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Track Tracts

Favorite Fitness Angles: 
Lowest Bounce Point

by Gordon Pine

To echo a point often made by Mark Cramer, when you can predict change in a horse's performance, you have a real edge. That's because most handicappers judge a horse on what he did last race, not on what he's likely to do this race. Hence my interest in fitness patterns. One important type of fitness pattern is the improvement and decline of performance based on speed figures.

Ragozin "sheets" handicappers are experts in this � they've concentrated on the improvement and regression of horses' performance over their careers, as defined by their speed figures, with microscopic detail. Unfortunately, the microscopic lenses which they use to focus in on patterns of speed figures seem to act as blinders to everything else that is going on in a horse race, such as pace, pos position biases, trainer maneuvers, class edges, etc. The "Raggies" have developed an impressive methodology, but tend to flirt with dogmatism, trying to explain everything that happens within the framework of their method. The ups and downs based on the amount of effort expended in each race is an important factor. It's just not the only factor.

Anyway, here's another fitness angle that I've used for years: Last Race Equal or Greater than Lowest Bounce Point. The logic behind this one is that there is a certain level of performance which will cause a horse to regress or "bounce" next time. Say you have a horse with this set of Beyer speed figures in its past performances (in chronological order): 67, 74, 76, 90, 85, 89, 61. What I'm looking for is the lowest figure where the horse always regressed the next race. The horse in this example improved over the first four races in its pps, then dropped from 90 to 85. He then improved to an 89, then regressed to a 61. Note that the highest figure this horse ever improved off of is the 85. The lowest bounce point has to be higher than that. The next highest number was 89. That's the "lowest bounce point." Whenever the horse ran an 89 or higher, he declined next time out.

So, using the Last Race Equal or Greater than Lowest Bounce Point angle, you calculate a horse's lowest bounce point (if one exists). If its last race was equal or greater than the lowest bounce point, you can demote the horse because it's likely to run a worse race this time. (Please note that I have always restricted this angle to claiming and maiden claiming races. Maiden special weight and allowance horses running through their conditions and stakes-level horses seem to be relatively immune to this factor.)

Here's a small study I did of this angle. I looked at 129 claiming or maiden claiming performances where the horse's last race was equal or greater than the lowest bounce point. I restricted myself to horses where there were at least five races in the pps, so as to be able to establish a pattern. Here are the results:

Improved:  36/129  28% +6.2 average improvement in Beyer figure
Same:       7/129   5% NA
Declined:  86/129  67% -13.0 average decline in Beyer figure

As a control, I looked at a similar group of claiming and maiden claiming performances without the restriction that the last race was equal or greater than the lowest bounce point. The result was about what I expected:

Improved: 92/192 48% +12..6 average improvement in Beyer figure
Same:     11/192  6% NA
Declined: 89/192 46% -11.6 average decline in Beyer figure

In general, claiming and maiden claiming horses tend to improve or decline at the same rate and by the same amount. When their last race was equal to or greater than the lowest bounce point, though, they were 2.3 times more likely to decline than improve in today's race.

Now for the cautions: 

1. These are small samples, meant more to suggest than to prove. 

2. The lowest bounce point for each horse isn't set in stone. Each horse's pps contains too small a sample for that, and there are too many other things going on to say with certainty that a horse performed worse because of the effort expended in its last race. The lowest bounce point is just an educated guess at where the wall might exist � the wall which having hit, the horse is going to be the worse for wear. 

3. I haven't proved what causes this regression � as Gary Voekl pointed out on The Grandstand message board last week regarding a previous fitness angle, it's possible that what's happening is that most of these horses are being raised in class after the good performance, and it might be the class rise that's causing the speed figure decline, not bounce. I'll look into this in upcoming weeks. 

But whatever the cause, the effect seems to be there. In claiming and maiden claiming races, you should tend to demote horses who ran a speed figure last time equal to or greater than their lowest bounce point.

Copyright �2001 NetCapper Inc. All rights reserved.

Track Tracts Archive

Separating the Wheat from the Chaff: Semi-Mechanical Contender Selection by Gordon Pine
Bet-Down as a Handicapping Factor by Gordon Pine
Variable Percentage Betting: Better Than Kelly? by Gordon Pine
Starting to Take a Position on Starting Position by Gordon Pine
Impact Value of Questionable Value: A/E is the Gold Standard by Gordon Pine
Full Kelly/Fractional Bankroll by Gordon Pine
Want a Racetrack Renaissance?  All You Need Is a No-Consolation Pick-All by Gordon Pine
Favorite Fitness Angles: Competitive Race on an Off-Track Last Time Out by Gordon Pine
Regaining Control -- New Favorite Fitness Angle: Competitive Race Last Time by Gordon Pine

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