Wednesday, October 8, 2008

21st Century - Debates to Rest & Let's Make History

Timeform is a global data driver, and a service that rates horses based on what they run. They were recently bought by Betfair. In the recently concluded Arc they rated Zarkava, the filly who won, at a 133.

Timeform have put a lofty provisional rating of 133 on Zarkava’s stunning Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe win - and that makes her the joint third-best filly/mare in the past 20 years, according to the world-renowned ratings organization.

And they believe that she has the ability to become the best.
Allez France (1974) and Habibti (1983) have recorded the best female performances in the past 40 years, posting a rating of 136, and Sunday’s comfortable 2 length defeat of Youmzain sees Zarkava ranked alongside more recent greats such as Miesque and Indian Skimmer.

“Zarkava’s basic rating for winning the Arc was 131 but she has been credited with an extra 2lb for the style of her success and the fact that she didn't have an entirely trouble-free passage.

“She's undoubtedly one of the best fillies in recent memory and, still unbeaten, has the potential to be the best if she's given the chance to continue racing against colts.”


In addition, this service rates horses, based on ability all around the world. Curlin is currently the fastest horse in racing.

Big Brown versus Curlin? There is no debate on who is historically better, it is Curlin. He has run faster. It has nothing to do with horse of the year, but at least we get to see numerically who is the better horse. We will know for sure when they meet in the Classic.

What does this have to do with harness racing? It is simple, it helps define what we have been speaking about on the blog - political, and/or strange votes for Horse of the Year. And it helps bring our sport into the 21st century, by allowing us to compare horses in different years, or venues and creating a detailed history of this sports horses. It also lets us join what thoroughbreds have been doing successfully for some time now.

As for promotion: People love power ratings. Each Tuesday one of the most searched terms in google is "NFL power ratings". Everyone knows that the teams are re-rated each Tuesday.

It is high time that harness racing contacts Simubet, or the Harness Eye, or figure makers out there to run the history of this sport and develop ratings for our horses - including all of the greats. It is not difficult. And it can do a lot. We need our history tabled, detailed and documented.

Look what we would learn about Dewey and Beach. Who is better? We get 9000 opinions based on where a horse raced, what province, what size of purse, their competition and all the rest. All of that is inconsequential when we standardize like Timeform. To seasoned racewatchers Dewey would not be close to the Beach, but it would be in black and white for everyone to see. Then we could get to work promoting the best in our sport.

For example, Beach's 146.4 might be rated a "130", based on the speed of the track that day. His 147.4 might be a "128" because it was slower that day. We can now look back: Rock n Roll Hanover ran a "top" of a "122". His average was a "117". Beach's average timeform rating is a "126". Niatross's time trial was a "139" (remember this data is standardized, so a 49 in 1980 is worth a hell of a lot more than a 49 now).

The list goes on. Many observers out there say that Beach is the 2nd best pacer ever. Well all I can say to that is let's find out. I know Cigar is faster than Curlin because these numbers are documented, let's find out if Artsplace is faster than Art Major, let's find out if Beach is the second fastest horse of all time.

We can look at horses like Dewey, too. Is he the best of a bad group? Dewey might have trotted a "103", in the Kentucky Futurity. We can then standardize it, just like they do with the thoroughbred rankings and see Dewey is rated as a 115 horse. Then we compare him to Donato, and Mack Lobell and all the rest. If we find out Donato ran a top of 130 and Mack a 135, we know Dewey does not belong.

With some work, we can rank the horses in the world, in a systematic easy way.

Although Timeform ratings use more than time, for those who think time means nothing, I believe that is nonsense. 20 claimers go in 152, 40 claimers go in 151. A 148 pacer beats a 150 pacer every day of the week. Of course time means something. Usain Bolt is currently a multi-millionaire because he ran a 9.68, not because he won a gold medal. If he won a gold medal in 11.12 against a bunch of fat guys, he would be lucky to get an endorsement shilling for Turtle Wax.

Is this difficult? Absolutely not, it would cost a small amount of cash I would surmise. I would submit the slots revenue at Pocono from the time it took me to type this post would pay for it.

It is about time we get to work on making this game fun, fresh and simple. We are so far behind the thoroughbreds in this, it is not funny.

This business locks up its racing data like it is the nuclear codes; for what reason I have no idea. I have little doubt we would see this and so much more if we gave it to horseplayers through an API or otherwise (I know, this is Web 2.0 and we are barely at Web 0.2). This data is sitting there gathering dust for absolutely no reason, in a sport that is slowly circling the drain. If this business is not going to give it to us and continue to treat it like the Caramilk secret, why in the heck don't they start doing something productive with it?

Racing, and betting racing is a mind game, a puzzle. Don't give us fuzzy polls to tell us who is good, worried about offending a breeding farm or a friend, or allowing where the horse's owners sleep at night to be a factor. Give us numbers and science to tell us which horse is great and allow punters to compare them to past greats, and have some fun. Not to mention, unlocking the data train might get more people to do something wild and wacky - bet more on our sport.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Pocono slots money? Did any of the horses you want to rate see Pocono this year? I'm only guessing but I would guess if you asked Pocono horsemen to give up some of their slots shares to rate and promote the big horses they might say no.
I know that in Michigan the simulcast action is 2-1 on thoroughbreds over the trots. I would be curious what the ratio is in Calif, La, Ark, Texas, Ariz, Fla, etc.
RG