Monday, July 24, 2023

Monday's Super Spectacular Blog - The Way I Wake Up, Old Time Comparison Stats, CRW Op-Eds, CJ Dressed for the Spa, and Goodbyes

Welcome to this Monday's edition of the Super Spectacular Blog! 

In honor of CJ Milkowski this week's SSB will have no run up. 

Let's go!

First, you're all on twitter so no doubt you've read about the "Deep State" conspiracy. I have never been a proponent, but this week I began to believe it for horse racing. 

My blog has been - as you all know - under a lot of scrutiny; from people like Scott Daruty, Fred Pope, Russians and especially TVG. We Rock the Boat like Hues Incorporated here. 

TVG must have a bug in my house. Because, yes, this is the way I get prepared for the races each and every day. They saw me doing this, and stole it. It's the only explanation. 

Folks, beware of the Deep Horse Racing State, and even though Jason Beem has an Alexa in his North Tampa Bay mansion and we all wanna be like him, destroy yours immediately. 

Jerry Brown wrote an oped in the Thoroughbred Daily News about the computer teams that generated a ton of chatter this week.  He made several points, most of them that we've spoken about here on the blog, and have made the rounds on twitter. 

Primarily, Jerry suggests the sport lower the teams' rebates and not allow them to bet into the pools when three minutes to post is hit. 

That's fine I suppose, but I don't know what that would do, frankly, because it's more than just the teams betting with models and with rebates at places like Elite, but his two points do seem to have some backing from inside the industry. 

Regardless, industry arguments tend to be circular, because they are talking about symptoms and don't in my view address the real problems with pricing. Couching them into "this hurts the retail player too much" when the industry has killed the retail player for a half century with usurious takeout feels completely disingenuous to me.  

Hot take here. 

Australia horse racing is currently not the Titanic, because years ago they added new avenues to bet while offering better pricing for those who are price sensitive. Broadening the tent and modernizing an industry that was protected is not in the harvesting phase of the product life cycle. 

The industry in North America, unfortunately as we all know, never really stopped steering towards the iceberg, and we see this take. And with the way the game is run here, it's not necessarily wrong, in my opinion. 

I was messing around with "X" start off layoff last month; particularly interested in comparing older data (in this case 2006) to newer (2022). 

First, here's a snip of 2006 data (courtesy sorted by start off layoff. 

Notice the first start impact value is low, second start higher. Sweet spots were 4th and 5th off the layoff, with correponding ROI boosts. 

And here's a snip from last year. 

Perhaps remarkably the grids look very similar. However, one striking difference is first off layoff in 2022 versus 2006. This could be partially due to sample size, but in 2006 first off layoff horses won only about a half a percentage point less than non-layoff horses. 

In 2022 this jumped to 1.8%. The impact value in 2022 was only 0.84 versus 0.91 in 2006. 

Second start off layoff returned to, may we say, normal. the IV was 0.9462 in 2002, about the same as it was in 2006. 

Bettors (or should we say teams who model) seem to be in tune with this, as the parimutuel price of the first returning horses in 2022 was $12.28 - the highest of any subset. 

I have to double check to be sure both these sets of data are using the same layoff dates, but I think they are. If not, it's close. So, if someone said to me that trainers are not cranking up to win first start now as much as yesteryear, I'd have to say there is at least some glimmer of truth to it. 

Note - Crunk (protected account but many of you can see it) has some super cool stats on how layoffs have changed in horse racing since the 1990's. 

Another item I found interesting was blinkers on versus off, versus no change. Here's 2006's data:

And here's last year:

Blinkers on has long been an overbet angle and in 2006 it was a good fade with a poor 0.71 ROI. In 2022 it's still a bad wager, but it appears the bettors have woken up to it at least a little. The ROI is about 5% higher. 

Amazingly, blinkers off continues to roll with a 0.86 ROI, which is down from the whopping 0.9080 in 2006. 

This is why model building could be so lucrative. Do some handicapping, weed out what needs be, add a 5% win rebate, and you could literally just flat bet blinkers off horses all year in 2006 and make bank. 

The thing I love most about the Spa is not the great horses, big pools or colorful jockeys, it's the insider tweets where we learn something new about the participants of this fine sport. 

Man of the people. CJ Johnsen had a huge maiden winner this week at Saratoga with Sugar Hi, yet there he is, looking just like us regular folk. 

On the off chance it's not CJ, delete (and it's a shame). 

Changing of the game tweet by Tink which is in keeping with this week's comparison theme. 
Wrote a little piece on potential changes to the Amateur series at the Big M here. 

Quick note about the blog itself - it will not be the Pullthepocket Blog any longer, it willl just be a big letter P. 

very nice piece from Leo about the loss of his friend and NHC Champ Jose Arias. It sounds like Jose was a great guy.

As always, thanks for reading, and may all your tickets be cashes this week. 

Monday, July 17, 2023

Monday's World Famous Super Spectacular Blog - Leading Rider Numbers, Betting Mind Games, Boy Scout Betting, Spa Card Drags and Assorted Links

Hello everyone, long time no see! 

