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Monday, December 15, 2008

Biased Against the Bias

- Thanks to Andy Serling for stopping by. I really wasn't trying to pick an argument, but I guess it didn't help that I dissed his partner Jason Blewitt as "whoever the other guy was." On occasion, there are posts in which I write something which I'd soon like to take back, and I was honestly thinking that about that particular line on my way to the Jets game Sunday. It was an attempt at being glib and funny that came out reading as flip and demeaning as Andy noted, and I do sincerely apologize to both Jason and him for that.

I also freely admit that, in attempting to illustrate the fact that I heard a lot of buzz about a bias on Saturday, I took their comments regarding a bias which I heard prior to the 5th race completely out of any context of their discussions of the subject to date. The fact is that, as a DirectTV customer who therefore does not get the NYRA feed at home, and as a relatively infrequent track visitor of late, I haven't heard much of their analyses at all. And I must admit that, even when I am at the track, I don't necessarily go out of my way to listen. Now, oh man, I don't want these guys to take that the wrong way and make matters worse, so now, in an attempt to avoid further trouble, I'll explain why that's actually more of a compliment than yet another dis:

If I'm at the track handicapping on the fly, or at Siro's on a Saratoga morning, I'm happy and eager to listen to and consider other informed opinions in forming my own. But if I've already done my homework and reached a conclusion, as is the case more often than not when I'm at the Big A, then my personal preference is to avoid any outside influences with 12 minutes to post, especially from guys like Serling and Blewitt who I consider to be more knowledgeable than myself. Chances are that doing so will result in me coming to believe that my logic is somehow flawed, leading to second guessing myself. However, in handicapping horse races, being the perfectly imperfect art that it is, reasoning that may be somehow "wrong" can very often lead to a result which is very much right. I often believe that knowing too much has become the biggest weakness in my game.

I've written before about what I see as the "random" factor in my bets, affected as they are far too much by outside factors - my mood, a hangover from my last bet(s), whether I'm home or on track, standing or sitting, cold or warm, and, worst of all in my case, being unduly influenced by hearing other opinions, whether informed or not. I'm a guy who on many occasions has gotten off the betting line because I heard someone in front of me bet the horse I like. And though I actually don't ever recall that particular strategy backfiring on me, I do try to stick to, and live or die by, my own handicapping. Therefore, with the utmost of due respect, I often don't focus in on the in-house analysts, no matter who they are. At Belmont and Aqueduct, this is accomplished simply by standing in the 95% of the plants where you can't here the PA system anyway.

I would actually find it extremely helpful and educational if I could listen to these guys' pre-race comments after the race....and it's well worth the effort to check out the Trips and Traps segments on NYRA's You Tube page (which is actually Andy Serling and some other guy Eric Donovan).

Having gotten that out of the way (and hoping that I haven't in fact made matters worse), I'm happy to take up the argument of the supposed speed/inside track bias on Saturday. Looking at the first four races which led some to that conclusion: In the first race, Yo Karakorum set the pace towards the inside without facing any real competition according to the chart. This horse has in fact now led every step of the way in his three races save for a bare nose at the finish of his second one, so I wouldn't necessarily credit any bias for his victory. In the second, Intoxicatingbeauty swept to the lead four wide around the turn.

Andy mentioned the third, in which Pitched Perfectly survived a quick early pace and "still managed to draw off late for the victory." However, what one person may see as a horse drawing off, I view as one who slowed to a quarter of 25 and then again to a harness horse time of almost 27 seconds after that first half. So to me, this was a classic case of a horse bottoming out a weak inner track field being mistaken for a bias. In the 4th, She's Prime wired a field in which not a single contestant had ever run two turns on the dirt. I wouldn't put any credence whatsoever in a race like that.

Yes, as Andy pointed out, there were some horses who held for second better than you might expect after dueling for the lead - in particular, Charming Officer in the second, and Take The Bluff, who fought inside of the sharp Be Bullish in the 6th. But personally, I think there could be a range of reasons other than a bias to explain those - Take the Bluff showed an affinity for the IT last year; Charming Officer was making her IT debut and did, after all, finish eight lengths back. Given the fact, and I do believe it to be so, that racing in general is predisposed towards speed, a true and significant bias, in my view, is when horses such as these actually and consistently defy all logic and hang on to win. The results on Saturday, again in my opinion, merely served to prove that it's pace, and not bias, which explains the results the vast majority of the time. And I think if you also consider Sunday's results to form a larger sample of the nature of the track, which had recovered to fast for the two days after a major rain event late last week, then my opinion would be that the surface was largely fair. If we follow up with the horses who ran, then maybe we can see down the road if I'm right or wrong.

7 Comments:

Handride said...

The trips and traps are soemtimes a little lengthy, but really make me a better h'capper. The feed appears ont the TBA homepage under the video tab (shill)

Anonymous said...

I split between Your Brett Farve Jets and the Big A-----The Jets are for freekin real-That said I'd bet Andy talks a lot when he's drunk--He's the Big Guy at the Bar.
The Little Guy at the track.

Anonymous said...

As someone who does get Channel 71, I must defend Andy as a breath of fresh air.

He does question bias often, as well as alleged bad trips noted in the Form, but most important he almost always is trying to beat the favorite, which is exactly what a public handicapper should be doing, giving the regular guy a horse he can play in the exotics and actually make some money.

Have actually seen him tout 30+-1 shots on occasion.

Very different from the in house touts at other tracks who mostly just explain the merits of the morning line favorite.

Kudos to him and Blewitt and NYRA for putting them on as well as establishing a video channel.

Andy Serling said...

Thanks Alan. There are no hard feelings whatsoever, and never were, but I ( and Jason ) appreciate your thoughts nonetheless.

Saturday was tricky, no doubt, and I have had a similar argument with a friend where he made pretty much the same points as you. I guess I just felt it was the first day where the rail seemed to be an advantage but it's far from impossible that I was a little hasty in labeling the track. In some ways time will tell, but I guess the best thing to do is to watch all of the races again along with the pps. Maybe I'll wait until next week and try to imagine I have an actual vacation.

I don't blame you at all for ignoring our race discussions when you have opinions of your own. It should be for everyone to decide if they are interested in us or not. I'm the first person to say people should bet their own opinions. I have always hoped that people would listen to what we have to say, and if we disagree try to see if maybe our differing opinions make some sense, but ultimately make your bets because you believe in your opinions....not someone else's.

Thanks again. I look forward to disagreeing again in the future.

By the way, to the anonymous poster......I talk a lot period.....drunk or sober.

Anonymous said...

Alan,
Still think Caroline Kennedy is a prohibitive long-shot to be the next US Senator from NYS?
She led ABC World News tonight and Paterson is torn between working on the ice storm disaster and complaining about the very funny SNL skit about him. Then there's the budget that comes out tomorrow -- I bet there will be news fees in the racing ang gaming areas too -- bad news all around for DP (still no Aqueduct VLT MOU either?).
After today I'll bet he can't wait to appoint Senator Camelot to take the pressure off.
Remember you heard it here first ( and last week too).

Anonymous said...

Man, You are the Best,
I am glad you understood the humor and did not mistake it for malice.

A question being a cop, we do a lot of training on body language.

Do you or your opinions make Jason nervous? or is he naturally edgy?

You come of very confident but I notice you really try not to step on Jason's opinion.. Jason , he is edgy I am expecting him to jump over the table and run the track, Kinda like Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights when he believed he was on fire. If he does, let him go----Would make a great and memorable Talking Horses.

jk said...

When I had direct tv, I also had a basic level cable subscription for around $20/month. You get the network channels plus all public access channels including 71. Go for it Alan!