As part of our relentless quest to present the best handicapping data possible while being as transparent as possible, today we will look at the results of a recent study we did on our speed figures and Spotlight Speed Figures. Although we are generally pleased with the results, we’ll use them to identify areas where we can improve. Moreover, we believe that our customers will profit from knowing that certain situations call for extra enthusiasm on the part of the horseplayer, while other situations require an even more nuanced view.
The speed figure aspect of the study is simple enough, since just about everybody is familiar with speed figures. For our purposes here, we focus on the horse who has the fastest last-out speed figure, and we examine his win percentage and ROI in various situations.
Our Spotlight Speed Figures are the result of a complex process that aims to find in each horse’s past performances the recent race that is most “representative,” meaning most indicative of the quality of the effort that he will put in today.
A note on the ROI stats below:
The amount of money that racetracks take out of the betting pools (the track takeout and breakage) varies from state to state and track to track. The size of this “rake” ranges from confiscatory to positively obscene. As a practical matter, while avoiding hairsplitting, this means that the ROI stats presented below should be considered “neutral” if they are in the 1.50-1.60 range. Anything significantly above that means we are seeing overperformance. Anything significantly below it means we are seeing underperformance.
Here are the results:
What we find most surprising in these results is the lack of surprises. Ordinarily, such studies produce some results that defy logic. But no such results seem to be present here.
The overall results for top last-out speed figure show a win percentage of 29 and an ROI of $1.75. Keeping in mind that these results are based on “blindly” betting the top last-out speed figure into a diabolical track takeout, we find these results pleasing–because our speed figures are causing a substantial amount of the track takeout to disappear. And the same effect is visible in the overall results if one is blindly betting our top Spotlight Speed Figures (27.5% and $1.72). Indeed, the results are almost identical.
But of course one is not obliged to bet the top last-out speed figure or Spotlight Speed Figure blindly. As one can see on the chart above, requiring that the race being used (whether it is last-out speed figure or Spotlight Speed Figure) be on the same type of surface as today’s race improves the results. Now we see win percentages of 30% and 28.5% and ROIs of $1.81 and $1.76.
Requiring the race to be on the same type of surface as today’s race AND run within the last 120 days improves the results even further. Now the ROIs are up to $1.84 and $1.80.
Profitability is within sight–and with only this minimal amount of handicapping. It’s enough to make one wonder what would happen if one used these tools in combination with full-fledged handicapping.
But the results of our study are not all so rosy. Betting the top last-out speed figure or Spotlight Speed Figure places one at the mercy of how representative these numbers truly are, given the circumstances of today’s race. And the results from the study plainly show that certain situations are treacherous indeed. The ROIs plummet when the races being used by either the top-last-out-speed-figure method or the Spotlight Speed Figure methodology are either on a type of surface that is different from today’s surface or come after a layoff of more than 120 days.
This is hardly a surprise. After all, betting the top last-out speed figure puts one at the mercy of changing circumstances, and programming the Spotlight Speed Figure to find the most representative race is a tall task when layoffs and surface-changes are involved. However, we do plan to learn from this study and adjust our formulas for selecting the most representative Spotlight Speed Figures.
While we are largely pleased with the results of this study, they are a reminder (as if we needed one) that there is no totally satisfactory substitute for handicapping horse races in the most thorough manner possible. Much as we love our Spotlight Speed Figures, and much as we are pleased with their performance in much of this study, we always find it important to remember that what they are, more than anything else, is a convenient way to get INTO races. They are a quick and easy way to spot races that have potential for the handicapper. But getting into the handicapping of a race is not to be confused with being done handicapping a race.