Dave Schwartz Teaches Hybrid Handicapping (Podcast Transcript, Part 1)
Over the years there have been a handful of key handicapping concepts that have dominated horse racing. In my lifetime it was Class, then Speed took over in the 1970s, then Impact Values in the 80s, Pace in the 90s, and powerful regression systems in the new millennium.
What will be next? Where can you begin now to get an informational advantage over the competition?
What if you could get ahead of the curve?
Beth and I got married in 1996. A month before we got married, I did an in-person seminar right here in Reno. Beth really didn’t know quite what to expect. At the time, she told me that she was expecting a room full of cigar-smoking old men who consistently blew a wad at the track; men who looked like a guy who lived down the street from her when she was growing up in Arcadia, California.
His name was George Devarian. I am going to introduce you to the world of George Devarian now. He will be immortalized to some degree in this show today. You probably never heard of George unless you grew up in Arcadia or nearby. George was a long time car salesman.
I could have this wrong, but I think he sold Pontiacs and Cadillacs. I had the pleasure of meeting George at my sister-in-law’s wedding a few years after Beth and I got married. He had just come from Santa Anita. He had binoculars around his neck, a racing form tucked under his arm and a visor on his head. I’m not kidding, he literally wore a visor. He also had a white belt and white shoes and was truly a throwback to the 1970s. George did have the cigar, by the way.
The point is, thinking of an old time horse player like that conjures up an image to many of us that really is very George Devarian-like. It is hard for me to imagine George as an ultra-sophisticated horse player talking about things like track profiles, BRIS reports and impact values. But when I spoke to him about horse racing he actually was a remarkably intelligent horse player.
He had read almost every book I brought up except anything that had to do with to statistics. He really did not have much interest in that. When I said track profile, he did not seem to know what I was talking about. But when I mentioned early speed, he lapsed into an intelligent conversation discussing pace pressure, but without any of the buzz words that proliferate my own vocabulary.
He did not know what an early speed point was, who Frederick Davis or William Quirin was or any other men like them. In other words, he was an old style player that had learned a lot without actually embracing the new style. When I say new style I mean there were no reports in his life and no downloads. There was just the DRF and his tip sheets. When I saw what was in his racing form and asked him about the tip sheets, he said he wanted to know what the tipsters were selling. He went on to say,” I want to know why the price on that 5-1 shot in the third race is opening up as the favorite.”
After the first seminar, Beth said she had been expecting a room full of George Devarian and what she got instead was a room full of professionals; doctors, lawyers, accountants, business owners and four or five professional, full-time horse players.
In fact, there were two players in that room that, between them, earned close to $900,000 a year. To say Beth was impressed would be without exaggeration. Another great quote that came from Beth in the early days of our marriage occurred about three months after we took our vows when she said: “What is it we do again, are we bookies?” I am not making that up. Of course we were not bookies.
Now, let’s move on to the article. I have titled this article Handicapping for the Future. The idea actually came to me from a New York Times article titled Thinking for the Future by David Brooks. In that article he talked about how we are living in the age of mechanized intelligence, diagnostic systems and computer driven analysis. It sounds a lot like horse racing, does it not?
The challenge we face now is not only to figure out how to be competitive in today’s handicapping world but to try to understand what is coming next so we might actually get ahead of the curve. I came into racing in the late 1970s and would imagine many of you out there have been around racing even longer than that.
In my recollection, in the beginning there was class and form and those are two concepts that are still esoteric today. We had class and form because there was no useful information about speed. Then, Tom Ainsley’s Complete Guide to Thoroughbred Racing was published and it became the racing Bible.
After that, speed figures, pioneered by Andrew Beyer’s Picking Winners became a prominent handicapping tool in the mid 70s. Then, in 1979, impact value handicapping followed, ushered in by William Quirin.
That was followed in the 90s by pace handicapping which was pioneered by Howard Sartin. Then, in 1993, speed became prominent again as the Beyer numbers found their way into the Racing Form.
My point is that we have all that history. Think about speed handicapping and how big it was in the late 70s. Consider what might have happened if you could have been a speed handicapper in 1972. What might you have accomplished if you could have been a pace handicapper in 1980, a full decade ahead of the rest of the herd.
Winning at horse racing is all about getting an informational advantage. You may recall, if you did last week’s show, that I said you cannot get an informational advantage with information that is available to everyone.
Of course, you may be a little smarter and have the ability to figure out a little more than other players, but it is very difficult even if you have an edge in intelligence, to overcome the track take and make a profit. The whole idea is to leverage your advantage. It is very difficult to get it from mainstream information.
Getting back to the New York Times article, what I found interesting is that the author spoke of the mental abilities that would compliment mechanical intelligence. Make no mistake. The days of mechanical intelligence are here now. You cannot deny it. The article highlighted two types of personalities. Perhaps we should call them mindsets that should be competitive in a mechanized, computer-driven world.
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