Sunday, September 11, 2011

Handicapping the Bounce - When it Fits Your World View

O_Crunk on twitter recently linked to a piece about our pre-conceived notions that guide us in many ways. If we see something that fits our world view, it cements our world view. If we see something that challenges our view, sometimes we forget about it, or chalk it up to statistical noise.

In handicapping this works in myriad ways. Many handicappers for example, will look at a driver or jockey change to one of their favorites that works and say "see, I told you so". Conversely, when a driver or jockey change happens and the result is not as we expect, we seem to never say "hmmm, I wonder if I should run some numbers to see if I was wrong?"

Recently on Paceadvantage.com's harness section there was plenty of chatter from 'cappers about the "bounce". This, as we all know, has been written about continually in thoroughbred racing, but in harness there is not very much literature on it. This is probably because our horses race nearly every week, and are fairly consistent. If a harness horse gets "hot", he or she tends to stay hot for awhile. As well, with modern vet work, an increase in bills and supplements between starts etc, our trainers tend to be able to keep the charges sharp.

Still, there is a school of thought out there who believe harness horse's bounce fairly regularly. The latest example of that (although summarily this was proven wrong) was See You at Peelers. She had a taxing race where she was completely off her game at the Meadows, and came back a week later to be (probably) even worse. Some believed "she bounced", and hung with this theory, even when trainer Takter said there is something wrong with her, that they are trying to pin-point.

Last evening, we had evidence of a direct challenge to the bounce dogma - in effect, the "anti-bounce". Shelliscape, who got absolutely brutalized in the Shes a Great Lady last week, would be a perfect a bounce candidate if you ever saw one. She came back to race awesome last evening, from a terrible post (click to enlarge).

Also, another 2YO filly, Big McDeal got totally burned in a 26 quarter and 54 half last week, but she came back, went right to the front, made two left turns and won in a stakes record. She paid over $50.


This happens time and time again in our sport but very rarely will you see a topic about it, from the same people who prescribe to the bounce theory.

When I have ran my own numbers overall (trying to find some sort of actionable evidence of this theory), I do not see it at work in the aggregate, only on the anecdotal.

At times I have found the shoe fits, where it might be profitable: For example, if a horse who is sore (check the pp's for that) runs a big one and comes back too quickly, he can run poorly. Or if a trotter scorches in a fast time, he or she can be a little tweaked and go off (Pastor Stephen last night might be a good example of that). This is not, in my opinion, a complete "bounce"; it is a horse who is probably not sound in the first place. And you can not use a theory to find that out, you have to use your eyes.

In my experience, successful stock traders, businessmen, poker players or handicappers will constantly go contrarian in their world views, and never relent. They try and prove themselves wrong, not right.

I think if we look at the "bounce" theory in harness racing, it has much more bark than bite.

I wonder what you think? Have you run any numbers, have you delved into this theory? Is the harness racing bounce theory a bunch of hooey, or does it have merit?

2 comments:

Cangamble said...

To me, bounce theory has more to do with a horse running a high number in its last race because everything or many things went right and possibly many things went wrong for those the horse beat. This might include how the horse was trained going into the race, how the horse was feeling on race day to the actual race. Knowing how many factors go into a horses performance, it isn't a big stretch to state that horses who win aren't as good as they look, and horses who lose aren't as bad as they look either.
Bottom line is that most money is wagered based on the last race more times than not. In order to even have a chance to beat the game, you need to wager on overlays, and incorporating a bounce even if it doesn't exist today, is a way to give yourself a fighting chance.

As far as harness horses go, flow of the race is important, though harness horses at least used to be a sturdier horse than thoroughbreds, which means less prone to injury, knowing what I know about harness vet bills, I would imagine that how a horse "feels" today plays a major role in how it will run today.

Anonymous said...

Bounce is feeling more & more like dosage. I'll go with hooey.