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Track Tracts

Regaining Control -- 
New F
avorite Fitness Angle: 
Competitive Race Last Time

by Gordon Pine

Last week�s opus was on the subject of one of my favorite fitness angles: "Competitive race on an off-track last time out." I�ve used this angle for years without actually testing it.

To quickly recap last week�s article, the idea is that a tough race over an off track takes a lot out of a horse, and he�s likely to regress next time out. To verify this, I looked for dirt races where the track condition was other than fast, and the horse had been within two lengths of the leader at either the stretch call or the finish. Being close up at either of those calls indicates that the horse put some effort into the race. I looked at how much the horse�s Beyer figure improved or declined after such a race. Again, here are the results:

Improved:          24/72      33%           Average improvement: +6.1 points
Same                  5/72         7%           N/A
Declined            43/72        60%         Average decline: -13.4 points

So, the study indicated that horses are almost twice as likely to decline after a competitive race over an off-track as they are to improve. And when they do decline, it tends to be a sharper deterioration compared to the amount of improvement shown by the one-third of those who do get better.

Rob H. and Ron Tiller pointed out on The Grandstand message board that the lack of a control group in this study made the outcome ambiguous. My original thinking was that I could assume that the average change in Beyer numbers from one race to the next would be about zero. (I should know by now that you can�t make any assumptions in this game.) Then it was pointed out that it�s impossible to know if it was the competitive race or the off-track that caused this regression. Having no answer to that logic, I did another study, this time looking at dirt races where the track condition was fast, and the horse had been within two lengths of the leader at either the stretch call or the finish. Here are the results of this control group:

Improved:           43/127     33%         Average improvement: +7.3 points
Same                   5/127       4%          N/A
Declined             79/127      62%        Average decline: -8.9 points

Looks a lot like last week�s study, doesn�t it? This indicates that, while my competitive race on an off-track last time fitness angle worked, it wasn�t for the reason I thought. Ron and Rob were right that the study needed a control group. This being the first mistake in judgment I�ve ever made in my life, I�m surprised but undaunted, and will bravely press on. It seems that the decline in figures was likely due to the competitive race, not the wet surface of the track. Henceforth, the official name of this fitness angle is changed to the more pithy competitive race last time.

"It seems that the decline in figures was likely due to the competitive race, not the wet surface of the track."

The bottom line: two separate (albeit small) samples have indicated that a competitive race last time out means a horse is likely to run slower today. Keep it in mind next time you�re looking at a low-odds horse with a close-up stretch call or finish last time out. It doesn�t disqualify them, but it does tend to demote them.

I was warmed by the sentiment of Ted Mudge, president of AmTote, defending his company�s practice of accepting last-second electronic bets from a North Dakota high roller directly into the parimutuel system. "In a sense, he does have an unfair advantage," says Mudge. "He�s a lot smarter than you."

In my opinion, it was a comment typical of the inbred upper crust that have mismanaged the racing industry to death�s door. But give credit where it�s due: showing utter contempt for your customers and an ignorance of the importance of a level parimutuel playing field in 15 words or less is no small feat. We low-IQ types foolish enough to go to a teller�s window can only aspire to this level of mastery over the English language.  NC

Copyright �2001 NetCapper Inc. All rights reserved.

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