• Lunar Handicapping

    POSTED Dec 31, 2013

    Many moons ago (you’ll get the reference in a second), I wrote an article about lunar handicapping, or the notion that the phases of Earth’s moon can affect pari-mutuel results.

    I know, I know — on the surface, such a topic seems… well, loony. But I try to be open-minded and, the fact is, many prominent people have put great faith in the stars.

    Steel magnate and financier J. P. Morgan once said, “Millionaires don't use astrology, billionaires do.”

    Johannes Kepler, the man who used math to derive the laws of planetary motion — much to the chagrin of Galileo Galilei — termed himself a “Lutheran astrologer.”

    “I throw away the nonsense and keep the hard kernel,” Kepler said.

    And let us not forget Firenze, the omniscient centaur from the “Harry Potter” series of books and movies. Firenze noted that wizards and muggles alike should “watch the skies for great tides of evil or change that are sometimes marked there.”

    OK, maybe that last example was not as compelling as the first two, but the point is that even men — and centaurs — of great distinction have turned to the heavens for guidance. What’s more, the impact of lunar cycles is something that many believe is real and present in our everyday lives.

    While preparing to re-visit this issue, I read an article by Dr. Jeffrey Katz, entitled “Lunar Cycles And Trading” that appeared in Stocks & Commodities in 1997. In this fascinating piece, Dr. Katz created a trading system based on the phases of the moon.

    Concentrating on wheat and silver futures, holding both long and short positions, Katz’ system returned overall profits of 242 percent and 190 percent from Jan. 2, 1990 to Feb. 21, 1997 respectively, leading him to conclude the following:

    The lunar cycle is an apparently relevant phenomenon that seems to influence the markets. The results of this study also suggest it might be worthwhile to look at the influences of other kinds of cosmic phenomena (for example, sunspot activity, which has approximately an 11-year cycle; eclipses; the alignment of planets and so on). In short, an examination of the astrology of the market is not as far-fetched as it might sound at first. If we were to “boldly go” where no trader has gone before, we may just find a little more of that edge we are all seeking.

    Then there’s my own experience.

    Expecting to find the phases of the moon to have exactly zero impact on the results of thoroughbred horse races, my initial research on the subject left me with some troubling data. In a study of over 6,000 races run from 2004 to 2010, I found that post-time favorites running on a day or night of a new moon did shockingly well:


    (Click on image to enlarge)

    Hence, I have decided to once again test the notion that favorites — forgive me — pay at the moon.

    Using an entirely different database, this one comprised of more than 27,000 races run from Febuary 2012 to November 2013, I first checked to see how sole favorites (favored entries were ignored) performed:

    Number: 27,364
    Winners: 10,154
    Rate: 37.1%
    Return: $45,953.00
    Net: $1.68
    ROI: -16.03%

    Next, I gathered the digits on sole favorites running on the day or night of a new moon:

    Number: 1,046
    Winners: 402
    Rate: 38.4%
    Return: $1,870.90
    Net: $1.79
    ROI: -10.57%

    Once again, the new moon numbers are superior (although we’re still dealing with a relatively small sample size). As much as it pains me, if this were the show “Mythbusters,” I’d have to rule the myth that favorites perform better on the day/night of a new moon “plausible.”

    I suspect it’s all Stephanie Meyer ’s fault.

    New Moon Dates in 2014


    January 1
    January 30
    March 1
    March 30
    April 29
    May 28
    June 27
    July 26
    August 25
    September 24
    October 23
    November 22
    December 22
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