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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Timeform US

Perhaps you've seen something on Twitter, or on a forum, or on TVG about Timeform US, a new past performances product; the first significant new entrant into the space in many years.  So, with commercial launch now imminent, I must now disclose my involvement in the project.  Been mentioning for awhile that I was working on something cool, and more recently have been referring to 'my speed figures' and pace projections.  I've been working at the company since October 2011, at first part time, and then full time starting last September.  (Full-enough disclosure is that my interest in the company's success goes beyond that just of an employee.)

[UPDATE - Adding the TimeformUS logo to make the SEO guy happy.]

In that time, we've gone from a really cool independent start-up to a really cool independent start-up in partnership with Betfair, the owner of Timeform, the British-based global past performance provider, and TVG.  But while our product bears the name of its British parent, Timeform US is strictly an American affair.  I'm working with an incredibly smart and passionate team of horseplayers - including founder Marc Attenberg, who helped develop Formulator during his years at DRF - with a mission to make a positive contribution to the game that we love.  Our main office is in beautiful Long Island City, and we have personnel spread, literally, coast to coast.

Before I tell you a little bit more about the product, first want to mention how this will effect this blog. First and foremost, I will not - at least after this post!! - be using this platform to shamelessly plug the product.  Sure, I'll likely mention new features as they are rolled out; and will obviously now refer exclusively to Timeform US, and the figs and facts therein, in my handicapping.  But here, I'm not going to tout it or beg and cajole you to switch.  I know that many of us get used to and attached to a particular pp product, and it's not easy to change to something unfamiliar.  We went through many different iterations of design, finally landing on one which we believe is, while markedly different from what's out there, intuitive, logical, and easy to adapt to.  So I will request this one time that you please at least check it out.  There are two free races offered every day on the homepage (with a brief sign-up process); TVG members can purchase cards for $1.50 from the TVG Store. Commercial launch is imminent, and I think you'll really like the pricing options for single cards, as well as daily and monthly unlimited plans.

The bad news about Left at the Gate is that, given my personal and financial interest in this venture, I no longer feel free to say whatever I want about whoever I want whenever I feel like it.  We have business arrangements, licensing agreements and partnerships with a number of industry entities, and it will not serve my or the company's interests to offend them.  Most obviously, I won't be making fun of TVG anymore, and will never again misspell Shrupp's name.  In addition, there are ongoing issues - such as exchange wagering - which could affect our business model; so I won't be commenting on those one way or another.

Similarly, neither will I be using this blog to trash our competition. (Though my criticism of Churchill Downs for their neglect of the venerable BRIS site is grandfathered in.)  The Daily Racing Form has served us extraordinarily well (except perhaps during their dark period during the life of the Racing Times), and will surely continue to do so.  (Also should mention the BRIS pp's - rarely have used them, but they're chock full of information and I know they have a loyal following as well.)  Formulator is the bellweather of the online past performance industry, and our respect for that product is such that we measure the adequacy of our content against theirs.  However, we feel as if the time for new and innovative features in past performances is long overdue.  And our product is modern and mobile -  designed optimally for iPads (including the mini) and other tablets, as well as for desktops and laptops. (And there's a print option for those who can't live without paper and pen.)  "Play the races the way you live today" - a tagline I wish I'd come up with myself.

The good news about this blog is that these changes have actually been in voluntary effect for some time now, so there really shouldn't be any immediate difference.  And there's no conflict when it comes to reveling in the joys of the game, trying to pick winners, debating races before and after the fact, and writing about how to make the game better.  Nor when it comes to writing about the twisted politics of New York racing, and the drama surrounding the upcoming casino referendum.  So the plan is to carry on.

Back to the product - on our blog, we have a post which lists features and includes some tutorial videos on how to use them.  So, I'll send you there and I'm not going to regurgitate everything; but wanted to mention a few points.

