Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Everything matters.

When I first started going to the races, the harness races, I had this crazy idea. It went like this.
I noticed that most of the horses that won on the first few nights I went had the fastest last quarter on the program page. When I say most that won, I mean most that won that I bet to win. I was locked onto that, and I made the leap that this was the most important angle. So, when I would get the program for the next card, I circled who had the fastest last quarter, and who had the slowest ones. Whoever had the fastest one, that is who I bet. And if they had the fastest overall mile time, I might bet that one too. 
As Dr Phil says. How's that workin for ya?
Well, as you can guess, it didn't work. It took me a year at least until I figured out there was more to a race than just the fastest horse, or the fastest closer. In the meantime, I lost races I would surely win today with what I know.
What is it I know? The fastest horse doesn't always win the race, there are many reasons it can lose and others can win. Its a factor to consider. Speed wins races. That only makes sense. But, fast cars only go fast if they aren't in a traffic jam, or, have a flat tire, or run out of gas while the slower car saved some gas for the entire journey. Again, that is just common sense. Speed wins races, it doesn't win every race.
Similarly, good jockeys win races. Many races. But, they don't win every race, and they don't always win when you think they should. Sometimes they don't have the best horse, other times they ride a poor race, and other times, any number of things can happen to get that horse beat.
Do jockeys matter? Of course they matter. They control the horse from the time they mount them in the walking ring to the time they pull them up after the race, and every moment in between. Every decision they make contributes to victory or defeat. To say otherwise indicates a lack of understanding of racing horses.
But you know what else indicates that? Saying they are the most important factor. They are not. You know why?
Because there is not just one important factor. There are several at any one time.
Trainers matter. Breeding matters. Class matters. Fitness matters. Trip and pace of the race matters. And most of all, speed matters.
No matter how good the jockey is, how sharp and skilled the trainer is, how much class relief the horse is getting, if the horse is not fast enough, or in some cases, not sound enough to use that speed to full advantage, the horse will not win.
There is a saying on backstretches. It goes something like this:
The jockey can't win the race with the horse, but he can lose it. In other words, he can get max performance out of the horse, but most jockeys that get to a level at any track aren't that much better than the other 7 or 8 guys they race against every race. In fact, they aren't that much better than the next 20 guys either. Sure, they are slightly better and can make a difference. But, even the top guys, a bad ride, a bad decision, a miscalculated rating of the horse, that can get them beat. Some would argue Stewart Elliot did that with Smarty Jones in the Belmont. I wouldn't. I think the horse just couldn't go that distance. But, could a higher level jockey have nursed him to that win? I suppose. We wont know that because it can't happen now.
At the end of the day, everything matters. All factors matter. Its a very poor bettor who locks onto just one factor and ignores all the rest, or most of the rest, or any of the rest that are relevant to the entirety of the race.
A race is a big puzzle. The one who puts the puzzle together correctly wins the money. The one who puts more puzzles together than the guy who happens to get one or two puzzles right wins more often. Anybody can get lucky and throw the pieces of the puzzle on the table and have them fall together by accident a few times. Its the guy who sorts them one by one, with no luck or chance that wins the most often. And when doing that, that person considers all the pieces and how they fit together. As well, many races are complex puzzles, and no one factor will solve them. But the more complex, the bigger return if you can figure it out. Anybody can figure out a 1-9 shot is going to win unless he falls down or breaks down. That is not a puzzle. And the jockey likely doesn't matter. Those are not the races we speak about in a blog like this.
There are many factors in complex races. If I put this piece with that one, what is left? If I start at this end of the puzzle and put a few different sections together separately, will that give me greater insight on the pieces that are left that are tricky to fit together?
If I solve just one part, is that enough to finish the puzzle? If I only consider the jockeys, do the horses and trainers and conditions even matter?
Well, do they?
Of course they do. Here is why.
If they didn't matter any simpleton could do it, and pick the winners. The price would be so low that the profit and value would eventually be negated. If it was that easy to only consider one factor, or say just the jockeys, any idiot could do that. If the highest percentage jockey wins the most races, then he will get bet to the highest degree and the price wont bring return over time when it doesn't work out that way. Put another way, if the jockey wins 30 percent, which is very high, that means he still loses 70% of the time. Or, 7 times out of 10, he is going to lose. That is 7 winners you can get if you figure out who is winning those races when that jockey isn't winning those races. Some will be won by other high percentage jockeys. A few will be won by other jockeys on the pecking order. Usually, there will be some kind of price value attached to that winner, as the public will latch on to the high percentage jockey, and in many cases, trainer, and also probably excellent form and overall speed of some horses they ride. That is because those types of horses do win many of those races. But not all of them. Or even a majority. It just seems that they do. They win more than the average horse, or jockey, or trainer, but not the majority.
If you are a 300 hitter in baseball, which is considered top notch, you are going to make an out 7 times out of 10. Fail, 7 out of 10 times.
Now, what it really boils down to is being consistent, but not being too rigid. If you truly believe that your system works and will bring you ROI, then play it that way. Prove it works. To yourself, and to others. If you are so rigid that you think only one thing matters, but you still make a profit of some sort, I would suggest you are not making as much as you would have if you had considered all the factors. If you are okay with that, then go with it.
Most successful bettors don't see it that way. They consider all the relevant factors, and they have a system. There are few that have the same exact system. We can learn from all the players who play the way they do. I study the losers, and I see what they do wrong. I listen to the winners, and see what they do consistently right. I have unique skills which I rely on and give me an edge, in addition to the basics I have an understanding of and others do as well. I am always looking to learn what others know, what they have figured out, and why it works. But most of all, I want proof. Statistical proof that it works that is significant to the standards we all learned in year one of University if you took that course. If you can show me that, you have my attention. If you make a strong case, back it up with results and sound logic, I am more than willing to give you the proper credit for what you do.
But, if you are just going to yap and sound like a yapper, with no facts, and no real system or ability to solve puzzles, you will be discounted as nothing more than what you are...which is....all talk and no results.
In a race, you have a horse, a trainer and a jockey. And then 8 to 10 others all with those same variables, and other variables that you might consider. They all matter. Everything matters. Figure out what matters most in that race, and then make your call. If you just consider one variable, you are very likely to lose over time. Just like I did when I only considered fastest overall final quarter speed. That was foolish. Don't be foolish.

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