Post-Race RevelationsOnce, on a beach in Seattle — yeah, they actually have beaches there… or at least they used to; they might be Starbucks now — I tried to lie in the sun. I say “tried” because, as is often the case in the Emerald City, the sun was playing hard to get — ducking behind drifting clouds at maddeningly regular intervals (you can do that when you’re the center of the universe). And a funny thing happened whenever it disappeared: everybody that was sunbathing suddenly sat up and looked around, like groundhogs searching for… well, whatever it is that groundhogs search for. It was surreal.
A similar type of thing often happens at the racetrack, when, following a surprising result, horseplayers en masse reach for their past performances like they’re earplugs at a Michael Bolton concert. Some are seeking an excuse; others, knowledge; and still others, a brief respite from the guy yelling, “What did I tell you? I knew that horse was gonna win. He looked fantastic… I should’ve bet him!”
Many times this post-race analysis does, in fact, lead to a greater understanding of the race in question — perhaps a past effort suggesting hidden talent or a missed workout indicating improved form. But just as often, I fear, such post-mortems only create greater confusion or, worse, a belief that the result was a fluke or in some way pre-determined, i.e. “fixed.”
Hence, while I believe that players should always try to learn from their mistakes, I also think that handicappers must be careful not to overanalyze their failures to the point that they impair their ability to make decisions in the future. For example, in my analysis of the Spectacular Bid Stakes in last week’s column, I noted that Leave of Absence was “one of the few” in the field that “could have a say on the Triple Crown trail.”
As it turned out, the only “say” Leave of Absence had was in how much the exacta paid, as 14-1 longshot Determinato pulled away to a handy 1 ¼-length score in Saturday’s Gulfstream Park feature. Of course, I immediately re-checked my figures to see if I had missed anything. My conclusion was that, while I whiffed on the race, my initial analysis was generally sound.
The Spectacular Bid produced horrible speed and pace numbers: an 88 Equibase speed rating (80 Beyer) and a -19 late speed ration (LSR) for the winner. That, of course, jibes with some of Determinato’s earlier figures and all but convinces me that the son of Closing Argument simply beat a weak field last weekend. In other words, my “mistake” was not that I underrated Determinato but, rather, that I overrated Leave of Absence — which is knowledge that I can use the next time some of these horses run.
And speaking of Gulfstream Park, aided by Brisnet and a six-pack of Michelob Ultra (got to watch the carbs), I have computed the LSR pars for a variety of different races and surfaces at the current meet. What they show is that the early speed bias is still alive and well at the Hallandale, Fla. track… at least for now.
Early Speed Ration (ESR): A measurement of a horse’s early energy expenditure in relation to the total race requirements. The lower the figure, the greater the horse’s early exertion in that event.
-15 = Demanding.
-10 = Brisk.
-5 = Moderate.
0 = Soft.
Late Speed Ration (LSR): A measurement of a horse’s late energy expenditure in relation to the total race requirements. The higher the figure, the greater the horse’s late exertion in that event.
0 = Excellent.
-5 = Good.
-10 = Fair.
-15 = Poor.