Archive for June, 2012

Analysing previous performances on heavy going

Saturday, June 16th, 2012

In the wake of the recent, somewhat unseasonal, downpours in the runup to Midsummer’s Day, the going around the country has been changed to include the terms “Soft” and “Heavy”.  In the case of Leicester, we can add “Abandonned:  Waterlogged”.

Such unseasonal changes are always liable to mess with the form book.  One of the tasks of the form student is to establish what previous form, if any, has been shown on such going.

In Smartform, we can translate this into a query on any particular runner, in order to find all its previous runs on similar going.   By way of example, we’ll pick a race at Sandown today, since it is currently supposed to be riding “Soft, Heavy in places”.  The race we’ll look at is the 2.50 at Sandown, a handicap over one mile.

First, let’s look at how to pull a runner’s entire history (in this case, Leviathan) from Smartform, in order to look at its career runs, as follows:

mysql> select scheduled_time, course, weight_pounds as ‘weight’, going, trainer_name, jockey_name, distance_yards as ‘distance’, num_runners as ‘ran’, finish_position as ‘finished’, unfinished from historic_races join historic_runners using (race_id) where name=”Leviathan”;

Smartform subscribers can try this one at home, since the table of results is rather wide to reprint in the blog (of course we can include any of the variables available in Smartform within the returned results, this just shows us the most pertinent basic information in order to see if Leviathan has shown any promise on softer going).

We can see from the results, however, that Leviathan has never raced on going which has included the word “Heavy” in the description.    However, he has raced once on proper Soft going (proper in the sense that it wasn’t “Good to Soft”, for example), where he finished first of 13 runners.  That was almost exactly one year ago,

If we had wanted just to cut to the chase and see runs only containing the terms “Heavy” we could have altered the query with a condition for the going description.

Let’s try that for another runner in the race, Sam Sharp, as follows:

mysql> select scheduled_time, course, weight_pounds as ‘weight’, going, trainer_name, jockey_name, distance_yards as ‘distance’, num_runners as ‘ran’, finish_position as ‘finished’, unfinished from historic_races join historic_runners using (race_id) where name=”Sam Sharp” and going LIKE “%Heavy%”;

This time, only one result is returned.  A second out of 4 runners in a recent race over course and distance.  The horse appeared to handle the going, being beaten only narrowly. However, we’ll find that it’s quite rare that horses have had many runs on heavy going, so that most queries which restrict results to runs only including the term “Heavy” on these runners will produce the results “Empty Set” (as with Leviathan).  Where a run is returned, as in the case of Sam Sharp above, the sample size is usually so small that even if the run was not good, it is hard to say that the horse did not act on the going.  We can say the reverse, however, where the performance in a run has indicated that a horse acted on the going.

Producing an individual query such as the above for each runner in a race is somewhat tedious of course, so this is exactly the type of query that can be automated for a whole race, dispalying all runners’ previous performances on heavy, for example, in one move, using a simple programming language, such as R or Perl.  For some examples of using R with Smartform in this way, see the last Chapter of our free ebook, “BetfaiR Trading with R”.

Do 2 year old foaling dates matter at this stage in the season?

Saturday, June 9th, 2012

We wrote about foaling dates in an April post – here – on the basis that in the earlier part of the season, any edge in age – and therefore physical maturity – can have a significant impact on the outcome of races.  Clearly as a horse gets older, any difference of a few months in foaling date between it and its peers will be less and less significant.

This part of the season, in the run up to Royal Ascot, is interesting and perhaps represents a cutover in the importance of the early difference in age.  Form starts to mean more than foaling dates, though it’s true that Ascot 2 year old winners all tend to be quite forward, by definition.

Using Smartform we can see just how much impact foaling dates do have, and when these may become less significant, by using the historic data and writing queries to assess all previous 2 year old races.

We can also apply a query to the daily declarations to rank upcoming races in this way.  Back in April we produced a query for one race – today, here’s a query extended to produce a list of all races together with contenders (for today’s racing), all ranked by foaling dates – earliest to latest – for each contender:

>select scheduled_time, course, trainer_name, jockey_name, name, foaling_date, forecast_price from daily_races join daily_runners using (race_id) where age_range=”2YO only” and meeting_date=CURDATE() order by scheduled_time, course, foaling_date;

At a forecast 14/1 price, Rock Up, ridden by Frankie Dettori and trained by David Elsworth in the 1.45 at Newmarket, stands out as a possibly overpriced January foal, assuming there is still an edge at this stage in the season.

A Bonfire with stamina

Friday, June 1st, 2012

As is often written but often forgotten when it comes to betting, the Derby is a unique test – in particular, the fact that most contenders haven’t yet encountered a fast run 12 furlong distance race or a track that rides anything like Epsom.  In most years there is usually the intriguing question as to whether the 2000 Guineas winner  will also be up to meeting the unique challenges of Epsom.

This year, it’s true that Camelot has better chances than most on breeding, and perhaps he is a worthy favourite.  But he is certainly a short priced one and there is likely to be better value elsewhere.

One of the things in particular that is worth looking out for in a Derby winner is their ability to stay the trip.  The Dosage index is often quoted as the best guide to this, and readers who are looking for the dosage figures on this year’s Derby might find the following link useful:

However, there are other ways of assessing possible stamina, and a method we like to use with Smartform is to look at performance of all a sire’s progeny over the distance in the database.  On this basis, Bonfire’s sire Manduro has sired progeny which have scored well, albeit over a very small sample size, when competing at a distance of 12 furlongs or more.  As Steve Miller writes in his Chef-de-Race column, the Dosage points for Bonfire are also inconclusive since they are so few.  However, as the winner of what has proved one of the most useful trials, together with early indications that his sire is a useful influence for middle distance horses, he is a very interesting contender.

If we add to the above the excellent recent form of the Andrew Balding stable, the fact that the Dante was run in a decent time, and the fact that Bonfire’s price is not suffering from the hype associated with Camelot (as a result of hailing from the all-conquering O’Brien stable coupled with being the 2000 Guineas winner) then we have a worthy contender.

At a price of 9/2 with a quarter of the odds being offered by many bookmakers, he looks a fine each way bet, with the place part surely covering the win stake in order to give “a bet to nothing” for the possibility that Bonfire will beat Camelot and win.

Incidentally, another interesting stamina contender (who comes out second in the Smartform distance statistics for sires) is Mickdaam, at a far bigger price.  Perhaps worth a very small interest (the bit that wins some cash from Bonfire placing), also each way in the hope of getting the favourite beaten.

Of course, advocates of win only betting will argue we are merely doubling our potential losses by backing each way.  It’s an argument that has some validity, but we believe that backing horses like Bonfire in races where their prices are inflated to make each way returns possible (by competing against hyped odds-on shots in small fields where 3 places are offered) does represent long term value, even accepting the downside that any one bet can always go wrong.