• The Big Winner

    POSTED Aug 18, 2011
    There are three things that have puzzled man since the beginning of time:

    1) Women.
    2) Women.
    3) The effect of a big win on a thoroughbred racehorse.

    I won’t address the first couple of items — I too continue to be baffled — but I will weigh in on the third point. Awhile back, I published a study I had done on “daylight winners,” which I defined as horses that had won their last start by three lengths or more.

    I settled on that margin of victory because, in his book “Winning at the Races: Computer Discoveries in Thoroughbred Handicapping,” Dr. William Quirin asserted that horses that won their most recent race by at least three lengths were often strong contenders in their subsequent start, which he documented thusly:

    Number: 370
    Winners: 84 (22.7%)
    ROI: -12%

    Although these dominant winners returned a net loss in their following starts, it’s worth noting that Dr. Quirin didn’t insist on any other positive form factors outside of the daylight win.

    But do these impressive numbers still hold true today? After all, Mr. Quirin’s studies took place nearly 30 years ago — back when Beyer figures could only be found scrawled on the Daily Racing Form of the man himself.

    I decided to find out. Let’s first look at horses that simply won their last start — by any margin:

    Number: 7,301
    Winners: 1,178 (16.1%)
    ROI: -24%

    And, now, the horses that triumphed by three lengths or more last time:

    Number: 2,436
    Winners: 484 (19.9%)
    ROI: -17%

    Not exactly inspiring — and quite a bit worse than what Quirin’s original study produced (the product of 30 years aging, perhaps, or a much bigger sample size). So let's “tighten” the rules a bit and consider only those steeds that most recently competed during the past month over today’s general track surface (AWS and dirt or turf):

    Number: 1,638
    Wins: 348 (21.2%)
    ROI: -11%

    Well, that’s better — the stats are much more in line with Quirin’s now — but the results are still decidedly negative. On a whim, I decided to see if purse value had any effect on the digits (while still insisting that the horse last raced over today’s general track surface within the past month):

    Purse of $25,000 or more

    Number: 740
    Wins: 146 (19.7%)
    Average Winning Mutuel: $8.17
    ROI: -19%

    Purse of less than $25,000

    Number: 898
    Wins: 202 (22.5%)
    Average Winning Mutuel: $8.59
    ROI: -3%

    Interesting. It appears that as the purse of the race gets higher, the impact of a big win becomes less pronounced — or, maybe more accurately, the public overplays that particular factor in richer races (note the average winning mutuel).

    So, using what we learned above, I constructed a simple, yet profitable angle centered on the daylight winner:

    * Play is restricted to horses that won their last race by three lengths or more over today’s general track surface (main/turf) within the past 30 days.

    * Today’s purse must be less than $25,000.

    * Horse must be going to post at odds equal to or greater than its morning line price.

    Number: 380
    Wins: 52 (13.7%)
    ROI: +17%

    Granted, the winning rate is akin to that of my beloved Seattle Mariners this season (OK, I’m exaggerating a little), but the return on investment (ROI) is a healthy 17 percent. That’s not the kind of return that would make me want to mortgage the house for betting capital, but it’s not bad for such a straightforward angle.

    Breeding For Speed?

    I keep hearing that U.S. breeders are breeding for speed, yet how does one explain Arlington Million Day (Aug. 13)?

    In the three Grade I turf races that afternoon — the Secretariat, the Beverly D. and the Million — two of the 11 foreign-bred horses competing led after the opening half-mile, compared to just one of the 19 American horses. What's more seven (63.6 percent) of the foreigners were positioned in the top half of the field at the first call versus just six (31.6 percent) of the U.S.-born runners.

    It gets worse. The average early speed ration (ESR) of the foreign-bred steeds was a +6; the Americans averaged a +9.

    If this breeding for “speed” continues, I foresee tracks going back to a tape barrier.

    (Click on image to enlarge)

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    For further race analysis and suggested plays, be sure to listen to this week’s “TwinSpires Horse Racing Podcast with Derek Simon” on Friday (live at 1 p.m. Eastern on BlogTalk Radio or archived on iTunes and other podcast directories shortly thereafter).
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