I've been a little busy lately, so apologies (to all of my advertisers who pay me big money, but to readers, too) for the gap in the Super Spectacular Blogs.

Let's get going!

saw David Aragona's picks page for Sunday's Saratoga races and one selection caught my eye. 

His pick, Dr. Cringle, was being booked off by Irad Ortiz, and he noted this jockey change may help the price a bit, so he liked him even more. 

Now, this is something we don't hear often in public handicapper analysis. Usually in fact, it's the opposite, i.e. "this horse picks up the leading rider, so I like him". But in my view, this is prime rib steak. Everything we do - everything - is about price. 

For example, here's a snapshot of horses even money or less from last year sorted by rider rank. 

Overall, the entire subset's average mutuel is $3.19, the $1 ROI is 0.8618 and the win percentage is 54%. 

For the leading rider (by ranking) the win percentage is 53.75%, ROI is 0.8428 and the average mutuel is $3.14. 

For the riders ranked 4th or lower, the average mutuel is $3.30, win percentage is 53.56% and the ROI is 0.8847. 

For this sample, you received about the same hit rate, but were paid more if you had a "worse" rider. 

For odds less than 5-1 last year it was more pronounced. 

The top rider generated a 0.7868 ROI versus an average of about 0.85 for those ranked 2nd or lower. In this subset, horses 5-1 or lower had a win price average of $6.19. When ridden by the leading rider the average mutuel was $5.41. 

As samples get bigger, these numbers - like most rider or driver numbers - will likely return more to the mean because the pari-mutuel pools are very efficient. In fact, ten years ago these numbers can look different ten years from now. 

Although there's nuance in rider (or driver) analysis that can help us at times, globally there really isn't much. So, if we really like a horse at 2-1 with Irad, and we can get - as David suggests - any shade over 2-1 with a journeyman, we should probably fire away and not give it a moment's thought. 

Over in harnessland this phenomenon can show up, as well.

For example, over a five year sample at the Meadowlands, unheralded capable drivers like Corey Callahan have a -6% ROI on favorites, which beats the takeout. Other more popular choices are right around or near the juice. 

The two leading drivers are the ultimate split hairs since 2021 with favorites. Dexter Dunn won a few more races, but remarkably the UTRS for each driver over this period with chalk was within one one-thousandth of a percentage point. 

Conversely, the two leaders with horses over 5-1 are remarkably similar as well. Yannick has won more, but is more overbet. 

From my research, harness racing is a little more variant than thoroughbreds in this realm and I think it has to do with aggression. Lately, as harness racing has become more and more of a speed game, aggressive drivers are slightly better bets, regardless of how much they win. 

There was a neat article on hindsight bias on the Pinnacle betting blog last week. This effects us all, whether we like to admit it or not, because like fear, it's in our DNA. 

Generally, the thinking goes - when we lose we lost because of whatever befell us, but when we win, we won because we were right all along. 

I noticed a little of this recently with a set of driver changes from what most would consider a bad driver to a good one. I watched this move (it went 1 for 7 with a terrible ROI), yet when the one win occurred it was still considered an amazingly smart angle. The six losses were because of circumstance, not the angle. Conversely, those who faded the angle were correct and making plus EV bets, but it was a seven horse sample, so we might want to put the greatness moniker on hold.  

I find we as bettors use this bias most in pick 4's or pick 5's. When we hit them we don't notice the ramdomness or luck when it's on our side, but when we lose we are patently aware of it - the quintessential bad beat. 

Personally, I like to analyze a pick five after it's complete and determine if I ended up making a good bet or bad bet - not based on result but on process. Did I have the right horses as "A's", did I miss something, did I spread too much or not enough? Was my ticket paying well over parlay? What mistakes did I make, regardless of the outcome?

As the article notes, analyzing bets from a bird's eye view helps us find our weaknesses, and like Lichtenber put it, "once we know our weaknesses, they cease to do us any harm."

We can find value anywhere - each race can have some - and Dennis's models do. 

Speaking of tickets and a bit about what I wrote above, constructing them is so important, as we all know, and sometimes things are beyond our control. 

Saturday's Meadowlands Pace card was a dandy, and I wanted to fade Jiggy Jog as a potential 1-9 chalk with M and M's Dream. At about a minute to (the dragged) post I figured I'd take a pick 3 or 4, but they changed the menu for the night and there was only a 20 cent pick six offered (this usually goes in race 8). 

Scrambling, I keyed my longshot, then spread, then keyed chalk Sylvia Hanover and finished my one ticket quickly. Then I went back and pitched Sylvia (because she's a mental mess and can do dumb things). Then I took another ticket then it was post time. 

Noteworthy, I had already taken a pick three in the previous race, with the 9 keyed in leg two of this pick six (which was a cash leg for me), who was my top choice. Clearly I should've started my pick six ticket with 9-9-5 and spread, for a ticket cost of a modest $9.60 or $14.40. I would've if I had time to think about my ticket, but I didn't. 

M and M's won, a 42-1 shot I used upset in leg four, and I missed a horse who was obvious at 5-2, because I keyed that leg. I think the pick 6 paid $23k. 