 - This is the format:

Color coded ovals by surface to make preferences and patterns stand out; fractions underneath the applicable chart call (and you can switch between accrued and incremental splits as well as between official times and our adjusted fractions); number of days between races; expanded trouble lines.  Speed figures on the right; class figures for the race on the left.  Click on the oval for complete race conditions.

- The mad genius behind our speed figures is Craig Milkowski, who some of you may know from his site.  He's a pace guy, as you might surmise; and the effect of pace is included in our speed figures, which are on the Timeform scale, so they top out in the high 140s (Frankel territory).  You'll notice differences - some fairly significant ones on a relative basis among horses in a race - from what you're using now.  You may actually see a horse who finished second earn a better figure than the winner if it overcame an adverse pace scenario.  Suffice to say we think they're pretty good; you synth players will be quite pleased I think.  The best testimonial I can provide is my own - regular readers surely have noticed (or should have, anyway!) that my handicapping has been pretty good on this site over the last several months.  Some nice-priced winners, some even nicer-priced near misses, some recent tough luck losers, and horses that have been consistently live even when they haven't won. 

 - Pace Projector has already proven itself to be a great tool.  It's an animated estimation of where the horses will be after the first 1/4 miles for sprints; 1/2 mile for routes.  Gets flagged for races projected to be particularly slow or fast early.   I know it's easy (and obnoxious) to cherry pick examples after the race...and I promise not to do so again.  But let's take a look at the Pace Projector for two of the big stakes races this past weekend.  This is the Dwyer:

The #2 horse, Moreno, went wire to wire and paid $13.40.   And the Queen's Plate:

The #1 horse, Midnight Aria, held on to pay $35.20.  Obviously, it ain't always that easy and this tool isn't always right.  But these were pretty fantastic.

 - I've seen emails and heard discussion amongst those developing our trainer and pedigree ratings.  Talk about a bunch of wonks!  They have every base covered, and I think these are gonna be great.  Trainer ratings go back five years of win and in-the-money stats, but are weighted for recency and also have ROI for win and show factored in.  Pedigree ratings will be available soon.

 - Foreign running lines - how cool is this?  Have these expanded comments for all the races from England and Ireland; speed figures for other European races and those from Dubai. These race comments put even our NYRA chart-calling friend to shame!  And the speed figure teams on both sides of the Atlantic are working to ensure that they are as much on the same scale as is possible given the differences in the sport here and there.

 - Race Finder allows simulcast players to plug in parameters such as time of day, class, distance, surface, and size of field, and get a list of preferred races across North America to play.

In the coming months, we'll be rolling out additional features (some of them to be included in a higher-priced deluxe version) such as pedigree ratings, race charts with drill down features, replays, pace figures, detailed first-time starter information and much more.  Again, please check out the Timeform US blog for more information.  By all means, please feel free to leave a comment or email me with criticisms and suggestions.  And as always, thanks so much for reading!  Being so consumed with work these days, it's only because of you that I would even consider carrying on at this point after 8 1/2 years of being left at the gate.  Best of luck and have a great day!


Pull the Pocket said...

Congrats. Very nice product.


Steve Zorn said...

Good luck with the product; I'll give it a serious try at Saratoga.

Colins Ghost said...

Chris was touting it to me at Monmouth on Saturday. You guys are definitely on to something. Planning on giving it a test drive. Best of luck with it!

Anonymous said...

The Commie goes Capitalist,I love it!

I get Bris for free but good luck!

Figless said...

I am very impressed from my initial usage

steve in nc said...

Congrats, Alan. Looks like the fruit of a lot of hard work. I'll be psyched when you get your trainer tool up and ready.

Can we still make fun of TVG folks? Who is that guy in the evening who goes on and on about his own handicapping at Hollywood while showing races from other tracks? zzzz

racefan said...

When is the commercial launch? Some of us aren't allowed a wagering acct through TVG

Alan Mann said...

racefan - Sorry, working out some glitches, hoping for early/middle of the week. Email me, and I can set you up for a sneak peek.

Rachele said...