Tuesday, June 26, 2012

How Do You Handicap Layoffs?

One of the toughest things to handicap is the horse off an extended layoff. At the track I will often hear, "I will never bet a horse who is coming off a qualifier with a long layoff" or in the runners "200 days or more in an automatic pitch." Let's face it, this is often correct. In harness racing, a complaint from some is the 'he will need one' line. In thoroughbred racing, if a trainer wanted to put one over on someone it is a fine time to do it with a first time starter, or a long layoff horse with no form, because people tend to believe they have no shot.

So, is this true? Are long layoffs truly detrimental? Are they sucker bets? Should we bet the odds board? Well we have some numbers. First, courtesy our friend Ray, some from harness.

Here is some data from an extended database for harness racing:

Days off.....Starters......ROI

29-40 .......2496 .........0.42
41-60 .......1230 .........0.65
61+ ...........246 .........0.72



With a blind bet ROI of about 0.78, each of these layoff sections have a less than one impact value.

The number that jumps out to me is the 29-40 angle. That ROI is horrid, and about as bad as you can find anywhere. That is an ultimate fade angle. I would think that this is intuitively not surprising, however. I think that if a horse is off 29-40 days that horse must have had a fairly troublesome issue. If a horse is sick, he might be off twenty days, and be back in. He is probably 100% sound, and had a good schooler to get ready and he can still race well. Same thing with a minor foot or hock issue. But for a horse to be out over a month I think the issue is more than one, or much more serious. The horse probably could not get much work into him, and he would need a tightener, or perhaps is not the same horse at all. Regardless, these horses on face value seem to be very bad bets. The crowd is not discounting the obvious problem enough.

As time grows, so does ROI. Again, this is not surprising, if we break it down. The average handicapper hates long layoffs, and now they do factor in the fact that the horse had a serious issue. Further, I believe they are prone to think old school - "that horse will need one, and I am not touching him." When looking at it objectively, there are some good bets on long layoff horses, eventhough they do not win very much.

How can we up those ROI's, and perhaps catch a nice bet or two in pick 4's? I think there is a few ways:

1) The trainer - Statistics on trainers off layoffs in harness are not readily available. You have to know your circuit and know the guys who school long layoff horses and have them ready to go.
For example, Noel Daley, Julie Miller and Ross Croghan are ROI positive, or close to it, off 30+ day layoffs
2) The odds board - Is a horse that should not be live, live?
Often times you see a long layoff horse, not overly liked by public handicappers, win at 3-1. Why was he so low? Because he was ready.
3) Warmups/Scoring - If the driver looks interested on a bad-form, long layoff horse, there is a chance he may be live.

In thoroughbreds, this is some data from a pretty large database:

As we notice, again long 200+ layoff horses do not hold up very well.


Starts........ Wins.........Win %....... ROI
1634 ......... 161 ........ 9.8% ....... 0.72



When just favorites are run, however, this jumps to 0.83 ROI:

Starts........ Wins.........Win %....... ROI
   141 ......... 45 ........ 32% .......... 0.83



There is a slight bias against layoff chalk. If they are chalk, they are actually pretty good chalk. We have to think contrarian. The odds board is not stupid.

So I guess the lesson for me is that there are no bad bets just because the horse is off a long layoff, although the general numbers overall show this. Since the general handicapping bias is against these horses, that means the crowd is. If the general crowd all thinks something is sure to happen, you do not want to be with them all the time. With some filters (odds action; trainer data) you can weed out bad bets, and find some good ones. If you do you will be rewarded for it.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Pen vs. The Chip Handicapping Challenge Hits Quarter Pole

(June 24, 2012) – With last night’s fourteenth leg at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, HANA Harness’ The Pen vs. The Chip Handicapping Challenge sponsored by The Hambletonian Society, Meadowlands, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs has reached the quarter pole in this season-long competition. After the sixteen races Saturday night (June 23), Pen Handicapper Mark McKelvie and Chip Handicapper Ray’s Robot finished in a dead-heat as both handicappers had a Win ROI of 1.19. Not far behind, was another Pen Handicapper, Scott Alberg (1.17) who took show honors. What is interesting is while McKelvie and Ray’s Robot both ended up with six winners on the card and the exact amount of money won, they only agreed on three winners. With fourteen legs completed, Mark McKelvie maintains his lead with a ROI of 1.02 with Trackmaster’s Chatsworth Consortium (0.93) not far behind. With respect to Exactas, Scott Alberg took top honors in Leg 14 with an Exacta ROI of 1.13 followed next by Chip Handicapper Earl the Pearl (1.08). Through the first fourteen legs of the Handicapping Challenge, the overall standings are:

