Transcript for the very popular Pace Makes the Race Podcast, aired in November 2016. The 5th and final chapter of this epic podcast!
- Bridge Jumpers – 75% or more of total show pool.
- Bridge Jumper tracks can be charted.
- What makes a Bridge Jumper fail?
- Dubious Trainer Patterns
- Chaos Races
Special Mentions: John Barile, Mark David
Chapter 5: Dubious Trainer Patterns
What other reasons can you find for a bridge jumper that you would have confidence that they would not win the race?
Derek: We already talked about the need-to-lead type so I am going to jump ahead and talk about horses that have dubious trainer patterns. What do I mean by that? I do think trainer handicapping gets overdone. People talk about this horse looks great, this guy is 2-for-3 in this particular situation. That sample size is not good enough.
But to give an example of something I see quite often, you have great trainer, let us say, that claimed the horse maybe and it is dropping in class now. A lot of trainers are great with this but I always like to question why.
Why is this horse in this spot? Through that analysis, a lot of times you will find horses that
are going to look good on paper but why are they there?
You have to question these kinds of things. I use being claimed and dropped in class just as an example.
But it might be something different. A horse is trying turf, all kinds of different things like that. Ask yourself, why is this trainer doing this? I think that, lack of workouts, whatever the case may be, that is where you can find a lot of dubious favorites as well, especially if the guy is generally good. Let us say it is a Todd Pletcher but he is doing something he is not necessarily great at. Again question why is this trainer doing that and you will find a lot of underplays that way.
Dave: I love what you are saying. I love the idea of dubious trainer patterns. The problem I have with it for the general public is that it is too difficult to apply. It is a lot of work to do trainer stats and to have these angles. Even if you buy them somewhere part two of that is that you wind up with conflicting information.
John Barille has done wonders with this. He’s the Tampa Bay guy. I had him on the show two or three years ago and it was one of our most popular shows ever. The idea of building spot play angles around trainers is a massive amount of work and John he does it with spreadsheets.
He looks at the top sixty, seventy, eighty trainers on that circuit and literally builds up spot plays for each one. He spends six months a year doing that without playing! I check out of that. Just too much work.
On that other hand the principle is great you just have to have a way to look at it from the 50,000 or at least the 5,000ft level so that you have usable numbers. I am a numbers guy, I want metrics. I actually have numbers like that and I get one trainer number. Okay, I actually get two or three but they are used in different places. We create what we call a handicapping object. Ed Baine is a guy, you have possibly heard about his 4+30 approach. Do you know that Derek?
Derek: I am familiar with him, I am not familiar with that approach.
Dave: Imagine he has this huge number of statistics and his requirement for a positive is that in this category this trainer must have four wins and at least 30% winners. In other words a horse that is two for two has 100% winners but he does not qualify because he does not have enough wins, and a horse that is one for three does not qualify. But a factor that was four for ten – that factor qualifies.
Imagine you come with this list of 4+30 factors. We have that. I have found there is a threshold number in our software where 4+30 becomes important. We have one hundred and forty seven trainer factors for each horse and the significant thing is we need a dominant percentage
A trainer that (loosely speaking) has 70% of all of the 4+30s in the race, has to have at least twenty of them, and, well, the system is even more specific than that.
Derek: I like that a lot because I actually do my own database handicapping. I use a formula that adjusts the percentages based on the sample size. You mentioned John, I like his work too. He gets mad at me when we have this discussion but my issue is always sample size.
I agree with you, I think it needs to be more. I know he combines a lot of different angles, too, so you get a bit more confidence that way. What I would tell the casual player who does not have these stats – and keep in mind some of the basic stats are going to be in the past performances – You are going to get a chance to see at least some basic trainer stats.
I would tell the casual player to look at what makes sense; look at it from the standpoint of this is your business and what makes sense for this trainer. Let us say you had a horse that was claimed for $16,000 and running for $10,000 today, that is a big class drop. But let us say the horse was moving from Emerald Downs to Charlestown. Emerald Downs is the poor structure because they do not get a lot of casino money is going to be a lot less at Charlestown. Maybe the purse is much higher. It makes sense or maybe just a class structure is different.
I remember back in the day Long Acres would run these $3,200 claiming races which you would not see at the Southern California tracks. The bottom level at Long Acres would be a lot lower than the bottom level at some of the Southern California tracks. Of course those Southern California tracks ran better races but it is like little things like that — does this make sense from a business decision?
If it does not, I can guarantee you the Todd Pletchers, the Steve Assmusens – are not in this business to lose money so there might be a reason why they are willing to take more loss on that particular horse. It is those kinds of things you are trying to pinpoint, I think you can do it by looking at it like you would but logical
Dave: In my mind I have to boil it down to a number and I find that if you can throw together enough small samples you get a relatively good number. On the other hand, the thing I do not like about John Barile’s approach like you said to get the confidence he cherry picks the stuff he is going to put together. I cannot argue with the fact that it seems to work for him
Derek: Absolutely, whatever works. I agree with you Dave. You and I both agree that a data driven approach is far superior. I know people will argue you have to look at the horse, I do not know what to look at, it is silly for me to look at the horse, what am I looking at?
I hear people say this all the time. My wife does this with dogs. Look at that dog is it not beautiful? It looks like a dog. I like dogs, do not get me wrong, I am not bad mouthing dogs – LOL – but I cannot tell.
People say what a beautiful horse, it looks like the other horse I saw. I cannot tell at $4,000 from a stakes horse, so I know my confidence and I have faith and trust in the numbers because I do have bigger samples to draw on and I am going to take faith on that. There is no question that at I would agree with you, if you put together I would trust your numbers a lot more than someone who says hey this trainer is really good at this.
Dave: I want to put one crazy idea into the ears of the handicappers out there about trainer statistics. Go out and try this, if you are not a guy who wants to keep copious statistics and you are not buying them somewhere do this.
In the Racing Form you have the trainer statistics. Do not get crazy, just go through and this is important, do not use the trainer’s hit rate. That is a different metric. Go through the past performance list with your red pen, write the total number of wins that every trainer has. (I am assuming they still do a trainer standing type of thing, I do not know, I do not use the racing form anymore.)
In other words I am not looking for national statistics on how many wins the guy has. What I want to know is something like how does he do at this track, on this circuit. But take whatever you have, even if you have to do national because even that has value, and write down the total number of wins. Ignore the number of starts. Then add up the total for the field and normalize to 100%.
This should give you a handle on how bad it is for the bottom of ranking. Most races will be won by one of the top 4 trainers or so. That’s how they got all those wins.
Derek: You can find me at usracing.com
About Derek Simon:
I love numbers and analysis and have been able to parlay that into an exciting career writing about two of my greatest passions — business and sports.
In addition to working as a freelance financial writer for Newsmax, The Motley Fool, Investopedia/Forbes, Beacon Equity Research and Investor Concepts (among others), I was also the editor of Small Cap Insider, a monthly newsletter highlighting investment opportunities in the small cap sector.
Currently, I am the editorial director for US Racing where I contribute written, audio and video content and oversee a team of talented and passionate writers.
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