Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Give It A Rest

We continue our statistical look at the Breeders Cup and will tackle the issue of layoffs. Remember that statistics are not meant to replace sound discretionary judgement. They are just a tool to help you narrow things down and maybe think about a race or horse more completely.

Many people want to try and answer the question of whether it is good for a horse to come into the Breeders Cup directly off a layoff. There are conflicting theories about when it's good and when its bad. Many people who rely on statistics discount any horse coming off a layoff unless its in the Sprint where so many fresh horses have won it's hard to ignore.

Personally I think the recent trend is in favor of the layoff. Horses are getting more time between starts and they're routinely having more success of the layoff. I decided to look at this issue from the opposite side of the coin.

If horses are generally campaigned with longer spaces between races is there any value to be derived from looking at horses who have had a steady amount of work?

I took to look at every horse who came into the Breeders Cup without a recent layoff. I define "recent" as having a layoff some time within their last 3 starts before the Breeders Cup. So any horse who does not have a line (indicating a layoff) in the last 4 running lines in their past performances was isolated. The theory is that horses run better fresh and a recent layoff contributes to freshness whereas a horse without a recent break may become over the top fitness wise.

As always the data included is from 1996 to the present. Personally because of the way training methods have evolved in this area I don't think data from 1995 and prior are even significant. I also excluded Juveniles from this study. Juveniles don't need rests like older horses do, they need experience and a good foundation to go two turns.

258 horses came into the 6 open age Breeders Cup events without a recent layoff and they combined for a record of 258-9-16-23. 7 of those 9 winners came in the Classic and Distaff. I personally see this as an under performance as the very same horses managed to win 99 races from 258 in their last preps. I realize you can't compare the numbers straight across because preps are weaker races but I think the point is that this group of 258 horses was not comprised of all longshots. In fact just the opposite, many of them were well bet.

I think the statistic becomes even weightier is you look at Turf races only. Horses without a recent prep went 117-1-8-8. Intercontinental was the only horse to overcome this angle. Many big names including well backed Europeans like Montjeu, Sulamani, Hurricane Run and Falbrav all fell victim to this factor.

It has not escaped my notice that likely odds on favorite in this years running, Dylan Thomas, has not had a layoff at all this season. I guess the factor will be getting an acid test in a few weeks time because on paper Dylan is a towering presence.

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