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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Too Much Trakus

- Marty McGee reports in the Form that the Trakus technology allows Keeneland to post an actual statistical measure of how much ground a horse lost, or gained in a race.

The ontrack displays show the number of feet a winner traveled, while the distances that also-rans completed are displayed as a differential versus the winner. For example, in the first race Wednesday, the winner, Pure Classy, took 5,682.6 feet to run the 1 1/16-mile race, while the runner-up, Trio, took 5,710.1, or an extra 27.5 feet in running the same race - so the distance for Trio was displayed as a "plus 27." Conversely, several other also-rans traveled a lesser distance than Pure Classy, and so those were displayed as a "minus."
You can go to Keeneland's website and see the actual distances traveled by each horse here.

But aren't there some things that are better left to subjective interpretation? We've discussed here how it's cool that people can look at the same race and see different things. That's what creates the differences of opinion that make betting on the game so fascinating. Is it really in the sport's interest to boil everything down to a strictly quantatative analysis? What's next? A precise measurement, in feet, of how much ground a horse had to cover while being blocked in traffic? Breezefigs for each horse's gallop-out? A measurement, in milligrams, of the amount of each horse's pre-race kidney sweat? A numerical rating, based on body language, of the trainers' intentions?

These things are open to interpretation, and why not keep them that way? I've always thought that I have a good sense of how significantly wide a horse is in a race. I might mentally adjust the Beyer up or down, but I don't have any precise formula. It's a lot of guesswork, but so what? It's a game. If there's nothing to guess about, then it becomes a science. And I don't remember having much fun in biology class.

- You may say "Hey, isn't this the same guy who criticized people who are upset about Polytrack possibly taking speed bias out of the game?" The difference is that Trakus, which I must admit I've never really cared for from the start, doesn't keep horses healthy, and thus far (as I not only knock wood, but pound my fists on my wood floors) there have been no fatalities reported at Keeneland. According to Kentucky Horse Racing Authority statistics, fatal breakdowns had occurred at a rate of slightly more than three per meet since spring 2003. [DRF]

- Bandini is retired and will stand for $17,500 at Walmac.

- Patrick Biancone has eight winners out of 26 starters at the Keeneland meeting. He's won with his last three starters, and the one before that was Maurakalana, second in the the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth. His winners include Asi Siempre and the magnificent Gorella. And all of his winners, and the great majority of all his runners have been ridden by Julien Leparoux.

On Wednesday, they took the third with first-timer Belgravia. This Mr. Greeley two-year old sold for $2 million at the Calder sale in February, after working a furlong in 10.2; quick, but not a standout amongst the others on the day. He's out of Peaks Mill, a stakes-winning Stalwart mare, and this is the distaff family of Afleet Alex. His second dam, Dorothy Gaylord, is the third dam of the 2005 three-year old champ.

Nick Zito was second to the 6-5 favorite with Silver Express. After his uncanny and uncharacteristic spate of first-time two-year old winners at Saratoga, Zito has come down to earth and is winless with his last nine debut juveniles.

- I've really come to appreciate the Mets' Paul LoDuca as a hitter since starting to follow the local baseball season more closely late in the season (as in, after Saratoga). The guy is a pure hitter, and a clutch one at that. His two-out, two-run single in the 8th gave the Mets enough of a cushion to survive a pair given up in the ninth by Billy Wagner, who sucks. If the Mets don't win the World Series, I predict that it will be because of a failure by Wagner. And I don't give them better than a 50/50 chance.

But they're still alive in this most improbable of series. Each time it seemed obvious that one team or another would take command, the opposite happened. The Cards looked impotent after Game 1, but salvaged the crucial split on the road. The Mets were dead after Trachsel imploded in Game 3, but their bats exploded in Game 4. They seemed poised to take control with Glavine on the mound in Game 5, but the game turned around suddenly and shockingly. And who would have thought they'd survive a second round against Chris Carpenter to make it to the deciding game. Who cares if they don't really have a pitcher to start the seventh game? It says here that the game, and the series, will come down to the pitcher that tries to end it.


Patrick J Patten said...

I hate to do this... but I disagree. I think feet travelled is a really important factor that shouldn't be left up to judgement. I'd like to see it reported in the form really. maybe i'm just ANALytical sometimes, but that's just me.

Alan Mann said...

Please feel free to disagree on anything other than politics or the Rangers. I think that this would eliminate a big edge that those of us who watch replays or keep trip notes have over those who don't.

Anonymous said...

Gotta like the Cardinals tonight. Suppan isn't their ace, but he pitched a whale of a game vs. the Mets earlier in this series, and he also beat the Astros (with Clemens starting) in a Game 7 a couple of years ago. Meanwhile, Perez has completely flamed this year, even managing to get sent to the minors at one point. He did win his start vs. the Cardinals earlier in the series, but that was solely due to the Mets offense as they happened to on 12-run rampage. For his part, Perez allowed 10 baserunners and 5 earned runs in less than 6 innings. The Cards won't be lacking for confidence tonight, that's for sure.

