Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Harness Handicapping Software, on Boxing Day!

I am just killing some time handicapping tomorrow's cards for harness, and glancing at the thoroughbred cards.

Tomorrow is Boxing Day in the commonwealth countries. I like Boxing Day. The origin of it is disputed, but generally it tends to be a day for the "common folk" where leftover food was boxed up and eaten, or servants were given a gift of a coin from their employer (because they had to work Christmas Day) in a box they carried to work. Boxing Day to me is harness racing; we are the poorer cousins in racing aren't we? And for those who have gone time and time again to Greenwood (later Woodbine) for Boxing Day harness racing, they know it is time for harness racing!

The harness card capping has gone like it usually does: I check the program, glance at a replay or two, make a contender list. Then I generally just watch the betting, horses on the track and check for overlays to my odds line. I found two horses I like. After a bit more research I have found that I now have a grand total of one horse I like.

Let's flip over to thoroughbreds. I have thoroughbred handicapping software for that. Here's how that went. I downloaded a file from bris. I loaded it, and calculated my races. Out spits a list of horses with various figures: Pace, speed, contention numbers, workout numbers, and many more. I also get an odds line. And the piece de resistance: A model that I have preloaded based on my own handicapping, that works at all tracks. In two cards I have 11 horses that I think I may bet or look at.

My further research with the software goes like this: I check how a trainer has performed off the claim in a situation. I can check, for example how Scott Lake does when he has a horse he claims from a maiden claimer, which he moves up to a maiden special weight. I can check how early speed horses have done the last week at this track. I can check how closers have done in routes this meet. I can check how a trainer has done with horses off 45 days the last three months. Endless information.

In the end, I think I will bet 8 horses tomorrow in the thoroughbreds, and possibly one in harness. Not because I don't like betting harness, or because the pools are smaller, or because I can't find horses that might win. It is only because I have a tool which helps me uncover potential overlays at thoroughbreds and none with harness.

If I were (a hated) commissioner of harness racing, item number 1,243 I would do is work on getting comma delimited files out to everyone who wants them. Or perhaps I would write a database program to do powerful things, and offer it out at a fair price. I would advertise this software in the Daily Racing Form. I would try to spur interest in a data driven sport, to gamblers who are data driven bettors. Thoroughbred players expect data and software to play, harness racing has very little. As I mentioned below, over 80% of bettors in a survey question on paceadvantage.com mentioned they handicap harness "right off the program". This is pure incredulity to t-bred players.

Perhaps we are missing a whole new potential market by not having more data driven betting programs. Perhaps this is something we should push.

I chatted a bit with one player who makes his own pace figures for betting, via a database program. It is proprietary. He generally has a whole pile of plays that these figures generate, and he is ROI positive. We need more people doing that. It is a ton of work. If we make that work easier, perhaps we can make it so instead of myself having one play tomorrow I can have five. I might just bet 5 times as much. Multiply me by a factor of 50? Watch out.

If Boxing Day is for harness racing, why am I going to bet more thoroughbreds? That's not good. Maybe next year with a harness database, or a new commissioner I can bet more at our sport. That'd be nice. After all, Boxing Day is for harness racing.

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