Position
Name
$ Won
ROI
1st
Mark McKelvie (P)
$375.90
1.02
2nd
TM Chatsworth Consortium (C)
$341.10
0.93
3rd
Ray's Robot (C)
$322.80
0.88
4th
Bobby Z (P)
$307.80
0.84
5th
Mr. Trifecta (P)
$307.10
0.84
6th
Pandy (C)
$273.50
0.74
7th
Scott Alberg (C)
$260.50
0.71
8th
Earl the Pearl (P)
$248.60
0.68

This coming weekend, leg fifteen of the Handicapping Challenge returns to Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs for a stakes-laden race card with pacers taking center stage with the $500,000G Ben Franklin for FFA pacers and the $350,000E Max C Hempt Memorial Pace for 3yos, and the $300,000E James E Lynch Memorial for 3yo filly pacers. Selections for the Saturday evening card will be available by Saturday morning

As always, contest dates, handicapper selections, and additional statistical information are available at the contest website (http://hanaharnesscontest.blogspot.com).

Monday, June 18, 2012

Pen Handicapper McKelvie ‘Extends’ Lead after Thirteen Legs

June 18, 2012) – This past weekend, legs twelve and thirteen of HANA Harness’ The Pen vs. The Chip Handicapping Challenge sponsored by the Hambletonian Society, Meadowlands, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs were contested. When the racing action at Tioga Downs concluded yesterday, handicapper Mark McKelvie extended his overall lead, to maintain a .05 advantage in the all-important Win ROI.
On Saturday (6/16) night’s card at Mohawk Racetrack, which included the Pepsi North America Cup as well as other stakes, the Chip handicappers had their most impressive performance to date, taking the top three positions for the evening with Pandy taking top honors with a Win ROI of 1.82 followed by Trackmaster’s Chatsworth Consortium (1.42) and Ray’s Robot (0.98) taking the show spot. When it came to exactas, Pen handicapper Mark McKelvie continued to impress with an exacta ROI of 2.00 with his closest opponent far back with an ROI of 0.79.
Sunday (6/17) afternoon’s card at Tioga Downs, where the Historic Stakes were contested for the first time, the Pen handicappers returned the favor to the Chips by grabbing the top three positions led by Mr. Trifecta with a 2.10 Win ROI followed by Mark McKelvie with a 1.25 and Bobby Z with a 1.00 ROI. Success with exactas was somewhat elusive in Leg Thirteen as Mark McKelvie had the session’s high with a 0.93 ROI.  
Through the first thirteen legs of the Handicapping Challenge, the overall standings are:
Position
Name
$ Won
ROI
1st
Mark McKelvie (P)
$337.70
1.01
2nd
TM Chatsworth Consortium (C)
$320.90
0.96
3rd
Mr. Trifecta (P)
$295.70
0.88
4th
Ray's Robot (C)
$284.60
0.85
5th
Bobby Z (P)
$282.00
0.84
6th
Pandy (C)
$242.70
0.72
7th
Earl The Pearl (C)
$223.60
0.67
8th
Scott Alberg (P)
$223.10
0.66
 
This week there is only one card on the calendar as the Handicapping Challenge hits the quarter pole with Leg Fourteen being contested Saturday evening in Northeast Pennsylvania when the contest visits Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs for the $500,000 Earl Beal Memorial in addition to eliminations for the Ben Franklin, Max C. Hempt Memorial, and James M. Lynch Memorial. Selections will be posted on the contest website by Saturday morning.
As always, contest dates, handicapper selections, and additional statistical information are available at the contest website (http://hanaharnesscontest.blogspot.com

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Join HANA Harness


HANA Harness is a division of Horseplayers Association of North America (HANA). You may have seen HANA Harness recently, as it is sponsoring HANA Harness' The Pen vs. The Chip Handicapping Challenge.


As a division of HANA, HANA Harness allows HANA to represent harness racing horseplayers the same way as they represent the gambler's interest when it comes to thoroughbred racing. The more members of HANA Harness there are, the more influence HANA has with harness racing tracks.