I know people like ITP and Chris on the Bet with the Best pod are swaying more and more bettors to the "ticket construction is as important as handicapping" angle, and this is a good thing. But even when we do focus on it, this game can bite you in the ass. 

We truly need to Boy Scout this game - always be prepared. I wasn't and I lost. 

The Big M had a nice handle that approached $6 million for Pace night, and that was surely helped with the Mohawk cancel after the monsoon hit. I think they did a good job with the card, however I was surprised the last five races (with two big stakes) did not see a pick five offered. Maybe next year. 

One gripe - tracks, in my view, should do better with making sure they have proper equipment changes, and broadcasting them on all available media. It's vital to us as bettors, and when the masses don't know that Oh Well switched from an open to a blind (when it's referenced in the post-race interview) they have to do better. 

I see some criticism on the interwebs about the length of the cards at the Spa, and frankly I tend to agree. Golf is doing everything to increase the pace of play, as has baseball. These cards are never ending. 

I know there's a schedule with TV and simo, I know this ain't a charity and handle needs to be raised, and I know circumstances like weather have an effect, but 35 minutes to post to the third today for a three horse field really seems silly to me. 

If thoroughbred players at the Spa see the name Phil Antonacci and don't know him, I think you should. They are an extremely smart harness outfit and their horses are always happy, sound and fit as a fiddle. As they say in the game, they don't miss much. 

CarlyK with the trifecta. 

Chris's Bet with the Best Pod had two new guests since my unscheduled blogging break - one, the amazing Andy Beyer and two, Frank Mustari, just out today.

Last up. If you think I'm not gonna post this pic on this blog, you're crazy. Garnet with #ChuckforHISAPrez

As always thank you for reading, have a super good week, and please, go cash some tickets!

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Backstretch Innuendo and the Friends of God

Happy 4th of July to my friends in the lower 48. I hope you and your families have a wonderful holiday. 

I was listening to some backstretch rumor this week about what barn is doing what, and it got me thinking about Bob. No, not that Bob; another one - Cousin Bob. 

Bob was in his 20's when I was a kid and I thought he was just about the coolest guy around. He had tattoos and the most-excellent chopper you'll ever see. Cousin Bob was a biker dude. 

As far as I can tell (and heard) this was nothing nefarious, it was a bunch of guys and gals in their twenties carousing and living life. Then, just like with most of us, life got in the way. Bob was hired at a steel mill in the Southern Ontario town of Hamilton - Canada's Pittsburgh. 

Bob worked there for the next twenty or so years and decided as he neared retirement he'd live a little bit of life again. He broke out the chopper, got it fixed up and began riding on weekends. A couple of his old friends joined, then a few new ones. This group grew to eighteen or nineteen and they had a blast riding around, just enjoying the summer. 

One day they stopped for lunch and one of the cohort decided this new bike gang needed a name. 

After batting around several, one piped in with the new moniker that would stick - they'd be now known as the FOG - the "Fat Old Guys". 

A logo was created with the acronym along with a chopper with flames shooting out the exhaust, which I think was a bike gang logo staple. They proudly wore the patch on their backs, just like old times. 

One day about a month or two later the phone rang. One of Bob's FOG pals was in a tizzy. He received a call from someone in a *real* bike gang from Toronto. 

"They want to meet. They think we're a real gang and we're planning to encroach on their turf", said his pal, who I think was an accountant. 

Bob was perplexed, "Why would they want to meet with us, we're the freaking Fat Old Guys."

"That's the thing," explained Bob's friend. "They think we're the FOG all right, but not the Fat Old Guys. They think our gang is called "Friends of God". They believe we're a Christian bike gang and they had trouble with one once." 

"All I know is that you and I are supposed to be in North Toronto tonight at 9."

Bob knew enough about the culture that he had to show up, so the two of them drove to the meeting. Funnily enough, the accountant's wife made him pack socks and underwear, just in case he ended up in the hospital. 

Bob and his pal drove up and went in, where they were greeted by several real bikers, and one asked immediately, "Tell me about this Friends of God thing"

Bob explained that they were the Fat Old Guys, which (after some time) drew great amounts of laughter. 

"I told you this sounded stupid," said one, who went on to explain how Jimmy heard they were the new Christian gang through Rickie's wife Sue, who heard it from another biker from another gang's mechanic, who heard it from..... well you get the picture. 

They had a beer or two and went on their way. Crisis averted and the Fat Old Guys rode for years. 

Bob passed away last year and I think of this story often. It's one of my favorites for many reasons, not the least of which is the game of telephone it exemplfies. 

When I heard this week that this barn has this juice from this source because Jimmy knows someone's wife who knows someone, it brought it back once again. 

No doubt sometimes a gang really is the Friends of God, but more often than not they're just the Fat Old Guys. 

Have a nice Tuesday everyone, and rest in peace Bob. You were one of a kind.  

Most Trafficked, Last 12 Months


Carryovers Provide Big Reach and an Immediate Return

Sinking marketing money directly into the horseplayer by seeding pools is effective, in both theory and practice In Ontario and elsewher...