Handicapping By Number

Profile Picture: Derek Simon

Derek Simon

January 10th, 2015

Remember those paint-by-number kits we all loved as kids (granted, I’m being very liberal with my use of the words “all” and “loved,” but please play along)?

Well, recently, I had a guy ask me about handicapping systems that assigned points for various attributes — he wondered if I knew of any good ones.

Of course, the short answer to his question is “no,” but I must say: I was intrigued by the proposition. After all, the great Dr. William Quirin offered two such methods in his first book “Winning at the Races” — one for routes and one for sprints — and both produced a positive, albeit small, ROI .

So it got me to thinking: Can I come up with a decent, yet simple, rating system — one that, at the very least, reduces the track takeout and breakage?

I can and I did… perhaps.

Before, I explain what I mean by that — this is code for “I need to buy some time” — let me first lay out the system rules:

1) Consider a horse’s most recent race and award points equal to its finishing position in that affair: “1” for a win, “2” for a second, “3” for a third and “4” for all out-of-the-money efforts OR races run over a different general track surface (dirt/AW or turf) OR races that are greater than 59 days old.

2) Rank each horse’s last-race speed rating (using whatever figures you’re most comfortable with) and add it to the total. If the speed rating is not ranked among the top three, it’s worth four points.

3) Using stats from this year and last year, divide each horse’s total earnings by its total starts and rank the quotients from highest to lowest. Horses ranked fourth or worse are awarded four points.

4) Using two-year data once again, rank each horse by its win percentage. As usual, horses ranked worse than third are given four points.

5) If the horse in question is running for a lower purse today than it did last time, subtract four points from its total.

NOTE: In the event of ties, average the ranking, e.g. a tie for first and second counts as 1 ½.

Play – Bet the horse with the lowest cumulative ranking.

Below is an example of the Simon Miracle Method in action. It is for the first race at Penn National on December 5, 2014:

Now, because I’m not like the myriad of horse racing pundits out there who believe that one example equals definitive proof, here are the overall stats on my Miracle Method (kind of has that Dr. Oz feel, huh?) from this past December:

Number of Plays: 782
Winners: 236
Win Rate: 30.2%
$2 Net Return: $1.86
ROI: -7.03%

As you can see, the Simon Miracle Method produced a slight loss — but not bad, considering that we’re betting a lot of races. And check out what happens when we apply some conditions...

First, let’s look at system qualifiers going to post at odds of 10-1 or greater:

Number of Plays: 64
Winners: 6
Win Rate: 9.4%
$2 Net Return: $2.60
ROI: +30.16%

As Adam Sandler would say, “Not too shabby.”

Now, let’s take a peek at system qualifiers with fewer than six points:

Number of Plays: 225
Winners: 95
Win Rate: 42.2%
$2 Net Return: $2.05
ROI: +2.27%

Obviously, the sample here leaves much to be desired from both a size and scope perspective, so don’t drain your savings account betting on these plays. Still, the Miracle Method may be useful in ferreting out contenders.

To get a blank worksheet, click HERE.