Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Groundhog Day

Crunk's tweet last night started the firestorm, and when he made his way into work today, his mentions were tantamount to Trump's.
His tweet references the track problems at Santa Anita this year in terms of equine deaths. They've been having a rough run - death up, field size on the dirt down, and handle is too.

Funny enough, back around 2006, Santa Anita was complaining about five horse dirt fields and high breakdown rates. So they tried the poly.

 In 2019, several years after ripping it out, they're complaining about the same thing again.

Every day is Groundhog Day in horse racing.

Horse racing is a particularly different beast. In business, or in sports which move with some alacrity on issues, a problem is presented, the problem is addressed in some way. Then its given time to work or not work.

In horse racing, the problem is presented, then it's argued about. Even if the problem is corrected, there's a mysterious pull from the Groundhog to entrench back into what was. And it's rarely given time to show what it can or can't do.

Horse racing - ten years ago and today - have the same set of problems.

I'm coming to the rescue with my magic ball. This magic ball can fix these issues:

There are too few foals, so to increase handle, and the return on investment for owners, we need more starts per horse. I can help.

It costs $40k to $50k for a track to cancel a card because of weather (not to mention the cost to owners and horsepeople), so with my magic ball no cards are cancelled.

If it rains, the turf horses can still race. Cancelling a turf race is mucho dinero lost. Even at Woodbine, where both surfaces can be used, it costs 10% standardized to field size.

I'll cut the breakdown rate in half. This seems pretty amazing; if I was someone who cut the infant mortality rate in half I'd get the Nobel Prize.

We need handle right, and our customers complain these five horse fields aren't bettable (they are right). My magic ball increases field size, so we'll have more money for purses.

My magic ball can deliver all that, and it will result in more betting, more horse owners, less bad press from people wanting to shut the sport down, and more horses will live. It could mean hundreds of millions of dollars extra per year.

The kicker - This can be fixed, but we have to race on cottage cheese. In 40 years, the lineage of a Derby winner will not be Mr. Prospector but Flintshire (he's proficient on cottage cheese). And Beyers will be lower, because the cottage cheese isn't as fast. There will, of course, be bumps along the way - it'll take some money, and at least ten years to perfect.

Still game?

I didn't think so.

Even if someone showed this would happen, without question, as a poll question on the Bacon Report wouldn't the result be about a 50/50 tie?

I'm not saying horse racing should jump at every new thing, or change for the sake of change. And don't conflate my argument above was about polytrack as a panacea (it wasn't).

But, bluntly, sometimes the sport really needs to get its head out of its ass. It certainly can't stay the same and thrive, and arguably, it can't stay the same and survive.

Have a great Tuesday everyone.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Cheat...... if you Know How

In Everybody Lies - an interesting look at big data in the Internet age - the author shares a data study from one of his mentors who looked at reams of IRS data.

The study examined at how much single, self-employed people with one child claimed on their taxes and found that the most popular earnings number was $9,000. It just so happens that $9,000 is the point where the claimant gets the biggest refund. When examining audits, almost all these returns earned less or more than $9,000; some wildly so.

Although that's interesting in itself perhaps, the study looked at the data a little more deeply.

The researchers subset these $9k claims and found there was some serious variance between locales. In Philly, for example, 2% triggered a positive, Miami, 30%. When they ran this data for demographics, income and other factors, two things stuck out. First, the higher the incidence of self employed people in an area, the much higher the likelihood $9k (exactly) would be claimed. Second, the more tax professionals in the area, the higher the incidence of the $9k number.

They conclude if you had i) knowledge and ii) friends, or professionals nearby to spread that knowledge to you, you were likely to know the magic number; the best number to cheat at. The authors contend it wasn't really about wanting to cheat, or being bad people. It was an effect of what marketers call "contagion".

This helps, I think, explain cheating in horse racing. If there are a lot of guys and gals pushing the envelope at your favorite track (we won't name names), it might not be by chance. It might be because knowledge of how to cheat is more readily available. It might be because (some) vets - like tax professionals - are there to spread knowledge of what they can do for you.

For regulators, this probably helps explain why it's smart for them to concentrate on certain tracks, barns and vets. If they stop one, the contagion spreads in reverse, and they end up stopping many.

Have a nice Wednesday everyone.

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