Perceived Ability

Profile Picture: Derek Simon

Derek Simon

February 20th, 2015

Over the past few days, I’ve posted quite a bit on my Facebook page about a new technique I’ve been working on called the Perceived Ability Rating, or PAR.

PAR is my attempt to represent a horse’s ability based not on past performances — speed figures, running lines, pace, etc. — but, rather, on the betting public’s assessment of the horse’s talent. This is done primarily by focusing on the class level of the animal’s past few races and its closing odds in those events.

Knowing that betting markets tend to be efficient (please don’t let the blowhards convince you otherwise), it stands to reason that a horse that has been well-regarded — or not — in the recent past can be viewed similarly today, provided that today’s race is comparable (same general distance, track surface, class level, etc.).

In fact, we have proof of this.

In “Winning at the Races: Computer Discoveries in Thoroughbred Handicapping,” Dr. William Quirin notes that beaten favorites win far more than their fair share of races next time out, producing a 2.05 impact value when in-the-money as the vanquished chalk and a 1.48 IV when fourth or worse.

From HTR Report Thoroughbred Handicapping Newsletter (May/June 2009)

As further evidence that past odds matter, one need look no further than Pimlico Race Course, where, since 1961, the Kentucky Derby favorite has triumphed 18 times in the Preakness Stakes, returning backers a profit of 39 cents (19 percent) for every $2 bet.

The opposite is also true.

My own studies reveal that a horse that was dismissed at odds of 15-1 or greater in its last start produced an IV of 0.85 if third or better in that race and just 0.51 if not.

Thus, my thinking was and is that combining this knowledge with some measurement of previous class would offer a quick and easy way to gauge talent — without the need for speed figures or comprehensive analysis of the past performances. Early testing on my PAR method seems to confirm this.

Obviously, my PAR method is far more complex than what I’ve presented here, but to show you how easy — and rewarding — this kind of analysis can be, consider the first race at Fair Grounds on Feb. 19, 2015, a $25,000 maiden claiming affair for Louisiana-bred four-year-olds and up:

Click HERE to view original image

In the chart below, I’ve highlighted the most relevant recent races (dirt routes) in yellow and the second-most relevant races (dirt sprints) in light red. Luckily, every horse in this particular affair can be rated (at times, of course, this will not be the case and such races should probably be passed).

Click HERE to view original image

So, here’s what we’re looking at:

1-Major Toolight: Bettors made this 6-year-old the favorite in a $10,000 maiden claimer at Delta Downs, suggesting that he may not be up to today’s $25,000 tag. As further evidence of this, we note that, despite running well on the grass on Sept. 4 against lesser, Major Toolight was 76-1 against straight maiden company on the lawn in his last start. By my figuring, that makes him about 20-1 vs. today’s rivals. 

2-Connor’s Ace: Son of Valid Expectations was 17-1 against similar last time and 5-1 against tougher the start before that. If we excuse his last race, he’s a contender.

3-Lucky Cal: In his one route against better, he was 28-1. Given the big class drop today, he’s another with a shot.

4-Redtacular: Has been reasonably well-regarded in races against lesser and, in fact, crossed the wire first in his latest try before being disqualified for interference near the 1/16-pole. However, this is a big jump in class and, judging by his recent odds/races, Redtacular is probably a cut below Major Toolite, who I previously tabbed at 20-1. I suspect the price on this guy will be even higher.

5-Boudreaux: The search for a winner likely ends here. This four-year-old son of Proud and True was bet down to 1-2 in his only start versus — are you ready for this? — straight maidens. Clearly the bettors thought/think very highly of this colt and it’s hard to imagine him not being one of the favorites today. The only question appears to be the layoff — it’s been 335 days since he last raced.

6-Tent Of Livingston: His last dirt start against slightly lesser company ($20,000 maiden claiming) saw this Danny Pish trainee go to post at 7-1. We don’t have much to go on, but 5-1 to 10-1 seems fair today as well.

SUMMARY: Boudreaux is clearly the one to beat, with Connor’s Ace, Lucky Cal and Tent Of Livingston battling for the minor awards.

In a truly head-scratching move, the Fair Grounds bettors made Tent Of Livingston the 3-2 favorite, with Boudreaux a very generous 8-5.

The result was never in doubt. Boudreaux paid $5.40 to win and the Boudreaux-Connor’s Ace exacta was good for $18.80.