. The Derby is a unique race — a race where if you interviewed each horse’s trainer and asked them when they ideally want their horse to reach ‘peak form’ I suspect every one of them would say on the 1st Saturday in May — and not a day earlier!

It might stand to reason then, if a horse is putting in huge efforts in prep races that are run two months before the Derby, well there might not be a whole lot left in the tank come Derby day. While some of these horses probably carry on developing and win anyway I’m sure many more disappoint. On the other end of the spectrum a horse which is putting forth much weaker efforts might not be well equipped to move forward, at least to the degree typically necessary. My thought with this exercise is to possibly identify horses which seem to best fit a successful ‘pattern of development’.

For this particular analysis I started by going back and looking at the previous five winners of the event to see if I could use their efforts for creating a baseline of sorts. Granted with such a small sample size it’s risky to draw any firm conclusions however here is what we have:

In the table of recent winners notice I’ve logged the best effort at age two as well as the best prep effort within a specific window. This ‘window’ is defined as Feb 1st-Mid-March.

The median best effort for these prior winners during their two-year-old season was 9.  The median prep effort was 8.5. The median Derby effort was 3.25 which underscores how much development typically occurs is these final six weeks of training. (On-Target Ratings are on a scale where the lower rating indicates a stronger effort)

So is there any way we can use this data?  Well in the next step I gathered together the same type of data for as many of the 2013 contenders as I could find as follows:

Let’s go over what the chart represents:

  • The 2YO Diff column is the number of points the horse’s best 2YO effort was from the baseline which we established earlier to be a median of 9.
  • The ‘Prep Diff’ column is much the same, this baseline is 8.5.
  • Please note these Diff’s are ABS or absolute differences, i.e. if a horse’s effort is much faster than the baseline or much slower you will not see any negative numbers here. And then we have the Total Diff which is just the sum of the two.

The idea here is we’re looking to zero in on horses which have the lowest Total Diff as these are the ‘best fit’ for our baseline pattern of development. And who would that be?  That’s what the Rank column will show us.

Here are the top four horses fitting our pattern of development the closest:

  • Flashback
  • Goldencents
  • Dynamic Sky
  • Hear The Ghost

The following horses are also no more than 3.5 total points away from the baseline which is still completely reasonable given the profile of recent winners:

  • Den’s Legacy & Vyjack (tie)
  • Capo Bastone & Java’s War (tie)

Well I hope you enjoyed this early look at the field through the scope of On-Target Performance Ratings. There are probably many other ways to look at these numbers. Be creative and feel free to try out your own ideas. Best of luck to you in 2013.

CLICK HERE for more information about On-Target Performance Ratings Version 2

Michael Cahill

We want to hear from you! Leave a comment by clicking the “Comment” link directly below.

TrackMaster, an Equibase company, is your complete source for Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse and Harness Racing information. Products ranging from Thoroughbred Past PerformancesHarness Racing Programs, and Thoroughbred Handicapping software to Horse Racing Picks from our experts, are provided for all levels of handicapping sophistication.

Comments (7) »
Posted in Uncategorized

Equibase Speed Figures Rule in Breeders’ Cup Classic – By Ellis Starr, National Racing Analyst for Equibase

Written by trackmasterplus on November 8, 2012 – 12:37 pm -

When it comes to handicapping, consideration of the horse and his/her athletic ability is the most important factor. Even though a horse is fast, there is still the matter of how fast it can run on race day. Handicapping involves looking at each horse’s history and trying to determine which will be a contender in the race if they can repeat certain efforts from their past races. The handicapping process continues by trying to determine which horse will be faster than the others based on those efforts. Speed figures, which indicate in a single number how fast a horse has run in its past races, are the perfect tool to assist in making  those determinations and hopefully to help make a profit.

The benefit of using speed figures to handicap was never more evident than in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, as pointed out in pre- and post-race articles written by Matt Gardner on the “And Down the Stretch They Come” blog, part of SB [Sports Blog] Nation.

In Matt’s post which appeared on October 17 (and was recapped on November 7) in his Divisional Standings & The Classic blog, he pointed out that among the Classic division contenders, the highest Equibase Speed Figure earner was Fort Larned,  who earned a 123 figure in the Whitney Handicap. Additionally, the two horses tied with the next best Equibase Speed Figure of 121 that ran in the Classic were Mucho Macho Man (earned in the Suburban Handicap) and Flat Out (earned in the Jockey Club Gold Cup). The Classic resulted in an Equibase Speed Figure exacta and trifecta, with Fort Larned edging Mucho Macho Man for the win in a thrilling stretch battle and with Flat Out third.

