By Richard Valentine
I have been using the Horse Street Handicapper for about a month now and would like to share my findings with you. First, my overall impression is that it has great promise. Most of all, it’s fun to use. And, yes, there are a few bugs, but they are relatively minor. I expect that most of these small problems will be fixed shortly, although I sort of hope that Dave puts most of his efforts toward Enigma.
I know that what everyone wants to know is, What’s the R.O.I.? What’s the win percentage? While those issues are ultimately important to me as well, at this point I am asking more basic questions like, Can I win with this software? and What needs to be changed to make it easier?
The program is, a turnkey type program right now, although there are a number of different ways to turn the key. The composite factors was a great idea. These are so much more powerful than anything else I’ve ever seen. I mean, when a horse gets a 90 or higher for Early Speed, this guy is going to the front. And when this same horse ranks poorly for stretch run (SR), he is going to fail in the stretch. The question becomes one of Can he hold on?
First thing I did was to handicap a week of races using the approach mentioned on the website. That is, I used a contender selection process based upon selecting the factor that got the highest impact value in the top half of the field. I also looked at the old Sartin idea of narrowing down to 5 horses in every race. It just didn’t make much sense to leave in 5 contenders in a 6-horse field.
I found that Dave’s half-the-field-plus-one approach was an improvement over anything else. I was amazed that in almost every race the IVs dropped off strongly at exactly that point. I also found that, it rarely left out a long shot winner, though sometimes I could not find a way to justify why the horse won. And I mean it found some monster winners as contenders.
I also found that the best approach for selecting the contender factor was to use only the highest rated composite factor. The other factors, though often appearing to be slightly better, just did not perform as well. In other words, when the best factor was a conventional factor (like final time in last race), the likelihood of missing the winner was higher than if I selected the best of the composites instead.
On the subject of How good is it at picking contenders? the answer is Very good. During my test, it got 92% of the winners as contenders and that included 84% of the winners over 10-1. One interesting thing was that, had I bet all my contenders over 8-1 I would have shown an R.O.I. of almost 40%, much of this fueled by a $56 winner.
A couple of years ago Dave wrote a paper entitled, The Key to the Mint, a very interesting approach. In that system he suggested that the way to get long shots was to do no handicapping beyond the contender process. After determining who the contenders are, you simply bet the longest priced horses. The real mind blower was that he suggested that we could make money betting ½ the field minus one horse!
Now, this means that in a 10-horse field we’d have 6 contenders and bet the 4 longest odds. My response was that this was nuts and I never really took it seriously. I must tell you that during this week, that approach was profitable!
Dave’s claim was that this system typically breaks even or loses a little until the big hit. If the week I worked on was any indication, this system might actually work. Without a doubt, the key would be getting 90+ percent of the winners in your contenders.
Another thing Dave said was that horses on the Composite Screen that had the Early Speed Combo were strong. The ES Combo is described as:
— ES rank 1st
— F1 rank 1st
— EP rank 1st
— LP rank 1st-4th
I did not find this to be anywhere near profitable though they won a lot of races. Typically the horses went of at around 6-5, so they are supposed to win a lot of races. I decided to try to set a minimum score of 90 for each of those first three factors (ES, F1, EP) and 75 for LP. The system produced about 1.5 bets per day, per track, won 50% of there starts, and only lost 3% per wagered dollar.
Why am I excited about a system that lost? Because I looked at every kind of race! It clearly did not work on the turf (What a surprise!). I can imagine that with some study and adjustment one might be able to squeak out a 10% profit and push the win percentage over 50%. And, if you could get a system like this to work, you’d make lots of money because you could bet a lot of money.
Composite Form factor shows promise, too. What was surprising to me was that it pointed to some great price horses that ran good races to get in the money. Many of these horses had nothing else going for them. Some were first time starters, although as a general rule, The Horse Street Handicapper does not do real well with those.