Friday, January 28, 2011

No Whipping, DRF Solid, Is this Horse a True 999-1 Shot?

If you use anecdotes to bet, to buy a horse or to do pretty much anything instead of using hard facts, you tend to miss out.

As we have spoken about before here with betting, in the 1840's Austrian physicist Ignaz Semmelweis did a study he thought would change the way that babies were delivered. The infant mortality rate was very high at a hospital he studied but the good doctor found out that if nurses and doctors simply washed their hands, this rate could be severely reduced. He brought his findings to the hospitals. They asked “Why does your data show this?” Semmelweis could not say why, he just told them that it did. The hospitals would not succumb to his wishes and change their washing policy - in fact they fiercely resisted. If he could not tell them why his data showed this, they wanted nothing to do with it, because this was the way things were done for centuries.

At the time no one knew it, but this was one of the very first studies into germs and the harm that they can do. If they had implemented his policies, lives could have been saved. That is the lead story in the book "Supercrunchers" about stats and numbers telling the story.

This week there is another study, this one on whipping thoroughbred racehorses. It is peer-reviewed and it concluded that whipping near the end of a race does nothing for the speed and final time of the horse. Predictably, racing insiders who have done it their way for a hundred years call the study garbage.

This is the same thing that happened up here in the Standardbred industry. The whip changes a year or so ago were assailed and we were told "final times would be slower" because drivers could not "lay into the horse".

What happened was a lesson that we should never look to the anecdotal, only at the evidence. Times have not gotten slower, they have arguably gotten faster. Without the use of the whip the NA Cup went in 148, Big Jim set a World Record 149 flat, and there have been numerous track and Canadian records, all without being able to "lay into them". As for regular races, please show me how slow it is. Cheap horses which again apparently need to be "laid into" to go fast, still are. A $4500 claimer at Flammy went in 54.4 recently, just like the old times, if not faster.

told it like it is in a recent article. Race day cuts are not doing the job, killing off customers are not doing the job, slots and other subsidies as a band-aid are not doing the job. And most definitely, takeout hikes (a Supercrunchers type-topic) don't add to purses in the short or long run because they kill handles. More customers and more money from them do the job and we don't have that right now, nor do we have policies to get there.

HANA met with Del Mar and Santa Anita heads this week. By the sounds of it in the article, Santa Anita and Del Mar management want to play ball. The horsemen organization doesn't. Read the DRF article above and we can figure out the disconnect nicely.

Yesterday at Warwick in the UK a horse in a six horse field traded about $US450 in running at Betfair. The price - the highest it can go, 999-1. What is absolutely shocking about this, is this horse was the pre-race favorite. This almost never happens. If a 40-1 off price struggles like that 999-1 is totally legit, but if a chalk does it, it rarely reaches that price with so long to go in the race. I admit the horse did look like he blew a tendon or something so I can see it. But something tells me that fair odds on a chalk like this is not an ROI positive lay. Some people got rich, and a lot of people got broke.

Here is the video. The post race commentary is solid regarding the in-running betting. Follie a Dur (sp?) who is third in the early running is the horse to watch. What a shocker.


Tinky said...

Just to be clear regarding the horse FOLIE A DEUX, there was $225 traded in running on Betfair at 999-1, while many thousands (if not tens of thousands) were bet at various other prices along the way. Betting in running is very popular with Befair players as it offers opportunities to hedge and arbitrage. In a situation such as the one you highlighted, there is even more money than usual traded in running, as those who initially backed the favorite scramble to hedge, while others take shots at rapidly increasing odds.

The way that the horse in question seemed to be struggling makes it entirely unsurprising that the odds ballooned as they apparently did, even though he was favored.

While 1000/1 does seem excessive (from a laying perspective), and especially in jump racing where the complexion of races can change radically from hurdle to hurdle, it is exceedingly rare to see a horse struggle like that fairly late in a race, then come on to win.

Pull the Pocket said...

Did you watch it in running?

I got off the phone earlier with a friend who watched. He mentioned for a lot of the race the horse traded nicely near his off odds, then ballooned.

He layed a few others in running, but did not touch this one.


Tinky said...

Yes, I did watch it. So if you are asking whether I would have laid him at anywhere near 1000/1, the answer is no. But it is not all surprising that some people did, as he certainly appeared to be beaten.

If course he traded at near his off odds when he was in contention; that isn't surprising either. I'm sure that he also traded at well above his off odds before drifting to 999/1.

The one aspect of the situation that was a bit surprising is that layers would have offered such huge odds on ANY horse ridden by Tony McCoy, as he is considered by most to be something of a deity.

Pull the Pocket said...

"Of course he traded at near his off odds when he was in contention;"

He looked bad to me, thus him trading at off odds at any point was surprising to me.


Tinky said...

"He looked bad to me, thus him trading at off odds at any point was surprising to me.:"

Any favorite ridden by McCoy that is in contention would be respected by British punters.

I do agree that he never looked comfortable, and I would not have been inclined to back him in any case. However, it is a remarkably dynamic market (in-running, that is), and you have to consider that many bettors are hedging and arbitraging.

Tinky said...

For a bit of perspective, McCoy just rode the favorite in a race at Cheltenham, and there was (roughly) $2k traded at 3/5 in running, and $100 at 1000/1, as well as many prices in between.

It is true that the 1000/1 was traded later in the race than the one we were discussing yesterday, but it still underscores that such big prices in-running, even on favorites, are not uncommon.

Cangamble said...

Probably a bot program which was triggered to take any bids up to 9999-1 based on the speed the horse's odds changed IN PLAY. The program is probably right 9999 out of 10,000 times, but I'm thinking they will refine the program now. Could have been 2 or 3 bot programs.

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