Archive for September, 2010

The Triple Crown

In the history of American horse racing, there have only been eleven Triple Crown winners. The Triple Crown is comprised of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.

Each year as soon as the Kentucky Derby winner crosses the finish line on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, talk begins of the Triple Crown.  The Triple Crown of horse racing is one of the toughest achievements in all of sports, and we are currently in a drought of 33 years since the last Triple Crown winner, Affirmed in 1978.

The eleven horses that have accomplished the feat are: Sir Barton in 1919; Gallant Fox in 1930; Omaha in 1935; War Admiral in 1937; Whirlaway in 1941; Count Fleet in 1943; Assault in 1946; Citation in 1948; Secretariat in 1973; Seattle Slew in 1977 and Affirmed.

It is interesting to note that six of the 11 winners came in a 14-year stretch during 1935-1948, and then after a 25-year hiatus, three more came during the 1970’s.  In fact, just when the racing world thought the Triple Crown would never be won again, racing fans were spoiled with Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed all within six years of each other.

Even though only 11 horses have won the Triple Crown, many have come close.  A total of 21 horses have won both the Derby and Preakness, only to fail to win the Belmont.  In fact, seven of these have come in just the last 15 years: Silver Charm (1997); Real Quiet (1998); Charismatic (1999); War Emblem (2002); Funny Cide (2003); Smarty Jones (2004) and Big Brown (2008).

Only two horses failed to win the Triple Crown for lack of trying:  The immortal Man O’ War did not start in the Kentucky Derby in 1920, before winning the next two legs, as did Pillory in 1922.

Will the 2011 Kentucky Derby bring more talk of the Triple Crown?  Yes, of course.  It is an annual rite of passage every spring.

Find a Good Horse Racing System

If only I had the right horse racing system.  How often have I heard that?  Well, for as long as people have been going to the track, horse players have been saying this in their search of the perfect horse racing system.

Horse racing is a difficult betting exercise.  There are horses and jockeys and trainers, and yes, there is a lot of luck involved.  But there is also skill, which comes with experience and study.

One of the great things about horse racing is that it is both an art and a science.  Computer whizzes have long sought to build the perfect horse racing system, but it’s not that easy.  You can study tens of thousands of races, build spreadsheets and develop speed ratings.  That’s the science part of the game.  And it can help you become a really good handicapper.  But if that’s all you rely on you will be incomplete.  Data alone won’t build you a winning horse racing system.  The reason is the other half of the equation.

Horse racing is also part art.  The reason is there are too many variables to all be associated with data and spreadsheets.  For example, horses are not mechanical runners that run to the numbers on a sheet.  Horses are living and breathing animals that have good days and bad days.  And then there are the jockeys.  They have to make split-second decisions and can be wrong as often they are right.

Where the art comes in is in knowing when to deviate from the data.  A horse may not look the fastest in the race, but he’s improving and getting better and better with each race.  Or a jockey may be on a hot streak.  You might think that betting a jockey on a hot streak is folly, but it’s not.  There could be plenty of good reasons for the streak.  Perhaps he’s just received some great advice and is riding a little differently.  Or perhaps the track is ideally suited to his riding style.  Or, maybe he is riding for a certain trainer that is starting to win with all his horses.

For all these reasons, it is nearly impossible to build a good horse racing system with data alone.  The best horse racing systems are terribly creative in the way that they analyze speed ratings and the shape of today’s race.  If you want a good listing of horse racing systems, you can find them at Horse Racing Nation.