If you have not joined HANA yet, please consider doing so now. If already a HANA member, you are asked to rejoin as there is now a place to indicate you want to be connected with HANA Harness. When you attempt to rejoin, you will be sent a link to update your profile and all you need to do is check off HANA Harness to be counted as a harness racing fan (you can also sign up for thoroughbred racing as well).

Please stand up for your own interests now now and join HANA in representing harness racing horseplayers.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Bobby Z Takes Leg Eight; The Meadows Up Tuesday

(June 3, 2012) - Bobby Z (Pen) makes his presence felt for the first time to win leg eight of HANA Harness’ The Pen vs. The Chip Handicapping Challenge, sponsored by The Hambletonian Society, Meadowlands, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs which was conducted Saturday night (June 2) at Yonkers Raceway. However, Mark McKelvie remains in control of the overall lead.

In this particular leg, Zanakis was greatly assisted in the eighth race where he selected Pansai Yamamoto ($19.80) to win and nailed the 2-6 exacta ($92.80) which allowed him to earn a Win ROI of 1.59 and a 3.55 Exacta ROI. Not far behind in the WIN ROI are Pandy and Mr. Trifecta who dead heated for second with a Win ROI of 1.42.
 
The overall contest standings through leg eight are:

Position
Handicapper
$ Earned
Win ROI
1st
Mark McKelvie (P)
$244.70
1.19
2nd
TM Chatsworth Consortium (C)
$169.70
0.82
3rd
Mr. Trifecta (P)
$165.30
0.80
4th
Earl Paulson (C)
$158.20
0.77
5th
Ray's Robot (C)
$147.60
0.72
6th
Bobby Z (P)
$144.40
0.70
7th
Pandy (C)
$138.40
0.67
8th
Scott Alberg (P)
$129.80
0.63


The Handicapping Challenge is going to keep our handicappers busy this week as there are three legs on tap. Tuesday (June 5) brings us leg nine at The Meadows where two divisions of the Currier Ives for 3yo Open Trotters take center stage. Next weekend brings us to Vernon Downs on Friday night (June 8), where the Empire Breeders Classics for 3yo Colts and Geldings and 3yo Filly Trotters are the highlight, and Sunday afternoon (June 10) at Tioga Downs where the Artiscape and Bettor’s Delight will be contested.
 
As always, contest dates, handicapper selections, and additional statistical information are available at the contest website (http://hanaharnesscontest.blogspot.com).

Rescue Spotlight – This week, our rescue spotlight takes a look at two of the standardbred rescues selected by our handicappers, Helping Hearts Equine Rescue and Horse Lovers United.

The Starfish Stable is a private Standardbred rescue and rehabilitation group that consists of about 20 friends and colleagues who work in the Standardbred industry. In six years, we have helped 9 horses, primarily those purchased at grade sales for a few hundred dollars, restore them to good health, get them professional training (at less than retail rates) as riding horses and place them for adoption with a contract, ensuring they never again end up in a precarious situation. While most of the horses have been placed with families, one horse, Broadway Kevin, now works in law enforcement for the city of Philadelphia after a successful career patrolling the streets of Newark, NJ.

The Starfish Stable’s current project is 15 year old Tyler’s Bella, an unraced, largely unhandled former broodmare who was legally seized due to neglect in Maryland. Bella gained hundreds of pounds and was restored to good health at Hanover Shoe Farms through the USTA’s SOS program. “Bella” is now in training in Monkton, Maryland to be a reliable trail horse. Six weeks ago, she was barely halter broken. Today she walks and trots under saddle, turns, stops, goes over wooden bridges and through deep streams. It’s expected she will be ready to be placed for adoption in mid June. The Starfish Stable is most appreciative for any help in getting these horses who have served us and trusted us, in to a secure and useful career.

The Standardbred Retirement Foundation (SRF) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization created to care for, rehabilitate and secure lifetime adoption of non-competitive racehorses, to ensure their proper care with follow up, and combine the needs of youth at risk with these horses in therapeutic equine programs to benefit both. SRF's the model program for follow-up; we do a semi-annual vet follow-up on each adopted horse for the life of the horse. Since inception SRF has had over 2,400 adoptions. SRF currently provides full care for and averages between 155-175 horses daily of which 98 are companion only due to age and/or injury. SRF’s waitlist is long with and avg. of 130 horses waiting to come into our program. For more information please visit us at www.adoptahorse.org.