Some horses may lack in speed and class but somehow, some way always seem to end up finishing in the money. Handicappers may call this “heart” and it is part of what makes a thoroughbred special. Some horses just hate to lose, and they never beat themselves. So form needed to be its own score in my model. In evaluating form, the computer model looks at several factors in the horses’ racing history, including:
- Average position at finish for the current meet
- Average position at the finish for all starts lifetime
There are other factors baked into the model that get slightly less weight. The last score is a hodgepodge of several factors but only looks at the last 50 days of racing. So it indicates recent performance as opposed to performance over the horse’s entire racing history (think of an exponential moving average). Connections score is based on the statistics of the jockey and trainer for the current meet. And the Line score is just a numerical score based on the horse’s morning line odds. In most cases this is just a tie-breaker score but in races where the horses have limited (or no) racing history it can have more weight.
Once the individual scores are calculated, the computer algorithm then assigns different biases to these scores based on the race conditions. For example, in shorter races the Speed score gets a lot of weight but in longer races the Class score is more powerful. There are many race conditions taken into consideration in setting the biases, including:
- The length of the race
- The conditions of the race (maidens, claiming races, allowance races, stakes races)
- The racing surface
After the biases are applied and the scores recalculated, the new individual category scores are tallied to produce a Total score. This becomes the predicted order of finish (see "Prepping for the Derby," below).
PREPPING FOR THE DERBY
Here are the prerace analytics from E-Pony for the three major Kentucky Derby prep races. Horses are rated by their total E-Pony score. Notice that many of the top E-Pony picks are not the morning line favorites. Given E-Pony’s overall success ratio, this provides value. For example, E-Pony rates Gormley as an even money favorite in the Santa Anita Derby, while the morning line rates it the second choice at 9-1, that’s a value pick. In the same race, E-Pony’s eighth choice midnight pleasure has E-Pony odds of 8-1 vs. 30-1 in the morning odds. That may be worth a $2 flyer given the differential—similar to buying a cheap out of the money put.