In speaking with racing fans at various seminars and presentations, I am constantly asked for the top things to look at when handicapping a race. The first step is asking the question “Are there winning races from each horse’s past that if repeated today would make him/her competitive?” The second step is looking at the Equibase Speed Figures among those horses to determine which horse should run faster, and to put those horses in order accordingly.

Using that process when handicapping this year’s Classic would have yielded excellent results, as the $2 exacta combining Fort Larned and Mucho Macho Man returned $125.40 and the $1 trifecta using the three top Equibase Speed Figure horses (from the key races as pointed out in the article referred to above) returned a healthy $306.90. Unfortunately, I did not heed my own advice. However, as with most things related to the art of handicapping there is the opportunity to learn from your mistakes, which I will most certainly do when handicapping next year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic.

You can follow Ellis on Twitter @Ubercapper

We want to hear from you! Leave a comment by clicking the “Comment” link directly below.

TrackMaster, an Equibase company, is your complete source for Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse and Harness Racing information. Products ranging from Thoroughbred Past PerformancesHarness Racing Programs, and Thoroughbred Handicapping software to Horse Racing Picks from our experts, are provided for all levels of handicapping sophistication.

Comments Off
Posted in General Industry, Thoroughbred Products, Thoroughbred Races, Thoroughbred Racing

News From WagerMate – An Exclusive TrackMaster Software Partner

Written by trackmasterplus on September 12, 2012 – 12:45 pm -

Editors Note: The following Blog was written by Dan Ligett, developer of the WagerMate Software Program

It’s been over a year since we partnered with TrackMaster and introduced WagerMate in this blog, so I want to bring you up to date on the WagerMate news.

In last year’s blog entry, I pointed out that I was pretty much a novice at handicapping, and that WagerMate was better at picking winners than I was.  I like to think I’ve gotten to be a little bit better — and I know that WagerMate has improved.

Here are the recent highlights:

  1. Using WagerMate, I made a (tiny!) profit for my real-money betting in 2011.
  2. WagerMate has been updated about a dozen times.  WagerMate now downloads near-real-time scratch info, and has a “View Card” mode that lets you browse the past performances, etc.
  3. I started a blog to describe WagerMate features.
  4. I won a bit of cash in a handicapping contest at BetPTC last week.

Back Testing Experience

If you follow WagerMate’s out-of-the-box betting advice, it will do a reasonable job of handicapping — but, you’ll be placing the same bets as every other WagerMate user.

I hope you learn how to use WagerMate’s filters to develop your own strategies and how to save them as WMST (WagerMate STrategy) files.  Strategy files let you bring your own personal experience and wisdom into the WagerMate handicapping process — you’re customizing the process.  It’s easy.

Better yet, if you download cards & charts from TrackMaster, you can do back testing, and experiment to find an optimal strategy.

Here’s what my back testing (on about 4 year’s worth of data) looks like using the default WagerMate strategy:

If you blindly followed all of WagerMate’s suggestions, you would have won about 22% of your bets and got back 96% of the money you bet (i.e. a 4% loss).

In one sense, that’s terrible — we’d lose money!  But in another sense, this is incredibly encouraging — before we’ve even applied a bit of our handicapping skill, we’ve changed the rules of the game.  Everyone else is playing a game with a 20% takeout, but WagerMate users are playing a game with a 4% takeout.

If you can use your own experience and wisdom to sort through WagerMate’s selections, you should be able to improve on these results.  If you have enough data to do your own back testing, you should be able to develop a better strategy than the default strategy built into WagerMate.

The Future

I have hundreds of ideas to improve WagerMate.  For example, I’ve noticed that once in a while it will recommend a really crazy bet — a horse with 15 starts and no wins.  If I can cut out a few more of those bad bets, the ROI should get even better.

I hope you’ll download WagerMate (still free), and check out the improvements for yourself.  If you like it, you can sign up to download the data files from TrackMaster.

Comments Off
Posted in General Industry, Thoroughbred Products, Thoroughbred Races, Thoroughbred Racing, Uncategorized