Over the past several weeks I've taken on a new project that I feel may eventually be of some benefit to those that bother to read this space.
As I've shared in the past perhaps my favorite racing related project is the 20-20 systems. My spare time that is dedicated to racing is likely split 50-50. Half the time I'm working on stats, ideas and theories for the 20-20 systems and the other half of the time I'm doing everything else. That includes handicapping, writing on this blog and the Thoroughbred Champions message board as well as keeping the TCR systems up to date.
The amount of time I spend on the 20-20 projects is grossly disproportional to the amount of space I dedicate to them in this blog. Just 27 posts from my 661 entries have dealt with the subject but I have decided, where appropriate, to start trying to inject those projects in here on a more regular basis.
For those of you that have no idea what I'm talking about the 20-20 systems are statistically based handicapping systems that can help you pinpoint exactly which horses fit the historical and statistical mold of past winners. The name 20-20 is derived from the fact that my first version of the Derby system had 20 statistical factors and 20-20 is a description of perfect vision. It seemed to fit well since the goal of the system is to see the entire field ranked in order of probability, hopefully with the most likely winners towards the top.
I have been working on the concept in the Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup since 2003. The first working models were mentioned online in 2006. Since then I've dabbled around with races like the Belmont, Epsom Derby, Santa Anita Handicap and the Woodbine Mile but never with the Preakness. A few weeks ago I decided to set my hand to the forgotten middle leg of the Triple Crown.
I do not have as much back data for the Preakness as I do for other events. It was only possible to create a profile from the year 2000 and onwards. I also threw it together in a few weeks as opposed to the several years it took me for the other projects. So as I share the results here I do warn you that this is still a work in progress.
Without further ado you can check out the results of the Preakness 20-20. Just a tip to help you read the spreadsheet: Every category with a green cell earns the entrant +1, every red cell is worth -1. The cells that are left blank are worth 0.
Certain cells are blank if that stat is not applicable to that entrant. For instance factor #4 has to do with average closing fractions and Big Drama did not have any race beyond 7f this season so his closing fractions can't be compared with the rest of the field. You can't assume he closed fast enough but you also can't really fault him.
The system can be used in many ways, helping you to shape your view of the race, pick winners and even have the right horses for the exotics. You may notice the column entitled "WAGER". That is simply a guideline to show me if the points assigned by the statistical system are actually worthwhile. The theory is that you could bet the designated amount to win on each entrant and that would hopefully give you a chance to make money without even thinking. In the Preakness you'd have made 7.20% from betting the system blindly and outperformed equal win wagering on all contenders by a good 62%. It's not intended to be bet blindly, hopefully by applying some judgment you can beat the results of this system. It's merely an attempt to help shape your thinking.
One way I like to use the system is to focus on the horses that are "perfect" qualifiers. That is, those horses with no strikes against them. You can see from the small table on the side of the spreadsheet that there have been 14 perfect qualifiers in the Preakness and 8 of them were winners and another 3 hit the frame. That could have been good for a 181.43% profit.
One of the first things one notices about the Preakness is that it's usually won by a logical contender. From 2000 to the present there have only been two winners that were more than 5/1. You can see from the data included that if someone had simply bet every horse in the Preakness in the new millennium they'd be down -55.52%. The Derby by comparison is a much more generous -6.52%. There are prices to be had in the Derby, not so in the Preakness. At least not recently. So it automatically begs the question. Why would anyone need a system to point out the obvious horses?
I gave this matter a fair bit of thought and came up with this answer. It is useful to place special emphasis on the obvious horses if it keeps you from spending money on the interesting horses. If I could identify one thing in handicapping that has cost me the most it's turning away from the obvious horses because they were 3/1 and going for an interesting horse that was 12/1. I'm not saying to ignore value and bet the favorite but sometimes the obvious horse is the best horse to be betting on because they're the most likely winner.
If you peruse through the Preakness 20-20 you may notice that certain interesting horses like Gayego, Brother Derek, Circular Quay, High Fly, Lion Heart and Peace Rules were all ruled out from being perfect qualifiers. While obvious horses like Big Brown, War Emblem, Funny Cide and Curlin came to the top.
This year it seems like the obvious horses are Musket Man and Rachel Alexandra. Friesan Fire, Big Drama and Pioneerof the Nile don't come out looking as good while Papa Clem and Mine That Bird are just one factor short of being perfect qualifiers.
The system is far from infallible, especially since this is the first version of it but if anyone is interested in checking out the past results of other projects you may notice that the Derby 20-20 is available in the same spreadsheet as the Preakness 20-20. You can also check out the Breeders' Cup 20-20 if you like.