Anonymous said...

My personal feel is that more data is better, but I don't know what the betting public will do. Most people who are on the 'net are at least somewhat data driven and seem to gravitate to the bells and whistles, but most people I see at the track are staring at the cheapest program available with the least data in it.
I will be interested to see jockey stats regarding trips. Jocks who save ground versus those that are fearful and go wide all the time. I suppose we all know who they are, but it could give owners and trainers even more ammo when tearing a strip of a pinhead for losing the race for them.

(Go Leafs Go)

Anonymous said...

Some Euro stuff for ya:

Just read an article on one of the Euro-sites about George Washington being retired after the Breeders Cup. I know, big surprise. But what i found interesting is that the article mentioned George Washington would run in "either the BC Mile or the BC Classic". That got me thinking, i haven't actually seen a George-to-the-Classic confirmation on ANY of the Euro sites. And there's no reason they wouldn't report it, because obviously it'd be bigger news over there than it would be here. In fact, i just checked the odds at Coral (a large European bookmaking firm), and they're still listing George Washington as their 2/1 favorite for the Mile. While that's not completely surprising, there's a decent chance they would've pulled George from their Mile list if there had been any official announcement from the Coolmore boys. The closest thing i've read coming from Europe is that they are "definitely leaning" twoards running George in the Classic. The article went on to say that a decision would likely be made "later this week". That's not nearly as definitive as the Bloodhorse article, where GW's trainer Aiden O'Brien stated matter-of-factly that he would definitely be running in the Classic. Makes you wonder how Bloodhorse can get confirmation before any of the Euro sites. Hell, they haven't even broken the Nobiz Like Shobiz news yet (what are they waiting for?). While i'm sure that George is probably heading for the Classic, i do find this lack of confirmation coming from Europe to be interesting.

Also, Frankie Dettori has been named to ride Ouija Board in the F&M Turf. He'll also partner Red Rocks (definitely one to keep an eye on) in the BC Turf.

Trainer Brian Mehann has confirmed (again) that David Junior is on target for the Classic. Interstingly, i was looking at one of Steve Davidowitz's columns today, and he ranks David Junior as his #2 contender for the Classic (behind Bernardini, of course). He pointed out something i didn't know, that David Junior is actually a Florida-bred. So you would think that, fromn a breeding aspect at least, that David Junior should handle the dirt. Incidentally, that one has reportedly been training up a storm overseas. If he takes to the dirt, he'll certainly be one to fear. The horse is a very classy Group One competitor (with some big wins under his belt), and there's no question at all about the distance. Just something to keep in mind, as he'll very likely be ignored on the toteboard.

Anonymous said...

Walter- I'm heading out to Shea in a few minutes, otherwise I'd respond more fully to your comments on tonight's ball game. I will leave you with one thought, though: be careful about drawing too many conclusions from how the starting pitching match-ups look on paper, particularly with this Met team and how its constructed.

As for David Junior, you've got me interested. Can you tell us anything about his running style -- ie. can he come from off the pace with a strong late run?

Anonymous said...

Surely, David Junior will be laying off the pace and will try to make his presence felt in the stretch. As for his running style, i believe he's pretty versatile. Without having any PP's in front of me, i believe he was tracking The Tin Man from second in Dubai. Most recently, in Europe, he came from towards the rear. I would imagine (with this being a dirt race) that Meehan is trying to get some more speed into him, but with Lava Man setting what figures to be a reasonably fast pace, i don't think there's any way David Junior will be closer than 4 or 5 lengths in the early going, and of course he could be much farther behind than that. We'll just have to wait and see. I feel confident in saying, however, that if David Junior handles the dirt okay, he'll make his presence felt at some point. He's simply superior to vast majority of the field, and his record @ 1 1/4 miles is exemplary. I'm not saying i like him to win, but if Bernardini falters then i think David Junior is one of the more likely beneficiaries. Running second @ 15/1 wouldn't be too shabby either.

Anonymous said...

naar a hoss has yet to humpty dumpty on it's got to be good!!
Seriously tho, you've never been much on sheet players whose #s are honed by path on the turns.Think of it as timing horses at 100th of seconds instead of 5ths..and around EACH turn.

Michael said...

Alan, what's great about trakus is the experience you have at the track. I'm telling you, I loved being there and while I still spent my time watching the horses run around, being able to glance up and see exactly why my horse wasn't moving, where it was blocked, etc.

As far as the way I handicap, I'm not sure if it will change what I look at, the data I use, what I do, etc. It could, but I'm one of those guys who used DRF data, not someone who pours over the sheets, and other such programs.