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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:
- 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.
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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:
- Using WagerMate, I made a (tiny!) profit for my real-money betting in 2011.
- 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.
- I started a blog to describe WagerMate features.
- 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.
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.Comments (0) »
Posted in General Industry, Thoroughbred Products, Thoroughbred Races, Thoroughbred Racing, Uncategorized
This year’s Preakness Stakes has attracted a full field of 14 runners. Kentucky Derby Animal Kingdom will only face the 3-4-8 and 16th finishers from the Kentucky Derby, the rest are new shooters who are going to take another crack at him in the Preakness.
Animal Kingdom - while the Kentucky Derby often represents a great race in which to find a betting overlay, the Preakness is often an extremely formful race. Animal Kingdom will be a deserving betting favorite, but will likely go to post an underlay. Given his light racing schedule and the fact that he’s back in his home territory, we think he’ll run well again and when all is said and done might be heading to New York with a chance at the Triple Crown. However, from a betting standpoint, we’re going to look elsewhere.
Midnight Interlude – showed absolutely nothing in the Kentucky Derby, got in trouble on the first turn and just never ran a step. Perhaps he was intimidated by the crowd, perhaps he woke up on the wrong side of the stall that morning, but one could make the case that perhaps that effort didn’t take anything out of him. Trainer Bob Baffert is not prone to entering the Classics on a whim, so he must be confident his charge can bounce back at Pimlico. We agree.
Mucho Macho Man – didn’t disappoint anyone with his effort at Churchill, ran great to finish 3rd. Believe this one is still improving and by all reports he’s still looking good. One small step forward here and could be a serious win contender.
Mr. Commons – didn’t have enough earnings to make the Derby starting gate. Trained by the ultra-conservative John Sherrifs (remember Zenyatta? Giacomo?) who stated after Mr. Commons ran 3rd in the Santa Anita Derby they’d probably point for this race. Comes here off five straight best of day works at Hollywood. Big, big longshot potential.
Shackleford – We LOVED the way Shackleford dug in and fought bravely late in the Kentucky Derby stretch run, but he was allowed to set very slow fractions, had a perfect trip, and with the speedy Flashpoint entered, there will be a faster pace here which will compromise his chances. Some reports from Pimlico indicate that Shackleford might have left his best race on the track at Churchill and might not be at his best on Saturday. We’re inclined to agree and eliminate him as a win contender.
Dialed In – is only here for a chance at a $5.5M bonus should he win the Preakness to go with his win in the Florida Derby. There were no indications that he was improving going into the Derby and his lackluster finish at Churchill shows he may be at his peak right now, which is not up to the best of the crop at this time. Again, out.
Astrology - we believe he’s a bit below the best of the 3-year old crop. Rarely runs a bad one, and jockey Mike Smith stays on despite the presence of Mr Commons in the race (Smith is regular rider for trainer Sheriffs). Limit to lower spots on exotic bet tickets.
Concealed Identity – local runner has never faced competition the likes of these, but his speed figures make him competitive if he’s up to it.
Sway Away – like Astrology, a cut below the best, but gains top jockey Garrett Gomez this time.
Dance City – 3rd in the Arkansas Derby which was a high rated race. Big chance if he can stay behind the pace and have something left.
Flashpoint - now trained by Wesley Ward, will help insure an honest pace. Can he get the distance?
1) MR. COMMONS
2) ANIMAL KINGDOM
3) MIDNIGHT INTERLUDE
4) MUCHO MACHO MAN
TrackMaster Senior Handicapping Analyst
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Posted in General Industry, Thoroughbred Products, Thoroughbred Races, Thoroughbred Racing, Uncategorized